Prayers of Love and Faith: what has the House of Bishops done?

Andrew Goddard writes: The House of Bishops met on Monday October 9th and in the early evening a press release appeared which set out some of their decisions. One of the key questions has been by which canonical route the Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) will be introduced into the church. The short summary is that the original proposal was to commend them for use by clergy under canon B5 but that by July the bishops were reporting to Synod that

The House and College have considered the range of routes presented by the Group including Canon B5 commendation of the Prayers, B4 approval by the Convocations, Archbishops or Ordinary and B2 approval by General Synod. They are particularly weighing up the option of approval by the Archbishops (under Canon B4.2), as an approach that may provide more legal protection for those ministers who choose to use the Prayers. No final decision has been made by the House as to the route by which the prayers will be made available for use (para 13).

It then became clear that they were seriously considering yet another route—Canon B5A—under which the Archbishops would authorise PLF for experimental use before bringing to Synod under Canon B2. I explored that (with links to earlier pieces on the other canons) here and have argued, as have a large number of network leaders and bishops, that B2 is the only proper route for all the Prayers.

What have the bishops decided? B2 or not B2?

Many concerned that B2 was the only proper route initially reacted positively to the press release which makes clear the bishops 

concluded that structures for special services for same-sex couples, based on Prayers of Love and Faith, should go forward to be formally authorised under canon law. The bishops will bring proposals to General Synod next month which will pave the way for a process that would lead to the authorisation of these special services under Canon B2. This process, expected to take until 2025, would involve consultation with every diocese and require approval by General Synod.

It also confirmed that B5A had been seriously considered but not followed:

Bishops gave serious consideration to an alternative legal process which could have enabled special services to be authorised almost immediately – but temporarily – (under Canon B5A). This would still have required a further process for the services to be authorised permanently (under Canon B2) by Synod.

It appeared to some that “B2 or not B2?” had been answered and the answer was “B2, and without the controversial authorisation for experimentation under B5A before Synod decides”.

However, the headline of the press release (“House of Bishops agrees to commend Prayers of Love and Faith”) gave the more important information expanded in the opening sentence:

The Church of England’s House of Bishops has agreed in principle that prayers asking for God’s blessing for same-sex couples – known as Prayers of Love and Faith – should be commended for use.

The later summary made quite clear the significance of this which means the prayers will likely be being used with the House’s approval in a matter of a few months at most:

The prayers and readings in Prayers of Love and Faith for use with same-sex couples will be commended by the House of Bishops for use in public worship.

After touring round almost every single alternative option the bishops have finally returned to the original proposal. The prayers will be introduced not by a canonical process but by the bishops on their own authority commending the prayers for clergy to use at their discretion (and, unlike under B5A, without need for any PCC agreement) and at risk to themselves not a higher authorising agent, under B5. 

This raises the concerns highlighted back in January and February with the original proposal and which, after more detailed discussion, I summed up as follows:

In short, by choosing the route of commendation the bishops are:

  • seeking to appear as if they are implementing significant changes and getting credit from those in church and wider society who support them when in fact the prayers’ legal status is not changed by their commendation;
  • using a process intended for, and always previously used for, uncontroversial forms of service despite these prayers predictably proving to be the most controversial prayers introduced in the Church of England for many decades;
  • appearing to act as a body in relation to liturgical approval, perhaps even appealing to episcopal collegiality to stifle dissent, when the canons give neither the House or College, on their own authority alone, any role in relation to approval of liturgy or authorisation to determine whether a form of service conforms or not to doctrine;
  • claiming the prayers are consistent with doctrine but refusing to secure the agreement of Synod to that judgment by using the normal route for liturgical developments;
  • failing to offer a serious theological or convincing legal rationale for changing their previous stance prohibiting the use of such prayers, a stance that was understood to be based on the need for liturgy to conform to doctrine and a consequence of the 1987 General Synod motion;
  • failing to give a proper explanation of why the prayers are not indicative of a departure from Church of England doctrine; and
  • placing all the risk on clergy in the parishes rather than bearing it themselves

As is clear, these features raise a number of major questions about this process and the use of episcopal power it represents. 

What about doctrine?

As the summary above makes clear, the question of the prayers’ relationship to the doctrine of the church is a crucial question and one which remains a major problem for the bishops. Like the famous dog that didn’t bark in the night perhaps the most significant element of the press release is that the word “doctrine” does not appear anywhere in it.

There are however two doctrinal tests that need to be brought to the Prayers of Love and Faith that are finally proposed (whose texts are likely to be much as they were presented, slightly revised from February, in July).

The first are the strict legal tests. Any prayers commended for use under canon B5 must “be neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter” (B5.3). This raises questions if they are used for a couple in a same-sex marriage and/or in a sexual relationship other than Holy Matrimony.

The legal argument to defend their use for a couple in a same-sex marriage has been that a separation has now been made in law between civil marriage and holy matrimony. Therefore, as long as it is not presented that the couple are living in holy matrimony, the prayers are not “indicative of any departure from the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter”. 

The key question is whether, and if so how, the bishops have now reached a firm theological and doctrinal judgment on this legal argument (I explored some of the issues here and a detailed legal analysis is provided here). In addition, they will need to explain what, if they agree with it, they are now teaching concerning entering a civil same-sex marriage. This is because they have previously stated in 2014 that in regard to any prayers with same-sex married couples “The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement [on civil partnerships] should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it” (para 21, italics added). 

There is also a legal requirement that the services must be “reverent and seemly” (Canon B5.3). In relation to this, the legal advice of 2016 (appended to GS 2055) stated:

The House might need also to explain that the form of service used should not implicitly or explicitly convey the idea that the Church was sanctioning or condoning a sexual relationship between the two persons. Whether or not it would need to do that would depend on whether or not the House maintained the position set out in the 2005 pastoral statement on civil partnerships that “the Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999). Sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings”. If that remained the Church of England’s teaching, then a service which sanctioned or condoned such a sexual relationship would not meet the requirement that a service must “edify the people” and would probably also be contrary to, or indicative of a departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in an essential matter. (para 9, italics added).

If the bishops are commending the prayers for use under B5 they must be confident that clergy using them can do so legally. It would appear then that for this to happen they must have changed the Church of England’s teaching (which has not been announced) or concluded that it is no longer “probably” the case that using the prayers for a sexual relationship other than holy matrimony breaks this other doctrinal test. This latter path might be taken by arguing that although using the prayers for a sexual relationship is “indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England” this is not “an essential matter”.

Here the second doctrinal test will kick in: the mind of General Synod. The one amendment (known as the Cornes amendment) which was passed by the General Synod in February and supported by both Archbishops and the Bishop of London stated the 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

There are two key elements of this:

  • It simply articulates the stated intention of the College and House of Bishops (hence making it hard for them to resist it) which Synod simply endorsed.
  • It lacks the legal qualification in the canon referring to “any essential matter”. 

The intention which the Synod endorsed (and which thus frames and qualifies the earlier clause that Synod “look forward to the House of Bishops further refining, commending and issuing the Prayers of Love and Faith described in GS 2289 and its Annexes”) therefore sets a higher doctrinal bar for “the final version of the Prayers of Love and Faith” than the canons.

In relation to the Synod motion the bishops need 

  • either to show that it is being respected despite the very high doctrinal bar it represents (especially given the points above)
  • or they need to be honest with Synod and admit that they have not fulfilled their own intention and have not complied with the motion passed by Synod in February because the prayers in fact are “contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”. This will presumably be on the basis that they depart only in what can be shown to be not “an essential matter” but this clearly needs justification (effectively a case that these matters are adiaphora) and cannot be simply asserted

What about the lawyers and theologians?

In addition to these two doctrinal tests embodied in the canons and the February Synod motion the bishops are committed to implement there is the closely related “lawyers’ test”. 

In presenting the prayers to Synod (due out on October 20th apparently) the bishops will need at the very least to state the equivalent of what they stated in February (p2 of Prayers) which is that 

The prayers and forms of service commended here are ‘neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter’ (including, but not limited to, the definition of Holy Matrimony in Canon B 30).

It would also, particularly given their previous statements and previous legal advice quoted above, be good if they did not simply state this. They should explain the process by which they have reached this conclusion and give Synod and the wider church the basis, legally and theologically, for this crucial judgment on which they are asking parish clergy who use the prayers to rely. A problem here appears to be that having asked the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) to produce materials enabling clarity on key doctrinal questions raised by PLF, the bishops are now proceeding before FAOC have done that work. This represents a disturbing, almost contemptuous, attitude on the part of the House of Bishops to the work of FAOC and to the importance of theology in the worshipping life of the church and their deliberations as bishops.

In looking to the Legal Office to advise them as to the legality of commending the prayers the bishops face yet another hurdle. In their January note (GS Misc 1339) the Legal Office took great care to stress in their concluding sentence (para 10) 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.

The reasons for this are clear from the above: the bishops would need to reach decisions concerning both the relationship of civil marriage and holy matrimony and whether sexual relationships outside holy matrimony were now accepted. However, the press release says nothing about any such decisions having been taken although it has been reported that indicative votes have been taken within the College. Both of these questions relate to matters likely to be considered in the Pastoral Guidance, especially in relation to expectations on the clergy. Again, however, the press release says very little about this. It is, however, clear that “new draft pastoral guidance will be brought to next month’s meeting of Synod” (italics added). This will however only be “setting out how the system could operate” in relation to the prayers. There needs, we are told, to be “further work…on the second part of the Pastoral Guidance which will look at matters in the life and work of clergy and lay ministers”. This is the part that “replaces Issues in Human Sexuality”. It is therefore hard to see how the Legal Office will have been given “the replacement pastoral guidance” before Synod meets but they have said this will be required if they are to reach “a final view on the legal position”.

Canon B2 and Cutting the PLF Cake

“B2 or not B2?” is being answered in an unexpected way: B2 for some of what the bishops presented as PLF but not for other parts of PLF. Although the bishops have ended up back where they began with commendation they are now separating out part of PLF and recognising B2 should be used for it. The PLF cake has, in effect, been sliced in two. But how has it been sliced? And what is the practical effect of slicing it up in this way?

There are various ways PLF could have been divided up into two and different routes then used in order to make each slice legal within the church. Some of these have a certain logic and could be reasonably defended. Two in particular stand out. It would have been possible to say that the church recognises a distinction between private, pastoral prayers and public prayers in corporate worship. I can see a case that some prayers could be commended by bishops to guide and resource clergy and others when providing the former, while using B2 for the latter on the grounds that B2 is the process that should be used for public worship. Another possible slicing up that has been proposed in recent months is that prayers that are in themselves uncontentious, many of which are already commended or authorised, might be commended for public worship. In contrast, those which are contentious and represent a new departure within the Church of England (such as prayers over rings and prayers of blessing) should seek authorisation using B2.

Neither of these is, however, how the bishops are cutting the PLF cake. They have instead distinguished all the prayers and readings that were in the suite of resources from the outline orders of service that were also included in the original documentation. That documentation described its content in these terms:

In this document, the Resource Section provides passages of Scripture for study and public proclamation, together with prayers grouped in a variety of categories. An outline Structure for worship is presented, whether in the context of a Service of the Word or of Holy Communion. Two sample services are also provided as different examples of ways in which the Structures can be filled by drawing on the Resources.

What the bishops are now proposing appears to be commending the first “Resource Section” for use under canon B5 and recategorizing the second of these (as “special standalone services”) and bringing them under canon B2. But what does this mean in practice?

Firstly, we need to stop and ask what follows legally from commending the suite of prayers in the Resource Section for use under canon B5 and how is that something less in practice from what might finally be authorised under canon B2.

Anyone using the commended prayers under B5 in a public service will by definition be doing so within a service which has an order or structure. All the outline structures of PLF do is include a reference to the prayers within the established structures of a Service of the Word or of Holy Communion. The opening note for the outlines in PLF is quite explicit about this:

1. Structure

This structure corresponds with that of A Service of the Word, or that of A Service of the Word with a Celebration of Holy Communion. The minister should have reference to the relevant Notes, including for the celebration of Holy Communion where appropriate (Common Worship main volume, pp.21-26 and 330-335).

It is hard to see how using the commended prayers under B5 (other than privately) does not result in following something like the structure which is now being separated off from what is commended for authorisation under B2. In fact, there are two forms of discretion granted to clergy under B5 (subject to the doctrinal tests discussed above).

The first is to “make and use variations which are not of substantial importance in any form of service authorized by Canon B 1 according to particular circumstances” (B5.1). But this is exactly what the “outline structures” (apparently rebranded as “standalone services now needing authorisation under B2”) are providing. The bishops were previously clear that under B5 clergy could have “PLF” public services following these outline structures. So what then is meant by a “standalone service” that will not now be permitted by the bishops commending parts of PLF for use under B5? What is it that must await some authorisation under B2 before it can be legally used?

In reality, it would appear the bishops are here in danger of commending and encouraging the sort of practices of some clergy who might offer a service of Holy Communion (perhaps midweek and timed to follow a civil marriage ceremony) which would be, in the words of one example, “Holy Eucharist during which there just happen to be used some Prayers of Love and Faith”.

But the situation is even more bizarre. The second form of discretion granted to clergy under B5 is to “on occasions for which no provision is made in The Book of Common Prayer or by the General Synod under Canon B 2 or by the Convocations, archbishops, or Ordinary under Canon B 4 use forms of service considered suitable by him for those occasions and may permit another minister to use the said forms of service” (B5.2). There is clearly no current provision in the BCP or authorised under B2 or B4 for, say, “Blessing of a Same-Sex Couple” or “Prayer and Dedication After a Civil Same-Sex Marriage”. What, once the PLF are commended by the bishops for use under B5, prevents a priest using these commended prayers to create a liturgy for such an occasion as a “standalone” service with PLF content being front and centre (rather just “happening to be used” in another form of authorised service)?

It might even prove therefore to be the case that nobody really wants what is brought under B2. Conservatives will reject it because they see it as contrary to doctrine. Revisionists may reject it because, once PLF is commended, it offers them nothing they do not then already have and/or because once “provision is made…by the General Synod under Canon B2” for a particular occasion in the form of a “standalone service”, the extensive freedom under B5.2 is removed.

Secondly, the nearest analogy that can be drawn to the apparent distinction that is being proposed is perhaps in relation to baptism services. Baptism can take place either within a regular Sunday service (whether Service of the Word or of Holy Communion) or it can take place as what might be called a “standalone service” of baptism outside regular Sunday services. There are therefore a number of different baptism liturgies available (Holy Baptism, Baptism within a Celebration of Holy Communion, Baptism at a Service of the Word etc) but the liturgical experience of worshippers in all of these is often very similar. There is nothing so different between these that would justify introducing one by commendation and one by the careful scrutiny and enhanced majorities of B2. In short, confirming the first point, distinguishing between using PLF in “regular services” from using PLF in “standalone services” is making a false distinction with no legal or theological basis whatsoever.

Thirdly, the contentious PLF-focussed substance of any form of service is not the order. It is the material which is in the resources that are now to be commended. As quoted above, any detailed service such as might appear in a service booklet or be projected onto a screen is simply one example of how “the Structures can be filled by drawing on the Resources”. It is the resources which provide the filling that require proper and careful scrutiny and raise doctrinal questions, not the outline structures. So why is it the resources which the bishops are refusing to consider under B2, if they accept B2 should be used in relation to PLF?

Fourthly, if one asks what is being proposed for consideration under B2 it would appear at the moment that it is likely nothing more than the outline orders found in the draft prayers. That for the Service of the Word reads


The Welcome

The Collect

The Liturgy of the Word




The Dedication


Prayers of Intercession

The Lord’s Prayer


The Dismissal

This simply adds “The Dedication” (which it is noted “may include prayers for God’s blessing on the couple”) and “Acclamation”. Other prayers from PLF are then likely to be included within the Prayers of Intercession. Does it make any sense to subject an outline like this to the detailed scrutiny of B2 but not to use B2 to introduce the “prayers for God’s blessing on the couple” themselves? In addition, as noted above, this outline structure is precisely what B5.1 already authorises with commended prayers.

It may therefore be the case that the plan is a much more radical outline and form of “standalone service” than any of the PLF material so far published. This may involve a new name focussed on the couple and a quite different service outline than those so far proposed (perhaps one closer to that of the marriage service). There is, however, no evidence that this is what is being proposed. In addition, as noted, B5.2 already grants quite considerable freedom to form services where commended PLF prayers and the same-sex couple are much more central in the order of service.

What all this highlights is the need for the bishops quickly to clarify exactly what sort of proposal they intend to bring for consideration under Canon B2 and how it is of greater significance than what will be legal as soon as PLF resources are commended, especially given the wording of Canon B5.1 and B5.2.

Fifthly, the press release adds a further detail:

Special standalone services set out in Prayers of Love and Faith should be brought to the General Synod to decide whether to authorise them under Canon B2, after consultation with dioceses.

It is unclear why there is “consultation with dioceses” as this is not required under Canon B2 and it is not obvious that Article 8 of the Constitution relating to “permanent changes in the Services of Baptism or Holy Communion or in the Ordinal” applies. The language of “consultation” suggests this is an innovation but its purpose is not obvious. It would appear to slow down the B2 process and require divisive, unnecessary debates in every Diocesan Synod throughout the next 12-18 months while new controversial forms of service (perhaps with no obvious difference to those being discussed under B2) are being used with episcopal approval.

Finally, in the light of all this, it really needs to be asked what the practical effect will be either of the B2 process passing the PLF material it considers or of the B2 process failing to pass it. It would appear the answer is “nothing substantial and perhaps nothing at all, either way, other than one side feeling it has won and the other that it has lost after two or more years of continued divisive debate”. 

We have seen how clergy using the prayers under B5 will be able to hold services much like any that may eventually be passed by B2. Particularly given the freedom granted under B5.2, nobody seriously expects the vague “standalone” distinction is going to be stopped until such services are authorised. The one change if B2 passes something would be that the uncertainty and legal risk any clergyperson still takes when using commended prayers in a service under B5 will be removed once there is an authorised service. There is also no suggestion that any commended prayers may be withdrawn by the bishops if Synod rejects PLF material by the B2 process. Indeed, if that was the case, this would raise serious questions about the pastoral wisdom of introducing prayers for same-sex couples that might effectively have a “use by” date of the end of the B2 process should Synod fail to pass the proposed outline structures.


“B2 or not B2?” has finally been given the episcopal answer: “Both”. 

This question, although important, has never been the only or the most important question about the prayers. Its importance arises from two deeper interconnected questions underlying the question about various canonical routes: 

  • what is the constitutional role of General Synod in relation to liturgy and doctrinal innovations or development?
  • In particular, who determines whether new liturgy is conformed to our doctrine? 

The bishops’ answer to those questions, revealed in the perplexing way they have sliced the PLF cake in order to answer “both B2 and not B2”, is now (despite a fair degree of obfuscation in the press release) becoming clear: “we as bishops answer those questions on our own, not General Synod (i.e. bishops-in-Synod) by the B2 processes”. 

In addition, the bishops are seemingly saying they have given an answer to the doctrinal questions about PLF (“they are not contrary to or indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine”) but they have done so:

  • without reference to their still incomplete theological commission’s work on the underlying substantive doctrinal questions;
  • without announcing any definitive decision on the relationship between civil marriage and holy matrimony or a new teaching about the proper relationship between sex and holy matrimony;
  • without, therefore, a clear and secure legal basis given past legal advice;
  • without keeping commitments (most prominently and explicitly from the Archbishop of York) to bring the prayers back together with guidance and reassurance;
  • without the Legal Office being able to confirm the prayers’ legality in the way they described they would because the bishops have not yet produced the pastoral guidance;
  • without clarifying whether their answer is consistent with the Synod motion they are meant to be implementing (and the amendment the Archbishops supported) which endorsed the bishops’ previously stated intention that the prayers should “not be contrary to or indicative of a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England”.

In a discussion among friends trying to understand what has really happened one suggested that Synod was being sidelined: “it feels currently like a cake has been baked and Synod is being invited to choose the box”. Another replied “I don’t even think Synod is being invited to choose the box. Synod will have an argument about the cake and then be told to eat it”. 

Much of where we now are and how exactly we have got there is currently still in the dark. It may be that once we have more details and see the papers for Synod this analysis will prove to be unduly pessimistic and offering a confused and inaccurate account and assessment. Sadly, however, the signs are that as more details of Monday’s various decisions become clear and are reflected upon they will provide further confirmatory evidence that we are still seeing bishops 

If all, or even much, of that proves to be the case, then we may soon be facing the even more serious question as regards the Church of England as we have known it: “to be or not to be?”.

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115 thoughts on “Prayers of Love and Faith: what has the House of Bishops done?”

  1. @Rgt71Robert
    Since the House of Bishops announcement about the change of mode of commending &/or authorizing PLF I don’t think I have ever known quite so much despair &/or anger amongst many #LGBTQIA+ colleagues & so little trust in & quite frankly contempt for the HoB as a body. This arises because 1) many see that the bishops have essentially caved in to bullying & 2) that the outline of the way forward shows just how cheap #LGBTQIA+ lives are valued by ministerial colleagues who are bishops.

    The main problem arises because it seems clear to many that there just won’t be 2/3 majority for stand alone authorized services in 2025 in Synod, no matter happens in the dioceses. They will simply be blocked by those among us who do not want those of us who would like to use them to do so. A minority of us will block what the majority of us want to celebrate in the name of ‘unity’. #LGBTQIA+ people & our allies have sacrificed so so much for the sake of unity for far too long. But when some of our other siblings in Christ are asked to nudge a centimeter they won’t even give a millimeter. ‘

    I agree
    & add:

    1. There’s no respect for HofB given how cheaply they value #LGBT peoples’ lives

    2. The conservatives’ heretical view that this is a 1st order issue must never be accommodated

    3. Justin’s ‘reconciliation’ mantra is flawed, truth is a prerequisite!’

    A Labour government looks likely to be elected next year, if even prayers for homosexual couples fail to be approved by the B2 process as they fall short of a 2/3 majority (despite getting a simple majority from Synod in Feb) due to blocking from conservative evangelicals then liberal Catholics such as the above will mobilise. They will use their allies in Parliament such as Labour MPs Bryant and Bradshaw to vote to impose full homosexual marriage on the C of E using the new Labour majority in Parliament to ram it though if the established church uses blocking tactics to fail to even recognise the simple majority for blessings of homosexual couples married in English civil law

    • You are essentially arguing that if votes or decisions do not go the way a given person/party wishes, then no-one can be surprised if that person decides to end it all, and it will be the fault of their opponents.

      We are all surrounded in everyday life and in national life by many decisions and votes. Some go our way and some do not.

      • Yes, Synod voted by majority to bless homosexual couples, your side lost. So trying to get out on a technicality by demanding a 2/3 majority for blessings, not even marriage, despite the opt out evangelical churches have for it shows quite clearly it is your side not accepting it.

        As the C of E is the established church in a nation where homosexual marriage is legal, do not be surprised therefore if Parliament takes it into its own hands to ensure homosexual Parishioners can have a ceremony of recognition for their unions in C of E churches

    • I won’t nudge even a micrometer on heresy, Simon, and I don’t understand why you think I should?

      Once again, labour attempting to ram homosexual marriage through the church will simply expediate disestablishment. It would run foul of the right to freedom of religion that the ECHR upholds, and destroy a constitutional settlement which has stood now for some years.

      • Far from it. Parliament is sovereign, Parliament can impose what it wants on the established church as no previous Parliament or law can bind a successor Parliament which changes it, and as a majority of Synod have voted to bless homosexual couples anyway Parliament is not blocking most of the C of E and its Parishioners, just evangelical hardliners trying to block blessings with a 2/3 majority who are welcome to leave the established church if they refuse to accept change

        • Well, the majority of Synod have not voted to bless gay couples; what the majority voted for was that the doctrine of the Church remains unchanged.

          And if you think a secular Parliament either does or should have power to impose its views on the Christian Church, you seem to think that we should not obey Jesus…?

          • Wrong, Synod voted by 250 to 181 votes in February to bless homosexual couples (even while keeping ‘holy matrimony’ for heteresexual couples). It is about time evangelicals still resisting accepted that result because be assured liberal Catholics will not rest until they are able to have the blessings for homosexual Parishioners the vast majority of their congregations want.

            The Church of England was created to be the state church of England headed by the King and accountable to Parliament with a Catholic but Reformed theology. Yes it maybe a Christian church too which preaches the message of Christ but so does every other Christian denomination, that doesn’t make the C of E distinctive.

          • ‘Synod voted by 250 to 181 votes in February to bless homosexual couples.’ Do please go back and read it again. The prayers were to request God’s blessing, not bless, and the two people, not as a couple.

            If you keep repeating these things ad nauseam I will start deleting your post. Engaging please, not trolling.

          • Are you coming round to supporting the Prayers of Love and Faith, Ian? Or do you also object to prayers that request God’s blessing on two people and do not represent a change in Church doctrine?

          • There are two major questions there, AJ.

            -Why are the blessings on two people as a unit rather than individually?
            -Why are the blessings on them rather than on anyone else?

            The context makes clear the answers to both. But that context is predicated on all kinds of doctrinal shifts.

          • No it was prayers of blessing for homosexual couples, not them as 2 random people with no recognition of any relationship with them. That is just evangelical spin. Yes you did get to keep holy matrimony between heterosexuals and won that battle, liberal catholics won the right to bless homosexual couples in their churches if they wished and any attempt to deny them that will lead to civil war in the C of E whether you want to delete my posts or not

  2. Dear Ian,
    Once again thank you for your amazing work.
    I was a Pastor for thirty years in a evangelical church but now part on my local Anglican Church endeavouring to grow where I am planted. I do not fully understand the intricacies of the Anglican Church and all the language you use but have been following the passage of PFL.
    My interpretation of what you so eloquently write is the Bishops appear to be attempting to go forward with this no matter what. The cake has been made and it’s going to be consumed one way or the other.
    I regularly read your articles and teaching
    Thank you – Doug

  3. Not for the first time I was fooled by the peculiar use of language which magically takes over those who wear purple shirts in the Church of England. From the bishops’ statement I initially assumed nothing could now happen without a full vote of General Synod. But it seems that ‘commended’ means ‘authorised’ when you are a bishop. And if a bit of slicing and dicing eases the process, along with a gentle 2 year wait before Synod can make a definitive judgement, so much the better, not least because that final judgement may not apply to what has already been ‘commended.’ Just think what kind of moral compass allows people the right to manipulate language (and process) in that kind of way. What does it tell us about today’s crop of bishops in the Church of England?

    Even in our UK House of Commons, government ministers will make a statement concerning an important policy proposal and conclude by saying “…and I commend this statement to the House.” But those words carry no weight of authority at all: every member of the House has an equal voice in the vote which then follows, without which what has been commended has most certainly not yet been authorised.

    • Yes, it’s spot on: it has always been the case that the process itself is the outcome, and the final step of ‘keeping the decision in the future until it is in the past’ is finally happening through the bishops’ ‘commendation’ without a synodical vote of ratification.

      There are times when you have to take a stand and risk being defeated. For orthodox people within the Church of England it came twice: with the decision whether or not to engage with LLF, and again in the February 2023 vote on the principle of PLF. In the latter case, taking the plain risk to vote on the motion as proposed by the bishops was muddied by the Cornes amendment which intended ‘no change in doctrine’ to be a backstop defence; although well intentioned, the strategy of not taking a stand at that pivotal moment has paved the way for the current mess.

      I wonder of there are any procedures whereby, despite the bishops wishes, synod members can force a vote. Something tells me the answer will be ‘no’!

  4. Andrew, please would you please go into equally fine detail about how faithful evangelicals might use the constitution of the Church of England to fight back?

    • Anton – your basic problem is that those with a real interest in the central gospel message and saving souls run a mile when they see all this business about canon law and the whole debate between clever lawyers deciding what the C. of E. may or may not do, through studying the minutiae of canon law and entering into involved arguments on this basis.

      • I’m well aware of that. We all meet hdere with differing positions. I have no loyalty to the CoE, in fact; that was destroyed 23 years ago by exegesis, by comments by herewtical bishops, and by a moribund local congregation. That I am in a CoE congregatoin now is simply becaue it is the best congregatoin reasonably near me, and that I agitate against the bishops is because I recognise ungodliness when I see it.

  5. Given the way many incumbents (especially those of the conservative evangelical variety) play fast’n’loose with their home-made services, and get away with it, I really don’t see what the issue is with the Archbishops using their lawful authority to protect those clergy who wish to publicly celebrate the love between two people from the demonic and unchristian views of those who believe God has called them to judge others.

    • Because it contradicts the doctrine of the Church, and disregards canon law.

      Do you think bishops should be free to do this, in contradiction of their ordination vows? What do you then think those vows mean?

    • I’ve been a practising Anglican for over 60 years.

      Incumbents of every hue have sometimes played fast’n loose with services. To. equate that to the concen over this issue is a misfit and grasping at straws.

      “to protect those clergy…. from the demonic and unchristian views of those who believe God has called them to judge others.”

      So, God has called you to judge these demonic people instead or as well as?

  6. It would seem there are now prayers commended,
    With the standard process to be blended,
    Is it B2 or B5?
    Can our patience survive?
    Oh how I wish this were ended!

  7. So who (on earth) can hold the (arch)bishops accountable? There is somebody, and I suggest that they would not have dared try this while Queen Elizabeth II lived.

    • Anton, the lay members on General Synod would have enough clout to hold the archbishops to account if they chose to organise themselves and suspend all cooperation with the synod’s processes until the archbishops respond satisfactorily to their concerns. Of course I don’t claim expertise on the legal processes of the synod, but when the moral pressure is overwhelming even heads of state can be held to account and forced to leave.

      Alternatively a group of senior bishops could quietly head over to Lambeth Palace and inform the ABoC that his time is up.

      Such things can happen when the will is there to make them happen. However, I doubt we’re anywhere near either of those things happening, although the latest news from 12 dissenting bishops could be enough to get some serious momentum going to bring to an end to the dishonourable shambles discussed here by Andrew Goddard. That could certainly clip a few wings!

      • If Welby goes be sure a more liberal Catholic would follow, not an even more conservative evangelical. Either the Bishop of London or Archbishop of York his likely successor. The rotation in the C of E amongst Archbishops of Canterbury is always a liberal Catholic follows an evangelical and vice versa now

        • Do tell me in what category Runcie, Carey, Williams and Welby fall. You are trying to impose your arbitrary views on a pattern that simply does not conform. I also don’t care who replaces Welby; if he or she does not prove faithful to the Bible and a thousand years of interpretive tradition, genuine evangelicals will fight them. One should do good in the face of evil regardless.

          • Runcie liberal Catholic, Carey evangelical, Williams liberal Catholic, Welby evangelical. The C of E always rotates between the 2 as the only way to keep the 2 wings which dominate the Church of England, liberal Catholics and evangelicals happy. So the next Archbishop of Canterbury will again almost certainly be a liberal Catholic. The minority of conservative Anglo Catholics that used to be C of E largely went to Rome and became Roman Catholics after the ordination of women as priests and bishops and only a handful with their own special oversight Bishops remain

          • Not so fast. Just like a lot of presidential candidates try their hardest to cover all bases by being catholic evangelical (previously a small minority category), likewise many archbishop candidates are in possession of catholic and evangelical credentials simultaneously. Or indeed they may be able to think for themselves outside such labels. In that connection, the next Archbishop of Canterbury could well be John Perumbalath. You read it here first.

          • Very few. You don’t have liberal Catholic evangelicals nor do you have evangelical Catholics. For starters because the liturgy is different, many liberal Catholic churches have not only BCP services as well as Common Worship but also some even still have incense in their Communion services. Evangelical churches however are much more low church.

            Not only do most liberal Catholics disagree with most evangelicals on issues like homosexual marriage and blessing homosexual couples, they also disagree on the way they want to worship too. Perumbalath may be the closest to a union of the 2, although his statement that he was”praying that we would be able to at least bless the same sex civil marriages” would make him still unacceptable to hardline evangelicals

          • Not right. I never mentioned liberals. My categories, as you will see, were Catholics and Evangelicals. And you have not responded to the point that the more intelligent a person is the less likely they are to follow a party line mindlessly. And it is from the intelligent that Archbishops are selected.

          • It is liberal Catholics and Evangelicals who dominate Synod now (the conservative Anglo Catholics are just a tiny remnant, most of them having defected to Rome after ordination of women).

            You can be as intelligent as you want but each block will want their own candidate. Liberal Catholics will want an Archbishop who is pro traditional Parish and pro blessing homosexual couples at least, even ultimately pro homosexual marriage and also pro women priests and bishops.

            Evangelicals will largely want an Archbishop who is pro church planting and less committed to traditional Parish structures, who is opposed to homosexual marriage and from the conservative evangelical end will at least ensure they have an opt out from blessings of homosexual couples and women priests where that is their view.

            It is not possible to find one candidate who can appease both sides therefore given some of those aims are incompatible, no matter how intelligent they are. Therefore only alternating Archbishops between liberal Catholics and Evangelicals can maintain some unity as each side gets a turn with one of their own at the top

          • You are forgetting some key points. First, the two sides of which you speak are so far apart now that there is no longer any way that one’s leader would be acceptable to the ther lot. Second, Justin Welby’s more Catholic credentials in personal daily discipline were mentioned as part of his profile from the start. Third, of course, given taht 75% of the Anglican Communion has forsaken JW it is imporbable perhaps that the next Anglican overall leader will be from the UK. This would help resolve the point 1 conundrum. It is possible that J Perumbalath is being desperately promoted, not without merit, as a last chance of reconciling leader.

          • Well if some evangelical hardliners refuse to accept the likely next liberal Catholic Archbishop on the usual rotation they can leave the C of E and start their own independent churches. Welby is an evangelical in theology and belief and liturgy overall.

            The Archbishop of Canterbury is a symbolic leader of the Anglican communion only, each province of the Anglican communion worldwide has their own lead Archbishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no power at all outside England beyond a symbolic first amongst equals role so who cares who the next head of the Anglican communion is, the position has no actual power unlike say the Pope, who does actually have power over Roman Catholicism worldwide, it is merely symbolic. Indeed the Anglican communion wasn’t created until the late 19th century whereas the C of E was created as early the 16th century.

            When some Anglican provinces like Scotland and the US now perform full homosexual marriage in church, others like Wales and now England, Canada and New Zealand offering blessings of homosexual couples, while others in Uganda back homosexuality being illegal in their nation then any idea of the head of the Anglican communion having any real power beyond symbolism is of course absurd.

          • But I have already made several points to call this into question.
            First, the so called usual rotation cannot any more stand once the two poles are so poles apart as they now are.
            Second, liberal is not a position but an anti position formed on denying things but not affirming them. This can bin theory e done with zero intelligence (not that it often is), since denying things, which is parasitic on affirming them, just means saying no to things.
            Third, liberalism is in practice aligned to secularism, as Regnerus and others demonstrate.
            Fourth, if your model cannot accommodate William Temple, who is only the greatest figure to hold the office in the 20th century it just goes to show that my model that the more intelligent defy labels is a more accurate model.
            Fifth, it cannot accommodate Geoffrey Fisher either.
            Sixth, it pays no attention to the obvious ways in which Welby among others draws on multiple wells. His stance on LGBT and abortion show he is clearly more liberal than evangelical so far as that goes. He has charismatic and catholic/monastic aspects.

          • First, yes it can, the liberal Catholic and evangelical wings both make up about half the C of E and both wings need to be respected.

            Liberal is a position of course, a position that supports women priests and bishops within the C of E, blessings for homosexual couples within the C of E and remarriage of divorcees within the C of E. As Synod has voted by majority for all of that liberal is therefore the position for over half the C of E.

            Who cares if liberalism is somewhat aligned to secularism? The C of E is the established church, headed by the King, accountable to Parliament and representing all its Parishioners, not just those who go every Sunday. It is not a cult.

            Temple was essentially a liberal Catholic, Fisher an evangelical, so the model accomodates both. If Welby was genuinely liberal Catholic rather than the evangelical he actually is he would be considering even allowing homosexual marriage ultimately in the C of E, not just dragging his feet on homosexual couples blessings Synod voted for. He would also be supporting more funds for Parishes instead of for more church plants.

          • Anything can be a position. You just state the position. That is perfectly useless unless the position can be defended in argument or debate.

            Re Fisher and Temple, it’s a case of a procrustean bed. You force others into the mould you made earlier, and then proceed to exclaim with amazement that they fit it perfectly.

            In truth, both came from days when neither evangelical nor liberal was a significant presence.

          • They certainly came from days when Anglo Catholic or evangelical were both a significant presence in the C of E. Just now most of the conservative Anglo Catholics have gone to Rome after ordination of women so most Anglo Catholics left in the C of E are liberal Catholics while most evangelicals have taken on a more conservative stance on social issues etc in response.

          • I don’t remember evangelicals being strong in the C of E in Temple’s time. They were something of a despised minority, in fact. Through Stott and Iwerne etc, they began to become strong during Fisher’s time, and have been strong since; but Fisher himself was not much involved in that.

          • Your model leaves no space for the reality that it is precisely the non party figures (and indeed the most intelligent and least ideological) that are (as is logical) respected across the board and also more broadly transdenominationally – e.g., Temple, Lewis, Wright.
            It actually sounds more like party politics, which is a bit carnal and we should be oriented in precisely the opposite direction from such a model.
            The Anglicans are sui generis in this respect, not least because of their origins. There is an inbuilt party system.
            It gives them something to chatter about, which is unfortunately a high priority for many in this non-trivial world.
            The only PhD I have been a character in (Damian Thompson’s Waiting for Antichrist) concluded that people prioritise the more entertaining option. Clearly, gossip is the main entertainment to judge by the numbers and popularity of magazines dealing with different subjects. So we have an example of that here. Internal disputes are the spice of life for a certain constituency of Anglicans, and if one says they are gossiping it is as though a raw nerve has been struck. The carnal love internal disputes. The tabloids love them. And so does his infernal majesty, one imagines.

        • if some evangelical hardliners refuse to accept the likely next liberal Catholic Archbishop on the usual rotation they can leave the C of E and start their own independent churches. Welby is an evangelical in theology and belief…

          What nonsense, T1. If Welby were an evangelical then he would not be allowing prayers of blessing for gay couples.

          If persons who hold to the Bible and 3000 years of interpretive tradition of the relevant scriptures, whom you mischaracterise as ‘evangelical hardliners’, lose this battle, then they will indeed regroup in congregations which God recognises as His people. The remainder He will prune, for they are up against Him, not human opponents.

          • Of course he would, not all evangelicals are conservative eg Jayne Ozanne is a liberal evangelical who backs gay blessings. It was Synod itself which voted by 250 votes to 181 to bless homosexual couples in church and approve the Bishops’ proposals and there were some evangelicals in that 250.

            If evangelical hardliners refuse to even accept blessings for homosexual couples, a compromise short of marriage despite the fact homosexual marriage is lawful in English law and the C of E is the established church and despite the fact they have an opt out then they are most welcome to regroup outside the established church. The established church will move on without them and start blessing homosexual couples in its Parishes married in English civil law

          • What it means is (politically) one who is at the liberal end of the evangelical spectrum. JO like many others is one who gravitates to the Bible rather than bypassing it or being ignorant of it.
            HOWEVER –
            (1) The supposed spectrum is imposed; it presupposes a left-right model just like the communists did, even though that is a procrustean bed.
            (2) Today’s ‘liberal evangelicals’ are the same as yesterday’s ‘radical liberals’. So the classification is relative and therefore meaningless.
            (3) To classify in terms of ideology is ridiculous. It is precisely the ideologues that one does not listen to at all. Only the thinking and nuanced people can have a place in the discussion, simply because there is not even enough time to listen to all of THEM, let alone to the people who are not.
            (4) JO in practice has not been strong on biblical exegesis in the public space. It is no good continually quoting a single short part-verse ‘God is love’ without acknowledging that there are four Greek/biblical loves, NOR that the one in question, agape, cannot be used in the way she wants it to be, NOR that there are plenty of people who have synthesised biblical thought on a much wider scale, so we should always listen to them more than to someone who, at times, quotes just the one verse.
            (5) When on TV speaking of statistics on the harvest of homosexual behaviour, JO said she knew the statistics before and had forgotten them. But no-one knows them all. If she now knew none, then commenters should be those who are much more familiar with them.
            (6) Liberal evangelical was a recognised term and constituency – e.g. those who affirmed the aims of both SCM and IVF. No overlap here with the modern sort.

          • Of course not, AJ. It is obvious and unavoidable that discussion at any one time will concentrate on the areas of largest deviation rather than necessarily on the most important topics. This one happens to fall in both categories, but there are plenty of topics that fall in only one or the other category.
            Secondly, the said largest deviation was produced by secular obsession, to which Christians are merely, and inevitably, responding.

      • The world is one thing, the church another. The crown has in practice accepted the supremacy of parliament since it put Charles I on trial and had him beheaded in 1649. But crown vs Church of England is another matter.

        • If Parliament decided to legislate on the C of E again, then the Crown would sign that legislation.

          As the Coronation showed the King is no evangelical, if anything he is closest to Eastern Orthodox in his worship preferences but he is also a social liberal, with homosexuals such as Stephen Fry amongst his closest friends. As Supreme Governor of the C of E he would have no problem even with homosexual marriages being performed in the C of E, certainly not gay blessings. After all he himself is a divorced man who had a blessing in a C of E chapel with Camilla after not himself following all the Bible’s teaching

    • In the absence of a legal process that would compel them to disclose their reasoning to the world, I am holding them accountable — to me. As with all charitable organisations, my donations are in effect employing people to do things for worthy causes which I cannot do myself, through lack of time/ energy/ skills. At this point, I am waiting for the bishops to “show their workings” (as a wise man has phrased it) about the claim that doctrine has not changed, and once I have marked them, I shall consider whether to restart my Direct debit.

    • Anton

      The Queen didn’t intervene when the Church of Scotland, of which she was a member, allowed full SSM (not just blessings of gay people), nor did she intervene when Boris Johnson proroged parliament.

      I’m sure she had many times in her life where she felt strongly at odds with her government or her church. The only time she got even close to letting her political or social views be known was when the Thatcher government was not strongly condemning apartheid

  8. Thank you Andrew for another detailed and erudite analysis. The press release mentions: ‘There is also further work under way to explore further forms of pastoral reassurance and formal structural pastoral provision to ensure the conscience of everyone is respected.’ Should this not come first, before commending anything? My plea (too late it seems) would be to commend nothing, and to go the B2 route for the whole of PLF. Otherwise, what is the point of synodical governance if one House can effectively bypass it?

  9. Following a couple of links, I think that a dissenting group of Ordinands, reported in the Church Times, is of signal significance.

  10. A decade ago things came to a head on sexuality in the CofE. Various events showed that church leaders were not living up to either their own standards or the lowest bar of secular standards and at the same time as this the de facto acceptance of gay people into British society via legal recognition of same sex marriage exacerbated the rift between those in the church who see homophobia as sin and those who see homosexuality as sin.

    Leaders promised repentance and change and begged gay people to come and bare their souls. Every step they were promised “in a few years…”.

    If the eventual outcome of this is to once again do nothing to improve treatment of LGBT people or abuse victims the CofE will suffer further reputational damage.

    Why on earth would anyone turn for mora guidance to an institution whose leaders revel in dishonesty and cruelty?

    • The leaders who ‘revel in dishonesty and cruelty’ are liberals who thought they could deliver change, and are now engaging in bullying and deception to try and deliver this. I certainly wouldn’t trust them; why do you?

      • It depends how you define “liberal”. I’d argue that it’s actually people like Justin Welby and the archbishops council who make grand promises of reform, but then obstruct.

        It should not matter if one is conservative or liberal. There should be no excuse for abuse. Why is the establishment still refusing to deal with it?

        • Justin is a liberal, at least on this issue. The bishops alongside who have made the promises you refer to are Paul Bayes, John Inge, Steven Croft, Martin Seeley—all liberals on this.

          AC has nothing to do with this at all, and I have no idea why you mention it.

          • Ian

            But that’s according to you!

            From my perspective Steven Croft is one of the worst and he has certainly come in for a lit of criticism from LGBT people and abuse survivors.

            Can you explain what you think the entire sequence of shared conversations to offers of “new” blessings has been? From my perspective lots of LGBT people have devoted time, money and effort and yet we are still hearing the same bad faith arguments and cover ups from the establishment. Nothing has changed at all! But maybe you think there was no need to change?

          • Ian

            Thinking about it, actually the worst people in this are the likes of Jonathan Fletcher, Mike Pilavachi and Mark Bailey – the leaders who teach that the almighty requires gay people to be single their whole lives, but who are abusing young men or cheating on their wives behind closed doors.

            It should not get this far, but there should be a simple test for behavior- if a punter behaved like that would they be welcome or “welcome to attend”

            A close next run for bad actors are those who knew what these people were/are doing and yet publicly praised them as solid moral leaders.

          • The behaviour of Jonathan Fletcher, Mike Pilavachi and Mark Bailey is most certainly unacceptable before God. Is there other sexual behaviour which falls in that category? You may cite the Bible in your reply.

          • Peter J

            After his fall from grace Jonathan Fletcher began attending our church. We informed the bishop, diocesan safe-guarding, and PCC. It was apparent to our incumbent that he was not repent and so was excluded from participating in any public form of service and communion (which I think was right given the seriousness of the allegations and his unrepentant attitude). We also let vulnerable people in the congregation know in order to let them make a decision about his presence. None left. Eventually he could take communion as he showed some level of repentance for his actions (although who knows his heart but God). I was never entirely convinced as some of his victims are friends and acquaintances of mine.

            We felt it was a test of our Christian charity and ability to love the unloved. So he was both welcomed and ‘welcomed to attend’. His participation in the community was contingent upon his acknowledgment of his extensive abusive and sin. No LGB congregant member has ever been treated like this.

          • Anton

            You say this and yet the CofE continues to cover up this kind of behavior, obstruct investigations and get outright angry if anyone tries to expose their hypocrisy. Is the result of more than a decade of conversations about sexuality going to be throwing LGBT people and abuse victims under the bus?

          • Peter,

            Their behaviour is disgraceful. Complain to the CoE and I would support you.

            Now would you please answer my question: Is there other sexual behaviour which is unacceptable before God, according to the Bible?

          • Tom

            In Jonathan Fletchers case as I understand it it took years for anyone to do anything about it and then after the diocese finally removed his PTO his own church just ignored it for some time after

            I appreciate your local church has tried to safeguard victims. The CofE more generally has done nothing.

            There’s a chance LGB people have been treated similarly or worse because usually this is done in secret. And if it does come out, it’s often denied by the leadership- just like these other cases were

          • Anton

            Having seen how victims are treated by the CofE I’d recommend they go straight to the police instead.

          • Anton

            From my own reading of scripture sexual abuse and rape are sins. But people, especially people claiming to be moral leaders, should not need to read scripture to recognize these behaviors as wrong.

          • Anton

            I’m not going to agree with you that my marriage is sinful, if that’s what you ate fishing for. I don’t agree that the Bible condemns homosexuality or that it condemns same sex marriage.

            It does indeed condemn the sort of behavior that is tolerated by the CofE – assault, cheating and abuse. There are a string of cases where senior leaders knew male leaders were abusing other men and allowed them to remain in leadership. If these leaders had married someone of the same sex they would have been condemned by those same leaders. This is the hypocrisy that needs to change

          • It seems to me that secular gays who read the Bible in order to deplore it understand it better than you, Peter.

          • Anton

            It’s pretty rare for non Christians to read the Bible.

            Gay atheists may think they know some of it by being screamed at by protesters who carefully cherry pick verses to justify their homophobia

          • Anton

            They appear at most pride events. Lots of shouting and nasty signs – usually calling us pedophiles or calling for our execution. No attempt to convert anyone. One of them once yelled at my husband that he was a terrible father and was going to hell.

    • How can you promise a step will happen in a few years, when whether that step takes place at all depends entirely on what is decided and voted for?

      • Christopher

        Nothing specific was promised, but i think offering nothing at all (priests could bless gay people prior to the 2010s) and continuing to tolerate abuse, while claiming zero tolerance is pathetic. It’s not leadership to demonstrate how to fail to repent

        • But ‘abuse’ is a vague word and a red flag to those who know that honest people are always precise;
          ‘Offering’ – but this is a political view of the world where different parties have different wants which must be satisfied. Whereas in the Christian way, only healthy wants are satisfied.
          The whole thing is seen as a market with bargaining chips.
          ‘Repent’ – it is not agreed by different parties what things are good and what things are bad in the first place. This is partly because they disagree about classifications and definitions.
          Again, you require that everyone begins with your worldview. One which shows neither longevity nor independence. Why on earth should they?

          • Christopher

            Forcing male interns to wrestle with you
            Using the pulpit to spread lies and gossip about people
            Seducing women in your flock, who you have power over, into sleeping with you
            Requiring that gay people undergo “exorcism” to be allowed to continue as members of the congregation
            Forcing young men in your care to undergo naked beatings

            This is the kind of abuse that the CofE has covered up, is obstructing investigations into and refuses to truly repent from.

          • Any of these things are examples of abuse, if they are correctly characterised by you.
            ‘Abuse’ remains just as vague and unspecific a word as it ever was.
            As for using a pulpit to spread gossip and lies, it is hard to imagine how anything ad hominem in that line could be other than bad and counterproductive and fleshly. However, it is unlikely in the extreme that someone like you or me would know which things were in fact lies. And sometimes people do indeed have more accurate versions of the truth and are deprived of anywhere to voice it and give it a public airing. The version circulating may sometimes be so inaccurate (massaged for sensation, third hand, vindictive, scapegoating) that it is very right and just to put the record straight. The pulpit will rarely be the right context for doing that.

          • The CofE has acknowledged that these things have happened. They have taken zero steps to prevent them happening in the future. Instead of actually repenting from this abuse they are offering that priests may bless gay people, which is something priests have never not been allowed to do.

            Even this is too much for some people

          • Why on earth would there be special or specific blessings for people in that category in particular?

          • Christopher

            It’s not special treatment to tell priests you can bless LGBT people. It’s special treatment to tell priests you *cant* bless LGBT people.

            This is kind of my point – the compromise that is offered is nothing at all

          • But anyone can be and always will be blessed if they offer themselves for blessing. Where do you get this idea that some people will not be blessed?

          • Christopher

            The current argument is over whether to allow CofE priests to bless LGB people or not. You claimed that allowing these blessings would be special treatment. I’m saying withholding blessings from LGB people is speaker treatment

          • That is exactly the point I just refuted. Please read what I say. There is no individual that cannot be blessed. There is no friendship that cannot be blessed. You say that these things can be vetoed from receiving blessing. Not so. I do not know why you are saying these untrue things.
            You are confusing individuals with what they do. (Just like: we adore our children and detest the bad things we do in precise proportion to how much we adore them.) All individuals and friendships can be blessed. As for their actions, only the good ones can be blessed (obviously).
            These things are pretty basic.
            It reminds me of the brainwashed trans club I met in Oxford. They kept on saying people were trying to deny their existence. I asked them to name a single person who either denied it or resented it. None could. But they were denying their self description. Because, after all, that self description is a very minority and very new one, and not unnaturally is also very contentious.

          • Christopher

            These blessings are not anything new.

            Obstruction of them creates a new de facto rule that priests now cannot bless LGB people, even though you agree they could do so a year or decade ago.

          • I am just repeating myself now. You know that they can bless anyone. As opposed to any behaviour.
            It is obvious that some behaviours will be blessed and others not. What on earth is the alternative?
            Your outlook reminds me of the ‘trans’ group at Oxford whom I met. They were trying to convince people that there were those who denied their existence. (Absurd, when they were clearly there talking to me.) I therefore asked them to name even one person who either denied or resented their existence. They could not, thereby proving themselves to be knowing liars. What people were, of course, not surprisingly, denying was their self description.

          • Christopher

            I agree priests can bless gay people currently

            I’m saying that if evangelicals succeed in blocking these “new” blessings it will be an explicit ban on blessings of gay people

          • It has been repeated and repeated again. There has not been and will not be any ban on blessing any people. There will always be a ban on blessing certain behaviours and certain relationships. Can you explain why you
            will not distinguish between people and behaviours/relationships?

          • So you don’t understand the difference between people on the one hand, and activities and relationships on the other.

            Having been a teacher and parent, I do not recall any children who did not understand such a difference.

  11. Turning aside from this thread for a moment, it’s interesting to note that a parallel discussion/argument exists in the Roman Catholic Church with the same presenting issues around gender and sexuality, but the same underlying dynamic of how we respond to ever-changing modernity. The current synod in Rome and the Pope’s comments have aroused very similar fault lines (see e.g. ) and the same ‘slippery slope’ fears that teaching is being altered. And the same confusing terminology of ‘orthodox’ vs ‘liberals’ is being used. There was a fascinating interview with Mary McAleese, former President of the Irish Republic, who was speaking at an event in Rome last week prior to the synod. She raised points about inclusion, male and female equality, women’s ordination, LGBT issues – but from a RC perspective. Well worth listening to; it’s at: at 40 min 30 sec
    Finally, there’s a useful reflection by Christopher Landau in The Tablet on why disagreement and division is often easier than loving and kindly acceptance of the other at:

      • Yes. I’m not suggesting he was changing official teaching since he can’t do that in their system, only that the change of tone, language and the refusal to condemn others makes a massive difference. And the ultras in the RC Church know that and are right from their point of view to react, because changing the tone of the discussion matters. Their shrill ultramontanist approach can’t really live with the Pope’s central emphasis on mercy, generosity and non-judgmentalism. He may be taking an Overton Window approach for the long term.

  12. Conservatives: what we need is for the Bishops to take a theological and ecclesial lead on this. They are our teachers and shepherds.


    Conservatives: no, not like that!

    • Exactly right.

      Conservatives still do want a “…theological and ecclesial lead..”, because that’s not what they have: what they get is an attempt to circumvent proper synodal process, pressure to capitulate to the modern zeitgeist, and unedifying factionalism and disunity. Your irony would be amusing if it weren’t also explicitly the truth. 😉

    • @ PCD

      >>Conservatives: what we need is for the Bishops to take a reasoned, orthodox theological and ecclesial lead on this, consistent with doctrine and scripture.<<

      There; fixed it for you.

    • We’re back to this canard again? That actually, after a decade of discussion, we’ve only just realised the entire debate is actually illegal and this is in fact a matter for Parliament?

      • If the secular authorities have a greater grasp on reality than the Christians, then yes. After all, they are known for their infallibility and freedom from change. But if they do, why would you want to be a Christian?

  13. I have noted which Bishops are resisting this onslaught. I live on the border of Leicestershire Diocese and am wondering whether to jump ship into Southwell Diocese as the Bishop of Southwell is standing firm. Leicester on the other hand is changing the parish system to a Minster model system of joining parishes together – that means you will get a group of clergy in the Minster and it will be any one of these who turns up to take a service and you will have one idea of their stance on anything.

  14. I agree with all of it bar the Brexit dig.. but we can’t have everything 😉

    Thanks Andrew and Ian for all you do. My fear is the Bishops, or a certain section, simply don’t really care about the rules and procedures and precedents. This is a Godzilla issue, that is, whatever must be torn down to get to where they want to go, will be torn down. And that’s that.

    But that way lies schism, anarchy and much damage to all concerned. It would be very sad if they continue down this apparent route, I pray they will rethink, repent, and return to faithful teaching.


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