The path to Prayers of Love and Faith: time for a reset?

Andrew Goddard writes: The commendation of Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) as 2023 drew to a close marked a significant development in the life of the Church of England. Whatever one thinks of that step, multiple aspects of the process that led up to it were for me more concerning and revealing about the current state of the Church and its senior leadership. As we enter the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and as the College and House of Bishops gather, a year on from deciding to set a direction for the church in relation to the LLF process, it is good to take stock by looking back on what has happened. This is important also in helping us decide how best to move forward as there are still major decisions to be taken and there is now new leadership—the Bishops of Newcastle and Leicester—for the work. A much fuller account, with more specific references and sources for each area outlined below, is available as a PDF here.

On reflection I have identified a dozen key disturbing features of the last year but before turning to those it is important to remember where we were just over a year ago:

  • Aware of the seriousness of the issues and their potential for division, much work had been done since the collapse of the bishops’ previous process in the February 2017 General Synod to prepare to make important decisions;
  • That Living in Love and Faith (LLF) work was, however, not focussed on the contentious issues but was much more wide-ranging in scope;
  • While LLF set out traditional teaching and alternative views it did not evaluate these or consider possible theologically coherent positions or ways forward;
  • The bishops only began their corporate discernment work in a focussed way in October and unsurprisingly when they gathered again in December there was little clarity or consensus and it looked like they would come to the February 2023 General Synod with a range of possible pathways to be weighed and discussed. In retrospect, that was probably a much better plan;
  • Somehow by mid-January a definite proposal had taken shape and was signed off by the bishops (even though the prayers, not even discussed as texts in 2022, were not quite finalised) to be brought to Synod for a binary yes/no polarising debate and vote. 

Charting the main features of what happened from that January bishops’ meeting onwards is a depressing account of failures in terms of good process, effective change management, paying attention to power and wise and godly leadership.

The first problem was the immediate leaking of the decision not to approve same-sex marriage. Questions about a leaky and secretive House of Bishops continued to arise through the rest of the year focussed on the lack of transparency and the abuse of Standing Order 14 to enforce strict confidentiality. There are still decisions formally taken by the House through motions being debated, amended and voted on, which have never been made public despite their significance for the whole process.

At the heart of what the bishops now proposed was a focus on prayers but bypassing due synodical liturgical processes. This was the major shift from 2017 even as it was still being claimed that, like then, doctrine and canons would be unchanged. The problem was that there was little theological rationale provided for this controversial liturgical change. It soon also became clear that little thought had been given to possible canonical routes for introducing the prayers (the sole test was to avoid the standard process for controversial matters of Canon B2 as this required two-thirds majorities which were lacking in Synod). Despite it being a central question for so many decisions, there was also no clarity (as it had barely been discussed) as to the church’s sexual ethic and how using the proposed prayers related to it.

This therefore quickly led to confusion over sexual ethics. Elements of the bishops’ paper to Synod and even more the clear statements of the Archbishop of York suggested that this was now changing to focus not on marriage between a man and a woman as the proper context for sexual intimacy but simply a relationship which was permanent, faithful and stable. Uncertainty about this continued for several months until finally it was clarified that in fact in deciding not to change marriage doctrine the bishops had decided not to change the church’s sexual ethic even though they were now proposing to pray for God’s blessing on non-marital sexual relationships.

The main defence offered for the PLF being used for those in same-sex marriage was related to novel claims about civil marriage and Holy Matrimony which were set out in public legal advice later in January but strongly critiqued. Since then it is clear that there has been significantly changing legal advice which has in part led to changes in the proposal. However, all the details of this advice (such as who sought it on what matters, who it was shared with, and when, what it said) remains hidden from scrutiny despite claims by the Bishop of London that “nothing is being hidden”. Many believe the bishops need to enable General Synod and the wider church to understand the complex and changing details of what the Legal Office was saying and how they responded to this in shaping their proposals.

In January the Legal Office had been clear that any statement about the prayers’ conformity to the canons concerning liturgy and doctrine would also require the pastoral guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality being in place. At the start it was clear that this was intended to follow on quickly but instead we saw a string of broken promises about prayers and guidance. The Next Steps Group overseeing the process was clear that the Prayers and Guidance belonged together and in February the Archbishop of York pledged to Synod he would not commend the prayers for use “until we have the pastoral guidance and pastoral provision”. This linkage was maintained in July at General Synod despite the Pastoral Guidance still not being ready as had been hoped back in January. When however it became clear that the Guidance would probably not be ready even by November, backtracking from these commitments became the pattern while those who sought to keep the two connected were accused of trying to “row back” and prevent the prayers being finally agreed.

At the February General Synod the focus was very much on the Church of England but there were some contributions that drew attention to the damage to the Anglican Communion that was likely to result if the bishops’ proposals were accepted. Both at Synod and shortly after at the ACC the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to this but in ways that left many confused and concerned particularly given his clear support for the proposals. That support led to strong statements from both the Global South and later from GAFCON which confirmed the explicit warnings of the Archbishop of Alexandria to Synod. It was unclear whether the Archbishops and the House of Bishops had failed to foresee the serious consequences of their action for the Communion’s already fragile unity or no longer cared sufficiently about creating greater division and impaired fellowship.

Following the February Synod motion being passed (with a significant amendment affirming the bishops’ intention not to introduce prayers indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine) pressure was strongly applied to make significant progress by July. This, however, proved unrealistic as became clear in the flawed Implementation Group process. This was I think, my worst ever experience of a Church of England process, culminating in the sudden disbanding of the groups which was then misleadingly justified to Synod by the Bishop of London.

Literally just before the groups were disbanded they were told they would in future be working more closely with members of the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC). The poor treatment of theological questions and FAOC was to be another hallmark of this whole process. Only engaging FAOC very late in the day, despite earlier opportunities, its members were then pressured (but thankfully resisted) to abandon their long-established and respected processes of careful theological reflection and dialogue in order to produce rushed judgments on the highly contentious questions sent to them for consideration. Many of us—across the different views on sexuality—were concerned at the disregard the PLF process was here revealing for serious theological reasoning to direct the discernment process. Theology was for too long sidelined (with false appeals to the theological work having been done by LLF) and then expected to proceed at speed, ideally it seemed to provide theological justification for decisions already reached on pragmatic and political grounds.

Through the summer, the process became much less public than it had been and there was a return to non-transparency and hurried, unexplained changes over such matters as

  • the route for the prayers (the move in July from commendation under B5 in February to perhaps authorisation by Archbishop under B4.2 was abandoned), 
  • the division between the suite of resources and the standalone services, 
  • who PLF were to be available for (now only same-sex couples but any such couples not only those in a legally recognised union) and 
  • most significantly, the legal and theological basis for the PLF as a whole. 

Apparently new legal and theological advice undermined the crucial civil marriage/holy matrimony distinction and so a new basis had to be found which led to hurried articulation of an argument based on “pastoral provision in a time of uncertainty”. It also now had to be acknowledged that not changing the sexual ethic but using PLF for sexual relationship was actually in fact indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine (despite the bishops having committed themselves, and Synod agreeing, that this should not be the case).  No clear narrative let alone cogent explanation or defence of all these changes was offered and amongst them the decision to introduce standalone services by Canon B2 particularly upset those supporting the changes.

The resulting protest then led to remarkable episcopal flip-flops over experimental services (under Canon B5A). A week before the House met in October to finalise the proposals to go to Synod the Bishop of London was telling stakeholders that alongside using B2 there would be experimental use under Canon B5A. At the House, however, she proposed, and the Archbishop of Canterbury very strongly supported, reversing this (which had been the mind of the College) and not authorising experimental standalone services. This proposal was passed but by the time of Synod, they and most bishop were back supporting what they had previously opposed, voting for the Bishop of Oxford’s amendment asking for such experimental use. This was passed by the narrowest of margins in the laity and Synod was given no information on the significant legal and logistical challenges faced in actually implementing this proposal.

Throughout all these changes there was a consistent lack of reassurance in terms of what provision would be given to those who were committed to the historic doctrine and discipline and unhappy with the changes being proposed. Even bishops such as the Bishop of Oxford who had previously been supportive or sympathetic to this provision needing to be quite significant failed to offer support to those seeking proper sufficient “formal structural pastoral provision” who therefore felt the very opposite of reassurance as a result of the process.

Finally, in November, there was the final push for getting PLF done with widespread disquiet about many aspects of how the proposals were pushed through Synod and deep concerns that, partly as a result of that and the other failings described above, support was even smaller in all three Houses than in February (just 52:48 among clergy, 51:49 laity). Many who were unhappy at what they saw as disregard for Scripture and Tradition were now also alarmed at the apparent disregard also of reason evidenced in the pattern of chaotic processes and broken promises.

I recognise that this account is incomplete and may be inaccurate (and would welcome additions and corrections) but the concerns are so deep and so wide-ranging that the presence of even only a fraction of them would make it reckless to dismiss them and carry on regardless with the same process as we move into 2024.

With the arrival of the two new episcopal Co-Chairs (though it remains unclear what group, if any, they are now chairing) there has been encouraging talk of the need for a “reset”. The release of fuller notes of recent House of Bishops meetings (though not for the crucial and controversial October 9th meeting which led to a dissenting statement from a number of bishops) is a promising sign in relation to the first area highlighted above that this may be underway. It is, however, clear that there is much, much more that needs to be done if trust and confidence in this process is going to be rebuilt across a deeply divided church after what (despite it often being claimed that a problem with bishops today is that they are too managerial) has often appeared a classic “omnishambles”. The Archbishops and bishops also need, going forward, to be much more obviously following the Pastoral Principles, particularly that which highlights the need to “pay attention to power”.

One fundamental problem has been a sense that, although it swerved around at times like the proverbial shopping trolley, the process was being determinedly driven inexorably to achieve certain ends (new prayers and services, permitting clergy to enter same-sex marriage while claiming to leave doctrine unchanged). To reach those goals, law and theology have often seemingly been pushed to the margins and ignored or looked to in order to provide rapidly constructed novel justifications and rationales for decision made on the basis of being the will of a majority of bishops expressed in secret, generally unannounced, and often supposedly only indicative, episcopal votes. Due constitutional synodical processes have been bypassed simply because they would fail to secure the desired outcome, and the Houses of both Clergy and Laity have become even more divided and fall well short of the two-thirds consensus usually required for controversial changes precisely in order to preserve church unity.

Proper consideration of the nature and seriousness of our theological differences (so carefully explored by the LLF resources) has been studiously avoided and replaced instead with appeals to being in “a time of uncertainty” (rather than competing and irreconcilable near-certainties) and “living with difference” and calls for “generosity” and “unity”. The way these are presented effectively imposes the decision that all these matters are adiaphora. All this seems to many to entail a lack of honesty, realism and integrity about people’s deeply held but divergent theological convictions and be introducing a practical abandonment of the church’s doctrine even as that doctrine is, officially and verbally, but only theoretically and never practically, reaffirmed. 

At the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we need to be honest about how damaging the handling of PLF/LLF in 2023 has been to our unity in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. The tragedy is that this damage is likely to continue and deepen and we risk in the year ahead finding ourselves continuing to dig still deeper the hole we are now in. What we need is a genuine and bold “reset”. This must properly acknowledge how serious the multiple errors were in this evolving process during 2023, effectively address the underlying problems such as those identified here, and perhaps thereby enable us—across our differences—to seek and find a better way forward in addressing the many still unresolved PLF/LLF questions in 2024.

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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146 thoughts on “The path to Prayers of Love and Faith: time for a reset?”

  1. A wordsmith saying in a thousand words what could have been covered with 200. I do not have enough time in my day to read more than 2500 words of repetition. Websites like this need clarity and brevity if they are going to survive.

      • I must confess I view but skim read if the pieces are too long. And there are only so many articles about PLF/LLF that one can read!

    • Those who have not the time can skim read. There are also others, many, who want all the detail, because the more detail the more precise one’s understanding and judgment can be.

      One can skimread a long piece, but one cannot imaginatively expand if all one is offered is a short piece.

      Nor will a short piece do justice to the data.

    • On the contrary, I think the article is beautifully succinct given how complex this all is.
      Unless of course, you don’t like what he’s saying..?

  2. The fact is conservative evangelicals were going to oppose any form of recognition for same sex couples, no matter what the form, so PLF were the best that could be got through. They recognised holy matrimony as only being between a woman and a man for life still while allowing prayers for same sex couples in services. The fact Synod rejected Ozanne’s amendment to push for full same sex marriage in church but as well as voting by majority for PLF also voted by majority for the Bishop of Oxford’s amendment for experimental services of blessing shows it broadly aligns with what Synod, as lawmaking body for the C of E, wants.

    As for the Anglican Communion, each province within it takes its own position on it. From the same sex marriages now allowed in the US and Scottish Anglican churches, to the blessings in the C of E, Welsh, New Zealand, Australian and Canadian Anglican churches and the no recognition policy in most of Africa (where in many parts homosexuality is still illegal, with only South Africa recognising same sex marriage).

    So the idea the C of E position is completely isolated in relation to mass opposition to same sex couples in the entirety of the rest of the Anglican communion is of course absurd

    • The fact is that faithful Anglicans, sitting in the tradition of the church catholic, believe the doctrine of the Church in line with the teaching of Jesus, and have not been offering any good theological reason for changing their mind on that.

      The members of the Communion you mention are all small, in dramatic decline, and will cease to exist in a few years’ time. So your claim is an odd one. One Canadian diocese, who sent their bishop to Lambeth, had a total USA of 254. That is fewer than the electoral roll of our church.

      • Jesus didn’t say anything in the bible against refusing to bless same sex couples while reserving holy matrimony for heterosexuals as the majority of Synod voted for last time I checked!

        There are still 1.4 million baptised and active members of the US Episcopal Church, 314,000 members of the NZ Anglican Church, 359,000 Anglican members of the Canadian Anglican church and 3 million members of the Anglican church of Australia as well as 26 million members of the Church of England, so hardly nothing. Plus the idea that taking a hardline anti homosexual couples line will suddenly lead to a surge in church membership is also absurd in today’s Western world. Yes there are some conservative evangelical churches who are growing and have big congregations but they tend to be concentrated in urban areas, cities or large towns and certainly the vast majority of the local population don’t attend them either. They of course via PLF can refuse to perform same sex blessings if they want anyway. Whereas more of the local population might at least attend their local Anglican church for weddings or funerals, Christmas or Easter even if they don’t go every week and they will be more likely to that if their church is open to their homosexual friends and family in committed relationships).

        • Sorry, Jesus didn’t say anything in the bible against prayers for and experimental services of blessing for same sex couples while reserving holy matrimony for heterosexuals as the majority of Synod voted for last time I checked!

          • Then you need to check a little more carefully. Jesus says that marriage is between a man and a woman. Listen to gay scholar Louis Crompton:

            ‘According to [one] interpretation, Paul’s words were not directed at “bona fide” homosexuals in committed relationships. But such a reading, however well-intentioned, seems strained and unhistorical. Nowhere does Paul or any other Jewish writer of this period [including Jesus] imply the least acceptance of same-sex relations under any circumstance. The idea that homosexuals might be redeemed by mutual devotion would have been wholly foreign to Paul or any other Jew or early Christian. Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, 2003), 114.’

          • So did Synod, it confirmed holy matrinomy as between a man and a woman. Jesus didn’t say anything against prayers for same sex couples or experimental services of blessings for same sex couples though which Synod did approve.

            Scholars can imply what Jesus thought all they want but given he preached a message of love not hate and never once forbade loving homosexual unions in the Bible, therefore there is nothing from Jesus, who ultimately is the Messiah Christians follow, against them. Paul of course also opposed women priests but wasn’t even one of the original apostles, the RC church of course and southern Baptists for example oppose both women priests and services of blessing for same sex couples and strictly follow Paul (albeit the Pope may be moving at least towards some concessions for the latter) but the Church of England and most western Anglican churches see things differently

          • So now you are comparing homosexuality to incest? Is this really the route you want to go down? Jesus may not have condemned either (although there certainly was incest taking place in Judea and Galilee at the time he was around, perhaps even more so than active homosexuality) but even current UK law forbids the latter while allowing the former.

          • Simon, when you say Jesus preached a message of love not hate, you are being impossibly vague and general. His message had specifics. It was detailed and nuanced. The only way you can get his message to be anywhere close to yours is by making it vaguer and vaguer. But Jesus was not vague.

            And if he did not preach against marrying your horse like Caligula did, then he certainly must have supported that, right?

          • If Jesus did not mention it then there is no prohibition on it from his point of view no, even if there may be in the nation’s laws (although in some nations even in Europe incest is technically not illegal although it is clearly not the same category as homosexuality)

          • Simon, so you believe anything that Jesus did not prohibit is allowed? Despite what we know of Jesus beliefs as a Jew? Despite the OT? Despite the teaching of Paul? Are you aware of what a very strange way of reading the gospels that is?

          • If you are a liberal Christian then yes, as your focus is the teachings of Christ alone (albeit you also have to respect the laws of the nation you are in). If you are a Jew or conservative evangelical or conservative Roman Catholic then no as you also place strong emphasis on the Old Testament too and if a conservative evangelical or RC the teachings of Paul too (of course Paul opposes women priests too but the C of E already does that and even Jesus opposed remarriage of divorcees except for spousal adultery but some C of E churches do that too)

          • That commits the classic fallacy of saying ‘liberal Christians do such and such’ without either (a) any evidence that such and such is a good thing, (b) any understanding of why the liberal Christian option would be chosen, meaning rejection of all the other options as less likely to be true. Show working?

          • If you are an Anglican you are supposed to believe in a reasoned interpretation of Biblical scripture, not a literal following of everything in it. Given you support women priests and remarriage of divorcees and presumably even eat shellfish then even you are breaking the counsel of God given all of the above is prohibited somewhere in the scriptures regardless of your view of same sex couples

          • Simon, it is not very helpful and rather boring that you keep repeating these tired literalisms. Please first engage at least with what I have written on these issues first…I ask yet again…

          • Ian

            This is an argument from silence.

            Jesus was not talking against same sex marriage, but against remarriage of heterosexuals after divorce. If the CofE was as tolerant of gay people and same sex marriage as they are of people in second or third marriages then we wouldn’t be having this conversation

            It seems to me that part of the reason the Anglican churches are light years apart on gay people is because they do not even agree on how to read the Bible or on which Bible passages are relevant

          • The number of practising Christians is declining in all western countries, across all denominations, including Conservative Evangelicals in the USA, apparently in rapid decline now, for which one reason often cited is their not being where young Americans are any more on issues such as sexuality. The RC Church in western Europe is fast approaching implosion point too, yet it is the most conservative denomination of all on every aspect of sexuality and gender. For the whole of my lifetime, Conservative Evangelicals in the UK have been talking themselves up and saying that national revival was imminent: it hasn’t happened.

            So I wouldn’t be smug about numbers if I were you, Ian. Partly because bigging oneself up is not a very nice or Christian thing to do; but partly also because pride comes before a fall. If, as I think, the Conservative Evangelicals have made an error of historic proportions in elevating homosexuality to the level of a first order issue such that they alienate their potential youth base permanently, then they will rue the day soon enough.

          • ‘The number of practising Christians is declining in all western countries, across all denominations’

            Sorry Mark. I am not ‘bigging anything up’. I am looking at the facts, and I suggest you do as well.

            Churchgoing in England is not in decline; have you read my article on this?

            And other denominations are growing. See David Goodhew’s report on ‘New Churches in the North East.’ He notes:

            ”There has been marked decline in North Eastern Christianity since 1980, primarily amongst the historic churches, but this is not all that is going on. The advent of 125 new congregations since 1980, with a combined all-age usual Sunday attendance of 12 000 (equivalent to one of the smaller dioceses of the Church of England), baptising around 1000 people in the past year is a seriously significant phenomenon. The rate of new church foundation has quickened markedly since 2000.’

            You might like to enquire as to what these new, growing, churches believe!

            (Oh, and I am not a ‘conservative evangelical’. I am a perfectly orthodox Christian, who believes the doctrine of the C of E.)

          • Even 12 000 members for new ultra conservative churches is less than 10% of the current membership of the C of E even on your figures

          • The UK has recently had an absolutely massive influx of immigrants, significant numbers of whom will have been African (and other) Christians, so it is not surprising that churches should have mopped some of them up, is it? What is undeniable is that the percentage of the population which is practising Christian is falling rapidly in every western country, at the same time, right across the board denomination-wise.

            The problem that the anti-gay churches have is that by making all this song and dance and agonised wailing against any move whatever designed to comfort gay people – I had a whole correspondence from George Carey when Archbishop telling me how an equal age of consent would lead to child abuse and the end of family life, for example – tarnishes the brand image in a way that will last for decades. The falling off will be great and long term as that kicks in: younger people simply are not swivel-eyed about homosexuals in the way some of these older generation Evangelical male leaders are.

          • Yes, migration has had an effect. But come and visit Nottingham. Come and see the growing churches, attracting young people. What you say here is not true.

            This is not about being ‘anti-gay’. This is about whether we follow the teaching of Jesus, and (for clergy) whether they have the integrity to uphold their vows.

          • Precisely what percentage of the population of Nottingham under 30 attend churches which are anti even prayers for same sex couples and anti blessings and anti same sex marriage? I would guess it would certainly be less than 10% and probably lower than the number who attend other Anglican churches at least for weddings, funerals, Christmas and Easter and would be turned off the church by rhetoric which is anti homosexual unions

          • Simon, if you are a Christian(or indeed Jew etc) your assemblies are 99.9% on other topics. You seem to think that people turn up and all that gets talked about is homosexual unions. It is a kind of obsession.

          • Christopher

            This is one of the problems with arguing that opposition to same sex marriage is vindicated by growing churches – the growing churches tend to keep their opposition secret from the congregation

          • Allowing perhaps 750,000 for the fact that a lot of people may attend frequently but not weekly in that number, with a population of some 60M, the CofE isn’t even 2% of the popuation. Sorry but the CofE as a national church is a bit of a joke isn’t it? Smoke and mirrors on a large scale…..

          • Well the C of E still has more members than any other Christian church in England, with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic church which was of course the national church before the Reformation.

            Plus of course more attend C of E churches for weddings and funerals etc, which everyone who lives in the Parish is entitled to benefit from

          • ‘Well the C of E still has more members than any other Christian church in England.’ You keep claiming this untruth, and I keep pointing out it is an untruth.

            By the C of E’s own definition ‘members’ means ‘those who attend regularly’. As a proportion of Christians attending church on a Sunday, the C of E is now around 15%, and ‘new’ churches are around double that.

          • It is not an untruth. Even on Evangelical Alliance figures the Church of England has 1.16 million members, which is more than any other Christian denomination in the UK apart from the Roman Catholic church which has 1.3 million members (though as they are UK figures they include Northern Ireland where the RC church is comfortably largest with the Protestant churches more divided). 3rd largest by membership in the UK are Presbyterians with 592,800 then Orthodox with 514,095 and then Pentecostal churches with 399,504.

            The so called ‘new churches’ you talk about only number 209,906.

          • Well, you have had to hunt around for that! It is on an archived website, is seven years out of date, and has no explanation about methodology.

            If you click through to the author’s website, you will find more up to date statistics, which show C of E 23% of Christians, and free churches 40%. But this is certainly too optimistic for the C of E, in part because we have shrunk faster through Covid, where others churches have often grown.

            You need to read the 2015 report New Churches in the NE and the 2019 report The Desecularisation of London to see the additional small, new churches which add up to significant numbers.

            Latest figures on C of E attendance show average weekly attendance either 500,000 or 600,000 depending on how you calculate it.

          • Well I have not found any stats anywhere on the internet which show any significant difference from them. If you have some, perhaps you could enlighten us with them?

            As for the forecast stats for 2025 on the author’s website, you will find yes 23% of church members in the UK are Anglican but actually just 19% belong to Free Churches even then. Of the remainder, 26% are Roman Catholic, 12% Presbyterian (mainly the Church of Scotland which of course is effectively the national church of Scotland and already performs full gay marriages), 11% are Orthodox and 9% are Pentecostals


            Having disputed my posting 2017 figures I am not going to look at an even more out of date 2015 report. The 2019 report is paywalled.
            Either was even 500,000 or 600,000 for the C of E would be more than all independent Free Churches combined, as confirmed by Brierley’s figures

          • Post Covid of course you also have to include those joining C of E services online via Zoom and Teams, not just those in physical attendance

  3. Its still not clear to me what protections conservatives want that they haven’t already got.

    The blessings are fully voluntary and the potential risk of illegality seems to be a lot higher for those using the blessings than not using the blessings. AFAIK nobody has been issued with a threat of legal action for not using them.

    If the issue is having a sound bishop then there are already flying bishops for conservatives

    • All those welcoming the prayers, including the ABY, have said explicitly ‘This is just a first step to full inclusion’.

      We would like some assurance from somewhere that this is not a first step to a change in doctrine.

      • Ian

        Well I’d be gobsmacked if it was. Not much assurance, but there seems to me to have been a consistent message from the bishops against same sex marriage for at least a decade

  4. I am staggered at the extent to which “due process” has been ignored or over-ridden by the revisionist bishops in their “hell-bent” desire to impose PLF on evangelical vicars and rectors who are fundamentally opposed to it on doctrinal grounds.

    It seems to me that, when & if Nicky Gumbel’s “alliance” of evangelical churches in the C of E starts to take shape into the movement that I expect it to create, a time is coming when the evangelicals will feel that they have to make a break from the rest of the church as it pursues its trajectory towards apostasy.

    • It’s a really interesting point. It is like there is a predetermined supposedly inexorable trajectory of history which they have in mind. Or some spiritual force is brainwashing them that it is inexorable. And secondly brainwashing them that it does not need justification or argumentation.

    • And the way I would justify that point of view is to look at campaigns that repeat until the ‘right’ answer is reached., and then just as abruptly stop. (They hope we won’t notice this pattern….)

      Euthanasia, same sex marriage, abortion, LLF.

      This ‘right’ answer, which actually is often very harmful and disruptive, is generally the one termed ‘progressive’ (not that it is), and those who hold to it seem not to have the intelligence to realise that history does not have a straight trajectory (‘right side of history’ and all that unevidenced rubbish) – or even if it did, there would be no justification in following it unless benefits were reaped rather than (the very reverse) our going backwards to paganism.

    • The majority of Synod voted for PLF, they were not simply forced through by Bishops alone. Evangelical vicars and Parishes of course have an opt out from them anyway

        • They went through because Synod is the lawmaking body of the C of E. The only ‘legal advice’ you conservative evangelicals wanted is that the C of E could never authorise any recognition of same sex couples, which is of course absurd given the ultimate law making power over the C of E is Synod and has been since Parliament transferred powers over the C of E to it last century and because you lost the Synod vote on prayers for same sex couples.

          • No, the ‘law’ I want is to follow due process. If the prayers did not look illegal, can you explain why the bishops withheld the advice? Why would they need to do that?

          • Due process was followed. The Bishops proposed PLF and Synod voted for them. That is how the law of the C of E is made, nothing further is needed. What Synod votes for IS by definition legal in terms of what the C of E does

          • The only due process needed in the C of E is for Bishops to propose and Synod to approve. Synod makes the C of E laws and can amend or remove any of them if it votes for it

          • ‘The only due process needed in the C of E is for Bishops to propose and Synod to approve.’. Sorry, that is nonsense.

            Because the Church is established by law, canon law is the law of the land. Like all other law, it has to pass tests of coherence, which this doesn’t. Why else has the legal advice been hidden?

          • No it isn’t nonsense, Synod can replace and amend canon law as it wants if it has a clear majority for that. Synod can decide itself whether amendments pass any coherence test or not. Indeed canon law has been significantly revised and amended before, as by the Convocations of bishops and clergy of Canterbury and York in 1964 and 1969 which replaced most of the 1604 canons and as per the amendments made by Synod to the canons before the 7th edition of them, published in 2012

          • Ian

            Why do you put up with bishops who are dishonest?

            We disagree on whether same sex relationships are sinful, but surely we agree that dishonesty is a sin?

            I object to being told my marriage is sinful by church leaders who aren’t even trying to appear to follow Christs teaching, but I don’t understand why pretty much everyone in the CofE just puts up with such appalling leaders

    • Gordon

      Its entirely voluntary.

      I think you can argue that these blessings are illegal, etc, but no priest or church is being forced to use them or approve of them

  5. I still can’t see any final destination whatsoever (assuming that the semi-anarchy we seem to have at the moment isn’t final, and I think it’s too unstable for that) other than what Andrew G in one of his previous pieces described as “winner-takes-all”, i.e. either we are going to accept same-sex marriage in all its fulness in the C of E or we are not.

    If we do, could a conscience clause ever work? Would those who are pressing for change be prepared to put up with “no-go parishes” for sexually active same-sex couples (i.e. where the teaching is that same-sex sex is forbidden by God and those in sexually active same-sex relationships are going to be told they’re living in sin, not acceptable for leadership positions, and probably warned against receiving Communion)? I don’t believe so for a minute.

    If anyone can show me any possible compromise that could ever work in practice I’d be delighted to hear it.

    • I’m pressing for change and would be quite prepared to put up with “no-go parishes” for sexually active same-sex couples as these parishes already exist anyway. I’d even highly value such parishes making their condemnation / teaching quite explicit so that same-sex couples do not expose themselves to the kind of disappointment those attending HTB parishes are now going through. I suspect it’s you who do not want co-existence so evangelicals can carry on saying, ‘it’s not us in particular, it’s the teaching of the church, awfully sorry gay peeps.’

      • What you are proposing is a church that has two contradictory doctrines of marriage. Even if that were logically possible, it is not in practice, either pastorally or legally. You cannot have a church for which, in one parish, a behaviour is illegal (contrary to the teaching of the Church so not possible for clergy, and leading to discipline) which in the neighbouring parish is celebrating as a gift of God.

        • Lesbian and gay people will be all too aware that what is on offer is not marriage but at best a blessing after a civil wedding, or are you also in favour of banning perfectly legal civil weddings or partnerships between people of the same sex? It is you who go well beyond the church’s current discipline. As for your argument that allowing some parishes to offer such blessings is ‘pastorally’ impossible, I cannot make sense of it: not offering anything would be more pastoral?

        • Ian

          I think its naive to suggest such a split doesn’t already exist in the cofe. We have in one parish same sex couples full integrated into the community and another where gay people are told they must undergo exorcism or leave. And everything in between

          The CofE already has this exact split on women in leadership, divorce and remarriage, services from the prayer book, infant baptism, east facing communion, priestly dress etc etc

          • No it doesn’t exist already. Both those parishes, and all in between, share the same doctrine of marriage, that it is between one man and one woman according to the teaching of Jesus. If there is a split, it is a departure in practice from the doctrine of the Church.

        • We’re already there Ian. We have some people in the Church who see marriage as a piece of divine pragmatism – God sees in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone, so creates Eve for Adam; Mosaic divorce is allowed because men’s hearts were hard; Jesus steers away from recommending celibacy because sexual desire is natural; Paul steers away from recommending celibacy because it is better to marry than burn with passion (and is remarkably equitable for men and women in his views on how marriage ought to work in practice). We have other people in the Church who view marriage as something of cosmic significance, put in place in Genesis in order to teach us about Christ and the Church today, rooted in male-female difference and complementary nature, where the emphasis is on the differences between men and women and their different roles (see Genesis and Ephesians).

          Parts of the Church have at times accommodated polygamy. Today in the CofE exactly where we draw the line on remarrying divorcees is at the discretion of the minister in question and how they judge what is and isn’t serious. We accommodate differences on whether women can be ordained. We can even it seems accommodate differences on infant baptism. But for some reason, no accommodation is permissible on this.

          • No, we are not already there. We do not have two theologies of marriage, or of baptism, or of ordination. I work happily with those who do not fully recognise the ministry of women, even though I think they are mistaken. But we share a theology of ordination as set out in the ordinal.

            This would mean a change to doctrine, which is why it is different. It is not really difficult to see that!

          • Sometimes the main issue is not being 100% convinced by the actual concept ‘ordination’. Ecclesiastically it looms so much larger than it does biblically (not sure the term is biblical at all, or not as we use it today, tho’ some of its central concomitants are), which seems like putting the cart before the horse; besides which any imbalance of this nature needs examining. That is before we ever get to the High Priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of all believers. It is like two different systems not wholly compatible are jockeying for position.

  6. Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil: neither shalt thou yield in judgment, to the opinion of the most part, to stray from the truth. Ex 23 v 2. Douay-Rheims Bible

    Jer 4:3 For thus saith the LORD …Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.
    i. “There must be a deep ploughing, and the eradication of that which hinders growth, both in the realm of the spirit and in nature, before there can be a bountiful harvest.” (Cundall)
    But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, so what wisdom is in them? JER. 8V8

    We can’t afford to hold onto these things which God hates.

    Jesus likewise taught that the heart is sinful and our sins originate from within our sinful hearts, for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. [Matt 15:19]
    Circumcise yourselves — Put away everything that has a tendency to grieve the Spirit of God, or to render your present holy resolutions unfruitful. Jeremiah 4:4.

  7. The Oxford diocese is planning the following:
    “Participants in our recent LLF training days have requested that we explore in-depth the New Testament texts that have been central to the debates in Living in Love and Faith. So, we will address them on this study day. As this will be in-depth study, we will move at the pace of those attending but we will aim to work through as many texts as we can cover during the day, beginning with Romans 1:18-32.
    We will be contextualising them in their literary context and in their cultural context in Second Temple Judaism and Hellenism. You must bring your Bible and are welcome to bring your Greek New Testaments, but no knowledge of Greek will be necessary to fully participate in the day. Lunch will be provided.You must bring your Bible and are welcome to bring your Greek New Testaments, but no knowledge of Greek will be necessary to fully participate in the day. Lunch will be provided.”

    Is anyone planning to go – I’m pretty well aware of the kind of revsionism that’ll be served up:

    ‘We will be contextualising them in their literary context and in their cultural context in Second Temple Judaism and Hellenism. You must bring your Bible and are welcome to bring your Greek New Testaments, but no knowledge of Greek will be necessary to fully participate in the day. Lunch will be provided.’

  8. i just want to say that personally I find these articles so helpful. They have helped me keep up with what’s going on and understand the issues. They are wonderfully detailed and clear.

    The story they tell is tragic and I feel sad that so much is in danger of being destroyed. I pray that the Bishops or at least the group pushing the change agenda will repent. I think what makes me feel saddest is the abuse of process, the lack of honest transparent governance, by people that in the past I prayed for, admired and respected. It makes me feel ashamed.

      • Yes, it is tragic. But the faithful would do well to allow themselves also the feeling of godly and righteous anger. It is a great motivator to action, and action rather than reaction is what is needed. This is not some muddle which has come about by well-meaning accident. It is a coherent plot to get the church, the bride, of Jesus Christ to endorse and bless what the Bible calls sin.

    • Simon

      Part of the divide is because we don’t agree on what the sinful behavior is! Is it same sex marriage or is it demonization, exclusion and/or discrimination against a natural aspect of human diversity?

  9. The bishops are collectively responsible for the destruction of the Church of England.

    Too much is being made of the fact that some are now finally taking a stand for orthodoxy. If they are believers it is better for them to finally show some courage.

    However, they are finished as leaders. The notion it has been really difficult and nobody could have been expected to speak out is ludicrous. They might have lost their office, but nobody anywhere sees that as an unendurable sacrifice.

    They should have spoken publically against the false Gospel we now face.

    New leaders are needed from outside the HOB. Their failure is not unforgivable, but they cannot with any credibility see themselves as the shepherds of God’s people.

    • Synod voted for PLF and prayers for same sex couples by majority, it was not just the Bishops/

      The fact is conservative evangelicals do not have the votes in Synod to block liberal Catholic churches holding services of prayer for same sex couples, anymore than liberal Catholic churches do not have the votes in Synod at the moment for same sex marriage in the Church of England

      • The Church of England is an episcopal church. They may choose to listen to the clergy and synod – then again they may not.

        People can huff and puff as much as they like but the constitutional and ecclesiological reality is that in matters of Doctrine, The Church of England is ruled by its bishops

        • No, that is not true. The Church is, constitutionally, tied to Scripture as a Reformed Protestant church. As Article XX says:

          20. Of the Authority of the Church.
          The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

          So, though the bishops have chief responsibility for oversight, they do not ‘rule’ in that arbitrary sense you suggest.

          • Of course bishops are subject to Scripture.

            The context of my comment was an assertion by T1 about Synod and church government.

            The bishops are responsible for Doctrine in the Church of England.

          • I would have thought that the Bishops were responsible for maintaining and defending the doctrines of the Church of England- not trying to add new ones.

    • Peter

      Part of the failure of leadership is that the bishops neither accept gay people as equal nor explain why we are less/evil/more sinful than straight people. There’s no further information from a conservative reading of scripture other than “don’t get married” or “don’t have sex”. Building a life around either of those two mottos doesn’t leave much room for life, especially when you’re still not really accepted even when you follow them. The message too often seems to collapse down to ” you are Gods mistake” which may impress angst ridden teens, but seems ludicrous to those of us who want more serious teaching

      • Peter,

        I seem to hear from the camp that you are part of the view that sexual relations are a human right and that the desire for them is more important than pleasing God.

        • Anton

          I’d differentiate between sex and relationships. The two can be the same or can be different. Scripture tells that God says it is not good for man to be alone. Evangelicals may pretend it doesn’t say that, but it does.

          • Butr St Paul commended that state, and in any case God created someone to relieve Adam’s loneliness. Who was that?

          • Anton

            Paul does not say anyone should be required to be single and indeed the Bible condemns teachers who demand singleness.

            Eve was created for Adam. God did not create him a partner who he wasn’t attracted to and couldn’t love! We are told that she was suitable for him.

          • Hi Peter
            First of all, what is the name of one evangelical who denies the Bible says ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’?
            Second, why are you being so selective about what Paul says. That is scarcely honest. You quote him on singleness and ignore him on men who have sex with men. If we are selective we can prove precisely whatever we want. But it is, of course, not about what we want (that is the very last thing that it is about) since the whole point about Christianity is that the self is liable to be the enemy.

          • Really? Are we back to this again? That it’s all ok, because gay people can enter into straight marriages?

          • Anton

            Possibly, but its very hard to argue that these prohibitions were ever intended in the context of homosexuality or in genuine relationships. There’s simply no record in scripture of a genuine gay relationship being condemned.

            The closest we have is gay sex orgies by straight Romans and attempted gay gang rape being condemned and the homoerotic relationship between David and Jonathan being held of high value

          • David and Jonathan’s relationship was not ‘homoerotic’; that is a poor example of a sexualised reading imposed on the texts.

            It is a robust finding of scholarship both that same-sex relationships in the ancient world took many forms, almost all of which we still see today, including faithful quasi-marital commitments. It is also a robust finding of scholarship that first-century Jews rejected all forms of same-sex relationship because it contradicted God’s creation of humanity as male and female.

          • Christopher

            If I have to say everything Paul says on all topics every time I reference him then I don’t think Ian would be very happy at the length of my messages!!

            The standard evangelical teaching is that gay people must remain single. That’s one of the major fault lines in the CofE today. The Bible says it isn’t good for man (or woman?) to be alone

          • I am not sure I am that interested in ‘the standard evangelical teaching’ on a subject if you are referring to a particular group at a particular time. The overriding commitment of ‘evangelicals’ is that we follow what scripture says, interpreted aright.

            So my interest is in what scripture says. I outlined my own reading (which I think is shared by others) in an earlier answer. It is includes: sex preferences don’t define us; sex is not everything; we are called into a new community and family of faith; celibate singleness anticipates the eschaton; Jesus and Paul were single and celibate, yet were not ‘alone’ or unfulfilled. You cannot pick out one of those themes, isolate it, and then say ‘That is no good’. All these belong together.

          • Peter

            You use this word ‘evangelical’ but it is hard to know how you differentiate it from ‘in line with biblical teaching’. Every time you use it the two seem identical. The word has broadened and become more confusing in recent usage, by accident or design. So it could be better to stick to the word ‘biblical’. It is easy to discover (whether at the level of personal knowledge or the level of commentary writing) that the group that has done most Bible reading is the ‘evangelicals’, the least the ‘liberals’, and the Catholics are positive but playing a lot of catchup – and when they do so they tend to become more classically ‘Protestant’ than before. All this being the case, it is crazy for the liberals who have done so little Bible reading in the first place to be saying what’s what in this area. They should be spending the time doing some Bible reading and gaining some understanding in this area.

      • Peter, you are shrinking the orthodox perspective to a point where it becomes absurd. I am not interested in defending bishops, but the bible is not absurd.

        All Christians spend part of their adult life outside of marriage. A significant number spend more years as single people than they do married. Many never marry at all.

        It can and often will be a source of deep frustration and grief to them. The fact they are free to marry is far too often treated as grounds for diminishing their sorrow.

        Celibacy and chastity are costly for all believers. You do not help yourself by thinking otherwise

        • Peter

          My whole point is that it is absurd! Its not that I have shrunk it down. Its that they don’t have anything else to say. Indeed this is at least partly why there are splits amongst conservatives over whether its a sin to identify as “gay” because many conservatives cannot understand a gay person beyond the context of same sex sex. To them saying you are gay means identifying as a sex act.

        • Celibacy and chastity are not interchangeable terms. The Bishops knew this in 1991 when they wrote Issues in Human Sexuality. Alas, a good number in the Church have seen fit to forget it, and it leads them astray.

  10. To Andrew Goddard: I hope you will ignore the grumbling here about the length of the essays that you put on this blog. These essays are most valuable and nobody is forced to read them. I am grateful for them.

    I wonder if you could be persuaded to add possible routes that the faithful might take in order to fight back against the obvious thrust of PLF/LLF? I would not mind treating the bishops as I would a pagan.

  11. I suggest the following as a “possible route(s) that the faithful might take in order to fight back against the obvious thrust of PLF/LLF”

    It should be common ground among evangelicals 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.

    But are these messages 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”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, and the need to help the homeless and those in dire need, very important though such things are!

    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 whole Church about this failure.

    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.

    Philip Almond

    • “It should be common ground among evangelicals 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.”

      I have sent this suggestion to a large number of people and only two have agreed with me. This suggests to me that not many evangelicals believe this is the ‘paramount need of all people’. Please would evangelicals say what they believe about this.

      Phil Almond

      • Yes of course this should be the primary message of the church to the world. But the church must keep its own house in order too, and the CoE has failed to do so not least because evangelicals have preferred to preach the gospel than battle against the liberal heretics who now dominate the seminaries and bishoprics.

        I’d add, changing the subject, that evangelism ought to concentrate on the message you correctly state, rather than portray Jesus Christ as a “wonderful friend who heals your sorrows”. That statement is true but it comes after conversion, not with it.

        • Anton
          I’m glad you agree with me about “the primary message of the church to the world.”
          But my suggestion of an open letter of rebuke is to “battle against the liberal heretics who now dominate the seminaries and bishoprics”. If you agree with me on that why don’t you join me in persuading the CEEC to take the lead in composing such a letter?

          Phil Almond

      • Phil


        Scripture is full of the call to repentance, but when was the last time we saw a church leader humbly repent? Never! Sometimes they get caught, but that’s not the same thing.

        One of the many problems for western churches is that they are invariably being led, at least at senior levels, by people who don’t follow the teaching that they are.expecting everyone else to follow

        • Peter
          If you agree with me why don’t you join with me in persuading the CEEC to take the lead in organising an open letter of rebuke as I keep on suggesting they should do? We have nothing to lose in doing that, surely?

          Phil Almond

          • Philip Almond

            I agree, but I suspect too many of the CEEC are also in need of repentance and know it. There have been several high profile evangelical leaders who got caught. Those who facilitated them have neither been disciplined nor repented.

            They have a vested interest in keeping the culture of dishonesty and two facedness.

          • Philip Almond

            I don’t know how to contact them and I don’t really know what I would ideally like them to do. I think the whole cofe is probably too far gone with corruption and mourn for my friends who are still being hurt by it

          • Peter
            Just google CEEC and you will find out how to contact them. If you agree with me, encourage CEEC to co-ordinate an open letter of rebuke from all evangelicals to the whole CofE about the failure of the whole CofE to believe and preach the terrible warnings from Christ’s own lips and the wonderful invitatons from Christ’s own lips to flee from the wrath to come. What have you got to lose? If indeed you do agree with me!

          • Philip Almond

            But I don’t agree that CEEC is necessarily any better than any of the rest of them. In particular it seems likely to me that some CEEC bigwigs are the people who covered up for Mike Pilavachi.

            The rebukes are already coming from the victims of abuse and their advocates

    • The Gospel starts with God’s love and grace, not His wrath.

      For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
      John 3:16-18

  12. Thank you Andrew. It helps me with some assurance that I am right in analysing this as a complete mess over a significant period if time. The Bishops may have been criticised as too “managerial” but it’s word which has varying meanings never mind the variant that is “poor management”. Part of me groans when a diocese offers management courses, confusing it with leadership… They are not the same.)

    How can anyone of any persuasion be satisfied with this? (Queen of Hearts notwithstanding “sentence first, verdict later”).

    Surely only a reset is the sensible /right/course of action. Publishing the legal advice might be be a small step… Not publishing it keeps darkness on the throne.

    But does anyone think it likely? It would need a lot of courage… which would need a mind to repent of the failures that brought us here.

  13. I do love the evaluation of G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man there is a chapter on “The Five Deaths of the Faith.” He does a brief overview of times in which orthodox Christianity was challenged profoundly— Arius and the controversy over the divinity of Christ in the 3rd century,
    Voltaire and the rise of skepticism in Europe during the Enlightenment,
    Darwin and the rise of scientism, and so on—
    but in each case emerged strong and growing.
    With a typical Chesterton twist, he concludes:

    “At least five times…the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.” [19]

    Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). That is a promise—and there’s no reason to believe this promise has an expiration date.

  14. The questions arise “What is the way forward” “What is the vision?”
    Ian has stated that he can not see the former. Some think that the Evangelicals or that Orthodoxy might “save” the Church,
    Alas evangelicals are split in spirit commensurate with the overt US Evangelicals.
    Of the latter on “what is the vision?
    Dr Timothy Keller, has presented a four-part study delineating the fragmentation of Society: the decline of Evangelicalism: the Path to Renewal
    – Part 4 – The Strategy for Renewal
    Sectarianism is definitely not the solution!
    The whole is not for those looking for sound bites or potted solutions but perhaps may engender a Vision of the future direction of travel, of what might or could be.

    Part 4 – The Strategy for Renewal can be seen here @
    However the Cultural/Church milieu should not be ignored from the earlier analysis studies.

  15. Happy Jack liked this cautious response from the Dutch bishops regarding to Fiducia supplicans:

    The statement issued by the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith Fiducia supplicans on 18 December last, highlighted the importance of accompaniment in the Church for persons living in a homosexual relationship and for divorced persons
    re-married. As our Church is a welcoming Church, the Dutch bishops, with Pope Francis, underline the pastoral importance of closeness and accompaniment.

    The bishops’ conference notes that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its
    statement Fiducia supplicans, holds, in accordance with Sacred Scripture and the
    Tradition of the Church, that marriage is only possible between a man and a woman and
    is indissoluble, and that irregular relationships of any kind encounter intrinsic moral

    The Dutch bishops do not wish to deny anyone the support and strength of God. It is
    possible to say a prayer over individual believers living in an irregular relationship. What
    one asks for in the prayer and the manner in which one prays are important here. In the
    case of someone living in an irregular or homosexual relationship, the ordained minister
    may say a simple prayer outside the context of a wedding celebration or prayer service.

    In this prayer, God can be asked for strength and assistance under the invocation of His
    Spirit, so that he/she may understand God’s will with his/her life and continue to grow.
    This makes it clear in the wording chosen that this is not a blessing or confirmation of an
    irregular relationship and also avoids confusion with marriage, which, according to the
    Catholic Church, can only be between a man and a woman.

    In this way, prayer can give the strength to draw near to God and live in accordance with
    His intentions for the creation of man and woman and marriage.

    Simple, on-point and orthodox!

  16. It has been known scientifically for about 40 years or more that if the brain of a male foetus does not receive sufficient testosterone at a certain early stage of development then that individual will probably be gay. Likewise, if the brain of a female foetus receives too much testosterone at the critical time then she may become lesbian. Extreme cases correspond to trans individuals. So it does not seem right or godly to punish people for what is perfectly natural to them. This seems to have some relevance to the sheet of unclean animals let down to the Apostle Peter.

    • I have never come across that research. Can you link to it?

      Btw, if it was shown that a similar kind of chemical imbalance made someone a paedophile, would that make paedophilia moral?


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