Living in Hope? The Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’ project on sexuality

Andrew Atherstone writes: Evangelical friends have challenged me to give an account for my participation in the Living in Love and Faith project (LLF), which is currently advising the House of Bishops on ‘human identity, sexuality and marriage’. After 18 months spent discussing academic papers in four work streams (Bible, Doctrine, History, Science), the report drafting has begun in earnest during 2019, for publication around the time of the Lambeth Conference in 2020. There are approximately 35 consultants to the project, including a number of evangelicals. But is participation in this project consistent with evangelical profession? Are the evangelical consultants merely pawns in someone else’s game, recruited to provide window-dressing to a ‘revisionist’ agenda? To maintain our integrity, should we resign and wash our hands of the whole affair?

The Ryle Model

One of the best models of evangelical engagement in the Church of England is John Charles Ryle (1816-1900), a parish clergyman in Norwich diocese who became the first Bishop of Liverpool. As a prodigious tract writer and popular platform speaker, one striking feature of Ryle’s ministry was his willingness to engage theologically in intra-Anglican dialogue. He regularly attended the Church Congress, an annual event launched in the 1860s at which Anglicans across the whole theological spectrum addressed the hot topics of the day. Many evangelicals refused to go, believing the Church Congress movement to be a vehicle for doctrinal compromise, but Ryle insisted that evangelicals should be there to speak up, articulately and winsomely, for biblical Christianity. To decline the invitation, he suggested, was not proof of doctrinal purity but of timidity and doctrinal surrender.

Because of his participation on the Congress platform, Ryle was assailed by his fellow evangelicals with many rude epithets. They called him a ‘neo-evangelical’, a weak compromiser, a trimmer, and a broken bugle which gave an uncertain sound. They suggested his complicity in these Anglican dialogues was incompatible with his famous books in praise of the Reformers, Puritans, and evangelical revivalists. But Ryle stuck to his guns. He explained that attending Congresses was not a pleasure but an evangelical duty. How else would the evangelical position be heard? Why let error reign unchallenged when there was an opportunity to speak for the truth? ‘If we refuse to take part in them’, he pleaded, ‘we shall throw them into the hands of other Schools of Thought, and our own cause will suffer damage.’ Why beat a retreat, and lower the flag, and jump ship – some of his favourite militaristic metaphors – when all was not lost? Nor did Ryle think it right ‘to use rough and severe language towards men with whom we differ, and to turn a Congress platform into a bear-garden’. He delivered clear evangelical position papers, but was determined to treat his fellow Anglicans ‘with civility, courtesy, and respect, even when I cannot agree with them’. Evangelical critics who claimed he had forgotten his evangelical principles were ‘utterly, entirely, wholly, and completely mistaken’ (The Record, 1877-78).

I confess to being an avid Ryle fan. His books are some of the most refreshing, sparkling, invigorating expositions of Anglican evangelical theology ever written. And his desire to engage patiently and rigorously with the whole Church of England, rather than only with likeminded friends, has a great deal to commend it.

Registering Dissent

Those who engage in Anglican councils and commissions are obliged to seek theological consensus and a common mind. That itself is a virtue. The New Testament frequently urges us to ‘be of one mind’ (2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Peter 3:8) and theological dialogue is one way in which we take seriously that apostolic injunction. Of course there can be intense institutional pressure to minimize differences, or to hide behind ambiguous statements, in order to present a united façade. Sometimes, where no consensus is possible, it is necessary to break ranks and dissent against the majority. Dissent is troublesome to Church authorities who prefer to smooth over divisions, but is a helpful reminder that we are not yet of one mind.

Last autumn I was brought to the brink of resignation from the LLF process. It is a fragile project, chasing a moving target and the parameters continue to evolve. But one of the chief unresolved tensions is between the priorities of LLF and the Pastoral Advisory Group (PAG); both were set up in parallel by the Archbishops, though with different objectives which sometimes clash. LLF’s remit is to examine Anglican doctrine in the light of pressing pastoral concerns; PAG’s remit it to provide pastoral guidance to meet those concerns without changing Anglican doctrine. There is an inherent ambiguity here. One pressing question is whether the Church of England should offer public prayers to celebrate same-sex marriages and civil partnerships. Is that a pastoral question or a doctrinal question? Clergy across the country have taken the law into their own hands by constructing local liturgy, often with the tacit or even explicit approval of their bishops. Some more brazen diocesan bishops have written their own liturgical guidance, which is arguably illegal, and others are eager to follow suit. My own bishops in the Diocese of Oxford announced in a recent Ad Clerum that if PAG is too slow in producing liturgical resources, they may issue their own liturgical reflections ‘for the benefit of the diocese’ in the short term. These calls continue to grow in their clamour. Wouldn’t it be best, some ask, for PAG to produce nationally approved liturgical guidance, to be signed off by the House of Bishops?

Such liturgical guidelines from the House of Bishops would not only derail the entire LLF process, but would rupture the Church of England’s common life. Thankfully PAG pulled back after wrestling with ‘the very real tensions between doctrine, liturgy and pastoral practice’ (GS Misc 1200). Indeed the legal advice summarized in GS Misc 2055 is clear that every form of service ‘shall be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’ (Canon B5). Such prayers would indicate a departure in essential doctrine. But PAG’s disappointment at this limitation of their remit is palpable in their ‘Living Letter’ read to General Synod in February 2019:

A key task with which we’ve been entrusted is to produce pastoral resources ‘consistent with the current doctrine and ecclesiastical laws of the Church of England’. In producing the Pastoral Principles we’ve become highly sensitized to the fact than in offering almost any resources we could be accused of seeking to affect teaching and doctrine. And it’s for this reason therefore that the group does not intend to venture into the realm of offering guidelines and resources for public prayer. Responsibility for this correctly lies elsewhere in the Church. This has been a difficult realization for us, because people are making pastoral requests for prayer. We have clearly heard this. Prayer means standing alongside people in often complex and sometimes impossible situations, and offering our concern for them to God. It is inherently costly, and risky, and utterly in line with the ministry of Jesus.

All would agree that these are complex questions of the deepest pastoral importance. But liturgy and doctrine are inextricably linked (lex orandi, lex credendi). The furore over the House of Bishops’ guidance on public prayer to celebrate gender transition is a mere pothole in a bumpy road, compared to the car crash we would now be facing if the House of Bishops had issued guidance on public prayer to celebrate same-sex unions. If evangelicals absented themselves from these painful discussions, where would we be? Public statements of dissent are a necessary final resort, but dissent expressed privately in commissions and committees can sometimes be effective in restraining serious missteps before they are taken.

A Word of Hope

Living in Love and Faith picks up two parts of the Pauline trio – faith, hope, love (1 Corinthians 13:13) – but as Dr Eeva John (LLF enabling officer) told General Synod, ‘hope’ is the word that ‘underpins the whole of LLF process’ and will be stamped as a watermark on every page of the resources. She declared:

The Living in Love and Faith resources are about creating a space for us the Church to exercise this discipline of hope in a Church and a world that too easily resorts to cynicism, division, and polarization. After all, our hope is not in a process, not even in scholarly knowledge, not even in bishops or archbishops. Our hope is in Christ, who holds out his arms on the cross, to hold us together in love and faith, and in so doing transform us, his Church, into his own likeness.

Hope for the future is not naïve optimism. There are plenty of obvious reasons to feel despondent about our current Anglican confusions, and the lessons of history are not encouraging. But hope remains. My hopes for the LLF project can be summarized under three headings: Listening and Learning; Gracious Engagement; Clarity and Coherence.

(a) Listening and Learning

My first hope is that the LLF project will enable deep learning across the whole Church. And we don’t learn if we don’t listen. First and foremost we must listen to the voice of God in Scripture, digging deeply into God’s Word and reading it with great care and attention. We must remove our modern Western spectacles and seek help in our Bible interpretation from the whole Church, down the centuries and across the world (including, for example, our sisters and brothers in the Global South). Scripture is always primary in healthy Anglican theology, and is embedded in the first learning outcome for the LLF resources: to ‘be inspired by Scripture’s glorious and joyful vision of God’s intention for human life’. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if LLF helped us to understand the Bible better, to live under its supreme authority, to embrace its beautiful pattern of holiness, and to proclaim the gospel more effectively? That is my greatest hope for the project.

But it is also imperative that we learn from real life experiences. Another LLF learning outcome is that we will ‘hear the voices and encounter the experiences of people who would otherwise have been invisible to us’. How can we hear if we do not listen? John Stott (1921-2011), like John Ryle, is an excellent model of evangelical engagement in the Church of England. His teaching on ‘double listening’ is especially helpful in this context. In The Contemporary Christian (1992), Stott argues that it is not possible to know how best to respond to those who challenge classic Christian teaching ‘until we have listened to them and struggled to understand and feel the appeal of their arguments’. He defines double listening as…

…the faculty of listening to two voices at the same time, the voice of God through Scripture and the voices of men and women around us. These voices will often contradict one another, but our purpose in listening to them both is to discover how they relate to each other. Double listening is indispensable to Christian discipleship and Christian mission.

Of course we do not give equal weight to these voices, as Stott explains:

I am not suggesting that we should listen to God and to our fellow human beings in the same way or with the same degree of deference. We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the world with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it.

The new ‘Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together’, published by PAG, deserve thoughtful theological critique. But their challenge to the six sins of Prejudice, Silence, Ignorance, Fear, Hypocrisy, and the Abuse of Power, also deserves serious personal reflection, self-examination, and repentance. Careful listening and learning, as fostered by the LLF project, is a step in the right direction to rooting out these iniquities in our own lives. That is cause for hope.

(b) Gracious Engagement

My second hope is that LLF will model godly graciousness in our debates. Patient engagement helps to change the tone of our conversation, by dialing down the rhetoric. Some evangelical cynics suggest that LLF is a Machiavellian attempt by the House of Bishops to soften us up before they plan to introduce doctrinal change after 2020. But perhaps our attitudes to one another do need to be softened up? The modern Church of England is often guilty of soft-headedness and hard-heartedness, which is the wrong way round. We need more steel in our thinking – indeed General Synod is allergic to serious theological endeavor, a symptom of wider Anglican malaise. But we need far more generosity and grace in our loving. The world watches in disgust as Anglicans throw rocks at each other from all sides. Any initiative or statement from outside our own small party is greeted with a hermeneutic of suspicion, interpreted in the worst possible light, and destroyed with snide abuse. And hectoring online commentary quickly descends to the level of the gutter. Evangelicals, sadly, are not immune from these sins. ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near’ (Philippians 4:5).

‘Good disagreement’ is a redundant, ambiguous phrase which has been stretched to fit an increasingly broad lexical range, including as a synonym for Anglican pluralism (see Andrew Atherstone and Andrew Goddard, Good Disagreement? Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, 2015). We need a moratorium on the language of ‘good disagreement’, which is now used to cover a multitude of theological indiscretions, a shorthand for visible-unity-at-any-cost. Disagreement, in and of itself, can never be ‘good’. But where divisions remain unresolved, ‘gracious disagreement’ is a mercy. The alternative is ‘vicious disagreement’, which currently typifies much of our political and ecclesial life. The LLF process seeks to model disagreeing with grace not violence, and that is cause for hope.

(c) Clarity and Coherence

My third hope is that LLF will help the Church of England to clarify its doctrinal position on marriage and sexuality. We should be unafraid of these difficult debates because it is good for Anglican teaching to be tested and tried at the bar of Scripture in the light of pressing contemporary questions. A fog has descended upon us in recent years. We need to clarify the issues at stake. What precisely are our disagreements, and what lies behind them? How do different anthropologies spring from different understandings of the gospel? Careless caricatures must be replaced by accurate detailed analysis, and woolly thinking by hard intellectual labour. Instead of vanquishing straw-men we need to wrestle with the best and strongest alternative viewpoints. And in clarifying our disagreements we may even discover some surprising areas of agreement which we don’t expect. There are too many Anglican Don Quixotes who spend their energies tilting at windmills.

But LLF must do more than simply clear the fog and provide a map of the terrain. It also needs to provide tools for the Church to weigh the various positions: which are consistent with the teaching of Scripture, and life-giving for Christian disciples, and which are not? Some of the current viewpoints on human identity, sexuality, and marriage are incompatible and cannot be held together in the Church. For LLF merely to produce a catalogue of views side by side, as if all are acceptable and as if bona fide Anglicans can simply take their pick, would be a recipe for the collapse of the Church of England. We need the House of Bishops to promote theological coherence, not destructive moral pluralism. As Eeva John reassured General Synod in February 2019, the LLF project explicitly eschews ‘a post-modern libertarianism, where anything and everything goes’, as if ‘different views and behaviours don’t really matter as long as we love each other’. But any map needs boundaries, to show which views are compatible with historic Anglicanism, and which are not.

Clarity and coherence lead to renewed confidence. If the LLF process helps the Church of England to grow in confidence in God and the gospel, and to proclaim the good news of redemption through Christ with compassion and conviction, that really would be cause for hope. And while hope remains, evangelicals should stay at the table.


Andrew Atherstone is Latimer research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, The Faith and Order Commission, and the Liturgical Commission.


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156 thoughts on “Living in Hope? The Church of England’s ‘Living in Love and Faith’ project on sexuality”

    • Well, I think Andrew would see that quite clearly in his call for LLF to offer some clear criteria, and I think he is pointing towards this in this comment:

      ‘But LLF must do more than simply clear the fog and provide a map of the terrain. It also needs to provide tools for the Church to weigh the various positions: which are consistent with the teaching of Scripture, and life-giving for Christian disciples, and which are not? Some of the current viewpoints on human identity, sexuality, and marriage are incompatible and cannot be held together in the Church.’

  1. Ryle was a singular persecutor of Anglo-Catholic clergy, one of whom (James Bell Cox) was imprisoned for ritual “offences”. I don’t think he is much of a role model for anyone in the Church of England of today.

    • Mr Google books tells that Ryle merely refused to veto the prosecution of Cox on the grounds that he had criticised others for the use of veto.

      “singular persecutor of Anglo-Catholic clergy” sounds a little excessive surely?

      • Ryle had a veto which he could have exercised to prevent one of his clergy going to prison but not only did he not do so, he criticised other bishops who did.

    • I am slightly unsure that the current alternative—of ignoring the widespread use of the Roman Missal, and of teaching about purgatory (in a leaflet in a church in the neighbouring deanery where I was asked to cover leading a Communion service) is really compatible with the teaching of the C of E or the ordination vows that clergy take.

      I am not suggesting persecution—just a modicum of coherence.

      • Cox was charged with using lighted candles on the altar and with wearing eucharistic vestments. That would mean pretty much all of the current House of Bishops facing prison, and possibly you as well, if Ryle’s attitude were to prevail today. As I said, a very poor role model, but Evangelicals seem to have adopted him as such, although he belongs more in an Orange Lodge than in the Church of England.

        • Having just looked up something of the case (https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/anvil/22-3_199.pdf) the reason Bell Cox went to prison was that he refused to recognise the court. (It seems he had a particularly comfortable time during the 16 days he was in gaol.)

          It was the Church Association, not Ryle, which brought the prosecution. That Ryle did not veto would seem to me to be a good thing. It would enable the practice to be examined in a court. There is a connection between practice and belief, although I suspect that those who have candles on communion tables [sic] these days do not understand the doctrinal significance that their particular use had at the time.

          • So you would be happy to have a secular court deciding what is permissible in Christian worship, and sending to jail those who refuse to comply with its demands?

        • What’s being offered is not Ryle’s perceived failure but this as a valid way forward , “… Ryle stuck to his guns. He explained that attending Congresses was not a pleasure but an evangelical duty. How else would the evangelical position be heard?”

          Nobody is suggesting a time machine travel back to his day and imprisonment by the secular authorities…. That’s simply an illogical follow through.

          On the other hand HoB in prison might not be all bad 🙂

  2. Thank you Andrew, I found this a cogent defence of your involvement in this important project, and will be praying for you and other biblically faithful evangelicals involved.

    While I have every trust in your motives and the motives of those leading the project, I fear that the motives of those who set it up, and of much of the senior leadership of the Church more generally, are much more cynical, and that this is indeed a means of advancing their vision of ‘good disagreement’ to bring in same-sex marriage to the CofE. The fact that they set up the pastoral PAG independently of the doctrinal LLF to produce materials ahead of it, rather than the practice and pastoral guidance following from the doctrine and theology, shows where they intend this to go. The transgender baptismal liturgy debacle further confirms it.

    My own critique of the PAG’s Pastoral Principles is here: https://faith-and-politics.com/2019/02/22/whats-wrong-with-the-church-of-englands-new-lgbt-pastoral-principles/

    • But surely, Will, we need to take things as they are, rather than become cynical about a process because of what we construct the motives of *some* to be? If we did that, I am not sure any of us would be involved in anything that the C of E does…!

      The fact that the PAG could *not* do what was originally intended is surely evidence for the value of the kind of good process that Andrew is advocating…?

  3. While this is not a comment on motives, it seems to me that it was/is a misstep to separate doctrine from practice. Are they not indivisible, though distinct?
    An example, simple, but not simplistic, would be prayers for the dead.
    Yes, considering both aspects at once may have been practically unwieldy, unmanageable, but at the end of the day there needs to be some mechanism, process of synthesis.

  4. “Some of the current viewpoints on human identity, sexuality, and marriage are incompatible and cannot be held together in the Church. For LLF merely to produce a catalogue of views side by side, as if all are acceptable and as if bona fide Anglicans can simply take their pick, would be a recipe for the collapse of the Church of England. ”
    As is being demonstrated in other provinces ….

    • Yes, and only because of the prior collapse of a regard for truth. From that (as must inevitably be the case) all else follows.

      The revisionists like to have views or ‘answers’ that represent their desires, not the evidence. But these do not form a coherent whole. Nor is it clear why they should, or have the right to, be granted any such thing.

  5. I think the problem is that there is not really a grey area in this argument. You either think gay sexual relations are ‘good’ in God’s eyes or they are not. As such, any evangelicals in any group, assuming they think the latter, could never agree to blessing same sex marriage or celebrating such relations in prayer. That would be a contradiction. I dont see how any meaningful agreement can be reached.

    Evangelicals are often accused of not listening to others, but Ive found it is often those who are adamant same-sex relations are perfectly good who refuse to listen. A few weeks ago a meeting was held in a Belfast church by people who reject same-sex relations, and there was a protest outside. The main speaker came out to talk to them and even offered them chocolates, but no they were having none of it and continued their shouting. Listening works both ways.

  6. I’m grateful for Andrew’s involvement in this project. I guess some of it comes down to temperament and calling. Not all evangelicals can handle that type of engagement, but those who can should, and those who can’t should prayerfully support them. Evangelicals who are bored and frustrated by councils and synods should do what they do best, and let’s pray for them too. I think Stott may be the role model not only for the double listening process, but also for engagement across the spectrum of church governance, decision making and leadership. Wasn’t that the vision of the Keele and Nottingham NEACs?

    • “Wasn’t that the vision of the Keele and Nottingham NEACs?”

      Yes, it was, but we might now, with 50years perspective, ask where did Keele & Nottingham get us?

      We stayed, we invested, we had many evangelicals appointed to Bishops & senior staff….meanwhile the church has become more liberal now than any evangelical cleric could have possibly imagined then.

      Maybe Stott was wrong – maybe Lloyd Jones was right? I have rarely thought so, until of late.

      • I simply don’t think it is true that ‘the church has become more liberal now’. Evangelism is on the national agenda; contrast that with responses to Carey’s ‘Decade of Evangelism’.

        Church planting has been given the go-ahead when 30 years ago David Pytches called the parish system the ‘phylactery of the church’ because cross-parish church planting was prohibited.

        Bishops were in the past publicly saying that Jesus was not bodily raised. Some still say it, but in private. The Sea of Faith movement, denying the existence of God in any objective sense, was flourishing then.

        Evangelicals globally provide some leading voices in biblical scholarship; 30 years ago it was all defence and damage limitation.

        So I think we have come a long way, and we should recognise that.

        • Yes, Ian, we have come a long way. There are lots of great local Church of England churches and much that is encouraging. New church plants, good evangelical scholarship, etc. But how and why has it gone so wrong in this particular area? Is it not extraordinary that the House of Bishops have commissioned a report at vast expense that will make no decisions? That is an abdication of the responsibility of bishops to teach the truth, refute error and contend publicly. After all that is what we local church leaders have to do every week!

        • Ok – that seems fair Ian

          But do you think it also fair that just 10 years ago moderate Bishops would never countenance the changes in doctrine and liturgy around ethics that evangelicals are doing now?

        • Thanks for saying this, Ian. I came to Christ under Stott in 1967 and well remember the time when evangelicals were a despised minority. I’ve rejoiced in the way that ‘we’ have grown and spread and become more influential. This position is very, very hard-won and needs to be respected and built on.

          • Gill
            What a thrill to hear of yet another coming to faith under the ministry of the great man, John Stott. How often have I heard similar.

            I do think an appeal (made further up) to be following Stott’s approach is not accurate. We are at a very different time in the church and our theology more unstable and unorthodox. Stott the peace maker and builder, were he here today, I suspect would not be Stott the Obadiah, but Stott the Elijah, a prophet and troubler in Israel. Back in the 1960’s-70’s as Ian Paul points out, there were some radical flaky faith denying Bishops. But the theology & liturgy of the church was stable. Today it is being tampered with and conformed to culture. A pragmatic, compromising, long game response is not one I would think he would take. One can only muse, but given his ultimate faithfulness to Christ and the Scriptures and the orthodox faith as once delivered, were he alive I question whether he would sit on committees juggling compromise. Perhaps he would decide to lead an Exodus, as Lloyd Jones had asked him to 60years ago.

        • Ian
          It depends on what are the evangelical truths.

          The Declaration of Assent (which is made by all ordained ministers in the Church of England) and its Preface (both are set out in Canon C15) and Canon A5 (the Doctrine of the Church of England) together make it clear that anyone making the Declaration is making a commitment, among other things, to believe and preach:
          1. The terrible truth about the human condition, that we all face the wrath and condemnation of God from birth onwards because of Adam’s sin and our own sins, until and unless God brings us by his grace to salvation. (Article 9)
          2. That we are all born with a nature which is inclined to evil. (Article 9)
          3. The wonderful news that Christ, in his atoning death and life giving resurrection bore that wrath and that condemnation, thus delivering all who repent and have faith in Christ from that wrath and that condemnation. (Article 35 and the Homilies on the Passion, the Nativity and Salvation)
          In brief, all ordained ministers, by making the Declaration of Assent, commit to believe and preach the doctrines of Original Sin and the Atonement doctrine of Penal Substitution.

          Do all, most, or few of those who would describe themselves as ‘evangelicals’ agree that these assertions are true?

          Phil Almond

          • Phil

            Thank you for reminding us of the fundamentals. Ian says that evangelism – making known the gospel – is on the national agenda, but the question is, what gospel. “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” As Peter Mattacola observes, the apostle doesn’t go in for good disagreement or obfuscatory language where the way of salvation is under attack.

            Sin – disobedience to God – and sexual infidelity are intimately linked. Unholiness because of sin is unfaithfulness towards God, a kind of adultery. When the first man and the woman became acquainted with evil, they knew at once that they were no longer sexually innocent. While their sexual organs had not been involved in the act of transgression, they knew instinctively that these had to be covered. That idolatry (worship of Satan, whether disguised as a serpent or dressed in seemingly transcendent theological clothing) amounts to a kind of fornication is the no. 1 lesson of the entire OT.

            Even in the Church, we have reached the stage where we are so inured to transgression that we no longer have the instinct of the first man and woman. There is no primal sense of shame.

          • Trading on shame and trading with shame is one of the huge sins of the conservative evangelical community and ruins lives. It’s a clear form of spiritual abuse. It has no part in the gospel. If you want to talk with any authority about adultery read the story of the woman caught in adultery. Then see how Jesus talks about this ‘primal sense of shame’.

          • Steven,

            I am not sure what version of the OT you are reading, but it does not seem to be conveying the same impression as my NIV. Yes the OT linked sexual unfaithfulness and unholiness, but only in the sense that it uses sexual unfaithfulness as a metaphor for Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. That does not not mean that sexual sins somehow have some special importance.

            If we read Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the Well and with the woman who was about to be stoned after being caught in adultery we do not see the sort of aggressive condemnation some evangelicals preach. Indeed in neither case did Jesus condemn. He accepted both of them as they were. In the case of the woman at he well he never even said that her living with the man who was not her husband was wrong. He seems to leave that to the Holy Spirit just as Billy Graham said. “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

            It seems to me, and many others inside and outside the church, that some evangelicals have an obsession with sexual sin giving them some separate status that blocks that start of the process of salvation. Sin is sin degrees of sin seem to be of man’s making.

            As an aside, if we are reading Genesis carefully, we do not know what part of the body Adam and Eve covered with fig leaves. Artists have depicted it as a minimal covering of the sexual organs, but I suspect that is more to do with an artistic fashion of the time to depict as much naked flesh as possible. Subsequent generations have also added single fig leaves to cover sexual organs on paintings where the artist intended them to be shown. Genesis 3:7 says they sewed fig leaves together which suggests they covered more that the artists depict. We must be careful not to build doctrine on the unfounded assumptions of others into our reading of the Bible.

          • Andrew,
            Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “sin no more.” I.e. do not continue your shameful actions. She found forgiveness, “neither do I condemn you”, but we know that her forgiveness, and ours, is possible because Jesus bore the sin and shame on the cross.

            Jesus in his ministry was very often in the business of removing shame. But this was not by saying that the way people were was OK, but by removal of the cause of shame and uncleanness.

            John writes: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”. It is the self-deceipt of the late modern world, embraced by liberalism in the Church, which denies sin, guilt and shame. It replaces repentance with therapy, and it is that which is dangerous because it turns the self inward – incurvatus in se. The only true source of the necessary transformation of the human heart is the Holy Spirit, “you must be born again/from above.”

          • David: You seem to be extrapolating quite a lot in that interpretation.

            What Jesus was making clear was that in the case of adultery (at least) we don’t do public shaming and humiliation – which of course was what the stoning was all about.

          • What Jesus was making clear was that in the case of adultery (at least) we don’t do public shaming and humiliation

            Who mentioned ‘public shaming’?

            The point was that we have tragically lost the private sense of shame where we are properly ashamed of ourselves and our own actions.

            If we have no sense of private shame, we will not realise we need to repent. If we do not repent, we are not forgiven. If we are not forgiven, we are damned.

          • If it’s private, how would you possibly know?

            Because people keep saying that things they ought to be ashamed of — one-night stands, for example — can be holy.

            Which means that if they have done those things, then they clearly don’t feel the proper private shame over them.

            Maybe they haven’t done those things and are speaking hypothetically, but that’s even more dangerous because they are then encouraging others who have done those things not to feel private shame over them. In which case those others, if they are so misled, won’t realise they need to repent, and therefore will not be forgiven, and so will be damned forever.

            Quite a thing to have on one’s conscience, that.

          • Hi Nick,
            you said:
            I am not sure what version of the OT you are reading, but it does not seem to be conveying the same impression as my NIV… That does not not mean that sexual sins somehow have some special importance.

            I would say that Leviticus 18 (not irrelevant to the matter in hand) is clear that the sexual sins listed there are very serious. The language of ‘abomination’ is very strong, and the people of Israel are to do none of them “lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” [Interesting how it is the land which is made unclean.]
            The word used toevah, translated abomination in the ESV, is only used in Leviticus in this context, and in Lev 20:13, which repeats the use of the word to describe “a man lying with a man as one does with a woman.”

            So, my OT does seem to hold sexual sins as being very serious.

            Your point about the attitude of Jesus to those who have committed sexual sins is well made. I recall a long time ago John Eddison saying that Jesus had much more to say about the dangers of money than the dangers of sex. This was at a conference of students, who had more opportunities for sex than money.

            However, the present issue is not about how one addresses sexual sin, how one forgives and loves the sinner, and allows the Holy Spirit to work in them. It is about whether same-sex activity is sinful or is blessed (or, perhaps, is somewhere in between).

            One might add to this the issue of licensed ministers in same-sex relationships. If such are not blessed, then is it right to impose a greater discipline on such ministers than on ordinary folk in the pew?

          • Appeal to the adulteress story is hazardous since it is most likely not an integral part of the gospels. However, its teaching is fully compliant with Luke’s and pretty much with the NT as a whole. It is a story that was floating around and (it seems) also known to Papias a very short while after the writing of the 4 gospels.

      • I think both are true; the Church of England has at the same time become more liberal and more evangelical. In other words, it has polarised, squeezing the via media down to a tiny patch of land that cannot any longer accommodate us all.

        You’ve got revisionists (on sexuality especially) energetically severing the moorings apostolic faith and, paradoxically, you’ve got resourcing church projects that arguably looks more like the Book of Acts than the Church of England has ever done before. And it’s all happening at the same time. It makes the future very hard to read.

        I think Stott was right in his day. That’s why I’m in. But more and more, I wonder if Lloyd-Jones was right for *our* day and that the Church of England is now one step from engineering an irreversible tectonic shift in doctrine which will drive many evangelicals away, however much money the Church Commissioners throw at church planting initiatives.

  7. Simon, “we had many evangelicals appointed to Bishops and senior staff” … and that is where it primarily has gone wrong. There are still great local C of E churches all over the country.

    But let us say that one in four bishops call themselves “evangelicals”. With that influence how have things gone so wrong at the top? How many have taught the truth, refuted error and contended publicly?

  8. Call me simple if you will – i have friend who does – but every time i see people designating themselves with some subsidiary definition of Christianity, based on doctrinal adherence of some sort, i remember that nowhere does Jesus say by your doctrines will you be known. But he is reported as saying by your fruit will we be known as his followers. It really is no great surprise that the world is in the mess it’s in when those who purport to follow Christ set more store by their intellectual content – which too often becomes egoistic and self-righteous, disguised as ‘conscience’ – than by the love of/ for Christ in their hearts, manifesting the fruits of the Spirit……………………..

    • Hilary
      Dont you think doctrine matters? or truth? Or accuracy of and fidelity to divine revelation?
      Doesn’t it matter if two groups say two diametrically opposed things about Jesus both claiming to be his disciples?

      • Hi Simon – being Christlike, which is our calling and the ultimate in revelation trumps doctrine every time. What is truth Pilate asked and Jesus said ‘I am…….. the way the truth the life’. Self-transcendence , loving as Jesus Christ, taking up the cross of your clay daily to bend to the Potter’s hand to be formed into that of G0D – to be converted……….learning how to love……..that’s what is important. Perhaps one could say that the correctness of your doctrine can be seen in your loving action, not your intellectual gymnastics.
        Yes doctrine intrigues me, but apart from Jesus is Lord born of experience. i don’t bet my life on it.

        And: Perhaps the Quakers have something to teach us about decision making patience – waiting till all can own it

        • My ancestors in the C18th were Quakers in Lancashire. That was when Quakerism in UK was non conformist Christianity. Today many quakers wouldn’t self identify as Christians or disciples of Jesus. Love for Jesus brings love for his word and commandments, the study and comprehension of which is doctrine. Without doctrine our spirituality becomes subjective and emotional and we end up rejecting the faith and making a faith of our own projections.

        • Hilary
          How can you obey the call to be Christlike without doctrine? Who Christ is, what he is like, what he commands us to do and not do, is all doctrine.
          Phil Almond

          • Hi Simon and Phil
            I find it interesting the you both think i disregard doctrine – Surely my second comment puts that in question. (See The Rule of Benedict).
            And the challenge to see me from your point of view is interesting

            To elucidate i think we should see doctrine, dogma call it what you will, as scaffolding, not concrete, for the ultimate touchstone is one’s God experience. ‘Faith seeking understanding’ – somewhat absurd since we are attempting to understand that which is beyond all our ken and once obtained, inexpressible. (Cloud of Unknowing).

            The Aligning with a particular subset of Christianity and pinning one’s hat on it to the absolute exclusion of all other seems to me to be an act of egoism (James 3:15-16). It’s about winning. If ones argues in the spirit of James 3:17. it’s about searching for truth, not victory over an/other/s.
            And to be prepared to kill for this is (Church history) is utterly beyond comprehension. (Hence the relevance of Quaker decision making method, whether they remain Xtn ot not).
            The bottom line to me to is Jesus, the exemplary human being, Word made sarx, theories about him may or may not be useful, so returning ad infinitum to Peter’s profession “where else can we go – you have the words of eternal life’ teasing stuff out in the light of Christ…………imbibing the bead and wine for sustenance ….To that i give allegiance. Being converted….learning how to love…….
            And no i’m not an RC! Stop looking for easy answers……………..and definitions – that which gives one control………………
            Hope that helps……………..Pax Christi.

          • To elucidate i think we should see doctrine, dogma call it what you will, as scaffolding, not concrete, for the ultimate touchstone is one’s God experience

            Absolutely not. Quite the opposite in fact. Doctrine, dogma, call it what you will, must absolutely be supreme over one’s ‘God experience’ because one’s own experiences are inherently subjective and unreliable. How can you possibly know whether your own ‘God experience’ is a real encounter with God or simply a hallucination, dream, fancy, or imagining?

            You can’t.

            Therefore the ultimate touchstone is God’s special revelation — the Bible — and one’s own experiences should be ignored or, if absolutely necessary, judged against and interpreted in the light of that touchstone.

        • Hilary,
          I see your comments as doctrine and dogma, with a basis in subjective experience. How do you know about clay the potter’s hand, from which source, who taught you that?
          “Self transcendence? – to be converted? ” In which order? And how? Is that the same as Jesus command to be that is “must” be born again/from above, and where did you learn that teaching/doctrine?
          And I say this as someone who has experienced the love of God being pored into my heart, the peace of God that is beyond understanding. But that draws me to doctrine, the whole counsel of God from all of scripture, not to dismiss or decry it,(including the Fall and the doctrine(s) of the Cross of Christ.)
          If I’m not mistaken, both Ian Paul and Simon, as supporters of New Wine, will be familiar with charismatic experience, but that does not set aside doctrine but draws them to it.
          And why O why is the word doctrine bandied about with such disdain, when it it life enhancing, leading to worship, at times Godly sorrow and repentance and greater love for Jesus Christ, for our Triune God.
          An example is the reality of the doctrine of union with Christ.

          • Back on line thanks to resolution of tech problems.

            I thought i had explained the doctrine thing – sorry if it doesn’t make sense to you
            Pax

          • Hilary,
            The point is: I do understand, but maybe I’ve not been plain enough. (Except your doctrine of “self-transcendence.” Could you please explain? Sounds a bit like eastern transendental stuff to me, Thomas Merton when he falls into the days of Buddist and other Eastern mysticism influences and syncreticism with Christianity).
            I repeat; your comments are replete with doctrine and dogma. Your position is well stated by S below.

          • No – read the Rule of Benedict. (Sure some of it is obsolete but the core remains relevant) Self-transcendance is, if you like , what Jesus did during his temptation in the wilderness, over-coming the urge to self-centredness., self-will………and of course this would have been with him all his life – down to Gethsemane………….It is, if you will, ‘taking up [my] cross daily’, learning to put G-D first, being converted into Christ ongoing till death, loving my neighbour as i love myself’, not ephemeral stuff, but something that needs ‘all the love i can give, every day of my life for as long as i live’, both to the Source of that love and to others. For without plugging into G-D we can do nothing. As Jesus knew and taught and practised. Paradoxically this is the freedom of the children of G-D – the incredible lightness of being…….

            And Simon, i thoroughly disagree with you that i need to be doctrinally tribal to do any of this. Apart from being in Christ. We love people into God, we carry the truth in how we are as people (our fruit). God does the converting.
            And i wonder whether you need to watch a propensity to be judgemental?

          • PS I decry taking a theological position which puts me in a tribe opposed to other positional tribes. How does that show the love of Christ?

          • I decry taking a theological position which puts me in a tribe opposed to other positional tribes.

            How can you take any theological position without putting yourself in a tribe of those who also take that position?

            The only way to not be in a tribe would be to never take any theological positions at all.

            How does that show the love of Christ?

            If shows we care about the truth. Isn’t the point of the Church supposed to be to show people in a dark world the way to the light? But if we never take a position, how can we show people the way? We’d just be joining people wandering around in the dark, all of us going in the wrong directions. How is that loving, to let people keep going in the wrong direction instead of putting them right?

          • Indeed Geoff – experience is tested by sound doctrine – and not everything passes the test. Interestingly recently a scholar who has just written a book on ‘Union with Christ’ from a very Reformed tradition, read something I’d written on the experience of the Spirit from a charismatic perspective and wrote to say he thought we were speaking of the same thing. Yesterday I listened to a fascinating & very well produced radio 4 programme on Sea of Faith and Don Cupitt. It struck me that Cupitt n his followers were establishing a doctrine about God, and destroying traditional doctrines of God, from their own subjective and powerful lack of any experience of the true God. They ended up with a doctrine of God which was a testimony to their lack of experience of God – all at sea.

          • Thanks Simon,
            Coming from a Charismatic beginning, I’d concur with your point about Union with Christ, which deep teaching had virually passed me by until I came across Mike Reeves on UCCF and his book, “Our Life in Christ “, although Colin Urquart’s book “In Christ” was part of my early Christian life, which I still have somewhere.
            But, having lived through hearing God, mishearing God andthrough prophecies and words of knowledge that have come and gone, personally and church wide, even nationally (I think of some of Jean Darnall’s) and where the name of Jesus Christ is barely mentioned, if at all, and where none of the Glory goes to Him, and where some words of knowledge, directions from God, leave me cold rather than glorifying Him, I’m far, far, warier now and have gained a ballast in the reformed teaching Union with Christ, in its reality. I’ve hunted down some truly wonderful reformed teaching/preaching on the internet.
            And I think it is worth saying that it seems that the teaching of Union seems to have been, by-passed, overlooked, by many would would class themselves as rigorously Reformed or even Charismatic. I can’t recall, for example, mention made in David Pythches, “Come Holy Spirit ” which I still have.
            Mike Reeves was the first to have alerted me to the point that our Union with Christ, overcomes or averts, or satisfies, the objections NT Wright had/has to justification, propitiation.
            It is a Union which makes the possibility of the Shorter Westminster Catechesim to “Enjoy God” into a reality. At a meeting/lecture by a reformed author, teacher, (topic was the prayer of Count Zinzindorf and the meetings and I think there was mention of Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections ) I asked what itwas to “enjoy God”. He replied to the effect that there was something erroneous in the wording.
            Agreed, cessationism, even doctrines of God, can be forthcoming from unbelief, dry scholasticism, from lack of experience, but and this is a big but, subjective experience alone is no sole yardstick to determine doctrine or to interpret scripture.
            You’ll be more than aware of the saying from years ago: all Spirit and you blow up, all word and you’ll dry up, word and Spirit and you’ll grow up. I’d suggest that that is a position in our Union with Christ. From other traditions, I think Lloyd-Jones (though, perhaps, not so overtly), RT Kendall, and there are others, who seem to have lived in the place of “Convergence” as desribed by Sam Storms.

          • Hilary – but you are being doctrinally tribal – we all stand somewhere – your criticism of others is not from splendid isolation – you stand and speak from within a tradition that has formed you. You criticise us for our doctrine but do so merely from your doctrinal perspective that disagrees. You speak from your own doctrine and dogma. The question we must always put to ourselves and others is, which is faithful to the Apostolic faith as once delivered?

          • Hilary ‘we love people into God’
            I think the Apostolic way was to preach the gospel and bring people into God

          • Hi Hilary,

            I’m interested that you recommend the Rule of St Benedict. This is, of course, a rule for monastic communities. Translations no doubt differ, but the one I have ends (in Ch 73) with this sentence:

            “Whosoever therefore thou art who dost hasten to the heavenly country, fully carry out,Christ helping thee, this most elementary rule that we have written out; and then at last thou shaltcome, God protecting thee, to the loftier heights of doctrine and of virtue which we have mentioned above.”

            I see that Benedict did not have a negative attitude to doctrine. Since ‘doctrine’ basically means ‘teaching’, this is hardly surprising.

            Benedict did draw boundaries. He is very scathing about Sarabites and Girovagi, although this concerns behaviour rather than teaching.

            How do you get on with the fundamental vows of the Benedictine rule:

            1) absolute obedience to your Abbott or Abbess
            2) poverty, the Benedictine monk or nun has no personal property
            3) purity

  9. There’s every reason to think that ‘Living in Love and Faith’ is the pivotal project which will seal the deal for the Church of England, one way or the other, regarding its doctrine and practice over sexual ethics. And, right at the outset, there are 2 serious problems with it.

    Firstly it is conceived in dishonesty. And that couldn’t be better exemplified than by its title: ‘Living in Love and Faith’. Because the project is not about living in love and faith; it’s about sexual ethics for Christians. Or, more specifically, ‘a radical Christian inclusion in the Church…based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.’
    (https://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/speaking-and-writing/speeches/statement-archbishop-canterbury-following-todays-general-synod).

    So, even as the project started, the spin doctors have dissembled (diverted attention away from the stark sexuality issue) by cloaking it in warm Christian rhetoric designed to press the right Christian buttons: ‘love and faith’; who could not agree with that? So the sales pitch (the spin) has started before anyone knows what the product will actually be and whether it will be fit for purpose; and that tells us that the conclusion(s) may well have been reached (or at least assumed) before the deliberations have happened. For faithful evangelical participants that suggests a debilitating process of trench warfare: a Hobson’s choice between capitulation or a minority report, neither of which will affect what actually happens in the end (ask bishop Keith Sinclair).

    Secondly, we all know that the forces which have caused this project to happen are revisionist . They want and expect to see movement in that direction. And the very fact of the project’s existence presupposes that there will be movement, otherwise there would be no point to it – it would be a major and embarrassing waste of time and energy if nothing changed as a result. And there’s nothing like dashed expectations to elicit fury in those who have been disappointed.

    So the pressure to come up with changes is huge: unless there’s red meat on offer it will be a brave bishop who presents the document(s) to a hungry and restless synod. But faithful evangelicals in particular do not have a problem with present CofE doctrine and statements on sexuality. It’s the corruption that is being promoted by the ratchet effect of persistent small changes – a policy of changing the political balance by means of appointments and indifference to disciplinary violations – which grieves evangelicals. And anyway, evangelicals are already as well experienced as anyone else in handling all manner of pastoral situations. More to the point, they would have big problems with any changes to the church’s official and de facto position on sexual ethics.

    So the only way to square the circle will be through the use of dense, ambiguous, obfuscatory language. We’re far too accepting of that kind of language amongst Christians: it’s used both as an exercise of power (possibly intellectual superiority) and also dishonesty. It could hardly do other than open the door to incoherence both of doctrine and practice. As we know, incoherence cannot hold a church together and, just as seriously, cannot be an edifying characteristic of God’s people. We’re back to unity around the truth – it just won’t go away – it’s Jesus’ wish for his church and it’s the very opposite of dense, ambiguous, obfuscatory language.

    However, Andrew Atherstone’s piece here is very good. I’m all for evangelicals being positively but fearlessly engaged. If LLF is not to be the disaster that it already shows every sign of being, it will take a resolve from those evangelicals who are involved which has been sadly lacking in the recent past. They will face the unpleasant prospect of vilification and isolation. Perhaps it would be a good personal strategy for them daily to ask themselves if they’d be happy to commend to their 12 year old sons or daughters whatever is being proposed before they sign up to it! After all, it is our young people who are the greatest victims of the new sexual ideologies. To allow our own church to endorse these things under the LLF banner for the sake of ‘good disagreement’ would be the final betrayal.

    I do wonder what J C Ryle would make of the kind of things we are now up against in today’s C of E. What would he have made of the state of things now? Because I think we’re in a very different and final ball game here. So if evangelicals are to continue to engage, please let them leave not the slightest doubt about where they stand. They certainly need our prayers.

    • Don I appreciate your very cogent thoughts. The church is at a crossroads – which voice will prevail – the obedient voice of the prophet or the appeasing voice of the diplomat?

    • Don, that is all true—except that at every point you omit crucial evidence.

      The bit you have clipped out of Justin’s comment about inclusion is ‘This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology;’ It is the bit which is often clipped out, but I would prefer to keep him to his word.

      Second, I think lesson have been learned from the Pilling process, and the outcome of LLF cannot look like that. There would be widespread rebellion.

      Third, I think we have already seen some fruit of the process of discussion, in that some traditionalists realise that their language has been intemperate, simplistic, unhelpful and misleading—and not faithful to the ministry of Jesus.

      Fourth, I find it fascinating that both sides in this discussion are all feeling frustrated and betrayed. It is certainly the case that many ‘revisionists’ feel the exact mirror things to what you article here.

      And, very interestingly, one revisionist comment on Facebook approves of what Andrew says here: there can be no fudge, or ‘double integrity’ on this issue. I think that is being realised more clearly now, for good or for ill.

      • Ian
        If ‘ill’ leads to some ‘institutional separation’ as mooted by CEEC, that would be wrong and tragic if it was on the ground of this sexuality disagreement alone. The more fundamental and important doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin must first be painfully and honestly faced, to test my supposition that that doctrine is believed and preached by only a minority of ordained persons. I would be humbled and put in my place, but glad, to be proved wrong.
        Phil Almond

      • Ian,

        You asserted that Don omitted crucial evidence, such as Justin Welby, qualifying ‘radical Christian inclusion’ by declaring “This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology”.

        You may prefer to keep Welby to his word, but what’s becoming clear is that groups, such as LLF and, more overtly, the Pastoral Advisory Group, can publish principles and recommendations which ignore these constraints.

        One of the four responsibilities of the PAG is ”Exploring together, and hearing from others, what radical Christian Inclusion, ‘founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it’ means in the life and mission of the Church: sharing and disseminating examples of good practice in terms of pastoral care of and engagement with those who identify as LGBTI.”

        And, thus far, what have they share and disseminated?

        Well, it’s inconceivavle that, without PAG consultation, the HoB published its guidance on the liturgical recognition of gender transition through baptism.

        Presumably, the PAG believes that this guidance (despite 3000+ signatures questioning it) is “founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it”.

        Certainly, there are senior evangelicals on the PAG who believe this to be founded in all of these sources.

        Furthermore, the PAG’s recently published Pastoral Principles might also be conceived by their membership as “founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it”, despite the supporting text’s emphasis on just the victimisation of LGBT people.

        While there are accknowledged benefits to evangelical involvement in these working groups, the danger is that, as with the 1661 Savoy Conference, those in political ascendancy will have scant regard for the concerns of those in the minority position.

        On that basis, the purpose of evangelicals is to impart merely an air of catholicity to the deliberations of these working groups.

        A perfect example of this ‘catholicity-lite’ was Pete Broadbent’s response (at February Synod) on behalf of the HoB to the question on the range of theological traditions and people who were consulted in advance of the publication of gender transition pastoral guidance:
        ”In addition to the participation of three trans women clergy, members of the drafting group considered published and unpublished resources from a variety of backgrounds, and the Guidance in draft form was scrutinised by the diverse membership of three bodies (the Liturgical Commission, the Pastoral Advisory Group, and the House’s Delegation Committee) before being presented to the whole House for approval.”a

        Finally, while you’ve mentioned, as fruit of the discussion, that some traditionalists have realised their language to be intemperate, simplistic, unhelpful and misleading, there is little evidence of reciprocity by revisionists toning down groundless accusatory rhetoric.

        I have no doubt about Andrew’s noble intentions, but his comparison of his participation in LLF with J.C. Ryle fails because Ryle did not join a cross-tradition working group to resolve the issue of ritualism.

        If Andrew is truly seeking to emulate Ryle, then he might want to read this Church Association tract by him (which some here might consider to be “intemperate, simplistic, unhelpful and misleading”: http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/against_ritualism.htm

        • Also, let’s be clear about what +Broadbent describes in Synod as the “diverse membership of three bodies (the Liturgical Commission, the Pastoral Advisory Group, and the House’s Delegation Committee)” that scrutinised the HoB guidance before it was presented to the whole House:
          Delegation Committee: +Blackburn, +Lambeth, +Stockport, +Ely, +St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich, +Portsmouth, +Lichfield, +Sherborne, +Willesden;

          Liturgical Commission: Chair + Exeter; +Hereford; Staff: Dr Matthew Salisbury, National Liturgy and Worship Adviser; Sue Moore, Administrative Secretary

          Pastoral Advisory Group: Chair: +Newcastle; Other episcopal members: +Exeter; +Grantham; +Repton; members: Professor Helen Berry; Dr Jamie Harrison; The Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett; The Ven Cherry Vann; Ed Shaw, Emmanuel Church, Bristol

          1. Can we really describe as diverse this membership that’s predominated by clergy?
          2. Where was the HoB guidance influenced by insights into the trauma experienced by families of those who undergo gender transition?
          3. Where was the guidance about ‘celebratory character’ influenced by the known health risks (to bone mineralisation) and unknown (to adolescent brain development) and posed by puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.
          4. Where does the HoB guidance show any recognition of the 2011 peer-reviewed study of 324 trans people by Dhejne, Lichtenstein et al (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043071/) which overcame several of the methodological shortcomings of previous research to reach the conclusion about transitioning that: “the most striking result was the high mortality rate in both male-to-females and female-to males, compared to the general population. This contrasts with previous reports (with one exception) that did not find an increased mortality rate after sex reassignment, or only noted an increased risk in certain subgroups.”

          “Mortality from suicide was strikingly high among sex-reassigned persons, also after adjustment for prior psychiatric morbidity. In line with this, sex-reassigned persons were at increased risk for suicide attempts.”

          So much for Welby’s qualification that radical Christian inclusion should be founded in scripture, tradition and reason.

          And it’s very clear that nether Welby nor the HoB won’t be kept to any promises on this.

          • Last sentence: “And it’s very clear that neither Welby nor the HoB will be kept to any promises on this.”

  10. Here we go again?? Just read this latest blog piece on Living in Hope, and reading the gracious and eloquent words of Dr Eeva John (LLF enabling officer) gives me hope for sincere attempts to address this most pressing issue of our time in the CofE. However, I recall raising similar hopes at the beginning of the facilitated conversations which feel , to me at least, to have turned out to be a ruse to keep Evangelicals at the table when the trajectory of the ‘discussions’ could only go one way. The CofE has to countenance the idea that it may be called to speak prophetically against those forces in the church, and outside of it, that wish to re-cast humanity in its own likeness and fundamentally undermine the voice of Scripture, Reason and Tradition that are capable of delivering redemptive wisdom.

  11. I have the greatest respect for the two Andrews who have blogged here recently.
    This is a lay person’s view: I am not at all convinced that the processes they have written about will have meaningful outcomes. Is it not possible that at the end of the LLF process, for instance, that evangelicals will simply end up producing a dissenting statement similar to the one that the Bishop of Birkenhead wrote at the conclusion of the Pilling Report?
    I was intrigued by the use of Philippians 4.5 to be gentle in arguing for traditional evangelical views on sexuality. This is because only a few paragraphs earlier the Apostle was relating that the enemies of the Cross of Christ gloried in their shame; and before that calling them dogs, evil workers, the Concision! Whenever he writes about opponents of the teaching of the apostles he is very strong in his condemnation and in the way they should be dealt with. And whilst we are not ‘the Apostle’ I wonder if gentleness is viewed as a weakness to exploit.
    Andrew wrote ‘LLF will help the Church of England to clarify its doctrinal position on marriage and sexuality’. Why does this need clarifying when it was clearly laid out in Lambeth 1:10? And why is there still any need for discussion of this 20 years later? There was always a refreshing simplicity in being able to present a gospel message to the world in which sex was reserved for marriage commitment between one man and one woman. It’s a tough message; but a clear message which removes obfuscation over sexual practices.
    I question why Justin is so silent in all of this and seemingly not giving a lead at all. However, if we assume actions speak then surely his invitation to Bishop Michael Curry to preach at the most televised event of the year says a lot about how he views sexuality and the church.

    • “Why does this need clarifying when it was clearly laid out in Lambeth 1:10? And why is there still any need for discussion of this 20 years later?”

      It is always interesting when people pick and choose which bits of Lambeth 1.10 they like. So let’s be a bit clearer about what Lambeth 1.10 actually says shall we?

      Resolution I.10
      Human Sexuality
      This Conference:

      commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality [1];

      And that subsection makes it very clear:

      We must confess that we are not of one mind about homosexuality. Our variety of understanding ………
      We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand. We request the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council to establish a means of monitoring work done in the Communion on these issues and to share statements and resources among us.

      The challenge to our Church is to maintain its unity while we seek, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to discern the way of Christ for the world today with respect to human sexuality. To do so will require sacrifice, trust and charity towards one another, remembering that ultimately the identity of each person is defined by Christ.
      (it says even more, of course….)

      So Lambeth 1.10 basically said we have got to keep working on it – and that’s why there is still need for discussion 20 years later.

      • Hi Andrew, thanks for responding. But why did you choose to miss this bit out of subsection 1;
        “The Holy Scriptures and Christian tradition teach that human sexuality is intended by God to find its rightful and full expression between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage, established by God in creation, and affirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Holy Matrimony is, by intention and divine purpose, to be a life-long, monogamous and unconditional commitment between a woman and a man. The Lambeth Conference 1978 and 1998 both affirmed ‘marriage to be sacred, instituted by God and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ’.
        And this conclusion in the main section was the one I was emphasising:
        “in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage”.
        Clearly, provinces such as TEC have disavowed the positive conclusions in 1:10. But nothing in subsection 1 suggested that discussions in the future would lead to the rejection of this solid affirmation of sex for monogamous heterosexual marriage. That’s the basis of my comment.

        • Peter: as I said, it’s easy to choose the bits of Lambeth 1.10 that you like. But it still says this:

          “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand. ”

          In other words, whatever Lambeth 1.10 says, it isn’t the last word.

          • Er, Andrew, aren’t you being somewhat disingenuous: the part you quote applied to the lack of unity about how homosexuality was understood by the delegates present (and that was 20 years ago). It wasn’t written as applying to the whole of the 1:10 conclusions. As Section 1 explained, the conference reaffirmed the decision of 1978 about the biblical understanding of sexual relationships exclusively for heterosexual marriage.

        • Peter:
          Anyone can read the whole thing.
          https://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1998/section-i-called-to-full-humanity/section-i10-human-sexuality

          I’m not being disingenuous at all. Which bit of the following do you not understand?

          “We have prayed, studied and discussed these issues, and we are unable to reach a common mind on the scriptural, theological, historical, and scientific questions which are raised. There is much that we do not yet understand. ”

  12. I would like to know whether conviction that the doctrine of Original Sin is true, that we all from birth onwards face the wrath and condemnation of God and are born with a nature inclined to evil is common ground for all the participants of LLF. Have they discussed it? Perhaps Andrew could enlighten us. If it is not, if they have not (I hope and pray it is and they have) then that is a problem.

    Phil Almond

      • Thanks Ian
        With what result? Are they all agreed that what I said, my assertions in my post, are true?
        Have they made the link between these truths and same-sex attraction? Have they considered the view that such attraction is a result of the fall?
        Phil Almond

        • Phil: because the groups are intentionally comprised of people with a variety of different views and a variety of different traditions then of course they do not all agree with you. Many will have considered the view that same sex attraction is a result of the fall and will have rejected that view.

    • But of course it won’t be common ground for all the members of LLF. Just as a penal substitutionary theory of the atonement is hardly common ground for members of the C of E. It’s a very particular interpretation.

        • Phillip… Though I’d broadly agree….

          As the Articles are not scripture how would you see any revision (in the light of reading scripture faithfully and honestly ) possible.

          Does continuing reformation, a priori, rule out revision of the Articles?

          • Ian
            As I see it:
            The Declaration of Assent and the Preface (Canon C15) and Canon A5 (Doctrine of the Church of England), taken together, commit anyone making the Declaration to believe and preach the terrible doctrines that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil, and the wonderful doctrine that in his death Christ satisfied the wrath of God and bore the condemnation and punishment we deserve because of Adam’s sin and our own sins.

            That view of mine is challenged by, for instance, Andrew Godsall.

            Of course I absolutely agree that the Articles, like any creed or confession, is open to challenge by the Bible, and open to revision if the Bible disagrees.

            I believe the Bible agrees with what I have said above. I surmise that only a minority of ordained persons agree with me. If I am wrong, I am humbled but glad. If I am right the Church as a whole is failing in its job to warn everyone to flee from the wrath to come alongside proclaiming the wonderful sincere invitation from God and Christ to repent and embrace the offered pardon. I hope and pray that the Church will stop ignoring this elephant in the room and confront what the Declaration commits to.

            Phil Almond

          • Phil:

            You will find this excellent letter to the Church Times from Tom Ambrose addressing your questions. It was clearly written a few years ago but nothing has changed:

            From the Revd Dr Tom Ambrose
            Sir, — The Bishop of Durham’s article (Comment, 27 April), while saying the Church of England “allows for” substitutionary views of the atonement, carefully skirts round the two great issues. The first is that what some Christians find offensive is “penal substitution”. The other is that there have been, for hundreds of years, equally valid but different views on the subject.

            Gustaf Aulén’s Christus Victor is not only a defence of an ancient and thoroughly biblical view of atonement, but was, he found, the principal view expressed in preaching in the Anglican Church in his day.

            Correspondents to the Church Times have stressed that what they find unacceptable are notions of the “wrath of God” which they find incompatible with our faith in the God of Love. This “divine wrath” is unmasked in the writings of René Girard as being akin to the unholy violence of those who brought Jesus to the cross. Such “wrath” is just the outworking of sinful human rivalry, and has nothing whatever to do with the divine nature. Much “wrath” in scripture is wrongly ascribed to God.

            With the benefit of Girard’s analysis, many Christians appreciate that we do well to steer clear of this, and of notions of penal substitution.

          • When it is said that there are different views on the atonement, that means there are different pictures that are used scripturally.

            It does not mean that these are somehow alternatives.

            Still less does it mean that we (as arbiters) pick and choose between them.

            And least of all does it mean that we select those we ‘like’ – since it is obvious to all that liking something has no logical connection to whether it is accurate.

          • Andrew
            You are not engaging with my case that the Homilies of Salvation, Passion and Nativity clearly support the reality and truth of the wrath of God and that wrath was ‘satisfied’ by the death of Christ. Article 35 describes the Homilies as containing ‘a godly and wholesome doctrine, and necessary for these times’. Of course I realise that you dismiss the Articles as no longer to be believed and preached. As I have argued before the very language of the Preface and Declaration of Assent simply do not support that attitude of dismissal. I hope that Ian will open a discussion on what the words of the Preface and Declaration mean and whether the words of the Homilies I mention can be understood in an Anselmic sense.
            Phil Almond

          • Phil: I am absolutely engaging with it. See the letter I posted above.
            Putting a different point of view is not lack of engagement.

            Andrew

          • The wrath of God is an indisputable predicate of his divinity revealed throughout Scripture and inseparable from his holiness, love and justice, and necessary to comprehend the atonement and eschatology. Richard Niebuhr was so right when he described Liberals as believing a sub Biblical fiction of “A God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross”. Any conception of God which does not acknowledge his wrath is not God.

          • Christopher,
            absolutely! The problems arise when people use the term ‘theories of atonement.’ I would choose words like ‘model’, ‘analogy’ or ‘metaphor’. Most of those proposed have support in Scripture, so no one is adequate. Attempts to push it all into one model are always forced. I also note that, as someone I read pointed out, Paul can mix his metaphors!

          • David – Well said.

            An anecdote may be in order. I was repeating a course of systematic parish doctrinal teaching, and the initial plan was to go through the different models of atonement in turn. Time constraints meant that we could select only one. The choice made by the assembled ‘throng’ was (not justification, redemption, salvation, satisfaction, reconciliation… but) victory (well, they were pentecostal), but I have often thought afterwards that if any of them is the umbrella one, or at least more umbrella than the others, then that is probably it. It has the spiritual battle as the big picture.

            F W Dillistone, The Christian Understanding of Atonement is a fine detailed treatment of the complementary models.

          • This is a response to various posts on this thread about the Atonement.

            I know there is disagreement about several aspects of the doctrines of sin and salvation: predestination, particular atonement, penal substitution, God has not chosen everybody, bondage of the will, whether punishment of the unsaved is time limited followed by annihilation, final perseverance of the saints etc. I have views on these aspects which I am convinced the Bible says just as surely as it says the things I am going to say. But I am hoping that all will agree with what I say below. That will be a step forward. But I am not saying that will do; some of the other disagreements remain very important.

            Views about the Atonement, and understanding the various statements the Bible makes, should be considered in the light of what the Bible says about the overall human condition, especially the human condition in the sight of God – the God-Man relationship. And, including in this diagnosis, what the Bible says happens on the Day of Judgment. Call this the diagnosis. I take it as common ground that we all agree that the Atonement, to put it in very general terms, does something or has done something to help, remedy, solve or improve that diagnosis – some such idea, especially again, with respect to the relationship between God and Man. Call this the remedy.

            My statement on the diagnosis: I am not asserting that what I now say is everything the Bible says is the human condition. But I am asserting that what I say is what the Bible says, and, importantly, the truth of what I now say is not ‘reduced’ (so to speak) by everything the Bible says about the human condition.

            We all personally face God’s holy anger and just condemnation from birth onwards.
            What happens to those who are not delivered from that anger and condemnation before the Day of Judgment is active punishment from God, specific, personal and individual, and in accordance with sinfulness.

            My statement on the Atonement: I am not asserting that what I now say is everything the Bible says about the Atonement. But I am asserting that what I say is what the Bible says, and, importantly, the truth of what I now say is not ‘reduced’ (so to speak) by everything the Bible says about the Atonement.

            “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. The need to be delivered from God’s holy anger and condemnation is the paramount human need. All who submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love and obedience (the proof of faith) are thus delivered, adopted into God’s family and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and will be saved eternally to serve and worship and glorify God and enjoy him forever.

            Are we all agreed?

            Phil Almond

          • To add a note to the ‘wrath’ sub-thread, the most helpful book for me on this area was Kitamori’s “Theology of the Pain of God.” It helped make clear that God’s wrath is actually a necessary aspect of God’s love. It was written in response to the horrors of the first world war. How should a loving God respond to the wretched mess we human beings are making of the world?

          • David Wilson
            I take your 15 March post to be ‘I don’t agree’ with my 15 March post. Am I right? I am saying that God’s wrath is holy anger at our sin – our personal sin against him, like adultery and pride and at Adam’s sin imputed to us, which is why we face it from birth onwards – as stated in Article 9. Of course it is also holy anger at the sins we commit against one another.
            Phil Almond

          • Philip
            Yes, I do think of Divine wrath in terms of Holy Anger – but also and equally as loving justice; I agree with your long statement on atonement, however every sentence could be expanded and qualified. I guess that is the issue with language.

          • Simon
            On your 16 March post:
            What do you mean by ‘loving justice’?
            How expanded and qualified?
            I am just trying to clarify what we all mean.
            I assume Ian will tell us if he wants this discussion to be moved elsewhere.
            Phil Almond

          • Philip
            well, I think to speak of God’s wrath is to speak of enacted judgment –
            but that judgment is predicated on his love that is just and his justice that is loving. Liberals, it seems to me, reject the concept of wrath because they think it is somehow not nice or kind or loving or….. but I think it is a perfect action of divinity that flows from his perfect love.

            “How expanded and qualified?” well, at least a book per term 🙂

            “I am just trying to clarify what we all mean” – and therein is the rub – I suspect you and I are quite close – Ian is a few steps removed – and some of the more passionate liberals present, the only wrath of God they want is to envisage is the traditionalists experiencing some of it 😉

          • Simon
            On your 16 March 3.52 pm post:
            I think(hope) we are quite close. However, I remember reading somewhere that there is a spot in the Alps where, if rain falls it ends up in the Mediterranean while if it falls a few feet to the North it ends in the North Sea. Just trying to confirm that ‘quite close’ does not conceal a difference which is to me very significant. When a statement is ‘qualified‘ it sometimes means that it is judged to be not quite accurate, or ambiguous, or needs additional statements to be understood. It would be helpful to know, if it can be stated relatively briefly, what ‘qualifications’ are needed, as you see it, to my statements on diagnosis and remedy (Atonement).
            Phil Almond

        • Hi Philip,
          Do you mean Article 31?
          “The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.”
          I would suggest, gently, that the language here is not juridicial or penal. In particular, the language of ‘satisfaction’ is in the realm of honour. It comes from Anselm, of course, who, I believe, explicitly states that satisfaction is not punishment, rather that, as honour is satisfied, there is no need for punishment.

          I don’t want to start a debate on this area. The only point I would draw from this in the present context is that there is legitimate room for disagreement in relation to how we understand doctrine.

          What is central is that Christ’s death wrought for us salvation from sin. Rather than whether folk in the LLF group accept PSA, I would be interested if any disagree with this sentence. I suspect some would.

          • If Anselm is ruled out, why does Article 31 use his language of satisfaction? Perhaps the Articles and the homilies are not quite consistent…

    • I certainly don’t believe in Original Sin – like I don’t believe in the literal Adam & Eve that it is supposed to have originated with! I’m more of the belief that we’re made in God’s image and are good. Why is it a problem for you if people don’t accept your dogma?

        • “So what do we need to be saved from?”

          Good question! When I was at uni in 1991 the internet was just getting going and everyone chose monikers. I chose ‘Origen’ who was my favourite theologian at the time as he was into Universalism.

          I’m not so sure we need ‘saving’ from anything… For me, being a Christian is all about how you treat others in this lifetime: so hopefully we model the fruit of the Spirit – particularly by being kind to the other, we feed the hungry, visit the sick etc. The church I go to runs a holistic community: we run two schools, a food bank, an inner city farm, a debt advice centre, an LGBT support group… Being involved in God’s work on earth is what for me a Christian is. Maybe we need ‘saving’ from a selfish life??

  13. Ian
    I assume that such an approach is an implicit denial of what I said is true. Am I wrong? I keep pressing some commentators on this disagreement, e.g. Penelope Doe, to give her full view on original sin and the Fall.
    Phil Almond

    • I’ll try! I don’t believe in a literal Adam and Eve – so original sin and the Fall are just concepts rather than literal. The Fall is an attempt to explain why there is evil in the world. My own view is that hunter-gatherers were in a fight to survive but as society evolves so we try to lessen our evil: so veganism is becoming more popular as we find it more and more objectionable to kill a sentient being.
      Does this help?

      • Universalism and Pelagianism? Not only will we all be saved, but we will alll be saved by our own efforts?

        I’m not sure I see where there’s room for a theos in this theology.

        • From my own experience of asking God to change me from one state of glory to the next, He hasn’t been answering my prayers. I’m more of the opinion now that we need to work at our salvation: consciously trying to form better neural pathways in our brains by being kind, loving, generous – all the things that the ‘world’ isn’t.

          • So again: where in this world-view is God?

            If mankind is basically good, and can become better by their own efforts, and in any case all will be saved…

            What is there left for God to do? Is God just entirely irrelevant?

            I mean I know what Sir Humphrey thinks…

            Sir Humphrey Appleby:
            The Queen is inseparable from the Church of England.

            Jim Hacker:
            And what about God?

            Sir Humphrey Appleby:
            I think he is what is called an optional extra.

            … but I didn’t expect to see that view expounded in all seriousness by someoen claiming to be a Christian.

  14. Philip, in his inimitable way, has raised the issue of fundamental doctrine. This is also my concern when it comes to the debates around this issue. I think that differences in attitudes to sexual relations are actually rooted in significant differences in doctrine and also world view. So, what I would like to see in the LLF report, when it comes, is to see how the views expressed are derived from core ideas of, for example, Christology, soteriology, eschatology.

    For example, is Christ seen as the true human being, the one who lived on Earth the complete, fulfilled human life as it should be lived (c.f. ‘recapitulation’)? If so, how does that life affect our view of the place of sexual relations between people?

    Then there is the affirmation ‘Christ will come again’. This speaks of future (bodily) resurrection in a new heaven and earth. In the light of this, Paul writes that “if for this life only we have hoped, we are of all people most to be pitied.” How does the transitory and unsatisfactory nature of our present existence, and the future perfection, shape our understanding of sexual relations?

    Also, ‘Christ will come again’ speaks of future judgement. Which brings us back to the sin which colours all of us, and especially the human heart.

  15. Another question I might pose of the LLF group relates to the word ‘living’. What is the scope of the relationships being considered? Of course, the pressing need is how we live together within the Church of England with the gulf between. But there are two other relational axes to be examined.

    One is with the surrounding culture in Britain. Here, how one sees the relation between Christ and Culture is another point of difference between people. Using Niebuhr’s categories, I suspect that some are “Christ and Culture” folk. Others are “Christ against culture” or “Christ the transformer of culture.” If the surrounding culture were to criticise the Church for its stance, is that a failure or a success?

    Another important relational axis is that with our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world. We need to live in love and faith with these as well. In this respect, we should realise that Christianity is no longer centred in the West. It is said, I think, that the typical Anglican is now a 25 year old African woman. How will what is decided affect them? A major issue in the majority world for the propagation of the Gospel is that Christianity is seen as western, and the West is seen as morally corrupt. Are we to reinforce that view, or contradict it?

  16. I found the above comments very interesting indeed. As an evangelical Anglican, I cherished the liturgy, music, ancient hymns, and even the architecture was part of my worship experience. But most of all, it was the constant presence of Christ that kept me alive. In my particular church, the sermons were never about sin and redemption: no doubt the vicar decided those themes were adequately covered in the Creed. But in practice, when we’d have conversations after services over coffee, and I’d introduce a mention of heaven to some elderly members, not one of them could say with assurance that they knew they were going to heaven. This filled me with despair. The shepherds, nice as they were, were failing those who had only a few more years to live!

    Then there was a serious issue of gay marriage, and the vicar quietly ‘married’ a couple, hoping it would not become public. That was the second issue that troubled me. Thirdly, in our home Bible study, a Biblical passage was read about the New Birth, and it became clear that some were very amused at this. When I tried to explain of my own conversion, I was told, ‘we are not to judge..’! I said I am not judging; this is God’s Word. One man grinned and said ‘oh you make it all so complicated! I know many good people who are generous with others who don’t see the need for church. Are you saying they will not go to heaven?’ And others agreed. I felt very isolated.

    When there was a service in which Muslims were invited to say prayers and gifts were exchanged, I saw tthat I was no longer comfortable. In a few short years these things happened one after the other. I tried to explain this to the vicar, but he did not reply.

    With a very heavy heart, after twenty happy years, I left. It is my belief that the issues facing the cofE this past decade are changing so rapidly, unlike at any other time in church history. BIshop Ryle was blessed that he didn’t have to consider whether we ought to discuss gay marriages (even amongst clergy), transgenderism, demands for pronoun changes to accommodate trans people, etc. it has become a nightmare for those of us who consider the Bible makes clear statements on these issues, and until a decade or two ago, that was the end of it.

    Having said this, my main concern has always been the failure to preach the clear Gospel to Anglicans who after spending all their lives in the Church of England, still do not have a personal assurance of where they will go when they die. And it will not be good enough, when they are lying in their casket, that they are buried with all the right words said over them about a ‘sure and certain hope’ which they failed to understand when they were alive.

    • Thankyou Vera – a sad indictment on your parish church that is tragically all too common.
      I think you hit the nail on the head though – many are not born again and dont wish to be.

    • Sorry you’ve had this experience – but why don’t you go somewhere where you fit in? Its pointless being unhappy in a liberal church – and there’s plenty of conservative churches around!

      • AO,
        There doesn’t seem to be much true sorrow or a great deal of respect for Vera. So much for (il)liberality, tolerance and inclusion -just go away -find yourself a new church, we’ve taken over and don’t want you or your likes here. Vera has already said she left the church, and seems like she’s left a dead. even if active church.
        Must be over a year ago when I heard about 30 or more of a Methodist congregation walk out in the middle of a sermon by a liberal Minister espousing SSM, and set up their own church.
        And, a lovely older sister in the Lord, who was a committed Anglican, died in horrific circumstance. A son, an Anglican minister, took the funeral. His mother had been to many funerals that either held out false hope or no hope.
        Can’t see that your comment holds out any hope either in the context of the the original article above, or in eternity.

        • I’m sorry if that came across badly – it wasn’t my intention. My comment was trying to be pragmatic – if you’re not enjoying your church and find it faith-sapping, then there’s plenty of others around where you might fit in.

          From my own life, I recognise now that I stayed too long in fundamentalist churches which were detrimental to my mental health – so I would strongly suggest people go where they feel encouraged in their faith, rather than feeling isolated.

          And thanks to Ian Paul’s letter in the Times we all now know where to go (or not as the case may be!)

      • Because if birds of a feather flock together they never get to meet anyone different to themselves and (because they will only ever meet far less than 1% of the population) they will end up thinking everyone thinks the same as them and those who don’t are deviant. And the debate will advance not one jot. More than one reason against, therefore; but no reasons for.

        • The debate doesn’t advance though – we’ve been in repeated ‘conversation’ now for decades and it just continues to hurt vulnerable people. Far better to let the conservative and liberal birds flock separately.

          • So you actually think an echo chamber is superior to an iron-sharpens iron cut-and-thrust debate? It is not even equal, it is far inferior.

  17. I do not think I have much to add to this, but for what it’s worth, 3 thoughts;

    1. I agree with Don, that despite assurances and the clear positive engagement in the LLF process from both viewpoints Andrew talks about, I simply cannot see it producing a ‘resolution’ (if indeed it is anything so concrete as that) that affects a meaningful outcome. I am more convinced than ever that things will continue as before and everyone will stay in their trenches.

    After all, what does it matter if a few people are playing football in no man’s land if the shelling continues unabated while they play?

    perhaps I’ve extended that a bit much….. Ah well. There is, of course, value in the process itself but I am not sure if it is valuable enough to justify it on that basis alone. Others might disagree.

    2. Unusually, I agree with Andrew Godsall in the comments above. I took the opportunity recently to properly read chunks of Lambeth (the pertinent bits to this), and it does seem less categorical than it often gets presented as here (and indeed, as I thought of it). Yes, Lambeth upholds the ‘traditional’ position and did not see cause to change, but Lambeth does acknowledges the potential at least for change, and it is wise to remind us of that.

    3. I am shocked by how willing people in the comments have been to use Jesus’ own teaching to justify their position, without the balance Jesus himself advocates for. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, it is BOTH, not either or. There would have been no reason for Jesus’ forgiveness and command to ‘go and sin no more’ if there had been no sin to forgive. The shame we are convicted of that draws us to Christ is not the shame of scandal before others, but the shame of examining our own hearts before God.

    • Matt – indeed. Just briefly : ‘… the shame of examining our own hearts before God’ – which is presumably what the scribes and Pharisees experienced when, having listened to Jesus, they realised that the woman taken in adultery did not have a monopoly over sin, and then decided not to stone her.

  18. “one striking feature of Ryle’s ministry was his willingness to engage theologically in intra-Anglican dialogue”….but this is different. This is an ecclesiastical Bedlam with a chaotoc array of heretics, syncreticists, blasphemers, idolators and unbelievers roaming the corridors of the Asylum they have taken over – it is like Chenobyl after the Meltdown and from an Evangelical perspective the question remains how long until the radiation gets you?

    • Well – certainly it is the first time I can think of that something previously universally and strongly opposed has been touted as something to celebrate. This is a barometer by which we may estimate the level-of-significance of what is happening.

  19. We get that you don’t like our relationships, but to compare our marriages to a car crash is pretty offensive 🙁

    What I don’t get is why we all have to agree about LGBT things? For the issues concerning women priests, we have parishes who are known to be against them, AB or C or whatever, and flying bishops for those who can’t cope with those bishops who ordain women. So why not have the same for LGBT peoples?

    • The only reference to a car crash I can find is to the state of affairs that would result in the church if the HoB were to give guidance for the blessing of SSM.

      The case of women in ministry and seeking the blessing of SSM are significantly different things. To attempt to compare them either shows a lack of understanding of the differences bewteen the issues or is disingenuous.

      I wonder if you agree with this statement:

      Christianity is at its heart a rescue religion. God sent his beloved son to give his life as a ransom to release us from the slavery of sin. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and there is rejoicing in heaven over sinners who repent and turn from their sin.

      What follows from this is that to take something which is sinful, and to declare not only that it is not sinful but to seek a liturgy to celebrate and bless this thing is offensive to the heart of Christianity.

      • What I’m suggesting is a compromise – in life that’s what we have to do because everyone thinks differently. Hate mongers like Ian Paul and you can continue spouting your stuff in your own ever decreasing bubble while we can get on with our lives too!

          • Maybe if you were the subject of condemnation every week on this blog you might think differently!

        • AO,
          I repeat the comment I made to your response to Vera Holland.
          (But I’d add that your sense of hatred seems heftily warped, if you see hatred in any of Ian Paul’s blog posts. Maybe you’ve been hoisted by your own petard, and the hatred in your own heart outed.)
          There doesn’t seem to be much true sorrow or a great deal of respect for Vera. So much for (il)liberality, tolerance and inclusion -just go away -find yourself a new church, we’ve taken over and don’t want you or your likes here. Vera has already said she left the church, and seems like she’s left a dead, even if socially active, church.
          Must be over a year ago when I heard about 30 or more of a Methodist congregation walk out in the middle of a sermon by a liberal Minister espousing SSM, and left to set up their own church.
          And, a lovely older sister in the Lord, who was a committed Anglican, died in horrific circumstance. A son, an Anglican minister, took the funeral. His mother had been to many funerals that either held out false hope or no hope.
          Can’t see that your comments holds out any hope either in the context of the the original article above, or in eternity.

          • “But I’d add that your sense of hatred seems heftily warped, if you see hatred in any of Ian Paul’s blog posts. Maybe you’ve been hoisted by your own petard, and the hatred in your own heart outed.”

            There’s massive hatred every week from the Ian Paul stable!! You’re obviously not on the receiving end of it so maybe you can’t see it? Maybe try and imagine that you’re in a loving marriage with a same-sex partner, and then read one of the articles and the following comments whilst you’re imagining that. It’s useful in our spirituality to try and walk in another’s shoes – is that Ignatian? Can’t recall off the top of my head..

          • Maybe try and imagine that you’re in a loving marriage with a same-sex partner, and then read one of the articles and the following comments whilst you’re imagining that.

            I can see how that would make you uncomfortable, but so would reading about orthodox Christian sexual ethics while living in sin with an opposite-sex partner.

            ‘Hatred’ is a statement about the motivation of the speaker, not about the effct on the heared.

          • “I can see how that would make you uncomfortable”

            Thanks for understanding!

            “‘Hatred’ is a statement about the motivation of the speaker, not about the effct on the heared.”

            But I’m afraid I disagree with this. The NZ shooter said in his manifesto that he doesn’t hate Muslims – but his actions were far from harmless. Ian Paul may not ‘hate’ us, but publishing damaging articles and comments every week about us is certainly far from harmless too.

          • The NZ shooter said in his manifesto that he doesn’t hate Muslims – but his actions were far from harmless. Ian Paul may not ‘hate’ us, but publishing damaging articles and comments every week about us is certainly far from harmless too.

            But you’ve shifted not from hate to harm. Lots of things that cause lots of harm do not come from hate.

            People who refuse to vaccinate their children don’t do it because they hate their or other people’s children, but they certainly cause a lot of harm.

            You can’t say that things are either ‘harmless’ or ‘hateful’.

          • Maybe the NZ shooter did actually hate Muslims – I think a lot of the Islamophobic rhetoric is hateful. In the same way I think Ian Paul and most of the commentators on here engage in hate. Many of us have implored him time and time again not to say hurtful things about us but he and the commentators on here just continue to do so. It’s hardly Christlike!

          • In the same way I think Ian Paul and most of the commentators on here engage in hate. Many of us have implored him time and time again not to say hurtful things about us but he and the commentators on here just continue to do so

            Again you’re equivocating between ‘hateful’ and ‘hurtful’.

            Do you agree that not all hurtful behaviour comes from hate? For instance, the parents who don’t vaccinate their children: they are hurting their children, sure, but I presume you don’t think they hate their children?

          • Sorry Origen—you have just struck out.

            Throwing around accusations of hate so carelessly is not acceptable, and drawing comparisons with New Zealand just took a big step over the line.

            Please come back and comment when you can do so reasonably and with respect–and hopefully making some more obvious connections with anything related to historic orthodox Christian belief.

        • Is it hateful to believe that murder (or even calling your brother a fool) is sinful?

          Is it hateful to believe that adultery (or even lusting after a someone in your heart) is sinful?

          Is it hateful to call theft, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance or folly evil?

          What is it to call any of the above ‘good’? When in the film “Wall Street” Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) says “Greed is Good”, the intention of the screenwriters was to show the depravity of the man. But, in the time of the film it became a mantra of the age. What is the appropriate response to someone calling ‘good’ something which is sinful, even evil?

          It is evidently the case that the vast majority of Christians over the centuries have seen sexual activity between two people of the same sex as sinful. This is a core issue here. Therefore, to change this position needs significant argument and reasoning. I’m not sure calling those with whom you disagree “hate mongers” is such an argument.

          Knowing my own predisposition to many of the above sins, I am grateful for the opening of BCP morning prayer and its invitation to the following confession:

          Almighty and most merciful Father, We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, We have offended against thy holy laws, We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done, And there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders; Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults, Restore thou them that are penitent, According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord: And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

          • “It is evidently the case that the vast majority of Christians over the centuries have seen sexual activity between two people of the same sex as sinful. This is a core issue here.”

            At least we can agree about that! But also over the centuries Abrahamic religions have discriminated against women. The welcome change for most Anglican provinces is not reflected in Rome sadly. The majority of Christians have supported slavery down the centuries too. Just because the majority think something, it doesn’t follow that its therefore true.

            “Therefore, to change this position needs significant argument and reasoning. I’m not sure calling those with whom you disagree “hate mongers” is such an argument.”

            Sorry, that was more of an emotional response. If you were the subject of extreme prejudice week on week on this blog, I’m suspecting you would get fed up!

          • The majority of Christians have supported slavery down the centuries too.

            Are you sure that’s true? I don’t think it is.

            Just because the majority think something, it doesn’t follow that its therefore true

            Well said! I hope therefore we will see no more arguments of the form ‘the majority of the Church of England thinks there’s nothing wrong with remarriage after divorce / extra-marital sex where neither partner is married / whatever else the pet issue is’ as if the majority was any guide to truth.

          • The majority of Christians have supported slavery down the centuries too.
            “Are you sure that’s true? I don’t think it is.”

            Well the bible supports slavery ‘Slaves obey your masters’ etc. And most Christians follow the bible… Indeed in Wilberforce’s time the church was against the abolition of slavery.

            “whatever else the pet issue is’ as if the majority was any guide to truth.”

            Whilst I concur in the main – there is a slight caveat: it presumes we have the truth of the matter in question!

          • Well the bible supports slavery

            No it doesn’t. And if it did, why would you be a Christian? Surely it would be immoral to devote one’s life to the revelations of such a book?

            Whilst I concur in the main – there is a slight caveat: it presumes we have the truth of the matter in question!

            I can’t parse this.

          • Sorry, I’ll try and be clearer:

            The bible most clearly supports slavery – I’m confused as to why you say it doesn’t! Eph 6:5, Col 3:22. Exodus 21:20-21 even says that you can beat a slave to within an inch of their life.

            With all these texts you have to cherry pick the bits which make most reasonable sense and ignore the rest. Ethics will obviously change as societies evolve and thankfully Christianity no longer permits slavery – although there are more slaves than ever in the world because there are more people.

            When I said that I don’t believe in majority rule, it does beg the question of whether we are correct or the majority? We are presumbing that we know best – but we could be mistaken! Is that clearer?

          • The bible most clearly supports slavery – I’m confused as to why you say it doesn’t! Eph 6:5, Col 3:22. Exodus 21:20-21 even says that you can beat a slave to within an inch of their life.

            The Bible (the New Testament anyway) was written in a world in which slavery existed and there was no chance that Christians would be able to change that fact, so contains instructions for how to live in such a world. Including treating slaves well and freeing them whenever possible.

            The Bible accepts that in our fallen, sinful world, slavery exists. That’s a long way from ‘supporting’ slavery.

            The Bible also contains examples of kings with many wives and concubines. Is that to be consrtued as ‘supporting’ such practices?

            With all these texts you have to cherry pick the bits which make most reasonable sense and ignore the rest.

            No you absolutely don’t. Because if you do that you’re saying you know better than the Bible. You’re saying you know what the Bible ought to say.

            Ethics will obviously change as societies evolve

            Obviously — not all changes are for the better, though.

            When I said that I don’t believe in majority rule, it does beg the question of whether we are correct or the majority? We are presumbing that we know best – but we could be mistaken! Is that clearer?

            So, you think that you might be mistaken to think, contra the majority of Christians throughout history, that same-sex activity is not sinful? That’s what you’re saying?

          • “So, you think that you might be mistaken to think, contra the majority of Christians throughout history, that same-sex activity is not sinful? That’s what you’re saying?”

            Yes, exactly that! Wilberforce had to do the same thing regarding slavery against a hostile church.

          • “No you absolutely don’t. Because if you do that you’re saying you know better than the Bible. You’re saying you know what the Bible ought to say.”

            The bible only says certain things because it was written in the Bronze Age and reflected society at the time. We have to interpret it for today’s world.

          • Sorry, I’m probably going to have to leave it for now as Ian Paul has just censored me 🙁 Will see you on the next sexuality ‘discussion’ I guess. Thanks for engaging!

          • Origen, I haven’t ‘censored’ you, I have rebuked you for stepping outside (by a long way) the bounds of reasonable discussion, by throwing around unsubstantiated accusations of ‘hate’.

            I hope too that you are able to recognise the distance between the views you espouse and what most people would recognise as orthodox, historic, Christian faith. I am not asking you to agree with others or suppress your own views, but I hope you can, at least, recognise the distance here.

            Once again, quite a lot of space has been taken up by exchanges around these radically different views. I suppose there is some use in that, but I confess I am more interested in discussions and differences of view between people who can sign up to Christian confessions of faith, such as the creed. The C of E isn’t going to ditch the Nicene Creed in a hurry, so I won’t spend time arguing whether they should or not.

        • Origen, they don’t ‘think’ differently, they just ‘assert’ differently. To have a desire and assert it is not ‘thought’. Thought is research and analysis of evidence.

      • David
        “Christianity is at its heart a rescue religion. God sent his beloved son to give his life as a ransom to release us from the slavery of sin. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and there is rejoicing in heaven over sinners who repent and turn from their sin.”
        I emphatically agree with that. But what I am trying to pin down is whether we all also agree that Christ’s great salvation delivers all who believe in him from God’s holy anger and condemnation, which delivery is our paramount need.
        Phil Almond

          • Origen Adam
            The only way you can hold the viewpoint that God has not “holy anger and condemnation” is by ignoring the Bible – by holding the viewpoint that the whole Bible is mistaken about God, because the whole Bible stresses that God has holy anger and condemnation against sinners, as well as stressing that by submitting to God’s Messiah in repentance and faith we sinners can be delivered from that anger and condemnation.
            Phil Almond

          • Exactly! But surely you have to ignore the bits of the bible that are outdated? As I explained above the bible is very clear in its support of slavery – but no Christians these days support that. And even Romans says that gays deserve to be killed, but thankfully no Christians follow that anymore.

          • But how does one get privileged insight into the nature of God? I find it hard enough to study far smaller matters.

          • Origen
            The disagreement is whether ‘holy anger and condemnation’ is outdated. I assume you are saying it is outdated. But my point is that God’s ‘holy anger and condemnation’ is everywhere in the Bible, both Old Testament and New. Just like God’s gracious invitation to repent and submit to Christ is everywhere. I assume you are saying that is not outdated? Both are true. God and Christ are both terrible in their holiness and justice and wonderful in their grace and mercy and love. Both truths need to be proclaimed for the Church to be faithful in the message entrusted to her by God.

            Phil Almond

    • Origen you say you ‘get’ it, but the fact that you think it is a matter of what people ‘like’ (i.e. a purely emotional preference!) is conclusive evidence that you don’t get it.

      Your prescription is (extraordinarily) that everyone not only be allowed to think whatever they like, but should have the right to have their ‘views’ respected, effectively equally-respected. In other words, evidence does not matter at all.

      You therefore think that my opinions on astrophysics are equally worthy of respect when put alongside the views of a professor of astrophysics. Do you actually think that?

      • On the contrary, I think experts should be listened to. But I wouldn’t want to restrict people’s viewpoints – people should be free to think what they like: look at the climate-change deniers or young earth creationists for example! In our society they’re free to think whatever they like no matter how deluded.

        No my solution is one of mutual flourishing: we’re obviously never going to agree, so lets stop attacking one another, particularly on this blog. Writing nasty articles and encouraging hateful comments can’t actually be very good for one’s own state of mind. Far better agree to disagree.

        • ‘Agree to disagree’ allows clearly wrong, uninformed and naive viewpoints (like mine on astrophysics) to remain at the (top) table. What is good about that?

          I know why people want it though. It allows them to have whatever ‘views’ they want – as though *wanting* were of the slightest relevance.

          So – whenever we hear ‘we’re never going to agree’, are we not hearing from someone who wants people to be encouraged that it is perfectly legitimate to hold to a stance based on convenience and preference rather than evidence.

          It is pretty much dictatorial to claim the right to shut down discussion.

          It also puts one 6 feet above contradiction.

          Which can be jolly useful.

          So, everyone, don’t be fooled by ‘agree to disagree’. It is a substitute for addressing the issues. No: to opt out is to concede.

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