LLF: Will it all now end in tears?

Andrew Goddard writes: As people have responded to the latest proposals from the bishops (which I discussed here and here) it looks horribly like the whole LLF process in its current form is going to “all end in tears”.


This article seeks to explore why that is the case and why now nobody seems to be happy with how the bishops have attempted to implement the February motion. It begins by reviewing the first three clauses of that motion. It appears that gay and lesbian/same-sex attracted Christians, whatever their theological convictions, are upset and hurt, another example of church actions for which the motion apologised. There are also increasing concerns that the bishops, in the way they are running the process, are not heeding the Pastoral Principles or enabling us to continue learning together in the spirit of LLF.

The majority of the article explores the motion’s last 3 clauses which focus on the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF). By setting out what was said back in January and February in press releases and by the Archbishop of York it is shown why it’s now ending in tears for those who want change. Multiple key elements of the original proposals are now being withdrawn or looking uncertain and apparent commitments (or widespread expectations) are no longer being delivered. Examples of this are that not all of PLF is to be introduced at the same time in the near future, “standalone” services are not even to be introduced experimentally and are effectively banned, no celebrations of civil marriages, no focus on the couple, no prayers over rings, and no change in the church’s teaching that sex is for marriage between a man and a woman.

Although none of this is explicitly acknowledged or explained (or apologised for) there has been a clear “rowing back” from what was presented as “the fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the Church’s doctrine” combined with a lack of transparency and the appearance of being economical with the truth. These changes, though not how they have been arrived at, can be welcomed by conservatives but they too remain upset. This is in part because of the earlier statements which have not been clearly acknowledged as wrong but primarily because their concern has always been doctrinal and now—after months of denial—the bishops are admitting their proposals are (in violation of the Cornes amendment to the motion and contrary to their stated intention again in July) indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England. The plan is also to proceed, despite past assurances, with the prayers ahead of the full guidance or reassurance being even published let alone agreed.

The guidance itself (which has still not appeared in relation to what replaces Issues despite it being part of the February motion and even hoped for in July) is also a cause of grief. Across the board there is concern about leaks showing the bishops have made decisions about clergy in same-sex marriages but then failed to be open about this with Synod, giving the impression this remains undecided. Here those wanting change are encouraged (though upset at the lack of transparency) but those committed to the current doctrine further upset and therefore cautious about welcoming the changes in relation to PLF.

As we mark the 20th anniversary of Gene Robinson’s consecration which the Primates correctly warned would “tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level” we also now face the prospect of the bishops’ proposals ending in tears in the Church of England. This is especially likely as their work on pastoral reassurance is far from sufficiently progressed to deal with the impact of proceeding with the prayers and guidance or, perhaps, the reactions of those wanting change if all they are offered is what is now being proposed.

The article concludes by showing that the bishops have therefore failed to implement the February motion and are themselves no longer as united and able to argue convincingly that their proposals at least create a space that enables us to “touch and reach the fingertips” of those who hold different views. Rather than supporting a motion which asks the House “to continue its work of implementation” the Synod therefore needs to encourage a fresh approach working to find some sort of settlement. 

“It’ll all end in tears” was what many feared in relation to the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process given the disagreements within (and some of the history of) the Church of England and the experience across the wider Anglican Communion in addressing these matters. Now, due to the way in which it has been handled by the bishops, this sadly seems almost inevitable, with this tearful response being shared by people across our deep differences. Already there have been many tears—tears of sadness, tears of rage, tears of pain and hurt, tears of despair—but very few if any tears of joy and this seems likely to continue. It is important to stop and consider why that is where we now find ourselves in the light of what has happened in the course of 2023. 

What did Synod say in February?

The wording of the February motion, which the bishops claim to have been implementing in their proposed motion to this November Synod, provides a way into this analysis.

It opens with lament and repentance for the Church’s failure and “the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced and continue to experience in the life of the Church” (clause (a)). But, as we will see below, what is now being offered in the paper to Synod (GS 2328), given what has previously been said about the bishops’ plans, is undoubtedly causing more distress to LGBTQI+ people. This response is strongest among those who want change but it is not restricted to them. Sean Doherty, who is himself same-sex attracted and who supports current teaching and practice, responded on Twitter/X:

They have really messed up with this. As you know I’m not in favour of blessings same-sex relationships, but if the church is to do so it must emphatically not be because they approximate but fall short of an ‘ideal’. 🤢 Nobody is happy with this!

Those who are same-sex attracted and committed to living in accordance with biblical and church teaching have been especially disturbed and discouraged by the proposed changes since they were announced in January.

The motion then talks of “continuing to embed the Pastoral Principles in our life together locally and nationally” (clause (b)). Across the church, however, there are now deepening concerns and major questions as to whether the bishops themselves are really following the Pastoral Principles, particularly the need to “pay attention to power”. These worries are only increasing in the light of the recent leaks concerning voting at both the College and House and the lack of transparency and honesty these reveal in the press release following the meeting of the House on October 9th and in the papers released for Synod. Were this to be happening in our national politics then how the bishops are treating Synod would lead to major questions about ministers misleading Parliament and about their adherence to the Nolan Principles of Public Life.

Clause (c) of the motion commends “the continuing learning together” and the motion’s introduction refers to “the commitment to learning and deep listening to God and to each other”. It is, however, only now, nine months after releasing their proposals, that the bishops have finally offered a theological rationale for their proposed prayers. Although they claim this is simply “articulating the theological rationale that supported the approach taken following the February motion” (Introductory paper, para 5, p.1) the paper was apparently only circulated very recently. What is more, there seems to be no desire on the part of the bishops for this rationale to be a contribution to ongoing learning and discussion or to sustained “deep listening” before rushing ahead with implementing the proposals. This is despite the rationale offering on their own admission a “new insight” (Annex A, para 23, p.9) and certainly one with no clear basis in the many resources found in the LLF process.

The bishops have, secondly, also not issued the legal advice for Synod members to learn together and listen to each other about the impact of, and constraints imposed by, canon law. This is despite it now apparently being significantly different from the summary of legal advice they eventually issued under synodical pressure before the February Synod (GS Misc 1339). They have, thirdly, proceeded without waiting to learn from – let alone to share with the wider church for us to learn together – their own theological commission (the Faith and Order Commission, FAOC). This has been tasked with working on key areas which have been raised by their proposed way forward and were not addressed in the LLF “resources in relation to identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage”.

Clause (d) relates to the PG (“welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance”) while Clauses (e), (f) and (g) relate to the PLF. As it is PLF which is most developed we shall first look at why the bishops’ latest proposals fail to implement the February motion, have upset people across the board, and make it likely that “it will all end in tears” before turning more briefly to the Guidance and (not explicitly mentioned in the motion) Reassurance.

Prayers of Love and Faith: From January to October

What was said about PLF in January and February?

To understand why so many people are now upset, it is important to remember what was repeatedly said when these proposals were first released (italics added throughout to highlight what has now changed). The press release of January 18th (also see the similar press release two days later with the Synod papers) was headed

For the first time, under historic plans outlined today, same-sex couples will be able to come to church to give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership and receive God’s blessing.

It highlighted the bishops were reaffirming their commitment to a “radical new Christian inclusion founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it—based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st Century understanding of being human and of being sexual”. What was being offered was, it stated,

the fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony for same-sex couples through a range of draft prayers, known as Prayers of Love and Faith, which could be used voluntarily in churches for couples who have marked a significant stage of their relationship such as a civil marriage or civil partnership.

Although same-sex couples still could not marry in a CofE church, they could have

a service in which there would be prayers of dedication, thanksgiving or for God’s blessing on the couple in church following a civil marriage or partnership

The Archbishop of York, expressing “our deep sorrow and grief at the way LGBTQI+ people and those they love have been treated by the Church” confessed, “We are deeply sorry and ashamed and want to take this opportunity to begin again in the spirit of repentance which our faith teaches us. This is not the end of that journey but we have reached a milestone”.

Pressed on the Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 about what the church now teaches concerning sex he did not speak about marriage but affirmed sexual same-sex relationships:

what we are saying is that physical and sexual intimacy belongs in committed, stable, faithful relationships and therefore where we see a committed, stable, faithful relationship between two people of the same sex, we are now in a position where those people can be welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms…we believe that stable, faithful, committed, loving relationships are good. They are the place for physical intimacy…we want to welcome and acknowledge same-sex marriages in church.

He had spoken similarly at the press conference about “people who have entered into a same-sex civil marriage [who] come to the church seeking one of these services of love and faith” and how “I believe the great gift of sexual and physical intimacy to be cherished belongs in stable, loving, committed relationships. And therefore, I will celebrate the fact that people are living that way and expressing their intimacy that way”.

When it was put to him that “The prayer services that that we’ve seen in the past few days are permitted to include words of commitment and dedication by the couples where they can also symbolise their commitment with rings and words of blessing from the priest” the Archbishop was clear that “I believe this will be a good thing”. At the press conference he was even clearer about what was being proposed: “we are acknowledging the goodness and faithfulness of same-sex, civil marriages and civil partnerships within the life of the church”.

At the February General Synod he spoke of the church “acknowledging the legal and pastoral reality of two forms of marriage in British society” and how “those who have entered into same sex civil partnerships and civil marriages – these couples could now come to church and have that relationship acknowledged, celebrated and the couple received a blessing”.

Why is PLF ending in tears for those wanting change?

When the latest papers to Synod are read, one of the most obvious differences is that nowhere is there any reference to “radical new Christian inclusion”. This is, perhaps, because of a recognition how difficult it would now be to describe the proposals in those terms given how that phrase has been used by the Archbishops and the House in the past. There is also now nothing being based on the sharp distinction between “two forms of marriage”—civil marriage and holy matrimony—highlighted in February.

Although the proposals are still presented as “pastoral provision” they now offer much less than what was presented previously as “the fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony for same-sex couples”. No longer is there “a service” which marks a “significant stage of their relationship such as a civil marriage or civil partnership”. Instead, it is made clear in the draft PG that the prayers must only be used “in regularly scheduled Sunday or weekday services” (Annex E, 1.1.1, p.48) and the PLF material “must not be the central focus of that service, or constitute a separate, standalone service” (1.3.7, p.59). What can be included within the regular services also no longer includes prayers over rings. 

Rather than focussing on a “significant stage” or now being encouraged to “give thanks for their civil marriage or civil partnership” or “acknowledging the goodness and faithfulness of same-sex, civil marriages and civil partnerships” the emphasis is very clearly now on downplaying, and effectively treating as insignificant or even irrelevant, any legally registered formal commitment:

The PLF Resource Section does not treat those couples who have entered a same-sex civil marriage any differently from the way they treat a same-sex couple who are in a civil partnership or who have not acquired any formal civil status for their relationship. The use of the PLF Resource Section for a couple who have entered into a civil same-sex marriage does not therefore imply that their civil status is something that the Church considers distinguishes the couple from other same-sex couples who wish to dedicate their life together to God. The materials contained in the PLF Resource Section are not a celebration of a couple’s civil same-sex marriage. They are for praying with and for two people who love one another and who wish to give thanks for and mark that love in faith before God (Annex A, para 11, p.7, italics added).

The decision to insist there cannot be “standalone” services is also a major change and it seems it was very much a last minute one. The original February motion looked forward to “the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes” in clause (e). In July (in GS2303) it looked like this may change with the Archbishops authorizing all the prayers (under Canon B4) instead of them being commended but then it seemed they would do so only experimentally (under Canon B5A) and that the prayers would then have to be approved by Synod under Canon B2.

In meetings with various stakeholders exactly a week before the House met, on October 2nd, it was clear that the plan was to separate off “standalone” structures from the texts of the prayers but also to make such services available immediately under Canon B5A as an opt-in experiment prior to taking this part of PLF to Synod for authorisation under Canon B2. This would have been a departure from the February motion as it introduced a route other than commendation but all the PLF material from February would still be usable at the same time as soon as the prayers were finalised. Although disappointed, those wanting change seemed willing to live with this development. It now appears from leaks to the Church Times that this was the plan unveiled to stakeholders (and presumably also to the Living with Difference group) because it was the overwhelming mind of the College of Bishops when it met on September 18th to 21st.

Asked whether to approve the service structures under B5A the bishops agreed by 75 votes to 22 this was their preference. In contrast, the plan now being pursued, to go straight to B2 and so delay their use until 2025 (assuming Synod authorises) was reportedly rejected by a similar margin of 68 to 28. An amendment (Item 61) to bring the prayers (as a whole, not just as now the services orders) under B2 was defeated at the February Synod with only 3 bishops supporting the proposal, 6 abstaining, and 29 opposing. However, on October 9th, the House voted narrowly by 19 votes to 16 (54% to 46%) to hold off authorisation of the service outlines until B2 was completed. No explanation has been given for this volte face, the extent of which has only become transparent due to the leak.

The effect of this is that any clergy now offering prayers for a same-sex couple in a “standalone” service (i.e. one outside their regular pattern of Sunday and weekday services) or making the prayers “the central focus” of any service will be disregarding the Pastoral Guidance on the use of PLF. They will thereby open themselves up to being reported to their bishop and perhaps being legally challenged or disciplined. It also seems unlikely that the “standalone services” will secure the necessary two-thirds support in all 3 Houses of Synod and thus will fail to be authorised. If they are authorised then it would appear legally that only those authorised forms of service (with “variations not of substantial importance”, PG, 1.3.7, p.59) could be used ie variations within A Service of the Word or Holy Communion.

The notes for these have now had added to them since July that “The introduction—as with any other part of the service—must not suggest that the service is a marriage service or that it is a form of Prayer and Dedication after Civil Marriage or Thanksgiving for Marriage” (GS 2328, Note 3, p.31) and that “Pastoral preparation with the couple should cover the fact that the service is not a marriage, or a Thanksgiving for Marriage or A Service of Prayer and Dedication after Civil Marriage” (Note 7, p.32). The draft PG on use of the Prayers contains a similar statement (1.3.6, p.59). These developments would seriously challenge previous legal advice on the Inclusive Church website and put an end to the various forms of service currently being commended by Inclusive Church and used by clergy in the belief that they are legitimate under canon B5. 

Charlie Bell powerfully sums up how all this looks from his perspective and the anger this has aroused:

The commended prayers are—extraordinarily—a backward step. They quite literally amount to no more than our being able to pray for the gays in the intercessions of a regular Evening Prayer—and nothing more. The accompanying document makes it clear that the prayers can be used privately or ‘only in acts of worship where Prayers of Love and Faith are not the principal focus or form’….This means that the commended prayers serve no pastoral purpose whatsoever—absolutely nothing has changed. I repeat, nothing—the commended prayers change nothing. So out of years and years of patient work, all we can do is pray for people like we already could do, and now we are specifically banned from holding special services for them. This is a scandal and the General Synod must demand that this ridiculous, offensive, unacceptable stipulation is removed if this motion is to be passed.

In relation to the prayers that are being commended (which remains all the prayers in the original proposal but not the service structures) it is unclear whether the plan is still, as in clause (f) of the February motion, for the House of Bishops “to monitor the Church’s use of and response to the Prayers of Love and Faith, once they have been commended and published, and to report back to Synod in five years’ time” or whether this has now been replaced by the Canon B2 process. Related to this it is unclear whether, if the B2 process fails, the commended prayers will be withdrawn or will continue to be commended (with or without a review).

And, finally, in contrast to the statements quoted above from the Archbishop of York, the latest papers repeatedly reaffirm the teaching concerning marriage (not simply a “stable, faithful, committed, loving relationship”) being the proper context for sexual intimacy:

  • “The Church’s doctrine remains as set out in Canon B30 (Of Holy Matrimony); we have been clear that we have no intention of changing that doctrine. We also note that the Church’s teaching on sexual relations has been treated as being part of the Church’s doctrine of marriage. We are not proposing to change that teaching” (Annex A, para 13, p.7). 
  • “We have had careful regard to the theological rationale for the making of pastoral provision” which includes “that the Church’s teaching on sexual activity is regarded as part of that doctrine [of marriage]” (Annex A, para 22, p.9). 
  • “It is within marriage that sexual intimacy finds its proper place” (Introduction to LLF Pastoral Guidance, Annex E, p.47).
  • “The Book of Common Prayer attests to Holy Matrimony within the context of this divine economy…It…teaches that this way of life is the proper context for sexual intercourse” (Annex H, p.91, marriage as “remedy against sin” is cited).
  • “The doctrine of marriage in relation to marriage as the fullest and given place for sexual expression is clear” (Annex H, p.94).

The theological rationale is also clear that “those with responsibility for teaching the faith should continue to articulate the Church’s doctrine”. This presumably means that the Archbishops and other bishops will not be repeating some of their recent statements in the light of this reaffirmation of existing doctrine and teaching. Nothing has been officially said or leaked as to when and by what margin this decision was taken by the bishops and at the February Synod the first proposed amendment (Item 44) which sought to reaffirm that “sexual intercourse as an expression of faithful intimacy belongs within marriage exclusively” was quite heavily defeated in all 3 Houses with only 1 bishop supporting it (though 11 abstaining).

In short, the bishops are asking Synod to “recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, and encourage the House to continue its work of implementation” but the report of GS 2328 is significantly different from what was proposed to Synod in February and at variance with clauses (e) and (f) relating to the prayers. 

There remains a great rush and determination to “get PLF done” and there has been much talk of “not rowing back” even when all that is asked for is more time to reflect and not to “row forward” beyond what Synod agreed. But what is now being proposed does appear to be a definite “rowing back” and might reasonably be considered PLF “in name only” given how different it is from what was promised initially and in July and even in early October at the stakeholder meetings. If the initial proposals were “the fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony for same-sex couples” then either the bishops are no longer offering the fullest possible pastoral provision or that initial claim has proved to be false and they need to explain why that is the case and why they made such a serious error.

Personally, as someone committed to the church’s teaching and its current embodiment of that in its practice, I am much happier with many of these changes compared to what was offered in February. However, I also know how I would feel were I not of this view and I am not happy with the process which has brought us to this new situation. There has been no honesty about just how much has been changed and no explanation and justification offered as to why it has been changed. In fact, there has been a total lack of transparency and at the very least an impression of deception and of being “economical with the truth”. 

So why are conservatives also in tears about PLF rather than celebrating?

It might be thought that given how upsetting, and justifiably so, all these changes have been to those pressing for change, at least those broadly supportive of the received teaching and practice might be positive, or at least not also reduced to tears. The bishops, however, have also continued to upset them. Some of this is due to the fact that, having heard all that was said in the past, there is an understandable scepticism that everything has really changed and that those earlier statements are now repented of and left behind. There is also unhappiness that the substance of the prayers are being commended rather than being brought to Synod for approval under Canon B2. In addition, there are concerns that the sudden appearance of a category of “standalone services” makes little sense especially as their form is the same as what PLF originally proposed and so they remain what the Bishop of London described at the February General Synod as “part of the variations that are permitted for use in either a Service of the Word or of Holy Communion”. This makes it hard to see much difference in practice between what will be permitted once PLF prayers are commended and what has to await completion of Canon B2.

There are, however, two more fundamental reasons why this is all seemingly heading to end in tears for conservatives as well as for those wanting change. Firstly, those “compelled to resist” the initial proposals did so largely on doctrinal grounds. They successfully amended the February Synod motion with the Cornes Amendment that states, in clause (g) of the final motion, that Synod “endorse the decision of the College and House of Bishops not to propose any change to the doctrine of marriage, and their intention that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”. This was supported by both Archbishops and the Bishop of London and carried in the House of Bishops by 22 votes to 14. In July the Bishops again made clear that their intention “remains that the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England” (GS 2303, para 20). Now, however, they are admitting (though the statement from 44 bishops yesterday seems to forget or deny this as it reaffirmed the commitment that “the final version should not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”) that, directly contrary to the February motion,

it would be difficult to say that making the PLF available for same-sex couples without there being an assumption as to their sexual relationships was not indicative of any departure from the Church’s doctrine (GS 2328, para 17, p.8)

It would be possible to commend new prayers that upheld the February motion and their declared intention in July (one example of such is the prayers for covenanted friendships) but the bishops have instead decided to propose prayers that disregard this key amendment and fail to fulfil their stated intention.

Secondly, those unhappy with PLF were clearly led to believe that these would not be officially released for use in the church until the Pastoral Guidance and Pastoral Reassurance were also in place. Indeed, the Legal Office had seemingly ensured that the first of these conditions would be met by stating in GS Misc 1339 that “In reaching a final view on the legal position the Legal Office will need to see both the final draft of the Prayers and the replacement pastoral guidance” (para 10). In the Synod debate in February the Archbishop of York said:

I want to give you this pledge that I won’t be able to vote, I won’t be able to support commending these prayers when I hope we vote this through today. But I won’t be able to support commending these prayers until we have the pastoral guidance and pastoral provision. 

In April, speaking to his Diocesan Synod, about the challenge of “how we can live together with conscientious disagreement”, he again highlighted that the Church of England and House of Bishops 

have embarked on three critically important pieces of work before the prayers are commended for use—

  • Revision of the prayers themselves in the light of comments received
  • Pastoral guidelines for clergy and lay ministers in same sex relationships (and other related matters)
  • Pastoral reassurance for those who will not use the prayers, and for those for whom this direction of travel has caused deep pain and confusion, i.e. actual provision to enable all of us, whatever our particular views on these prayers (and what they may or may not signify) to have a place in the one Church of England. I want you to know that I am deeply personally committed to this….

Understandably these—and other statements—have been understood as promises not to commend the prayers until the full pastoral guidance and adequate pastoral reassurance are also in place. Now, however, the plan is to commend the prayers before either of these are even fully developed let alone published and agreed. This is why the 12 dissenting bishops stated:

We are also firmly of the view that we need to adhere to the commitment made to bring the Prayers of Love and Faith, the pastoral guidance and pastoral reassurance (including whatever formal structural provision is necessary) to Synod as a single package, rather than doing so in a piecemeal fashion.

The problems arising from separating off PLF from the other two strands is compounded by the lack of transparency and honesty about progress on the Pastoral Guidance, especially in relation to those matters in which it will “replace Issues in Human Sexuality” (Clause (d) of the February motion). This has added further grounds for all this ending in tears from the perspective of conservatives.

Pastoral Guidance: What is going on?

The General Synod voted in February to “welcome the decision of the House of Bishops to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new pastoral guidance”. The intention was clearly to make that public as soon as possible. The Bishop of London, at the January press conference releasing the papers for that Synod said:

I think one of one of my regrets is that I couldn’t be sitting here today and saying these are the pastoral guidance. But that’s not where we are, we would hope that certainly by the time the Synod met in July, there would be clear pastoral guidance in place.

After the February Synod a group (on which I served) was tasked to help the bishops fulfil this hope but found itself unable to make any significant progress due to a lack of clarity from the bishops as to what they wanted the guidance to contain. In July the Synod was informed that 

In responding to the questions from the Pastoral Guidance group the bishops were asked to give informal steers acknowledging that only once they were able to consider the progress of all three working groups more comprehensively could formal decisions be made (GS 2303, para 18).

The Implementation Groups were given a sense of some of those “steers” and it appears that, on the basis of them, draft pastoral guidance to replace Issues was drawn up over the summer even though no “formal decisions” had yet been made.

In the press release and then the papers for this November Synod nothing of any substance is communicated concerning that part of the PG. The former simply stated that “Further work is already in progress on the second part of the Pastoral Guidance which will look at matters in the life and work of clergy and lay ministers”. The latter, while issuing the draft guidance in relation to PLF, stated that “a significant amount of work has also been done on Part 3, which explores ministry, the life of clergy and lay ministers and the ministry of bishops…more work still needs to be completed in this area” (Introductory Paper, para 14, p.3) and continued

The House of Bishops’ intention is that this further work will consider whether the rationale of pastoral provision might provide a basis for allowing clergy to be in same-sex marriages (Para 15, p.3).

Now, however, it appears clear that this is quite some way from “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. The Church Times has reported that at the College in September the vote was 72-26 to work on giving permission for clergy to enter same-sex marriages in what was presumably (given the College lacks formal authorised decision-making powers) yet another indicative vote. More significantly, however, it also reports a similar vote at the October 9th meeting of the House as agreeing with this by 18 votes to 15. Though a very small majority (54% to 46% of only 33 bishops voting, so barely a third of the full House of Bishops (53 when all sees are filled) and well under half of the number of serving members of the House) supporting the change this would appear to have been not an indicative vote but a formal vote of the House as one of the three Houses of Synod. If that is the case it raises the serious question as to why none of this was reported to Synod (with the statement quoted above even potentially suggesting they simply intended further work to decide whether or not to allow clergy to be in same-sex marriages). It also raises the question as to what other votes were taken relevant to the Synod motion but not reported to Synod.

Here, as with the process behind what is being brought to Synod in PLF, there are major procedural questions, perhaps explaining why the 12 dissenting bishops wrote “we believe that bishops must have due regard to the obligations of good and proper governance” and alluded to “the course we saw mapped out in our meeting”. These will be shared across different perspectives as evident from Charlie Bell going so far as to write that “It is a bare-faced lie to say that there is no draft guidance—I have seen it, and it has been presented to the House and College of Bishops. Very substantial votes in favour of change have been registered amongst the bishops. So what exactly is going on?”. However, in a mirror image of the trajectory now being proposed in relation to PLF this (still unconfirmed) plan on the part of the bishops will be welcomed by those pressing for change but may reduce those opposed to same-sex marriage to tears.

Will this all end in tears in the Church of England? Pastoral Reassurance

This article is published on the 20th anniversary of the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire which occurred on 2nd November 2003. Just weeks before that took place the Primates of the Anglican Communion were gathered in an emergency meeting by Archbishop Rowan Williams. In their statement they famously and accurately warned concerning the consecration: “This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level”. Tears have indeed damaged the Communion in the last two decades and it is already clear that the actions of the Church of England will likely tear its fabric even further as shown by the Ash Wednesday Statement from the Global South (GSFA) (reaffirmed by them just recently after their meeting in Cairo), and by the GAFCON Kigali Commitment.

There are also real risks that the proposed PLF, even in their weaker, modified form, especially if combined with guidance permitting clergy to enter same-sex marriages, will now tear the fabric of the Church of England. The decision to develop a legally unnecessary process of consultation with dioceses risks exporting the divisions evident in the General Synod to every Diocesan Synod with painful debates and votes requiring people to align themselves for or against the B2 process. 

There have for some time been departures of individual Christians unhappy with either the direction of travel or, from another perspective, its snail-place (now combined with small steps forward then being followed by steps back). The current proposals, and the episcopal processes by which the CofE has got to them, now risk creating the worst of all possible worlds where nearly everybody is unhappy with both what is on offer and the process which has delivered it and almost every level of the church’s governance structures (General Synod, Diocesan Synods, PCCs) is required to discuss the situation and decide how to respond.

The Campaign for Equal Marriage, describing what is being brought to November’s General Synod as “a present with nothing in the box”, have now set out their “red lines” (including freedom for clergy to enter same-sex marriages, public services of blessing, and these development being applied “to the whole Church, with diocesan bishops not being able to ignore them”). They have “made it very clear to bishops that these are genuine red lines for us”, warned that “we will have to encourage our supporters and allies to vote against the motion” as it stands and that

If GS 2328 is passed in its unacceptable form, and the bishops get mired in endless wrangling, we won’t waste more time in fighting for blessings. They were never anything but a possibly useful step towards equal marriage, and if that is no longer the case we will lose nothing by focussing even more clearly on our chief aim – equal marriage. 

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has, from its quite different perspective, stated:

In the events of the Bishops continuing on their stated course of action, and without robust provision being introduced to secure a place for those who hold to a biblical view, CEEC will introduce provisions relating to alternative episcopal oversight, new financial systems, and new fellowship arrangements in order that orthodox bible witness might flourish in the CofE going forwards.

This shows the wisdom of the Archbishop of York’s comments at the February Synod that what we needed over eight months ago was to have “discussions about some kind of settlement”. Although work has been done on some of these matters under the heading of “Pastoral Reassurance” and in the Living With Difference conversations convened by David Porter they appear to have progressed little and will easily be overtaken by events if PLF and Pastoral Guidance proceed apace.

It is only now, twenty years on, that the Anglican Communion, through new work of IASCUFO, is finally considering how to adapt its structures in the light of its deep divisions and talking about the possibility of “good differentiation”. Here in the CofE, bishops have begun to consider the possibility of “formal structural pastoral provision” but the House “is not at this stage advocating” for this (Annex F, para 36). The problem is, however, there will likely soon be forms of at least informal structural provision being developed and connected to the wider Communion given the GSFA has given the assurance that “We will stand with orthodox Anglicans in England both now and going forward”. What would be much better is if the bishops and Synod urgently learned from the lessons of the wider Communion and, perhaps drawing on the work of the new IASCUFO project as it appears, did not press any buttons in relation to PLF or the Guidance that might end in tears in the fabric of the Church of England and (given the current central role of the Archbishop of Canterbury) yet further tears in the Communion.

Conclusion: Carry On Implementing?

The motion being brought to Synod asks it to

recognise the progress made by the House of Bishops towards implementing the motion on Living in Love and Faith passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, and encourage the House to continue its work of implementation.

This wording raises the question as to the extent to which the motion has been implemented and whether the only request Synod should make in the light of how the House has undertaken its work of implementation is “continue”.

The analysis above has made clear that what is now being proposed in relation to PLF is significantly different from what was presented and voted on in February. The papers to Synod also openly admit failing to implement the Cornes amendment. They show no sign of regret or rethinking about that failure and offer no explanation as to why that amendment is being disregarded. There is also no obvious “progress” in relation to what will replace Issues but it appears that decisions have been made by the House on how they intend for that to be implemented but that these decisions and intentions are being withheld from Synod. 

In fact, as noted, there are valid questions to be raised (from at least one widely held perspective on how the church should proceed and often across all perspectives) about the extent and form of implementation in relation to every single clause of the February motion:

Clause (a): Given the promises made in January and February which are now not being followed through but with little or no acknowledgment or explanation of that fact, and given the objections being raised by almost all LGBT+ and same-sex attracted Christians whatever their theological convictions, are the bishops serious about repenting of failures and not harming LGBTQI+ people?

Clause (b): Are the bishops themselves acting in accordance with the Pastoral Principles in how they have been implementing the February motion?

Clause (c): How does the refusal to wait for the work of FAOC and the refusal to supply Synod with important legal and theological work or to give Synod sufficient time for reflection on the theological rationale’s new insights assist the church in continued learning as modelled in LLF?

Clause (d): Why are the bishops still not telling Synod anything about their planned replacement for Issues and why are they refusing to reveal decisions they have made in relation to this or to offer any legal or theological rationale for their intended course of action?

Clause (e): Why have the bishops changed what they are planning to commend, used B2 but only for the least contentious elements of PLF, and (at the last minute) reversed plans to introduce all of PLF together (by experimentation under B5A if necessary)?

Clause (f): Are the bishops still planning to monitor their use as nothing has been mentioned of this and it may have been replaced by the B2 process?

Clause (g): Why is the final version of PLF now being proposed indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England and why is Synod not being assured that what it now is being presented with is even legal?

It may, of course, be that the February motion is simply impossible to implement or at least to implement without significantly modifying the pronouncements and promises we have seen were made in the run-up to and during that meeting of the General Synod. But if that is the case then the House needs to come back to General Synod with an admission that this is what they have found to be the case and seek, with Synod, to find the best way forward given that impossibility.

A central argument for the proposals in February was that they were a means—perhaps the only, certainly it was thought (by the bishops and then the Synod) the best, means—of holding us all together in our current structures. The Bishop of London told the General Synod:

One way of describing this way forward is to see ourselves standing in different places—and finding a point that each of us, by stretching out our arm, can touch and reach the fingertips of the other. It will be uncomfortable for everyone, but it is about creating a space for the Holy Spirit to move among us and to continue to guide us and shape us into the likeness of Christ.

The fact that only 4 bishops voted against the February motion suggested that this may have been the situation at the episcopal level but this masked disagreements which were only just below the surface in voting on the amendments. This was most obvious when 22 bishops supported the Cornes amendment but 18 did not (14 against, 4 abstaining). It was also obvious that the bishops were much more convinced and cohesive than the clergy and especially the laity on General Synod. Now, however, we have had 10 members of the House (plus 2 non-member participants) publicly dissent from the decisions of the House, leaks of crucial votes being split almost down the middle (18-15 in favour of same-sex married clergy, 19-16 against an experimental period under B5A before using B2) and most recently 44 bishops publicly urging that the Guidance be “issued without delay that includes the removal of all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex civil marriages, and on bishops ordaining and licensing such clergy, as well as granting permissions to officiate”.

It now seems increasingly likely, perhaps almost inevitable, that the strategy which the Archbishops, the Bishop of London, and the majority of the House has pursued will continue to unravel and all end in tears. That may happen at Synod if the motion is not passed but even if it does pass there remain so many major problems ahead, so little trust in the process and those leading it, and so much incoherence and inconsistency in the way it has been implemented and the legal and theological rationales being offered, that it will simply mean a continuation of the current agony. We may even witness the intensification of this suffering with tears in the structural fabric of the Church of England and deeper tears in the Anglican Communion. 

How we ended up here after so much time to prepare for what everyone knew would be a difficult process will need at some point to be reviewed and lessons learned. As I was recently asked of the failings in the bishops’ discernment process, “Do you think it has been negligence, weakness, or their own deliberate fault?” But first we need to stop rushing down the track we are on that risks taking us over a precipice and recognise that just asking “the House to continue its work of implementation” is not the solution. We then need±as far as possible together across our divides—to seek before God, and from God, who graciously continues to build his church, a better, more honest, and more transparent, way. We need to discern a new and different way which involves acknowledging and addressing where we now are and facing up to our deep doctrinal differences so we can find a way forward to some sort of settlement. 

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre(WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF and the subgroup looking at Pastoral Guidance.

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253 thoughts on “LLF: Will it all now end in tears?”

  1. In a stand-alone service the regular sheep wouldn’t be there so wouldn’t be having to agree and Amen to it all.
    If weekly services are now to be infected with blessing behaviours that God has condemned, supposedly the congregations will be ground down over the years, week by week.
    Every passive ‘Amen’ is a kick in God’s teeth.
    Does one silently walk out of every service from now on?
    Does one stand up and confront out loud the satanic parody?
    Does one turn the altar table over?
    One cannot just sit there for that is assent to wickedness.
    I mean it, what exactly is a holy parishioner to do?
    It’s all so very tiresome; this planned welcoming of blessing what God hates, into the Church.
    Why exactly is the clever ‘disagreeing well’ -(thankyou ‘flourish’ing Welby) the default, instead of simply marking and getting rid of these apostate bishops and priests? Canterbury and York for starters.

    • You are so clear that truth is to be found in voting.
      But wherever you have voting you have:
      (1) people mixing up what they want with what they have evidence for;
      (2) those who have thought about an issue having equal weight to those who have not.
      Synod began in 1970. There is nothing remotely Christian in following the one person one vote model used in more worldly circles. For the two reasons given.

    • Jeannie – rather than silently walk out of every service, or confront out loud the satanic parody – perhaps it is much safer to steer clear of these churches.

      I feel that what is going on looks very much like a modern version of the Prophets of Baal, who had taken over the church at that time (except for a very small remnant who had to hide in caves).

      If you go along to a church where such things are going on (blessing behaviour which God has condemned) then you never know. You’ll be in the wrong building when Jehu comes marching in and gives them what God has ordained for them ……

      • Where I live I’ve got Bishop Martin along the road in Chichester, say no more…close by in the village the latest chap who lived in the vicarage with his same sex partner has just moved on last week….alleluia…90 year old mother’s church is an option once more… next village along there’s a young ‘mother’ who simply and defiantly can’t wait to do these blessings…the other direction the chap was arrested for historic stuff….things seem quieter there now…these are just the very local one’s that I’m aware of.
        One is surrounded by it all. A cesspit.

          • There was one Easter Sunday a few years ago when he was in his bishops regalia standing up in the pulpit in Chichester Cathedral preaching and speaking of the same sex attracted in their fight for equal….I can’t recall his exact wording and won’t risk misquoting him, but after the service, still in his regalia, he was quietly but firmly called out and dressed down for it by yours truly.
            Maybe he has changed? Praise God if so.
            But he presumably appointed the last chap locally who lived with his same sex partner. Is he still telling all the single men to set up their ‘households’.
            Since when was he conservative?
            I’ve been out of the loop for a few years now since my call to ordination was ignored.

          • Martin Warner is one of the dissenting Bishops – he put his name to the opposition to the approval of the PLF, and he also signed the paper on the doctrine of marriage put forward by conservative Bishops back in January. The other Bishops who’ve signed both are: Paul Williams (Southwell & Nottingham), Richard Jackson (Hereford), Andrew Watson (Guildford), Pete Wilcox (Sheffield), Jonathan Gibbs (Rochester), Jill Duff (Lancaster), and Ric Thorpe (Islington).

    • Jeannie

      Congregations won’t be required to agree. Nobody will. If the priest disagrees with gay couples then it’s unlikely there will be gay couples in the congregation to even want a blessing, but if they do ask the priest can say no. If the priest is in favor of same sex relationships then individual congregants will not be required to agree or say amen.

      • ‘Congregations won’t be required to agree. Nobody will.’ If you think that, then you need to turn on your TV. The moment it because possible, there will be sting operations and intense pressure. It already happens.

        • Ian

          I guarantee you that no gay person wants to be married or have their marriage blessed by someone who disagrees with their relationship.

          Of course if local churches continue to hide their policies on LGBT people then there will be upset and I’m sure people will go to their local paper (if that’s even still a thing) and say “Rev Green called us demonic” etc etc but thats a bit different

          • Yet you’d expect me to take my 90 year old mother along to receive Holy Communion twice a week from a man who lives in a manner that God says he will punish?

          • Jeannie

            I’m not expecting you to do anything.

            I’m saying this fear that gay people are going to demand that anti gay priests marry them is unfounded. There’s nobody arguing that local churches or individual priests should be forced to marry gay couples against their will.

            Indeed no church/priest anywhere in the world has been forced to marry gay couples

  2. This is yet another example of what the traditional Christians with long-term insight saw all along coming to pass.
    Souls are dying.
    While the adolescents are playing.

    • I think we all saw it coming, we just wanted to stay and try and do what we can before giving up on it. We’re still here because we saw it coming, not because we didn’t.

      But you’re right, souls are dying and we’re being distracted. But the loss of the C of E to revisionism would not help souls either.

  3. I admire and support the Church of England Evangelical Council and Church Society in their faithful defence of the Anglican doctrines but I have a view on what their strategy should be which is different from that set out by John Dunnett in Evangelicals Now, October 2023 (Will there be a place for me in the Church of England?)

    I assume it is common ground that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages. The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

    And the paramount responsibility for those who are in Christ Jesus is to pray that God in his sovereign love, mercy and grace will send his breath from heaven and breathe on those not in Christ Jesus, that they may live, and to pray that he will move the hearts of all who name the name of Christ to believe, teach and preach both of these two vital messages.

    Those in the Church who believe the supreme importance of these two vital messages are, no doubt, encouraged by the Church of England Evangelical Council and Church Society, teaching and preaching them and praying that God will move the whole Church to join in doing the same. They are convinced that these messages are not only revealed in the Bible but also supported by the 39 Articles, Homilies and Book of Common Prayer which all Anglican Ministers have promised to follow by making the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows.

    The disagreement about same-sex behaviour and marriage has consumed and is consuming a lot of time, energy and debate in the Church of England, because the truth of the Bible and a change to the doctrine of the Church is at stake.

    John sets out the principles and specific provisions needed to “secure a place for those who wish to hold to the present teaching and practice of the Church” on sexual ethics. This will involve a “structural rearrangement of the CofE”. I note that John does not say anything about the situation if General Synod does not authorise such provisions and structural rearrangement.

    Nobody is presently trying to change the doctrines of Original Sin and the Wrath of God to which the 39 Articles, Homilies and Book of Common Prayer point. But are the terrible warnings and the wonderful invitations and promises believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?

    The clear answer to that is “No”. Most of the Church disagrees with the terrible warnings. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, important though that is!
    That being the case the time has come to follow the remarkable example set out in Galatians 2:11-14:

    “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”’
    where one Apostle who met Christ on the Damascus Road openly rebuked another Apostle on whom Christ said he would build his Church.

    What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the Church about her failure, as a whole, to believe, teach and preach the terrible Biblical warnings of the Day of Judgment facing non-Christians, and the wonderful invitation to all to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection.

    A serious effort by the CEEC and Church Society to do everything possible to organise this would involve mobilising all the Diocesan Evangelical Groups to support such a letter
    together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.

    Yours sincerely
    Philip Almond
    35 Arnold Close, Preston, PR2 6DX
    Tel No 01772 704404
    Email: [email protected]

    • I don’t see faithfulness as a positive thing, since it is entirely dependent on whether what one is being faithful to deserves that faith. In this case I agree that it does, but that does not make faithfulness a principle. Our opponents believe that we regard it as a principle (we will defend anything merely because it is old – as though that were a reason – rather than because the evidence is in its favour). They are misguided in so thinking, but continue to do so, because this like most points passes entirely over their heads however many times one says it – or more likely they are unwilling to hear it.

  4. ‘The fullest possible pastoral provision without changing the church’s doctrine’? How could people be any more apologetic for doctrine? Covering up doctrine’s tracks? Unsupportive of doctrine?
    Translate: ‘the fullest possible duplicity or double mindedness’ / ‘the fullest possible equivocation’.
    ‘Come to Me that you may have life.’

  5. The Bishops have an impossible job, that of constructing a quantum blessing, which is, or isn’t, the blessing of a same-sex relationship depending on the point of view of the observer.

    The aspect of GS2328 which gives me most concern, as a vicar, is that implementation of all of this falls on the incumbent. The flip side of leaving this up to ‘the discretion of the minister’ is that the incumbent alone – according to GS2328 – is responsible for
    – deciding whether or not to use the prayers
    – leading a conversation with the PCC ‘according to the Pastoral Principles’
    – agreeing a policy with the PCC
    – involving the congregation in the process of agreeing a policy
    – doing this with every church they are responsible for (which will be an interesting challenge in rural benefices with over 10 parishes)
    – dealing with licensed ministers on their team who take a different view. e.g. if an incumbent isn’t offering the prayers, members of their ministry team would be allowed to use PLF in parishes other than their own, if the incumbent of that parish agrees.
    – working out what to put in public communications (e.g. websites) about the church’s approach.

    Should there be disputes and division, there are suggestions about which process an incumbent could use, focused on use of the LLF materials and ‘Pastoral Principles’. But there is nothing clear and systematic enough in the paper that would enable you to say ‘I’ve followed the official process’. There simply isn’t one. The ‘Pastoral Principles’ themselves, which seem to have appeared without scrutiny, debate or critique, take a central role. The Principles have appeared without a grounding theology, or an analysis of the ideology they embody. But that’s a whole new debate of its own.

    And even the vicar does her or his best:
    “the views of the House, expressed in this paper and implied in its act of commending the PLF resources, do not provide an absolute defence against proceedings. Provided the minister had used the PLF resources in accordance with the Pastoral Guidance relevant at that time, any minister subject to such a complaint could cite the House’s view in his or her defence; but it would be for a tribunal or court to make a final decision. ” (p75).

    Whilst there are promises of diocesan support and advice, it is the vicars who will end up in the local (or national) newspapers, or being trashed on social media, because ultimately we are the ones who end up carrying all the responsibility. And as the above quote shows, there’s not even a guarantee that a vicar who does everything according to the guidance won’t end up in court.

    Whilst the Bishops have the privilege of anonymity behind collective responsibility, it is individual local clergy who will end up dealing with all the practicalities, and the fallout. I’m starting already to feel like a human shield, and I fear both for myself and my fellow clergy.

    • ‘But there is nothing clear and systematic enough in the paper that would enable you to say ‘I’ve followed the official process’. There simply isn’t one.’

      Spot on. This is a disaster which threatens to visit the incoherence and division of the bishops on every local congregation.

      • Yes indeed Ian and David. But at least – and at last – there would be frank debates, rather than deceitful bishops hiding behind collectivity and ambiguity. That raises a further question: can laypersons arguing against churchly SSM in a church meeting be charged with hate speech, even if they are careful to say that it is contrary to scripture and tradition and do not say it is wrong?

        • Exactly the point I drafted but didn’t post, Anton-

          In practical reality terms then, what would this look like?

          Forcing priests to perform a parody before God Almighty and his holy people in the C of E might put many in the position of choosing to potentially lose their home and job or their own salvation. A rock and a hard place.

          The ill feeling this unsound God-mocking narcissism will create amongst PCC’s and parishioners will surely be toxic.
          Hardly conducive to discipling and leading the sheep in a holy atmosphere.

          For a parishioner to object or read scriptures out loud during such a parody or announcement of such, no doubt they would be arrested and spend the night in the cells (or hospital) before getting a criminal record for breach of the peace and lefty ‘Hate’ crime. Because the police would be called every time, for sure.

          • Peter Tatchell was arrested and detained for disrupting Archbishop Carey’s Easter sermon at Canterbury in 1998.

          • I shouted ‘Popery Out!’ at full volume during a service at Hereford Cathedral a few years ago (2008 perhaps)….then as I stormed out did immediately wonder if the congregation would imagine I was merely expressing distaste for the ‘pot pourri’ most of us ladies had in bowls on sideboards in our sitting rooms back then.

          • A friend of mine shouted in Synod from the gallery: ‘No women priests, no [various other things] – Resign, you druid.’. Rather extreme. I still think ‘thou druid’ would have been better.

        • Anton

          Unlikely because it’s not a public meeting. It would also depend on what they said. Saying “I believe that the Bible endorses heterosexual relationships only” is very different from advocating for violence or murder. Unfortunately I think people tend not to understand what it is they are saying.

          • I regretfully have no confidence in your reply. Whenever the LGBT Christian movement has been scratched on this blog it pefers secular principles to Christian ones. Jayne Ozanne advocates the use of hate speech legislation in her drive for church SSM. Revolutions are always led by radicals; the moderates on that side of the fence follow later.

            Hate speech legislation is iniquitous in any case. I’m a Zionist Christian and I support the freedom of that mob last weekend to chant Jihad in our streets. Free speech is a higher good and it can always be responded to with further free speech.

          • Anton

            Hate speech is not merely saying that you oppose same sex relationships, it would have to be abusive or threatening.

            I think the right to free speech has to be balanced against others right to life and liberty. We had a Nazi group demonstrate in our city a few months back and it didn’t sit right with me that they were able to shout these things and block access right outside peoples homes, undoubtedly where some non white people live and where Jewish people live.

            I think the audience is important too. There’s a difference between saying something in private and broadcasting it to millions via the internet.

          • Your ignorance of the wording of the Public Order Act is showing. I have seen a harmless street preacher of my acquaintance dragged through the courts because of something scriptural he said about LGBT. Someone took offence and called the police. What actually was said is contended, and I believe the other man did not give truthful account – and was not distressed but merely annoyed. The police simply arrested my acquaintance and when he protested grunted “You’ll have your say in court.” The first thing a secular gay does upon hearing a street preacher offering the gospel is raise the subject of LGBT in the hope of this happening. Routinely.

            So I really don’t care what does and doesn’t sit right with you.

          • Anton

            I agree that he said/she said situations are difficult. I think preachers are used to biblical language and don’t necessarily realize how violent it sounds in modern secular life.

            LGBT people are subjected to slurs and violent threats every day, even in 2023

          • LGBT people are subjected to slurs and violent threats every day, even in 2023

            Good to see you reading your Bible!

      • Ian. Where will this lead in Leicester Diocese where they have decided to have Minster Churches – ie no incumbent priests and a gaggle of them servicing parishes? As I pointed out to someone a few weeks ago – “We will have no idea of the churchmanship of any clergy who turn up.” Will clergy be able to offer blessings in certain churches and not others?

    • David

      I don’t think you’d end up in court?

      I think the danger is that you could do or say something that you perceive to be within the guidance, but your diocesan does not and it could lead to discipline. It’s essential that the guidance is crystal clear on what is and is not allowed, which is difficult when the bishops use deliberate ambiguity

      I agree that there’s a likelihood both priests who allow the blessings and those who do not will be attacked by the media, but that’s not really much of a change (currently priests who publicly support LGBT equality and priests who publicly oppose LGBT equality are attacked in the media).

  6. Charlie Bell writes ‘Very substantial votes in favour of change have been registered.’. What would be accurate would be to say that ‘Very substantial vote in favour of change in one particular direction, of the millions of directions available, have been registered.’. ‘Change’ is not a position, since it entirely depends what that change is. This is teleological, reflecting the idea that things are destined inevitably to move in one particular direction out of the many available. It is therefore false, because no such destiny exists. Things will hopefully move in the direction of the evidence, and if they do not then later correctives are inevitable.

    Slipping teleological thinking under the radar is tactical, rather than transparent or pure.

  7. The original LLF proposals were an acceptable compromise, services of prayer of blessing for same sex couples with an opt out for churches which disagree while reserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples. That received a majority in all houses of Synod. However now thanks to resistance from conservative evangelicals even to that it seems even those services of blessing may not go forward, only prayers within services. This is due to the 2/3 majority now being required for such services, even though they full short of full marriage.

    If this goes ahead then as the Campaign for Equal Marriage, Jayne Ozanne etc state they would go full steam ahead for full homosexual marriages in the established church exactly as civil homosexual marriages are legal in England. After all if divorcees can get full remarriages in the Church of England now why can’t homosexual couples in lifelong unions. If Labour win the next general election they will almost certainly have the support of the next government for this and a majority of MPs. Labour MPs like Bradshaw and Bryant are already threatening to use Parliament to impose homosexual marriage on the C of E as established church if it rejects even services of blessing (with the concession still of opt outs for evangelical churches which disagree)

    • Then bossy so and sos like Ben Bradshaw and Chris Bryant are snobbish and elitist people who cannot entertain the outrageous thought that the political class is not above the rest of us, even above the leaders of organisations where they themselves hold no office.

      I have never seen either of them address, let alone answer, any one of the factors cited against their position.

      They would just hasten disestablishment. Or CB would since BB will not then be in Parliament.

      • Thankfully, Bradshaw and Bryant are not listened too much in the Labour Party, let alone outside of it. There’s a reason they’re not in the Shadow Cabinet. They are classic, backbench firebrands, of which there is a fine tradition, but as Wes Streeting has said, hardly a social conservative himself, a Labour govt would not force anything on the Church of England. I think disestablishment would be the only honourable way forward if the govt felt that the C of E’s doctrine was too offensive for its idea of the State. But that means upsetting the King, and most govts don’t like doing that.

        • No a Parliament with a comfortable Labour majority would see the median MP even more left liberal than Streeting and could use that to impact the direction of the C of E

          • If they wanted the UK to be on the same human rights watchlist as China, I’m sure they could. But it would be up to a Labour govt, not the backbenchers.

            Look if they do that, Jesus is still Jesus, the Gospel is still the same, govts come and go and Christians are often persecuted. But our names are in the book of life so whatever the govt, I’m sound mate. Victory is not in this life, it’s in faithfulness and Christ’s commendation in the next.

            But I don’ think even a Labour govt of these times would want to go that far.. not yet anyway.

      • No they wouldn’t, they want influence over the established church via Parliament, even more state control, the reverse of disestablishment which only Parliament and the King can approve anyway

    • Wes Streeting, hardly an evangelical, has said that a Labour govt would not interefere with or impose rules on the Church of England. Now he may be wrong, or lying, or I dunno.. but it is at least reassuring that one of those most high profile shadow Cabinet advocates for LGBT rights etc, is saying a Labour govt would not intervene.

      If they did, the Church would disestablish. We’re not China, secular Parliaments don’t tell Churches what to do.

        • Seriously- he did. But that was in a whole different age in no way remotely comparable to ours.
          Establishment is an anomaly that has outrun its time and was never theologically defensible, except on minimal grounds of tactical advantage (for those agreeing with the monarch of the day or later their political masters!). Why would anyone defend it today?

          • As we support parish ministry, weddings and funerals to all Parishioners who want them and want a church whose supreme governor is our King.

            If you don’t want to be in the established English church you have the Roman Catholic church or multiple evangelical churches, Baptist, Pentecostal, independent etc to be in

      • Synod has already voted for prayers of blessing by a simple majority, it is the conservative evangelical minority trying to tell the Church’s Parliament what to do by demanding a 2/3 majority for the prayers of blessing for homosexual couples

        • What on earth (literally) has voting to do with anything? The aim is to discern the view of God on the matter. Where might that be found?

          • Everything, the Church of England is governed by its bishops in Synod. If you don’t agree with that you are better off leaving the C of E

          • Wrong: all power in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus Christ. Of course he might permit the Church of England to commit suicide in order that it should cease tarring his name through the actions of its apostate bishops.

          • On earth power in the Church of England is vested in the Bishops and Synod and at Parish level the Vicar and PCCs. Jesus is just spiritual head (the King Supreme Governor)

          • Nonsense, T1. They can’t do anything unless Jesus permits it. Tell me, do you agree? Please include a clear Yes or No in any answer.

  8. It’s all rather simple.

    Even before his appointment as ABC, Justin Welby was being captured by cultural Marxist ideology. It seems that soon enough he was fully on board with it along with some of those around him in the upper echelons of the Church of England.

    But he knew the Church of England as a whole had a long way to go before it would be ready to join him on that ideological journey. Rather than address the church openly and honestly with a coherent, biblically sourced, argument in support of the gay agenda to which he personally had become committed, he opted for changing facts on the ground – quietly and continually appointing fellow ideologues or known malleable characters to positions of influence across the church: the silently clicking ratchet. It was a travesty of honest leadership of a Christian church.

    Gradually the expectations of keen revisionists were encouraged to grow as the political direction of travel became increasingly obvious. The ensuing existence of LLF raised optimism that change was inevitable to fever pitch. It became clear throughout this period when orthodox opponents to any change had been suckered into the LLF process that they had no serious intention for a bare knuckle fight to the finish: instead some of them began to argue for a compromise: ‘differentiation’. Red lines were dissolving into the sand.

    However the facts of biblical doctrine and its legal status in the Church of England remain impossible to circumvent without open acknowledgement and due synodical process. Currently it appears that the votes for a radical junking of the church’s adherence to scriptural teaching are not quite there yet; perhaps they won’t be for the foreseeable future.

    So we are ‘enjoying’ the spectacle of a House of Bishops in disarray. They can’t go back and the ridiculous routes for going forward will anger everyone. In reality it’s far from amusing; it’s an embarrassing shambles. It’s spiritually rebellious, morally disgraceful and demoralising all round. It’s deeply disturbing for clergy whose living and that of their families are directly involved. For ordinands too it’s a disaster which threatens their futures even before they’ve even begun their ministry.

    Doubtless this month’s synod will come and go without defenestration or murder, but I suspect few will breathe a sigh of relief at the outcome.

    So what’s ‘rather simple’ about all this? It’s one of the oldest truths: O what a tangled web we weave…etc. There’s a lot to be said for honesty before God and man.

    • This is indeed the outcome, but how can we know about the intention?
      Abp Runcie for example promoted lots of Cuddesdon liberals, but Abp Welby has promoted lots of soft evangelicals self-styled or otherwise, including less soft ones who will not follow what is being done.

      • Do we not know how each bishop voted in February at Synod? In that case we need only see how the voting went among those appointed since Welby became ABC in order to shed light on that issue.

    • If that was clearly the case Welby would have proposed full homosexual marriages in church to the Bishops and Synod from the outset with only a simple majority needed to approve them

    • Don Benson

      Justin Welby clearly doesn’t support same sex marriage. His stalling is a major reason why the CofE has still not even really begun to have real conversations about how to treat LGBT people

      • Peter, I can tell you with confidence that is not true. He changed his mind a long time ago. He has made a studied attempt to disguise this, but in certain contexts admits it openly. He has been orchestrating change behind the scenes, rather than leading directly, I think because he believes that the only way he can make it happen is by appearing not to be directly connected with the change himself.

        • Ian

          Sorry but I have seen no evidence of that. I’ve seen him drag his feet on responding to other Anglican churches advocating violence and killing of gay people and him blaming gay people for the murder of Christians by Islamic fundamentalists in African countries. I’ve seen him publicly state personal opposition to even bless gay couples. I’ve seen him oppose SSM in parliament and demand extra legal protection for the CofE from them.

          I’ve had endless conversations with people who say “oh bishop XYZ is very supportive *in private*”. All that tells me is Bishop XYZ is dishonest and shouldn’t be a curate let alone a bishop. If their public actions are to continue abuse and discrimination then they do not support LGBT people

  9. The big lie in LLF is that it was neutral – ultimately between different ‘interpretations’ of the Bible when scripture is crystal clear on the matter. This was obvious to anybody who actually took the LLF course, as I did (on Zoom).

    Welby et al are seeking simply to ignore the Bible. They are at last starting to find that it isn’t so easy to ignore inside a church. They are unfit to oversee a village fete, let alone the church of Jesus Christ. He will not be mocked.

    • ‘They (Welby et al) are unfit to oversee a village fete, let alone the church of Jesus Christ.’

      Quite so.
      There was an event at Welby’s home gardens where Yoga (the worship of a false god) was offered. I phoned and told them to stop it, but I see this happened again this summer.
      So Welby cannot (read chooses not to) oversee to keep his own grounds clear of false worship.

      • In the 1990s our annual church fete had a fortune teller! I complained to the vicar and it was the only time I ever saw him get angry, not that I backed off. I then complained to the woman organising the fete, and in good rhetorical fashion asked her questions rather than made assertions: Was it compatible with certain verses in the Bible? Her repeated response was: “I don’t know, Anton”. She had me beat becaue the last thing one does in an English village is be rude, and at the time I didn’t see what else to reply other than “You are on the PCC and you thumping well should know.” I boycotted the fete, but at least there wasn’t a fortune teller the next year.

      • Yoga is not an act of worship of any god, false or real.

        It’s possible to combine it with some Hindu-insprired meditation, or put a spiritual-modernist spin on a breathing exercise, but you can do that with anything. Yoga itself is simply a set of stretching exercises.

        • Ask Vishal Mangalwadi about that. He is an Indian (who lives in India), has degrees in both eastern and Western philosophy and is a Christian committed enough to have been jailed for challenging the caste system. He won’t touch yoga.

          • He says the Western fans of yoga use it exclusively for physical fitness (which he considers an abuse of yoga).

          • There are plenty of secular stretching exercises available. Athletes use them all the time. So why is yoga so popular?

          • “Western fans of yoga abuse it when they use it exclusively for physical fitness.”

            Taken from Mangalwadi’s 2001 pamphlet on yoga. It’s in the second paragraph.

          • That quote settles nothing. They might use it for physical fitness but does it use them at the same time?

            Why do you think it is so much more popular than secular stretching as performed by athletes who know a lot more about the human body?

          • When I became a Christian I realised that the yoga sessions I had taken part in years before were spiritual. You were instructed to empty your mind – Christians should fill their minds with the word of God and ensure we put on the whole armour of God. I recommend Pilates as it concentrates on strengthening your core muscles and has no spiritual content.

      • I know liberal Catholic churches which hold Yoga and wellbeing sessions as part of Parish ministry and engagement with the local community. It is a health and wellbeing exercise not worship and nothing wrong with it

          • No it isn’t, it is just a series of physical, mental and sometimes spiritual actions, even if schools of Hindus and Buddhists practice it too. Liberal Catholic C of E churches entrenched in their local communities and committed to their Parishes will continue to offer Yoga classes in their churches and halls whatever some evangelicals may think of it

        • Transcendental, meditation and yogic flying have nothing in common with Christianity. These fools who promote this may as well promote seances as they show no spiritual discernment.

    • Anton

      Where in the Bible does it say that priests cannot bless gay people? Do you acknowledge that priests have been able to do this prior to LLF?

      • I am sure that Rev Sam Allberry is blessed by God for his integrity, and would be willing to bless others who have made his lifestyle choices.

        • Sam Allberry has left the cofe for the ACNA.

          I genuinely don’t know if he would be willing to bless a gay person. On the one hand he has said in various places that its not sinful to be gay, but he also signed the Nashville statement which says it is a sin to have a “homosexual identity”

          • So he has. Another good man driven out by wolves. I’m surprised he stuck it so long. In his book Is God anti-gay?, this same-sex-attracted celibate vicar explained that followers of Christ must deny their fallen selves (Mark 8:34), which do not vanish at conversion but can be defeated by Christ’s power. At a Church of England synod on 15/2/2017, Allberry spoke of church liberals present bullying him for his view. The arrogance of these people!

            Vaughan Roberts, then.

          • Missing a rather important chapter in the story – Allberry went to the US to be part of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Shortly after Zacharias died in 2020 it emerged that he had a long history of sexual misconduct and abuse, financial impropriety and bogus academic credentials. RZIM changed its name, sacked most of its staff (as donations went into freefall) and saw Zacharias’ books removed from print by his publishers.

          • Ian

            Yes that’s what I said he’s left the CofE to join the ACNA.

            I don’t know enough about him to judge his views on blessing gay people (who may or may not be married) an the scraps of evidence I’ve seen seem to contradict themselves. Perhaps it’s that he’s become more conservative over time

  10. Being a parish priest in the Church of England increasingly feels like being in an abusive relationship: you are bound by vows made in good faith in an institution where the bishops with whom you share you ministry abandon theirs pretending at the same time that they’re not doing so.

  11. Assemble to dissemble seems to be the methodology multiplied. Herein, lies a practical parody, rebuke and abjuration of the idea of apostolic succession in the CoE, espoused by T1.

    • It doesn’t, it is still the Bishops who propose what Synod votes on on this and in February Synod approved all the measures the Bishops proposed

      • T1,
        1. A process of meandering mendacity is far from apostolic.
        2. BTW what is the source of your definition and understanding of apostle?
        3. And what is the apostolic evangel to which they subscribe if there is to be derived succession.
        4. Neither were apostles appointed and approved by the State.

          • T1 subscribes to RC succession, which isn’t Protestant.
            Peter, wasn’t an apostle appointed and approved by the State.
            Please answer the questions.
            What does it take to get you to enter into any Christian theological dialogue?
            Can you set out what theological differences there are between Roman Catholicism and adherence to apostolic succession, it’s Magisterium and Protestant doctrine, in the CoE opposed to mere politics of history?
            At least RC, Happy Jack, can and does and robustly so.
            Can you ever answer, what is the evangel? And which God do you believe, and why?
            The CoE Bishops are not apostles. It is a legal fiction to claim otherwise. Do they adhere to the doctrines of the Apostles, who were appointed and commissioned directly, and personally, by Jesus? Let alone to their ordination vows?
            Is it known how many CoE Bishops claim, believe, that they are apostles, in apostolic succession?

          • Anglican Churches, Eastern Orthodox churches and Lutheran churches subscribe to apostolic succession as much as Roman Catholic churches do. All C of E Bishops, by definition, must subscribe to their posts being obtained by apostolic succession.

            The main difference between the Church of England and Roman Catholic church is the Book of Common Prayer is its main prayer book and the Pope is not its head, the King is its Supreme Governor.

          • T1, those are the main organisational differences. Anglicans do not pray to/through Mary and the saints, do not believe all sorts of things about Mary that Catholics must, and do not limit leadership to males. I leave it to you to work out which of those things I approve of.

  12. “In the events of the Bishops continuing on their stated course of action, and without robust provision being introduced to secure a place for those who hold to a biblical view, CEEC will introduce provisions relating to alternative episcopal oversight, new financial systems, and new fellowship arrangements in order that orthodox bible witness might flourish in the CofE going forwards.”

    And yet again CEEC confirm that for them, this is just a vehicle for the schism they so desperately crave. All they want is to get their hands on the Church Commissioner’s funds, so they can pocket a choice slice of the assets (I confidently predict their ideas for new financial systems don’t involve any apportionment of the Church’s liabilities) and then split. It’s so transparent. They don’t care a jot about the teaching for gay people in the Church or upholding any doctrine.

    • Adam, I have been a member and a minister in evangelical Anglican churches for most of my life and I can tell you these parishes have been subsidising the dioceses, giving far, far more in the ‘parish share’ than they receive from central funds.
      I for one would be happy to see a significant paring back of diocesan empires and the channeling of money instead to actual mission, churches in poor areas. It is shocking how parishes have been amalgamated while diocesan staffing has increased.

      • And I’ve been a member in several evangelical churches who give nothing like their parish share. But hey, it’s not me who’s making a play for new financial systems – it’s CEEC. Right now, this is what they care about.

        I’m game for some diocesan reform (for starters I’m not convinced we actually need more than 26 diocesan bishops and Archbishops) but that’s a separate question.

        • Adam, I’m surprised that you didn’t go instead to liberal churches that you would agree with more ethically and theologically.
          I’m sure there are exceptions (e.g., small parishes in Hackney or poor parts of Liverpool), but most Anglican evangelical churches I have known have been marked by sacrificial giving well in excess of what they receive: between £40k and £100k more than they receive in vicar’s and curate’s salaries and pension contributions. Giving, even tithing, is something evangelicals tend to preach on more. Nowadays such parishes are not intending to give less but rather to be careful that the Lord’s money is actually used for mission and not diocesan schemes.

          • They can’t, all C of E assets belong to the Church of England, including church buildings. If some evangelical churches left the C of E they would have to find new buildings to worship in

          • That’s what all the talk of alternative arrangements and new financial systems is all about T1 – how to get control of their own slice of the assets so they don’t need to worry about that.

          • They wouldn’t get control of any of the assets, legally they would belong to the C of E (see also the failure of churches which broke away from the US Episcopal Church to get any assets from it). If they break away they are on their own, they would have to raise their own funds and build up their own assets

          • James

            Yep I’ve attended two CofE evangelical churches. One there was no pressure to give that I noticed (I was probably only there for 2 months), but the other we had a huge amount of pressure to give at least ten percent of our income before tax – at least three sermons a year on it. I stopped feeling guilty that I was only giving 10% after tax when I found out the vicar was paid almost twice my salary.

          • Ian

            These people raise the same issues I mentioned. Where is the transparency when we aren’t even allowed to know “who knew what”.

            Ed Shaw seems to be a good guy, but almost all of the CEEC are not Ed Shaw

        • ‘Right now, this is what they care about.’ No, what CEEC care about is, as the Protestant and Reformed church that it is, the C of E is faithful to its Lord.

          It is also concerned for issues of transparency, honesty, accountability, integrity, and the right use of power. All these things appear to be absent from the recent decisions of the HoB.

          • And yet they don’t actually call for any of those things. They call for alternative episcopal oversight, new fellowship arrangements, and those all important financial systems.

          • AJ Bell – I thought this was a thread about sex, but you seem to be turning it into a discussion about money. Perhaps we could extend it to include smoking and drinking?

          • Ian

            I’m sorry but I find it hard to square this idea that evangelical leaders care about transparency, honesty, accountability or integrity when I also read about the cover ups of sexual abuse by the same group. Perhaps these are different people within the same group or perhaps they are the same people who see themselves as acting very differently from how they actually act, but I don’t think you can claim that there are totally pure motives at work here.

          • Well your problem is the language of ‘the same group’.

            Peter Tatchell has advocated that children can healthy have sexual relationships with adults. Ah, you and he are in the ‘same group’ as you are gay. So I will now take you as responsible for his comments and behaviour.

            (See the problem?)

          • Jock, just show me the statement from CEEC or another group responding to the latest LLF developments which calls for some action on smoking and drinking

          • Ian, take it up with Jock – he’s asking why we’re not talking about smoking and drinking in the LLF discussion.

            CEEC in their statement have made it clear that they want to talk about new financial systems. They’ve said that this, along with episcopal oversight and alternative arrangements for fellowship will be their focus in LLF. If you, as a member of CEEC, think this isn’t CEEC’s actual position then perhaps you need a word with the CEEC leadership (or at least who puts out the statements).

          • Ian

            The difference is that I don’t work with Peter T (I don’t even know him, but I have seen him in public once), nor have I been privy to knowledge of him abusing parishioners and done nothing about it

            Quote from Peter T.

            My articles urging an age of consent of 14 are motivated solely by a desire to reduce the criminalisation of under-16s who have consenting relationships with other young people of similar ages. I do not support adults having sex with children. I do not advocate teenagers having sex before the age of 16. But if they do have sex before their 16th birthday, they should not be arrested, given a criminal record and put on the sex offenders register

          • And I’ve not worked with the people you allude to, or have knowledge of abuse and done nothing about it. It is scandalous that you are suggesting I have.

          • Ian

            I have not suggested you have.

            I’m claiming that lots of evangelical leaders in the cofe knew about Jonathan Fletcher and did nothing and, not only knew about Mike Pilavachi and did nothing, but also encouraged children and young people to attend his events. I’m claiming that some evangelical leaders are not complying with investigations of abuse. These are all a matter of public risk cord

            As I said before these are perhaps different evangelical leaders within the same group, but personally, given the scale of this immorality, and the relatively small number of people involved I find it hard to swallow that this group, as a group, cares about transparency, honesty or integrity.

          • Ian

            Again I’m not saying it tars all evangelicals. I’m saying I find it hard to believe that CEEC are interested in honesty, accountability or integrity.

            Unless it has been done in secret, none of the people who knew about MP have faced any discipline at all and the public are not allowed to know who they are. He has faced almost no discipline. JF faced almost no discipline. They are both now enjoying comfortable retirements. Nobody who helped them has faced any discipline at all.

            If CEEC was interested in honesty accountability and integrity then there would be a real desire to be open and honest about abuse and be working to stop it from happening. Leaders who would not comply with investigations would be removed from the group.

    • AJB.
      Schism has been started and fostered by subscribing to secular culture, by the revisionists.
      Is your last sentence for real? It is, as you evidence in your comments, your reading and inverting this through your subjective ss myopic monocle.

  13. CS Lewis (I believe writing to Church times in 1949)-

    …. I submit that the relation is healthy when liturgy expresses the belief of the Church, morbid when liturgy creates in the people by suggestion beliefs which the Church has not publicly professed, taught, and defended. If the mind of the Church is, for example, that our fathers erred in abandoning the Romish invocations of saints and angels, by all means let our corporate recantation, together with its grounds in scripture, reason and tradition be published, our solemn act of penitence be performed, the laity re-instructed, and the proper changes in liturgy be introduced. What horrifies me is the proposal that individual priests should be encouraged to behave as if all this had been done when it has not been done. One correspondent compared such changes to the equally stealthy and (as he holds) irresistible changes in a language. But that is just the parallel that terrifies me, for even the shallowest philologist knows that the unconscious linguistic process is continually degrading good words and blunting useful distinctions. Absit omen! Whether an ‘enrichment’ of liturgy which involves a change of doctrine is allowable, surely depends on whether our doctrine is changing from error to truth or from truth to error. Is the individual priest the judge of that?

  14. I have much to learn in this area and little expertise on Church of England governance, but am trying to read broadly on this key issue for the CofE (not the only one, nor the most important, as others have highlighted. I can be labelled Conservative evangelical if that helps. I still want to use the term “inclusive” to mean welcoming and accepting all people without it also having to mean welcoming and accepting all views and practices, but I’m not sure that remains an option.

    To answer the initial question here, having scanned through the official PLF paper this evening, I was genuinely in tears. While there is wisdom within it, we seem to be in a position now where we are using intellectual cleverness and language games to try to steer a lukewarm path. Have we started with the vision of assuaging/reassuring rather than seeking truth? (I’m not very post-modern on that – things are either true, or they’re not…but we should certainly confess if/when we realise we have misunderstood truth).

    Issues in Human Sexuality has much wisdom within its manner of writing to my mind, but did perhaps start down the path of using median language (e.g. not referring to sin as something that should be understood and compassionately addressed rather than ignored/tolerated/blessed) and “don’t ask” as a way to steer through without offending anyone (which should never be the intention, and certainly isn’t mine here). It’s also the first time I have read of the principle of blessing someone whose conscience suggests to them that biblical/church teaching is wrong and therefore actively chooses to live outside of such.

    The PLF document seems to go further. I haven’t studied it beyond an initial scan yet but it seems to focus on a blessing being perfectly possible because friendship should be celebrated (of course it should)… and we don’t know if these particular two friends are engagjng in sexual activity (but they know)… It then switches to the language of “couples” with prayers that are evidently about two people in a more intimate relationship than friendship. In my experience couples don’t want to be called friends, and vice versa, but the proposed way forward seems to be relying on equating the two in some nuanced navigation of law / theology. I’m not aware of an uprising of friends asking for prayers / services to celebrate their friendship with covenant pledges between the two in an exclusive manner, nor of same-sex couples asking to be recgnised as very special friends.

    I can imagine those who think that God/theology should keep up with society’s recent developments and/or better validate/enable some people’s experience of same-sex attaction (I appreciate this won’t accurately describe many views) by blessing same sex sexual partnerships will be extremely hurt that the church can only do so by perpetuating them having to refer to sexual partners as “friends” (which was the status quo in most of society until recent decades) while continuing to state that they fall short of an ideal. Those who believe, with or without compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction (but hopefully with), that God’s truth/design for two genders hasn’t changed are still left wondering why the church is jumping through hoops to try to find ways to bless those the church itself states fall short of the ideal of sexual intimacy within the marriage of man and woman.

    To remind myself – we all fall short of the ideal – of God’s glory – in sexual relationships and many other respects. In whatever way we do, through Christ we are offered forgiveness, salvation – upon confessing we fall short. This remains the only area of which I am aware in my lifetime in which the church is suggesting that falling short of God’s ideal deserves a blessing and suggests celebrating the state of affairs continuing in a covenant way. Isn’t the response not to condemn but then support us all going and sinning no more? (Pastorally, practically, in our weakness, that might not be the immediate result, of course)

    I did cry, and I can imagine those experiencing same sex attraction, whether seeking to uphold current/traditional church teaching or not, also crying.

    Lord – please speak your truth into the situation, and help us follow Your calling.

    Again, I acknowledge my lack of training, study and experience, mere faith seeking understanding, but I was moved to respond in some way other than just crying in my office (a room, not an appointment).

  15. A few more thoughts here, the first being the Apostacy of the C of E if this ungodly process isn’t rejected fully and ended. The fact that people in leadership have been so open to these proposals demonstrates not only a complete disregard of the living God and his words and instructions (do they not think he is real and alive or do they simply despise him?) So how can this leadership be trusted in any way to lead from now on, given that by their votes they have demonstrated their apostasy?
    Secondly, where is the love? It is the most unloving thing to decieve and lie and offer falsity to others in the name of God. To condone, accept, include and promote those things which God hates not only defies God himself but it reassures people that they are spiritually fine when the opposite is true. It is satanic to decieve and lie to priests and parishioners and the lost to convince them that God approves of what he has said he will punish with eternal damnation. Where is the love in this?
    Thirdly, Welby’s ‘disagreeing well’ nonsense is unbiblical. If apostasy is to be embedded into the Church and compromise decisions are reached, then the whole church is in Sin and apostacy. It is not ‘disagreeing well’ to defy God. When Sin is proposed, simply mark the agent of Satan and remove him from office. You haven’t been doing this and hence there are legion of these malignant wolves running the show now. Start the processes for removing every single one of them from office today. Or is there no such mechanism?!

    • Jeannie – you ask where is the love? The answer is in the false use of the word ‘love’ in ‘living in love and faith’ where they consider having-it-off, separated from creating children, as an act of ‘love’.

      Last week, a friend of mine told me that she was 17 weeks pregnant – and she was (of course) absolutely delighted about this. This is particularly welcome news, since she and her husband had been trying unsuccessfully to have a family for at least 5 years – and thinking on this should put a proper perspective on the ‘pleasure’ of sex in and of itself when it doesn’t result in children – it is at best transient and empty; when it is outside the context of a marriage between one man and one woman in lifelong union, it is positively damaging.

      If the whole LLF business had simply been about two people of the same sex living together in a celibate relationship – and even adopting children together – I can’t imagine it would have caused a problem.

      The message that the church should be giving is: when you’ve bought into the modern having-it-off culture, discovered that any ‘pleasure’ is transient and empty, then come to us and we will show you a better way.

      LLF instead takes the opposite direction and, instead, tries to accommodate the modern having-it-off culture within the church. Those who are supportive of it have sold their souls to the devil.

      • Do you think straight couples should stop having sex after they have had children?.

        If not what is the difference between a straight married couple with children who still have sex and a gay married couple with children who still have sex?

        • Actually I think Jock does believe that any couple having sex where they’re not genuinely trying to conceive is wrong. That’s wildly unBiblical of course, but there you go.

        • God thinks straight couples who have sex are fornicating and he forbids it- except within Holy matrimony where they become One Flesh for life. They are one flesh, joined as husband and wife in the eyes of God and holy sex is a lifelong gift from God to them.
          The difference between them and two people fornicating outside of Holy matrimony, with or without children, is that God approves the former and forbids the latter.

          I know you aren’t happy about this but surely by now you understand God’s view on this matter? You repeatedly say you disagree that this is God’s view but you haven’t as yet declared what you say God’s view is.
          Spell it out now (and see how ridiculous it is)

          • Ian

            If a couple can’t have children their marriage is not structurally fertile.

            I think the argument against SSM on grounds of fertility is ridiculous.

          • ‘If a couple can’t have children their marriage is not structurally fertile.’

            No, it is an accident of disability. A same-sex couple are infertile by design, not by accident.

            It is like saying feet are for walking, but hands are not. Not everyone can walk on their feet—but that does not undermine the biological claim that that is what feet are for.

            And, once again, the argument against SSM is not ‘on the grounds of fertility’ or at least not alone. The argument is that God has designed the human body for fertile male-female marriage and sexual union. Same-sex sex is, according to scripture, a denial of that creation intention.

          • Peter – I think I can give you an example of a marriage between a man and a woman that was not structurally fertile, which was a total disaster – and which, in my view, should never have taken place. ‘Bernie’ was someone I met at an ‘International Church’ (i.e. the English-language church for those of us who couldn’t parley the local lingo). It was clear that he was of a Pentecostalist background, because he ‘did the actions’ during the songs. He had married a woman who ‘came to faith’ after some absolutely riotous living which involved taking serious quantities of drugs, having an awful lot of sex in weird and wonderful ways with many different men – and, as a result of the abuse she had given her body, she had required a hysterectomy. Apparently she saw the light, was redeemed, etc ….

            ‘Bernie’ told me that, when he had married her, he expected the Good Lord to perform a miracle and put everything back together again so that they could have children – and since he was a Pentecostalist, I assumed that therefore he must have actually been stupid enough to believe such rubbish. But later, it became completely clear to me that he had married her for exactly one reason – so that he could get lots and lots and lots of ‘marital rights’ out of her without any danger. (I hadn’t heard the term ‘marital rights’ used in that way before).

            One Sunday morning, he came along to church with extremely painful ribs – due to his wife’s response when he had politely requested some ‘marital rights’ that morning.

            The marriage was a total disaster of course – and if the principle of ‘structurally open to procreation’ had been in play, the marriage would never have taken place.

          • “The argument is that God has designed the human body for fertile male-female marriage and sexual union. Same-sex sex is, according to scripture, a denial of that creation intention.”

            A very modern and flawed argument. Choosing lifelong celibacy would also be a denial of that creation intention. St Paul was not in such a denial. Nor was Christ. Nor does Scripture support such an assertion.

          • Ian

            No, its not an accident. I’m not talking about the case where a couple get married, try for children and are infertile. I’m talking about a case where a couple get married knowing they are infertile. It makes no practical difference. And we agreed God does not make arbitrary laws!!

            (Although actually I have seen it speculated that the reason adopted kids seem to do slightly better with gay couples than straight couples is that for gay couples adopting is their first choice for having kids, whereas for straight couples its more often than not what they do after they have exhausted all other possibilities)

        • Peter – Jeannie has answered your ‘what is the difference’ question. Provided the relationship isn’t abusive – and mutual consent really does mean mutual consent – then what a couple does after they have had children is up to them.

          Having said that, I have seen horrible situations – for example, one guy from a Pentecostal background (let’s call him Bernie – because that was his name) complaining (I don’t know why he chose me as his confessor) that his wife was refusing him what he described as his ‘marital rights’.

          There isn’t anything wrong with it (within marriage), provided both of the couple are very, very sure that it really is mutual consent (by which I mean mutual – and that there isn’t any coercion at all – particularly not the Spiritual bullying from a Satanic clown who has put a selfish spin on some Scripture verses and is demanding his ‘marital rights’). I do get the impression that for some people having-it-off for its own sake can be an addiction, just like smoking and drinking.

          • Jock

            Forgive me, but then that’s then not an argument against same sex marriage. If you are saying that straight married couples can have non pro creative sex then you can’t argue that gay people should not be allowed to marry because the sex is non procreative.

            Either non procreative sex is ok or its not.

          • Nonsense. It is not about acts; it is about the structure of the relationship.

            Male-female marriage is inherently and structurally open to procreation. Same-sex relationships are completely closed to that.

            No-one except fundamentalist extreme Catholics believe this is a question about sex acts.

          • Peter – I think that Ian expressed very well my own view. There is nothing wrong with non procreative sex within marriage.

            I’d add a very strong caveat: provided that there isn’t coercion, and that mutual consent really does mean that both of the couple actually want it – and also that there isn’t self-harm involved (e.g. through taking drugs).

            One major thing that does worry me a lot, though, is the general addiction to non-procreative sex. Furthermore, this addiction and craving has been given a ‘theoretical’ footing by modern psychologists, who tell us that non-procreative sex is somehow of fundamental importance to the emotional stability of a relationship.

            I don’t want to get into too many personal details here, but on the other hand I possibly owe you some pointers to my own background so that you see where I’m coming from. When I first met my wife, she was below the anorectic level and, as is often the case with such people, didn’t actually want to engage in such activities – so we didn’t. Later, when she was ready for it, we engaged in what you seem to term ‘procreational sex’ and had a child.

            You see, we are not defined by our sexuality and a Christian should be able to live quite happily without non-procreational sex. Companionship, on the other hand, is something very different and very important.

          • Can I note that comments have now become dominated by a very small number of people replying to each other. Is it time for a break to allow other voices in?

          • Ian

            Not if the opposite sex couple are over 50 or infertile.

            Such an approach also ignores the messiness of real life. Not all kids can be parented by their biological parents

          • Jock

            See my problem is that I’m being told I should not have married *because* I’m not capable of pro creative sex, but then straight people are allowed to marry even if they are not capable of pro creative sex.

            I’m also told I should not have married *because* it implies a sexual relationship, but then also told that sex isn’t the be all and end all of a relationship.

            Actually its not the gays, generally, who are claiming that marriage is all about sex, its the people who want to find a reason to justify banning gay people from marrying. The gays are also a small proportion of the set of married couples who cannot have pro creative sex, yet its only the gays who have this argument hurled at us that we shouldn’t be allowed to marry because we can’t have pro creative sex.

            I 100% agree that marriage isn’t primarily about sex and I 100% agree that people who cannot procreate, which actually includes quite a few straight married couples in my own family, should still be allowed to marry.

            Conservatives need to come up with better arguments because these are not real arguments if you yourselves don’t believe them and aren’t living them. Its like Boris Johnson telling others they have to isolate while he and his staff have a party

          • ‘See my problem is that I’m being told I should not have married *because* I’m not capable of pro creative sex’ No. You are being reminded that Jesus teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman.

            The issue about procreation is an explanation of part of the rationale of Jesus’ teaching, not a substitute for it.

          • Ian

            But I thought we agreed several weeks ago that God doesn’t make arbitrary rules. “Jesus taught…” isn’t the reason. And in any case I was responding to Jock, not Jesus

            In reality Jesus taught very little on marriage according to the New Testament and nothing at all specific to gay people (and it would have been anachronistic for him to do so).

          • “No-one except fundamentalist extreme Catholics believe this is a question about sex acts.”

            Are you for real?

          • Yes. I have just been reading The Genesis of Gender by Abigail Favale (have you read it?). She is a conservative Catholic who argues on theological grounds against medical contraception. But she argues (and uses) natural methods of contraception, and so clearly does not believe that every sex act must be inherently procreative.

            To my knowledge, she is at the conservative end of Catholic thinking.

          • “Are you for real?”
            Sadly the answer to that is yes. And even more troubling, so is Jock.
            The CofE was once a broad Church. It has now been given to the power grabbers who are Conservative evangelical.

            [Comment edited. I think this is the last time I ask you to stop making pejorative and insulting comments. This is a place for discussion, not insults. Ian]

          • Ian im afraid you make no sense here. I had made a comment comparing the current situation to the trial of a Bishop of Lincoln – Edward King – who was hounded by Conservative evangelicals for using candles and saying the Agnus Dei. This is a matter of fact. Nothing pejorative.
            The CofE has now been subject to a power grab by Conservative Evangelicals once again. It started when Jeffrey John was forced to stand down. It has now come to completion. The days of a broad CofE are over.

          • This is a bit rich. Conservative evangelicals have been insulting others in the CofE for the last few decades and now continue with Lee Gatiss using words like heretic.

          • Ian/Andrew

            Actually I think evangelicals have lost power since the Jeffrey John affair. It would be unthinkable nowadays for someone to be forced into leaving office just because he was gay. Culture has changed so much that even most conservative evangelicals in the CofE would agree that celibate gay people should be allowed in ministry. No doubt there would be a lot of pushback,but I think the people who Ousted him are now embarrassed that they did and would rather forget the whole thing.

          • Peter, Jeffrey John was not ‘forced into leaving office just because he was gay’. He was not appointed as a bishop of the church because he was living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage according to the teaching of the Church.

            That still applies; the expectation of all clergy is that they believe and uphold and model their lives on the doctrine of the Christian faith as received by the Church of England. How could it be otherwise?

          • @ Ian

            No-one except fundamentalist extreme Catholics believe this is a question about sex acts.

            Such as Robert L. Conte, who claims to be a lay Catholic theologian. He’s pretty off-the-wall.

            The general teaching is: Do not seek ‘release’ in non-generative sexual acts. There’s no list of “do’s and don’ts” that HJ is aware of; and its not something he’s ever raised in the confessional. God intends married couples to enjoy each other and strengthen the marriage bond through sexual self-giving.

            This self-giving may include oral stimulation or manual manipulation as foreplay only. Sodomy as foreplay between husband and wife seems to be more of an open question amongst theologians. Some maintain it is okay, with reservations, and caution that the practice is not sanitary, causes health problems and could be emotionally debasing. The question is: are sex acts prior to intercourse acts of self-giving and mutual enjoyment, or are they selfish, objectifying acts and/or acts that debase?

          • Andrew Godsall – well, I suppose it’s a case of ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’, because I also find your position quite troubling. There is a serious difference: you’re a C. of E. priest, a churchman – and presumably a major part of the job is giving pastoral advice. From what you have said about yourself on here, I get the impression that in real life (i.e. not when you’re defending your corner here) you’re probably a ‘nice guy’, you’ve indicated that you’re happily married in a respectful relationship (one attribute of a good marriage is no coercion). But what alarms me is that, based on the position you take here, I don’t believe that the advice you’re giving on the pastoral front is good advice. The basic problem with everything that has emerged from the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ is that it simply doesn’t work. Some prohibitions which may have seemed cruel were there for a very good reason. Lifting them somehow doesn’t lead to increased levels of happiness and fulfillment – and it’s when they are lifted that we begin to understand why they were there in the first place.

          • Ian

            If you assume every gay person is having sex, even when they tell you they are not, its discrimination if you do not also assume every straight person is having sex even if they say they are not. And then no unmarried person can be a bishop.

            How did “they” know he was having sex if he said he was not?

          • “He was not appointed as a bishop of the church because he was living in a sexual relationship outside of marriage according to the teaching of the Church.”

            Ian this is simply incorrect. The relationship was not sexual. And there was a carefully orchestrated campaign by conservative evangelicals to force him to withdraw.

      • It might be transient and empty for you. It isn’t according to scripture, tradition, the marriage service, and most couples I know.

      • “and thinking on this should put a proper perspective on the ‘pleasure’ of sex in and of itself when it doesn’t result in children – it is at best transient and empty”.

        As one who believes in the supremacy of Scripture (and the category /biblical error of SSM) I can’t see where this finds any root. It sounds like a rather negative view of the sexual act in general. Song of Songs it isn’t…

        At best I might agree with ‘transient’ but probably not as you mean it in a dismissive way. Many things are transient, meaning they are temporary and passing, but have value and purpose… enjoyment… from ice-cream through holidays to ambulances. Or must I find biblical support for ice lollies and cream cakes?

  16. I feel like yelling

    “I told you so!”

    Welby (and probably others) has been consistent from the start in saying these are not prayers to bless gay relationships only gay people. These aren’t really anything new. It’s just dressing up the current situation in a new box with fancy wrapping paper.

    It frustrates me that we are still talking about tolerance of same sex relationships ripping apart the communion, but no acknowledgement that support from other provinces for the torture and execution of gay people. Again gay lives are being treated as being of less worth than straight lives.

    And again with the apologies for current and past treatment of LGBT people in church, but zero effort put in to stopping these abusive practices, even in dioceses where the bishop supports SSM. It puts me in mind of the Australian government who open every meeting acknowledging that the land belongs to people we call aborigines, but they don’t do anything beyond words to right the wrong.

    In short the leadership of the CofE remains dishonest and corrupt, does not care about human lives and then wonders why it is constantly the focus of negative news stories

    • Conflating the torture and execution of homosexual people worldwide with the current holy rejection of attempts to endorse and bless people together engaging in same sex relationships in the C of E is really rather clutching at straws.
      Surely you aren’t expecting the latter as a compensation for the former?

      • Jeannie

        Lambeth 1.10 both opposes SSRs and abuse/violence toward gay people. My point is that abuse is arguably more divisive than marriage. All the focus is on how divisive marriage is, but churches advocating for the execution of gay people are tolerated.

        • ‘but churches advocating for the execution of gay people are tolerated.’

          Is this wholly true?
          If it is, then this surely needs shouting about from the rooftops.

          • Yes.

            This year the Church of Uganda, part of the Anglican communion and GAFCON pushed their government into creating a death penalty for same sex sex. Theres currently a 21 year old facing the death penalty for having sex with a man in his 40s.

            There have been a handful of quick statements put out by the CofE against this, but nothing like the apocalyptic statements being thrown around against same sex marriage. Its like sexual abuse in the CofE, nobody wants to talk about it or learn lessons from it, but they do want to loudly condemn the gays. AFAIK same sex marriage has never caused anyone any physical or mental harm

          • Yes, surprisingly enough there are those who declare themselves out of communion with their Bishop here in the UK because of a difference of view on homosexuality, declare their fidelity to Lambeth 1.10, but desperately cling to GAFCON and GSFA so they can stay in communion with the Church of Uganda (not to mention Nigeria and Ghana) who advocate quite loudly for the execution of gay people.

          • Can I note that comments have now become dominated by a very small number of people replying to each other. Is it time for a break to allow other voices in?

  17. So twitter is aflame with rumours of flip flopping arch bishops and sudden new wheezes to push through services and new pastoral principles. Is welby just telling everyone what they want to hear? I am finding this very stressful and distracting from parish ministry. I want to belong to a church which has solid traditional biblical theology, ethics and morality. The 39 articles provide this space. If you don’t want that church why change this one?
    The structures of the cofe are designed to make change hard. It has to be a consensus across the board. This is because change of doctrine is a serious thing and needs to be done carefully.
    There is not sufficient consensus to make these changes in the church no matter how many people want it or how much they want it.
    Bishops flip flapping around ignoring legal advice and trying to brute force it through do no favours to anyone.

    • There is, the proposals aren’t even full homosexual church marriages, just blessings. The former might require a 2/3 majority not the latter

      • Even the supportive theological advice now notes that there is a change in doctrine.

        And given that it is currently banned it’s hard to argue that there is no change. Otherwise it wouldn’t be banned

        • There isn’t a change in doctrine, holy matrimony is reserved for heterosexual couples. The only ones insisting there is a change in doctrine is those evangelicals who want the established church to give no recognition to homosexual couples in their Parishes at all

          • If I’m honest I’m less worried about the prayers in their current form , which I’m not sure anyone really wants and which don’t really say anything. Especially with the note that they can’t be used with sexually active couples without a change of doctrine.

            Stand alone wedding like services clearly would imply a change of doctrine which is why they are being sent down the B2 route. And any letting of discipline in the pastoral guidance would also be indicative of a change of doctrine. And it is these that the rumours on twitter rumble on about.

            The bishops must follow due process and legalities, and if they do not it is right and proper to use legal means to stop their abuse of power.

      • ‘just blessings’

        There is no such thing as defying and insulting God ‘just a bit’.
        It isn’t a case of ‘just’ a blessing.

  18. Whole thing summarised. CofE Synod constitution requires two thirds majority for changing doctrine of marriage and sex. Bishops who want no nonsense change and their allies are angry and frustrated they don’t have the numbers yet so are using every means possible (however underhand) to force this change while having to pretend they are not in an attempt to avoid legal exposure.

    • If homosexual marriage in Church of England churches was proposed, then yes a 2/3 majority of Synod would be needed as it was for approval of remarriage of divorcees in C of E churches and for women priests and bishops in the C of E. However it isn’t, holy matrimony is reserved for heterosexual couples and what is proposed is only prayers of blessing for homosexual couples

      • Who gets to decide whether this is a change of doctrine or not, Simon?

        Clearly the bishops can’t mark their own homework on this. Synod have asked them to produce prayers that don’t change doctrine at all, so synod haven’t said that they don’t, if anything the amendment is implied criticism that they go too far.

        Prayers of blessing are not currently allowed. They soon might be. This is clearly change, why do you claim it is not doctrinal change?

        • As it isn’t, true doctrinal change would be full homosexual marriage in Church of England churches for homosexual couples in Church of England Parishes married in registry offices in English civil law. Just as divorced couples can now marry in Church of England churches, not just have a service of blessing after a registry office marriage service as used to be the case.

          Services of blessing only for homosexual couples still fall short of that, with the Church of England reserving holy matrimony only for heterosexual couples

      • ‘and what is proposed is only prayers of blessing for homosexual couples’
        Blessing what God hates and will punish eternally invites and eventually gets his well deserved wrath upon all parties.

        So, best not, eh.
        Just drop it.
        Repent, and be holy, as he is holy.
        The lack of love for God and his holy sheep wanting to bless what he says ‘no’ to reveals the wicked hearts of each of those who are pushing and agreeing to this.
        The idea of the Christian life is to please God every moment of each day and night.
        Satan and his wolves and goats want to harm God and his church.
        Pick a side

        • Happy to discuss either or both
          ‘remarriage of divorcees in its churches and women priests and bishops’ on their appropriate threads.
          But neither of them has anything at all to do with this matter; despite decades of gay men attempting to link them. Nice try though.

        • Jeannie

          I don’t think there are any direct links, but advocates for same sex marriage are suggesting that it become a locally decided issue as was achieved with women priests.

          What I don’t understand is that if people who don’t believe in women priests are allowed to practice those beliefs and have alternative oversight then why aren’t people who don’t believe gay people should be banned from relationships allowed to practice their beliefs and have alternative oversight?

          • The ordination of women was not decided ‘as a local issue’. The church came to a mind that it would not change its theology of ordination to ordain women; those who disagreed were allowed an honoured place and provision.

          • Can I note that comments have now become dominated by a very small number of people replying to each other. Is it time for a break to allow other voices in?

  19. T1 writes – ‘If you support the former but oppose the latter one can only conclude it is homophobia really motivating your position not Biblical principles’

    And with that I will not be engaging with you directly, any further.

  20. IF the powers that be are interested in knowing the mind of God and how they proceed on this issue I advise they read Ex 21:14 and 1 Th 2:3.

  21. AKJV Ex 21:14 God’s thinking about guile
    But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.

      • Meeting with the conservatives sounds like it might have been horrific. If the meeting after has to start with a plea for “no threats” that’s extremely disappointing.

        • Well, if the ABC had given very little indication of listening, if he had become angry, and if he had asked a question making a manipulative use of institutional power, well, yes, that would be very disappointing.

          • Being ill at ease is a positive sign, or could be. JAT Robinson became very ill at ease once he realised he had been instrumental in setting secularisation in motion. It is like – it dawns on one that one has eaten the apple, or struck the Dolorous Blow, and it seems pretty irrevocable. The Parish system, the glory of Anglicanism, is on its knees and was the very issue pushed out to make way for ‘more sex’ in Feb. Symbolically. There is a great impasse between the two groups of groups met on that day. Of proposals to overcome the impasse, none has more than 20% support. Now that the process has come to dominate centre stage, which he did not want it to do, it will not shift far from there. And the denomination will, under those conditions, be relentlessly ground down in a war of attrition at just the time when already its majority are pensioners on their last legs. The whole process could have been designed by Screwtape – according to his lights it is a Machiavellian masterpiece. But that is not Abp Welby’s perspective. Abp Welby’s perspective is probably closer to the idea that compromise, synthesis (fudge?) and diplomacy is the answer to everything. Anathema to everyone who even half believes in truth. The whole thing is a war played out between truth (a truth far greater than ourselves which we cannot essentially change) and relativism (reality is what you want it to be, and merely being different should earn different perspectives/ideologies respect).

      • Astonishing;
        1. Deliberate or incompetence in lack of specific confidentiality protocol? And along with that a difference in understanding of the transparency or otherwise of the process as a whole and how it should be conducted.
        2. The number of *representatives* of vested interest (activist?) groups.
        3. Think it was James who identified Porter as a chief leader.
        4 Anton or Jeannie correctly identified JW’s predetermined driver for change.
        5. There doesn’t seem to have been similar disclosures from the meeting with *conservatives*.

        • It would indeed be interesting to know what was said at the meeting that Conservatives had with JW.
          I would imagine that they would have pointed out the consequences of the Bishop’s actions, not least the tearing of the AC and its knock on effects that has occurred already. Also the theological incoherence of the proposals.
          I don’t think they are necessary intended as threats although JW may have have perceived them that way. He clearly seems rattled by both sides.

          It is interesting that some commenters on TA are now starting to see that some kind of structural and visible differentiation is going to be inevitable. Whether this can be achieved amicably remains to be seen.

          I am guessing that JW is thinking that his retirement can’t come soon enough.

          • At the meeting eith evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, Welby asked them should he resign now and Lee Gatiss and another representative said yes.
            They told him he was failing to fulfil the basic taskof bishops, to drive away erroneous doctrine and was instead teaching heresy.
            This may be why Welby, nurtured in the Iwerne camps and HTB, was so upset and tetchy. The details wre in “Anglican Ink”.

          • James – why should he be upset at that? Shouldn’t he be pleased that the participants are open and honest and give a …. erm …. straight answer to a straight question?

          • Thanks James, I’ve just read that. Apart from telling him that he should resign I wonder what else was said.

            Otherwise, it must have been a very short meeting!

          • Gatiss says that there were about 25 reps from conservative groups in the meeting. Only he and one other raised their hands to say Abp Welby ought to resign. That means about 23 did not.

          • 23 did not respond, on the spot, to being bounced into an absurd question posed by the archbishop as an abuse of institutional power. Had there then been a follow up question ‘Do you have confidence in my leadership?’ I suspect they would not have put their hands up for that either.

          • Well it’s only absurd if you think the Director of the Church Society was obviously wrong in what he said in the meeting, or worse just play-acting and wasn’t thinking about what he said.

          • Adam, I don’t understand your comment. Lee said there was one vote; he didn’t offer a full account of the meeting. There was another vote. Few offered support. The ones that did did so only the basis that ‘All the bishops have failed, not just you, and if you go who else will we get?’ Hardly a ringing endorsement.

          • Lee quotes his own statement – saying that what has been proposed is heresy (which he says he doesn’t say lightly), and the Bishops are in contravention of their oaths by not disciplining those “teaching in error”.

            It isn’t absurd to gauge whether that is a call to resign if you take what Lee said seriously, and think he was serious when he said it. Either the other conservative representatives didn’t agree with Lee’s assessment (i.e. they disagree with the proposals, think its been managed badly, but don’t go so far as to claim it’s heresy and oath-breaking), or for some reason they don’t think that heresy and oath-breaking is a resignation issue.

          • Adam, either way what is the point in wasting time speculating on things said in a meeting at which we were not present? Justin sprang this on them with no warning, so any response was hardly a considered one.

          • No one’s speculating. Lee quoted himself – so that’s either verbatim, or a close approximation that’s agreed by the person who said it (because it’s his approximation).

            Justin responded in a straightforwardly appropriate way as far as I can tell. It was suggested he’s a heretic whose broken his oath. It’s disingenuous to pretend that the others in the room couldn’t think for themselves about whether these proposals, which are what the meeting was about, are heresy and the Bishops have broken their oaths. Unless of course it’s all just political theatre and posturing and they can’t take a view without coordinating it.

          • AJ Bell, your argument fails to take into account the possibility that many who did not raise their hands were abstaining rather than actively voting that Welby should not resign. You cannot know the outcome in a situation in which each one had to actively vote Yes or No and it is not necessarily the same.

          • The representatives of the conservative groups in the Church aren’t sure if something’s a serious heresy when they see it, or aren’t sure if a serious heresy is a resigning issue?

            Give me strength.

          • Kindly stop imputing motive by guesswork. An alternative possibility is that they did not want to tell their own archbishop to resign in a non-anonymous poll that was sprung upon them at no notice.

          • Chris – actually, we don’t know the context – and the question might have been a reasonable one. What if Justin Wellby had said, ‘look guys, I’m trying out this Nimzo-Indian defence in a game of postal chess. I’ve just sacrificed a queen and a rook for no positional advantage and it all looks as if it’s falling apart. If I continue, the rest of the game will be sheer murder. Should I resign?’

        • Geoff

          5. From the reports I have read there was a similar meeting with conservatives. The pro same sex marriage people were not given the latest thinking from the bishops. It was mostly them telling Justin Welby the impacts on LGBT people of the CofEs latest round of shambles

  22. Given a majority of all 3 Houses of Synod voted for LLF and prayers of blessing for homosexual couples the idea it was Welby alone pushing this is absurd. Indeed it was Welby who ensured the Bishops did not propose full homosexual marriage in C of E churches to Synod as there was no clear majority for that even amongst Bishops.

    Of course if evangelical Welby went a liberal Catholic would almost certainly replace him as Archbishop of Canterbury on the usual rotation

    • Please can someone explain what a “liberal Catholic” is when the discussion is about members of the Church of England? I heard the phrase for the first time earlier this year re: a local C of E minister, and all uses on the Internet refer to Roman Catholics whose theology is liberal.

      • Liberal Catholics are Anglo Catholics within the Church of England yes, ie emphasis on the Eucharist, sometimes uses incense in services while also taking a more socially liberal line on matters on blessings for and remarriage of homosexual couples in their churches and women priests and bishops. Rowan Williams and Robert Runcie for example were both liberal Catholic Archbishops

        • This is nonsense, T1. Anglo-Catholics are against female ordination. In my experience they talk far more about the church than the Lord, and consequently are concerned over matters of doctrine, in which they take a traditionalist line.

          Your categories are confusing and not well informed.

          • Conservative Anglo-Catholics are against female ordination but many of them have now left the Church of England and become Roman Catholic anyway, except for a few still left from Forward in Faith who have alternative episcopal oversight from the Bishop of Richborough, the Bishop of Fulham and the Bishop of Oswestry and Bishop of Beverley.

            Most Anglo-Catholics left in the Church of England are, however, now liberal Catholics ie they welcome ordination of women and blessings of homosexual couples and indeed a large number would welcome full homosexual marriage in the C of E too. The main blocks in Synod now are thus liberal Anglo Catholics and conservative evangelicals (conservative by doctrine Anglo Catholics and liberal evangelicals only a very small section of the current Synod).

          • Your categories are not recognisable by anybody who genuinely understands the Church of England. You make them up to provide a specious authority for your frequently inaccurate arguments.

            Let’s see how well you understand your own categories. What are their proportions within the CoE membership?

          • Oh they are, just not by ideological evangelicals like you.

            Indeed liberal Catholics probably make up the majority of the Church of England congregation now, given most C of E churches are not evangelical and most also now have women priests

          • My ideology is called biblical Christianity, and by all means let us debate what the Bible says about the matter at issue. Your ideology about it comes from secular humanism – is that not what you are trying to import into the church?

          • Are you aware that you are distorting my words, or are you unaware? Which, please?

            The church recruits from the culture and the culture is secular humanist, so secular humanism is likely to pollute the church where the two differ.

          • No you just want the church to be a cult with no connection with the society around it. That is not what the Church of England as the established state church with roots in the Parishes around it is supposed to be. If you want that you shouldn’t be in the established church anyway

          • Simon, this is another comment I nearly deleted. You need to listen better.

            The C of E exists to call people to repentance of their sins, and worship the living God. In a secular humanist culture that is going to make the boundaries between church/discipleship and culture significant.

            But if you cannot discuss this reasonably, please don’t comment.

          • The C of E was set up by Henry VIII to be the established church in England represented in every Parish in the land and it also offers weddings and funerals to every Parishioner who wants one, regardless of church attendance. If it was the Biblical purity church you want on everything it would still refuse to marry divorced couples unless spousal adultery and would also still have no women priests and no women bishops.

            It doesn’t and Synod has now voted to have prayers of blessing for homosexual couples as the established church moves with the times in England and is a church based on reason as much as faith. If you want a Biblical purity church entirely divorced from modern English culture (and even the opt outs given to churches which disagree on women priests and prayers for homosexual couples are not enough) then leave the established church and become Baptist, Pentecostal or independent evangelical or Roman Catholic, it is not difficult.

      • Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, and Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich would count as example of liberal Catholics.

        It’s a bit of a vague term, largely existing for the purpose of categorising Archbishops of Canterbury – Rowan Williams, Robert Runcie, Michael Ramsey, Cosmo Lang etc., as opposed to the more evangelical Justin Welby, George Carey, Donald Coggan, William Fisher, Randall Davidson etc..


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