Journeying in grace and truth?

tumblr_mjfro63IVF1qfvq9bo2_r1_1280This weekend, General Synod are having their own ‘Share Conversations’ on sexuality as the closing event of this process in the Church. I was a bit fed up to learn that members were going to be circulated with not one but two books advocating (in some way or other) for a change in the Church’s teaching, since this was supposed to be a process of listening and not lobbying. In the end, I have been quite glad to read the one edited by Jayne Ozanne, entitled Journeys in Grace and Truth, because it does clarify a number of issues. (You can read Tom Creedy’s review here.) I offer here not a systematic review (since it is not a systematic book), but reflections on some of the issues the different chapters raise.

Jayne’s introduction includes a brief account of her extremely painful journey, about which she has spoken many times before. In one sense, it is not possible to hear this account too many times, and anything that might contribute to the ending of the kind of practices she was subjected to must be welcome—not least because it is not just people like Jayne who are abused by such ill-informed and irresponsible approaches to deliverance. But she beings with an account of a secret conversation, in which some important but unnamed cleric confides:

‘Jayne, I’m with you pastorally, honestly I am. It’s just I’m not quite there theologically yet.’

This quotation suggests two things. First, it seems to assume that we know what a pastoral response to a complex situation is by some intuitive means, and that our theological thinking functions simply to provide some rationale for a conclusion we have reached on other grounds. I am not convinced that this is a helpful or a healthy way to go about things, not that it matches what many people actually do. It marginalises processes of reflection in favour of an intuition which is not then protected from self-interest or self-delusion. The second thing it suggests is that change comes to the Church by stealth; we all secretly change our minds, and only then look around to see whether others have done the same. Even on this contentious issue that is odd, since there are now so many dissenting and debating voices in the public sphere.

Jayne calls this a collection of stories by ‘leading evangelicals’, which is an odd description, not least because one of the authors makes the point that he is ‘just an ordinary bloke you won’t have heard of.’ It is not clear that to be an archdeacon, and to have identified as evangelical in the past, makes you a ‘leading evangelical’; Paul Bayes has never been known as an evangelical of any sort, and Hayley Matthews states she is now a liberal catholic. But Jayne also tells us that she knows they all ‘hold an affirming view,’ which several state isn’t true. Colin Fletcher plainly states this isn’t the case; Marcus Green doesn’t state his view (though hints he might be writing something else); David Newman says he does not believe that same-sex relationships should be called marriage; and David Runcorn has consistently said his view is not settled.

Jayne also makes an interesting claim, which asserts that gay Christians are not just equal to others, but superior to them: ‘Please know that in my mind you bear the stigmata of Christ’. This superiority was hinted at in the title of Alan Wilson’s book, More Perfect Union? and the same claim was made by David Gillett last month:

Had the privilege of speaking at Bloomsbury Baptist Church in London at a Two 23 celebration, for LGBT Christians, their families and Allies. Afterwards it was great to share with so many of them for drinks and a meal in the pub round the corner. The presence of the love of God was so much in evidence there in a way one rarely sees in churches on Sundays.

Colin Fletcher’s ‘Foreword’ has a curious subtitle ‘Challenging times for Evangelicals’, and it includes some puzzles. Colin recounts the various debates, documents and statements produced by the Church, but says nothing about his own reading or exploration. He observes the presence of different views, but says nothing whether all those views are equally persuasive. He believes that the Church’s current teaching ‘of marriage as being between a man and a a strong position to defend theologically’, but he does not mention a single occasion on which he has done so, and I cannot recall any, which is surprising given that he has the most vocal protester, Alan Wilson, under his jurisdiction. He pleads for ‘openness amongst Evangelicals to discuss a range of different beliefs’ but doesn’t appear once to have engaged with the many who have been discussing this openly for years. If evangelicals are unclear as to what to think or how to debate, could it be because people like Colin have singularly failed, as evangelical leaders, to model either of these?

I was not quite sure what Paul Bayes was doing in a book by ‘evangelicals’, but he does at least begin with some scripture—the account in Acts 10 of Peter and Cornelius. He quotes the Swiss Reformed Pastor Walter Hollenweger who has been an important influence on his thinking:

According to Luke’s text the apostles allowed Peter to present his story. And now a very remarkable thing happens. They are won over by the facts (emphasis added)—not by the evidence from Scripture…

As an account of the whole episode, this is something of a travesty, since Luke makes it clear that the ‘facts’ push the Church to think again about theology and Scripture. At the Council in Acts 15, the centre point of James’ persuasive speech is a text of Scripture, and the guidelines for the conduct of Gentile believers are drawn from the Holiness Code of Lev 17–22. When Paul is debating with his Judaizing opponents on this question, he always goes back to Scripture, arguing that it is the pattern of Abraham, rather than Moses, that we need to follow.

But the statement by Hollenweger is also disingenuous in its reference to ‘the facts’. Alasdair MacIntyre once quipped that “facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a seventeenth-century invention.” As I pointed out in my Grove booklet and the C of E material for Share Conversations, we never perceive bare ‘facts’ since they are always mediated to use through a framework of interpretation. In an area as complex and disputed as sexuality, appeal to ‘the facts’ is sleight of hand. On the basis of the ‘fact’ of the spiritual experience of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, we might question the claims in Scripture about the uniqueness of Jesus.

Marcus Green’s autobiographical sketch was fascinating, moving, and (threaded around his anxiety about appearing on The Weakest Link) highly engaging. He was not subject to the kind of abusive ‘ministry’ that Jayne recounts, but merely the kind of low-level insensitivity which constantly sought to see him married off. What was most striking, though, was the contrast between his unspoken but intense fear and anxiety, and the unconditional welcome and support he received when he came out to Dick France, who was not only theological conservative on this issue but had published to that effect. Marcus then gives a list of clergy, archdeacons and bishops who have been unfailingly supportive and caring. This raises a vital question that is (unfortunately) passed over: how we account for the difference between Marcus’ fear and the reality of what he experienced? And for the difference between his anxiety and the experience of people like Sean Doherty, who testifies to the consistent positive support he received as a gay Christian from conservatives? There is no doubt that some churches are insensitive, even abusive—but there are clearly other factors at work here too.

David Ison’s reflections on how we read Scripture offered just the beginnings of a recognisably evangelical approach to the issue, and I agreed with much of what he said about reading the texts in context. He also qualifies his ‘affirming’ stance somewhat:

I’m not convinced that the theology of marriage can be separated from its roots of being between a man and a woman. I also think that the use of the adjective ‘gay’ or ‘same-sex’ in front of the word ‘marriage’ changes its meaning…

It is not entirely clear, though, that he follows his interpretive method through in his own reading. The few relevant texts are ‘open not closed’, he claims, but does not state what he means by that or why. Lev 18.22 and 20.13 ‘are in the context of surrounding pagan societies where sex was used in idolatrous ritual practices’—but what are the consequences then for our interpretation? The most compelling conclusion is that even the small concession in other cultures is not made in the OT, the opposite of what David hints at. The meaning of the terms in 1 Cor 6.9 and 1 Tim 1.10 ‘are disputed’—but so are many things which are actually not unclear. Ison believes that interpretation is a ‘corporate exercise’, but there is not much evidence here of collaboration with ‘traditional’ understandings, which don’t merit a mention.

Tom Creedy liked Anthony Archer’s chapter, but I was more puzzled by it. Anthony reflects on how little he thought about the issue until comparatively recently, even though evangelicals have been debating this publicly at least as far back as the Buzz magazine article I remember reading in 1978. He was involved in leading Alpha courses where it wasn’t touched on—even though early editions of Nicky Gumbel’s book had a whole chapter on it. When he does start thinking about the issue, he reaches for Boswell, who has been widely discredited in scholarship. Why not reach for Thomas Schmidt, or Richard Hays—there is even a Grove booklet on the subject! In his discussion on the OT, he mentions only Gen 19 and Judges 19 despite almost universal agreement that these texts are mostly irrelevant. And he tries to sit on the worn out three-legged stool of ‘Scripture, tradition and reason’ which was explicitly rejected by Richard Harries when introducing the Synod debate on Some Issues in Human Sexuality at which Anthony was present.

Jody Stowell’s chapter was more of a reflective meander. She offers an interesting and persuasive reading of Genesis 2, with which I would agree, where the man recognises both the sameness and the otherness of the woman. It is not clear why she then immediately jettisons the ‘otherness’ element, claiming it is not a ‘necessary’ interpretation even though she has just expounded it as the way to read the text. She returns to the theme of the superiority of LGBTIIQ people by claiming that

the new knowledge we have about intergender conditions [confusing the two quite distinct ideas of transgender and intersex?] is going to show us something of the new humanity towards which we are headed.

I found Hayley Matthew’s chapter quite disturbing, not least because of the harrowing account that she hints at of her own experience of misguided ‘deliverance’ ministry, not dissimilar to some of Jayne’s experience. She does not really make the connections between this and what it means to be evangelical, or do evangelical theology; I cannot think of a place either in Scripture or in any respectable evangelical source which says we should ‘writhe on the floor, swear at them or be sick in a bucket’ as part of ‘deliverance’. Nor is it clear exactly how the Church’s current teaching position might be connected with this. Hayley’s understandable reaction to this experience was to make a decisive break with this poisonous church culture, which for her was associated with the Bible:

I had no choice but to move beyond the Scriptures if I was to understand what God was assuring me of…and eventually found a home in the liberal catholic wing of my faith.

Gavin Collins recounts the moment, in a New Wine seminar, when he admitted that he was struggling to understand why same-sex relationships were not permitted, and discovered that other church leaders were wrestling with the same question. My experience is the same; I was recently speaking with a group of leaders on this issue, and in a context of confidentiality many admitted to the same question. The resources are there to think these issues through, but we are all so busy that we don’t have time to sit and listen to those who have reflected on this—which is rather ironic given that this whole process is supposed to have been about listening. In his reflection, Gavin (like others) offers no evidence that he has engaged with the good evangelical material, of which there is much, in wrestling with these questions. He is happy for his observations of intimacy in gay relationships to dismiss the other-sexedness of marriage in Gen 2 without further thought. And the notion of celibacy outside marriage ‘is simply not a tenable position for the Church’, which in one sentence dismisses the long tradition of virginity, the needs of single women, and at the same time asserts that Paul and Jesus themselves must have been wrong. Why was this teaching any more tenable in sexualised first-century Corinth than it is now?

David Newman offers some nuanced reflections on the reality of our sexualised culture, and seems to hint from that that the Church is powerless to offer a counter-cultural ethic, though without explaining how Paul was able to do that in sexualised pagan Corinth. He offers quite a traditional (and unappealing) reading of Paul’s view of marriage from 1 Cor 7, and also returns to the inclusion of Gentiles in Acts 15, though apparently without having read Andrew Goddard’s Grove booklet which points out the major problems with this use of the episode.

David Runcorn offers his own reflections, which he has debated with David Shepherd in the comments section in the previous post on this book, and I have engaged with them previously. The postscript includes some very superficial, almost facile, remarks about ‘not following the Old Testament law’ as Christians from Cindy Kent.

Where does that all leave us? Even though I believe in the value of labels (since they have the potential to tell us what is inside), I don’t think there is any point in engaging in a ‘Who are the true evangelicals?’ debate. Most of the authors have clearly been deeply involved in the evangelical subculture at various points in their lives, even if ‘leading evangelical’ no longer applies. But the much more important question is: do the views and positions expressed connect with anything that would be recognisably evangelical in terms of engaging with Scripture and connecting with the contemporary context, and are evangelical discussions elsewhere engaged with? Sadly, for most of the material here, the answer is clearly ‘no’—and it is sadness, not least because I know many of the people here, and some have been significant for me in the past in my own spiritual journey. But it is clear that, for many, this has been less a journey in grace and truth, and more a journey away from any serious engagement with evangelical thinking and scholarship.

Where is the reflection on Richard Hays’ powerful, personal, ethical reflection? At what point has Jenell Williams Paris gone wrong in arguing the sexual orientation is not foundational to human identity? Is Wes Hill mistaken in his theological understanding of God’s call on his life? What is wrong with Thomas Schmidt’s multi-causation understanding of sexual development? Have I made a mistake in my brief exposition of the texts in my Grove booklet? Is Dan Via more persuasive than Robert Gagnon in their very short dialogue? Does Andrew Goddard fail to persuade in his setting out of the overarching themes in the biblical narrative? Was David Wright mistaken about arsenokoites? Is Christopher West’s exposition of marriage in error?

None of these questions appears to have been addressed—they are all absent from the bibliography—and without them it is difficult to see how these narratives could claim to be ‘evangelical’ journeys. Goodness me, I only live 20 minutes from one of the contributors—couldn’t he have picked up the phone? I would have happily travelled down to discuss the issues!

Jayne’s production of this book has indeed clarified things. I suspect for many evangelicals on Synod they will note carefully the direction of travel here.

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122 thoughts on “Journeying in grace and truth?”

  1. “Have I made a mistake in my brief exposition of the texts in my Grove booklet? Is Dan Via more persuasive than Robert Gagnon in their very short dialogue? Does Andrew Goddard fail to persuade in his setting out of the overarching themes in the biblical narrative? Was David Wright mistaken about arsenokoites? Is Christopher West’s exposition of marriage in error?”

    Ian thank you for your exploration of this book. I am still reading it but have found it helpful in exploring the evangelical approach.
    The short answer to all of your questions quotes above is ‘Yes!’ But I think you have rather missed the point of the book and of the shared conversations that we will be engaging with this coming weekend.

    The question is not ‘who has the better arguments and who can convince who that the other is right’ but, as the book’s title suggests, how do we as people of God – who come to different conclusions about the evidence in scripture and reason and experience – journey together in grace and truth? That is what the shared conversations are seeking to explore. They are open to the fact that the journey may have go to a fork in the road, but that is not what this book is signalling and not what the shared conversations have been about.

    I read again yesterday yours and Loveday Alexander’s contributions to the reader, published a couple of years ago. I found both extremely helpful preparation. As you might expect, I found Loveday’s more ‘convincing’ and more coherently scriptural but once again I don’t think that was the point of them. The point we are at is trying to listen and journey together rather than winning any argument.

    You have not actually come out and said it but it sounds as if you preparing to say that if people like Loveday and Jayne and the contributors to this book are going to be on the bus, then you will find another way of journeying. Let me say now that I’d rather you were on the same bus. But I’d rather you were there because you wanted travel companions who were different rather than wanting to ensure you made certain they thought like you.

    • Andrew, thanks for my bus ticket, but I don’t know if you have missed the point of the review.

      1. This is not by any stretch of the imagination an evangelical approach.

      2. What is striking in the book is the *lack* of listening which appears to have gone on, listening to these other commentators.

      • Ian: perhaps you could have another go at engaging with what I actually wrote?

        Given that other people, serious scholars, some evangelicals, disagree with you, Goddard, Gagnon etc, how do you intend to travel with them?

          • “That isn’t what this blog post is about.”

            It’s what the book and what the shared conversations are about.
            Once again, would you like to engage with what I wrote, or simply ignore it?
            Sadly, as David Runcorn observed in your last past about this book, you haven’t answered the question – you’ve simply said ‘my way or the highway’.

          • No I haven’t, and I commented to correct that misunderstanding. Do I have to repeat all that again? I would like to see a future where the Church is confident in its teaching position, rooted in Scripture and tradition, and makes tentative but clear steps to living that out.

          • Sadly once again Ian you just ignore the question. What about the people who hold a different view to that? What pastoral accommodation are you prepared to make to allow them to journey in grace and truth as well?

          • Exactly as I said before, given there have been decades when bishops have failed to actually implement the Church’s teaching, I would make no suggestion that existing situations should be prosecuted in any sense.

            Neither would I propose to rescind the pastoral accommodation that was made in the case of civil partnerships.

            Neither would I propose to rescind the pastoral accommodation made to lay members in ‘Issues”.

            And I would certainly not want to wind the clock back (as some appear to want to do) and stigmatise same-sex relationships in any way.

          • Ian yes you have said it before and as I and others have said before this simply simply preserves the status quo. It makes no pastoral accommodation for the new situation that culture presents and no recognition that blessings of same sex relationships go on at various levels. Preserving the status quo does not permit a journey and is not a realistic solution to the problem we find ourselves with.

          • Andrew: It’s called drawing a line. We don’t have to authorise and approve of everything people do, or move with every shift in culture – in fact faithfulness demands we mustn’t. How can the church in good conscience authorise the blessing of same-sex unions? There has surely been ample accommodation of something that under church teaching is sinful, and anything further risks serious rupture in fellowship. Revisionists need quickly to learn when to stop pushing a highly controversial agenda before serious and irreparable harm is done.

          • Will: synod has had the opportunity to draw a line, if it wanted to, several times. It chose to have the Pilling report. It chose to have shared conversations. These are discussion, and not debate and there is a difference. All I am pleading for is discussion and listening before the debate. That will be the time to draw lines if Synod and the bishops choose to do so.

          • Actually Synod drew a very clear line in 1987. It has not since decided to move that line.

            Yes, it has agreed to have discussions. But these discussions are not on a tabula rasa, but about whether we think there is a need to debate whether the line be redrawn.

          • Ian: by your own admission it doesn’t seem to have been a very clear or effective line and has been stepped over many times – hence the need to revisit. Perhaps the revisiting this time will be more effective if we are prepared to enter into discussion before we debate.

    • Andrew,

      You and the writers of ‘Journeys’ might well conclude ‘Yes’ to all of the questions which Ian poses. The problem is that it’s not much of a journey together when the authors view their own works as contributions to the listening process, while demonstrating so little listening or engagement with the arguments raised by Ian Paul, Robert Gagnon, Andrew Goddard, David Wright or Christopher West.

      While I can understand the book’s role in presenting the journeys of these authors who arrive at similar conclusions, surely there’s value in integrating their considered reflections on the significant contributions of those with whom they disagree.

    • How can you find this book helpful in exploring the evangelical approach when, as Ian has explained at length, it wholly fails to engage with the serious evangelical scholarship that exists on the question?

      You claim people have come to different conclusions about the evidence in scripture, but on the basis of this volume and other similar output you have to conclude that they haven’t really engaged with the evidence in scripture. Many of them frankly admit that they have reached their position by going ‘beyond scripture’ and by questioning the authority of scripture, or even whether truth is a helpful concept at all.

      But if we are looking at how we journey together in grace and truth, surely the simple answer has to be, by sticking with the church’s traditional teaching and not changing it. Since there is a clear threat of schism if we change it, but no real similar threat from revisionists if we don’t. You seem incredulous about the idea that we could just continue with the orthodox teaching on the matter, and actually uphold it in some practical way, but why shouldn’t that be the best option? Especially if it is least likely to lead to schism. It isn’t about Ian wanting everyone to think like Ian. It is about the church standing by the biblical witness.

      You wheel out the usual claim that the church’s teaching on this matter inhibits growth. But there is no evidence for that at all: recent research found only a very few citing it as a reason they left the church, and it is the evangelical wing that is currently experiencing the better growth trends.

      It is one thing to journey together with people who think differently to you. It is quite another to revise a key doctrine in order to accommodate a novel practice wholly inimical to the current and historic teaching on the matter. If we are to journey together in grace and truth, the truth about marriage cannot be a casualty.

      • “But if we are looking at how we journey together in grace and truth, surely the simple answer has to be, by sticking with the church’s traditional teaching and not changing it. “

        Exactly! Going from these comment sections alone I think Andrew’s definition of Journeying together is far more confrontational and exclusivist than Ians, even if I agree with some of the challenges Andrew raises.


    • Dear Andrew

      You regularly say ‘THE point is’ and ‘THE question is’. But no-one has a right to say that there is only one question. And nor is it accurate. There is obviously more than one question. So this could so easily come across as a tactic to prevent any question being pursued other than the one of your choice.

      Likewise when you say ‘the short answer is yes’ – no-one will be convinced by simplistic short answers, since anyone can give those. The winner in the debate, if any, will be whoever has the best detailed analysis; whichever side has the fewer self-ocntraditions; whichever side’s position matches best the realia, the data that we find in reality.

      • Christopher: the point is that there aren’t winners and losers. There actually is no debate. What there is is a discussion in which we hope to listen more carefully to each other and to journey together in grace and truth.

        • Of course there are winners and losers. If there are no winners and losers, one can say lots of untrue things and still be on the same level as those who say lots of true things.
          If people want to promote things that are untrue, all they need to do is dictate that there cannot be winners and losers. Why not?
          That would be laughed out of any university,and rightly.

      • Christopher, your point is incomprehensible and it seems not to be based on any factual evidence at all. (Please don’t simply try to change the subject.)

        • Change the subject? I shall never do that – and any point you want clarification on I shall give that clarification. Ask away.

  2. “But I’d rather you were there because you wanted travel companions who were different…”

    There’s a sad touch of irony in that comment given the whole question here of how much “otherness” is essential to life’s “travel companions”.

    And it is not for those of us (including me) who have failed at celibacy to belittle the victories of those who haven’t. I’ve heard the Church’s enemies treating virginity as deeply suspect (“probably secret abusers”) to such an extent that we may be saving gay suicides only to replace them with those who “can’t find love” at all.

    The fact that these noisy public marriage battles are almost entirely between, and about, men with women only as a “oh yeah, and them too, of course” is something I view with concern – as also the increasing acceptance of remarrying the divorced that seems to be happening without any noise at all.

    Us mere sheep in the pews are just trying to praise God and carry on while waiting to be told what is and isn’t a sin this week *wry smile*

    • Karen, I am not sure I want anyone to be ‘mere sheep’. But sheep need to be fed, and with good food, not ‘food’ that will harm them and stunt their growth. Sometimes it is tricky to tell the difference…

      • Exactly the point Ian. The view is being put that what you are offering is not really food, and is stunting growth. But the point of the book and the shared conversations is not directly to try and discern that, but to lay the table, and find out how we discern the difference. Clearly you and those you name like Goddard and Wright and West are not actually feeding everyone.

  3. Ho hum, on and on and round and round we go. May the Holy Spirit lead you all into grace and truth as you wrestle together. Maybe God’s answer will be something nobody has yet considered.

  4. Thanks for this review, Ian. One thing which struck me as I read this which I’ve been thinking about a little recently (I’ve been reading through Mike Ovey’s book ‘Your will be done’ on the Trinity and the eternal submission of the son) – is how our entire faith is based on the Bible – i.e. the ecumenical creeds were based on Scriptural argument. The arguments about the submission (or not) of the Son to the Father revolve a lot around John’s Gospel. They – the patristics – were only able to proceed on the basis that Scripture is indeed the Word of God and has an actual meaning which we can understand.

    Therefore to use Scripture in the way this book (and other revisionist arguments I’ve seen) seems to would have massive implications. The idea that marriage is between a man and a woman is about a hundred times clearer in Scripture than the idea that there is one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not that the Trinity is an obscure doctrine, but it took the church several hundred years to work through it. If you doubt that marriage is between a man and a woman, you can doubt anything about the Christian faith.

    Athanasius, rightly, did not decide to ‘journey together’ with the Arians. Throughout history orthodox believers have decided not to ‘journey together’ with false teaching. It’s an impossibility. Otherwise the entire Christian faith unravels. I think this is one of those moments.

    • Phill is right on the point that marriage being between one man and one woman is 100 times clearer from Scripture than the doctrine of the Trinity.

  5. We have changed the meaning of the word “love”. To love someone is to wish to care for them for the rest of one’s life (not just this year) whereas today it has morphed in some people’s mind to be the act of sex with someone and so we now talk about the incorrect phrase “Making love”. In reality there is still an aversion to adultery no matter what your sexuality.

    As J. P. Meenan, Assistant Professor of Theology, wrote on 2nd July:
    “…We now think that any sexual activity between “consenting adults” is all right, and no one else’s business. Even here, however, we have trouble defining “consensual” with all the explicit and implicit imbalances of power and authority, and what really is an “adult”? Is that a biological measure, or a psychological and spiritual one? Who is to determine? Furthermore, something harmful does not cease to be harmful just because one consents to it (as we see in euthanasia)….”

    “…All of this is to say that we must not underestimate the power of the sexual drive, and how it affects us and those around us. Unleashed and ungoverned eros, whose origins lie in the deeply wounded libido of Man, is at the basis of many of our societal ills, from the breakdown of the family, the epidemic of sexual diseases, all the way to abortion on demand, with the unborn killed daily in far greater numbers than any other modern tragedy or massacre. Unrestrained sexual licence, and the enshrining of sexual deviancy into law, leads inevitably to societal breakdown….”

    “…We are doing homosexuals, and anyone else with an inclination to sexual deviancy, no favors by affirming their disordered inclinations and actions, but rather a service in charity by revealing to them the full truth of who they are, and who they are called to be, in God’s image….”

    I have quote whole sections for completeness for the Reader which is not the same as saying that I agree with everything but I do agree overall.

    The consequence is that we seem to be under pressure to celebrate sexual activity rather than actual love. Yet there is NO celebration of sexual activity for Christians. We can, by contrast, celebrate actual love whether that results in a family or not. After all, most of us reach a certain age where to celebrate sexual activity would be a bit of a joke.

    In your review of Jayne Ozanne’s contribution I couldn’t help but feel that we do actually need to hear the other side of the story to be able to use the stories properly or we should not really use them at all. You wrote:
    “But she beings with an account of a secret conversation, in which some important but unnamed cleric confides”. So it was a “secret conversation” and so we are prevented from hearing the other side of the story, and it was from an “unnamed cleric”…. you can now see that this doesn’t feel right behaviour at all. I therefore agree with the paragraph you have written that follows on.

    You also write about Gavin Collins and you write:
    “The resources are there to think these issues through, but we are all so busy that we don’t have time to sit and listen to those who have reflected on this…”. I am preaching on Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 39-end) which is all about sitting and listening to the Lord Jesus Christ instead of a particular sort of working when working diminishes listening. I remember as a young Christian finding more and more work was put on my desk and it was becoming personally overwhelming when I read in the Bible where Pharaoh said “and make them work twice as hard so they won’t have time to listen.”

  6. I think the question/point you raise that I’m struggling with most is this one, right at the start of your review:

    “Jayne also makes an interesting claim, which asserts that gay Christians are not just equal to others, but superior to them:…..”

    I confess I had not read any of the comments from Jayne, Alan or David in that light, and I think you are wrong to do so.

    My interpretation was that Jayne meant the unique (and painful) challenges of both her journey and her current position provides her with a very different perspective on the issue, one that cannot easily be understood from ‘outside’ that experience. While I accept that this is subjective, I thought it was important and worth saying.

    My thoughts were similar about Alan Wilson’s title. The implication as far as I understood it was the superiority of his definition of marriage, not of the married people themselves. The point he is making is very different to Jayne.

    I’m afraid I have no idea who David Gillet is, but his comment seems out of place here too. I am quite capable of going to a church that celebrates and affirms SSM and commenting that I found the church far more loving and welcoming than my own, but I can do so without making the link causative.

    Other than that I think I’d stand by a lot of what you say. I agree the word “evangelical” gets thrown around too much with very little sensitivity to what it means and many contributors here can only be defined that way in the loosest sense of the terms, and as I said elsewhere I think the book is a positive and helpful addition to the debate, so long as it doesn’t claim to be something it is not (i.e ‘New’ or ‘Scriptural’).

    • Thanks Mat. Jayne specifically used the term ‘stigmata of Christ.’ If you know something about mediaeval Christian devotion, you will be aware that the stigmata were a mystical phenomenon by which a person in his or her body the actual wounds of Christ on the cross.

      Such people were treated as ‘saints’ who had a special mediatorial role as people particularly close to God.

      That sounds superior to me. If Jayne did not intend that, she needs to choose different terms.

      Yes, Alan was referring to the definition of marriage; same-sex marriage is, he asserts, spiritually superior to the traditional understanding.

      • I did not know this about the stigmata, and so if Jayne was deliberately referencing it with that meaning in mind I was wrong to defend her. I willingly stand corrected until she, or someone else, defends the meaning otherwise…..

        However forgive me, but I still think you’re being ‘slippery’ with Alan Wilson’s title. Alan is welcome to describe his definition of marriage as ‘spiritually superior’ (though I don’t remember if he uses those words) on the grounds that he believes it is more inclusive (and therefore more loving) than the traditional understanding. While we both disagree with Alan on this, his point was never about the homosexual persons themselves being superior (the opinion you attribute him with) but about his definition being more loving and therefore the better way.

        There is nothing wrong with him (or anyone else) thinking of their ideas or definitions as superior, or saying so publicly, so long as they is prepared to let them stand before criticism. The same would be true of you or I asserting that the traditional understanding is the spiritually superior one; we can both think we’re right, but neither of us would be thinking that we ourselves are superior, would we?

        Perhaps this is all unnecessary semantics, but I think your overall critique was valid and needed to be said. The trouble is that it was lessened in my eyes because it really began with an assertion I felt to be unfair, and which set the tone wrongly for the rest of your argument.

        Interesting clarification though, much appreciated.

        • David Gillett is the retired Bishop of Bolton. His comment was not about an ‘affirming’ church; it was about an LGBTI community.

          What he was testifying to was the homogeneous unit principle—that people who have something significant in common will have an enhanced sense of mutual belonging. In such cases, unity comes less from being in Christ than from the shared common feature. But his reflection was that the LGBTI community is more truly a Christian community.

          The reason I mention these is that I have noticed it as an increasingly common theme. The LGBTI community is more Christlike than regular Christians, so if we ‘exclude’ them, we are not only doubly wrong, we are doubly blind in failing to recognise the most obvious locus of Christ’s presence in our midst.

          • I am aware of the HUP.

            “In such cases, unity comes less from being in Christ than from the shared common feature. But his reflection was that the LGBTI community is more truly a Christian community”.

            I agree. The underlying question is perhaps better phrased as follows:

            “Do you think there is a difference between saying a style/practice of church is superior, and saying that the individuals are somehow superior?”

            I think Alan and David are saying the former, when you are accusing them of the latter. Is that a fair distinction to make? Do you at least understand what I’m getting at?

  7. Ian Well I come out pretty unscathed! … I can only be brief. Thanks as ever for engaging. But like Mat I find your comments about finding claims to superiority by Jayne or David Gillett to be a complete misunderstanding of what is actually meant. And that goes for other parts of your review I’m afraid. You, and some others here, keep kicking bananas for not being an oranges.
    And why this word ‘disingenuous’? Tom used it in his review of the book and I challenged it there. It means ‘not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does … dishonest, underhand, dissembling’. It honours no one in Christian debate.

    • I don’t use the word ‘disingenuous’ of the book at any point; I use it of Hollenwger’s claim that it is ‘facts’ and not Scripture which changes the view of the church about Gentiles.

      I used the word because I think it is disingenuous on the part of Hollenweger.

  8. No doubt we shall have a chance to talk over the weekend Ian, but it does strike me that your main concern about the book is more that it is written by Evangelicals (who claim to be Evangelicals still), than anything else. What strikes me about that question is that the more you ask it (and it is behind most of the things you write on this subject), the less important it seems to be. The authors of the book (and time pressures prevented me from being a contributor) have found ways to hold onto the label of Evangelical and want to hold onto it. Isn’t that something to be pleased about? Isn’t there a wider set of beliefs and assumptions that characterise Evangelicalism that unite us, and with which all these contributors seem to want to identify to some extent or another? My problem with your case is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Evangelicals draw the boundaries about what identifies themselves as such ever tighter, slowly more and more people will say “that’s nor for me then”. Each of these authors wants to resist that tighter definition, and to remain identified with the tradition. For myself, increasingly, I feel less inclined to be bothered about being an Evangelical – noun – (as you would like to describe it) and more comfortable being evangelical – adjective – because it seems more consistent with the Good News of the Kingdom. Knowing some of your back story as I do makes me reflect that your concerns in this are very Catholic (with a big ‘C’, as though Scripture is some sort of Magisterium and hermeneutics a college of bishops) and that you are not quite as Reformed as you might think you are!

    Andrew Godsall’s point about this weekend is right as well: you hold your view with integrity; others like me hold a different one with integrity and there are a lot of people in the middle who are wondering what to think. The challenge is to find ways of living together with that strongly-held biblically-driven perspective on all sides. We can talk about the texts till the cows come home, you can bring out your scholars and I mine, but in the end the question is can you live with me in the Church of England and if so how? That seems to be more important than issues of same sex liturgy which dominate the anxiety of some: that question follows the more fundamental one. Can you be in the same church with those of us who hold the views and teach them as Gospel values?

    • Especially as there is no sign or promise that we are to be disciplined or inhibited from holding the views we do!

    • Simon Butler’s post included, ‘The authors of the book (and time pressures prevented me from being a contributor) have found ways to hold onto the label of Evangelical and want to hold onto it. Isn’t that something to be pleased about? Isn’t there a wider set of beliefs and assumptions that characterise Evangelicalism that unite us, and with which all these contributors seem to want to identify to some extent or another?’

      To try to clarify the ‘wider set of beliefs and assumptions that characterise Evangelicalism that unite us, and with which all these contributors seem to want to identify to some extent or another’ I invite Simon and all the contributors to Journeys in Grace and Truth, and Ian Paul, to say whether they agree or disagree or are still thinking about the following assertions.

      1 Because of the Fall we are all born in a state of just, legal condemnation before God and with a corrupt nature which is inclined to evil.
      2 We are dead in trespasses and sins and have no power to turn to God until God acts supernaturally in our hearts.
      3 God has chosen in eternity those whom he will deliver from condemnation and bring into a forgiven, living, fully sanctified relationship with himself. Those so chosen and those only will certainly be saved. He has not so chosen all the human beings who have ever lived.
      4 Those whom God does not save will be punished eternally for their sins.
      5 God and Christ sincerely and genuinely invite, command, exhort, beseech all persons to submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience and fear. (We cannot understand how 3 and 4 can be simultaneously true. This is one of God’s secrets which we must humbly accept and not try to fathom)
      6 The death of Christ is a propitiation which turns away the wrath of God from those who respond as in 5.
      7 The ordination of women is not ruled out by the Bible.
      8 Same sex attraction and fulfilment in a stable, faithful, loving, permanent relationship is as acceptable to God as heterosexual attraction and fulfilment in a stable, faithful, loving, permanent relationship.

      Phil Almond

    • The problem isn’t what they call themselves. It’s whether their engagement with scripture holds water. This isn’t a matter of you think this, I think that, let’s agree to disagree – each doing what is right in their own eyes. It’s about whether the revisionist position is actually solid enough to warrant a shift in the church’s teaching or practice. The problem with the book is not the labels people use, but that the contributors fail to engage with the best evangelical scholarship on the issue.

      There also seems to be this idea that accommodating the revisionist stance is some kind of compromise or neutral solution. But it is no such thing: to accommodate is to alter the church’s teaching and practice, for what is currently forbidden as contrary to scripture will be authorised. You can believe what you like, though it may be contrary to church doctrine. You can teach what you like, though you may risk the (very unlikely) prospect of discipline. But when it comes to what the church authorises and officially permits – that’s where any change of the kind revisionists propose is to move well beyond scripture – and risk schism.

    • Simon, thanks for commenting…but I am not sure I at all understand your question.

      You comment ‘your main concern about the book is more that it is written by Evangelicals (who claim to be Evangelicals still), than anything else’ when I specifically say I am not interested in that, and think that that debate is not worth pursuing. So I don’t understand why you appear to think my concern is the opposite from what I say it is.

      I am interested in the content of the discussion. Jayne claims the book is by ‘leading evangelicals’ who are ‘affirming.’ I point out that, by the measure of what the contributors themselves say, that is not in fact the case. Contrary to David R’s assertion, I do not label this ‘disingenuous.’

      Again, I am not sure what ‘secret knowledge’ you are referring to when you say ‘Knowing some of your back story as I do…’ I have tried to take the sections of the book at face value, and offered comment and reflection on it without referring to anything else.

      I think our discussion will work best if my comments above are taken on face value in the same way. (If you want to know more about my approach to Scripture, and what I understand by ‘evangelical’, I have set it out at some length in my recent Grove booklet and elsewhere on the blog.)

  9. Will ‘The problem isn’t what they call themselves’. And what call you ‘them’? When we evangelicals are biblically challenging positions we think are false we like to call ourselves ‘reformers’. But when the position being challenged is one we don’t agree with we call those we oppose ‘revisionists’. it happened to Christian anti apartheiders and anti-slavers.

    As to the authors here not engaging with scholarship – and Ian makes the same claim – this book does not set out to be a detailed debate about the scholarship and texts. That much should be clear. It is more of a testimony. So how can you possibly know? (though there is clearly more depth of thought there than you are suggesting). But it really respects no one to assume that those you disagree with on this issue have obviously not thought about the subject at any depth. They have – and they have come to a different opinion from you – and on the basis of studying the same texts.

    • Why are you still talking about terms, and then trying to use them to make unhappy associations? That is all irrelevant to the issue.

      How can I know they haven’t engaged with scholarship? It’s called the bibliography. Testimony is fine, but the testimonies are about how they have changed their thinking or why they think as they do, the idea being “I changed my thinking for this reason so perhaps you should too” or at least “please accommodate my respectable biblically-grounded view” . But if none of them have engaged with evangelical scholarship on the matter, how can they claim to be presenting a respectable evangelical view worthy of accommodation? Testimony should not be an excuse to present poorly researched arguments with an authority they do not warrant, or to sidestep scholarship and pretend it doesn’t matter. You cannot claim something is a plausible biblical interpretation just because you have been persuaded of it – that’s why we have biblical scholars. And if you haven’t engaged with them, should you really be publishing on an issue with an aim to persuade evangelicals of what scripture might plausibly be interpreted as saying? At the very least such a testimony should include something like: “So I came to research the issue and read XYZ books – leading evangelical scholars – but I just found them unpersuasive. X argued this, but I was much more persuaded by A’s take, while Y went for this line, but I thought B’s alternative fitted the passage much better”. Testimony is powerful, but all the more reason it should not be exempted from the responsibility to engage with good biblical scholarship.

      • Thanks Will: ‘Testimony is powerful, but all the more reason it should not be exempted from the responsibility to engage with good biblical scholarship.’

        Absolutely, that is my central point. As I keep reiterating, I am not interested in playing the ‘who is the true evangelical’ game.

        I wanted to take the chapters at face value, and at face value they do not appear to resemble anything close to what most people would recognise as an evangelical approach, in terms of engaging with the literature and going to Scripture as a key authority in making sense of experience.

        • Ian. If you will permit an off-thread observation: the wider question is not ‘who is the true evangelical’ but rather, ‘what do those who call themselves evangelical (or Christian for that matter) believe’ and how much agreement or disagreement is there about those convictions. Especially about the doctrine of sin and salvation; especially about the doctrine of original sin. At the moment (of course I cannot prove it, and would be humbled but pleased to be proved wrong) those clergy who believe ex animo that Articles 9-18 are true are in a minority. Long term that situation is bound to become unsustainable.

          Phil Almond

      • Yes, Will.
        If Gagnon, De Young, Schmidt et al. have not been read, then bide a while till they have been read. Till then what you have to say will not be publish-worthy.
        Nor do non-scholars in a position to be ‘persuaded’ of technical matters; they are better off following the actual scholars, not picking and choosing which of their conclusions they ‘like’ as though that were the point. That would be a victory for ideology and a defeat for scholarship and for truth.
        And then there’s the tendency to discuss things in terms of what Steve Chalke et al. say. What does it matter what they say by comparison with what qualified scholars say? Steve Chalke doesn’t claim to be a qualified scholar in this area.

  10. “Absolutely, that is my central point. As I keep reiterating, I am not interested in playing the ‘who is the true evangelical’ game.”

    Which presumably is why, at 9.25 this morning you commented that 1. “This is not by any stretch of the imagination an evangelical approach.”

    Please be a little more self aware Ian?

    • As I have said several times, I am not interested in asking whether people are still members of a club. I am interested in asking whether a discussion engages with evangelical concerns.

      Please be a little more attentive Andrew?

    • Andrew, You claim everyone else is at fault but completely fail to see how you cannot even stay on the same subject. You constantly move the goal posts and never make a point worthwhile at all.

  11. As someone serving in the Dorchester episcopal area I hope the new bishop of Oxford is able to bring some theological weight to this matter. In the interests of diversity, if nothing else, I find it odd that none of the senior leaders of the diocese are willing to defend heterosexual marriage as a first order issue.

    • Stephen,

      I’m inclined to agree with you. It would help for the Bishop (or any of the authors of Journeys) to distinguish what constitutes a ‘first order’ gospel issue and why same-sex sexual relationships don’t impinge on such an issue?

      Are there objective criteria for determining what kinds of human behaviour rise to that level?Also, even if it’s not first order, how does that become a rationale affirming the same?

  12. God bless General Synod as it gathers today and as its members meet in extended times of conversation around this vulnerable and conflicting part of its life and faith. And God bless this little book of journey’s shared as part of the resourcing of that task. No one, on any side, makes this journey carelessly or without careful thought and study. And for those looking for an in-depth biblical theological rationale for the ‘including’ position going footnote by footnote Gagnon et al – well, this 86 page book may not be the one you are looking for.

    • David, I understand your concern to respect the thinking that different people have done on all sides of the debate, and I share that concern—hence offering a blog with an open comments section.

      But, as I am sure you know, the claim ‘No-one has come to their position without careful thought and study’ is often used as a way to prevent or limit genuine debate on this issue. Actually, some people have thought really careful and at great depth (on both sides); but, in fact, other people have not, and have come to their conclusions carelessly and without real reflection, because this is too demanding, too time-consuming or too personally challenging—again, on both sides.

      So an important part of this discussion, along with respect, is to be able to put own views out there and open to scrutiny, and both to say about others and allow them to say about us ‘You know, that really does not add up.’ And we need to hear that without taking personal offence, but be open to scrutiny. If we don’t do that, we will never discern the mind of Christ together.

      Sadly, my observation about this book is that the arguments that have been put into the public domain here do not stand up well to scrutiny and often show little evidence of having really got to grips with the issues that most evangelicals would think are important. I’m not here looking for a Gagnon-style thesis; all I am looking for is *some* evidence that even *some* of the issues important to evangelicals have formed a part of these journeys. There is not much to go on.

      If I mistaken on this, then I would welcome any of the contributors correcting this impression with additional evidence. What does not help, though, is people complaining to each other in private without actually engaging. If you don’t want your views discussed, don’t publish a book!

      • “Sadly, my observation about this book is that the arguments that have been put into the public domain here do not stand up well to scrutiny and often show little evidence of having really got to grips with the issues that most evangelicals would think are important.”

        But at least they were put there, and there is value in that. At the very least for the discussion it provokes.

  13. Ian ‘as I am sure you know, the claim ‘No-one has come to their position without careful thought and study’ is often used as a way to prevent or limit genuine debate on this issue. No ‘no one’ is an overstatement – except that I am honouring both the book writers and those contributing to this thread in saying that. I know there are idiots on all sides. But I do not accept your claim at all that this limits genuine debate. Why? And what is the alternative? Both sides know what it is like to have their positions prejudged as mindless biblical literalism or post-biblical liberal accommodation to the age. Discussions and meetings like these need to start from the best of our opponents arguments not their worst. And we need to start with the presumption of good and honourable intent.

    • “Discussions and meetings like these need to start from the best of our opponents arguments not their worst.”

      Precisely. That is exactly the complaint being directed at this book – it shows no sign of having engaged with the best of the (biblical) arguments of those the contributors are now disagreeing with. No one is impugning motives, only questioning execution. What would convince people on the other side of the debate? That’s always a tall order, but express engagement with the best of their actual arguments can only help. Why should you be frustrated at failing to move someone whose arguments you haven’t actually considered?

  14. Ian Just missed your last point. I need to stop and you have Synod to go to.
    Have you noticed how often on this thread people have been telling each other that was not what they said or what they meant? While you came to search in vain for *some* substance or evidence in our contributions that might satisfy you, from this side I am left wondering what would convince you at all. So the incomprehension and frustration is mutual my brother.

    • I am not sure i am expressing incomprehension or frustration here. What I am pointing out is that this book is not what it claims to be, and shows almost no listening to decent evangelical arguments.

      No-one has offered any evidence to suggest otherwise.

      • No one is really disputing your second point about evangelicalism, aside from Andrew, but David Runcorn and I, despite holding very different opinions are both disputing the first (at least in part); that the book is not what it claims to be.

        From its own the website, the book is described as follows:

        “Journeys in Grace and Truth sets out the path each contributor has traveled to reach this point, involving moving encounters, scriptural exegesis and personal revelations. It is offered as a contribution to aid the discussion, and to broker deeper understanding between evangelicals and the wider Church.”

        I think that aside from the phrase “scriptural exegesis” which I’d agree is lacking to the point of untruth, the other aims and reasons for publishing are quite open.

        It claims to be a collection of ‘moving encounters’ and ‘personal revelations’. I find it to be that, it’s the main reason I ordered it and want to read it myself.

        It also claims to be a “contribution” (not a ‘case’ or an ‘argument’, or ‘thesis’), whose primary aim is to enable one side to see the challenges they face from the point of view of the other. I think that’s a reasonably humble aim, even if it implies people haven’t been listening when they clearly have.

        Put simply, it doesn’t claim to be persuasive, theological, or to be dealing with the other material you’ve mentioned, so it doesn’t bother me that it doesn’t. I think you’re holding it to a standard it never intended to meet. If I try an analogy, it sounds like you’re attacking a Superhero movie for not being historically accurate. You might well be right, but the movie didn’t advertise itself as a documentary.

        • before you jump back in with a rebuttal, I didn’t mention the phrase “Biblicaly rooted evangelicals” because I think it’s already established that I agree with your criticism of that phrase.

        • Thanks Mat. Not sure I want to ‘jump in with a rebuttal’ (!). But just to note that, in the book itself, Jayne claims that the contributors are evangelicals who are affirming of SSM. Neither is true. That is something of a major problem!

          I am just unclear how this can help ‘broker an understanding between evangelicals and the wider church’ when the book doesn’t really outline or even engage with the main evangelical concerns.

          That said, I think it is a laudable goal, and should be done. *but* it is not just evangelicals who are concerned here. Some liberals, many ‘catholics’ and a good number of ‘middle’ Anglicans have common cause.

          • Point taken, especially the last one. I didn’t mean anything critical by “jumping in”, just that you might have assumed I was ignoring the central claim your article takes issue with, when i wasn’t.

  15. I found Julian Henderson’s piece in the Church Times helpful. There are also a couple of articles in Oak Hill’s latest ‘commentary’ journal which relate to this topic. These contributions seem to bear the hallmarks of an evangelical theological method.

  16. Ian This really won’t do mate.
    When Jayne writes that all the contributors hold ‘an affirming view’ that is what she means – affirming of the possibility of forming committed relationships with someone of the same sex. She does not claim that the contributors ‘are affirming of SSM’ – nowhere at all. Marriage is not even mentioned. You are reading in. You have already been challenged, quite rightly, about your interpretation of some of Jayne’s other comments (and a bizarre spin on some words of David Gillett).I feel the same about your summary of some of my colleagues but that is for them to raise with you if they choose. But in the present context of this debate it is a serious mis-representation of the kind that shared conversations are aiming to overcome.

    • David, if you are right, then I should have contributed to the book. I am 100% in favour of ‘affirming of the possibility of forming committed relationships with someone of the same sex’.

      So should I have contributed?

      Or should we note the way that, so often in this kind of exercise, words suddenly start to take on strange new meanings?

      Are you also going to persuade me that both Paul Bayes and Hayley Matthews are ‘leading evangelicals’?

  17. You claimed Jayne said we were affirming of SSM. She did not.
    No words have suddenly taken on strange new meanings here. The claim was yours here and it is wrong.
    You know the basis on which the book was written – you tell me if you could have contributed like the rest of us.

    • No, my observation was that in the context of current debate, the word ‘affirming’ has been consistently used to refer to those who would like to see same-sex relations recognised as non-sinful, often in contrast to ‘excluding’.

      If the book was about people are ‘affirming’ in the sense you say, then it could include comments from anyone in the Christian church. It seems as though that was not the intention.

      If you are right, then yes I would have happily contributed. But (surprise, surprise) I was not invited.

    • Let’s again explore what the book claims. The back cover asks:

      ‘Is it possible to hold a positive view of same-sex relationships while being a biblically-rooted evangelical?’

      So what does the phrase ‘same-sex relationships’ actually refer to?

      Within the breadth of normal discourse, this means relationships of all sorts between people of the same sex. I have many such relationships and I view them very positively, and I would particularly want to encourage male-male friendships which in our culture are lacking.

      But you are not suggesting, are you, that that is what the phrase means in the context of the book…?

    • David,

      Your criticism is one-sided, given Jayne’s own claims that her YouGov survey was representative of CofE membership.

      Ozanne claimed of the survey that: ‘These figures confirm what many of us have known for some time: that the Church of England leadership is seriously out of step with its members, and even more so with society at large. Far more Anglicans now believe that same-sex marriage is right than those who think it is wrong.

      Strange that 60 per cent of participants who identified as Anglican said they had no problem with pornography, 85 per cent said they believed sex before marriage was morally acceptable and one third said they had no issue with adultery.

      Despite this, since you are not affirming of SSM, but only ‘affirming of the possibility of forming committed relationships with someone of the same-sex’, you’re therefore distancing yourself and the writers of Journeys from the supposed majority of Anglcans who, according to Ozanne, believe that same-sex marriage is right.

      Perhaps, you could clarify for the Anglican majority as identified by Ozanne exactly where you stand?

    • This thread has gone really strange, I’m lost and not sure what we’re arguing about anymore.

      Jayne’s website explicitly says of the book:

      “In this timely collection of essays the Church is urged to listen closely to the experience of leading Anglican Evangelicals who have travelled a path to become affirming of LGBTI Christians in same-sex relationships.” [emphasis mine]

      So I struggle to see the point David is making here: either Jayne is wrongly describing the nature of the contributions, or the contributors are willfully ignoring the brief they were given. Sorry David, you’ve lost me..

      As for Ian, I completely understand and agree with your first and second responses (above), but then by the time we get to describing male-male friendship as “same sex relationship”, as if that’s normal parlance, I’m afraid you’ve lost me too!

      I think we should have an embargo on comments after 7pm!

      • Hi Mat,

        I didn’t deny the quote from her website, but Jayne has promoted the notion (based on questionable inferences from the YouGov survey sample) that the majority of Anglicans are affirming of SSM (while presumably not espousing that view herself?)

        All I’ve asked is for David R to clarify whether he disagrees with that majority.

        That’s very different from (thus far) claiming that he and the other authors are doing nothing more than affirming of LGBTI Christians in same-sex relationships,

        The CofE has been here before, where campaigners seek to convince Synod that their revisionist position is moderate, requiring a minimal level of pastoral accommodation with few, if any, implications for current doctrine and liturgy. Once approved, it’s far easier to claim that the ensuing ‘journey’ has prompted further reflection, leading to affirmation of SSM.

        I’m simply challenging Davd R to the candour of declaring his stance on SSM now.

        • The David I was struggling to understand was David R in this case, not yourself, although thanks for the thoughts.

    • No, David I do not know what you mean, or what Jayne means. I am not playing games; I am pointing out the constant ambiguity of these terms, which Jayne appears to be using to full advantage.

      If anyone claims that these terms are not ambiguous, then I think that might merit the term you mention earlier, ‘disingenuous’.

      • They are extremely ambiguous. So often sexual and non-sexual are spliced together as though they were one and the same thing. A quick perusal of ‘Amazing Love’ found this particular sleight fo hand on pp 54, 84, 88, 101. To use ‘relationships’ at all without further qualification is to condemn oneself as an unclear thinker. It is an amazingly vague word, and clear thinkers do not use vague words. Dishonest thinkers might use them as Trojan horses, so if anyone wants not to be thought of as possibly dishonest, it woul dnot be a good idea to use such words. ‘Love’ is sometimes being used in the same equivocal way – is sex implied or not? Fuzziness and unclarity. Deliberate?
        So much ink has been spilled on this question in 50 years. Have we not progressed beyond this level of thought, which just repeats the same old perennial howlers?

        • So Christopher, which sexual acts are right for a married Christian couple? Only ones that might produce children? Sex is an amazingly vague word, don’t you think.?

          • Andrew, we are most certainly NOT defined by a sexual act at all. Stop attempting to move the goal posts on the discussion. What has a “sexual act” got to do with Christians at all?

          • That is another topic, not connected to what I wrote.
            Yes, it is a vague word, and people sometimes exploit that to claim that Christians are anti-sex when of course there is no one thing called sex to be either anti or pro.
            Your stereotype I don’t uphold; however, you have clearly already decided (incorrectly, as is often the case when people stereotype) what I believe. Most people are individuals, not stereotypes, unfortunately for those who ask leading questions hoping to make fun of them.

    • OK, so you have accused me of misinterpreting Jayne. I have pointed out not only where her words do not match the words in the book, but also the inherent ambiguities in the terms she has used…and you can’t help me. I understand.

  18. Ian you are clearly playing games in the way that David Runcorn suggests and it’s disingenuous in much the same way that you claim not to be interested in worrying about who is really in an evangelical club or not and then spend much time worrying about whether the authors of this book are capable of being in your little club or not.

    It is very obvious that this book and its authors affirm the possibility that people of the same sex might form partnerships that are bodily active. I’m sorry you find that so distasteful but people are embodied. I was told the other evening that marriage has to echo the relationship between Christ and his bride the church. I don’t disagree, but I was forced to ask how Christ and this particular bride had sex. People are not, by and large, called to celibacy. As Dorothy L Sayers once said, (through Peter Wimsey) “as for the gift of continency, I wouldn’t have it as a gift”.

    HOWEVER, the authors and the book do not actually affirm marriage of same sex partners and I think, as David Runcorn suggests, that you are fully aware of that and playing a game does not help anyone.

    • Andrew,

      Well, given Jayne Ozanne’s inference from the YouGov survey that 45% of Anglicans are affirming of same-sex marriage, we are left to wonder why her own affirmation of LGBTI Christians in same-sex relationships stops short of what SSM campaigners refer to as ‘marriage equality’.

      So, are you affirming of same-sex marriage?

    • ‘you claim not to be interested in worrying about who is really in an evangelical club or not’. I express no interest in that anywhere in this post. If you are going to accuse me of being dishonest you need to offer some evidence.

      ‘this book and its authors affirm the possibility that people of the same sex might form partnerships that are bodily active’. That’s what Jayne claims; the comments of contributors don’t support that uniformly.

    • Andrew

      As you know, in the Bible the physical act of intercourse between husband and wife is a picture of:

      Negatively: My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.

      Positively: Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

      Positively: Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

      These are instances of a remarkable constellation of interrelated pictures. Francis Schaeffer says somewhere to the effect that these are surely pictures that we would not dare use if God himself did not use them.

      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 asymmetry, is a feature of God’s good pre-Fall creation.

      Asymmetry is a key feature of the God-Christian relationships in these pictures. Those in Christ, male and female, (whether married, remarried, single, divorced, separated, widows, widowers) are all ‘female’ in this relationship.

      By denying the essential male/female asymmetry of the sexual act and the sexual attraction which precedes it, homosexuality shatters this constellation.

      In the light of these pictures it is inconceivable that same sex attraction and fulfilment could have been part of the ‘very good’, asymmetric, pre-Fall human nature described in Genesis 1 and 2.

      Also: The disagreement about same-sex attraction would appear to have largely lacked the context of the doctrine of Original Sin. Are we all agreed that Article 9 is true, with its teaching that we are all born with a corrupt nature inclined to evil? I don’t think we are all agreed it is true. But the truth of this doctrine is essential in the same-sex disagreement. Romans 1-3 is universal in its scope and about all humanity as a result of the Fall. Paul is setting out a universal gospel for a universal human condition. What other explanation can there be of the descriptions of humanity given in 1-3 other than the Fall? ‘Natural’ (1:26-27) therefore means the ‘very good’ male-female sexual attraction as created by God before the Fall intervened.

      Phil Almond

      • Phil: could you please translate your comment? I have no idea what point you are trying to make beyond a few proof texts which don’t really say much.
        The bible has all kinds of models of sexual intercourse. How do you know which ones are positive and which negative, to use your terms?

        • Of course, my question to you requires no deciphering.

          Are you personally affirming of same-sex marriage?

          • I guess the response to that question, David, is to ask you bring me a marriage certificate.

          • And the analogy might have worked had I asked you whether same-sex marriage was lawful.

            Anyway, your evasive response makes the ‘bait and switch’ tactic clear to everyone.

            Maybe Synod will swallow it, but, then again, maybe not.

          • Yours was the only baiting I saw David 🙂

            Synod is not debating this at all so there is nothing to swallow. The members of synod, outside of synod, are having shared conversations. I am in a shared conversation about whether the Church of England might affirm same sex marriage. That’s my personal affirmation.

          • Andrew,

            Who said anything about debate? Especially, when debate is contrasted so negatively in comparison with dialogue

            What Synod may or may not swallow is the relevance of those ‘moving’ personal testimonies and the alternative reading of scripture (which cannot bear even moderate scrutiny).

            Who knows? They may just prompt the HoB to propose a pastoral accommodation for affirming same-sex relationships in the February 2017 sessions.

            And, once approved, those of the affirming position can commence the subsequent phase of seeking doctrinal and liturgical amendments on that so-called ‘journey together’.

        • Andrew
          The thing about proof texts, when used in context, is that they prove something. The ‘negative’ text uses male-female intercourse with a prostitute as a picture of Israel’s spiritual adultery in forsaking Yahweh for idols. A bad thing.
          The first ‘positive’ text uses male-female intercourse as a picture of Yahweh setting his covenant love on Israel. A good thing.
          The second ‘positive’ text uses male-female intercourse and conception as a picture of Christ producing spiritual fruit in the Christian’s life and soul for the glory of God.

          I hope the rest of my comment is self-explanatory.

          Phil Almond

          • Phil: please tell me how many couples, married or not, Christian or not, who have these texts in their mind whilst in the acts of intercourse and then we might be able to have a conversation.

          • Andrew

            I have no means of knowing how many couples.

            These texts and passages, and several others, do two things. Some, by what they say about the God-Christian relationship and the Christ-Christian relationship throw tight on the husband-wife relationship. Others, by what they say about the husband-wife relationship, throw light on the God-Christian or the Christ-Christian relationship. To the Christian who, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, believes the Bible, this light is a significant part of the light about God, Christ and Man which the Bible gives to those who humbly meditate on it and seek to obey it.

            This reciprocal light leads me to also comment:

            Lewis’ essay ‘Priestesses in the Church? (1948)’ was written from an Anglo-Catholic perspective. Despite this I agree 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’.

            I repeat here something I have posted elsewhere:

            But people like me, who hold these views on same-sex attraction, have to be aware of beams in our own eyes. I mean this: the picture of mortification which Christ (the honest God-Man) uses, of plucking out an eye and cutting off a hand warn us of the excruciating experience (so vividly described in Jayne’s preface) when we try, really try, to put to death our members on the earth. Have I tried, really tried, tried to the point of agony, to mortify my failure to obey the command to be content with food and clothing and give the money saved to those in need? The Bible says much more about such sacrifices than about homosexuality.

            Phil Almond

  19. Like Mat I’m a little confused by this thread. I think Ian has assumed (in a comment) that the sexual relationships being affirmed in the book are SSM, and he is being taken to task because in fact the book is open as to whether they are rather just affirming of same-sex sexual relationships of some form which may or may not be marriage. But since SSM is a reality in this country and marriage is (currently) the only Christian paradigm for sexual relationships, and the research cited is about SSM, it does seem odd to split a hair over this. Are ‘affirming’ Christians proposing some other model of Christian sexual relationship? On the other hand, if Jayne doesn’t actually claim, in those words, that the contributors are affirming of SSM, I can understand why a claim to that effect would produce some protests. It does, however, seem like a distraction from points that are actually substantive.

    • Hi Will,

      It is a distraction from the substantive issue, but it’s another tactical manoeuvre. In the world of legislative negotiations, this is called ‘bait and switch’.

      For now, the weighty doctrinal and liturgical implications of the Church adopting same-sex marriage will be temporarily set aside by revisionists. They say that that only want the Church to affirm LGBTI Christians in same-sex relationships.

      This opens up the possibility of General Synod approving the kind of pastoral accommodation that Oliver O’Donovan described in his submission to Pilling.

      Once approved, the self-same revisonists will claim that, on further reflection, the Church’s liturgy and doctrine of marriage must be amended to accommodate same-sex couples.

      • The other possibility David – though altogether less sinister than your theorising – is that people like me are simply saying what we believe here and elsewhere. That is that Scripture can be understood to allow, that God blesses, and that the church should honour, committed, life-long, faithful, same-sex relationships. But many of us have concern that the word ‘marriage’ be kept for the partnership of a man and a woman. I know you and others strongly disagree. And I know why – so no need to repeat the arguments. But I and others have come to a different view from a faithful reading of the same texts.

        • David,

          Thanks for your elucidating reply. Your position does contrast significantly from the supposed 45% of Anglican members who, according to Joyce Ozanne, support same-sex marriage.

          I’ve just received my copy of Amazing Love which I ordered last week. I might well end up disagreeing with its conclusions, but, at first glance, the authors demonstrate far bettter engagement with the current state of the theological conversation.

          Oh, and neither is there any need to re-iterate the very different audience or approach of ‘Journeys’.

        • David: I’m going to take as read that these same-sex relationships are sexual, although it is not spelt out.

          What do you mean by a faithful reading? Perhaps you mean earnest. But if you mean accurate – which is the only meaning that really counts when it comes to determining church teaching – then we come back to the point that this supposedly accurate reading has not rebutted (or engaged) the arguments set out by the best defenders of the orthodox position. So it surely cannot be admitted as a respectable contender for a faithful reading of the texts.

          But let us think for a moment what you are saying. At bottom you are claiming that the Bible gives clear(?) support for sexual relationships that aren’t marriage. That claim, leaving to one side the issue of homosexuality, is quite staggering, given all that the Bible says on this matter and how it has hitherto been understood. I know you claim to have a legion of reputable scholars to back you up, but even so, such a claim must surely, in your more sober moments, give you cause to pause and wonder whether you really believe what you are saying. I would have thought you would be on stronger ground to try to argue for a de-gendered concept of marriage – though that too faces extraordinary obstacles to a claim for biblical warrant. But at least it doesn’t try to introduce ex nihilo a whole new category of biblically mandated sexual relationship.

      • Some of this conversation has been helpful—but other aspects of it read to me like point-scoring, ad hominem and rhetorical.

        I am happy to host constructive debate, but just a reminder that the other stuff doesn’t have a place here.

  20. I am just baffled by your comment Andrew. It seems to me that the Bible only recognises one kind of ‘model’ and that is outlined in Genesis 2:24. It does look pretty clear to me. What other models are there that the Bible recognises?

    It might not be as tedious as you think…

    • Prostitution for one? Forced marriage for a second? There are many examples, so I guess Andrew is right.

      The trouble is, I feel Andrew is being difficult deliberately. The bible recognizes many models of sexual intercourse, the issue is that it only affirms, blesses and encourages only the one, where all others are condemned. Recognition is one thing, affirmation another. That is where the exegetical battle is being fought: not “are there more models?” but, “are there other models that are affirmed?”…

      Semantics maybe, but this is why you two are missing each others’ point, though I get the feeling one of you is missing it deliberately….

      • Mat,

        I do get your point, but while there are many biblical occurrences of sexual intercourse, there is one divinely approved model of sexual union.

        In the scriptures, the absence of censure might connote provisional toleration or extreme forbearance, but certainly not approval.

        • I was making the semantic point that Andrew was talking about all models, Chris about approved models.

          I wasn’t making a comment either way (or wasn’t intending to) about the relative validities of said models.

  21. Mat, I think we differ about what is meant by ‘model’. The definition of sexual intercourse in the Bible is modelled as ‘one flesh’ between a man and woman i.e. coitus. So prostitution and forced marriage still involves ‘one flesh’ and is still the same modus operandi (model), even if the reasons are wrong. Paul makes this point clear when he refers to temple prostitutes in 1 Cor 6:16.
    In the case of SS sexual relationships then the Bible recognises no such ‘model’ or affirms it as such.

  22. Thanks, Ian, for an informative and clear response to this peculiar attempt to revise Scripture and Church teaching while claiming to be ‘Evangelical.’ As Don Fortson and I have recently argued in ‘Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition,’ the revisionist view is an assimilation of culture into the Church in light of a failure to affirm Biblical authority or listen to the orthodox teaching of the Church through 2,000 years of history (plus the teaching of Judaism before that). It is not about legitimate exegetical disputes (the texts are clear, and alternative interpretations are not only indefensible but also continuously contradict one another rather than present a consistent challenge). Nor is it about how to synthesise various passages in Scripture on sexuality for a Biblical sexual ethic or on homosexuality in particular: the witness of Scripture is consistent. If David Bebbington’s (‘Evangelicalism in Modern Britain’) definition of ‘Evangelical’ is to be accepted, then the point that Evangelicals are committed to the Bible as the ultimate authority weighs heavily against considering seats on the Evangelical bus being open to those unwilling to accept Scripture’s clear and consistent witness on such matters–to say nothing of the orthodox Christian bus. Those arguing for a new sexual ethic in Christian or Evangelical circles are contradicting the consistent witness of Scripture and Christian tradition. They have joined the ranks of the false prophets, warned against in 2 Peter, who encourage followers as they ‘indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority’ (2.10).

    • Rollin
      I hope you don’t mind me saying that I find the tone of your post rather off-putting. We all have some indwelling sin to struggle with and mortify, about some of which the Bible says more than about homosexuality.

      I believe Jonathan Edwards (quoted by Henri Blocher in ‘Original Sin – Illuminating the riddle’), speaking generally about the doctrine of Original Sin, strikes the right note

      ‘This doctrine teaches us to think no worse of others, than of ourselves: it teaches us that we are all, as we are by nature, companions in a miserable helpless condition; which under a revelation of the divine mercy, tends to promote mutual compassion.’

      Phil Almond

      • Phil, I, too, have found Jonathan Edwards helpful in his writing on original sin, sin, repentance, and Church revival. He could easily have preached a follow-up sermon to ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’ with ‘Pastoral care for repentant sinners in the hands of divine mercy.’ The two sermons would have set the right tone and been not only Edwardsian but solidly Evangelical. Still, I was addressing a different matter, that of a few Evangelical ‘leaders’ embracing false teaching and not that of persons calling out for divine mercy.

        We both agree that the issue is about sin. Where the tone changes in 2 Peter 2 (and many other places in Scripture) is especially with false apostles, false teachers, false shepherds, and false prophets telling people that what they are doing is not sin. Paul concludes his discussion of the sins of idolatry, lesbianism, male homosexuality, and then a list of other sins with these words in Romans 1:32: ‘Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.’ As in Romans, the pleasant tone of mercy through Jesus Christ follows the harsher tone of identifying the human condition as sinful. The deeper problem being faced is with persons who actually ‘call evil good and good evil’ (Isaiah 5.20).

        And Evangelicals have historically insisted that the distinction between good and evil is not something derived from shared conversations but from submission to the Word of God.

  23. Rollin. Thanks for this concise summary of your book (I presume). However you are not describing any evangelical theologian or biblical exegete I know or aspire to emulating – or indeed that I am meeting on this discussion thread either. I hope you find that reassuring even if we do not agree on this issue.

    • David, I’ll tack this response onto a reply of yours here to follow up my comment on the more recent thread. Perhaps a suitably short summary is that in both contexts you’re all (as far as I can tell) working from *evangelical* assumptions like that the Bible is the last word. There are alternatives. The Bible is indeed a foundational artifact of Christian tradition, but how it relates to a properly historical foundation for a twenty-first century Church of England is entirely different. I imagine you can see where I might go with that.

      Fun as it is (or not) to hold Ian to account for his less than rigorous writing, there’s little point debating this issue. A worthwhile national Church will have to step outside intra-factional disputes (however significant for those they impact) if it is to recover some kind of credibility with even the church-going minority in this country, let alone the rest of us. That’s where I want to spend time.

  24. David, Don Fortson’s and my book, ‘Unchanging Witness,’ is a collection and discussion of primary sources from Scripture, the Ancient Near East, Judaism, Greek and Roman sources, and from authors, councils, denominations, etc. throughout Church history on the issue of homosexuality. Our purpose was to provide people interested in the discussion the resources needed to hear the relevant Biblical texts in and over against their contexts and to hear the (often silenced) voice of the Church interpreting the Scriptures over the past 2,000 years. We do original research with primary sources and with attention to original languages. We also read and engage opposing views. I should hope that any scholar would want to emulate such work, and we assessed that there was still a need for further such work in the current questioning of Christian teaching on homosexuality.

    To Ian’s point, the absence of an engagement with serious scholarship already produced by orthodox Christian scholars in the reported journeys of those coming to embrace a revisionist view is a serious problem.

  25. Rollin Thank you for your research. It is important and the book which sounds a real labour of love. But an 86 page book of testimonies is not to be judged against a 500 page academic tome like yours. Nor should it be assumed that the authors have not actually read and thought widely because they are commending a view point you do not agree with. Do you know any of us? Personally I have been reading and reflecting on this subject for more than 20 years so I have not come quickly or lightly to an including view of same-sex relationships on the basis of scripture. But without discussion with anyone of this thread you totally dismiss any other view of scripture and history than yours as peculiar and ‘indefensible’. I am apparently one of those the Apostle Peter warned about 2000 years ago. I am encouraging Christians to ‘indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority’ no less. The gracious but emphatically conservative Phil Almond struggled with your tone here so I am in good company. So you will understand if I do not think there’s much mileage here for trying to discuss any of this with you further.

    • David – because you think you don’t like the style you don’t want to engage with the substance? Why not rebuke the style and *address* the substance? It’s not a multiple-choice, so that we can deal with either style or substance but not both. Almost the commonest thing I have come across is people using style as an excuse never to think about the substance. Yet, after all, it’s the substance that’s the main point.

  26. In the section of Gavin Collins where he struggles to understand why same-sex relationship are not permitted you state that the resources are there to work through that issue. Please would you list them? I’d be interested to read them.

    • I list the first ones that came to my mind at the end of the piece, identifying the argument and naming the author. Each of them has written a book in this area.


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