Resetting LLF: Whose unity? Which doctrine?

Andrew Goddard writes: A new article by the Lead Bishop for LLF, Martyn Snow, offers some promising signals as to how the LLF “reset” is progressing, particularly in relation to the importance of doctrine and its relationship to the form of our unity, but it also leaves major questions unanswered.

The following article explores six issues raised by this development, in particular:

  1. The rejection of a simple “binary” choice and the need to consider distinct spaces within the one church which opens up conversations with Communion and ecumenical theology.
  2. A three-fold categorisation of our differences which merits further exploration particularly in relation to (i) the change in approach this represents, (ii) how proposed practical changes relate to doctrine and (iii) may therefore require a case for development of doctrine, (iv) the widespread indecision and confusion about developments telling against further rapid implementation, and (v) the surprising location of bishops within this categorisation.
  3. The need to establish three boundaried but related spaces within one church and the challenge of combining clear and firm definition of these with flexibility and ongoing relationships.
  4. The aim of protecting conscience being necessary but not sufficient in relation to these spaces and needing to set conscience in the wider context of consensus in the church concerning its confession.
  5. A suggestion that when it comes to filling out the three spaces they might take form by maintaining current diocesan structures working with where we have reached in the LLF/PLF process and establishing two “opt in” mission orders or societies for the other two spaces identified: those clearly committed to current doctrine and those clearly committed to changes. These would relate to the default structures and in certain situations episcopal oversight would be transferred to them.
  6. The need to progress standalone PLF services by means of B2 if there is a genuine concern for unity and respect for “the processes of the Church for collective discernment” and to work on different pastoral guidance for each of the three areas.

It concludes by stressing the need to develop this “reset” and its concerns about doctrine and unity carefully, drawing attention to the importance of ecclesiological reflection (quoting Hooker), and highlighting some of the practical dangers and risks.

The College and the House of Bishops meet this coming Wednesday (12th June) with Living in Love and Faith (LLF) and Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF) once more a central concern. The hope is that some agreement can be reached about what to bring to the July General Synod (5th to 9th July). Before the February General Synod, the then two co-lead bishops wrote a piece in the Church Times signalling their new “reset” based around commitments. These were then presented to General Synod (GS 2346) but without the support of the House of Bishops and were not voted on by the Synod. They included commitments such as  “Prayers—we are committed to the experimental use of standalone services of PLF, with legal protection and support for those who opt-in to using them as well as those who don’t. This includes completing the Pastoral Guidance and Pastoral Reassurance work before enabling the use of the standalone PLF”.

The remaining co-lead, Martyn Snow, has now similarly written for the Church of England Newspaper. His argument shows significant developments in the promised “reset” although how these relate to the specific proposals leaked to the Church Times about the “emerging proposal” presented to the last House of Bishops meeting or the (still unpublished) Terms of Reference of the three LLF Working Groups remains unclear.

According to Martyn – although alternative accounts of the meeting are available – the residential that brought together members of the three groups (10th to 12th May) produced a significant breakthrough. This resulted in “a new spirit of generosity and pragmatism – how are we going to remain united while also being honest about our differences?”. The reported willingness to go “deeper into our differences about doctrine and ethics” marks a significant shift from the previous approach to PLF and a welcome return to the honesty of the LLF resources. Until now the discernment process has tended to acknowledge there are differences but not face their seriousness or that they are ultimately doctrinal or that they have implications for the nature of our unity.  The bishops have instead simply insisted on “walking together” and claiming that proposed changes in liturgy and discipline are compatible with unchanged doctrine.

In Martyn’s article there are still some signs that the problems with this former approach have not been fully recognised. It is claimed, for example, that “being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil 2:2) does not imply we should be in agreement. No explanation is offered as to how that apparent acceptance of fundamental disagreement or the use of Paul’s exhortation to “do all things without murmuring and arguing” (Phil 2:14) relates to the apostle’s own approach to error in the following chapter (Phil 3:2, 15, 18-19) or elsewhere in his letters.

However, the insistence that “This is not about ‘unity at any price’ – Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria show how important it is to contend for right doctrine” is an important and welcome new element. Also important and welcome is the statement that “all parts of the Church rightly take unity seriously”. This hopefully means that those, such as CEEC and the Alliance, who have been most critical of the bishops’ proposals and processes will no longer be accused of not taking unity seriously. It does though raise the issue of different understandings of unity and therefore the question “whose unity?” 

Perhaps the most welcome and significant development is the apparently dawning recognition and acknowledgment that our differences are ultimately doctrinal which means we cannot escape the question “which doctrine?” Martyn recognises that this means we will need distinct, boundaried spaces to be created if we are to achieve “the creation of space within the church where we might hold our differences yet maintain our unity”. These statements hold out the hope that grappling with doctrinal difference (“which doctrine?”) and structural provision (“whose unity?”) will now move to the centre of the process rather than these crucial matters continuing to be ignored or marginalised.

Five crucial questions are then implicitly identified and, in varied levels of details, answered in the article but with one left hanging, perhaps awaiting discussion at the College and House.

1. How many distinct, boundaried spaces are needed? 

Martyn writes explicitly of “Three spaces in one Church”. This answer is welcome, not least in avoiding a crude binary and recognising that this is not simply a duel between two opposing camps. It does, however, have dangers. It might claim to be some sort of ecclesial representation of the Trinity. Its wording (and that of talk of “moving forward as One Church”) worryingly suggests that “one Church” can simply refer to the Church of England rather than the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” of which we are part. However, recognition of the “one Church” in our discussion may help bring in an ecumenical perspective that has been disconcertingly insignificant thus far. It may help us consider how our situation within the CofE relates to the sad reality of there already being many more than “three spaces” in the “broken church” of Christ and reflect on what “a brutal unity” (to use terms from Ephraim Radner) might look like.  Here the recent work of IASCUFO for the Primates’ Meeting, building on the “Good Differentiation” paper to the last ACC, may also be helpful when it is published.

2. How are these spaces defined?

The article refers to:

  • “a space for those who are absolutely committed to the present doctrine of marriage”;
  • “a space for those who want to see some development of current arrangements”; and
  • “a large space for those who are undecided, or confused by the whole debate, and see no need to make such a choice at this time”.

In broad outline this appears a reasonable brief analysis but a number of important elements need highlighting and exploring.

First, there is a contrast between “the present doctrine of marriage” and “some development of current arrangements”. This appears implicitly to recognise what was becoming increasingly obvious despite repeated episcopal denials: that what is now being sought in terms of “development of current arrangements” is not compatible with being “absolutely committed to the present doctrine of the Church of England”. It was, for example, finally accepted in November that simply using PLF in regular services is “indicative of a departure from doctrine” (something the bishops and Synod rejected in February 2023) although it was claimed that this was “not in any essential matter”. 

Secondly, it would be better if this was made explicit in the descriptions: in as much as “development of current arrangements” relates to developments in liturgy and discipline these cannot be considered without considering how they relate to doctrine. 

Thirdly, the language of “development of doctrine” which though not used here is effectively what the second space is likely to advance as a rationale in contrast to the first space needs to be carefully examined. There is a rich history of discussion here and this description it cannot simply be asserted that this is what is happening now. This descriptor needs to be justified by reasonable theological argument, especially as many fellow Anglicans see the proposals rather as a denial of, and departure from, received doctrine.  

Fourthly, reference to “a large space” for the third group suggests that Martyn believes this position is where most of the Church of England is to be found. This raises the question as to what the official stance of the CofE should be given it has a received, ecumenical doctrine of marriage which has been applied consistently, including to same-sex relationships, for many decades. Although many may now be “undecided or confused” about this doctrine and its implications they have not rejected it. Surely it therefore needs to be upheld especially as this large group are also “undecided or confused” about “some development of current arrangements”. 

Fifthly, major questions arise as to why, if this is the largest grouping, the archbishops and a majority of the bishops have been advocates for the second space that wants “to see some development of current arrangements”. As those who have committed themselves to defend the church’s doctrine and talk of being “a focus of unity” they might reasonably be expected to be found in the first space.

3. How are these spaces to be boundaried and related?

Martyn is clear that there will have to be boundaries. Some, he writes, “want the boundaries between these spaces to be firm and well defined – to speak of clarity of doctrine” while others “want porous boundaries and flexibility – to speak of discernment and how God is leading”. His hope is “that both approaches can be combined with humility and with depth of communion – with relationships which witness to the presence and work of God in all parts of the Church”. This “both/and” approach is another welcome development in relation to whose understanding of unity is being taken seriously.  The bishops (and many in Synod) have seemed to reject any desire for boundaries that are “firm and well defined”, in part because of the claim that doctrine is not changing. It is also important that even proposals for the boundaries of a provincial solution (such as in Visibly Different) have recognised the need for “porous boundaries” and ongoing relationships between the doctrinally distinct provinces within the Church of England.

4. What needs to be protected in each space? 

Martyn here talks of allowing “freedom for each group to feel that they are not being coerced into believing or doing something against their conscience” alongside allowing “for genuine expressions of our unity in the Body of Christ, and in our shared Anglican heritage”. His hope, claiming historical support, is that “consensus usually emerges, even though it may take time”.

One challenge here is that freedom of conscience risks being abstracted from three other crucial categories: confession; church; and consensus. There is a widespread individualistic (and at times quite subjective) understanding of conscience that does not recognise the need to locate it in the wider community of the church, and its received consensus concerning what it is has received and is called to confess before the world. A conscience which ignores or sets itself against this and works for “some development of current arrangements” in the conviction that that the current arrangements, and the church’s confessional consensus on which they are based, are in error cannot be ignored. But nor can it be treated in the same way as a conscience which is “absolutely committed” to that confessional church consensus and the current arrangements consistent with them. The deeper problem is not that of freedom of conscience. It is that of “which doctrine?” and the limits of conscientious dissent against the church’s confessional consensus. The desire of many who celebrate that consensus is not only to be able to have freedom of conscience to so personally but to be part of an identifiable ecclesial community which celebrates that consensus and upholds it within its common life.

In relation to “our shared Anglican heritage”, if this new approach to LLF/PLF is to be explored then it could do worse than return to the wisdom of another, different account of three spaces within Anglicanism offered by Archbishop Rowan Williams 18 years ago this month towards the end of his “The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today: A Reflection for the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion” (audio version)

There is no way in which the Anglican Communion can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment. Neither the liberal nor the conservative can simply appeal to a historic identity that doesn’t correspond with where we now are. We do have a distinctive historic tradition – a reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine, a catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.

But for this to survive with all its aspects intact, we need closer and more visible formal commitments to each other. And it is not going to look exactly like anything we have known so far. Some may find this unfamiliar future conscientiously unacceptable, and that view deserves respect. But if we are to continue to be any sort of ‘Catholic’ church, if we believe that we are answerable to something more than our immediate environment and its priorities and are held in unity by something more than just the consensus of the moment, we have some very hard work to do to embody this more clearly…

The different components in our heritage can, up to a point, flourish in isolation from each other. But any one of them pursued on its own would lead in a direction ultimately outside historic Anglicanism The reformed concern may lead towards a looser form of ministerial order and a stronger emphasis on the sole, unmediated authority of the Bible. The catholic concern may lead to a high doctrine of visible and structural unification of the ordained ministry around a focal point. The cultural and intellectual concern may lead to a style of Christian life aimed at giving spiritual depth to the general shape of the culture around and de-emphasising revelation and history. Pursued far enough in isolation, each of these would lead to a different place – to strict evangelical Protestantism, to Roman Catholicism, to religious liberalism. To accept that each of these has a place in the church’s life and that they need each other means that the enthusiasts for each aspect have to be prepared to live with certain tensions or even sacrifices – with a tradition of being positive about a responsible critical approach to Scripture, with the anomalies of a historic ministry not universally recognised in the Catholic world, with limits on the degree of adjustment to the culture and its habits that is thought possible or acceptable…

The only reason for being an Anglican is that this balance seems to you to be healthy for the Church Catholic overall, and that it helps people grow in discernment and holiness. Being an Anglican in the way I have sketched involves certain concessions and unclarities but provides at least for ways of sharing responsibility and making decisions that will hold and that will be mutually intelligible. No-one can impose the canonical and structural changes that will be necessary.

5. What structural form should these distinct spaces take?

We can now say “There is no way in which the Church of England can remain unchanged by what is happening at the moment” and, as Martyn writes, here “there is still much to work through”. The danger is that – as happened in the Anglican Communion – our disagreements over sexuality open up disagreements over unity and doctrine which prevent agreement over the shape of the spaces and the nature of the boundaries we need to create. As I have sketched elsewhere, there are a number of options. 

Given the analysis of three spaces offered by Martyn and the current lack of consensus for further developments perhaps the most fruitful structure to explore further is one in which the third “large space” works with something much like the current geographical diocesan structures as the continued default. Here, given it is marked by people being “undecided or confused” who “see no need” to “make a choice at this time”, where we have now reached in the LLF/PLF process would determine how it is ordered. Alongside this there could be introduced two “firm and well-defined” episcopally-led Orders of Mission or Societies which would create the other two spaces within the Church of England. Individuals, parishes, BMOs and others could, if they wish, affiliate with one of these while remaining in the “large space”. Doing so could make “some development of current arrangements possible” but clearly distinct from “those who are absolutely committed to the present doctrine of marriage” and the “large space”. The existence of “porous boundaries and flexibility” would mean that, when needed in certain situations, episcopal oversight could be transferred between the bishop in the “large space” and a bishop in one of these two other spaces.

6. What does all this mean for PLF and Pastoral Guidance?

The development of these “three spaces in one church” is clearly going to take time and the question of what happens in the meantime is important. The leak of the “emerging proposal” suggested that as regards PLF, “restrictions on their use in stand-alone services should be removed for a “period of discernment of three years”. This would seem to be progressing with the aims of  “those who want to see some development of current arrangements” rather than considering the “large space” and those “absolutely committed to the present doctrine of marriage”. It also contradicts the proposed commitment in February of “completing the Pastoral Guidance and Pastoral Reassurance work before enabling the use of the standalone PLF”.  

It is also reported that “The document shown to bishops on Thursday, however, proposes a model that ‘allows for the option of a B2 vote at the end of the discernment process but does not require it’”. Martyn ends his article by describing its message and rationale in these terms:

a call to be careful and to respect and value the processes of the Church for collective discernment. Unity matters – it really matters – more so than we often acknowledge.

The House of Bishops has recognised that “the processes of the Church for collective discernment”, in relation to (particularly significant and contentious) liturgical developments are set out in Canon B2. This involves the careful scrutiny of General Synod and the need for a clear consensus. Although there has been a request for “the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made available for use, possibly on a trial basis” the Church of England has only one form of “trial liturgies”. That is authorisation under Canon B5A which is for short-term experiments revising existing liturgical provision not introducing new liturgies and is always a precursor to introducing proposals under Canon B2.

Because “unity matters – it really matters” what needs to be done now is to start the B2 process and use that to see whether what is proposed really is compatible with our doctrine and has sufficient support to maintain our unity. Those “who want to see some development of current arrangements” can thereby seek by due process to persuade the church that standalone services should be accepted. While that Synodical process takes place, work can continue on what sort of space may be needed for them should it fail or for those “absolutely committed to the present doctrine of marriage” should it succeed. Work can also continue during this process as to what different forms new Pastoral Guidance to replace Issues might take in each of the three spaces rather than trying to enforce the same guidance across all three spaces.

Conclusion: Whose unity? Which doctrine?

Martyn quotes Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue to remind us that Anglican tradition “embodies continuities of conflict”. MacIntyre’s sequel to this volume was entitled, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? The questions the Church of England now faces are similarly focussed on two key questions: “Whose unity? Which doctrine?” Here, too, we will not escape conflict as there are different understandings of unity, different incompatible doctrines being advocated, and different accounts of the relationship between unity and doctrine. 

At times, the bishops’ discernment process and actions in relation to LLF/PLF have seemed to insist on a particular understanding of unity and to portray those raising doctrinal objections as not being serious about unity. It has at times almost implied we can detach unity from doctrine and it has consistently sought to claim that the developments proposed are consistent with doctrine. However, the bishops have already had to admit that even use of PLF as part of intercessions in a regular service and with nuanced accounts of what is being done is indicative of a departure from the church’s doctrine (and so their legality only secured by asserting this is not in “an essential matter”). It is therefore simply not credible to say that proceeding to allow  standalone services with them other than by use of Canon B2 or allowing clergy to enter same-sex marriage does not raise doctrinal questions and thereby put further strain our unity. 

What is to be welcomed in this latest article is that it seems to acknowledge our problems are ultimately doctrinal and that our understanding of unity has to face that reality. This is because unity and doctrine belong together: different doctrines will, it acknowledges, require different spaces within one church. This represents a significant development that opens up conversations with ecumenical theology and practice but it is also one whose logic needs to be carried through carefully and consistently. There is the danger of rushing forward and falling into an unprincipled and incoherent pluralism which seeks to give equal standing to contradictory doctrines and practices. There is also the danger of failing to give the proper degree of space necessary to secure the highest degree of communion possible. 

If we are to proceed properly with this “reset” we need the bishops, members of General Synod, and the Church of England as whole (including various “stakeholders” already creating their own “space” in the new networks of the Alliance and Together) to:

  • find a way forward which will allow both “freedom for each group” and “genuine expression of our unity in the Body of Christ, and in our shared Anglican heritage”;
  • recognise that consensus “usually emerges, even though it may take time”;
  • take seriously the “call to be careful and to respect and value the processes of the Church for collective discernment”;
  • show that we believe both that “unity matters – it really matters” and that it is “important…to contend for right doctrine” and unity and doctrine cannot be separated.

There are still real risks. These include an over-emphasis on a supposed “new spirit of generosity and pragmatism”, the continuing influence among bishops of a flawed understanding of what it means for them to be “a focus of unity” detached from them upholding doctrine, and the desire on the part of many simply to “get PLF/LLF done” (in the way they want). 

As we wrestle with these questions “Whose unity? Which doctrine?” and the need for different spaces in the one church perhaps one fruitful place for the Church of England to start is found in considering the implications for what it might mean to be “moving forward as One Church” of these words (reflecting on the break with Rome) from the great 16th century Anglican divine Richard Hooker:

The Church of Christ remains as it was from the beginning and will continue to the end, though not all parts in it have been equally sincere and sound…[including quotation of 2 Chronicles 13:4, 9-11]…The Church of Rome’s unwillingness to reform herself and our desire for unity with them must not prevent us from doing our duty to God by reforming ourselves. Nevertheless, we have had and do have fellowship with them, as far as we lawfully can. For just as the apostle says of Israel that they are in one respect enemies, yet in another beloved of God (Rom. 11:28), in the same way we dare not participate in Rome’s many grievous abominations, yet to the extent that they continue upholding the main tenets of Christian truth, we gladly acknowledge that they are part of the family of Jesus Christ. Our heartfelt prayer to Almighty God is that since we are still thus far joined with them, they may in due time (if it be His will) repent and reform themselves, so that there may be no separation and we may “with one accord [and] with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6), whose Church we are. Just as there are those who judge the Church of Rome not to be a church at all, because of their many grievous doctrinal errors, so we have those who are just as harsh on the Church of England itself on account of the corruptions they imagine in our church government.

Regardless, we must acknowledge even heretics themselves to be a part of the visible Church, however maimed a part…If the church fathers ever define the true visible Church of Christ in opposition to heretics, as they sometimes do, we should understand them not as completely separating heretics from the company of believers, but from the fellowship of sound believers. For where there is professed unbelief, there can be no visible Church of Christ, but it may be present where sound belief is lacking. Infidels, being completely outside the Church, clearly deny and utterly reject the principles of Christianity, while heretics seek to embrace them but err only in misconstruing them. Though their opinions are indeed repugnant to the principles of the Christian faith, they do not see this contradiction and argue that their error is in keeping with such principles. For this reason, though they are Christians insofar as they openly profess the general truth of Christ, the church fathers still speak frequently of them as excluded from the Church as the fellowship of sound believers, as indeed all faithful believers must speak of them (The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in Modern English, III.1,10-11, Davenant Institute, 2019).

Martyn’s article potentially opens up in a fresh way the opportunity to do the necessary serious theological work relating to doctrine and unity guided by Hooker and others. We need to pray that sufficient time and space is now created to do that work and consider its implications. If, instead, the bishops decide to press on with further “development of current arrangements” that short-circuits or bypasses these important and complex questions and ignores the established “processes of the Church for collective discernment” then that will sadly only lead to yet another LLF/PLF car-crash in the House of Bishops this week and General Synod next month.

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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279 thoughts on “Resetting LLF: Whose unity? Which doctrine?”

  1. So the bishops in their deceitful twisting have at least reached the position that was continually obvious to any layperson of faith: that this is inextricably about doctrine, out of which practice flows.

    Point 1 of Andrew Goddard’s excellent summary suggests that Martyn Snow is seeking yet another round of ‘conversations’. We have had those for too long. Now is the time for action – action to condemn those who would have the church celebrate what scripture clearly calls wrong, action to demand that the biblical view be actively taught, action to cleanse the church of unrepentant sinners and their advocates.

    Let evangelicals not be frightened of another car crash synod. Tell the liberals that this will keep happening so long as they maintain their stance. They will eventually buckle, because they don’t really believe in anything. Moreover it is possible within the bounds of the law – ecclesiastical, civil, criminal – for believers to hit them financially and to embarrass them publicly with their hypocrisy. Do so!

    Jesus Christ has devolved to believers the awe-inspiring task of keeping His church clean. Let us prove ourselves worthy of it – because if we don’t do it then He will, and we shall be censured for our failure.

    • Of course the next step is more conversations. That is because things have not been resolved.
      Why have things not been resolved? Because incommensurables and incompatibles can never be resolved. 2 Cor 6.
      But, as ever, the main point is that (as generally happens) this was seen – not seen, but simply regarded as obvious – decades ago by normal Christians who were not listened to or not understood.

      • The problem was a failure, decades ago, to insist that the unrepentant make a choice between their lifestyle and Jesus Christ’s church. That was never going to be easy in a national church system that assumed you would simply not attned if you disagreed with doctrine.

        • Well, they’ve assumed that for long enough, so what was the problem? One problem was Tatchell and others, far separated from Christian doctrine and practice and with no intention of being otherwise, making out it was a human rights issue.
          It is not that they disagree with doctrine; it is that they don’t like it.
          Some of those who don’t like it may also, as a separate matter, disagree; but many have simply not examined it.

        • Anton

          Lifestyle isn’t the issue. The problem is that the cofe has very limited teaching on gay people and the vast majority of gay people who have tried to live according to what teaching there is have not been supported and/or have faced significant abuse and/or have had serious damage to their health as a result.

          • Did this damage occur in all the other ages put together, when people were not talking about homosexuality so much?

          • Christopher

            It’s difficult to know how the church treated everyday gay people prior to about 1940

          • But other ages did not think in terms of ‘gay people’ at all, which means that it will have been normal that individuals did not think that way of themselves either. That is a culture-specific way of seeing things, so why would you try to superimpose it on eras and countries (the majority) who look at things differently?

          • Christopher

            I’m not superimposing anything on anyone. I’m just existing! The entire point of the gay rights movement is to push our society into not having a difference in the way gay and straight people are treated

          • In order for that to be comprehensible, we would need to be forced into accepting the categories you enforce.

            Whereas, are you accepting seeing the world through our categories?

            Or simply, at a bare minimum, prioritising evidence?

          • Discrimination is a relevant word only when two things that are the same are treated differently, eg black people and white people. But here are differences here which the law is unable to address for biological reasons.

          • Christopher

            Id argue we only have to have those categories in order to treat people differently! It’s you guys who want to demonize gay people who have to create a separate category for us!

          • Anton

            Im no biologist, but Im pretty sure Black people and White people are biologically different too!

          • So if you are opposed to the said categories, it is contradictory for you to be using the phrase ‘gay people’.

    • Anton

      There have to be more conversations because the first ten years of conversations studiously avoided discussing the fundamental questions or the practical implications

  2. Thank you Andrew, once again. Two things particularly strike me from the article. One, how I miss ++Rowan’s wisdom and measured clarity of thought. Two, the chilling echo in ‘get PLF/LLF done’ of another rushed, ill thought through and damaging set of decisions…

    • Unfortunately, on 4th April 2022 Rowan Williams was a signatory to a letter to the Prime Minister of the day demanding that a ban on LGB ‘conversion therapy’ be extended to Trans persons, stating that “To be trans is to enter a sacred journey of becoming whole: precious, honoured and loved, by yourself, by others and by God.”

      • Anton

        Conversion therapy is torture. Even if it is just talking, it’s designed to increase anxiety in the subject. Nobody should be forced to undergo it. It’s shocking that it’s still legal

        • Nobody *is* forced to undergo it. It’s shocking that some wiish to ban a voluntary psychological practice while mandating genital mutilation.

          • Anton

            Unfortunately that’s not true. People are still forced to undergo it and it’s almost exclusively fueled by religious conservatism

          • Peter, coercion of this kind is already illegal here. No law is needed to end such coercive practice.

            What people like Jayne Ozanne have been seeking is outlawing agree, voluntary, and willing prayer and support which is actively sought.

          • Although presumably no CofE clergy would participate in such prayers having assented to live within the guidelines of Issues in Human Sexuality

          • Peter, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 made coercive control illegal—but that was in effect a consolidation of previous law.

          • I don’t know; he’s in his 50s. But he has presumably consented to the XXIX Articles, which contain a hermeneutic on how to read scripture.

            What has “Issues in Human Sexuality” to say about consensual prayer regarding unwanted urges? Be precise, please. You have in any case used the word ‘guidelines’, which implies nothing mandatory.

            As for me, I’ll pray for whom I choose. I do not guarantee to conform to the law of the land regarding that, for this is a clear case of Acts 5:29. I am willing to be persecuted for Jesus Christ’s sake in this regard, and persons in the church who would support such persecution are not my brethren nor Christ’s.

          • Ian

            Why would people actively seek conversion from something which is natural and a potential good?

          • Penelope

            Genital mutilation is involved when anybody undergoes surgery associated with the claim that they are changing from man to woman or vice-versa. That changing the body to align with the mind should be permitted, whereas changing the mind to align with the body should not, reveals that our culture has become insane. Which of mind and body can lie?

          • “But he has presumably consented to the XXIX Articles, which contain a hermeneutic on how to read scripture.”

            He would have given general assent to the 39 Articles, but is not tied down to every single article and has considerable freedom to interpret the Articles. This has been covered many many times before. The Articles are historic formularies. Just as the Book of Common Prayer is. He is not bound to use that.
            These historic formularies tell us about our history in very turbulent times. Things have moved considerably since then.

          • Yes Andrew (Godsall), it has indeed been covered here before. But ‘Issues’ are merely guidelines too.

            And is the word of God no more than guidelines?

          • The 39 Articles are nothing like the word of God.
            The word of God is a living and active thing. It isn’t confined to words.
            And the word of God leads people to faith. And faith is not the same as dogma. We live by faith. We don’t live by dogma.

          • Andrew, all those ordained take a vow that they ‘believe the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England had received it’, and they promise to uphold and expound it.

            Where do you think the C of E states that doctrine is to be found?

          • We’ve been through this about 100 times Ian. Read the various reports on doctrine over the years. And read To proclaim afresh.

          • And if you really think doctrine is more important than faith…then we know that Jesus had words to say about that attitude

          • ‘Doctrine’ is just the Latin-derived word for ‘teaching’, and Jesus is characterised above all in the gospels as our teacher. ‘If you love me, you will obey my commandments’ he said.

            Can I ask you a simply question again, which you have never answered: where do we find the ‘doctrine’ which, in our ordination vows, we commit to believe, uphold, and expound? What do you think those vows are referring to?

          • Jesus taught above all about faith and the kingdom. Not about legalistic boundaries of dogma.
            I’ve answered your question many times.

          • Andrew, Jesus taught us to obey his commandments. His teaching contains many claims and assertions. describing those as ‘legalistic dogma’ is setting up your own straw man.

            You have never answered the question ‘Where is the doctrine set out which I as an ordained person commit to believe, uphold and expound?’ If you have answered it clearly somewhere, do please point me to the answer.

          • Andrew, we have in the gospels a lot of Jesus’s teaching. Only a minority of it is on ‘faith and the kingdom’. There is masses about what is correct and incorrect to believe (i.e. doctrine). Matt 5 is just one example.

            What have you to say to that?

          • Christopher. What Jesus spoke about most was the Kingdom. Basic stuff.
            He also stressed that the most important command was to love God with all your heart mind and soul and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself. Again basic.
            I know you love the legalistic stuff as much as Ian but it’s not the thing that will get you into the kingdom.

            5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

            He said:

            3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
            4 Blessed are those who mourn,
            for they will be comforted.
            5 Blessed are the meek,
            for they will inherit the earth.
            6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
            for they will be filled.
            7 Blessed are the merciful,
            for they will be shown mercy.
            8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
            for they will see God.
            9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
            for they will be called children of God.
            10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
            11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you

            Nothing there about the right things to believe.

          • Andrew, Nothing in that section—but plenty in the sections that immediately follow in the Sermon on the Mount. Which goes to show you can prove anything by taking a text out of context.

          • “If you have answered it clearly somewhere, do please point me to the answer.”

            Ian your blog cant easily be searched for comments.
            Please read ‘To proclaim afresh’ . That will be a start.
            And please understand the Articles are not infallible. Neither is the BCP. Doctrine is found in scripture, tradition of the universal Church, reasoning things out, experience. The work of the CofE set out in various reports about doctrine. Your simple question doesn’t have a simple answer.

          • That is not what Canon A5 says the Church of England’s doctrine is found; so you are mistaken.

            My simple question does indeed have a simple answer—and a legally binding one (see the judgement in Pemberton v Inwood).

            It is just not an answer that you like!

          • “Which goes to show you can prove anything by taking a text out of context.”
            Yep. So it’s really important to use emotional intelligence and understand how Jesus approaches those who focus on the legal without putting that in the context of the pastoral and practical.
            If you look at the ordinal it has some legal, doctrinal stuff for sure. But only in the context of faith and building up the kingdom.

          • Who amongst us is ‘focusing on the legal without putting that in the context of the pastoral and practical’? Not me.

            Perhaps only your collection of straw men.

          • “My simple question does indeed have a simple answer—and a legally binding one ”
            said the Pharisee.
            Clearly they wanted to make an example of Jeremy. Name me any other doctrinal matter where something like that has happened. Even Anthony Freeman had a PtO given to him.

          • ‘said the Pharisee’. It is shame you keep resorting to insults rather than actually responding.

            The C of E is a church established by law so its doctrine has legal standing.

            Could you please go and find someone else to troll and insult please? If you are not going to engage, commenting here is a waste of time.

          • Ian I have engaged consistently through this thread. You simply don’t like another point of view being expressed.
            Your response about law is one that was exposed by Jesus in the Gospels as being typical of the Pharisees.
            If you really think that strict adherence to the law of the 39 Articles is the way to build the kingdom of God then go ahead. And if you really think the BCP is the only way to express worship then no one is stopping you.
            If you can’t be bothered to read ‘To proclaim afresh’ so as to understand that I really don’t have to believe every word of the 39 Articles then trying to engage in discussion about your so called ‘simple’ question is fruitless.

          • ‘You simply don’t like another point of view being expressed.’ That’s a bit bizarre, judgement by the range of comments!

            ‘Your response about law is one that was exposed by Jesus in the Gospels as being typical of the Pharisees.’ Strike Two.

            You keep avoiding the question: where does the Church of England itself say is the source of its doctrine, which all clergy vow to uphold, according to Canon A5?

          • Ian you clearly are not reading my replies. I’ve told you where doctrine is found. Scripture, tradition, reason, experience, reports of doctrine commissions over the years, To Proclaim afresh being among those. Keep quoting Canon A5 or whatever you like. Keep quoting the Articles and the BCP. Nuance is important however and so is interpretation.
            And if you still don’t like my answer, by all means take me to whatever court you can find that will try your case.

          • Don’t be silly. I don’t dislike your answer; I am just pointing out that you are mistaken. Whatever other reports say (which have no actual standing), Canon A5 is clear:

            A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England

            The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.

            In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

            That is the doctrine = teaching of the C of E which all clergy vow to believe, uphold, and teach.

          • Ian I know what Canon A5 says and I know you will be hard pushed to prove I don’t uphold any of it. I just know it isn’t the most important thing when it comes to actual people and actually building the kingdom.
            Canon A5 doesn’t say how we are to interpret scripture, or Church tradition, or the Articles or the BCP or the Ordinal. The CofE has been clear that we ate not bound by the Articles. We give general assent to them. You might disagree with that. But you would be mistaken.
            And I’m not being silly. You can try to get some Ecclesiastical court to agree with you against me. But I’m certain you won’t get very far.

          • In your very particular view Gender confirmation surgery has an extremely low regret rate .
            Not all trans people undergo surgery.

          • It has honeymoon exhilaration. People do not enjoy infertility, incontinence, mangling of body parts away from base, irretrievable invasion. But they enjoy -for a while- being able to express their alienation and disaffection, wrought in the first place by sexual-revolution conditions. Hence the phrase ‘trans joy’. Whoever is damaged early on in life by divorce, trauma etc will have a centre of gravity in a place that can react to those traumas and proclaim their importance. As though that were not far worse than not having the traumas in the first place.

    • Like David I miss Rowan Williams’ wisdom but I also have to reflect that when he was Archbishop he was treated very uncharitably by some who saw him as ‘liberal’ on issues of gender and sexuality and deliberately sought to undermine his authority. Now we have an evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury and the same thing seems to be happening to him.
      What also comes to mind increasingly in this ongoing and repetitive discussion of the LLF process is what’s been called ‘the narcissism of small differences.’ In other words, the tendency for groups of many kinds to split into opposing factions on the basis of differences which they perceive to be deeply significant (fundamental even) and over which there can be no agreement to disagree.The issues at stake then function as group identity markers; they are points around which groups can coalesce and see themselves as in the right and opposed to other groups which are in the wrong and which they can identify as ‘them’ and dismiss by labelling them, in this case as either ‘liberals’ or ‘conservatives,’ (other labels are available.) But sometimes these differences, when viewed from an outside perspective, appear to be somewhat less than essential.
      Once the dispute is established as absolutely vital and groups form it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to challenge its importance or consider it as less significant because it would be viewed as breaking ranks and threatening the identity of the group. (Think e.g. Clause 4 in the Labour Party in the 1990s.) Only from the outside is it clear that the dispute, even if real, may not have the significance which the protagonists claim for it. Often all the various groups become heavily invested in the dispute and spend a great deal of time and energy mobilising themselves to defend of their position.
      When it comes to the Church once a dispute has become central to group identities this tendency is even more difficult to name and challenge for at least two reasons: 1 Protestant Churches are inherently fissiparous because the Bible is not self interpreting and they lack a final, agreed, centralised authority for deciding on doctrinal matters to which we all agree we will submit. And 2 because ultimate questions of truth, biblical interpretation, salvation and God’s will are believed to be at stake. And anyone who challenges that way of reading the situation risks being accused of not taking truth seriously, or of not standing up for God’s will. Unsurprisingly the Church of England finds itself struggling to manage this process; it would be amazing if it didn’t.
      By the way, if anyone knows of any detailed analysis of the LLF process and wider discussions over gender and sexuality from the perspective of group theory and group identity formation please let me know.

        • You’re right! I was thinking of something that used social psychology e.g. the work of the late Daniel Kahneman, to explore our current debates and ‘stuckness,’ to use a very non-technical term by looking at all the various competing approaches.

      • Rowan Williams wrote to Dr Deborah Pitt on 28th September 2000 (when Archbishop of Wales) that “My mind was unsettled by… one or two genuinely serious Christians who had concluded… that the scriptural prohibitions were addressed to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety” and that “an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a wsay comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of sbolute covenanted faithfulness.” So he was quietly pro-SSM. Too bad he ignored the fact that the scriptural prohibitions are about actions, not preference. Here is Dr Pitt’s reply:

      • Your post got me thinking about the psychology of a person that writes articles like this. So, I ran the article through Claude AI and asked it to produce an analysis of the person or group who writes something like this. They came up with this which is not that new, but certainly is succinct in its analysis:

        Strong need for certainty, clarity and absolutes – There seems to be a discomfort with ambiguity and a preference for having clearly defined doctrinal stances that provide a sense of certainty.

        Threat perception – The proposals for doctrinal “development” are perceived as a threat to the group’s core beliefs and identity, triggering defensiveness.

        Cognitive rigidity – There appears to be a rigid way of thinking that struggles to accommodate new perspectives that deviate from the traditional stance.

        Attachment to tradition – There is a strong attachment to longstanding traditions and resistance to change, likely providing a sense of stability and continuity.

        Us vs. them mentality – The language suggests an in-group/out-group psychology, with the author’s group portrayed as upholding authentic Anglican orthodoxy against perceived deviations.

        Desire for control – There may be an underlying desire to maintain control over doctrine and not cede ground, stemming from a need for the group’s worldview to predominate.

        Dichotomous thinking – The framing sets up a binary between those absolutely committed to current doctrine vs. those wanting change, with little room for nuance.

        Psychologically invested identity – For the author and group, doctrinal beliefs seem deeply intertwined with their religious/group identity, making compromise feel like a threat to self.

        In essence, the psychology appears to be one of conservative dogmatism, fueled by needs for certainty, identity security, and perceived threat to deeply held beliefs and traditions. There is a strong motivational force to defend the ingroup’s beliefs and worldview against perceived attacks.

        • I think what this really shows is that your AI programme has swallowed a postmodern/situation ethics pill (probably because AI doesn’t think; it regurgitates stuff it finds). I guess asking whether anything is true or false would come off the worse.

          Btw, if your electrics fail in your house, don’t ask for a postmodern electrician. ‘Is there a difference between the live wire and the neutral? Don’t be so binary! Why do you have such a strong need for absolutes?!’

          • Yes, I find that even the most committed post-modernists suddenly become realists when their due a tax rebate!

        • M Kenny. Greetings. I do not contribute directly here so my comment is to you, if I may. I have to say I think this AI generated contribution is inappropriate and disrespectful and gets us nowhere in an important debate. I deeply disagree with Andrew Goddard but respect him. I receive the same respect from him. I simply note that how ideologically conservative religious, social and political groups think and behave has long been familiar and well summarised within the disciplines of social and pastoral psychology.

          • David, do you know of any recent studies how groups have responded/ behaved in this particular debate in the UK about gender and sexuality?

          • Thanks David. But you are mistaken to characterise evangelicals as merely ‘ideologically conservative’. Evangelicals, in going back to scripture, are often social radicals, seeking to reform and restructure society.

            In this case, the call for us to return to seeing male-female marriage and parenting as key to a healthy society isn’t ‘conservative’ in today’s culture, but radically reforming. The narrative of sex as pleasure and feelings not bodies determining sexual interest has been the dominant social narrative for the last 60 years.

          • David Runcorn – I don’t see why it is disrespectful; it was an interesting exercise. I personally found it very interesting, since I’ve been looking a little at these models and some of the maths and stats behind them.

            What is very interesting here is that it shows us that the ‘way of the world’ group-think can actually be programmed. It means that the bishops won’t have so much work to do to come up with the next installment of LLF – they just switch on their Claude AI programme, put on the kettle, and by the time they have finished their coffee they’ll have an automatically produced written document.

            This also has interesting connections with the Revelation 13 passage that was being discussed recently on a previous thread, the overwhelming majority of humanity who are ‘taken in’ by the beast, who presents an imitation of Christ (two horns like a lamb, speaking with the gentle tongue of the serpent, the fatal wound which had been healed – unlike Christ who had suffered unto death). So we discover that Satan’s imitation of Christ is programmable – and we expect huge swathes to be taken in by it.

        • Hi M Kenny

          The strange thing about the analysis is that it nowhere considers evidence for positions.

          But that ought to be the most basic thing.

          All it analyses is that positions are strongly defended against, and differentiated from, alternatives.

          But in a situation where the evidence weighed in favour of the former, that is the only possible approach.

          Why is the AI silent on this most central matter of all? It seems to be following pure relativism which can see only that positions are different from each other (well – duh) and not the far more important consideration that some are more coherent and some are more evidenced than others – and that this matters, in the interests of accuracy.

          Relativism was debunked as incoherent philosophically ages ago.

          But in order to do a proper analysis like that, the AI would need to know what the evidence was and (in terms of coherence) would have to compare different positions to see which had more and fewer internal inconsistencies. Which are more challenging tasks than the more surface (and ‘no ****, Sherlock’) analysis it has so far performed.

        • In fact, if Richard Dawkins replied in an informed way, consonant with consensus up to date biological study, to an inferior biologist, his reply would have the same characteristics:

          Strong expression (not ‘need’ – do you think the results of scientific study are somehow psychologically determined and of no further value than that?) of certainty on some matters, i.e. those which are consensus among those who have studied the most;
          Us vs them (i.e., qualified biologists against unqualified);
          Desire for control, and threat perception (desire that unqualified people should not be able to have office where they can lord it over qualified people in the field of biology);
          Dichotomous thinking – daring to believe that on the one hand there is thought that has no internal contradictions and that on the other hand there is ‘thought’ that has some.

          It is unsurprising that the grid or matrix of psychology would come up with results like that, since it is trying to inhabit an impossible unreal world that is supposed to have no absolute and is a less hard science than e.g. biology.

          • The key to understanding Dawkins is to grasp that he is first and foremost a controversialist. He was that in genetics with his Selfish Gene line before he started talking ill-informed nonsense about theology. He has become well known largely because he has a clear and vigorous style of writing, but his theology is scarcely deeper than “When I read the bible I don’t like the God I read of, therefore he doesn’t exist” – an obvious non sequitur.

          • He has 2 great strengths:
            -He is very rational;
            -He is in awe at the world.
            But I was not talking about Dawkins at all: I was using him as one random example among many that were possible. A specialist in any other harder science would have done just as well.

        • M Kenny – do you simply use this AI tool as a ‘black box’? Or have you some idea of how the algorithms work? If the latter (and if Ian Paul has the patience for it) could you give some broad ideas?

      • I asked for analysis based on group theory. This is the basic analysis:

        Boundary definition and maintenance
        A key aspect of group formation is clearly defining the boundaries of who is part of the ingroup versus the outgroup. This piece does a lot of boundary work – distinguishing between those “absolutely committed to present doctrine”, those wanting “development of current arrangements”, and the allegedly large undecided middle group. Drawing these boundaries reinforces the distinct identity of the author’s group.

        Opposition to a common “enemy”
        Groups often form around Opposition to a perceived common adversary. Here, the bishops and those advocating doctrinal changes seem to serve as that unifying outgroup opposition that the author’s group defines itself against. This fosters ingroup solidarity.

        Proclaimed ideological purity
        The author’s group portrays itself as the ideologically pure bastion upholding true Anglican doctrine against compromised positions. Promulgating this perceived purity is central to their unique identity claims as a group.

        Appeal to sacred traditions
        There is heavy reliance on appealing to traditional Anglican doctrine and historical church processes (like Canon B2). This invokes a powerful sense of sacred group traditions that their identity is organized around preserving.

        Questioning outgroup legitimacy
        The piece repeatedly questions the legitimacy and authenticity of the bishops’ stances and those advocating change – suggesting they are not being true to Anglican identity. This delegitimizes the outgroup’s voice.

        Constructing a cohesive narrative
        The framing and language construct a tidy narrative that upholds the group’s ideological coherence – those absolutely committed to tradition versus those problematically seeking change. Coherent narratives bind groups together.

        Overall, this piece exemplifies many hallmarks of group identity formation – defining boundaries, unifying against a common ideological opposition, asserting ideological purity rooted in sacred traditions, delegitimizing dissenting voices, and constructing an identity-reifying master narrative. These dynamics serve to solidify the ingroup’s distinct identity claims and bind its members together around their shared worldview.

        • Hi M Kenny
          Thanks for the analysis that you have done using AI here. Whilst there are limitations to the programme, I think the analysis sums up the approach pretty accurately. I have heard the author speak and read many of their articles and the analysis you have posted gets to the heart of their style pretty clearly.

          • Andrew, looks like you have swallowed the same pill. And of course the irony is that the AI output precisely describes you attitude to Andrew!

  3. Is there not something horribly self indulgent about a church which chooses to approach a dispute over doctrine (for that is what all this is about) in terms of how we can continue to live together internally despite believing fundamentally opposed truths while paying little or no attention to how any of this may affect the understanding and the real lives of real people who live in England?

    Who among us cannot be aware of the dramatic shift in our culture away from a broad consensus around sexual and marital ethics which can be directly attributed to biblical teaching (as well as biological reality) towards a free-for-all which has its origin in the atheistic assumptions of cultural Marxism? At the heart of those assumptions is rejection of any notion that that we answer to a sovereign Lord God, that normal (heterosexual) family life is not necessarily the best place where children can be nurtured and a secure identity can be found, and that the state – possibly a global super-state – should be the ultimate provider and cultural arbiter for human living.

    In granting tacit approval to this bleak theory about how human beings, released from the shackles of a mean-minded and even abusive god, may henceforth flourish unrestricted by conscience and the design of their bodies, the Church of England is doing immeasurable harm to children in particular. At a stroke, the church has aligned itself with those who are content with arrangements which no longer recognise a child’s right to have a mother and father. Children will grow up in a shapeless and confusing world where nothing really matters because the recognisable building block of society which everyone understands and respects is no longer to be considered the norm.

    A Church of England which apparently has no concern for these things when compared to the issue of how it may cobble together a crafty scheme for its own internal survival must surely, even on behalf of those who applaud its new found enlightenment, come across as hopelessly unreliable in everything else it says. It has to be assumed that, given the right pressure, everything is now up for grabs. Where now is truth to be found? If it sits so lightly on something so central to God’s purposes, design and intention, why should anyone take anything it says seriously ever again. What does this say about its future?

    • Yes, secularism is unstable, but it decays over a timescale longer than one lifetime, and so secular idealists wrongly suppose it can get by. Unless there is an Islamic revolution later this century then it will ultimately lapse into paganism. People do not generally realise that the sex-soaked nature of our present society is the pagan norm:

    • The cure of souls, as you say, is scandalously relegated. But it is central to the Church’s whole raison d’etre.

    • But what was that broad consensus around marital and sexual ethics? And was it as biblical as you imagine?

      It involved: widespread prostitution, rampant child abuse (which could be ignored or swept under the carpet), the idea that a man could not be found guilty of raping his wife, tolerance of office affairs, and a general acceptance that men were free to touch-up any unmarried woman they liked.

      • The consensus view of the church catholic on marriage is that it is a lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman. That is what Genesis sets out; that is what Jesus affirms; that is what the liturgy, law, and doctrine of the C of E expresses.

          • Ian

            And the consensus of old straight men in the church totally ignore in the exact same passage of Genesis where God says “it’s not good for man to be alone”. Yet what the church has taught for all of my life is that gay people must be alone and even then we are barely tolerable

          • So you are BOTH ageist AND sexist AND critical of only reproduction pattern there is?

            AND a repeater of fashionable cliches?

          • Christopher

            Neither actually. Just pointing out that you have people with zero real experience of gay people deciding which Bible verses you have to emphasize and which to ignore. I think lived experience does change your perspective on how to apply scripture

          • Where is your evidence that the people you condemn have no such experience?

            They are not specific individuals anyway but a category. So how can you know so much about them when they are not even specific individuals?

            And thirdly how can anyone today not have first hand experience of such?

            And fourthly even if there were rare people who had no such experience, they would not all be male, old, etc.. You are just using those subgroups as whipping boys about whom anything can be said, always condemnatory, even if they are spending all their time doing good.

          • Christopher

            Because by definition they are not gay, Black or female. Therefore they dont have the lived experience of gay Black or female when reading scripture.

            It’s like trying to write an instruction manual for agriculture when you’ve lived your whole life in the city.

            And the proof is in the eating – the church teaching cannot answer fundamental questions about LGBT lives

          • It is soo racist, sexist etc to be constantly emphasising ‘gay’, ‘black’, ‘female’ and deemphasising other categories.

            I thought we got rid of racist and sexist dinosaurism, as it is sometimes called, in the egalitarian last 50 years. We are going backwards. Well – I am not, but some are.

        • Genesis doesn’t mention marriage or lifelong partnership. Jesus forbids divorce. The church (or parts of it) ignore Jesus’s teaching. Just as Paul did.

          • Please specify the verses in which you consider that Paul contradicts Jesus over divorce and remarriage.

          • If Genesis isn’t about marriage, what does ‘for this reason’ mean Penny?

            Jesus forbids ‘any reason divorce’ ie sides with Shammai against Hillel. Surely you know this?

            What teaching of Jesus does Paul ignore?

          • Paul ignored none of Jesus’s teaching.

            He supplemented it and took care to signal where he did so.

            This means a self-admitted difference in authority in his teaching compared to Jesus’s.

            Which further means that we should certainly examine how far his supplement does or does not cohere with the dominical core.

            That which he attributes to the Lord is remarkably satisfying (subjectively) but also remarkably in line with Mark.

            Matthew is not known for having first hand material in Markan passages; indeed he is known for not having that.

            If Paul knew the Matthean exception it is strange he does not mention it, because 1 Cor 7 (another masterpiece) has stacks of detailed and nuanced thought behind it.

            Whereas Matthew trying to tease out Jesus’s meaning in specific relevant scenarii is highly typical of him and highly understandable and highly Jewish.

          • As a more general observation, the fact that we Christians, whether individually or as a church, persist in our failure to achieve perfection doesn’t invalidate the principles by which we should aspire to be living. I reckon it’s better to affirm the principle (however demanding it may be) at the cost of admitting our failure to live up to it than to pick holes in the principle and therefore avoid the need to admit our guilt. Since we’re all failed sinners who rely absolutely on God’s mercy, and that none of us is in a position to point the finger, could we maybe agree on that?

          • Matthew 19 is Jesus’s answer to a trick question about divorce.
            It differs, as you know, from the Markan teaching. Which may be original.
            Paul, and the CoE, permit divorce for reasons other than spousal infidelity.

          • The difference between Mark and Matthew here may be summarised as:
            -If you want an answer that addresses the topic, preface it with a question that frames the topic as the point at issue. Whereas if you want an answer that addresses some subtopic, make sure to preface it with a question that frames everything according to that subtopic.

            Both topic (biblical) and subtopic (Hillel vs Shammai) are eminently suitable debate-topics. Knowing the Mark-Matthew relationship, it is not hard to see which better represents what Jesus was asked and answered.

          • Penelope,

            The teaching of Jesus in Mark 10 is clear. Matthew 19 can be taken to read “anyone who divorces his wife – for a reason other than porneia, which is a whole other discussion that I am choosing not to have with you Pharisees right now – and marries another woman commits adultery…”

            So there is no incompatibility between Matthew and Mark. In Matthew, Jesus wanted to prevent the Pharisees from diverting the discussion, so that He could focus on their hardhartedness.

            ‘Divorce’ in scripture means permanent separation. (In our culture it has been nationalised: instead of informing the authorities, you petition them.) But it takes only one to divorce, and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that if a pagan divorces a Christian, i.e. splits from a Christian spouse and declares it permanent, then the Christian is under no obligation to seek reconciliation. This is for the Christian’s peace of mind. Paul’s ruling in no way legitimises the Christian who has been divorced by a pagan to remarry during the lifetime of that pagan, which would indeed by contrary to Jesus’ words. But it is one reason why Paul promptly takes pains to point out to both sexes the benefits of living single.

            I am aware that denominations take differing views of Paul’s words. But that is my view, and it is me who asked you for the allegedly incompatible verses.

          • It only takes one! And therein lies the nub. We should obviously both (a) adhere to whatever a multiply-divisive person (for whom it would take 1 second to hug and say sorry) says and (b) ignore whatever an abandoned and more peaceable person says.

        • Yes, Penelope, a striking thing about the Bible is its honesty in portraying human failings as they were/are. And its glory is in the offer it presents later in the book when God paid the supreme sacrifice, at his own cost, to remedy that dire situation.

      • The consensus never included the things you describe: they were straightforward failures to live up to the standards around which the consensus remained.

        • What are you talking about?

          There wasn’t a consensus that powerful men can have mistresses? And yet, King Edward VII, King William IV, King George IV, King George II, King George I, King James II, King Charles II, King James I and King Henry VIII all had lovers who weren’t their wives, and most had children with their mistresses.

          There wasn’t a consensus that it was impossible for a man to rape his wife? And yet, when 1967 tv programme The Forsyte Saga broadcast the rape of Irene by Soames Forsyte, the public debate was about whether Irene deserved it.

          There wasn’t a consensus about whether men were able to touch-up any unmarried woman they liked? And yet, you can still see on YouTube vox pops from the 60s of men being asked how they’d feel if a woman pinched their bottom on the street because it was so commonplace the other way around. Or just listen to the women who were working in their 20s in offices back then, and they’ll tell you what the consensus culture was.

          There wasn’t a consensus about turning a blind eye to child abuse? And yet, we’ve seen scandal after scandal emerge in recent years about what went on in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

          • And it peaked in the 1970s precisely because that was the time when the norm-setting authorities (TV and film), treating the Christians as their enemy, showed lewd behaviour as normal.

          • Christopher

            Soames rapes Irene in a novel set in the 19thC.

            King Charles was taught sexual ethics by a paedophile uncle who groomed boys long before the 1970s.

            But you ignore evidence which doesn’t fit your worldview.

          • What evidence is that?

            You are acting as though my thesis was ‘All sexual deviance there ever was postdated the sexual revolution’. Which would be a pretty silly thesis. I was obviously talking of graphs and trends, increases and decreases.

            Secondly, you think one counter example (one counter example to a thesis I never argued, lol) proves a point. You know very well that in a world of billions of people there will always be many counter examples you can quote against those whose theses (unlike mine) you DO understand.

          • What are you talking about Christopher? 70s film and tv was a high point of lewdness and treating Christians as the enemy? In what way? Even we take your theory that this is some explanation for child abuse from the 70s at face value, shouldn’t there be significantly more abuse today?

          • Adam, you and Don are at cross purposes. Don is referring to the consensus of Christian teaching. You then talk about secular behaviours.

          • If there is (as in 1960s onwards) a regime where an amoral head of BBC set a long-term tone of always trying to rile Mary Whitehouse in a private feud, so ramping up the lewdness for that purpose, then new norms are set, and the populace are not going to feel comfortable swimming against the tide of what they perceive to be norms.

            That scenario Christians vs oh-so-enlightened-brave-new-selfindulgent-worlders is not the same as today.

    • Don

      Because there’s now a widespread consensus (scientific, medical, pastoral) that pretending gay people don’t exist at all or can merely choose not to be gay is deeply damaging and harmful, especially to children.

      And secondly because there are no good arguments why gay people should not be allowed to marry or parent children. The only argument still standing is “because God says so”, which is both biblically dubious and irrelevant if you support freedom of religion

    • The “nuclear” family is not the best place for children to be nurtured if their Dad is abusing them or if they don’t have living biological parents. In the generation below mine in our wider family we have two adopted children, one child being raised by her biological mother and non biological father and two children being raised by their biological father and non biological father. None of these meet your standards, but I would challenge anyone to suggest that these kids could have had a better upbringing by forcing their biological parents to be married and care for them. In fact, without going into the circumstances, I’m pretty sure at least one of them would be dead!

      We have to stop pretending that its good for every child to be forced into this weird 1950s ideal family. The Bible doesn’t say that. Jesus wasn’t raised that way, nor was Samuel or Moses. I think we also need to differentiate between culture, political views and Christian teaching.

      • Peter, you have to recognise in the issue concerned that we’re talking in terms of what is normally on offer from heterosexual parents as opposed to same sex parents. In that sense we’re looking at what gives most children the best chance of a good family experience. After all, it is the interests of the children that must outweigh the preferences of a very small minority of prospective same sex parents. I would obviously accept that there can be exceptions either way where heterosexual parents are wholly unsuited to the task and where same sex parents could make a much better job of it.

        Principles do on occasion ride roughshod over reality, but adhering to them still makes for the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. When it comes to children in particular, surely that must be our priority. And when you put God’s point of view into the mix, yielding to his principles and obeying his commands should be a no-brainer even when we think a bit of flexibility would improve things: who are we to second guess what he has ordained should happen?

        • If you enforce nuclear families on everyone then you’re not allowing for these exceptions, which I don’t accept are uncommon.

          The near total consensus of the research we have is that on average same sex parents are no worse than opposite sex parents. Why do conservative Christians think it’s OK to lie about gay people? Isn’t lying a sin?

          • On your first para, did I miss something? Who is enforcing?

            People are not even aware of the stats even though they are common sense. And a sexual revolution society means far more broken homes. Despite which a lot of people either assume or support the sexual revolution. They can go home – they are doing a massive amount of harm by the norms they spread to unthinking people.

            On your second para, you know we have dealt with this already. Because a smaller percentage of duos (how on earth can they be co-‘parents’ if they are the same sex?) of the same sex opt for bringing up children, then they are the creme de la creme of their own category. So if they are no worse and no better, that is not impressive, since if they are the creme de la creme of their own category (unlike the men-women ones) you would think they would do better not the same or worse. Even the creme de la creme of man-man or woman-woman can do only as well as an average man-woman parent team.

            However, your summary is extremely general. Schumm cites any number of different studies and gives a detailed picture.

            And you feel not the slightest compunction at depriving the children of either mum, dad, or both? The earlier in life a person hits rocks the worse and more abusive it is.

          • Christopher

            Don is saying we should have a society where every family is nuclear style. I’m pointing out that would be a disaster for a great many children

          • We already do have that. It is nothing to do with ‘we’. Everyone has that. How could it be different?

            The ones you are talking about are not families but stepfamilies.

            In other words, structures that longterm wrench children away from mum and dad. And as though that were not bad enough, there must be some wickedness or hostility embedded otherwise how on earth could it come about that mum is not with dad? Such things are not to be spoken about: they are beyond evil.

            And anyway that kind of divisive behaviour in an individual usually does not simply go away.

            From what you say, you would think that the awful things I mention are of no concern, whereas families (of all things) are of concern.

          • Pete

            Christopher has never read any history. This his idealisation of the nuclear family has never been challenged by evidence which shows that for millennia households comprised parents (sometimes) grandparents (sometimes), aunts and uncles, step mothers, step fathers, step siblings, half siblings, adopted children, wards, servants, slaves, dependants …
            As recently as the household of St Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, and Jane Austen. The nuclear family is a very modern invention.

          • Pete & Penny
            Christopher does not seem to be aware of the rest of the world either. So yet again he makes silly statements based on faulty linguistics. Take “The ones you are talking about are not families but stepfamilies”. Rather Anglocentric, yes?

          • The usual false dichotomy here: ‘nuclear’ versus ‘non-nuclear’. The same mistake is made every time. Namely:

            ‘Non-nuclear’ combines extended families (which Christians strongly approve of) with step/chaotic families (which they strongly disapprove of). You are speaking as though these two totally different things are much the same. And in doing so, trying to sneak in the latter within the former’s Trojan Horse.

            Secondly, you never even checked with us whether something called ‘nuclear families’ was what we preferred. It is not in my case, nor in the case of many Christians. Our approval list is:

            A1 Extended
            A2 Nuclear – in that order.

            Our disapproval list is:

            B1 Broken.

            You knew all along that A1 and B1 are nothing like each other. They are about as opposite as one can get.

            I belong to about the most extended and most healthy family one can get. The two go together.

          • As for Bruce’s point, it is easily refuted. He wants family in the normal sense in which I am using it (web of relations) to have no word for it within the 20 volume Greater Oxford Dictionary, even though it is one of the most common realities imaginable. That is because he wants its territory to be overrun and confused by a linguistics that claims it is all the same whether families live normally or whether they rip each other apart and get harmfully messy (and whatever produces mess once is programmed to do the same again and again).

            Exactly the same process can be observed with the words ‘parent’, ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

            You would think there would be a correlation between how common a reality is and how prominent it is in the dictionary. And indeed there is – but it is felt very important by the sexual revolutionaries to rip that apart. Remember how they fought against Light in 1971 Festival of Light? So they belong to the side of….

          • Bruce

            Indeed. Christopher seems to believe that all extended families are related by blood. Clearly he has read no history and knows nothing of families such as Thomas More’s and Jane Austen’s parents. To say nothing of (Christian) families in the GR empire.

          • Bruce

            Not forgetting all those biblical families with their multiple wives and raped slaves and their offspring.
            Better than being ‘broken’ though 😉

          • Some extended households include servants.
            Others don’t.
            Those who are more precise thinkers have different words for the two.
            Those who are vaguer thinkers have the same word for the two, and cause unnecessary confusion.
            Which option is better?

            Another point:
            Some people distinguish ‘household’ from ‘family’. Others don’t.
            Leaving aside the cynical and social engineering possibility in these comparative usages, which is preferable: the one that is clearer and distinguishes, or the one that is less clear and does not distinguish?

            It’s not rocket science. To some people, however, it is?

          • Multiple wives and raped servants?
            All of which I did anything other than strongly condemn in which comment on which day?

            On your other point:
            You surely cannot be one of those people who has the stereotype that anything and anyone mentioned in the Bible is praiseworthy?
            Satan? Judas?

            It would not be much of a story if everyone was a goodie. How did it end up being called the greatest story ever told if there was no goodies/baddies tension?

          • What is certainly true, however, is that I have not read any history. Which is why I have a degree in Anc History and shared an Oxbridge university prize in it.

          • Why, Penelope, do you put ‘broken’ in inverted commas?

            It is not ‘broken’ families, it is broken families.

            Constantly you are trying to stick up for the fruits of the sexual revolution and stand opposite those Christians who want to maximise the good and minimise the harm. That is why yo are so often asked which side you are on.

          • Christopher

            I would have thought that someone with a rather stellar academic record would be able to follow an argument. But clearly not, since you are won’t to go off on tangents.
            The reason I used inverted commas is that the families to which I was referring were not broken, unless you want to argue that St Thomas More’s family was. But I don’t know what you want to argue since you haven’t answered my very specific point.

            My light-hearted quip about the Hebrew Bible referred to one of the Patriarchs. Jacob had two wives whose slaves he raped. I don’t think even the erstwhile DG of the BBC would have approved of that.

          • Please Christopher, if necessary go and reread James Barr’s discussion of misusing linguistics. You clearly don’t understand my point (or his) with comments like:
            “to have no word for it within the 20 volume Greater Oxford Dictionary, even though it is one of the most common realities imaginable.”
            “You would think there would be a correlation between how common a reality is and how prominent it is in the dictionary. And indeed there is – …”

          • Penelope –

            Do you think no families at all anywhere are broken?
            Because if so, you have already decided that in advance, so however broken a family actually was then you would deny that because of a prior ideology. Which of course would make your denial worthless. Why on earth shd Thomas More be an exception?

            I already reproduced Barr’s point above, as you know. It is well known to NT scholars as it also appears in Neill/Wright for those who have not read the original. That does not relate to my present point which is about (a) word definitions being something that do and should exist; (b) it being suspicious when big realities we encounter every day are not allowed a word of their own in a very large dictionary (or would not be if the radicals got everyone to use words their way). Neither of these 2 points do you address.

          • “I already reproduced Barr’s point above, as you know. It is well known to NT scholars …” (Christopher Shell)
            But what about about Barr’s evidence Christopher?
            In effect, you reduced Barr’s criticism to something you think you understand — a tame trope, if you like. But then you _continue_ to make claims about language (words and their ‘referents’) that completely ignore (that is, make nonsense of ) even your tame trope.
            As I have suggested, go and read Barr since he tried to get biblical scholars to begin to think about linguistics (or Cotterell and Turner if you prefer — but be warned, they do have a chapter on Paul Grice!! 😉 ) and stop making silly statements about how language seems to work in communication).

          • Hello Bruce

            To say ‘read Barr’ is patronising since you know nothing about me or what I have or have not read.

            From my knowledge of what he wrote, it would not impinge in the slightest on the only two points under discussion. Namely:

            (1) word definitions should and do exist;

            (2) anything that is a large everyday reality in life should be allowed a word to itself in a country that has a 20-large-volume dictionary.

            The only relevant point you can make (to repeat) is to show that Barr said:
            -that word definitions do not exist , or
            -that word definitions should not exist, or
            -that large everyday realities should sometimes share 100% of their words with other realities rather than being allowed a word or concept of their own.

            I was not aware he said any of these 3 things.

            If he did, you can show me where.

            If he did not, your other points are irrelevant. I am saying what I am saying, not what you presuppose or stereotype that I am saying.

          • OK Christopher, a couple of questions on your points.
            “1) word definitions should and do exist;”
            My question: why then did the discussion on “prototype” arise in linguistics?

            “(2) anything that is a large everyday reality in life should be allowed a word to itself in a country that has a 20-large-volume dictionary. ”
            My question: my Macquarie dictionary lists 136 senses in its entry for “run” plus a number of other “special verb phrases” (“run + X”, e.g. “run away”, “run away with”). Why are these 136+ “concepts” not “allowed a word to itself”?

            Your arguments “using” linguistics are not linguistic arguments. I think you will find that that was Barr’s point.

          • Bruce, the answers both times are obvious.
            (1) I set the bar very low – you had only to agree that dictionaries, which focus on individual words, serve a purpose that is even slightly useful; and that of the scenario where they do not exist and the scenario where they do, the latter is better.

            But I never mentioned linguistics. Any conversation can potentially be turned that way, so that people are always asking ‘what about the linguistics?’. But it cannot be justified to focus so strongly on one branch of study as though the others did not exist. Rather we need to bring in all branches of study at the appropriate points.

            (2) The 136 different ‘run’s are mostly not large everyday realities. Since the topic was large everyday realities, like marriage and parent and father and mother, then your point here was irrelevant.

          • Christopher, you write you “never mentioned linguistics”.
            And yet you had just _written_ in the previous paragraph something about words and that dictionaries can be useful!!

            Yes, linguistics is one area of study among many. But, language used in human thought and communication is the rather “large everyday reality” that you and I are “talking about”. And yet again you have made some silly comments about language.

            Are you going to answer the questions I asked?

            PS when you answer my questions I may respond (with Ian’s indulgence, though I suspect he turned away from this exchange days ago).
            PPS note that I didn’t mention “_the_ linguistics”.

          • I was not talking on any such topic, and we can’t go back to linguistic theory every time we communicate. My original point stood if two things were affirmed which no-one could deny (points 1-2).

            Just because you are speaking of words and definitions does not mean you are speaking of linguistics. That is like saying that every time you are speaking of sheep you are speaking of evolution.

            Every small topic stands against the backdrop of several large ones. But we can neither cherry pick the latter nor ignore the small topics in favour of theory the whole time.

      • Er – Peter – you are showing yourself as someone who just ignores evidence already put to you.

        It is a fact that around one couple per 1000 ppl divorced per year as at UK 1958. You think we are wiser than that now. Er yes, our record shows it.

        It is a fact that you are discriminatory by calling a whole cohort of people weird. That would be bad enough except that they have so much more of a successful record than your generation.

        The evidence you have simply ignored is Robert Whelan, Broken Homes and Battered Children. It is by and large (there are exceptions to every rule) not dads who abuse since dads are both civilised enough and desirable enough to get married, and are in addition bound to their children by bonds of love! It is uncles, live in boyfriends, and stepfathers.

        But live in boyfriends and stepfathers would not exist in nearly such numbers were it not for the abandonment of this dreadful low divorce family model. What were we thinking when we adopted a low divorce model? Weird it certainly is.


        So your thinking scores an own goal; but worse is the second-hand cliched nature of what you write, which cannot cope with the simple common sense above.

        • Christopher

          So a woman is raped by a drug dealer. She’s convinced by a Christian counselor that it’s a sin to get an abortion so completes the pregnancy. You and Don are saying the child will be best off if the woman marries her attacker and they live as a nuclear family.

          A man and woman are killed in a car crash. The kids are left homeless. They want to go live with their uncle, but he’s gay so you/Don say that should not be allowed because only a nuclear family will do.

          • When did I say either of those things? You know I didn’t. Therefore your argument is invalid.

            The fact that they are way out things that happen to a fraction of a fraction of one percent of people shows that the scenarii where children should be wrenched from their parents are few indeed.

          • Christopher

            You’ve both repeatedly claimed all children are best off in nuclear families and you have just yourself described step parents as “wrenching” children from their biological parents – you dont even seem to recognise the really nasty and untrue lies that you are spreading. Go back and read your comments!

          • So far from that, I have never even spoken in favour of something called ‘nuclear families’ at all – that is just a stereotype you are assuming and thereby proving you do not read what people say. The most I did was to put ‘nuclear families’ second best to ‘extended’ above, but I do not think that many families fail to be extended in the sense that they cocoon themselves off from all relations. That sounds like a rare scenario. ‘Nuclear family’ is an Aunt Sally or straw man.

      • The nuclear family is better because, as a rule, nothing can match the commitment to a child of its own parents. There is another word for sacrificial commitment – love. Exceptions to this rule are just that.

        • Anton

          But the reality is that biological parents often dont love their children and almost always non biological parents do love their children.

          • Yes, a bit like the idea that an out of wedlock child is a ‘love child’. Totally weird.

            Peter, you said ‘the reality is…’. It sounds like not only a massive generalisation but also one for which you have provided no evidence. Do so, please, if you are able.

      • Peter, your comment (”nuclear”, you write; ‘weird’, you write) looks like it wants children to be separated from their mum and/or dad. Since it is the other types of family, so called, which are generally where they receive harm, and mum and dad families have by far the best most stable track record, whose side are you on?

        This is a recipe for children being quite unnecessarily deprived of the best, and being traumatised.

        Is it not obvious that in order for any alternative type of family to exist, there must be previous fractiousness, kicking people out, etc? Eeugh. If anyone is of the character to do that, will their character change overnight?

        Do you care about the children or about the adults involved? The very scenario you reject is one where such abusive family structures were rare.

        • Christopher

          No that’s the opposite of my point.

          It’s you who are putting your social ideology above the welfare of children

          • In what way? Explain.

            Also ‘it is you that’ assumes it is only possible for precisely one person to be doing that. False assumption, obviously, and therefore your argument is invalid.

          • And anyway, why are you saying ‘ideology’ when you mean evidence and statistics? They are the opposite of each other.

          • Christopher

            Because you are saying it has to be a nuclear family even if that kills the child.

            I’m saying put the individual childs welfare first.

            You are saying put your own political views first.

          • Peter, will you read what is actually said. WHERE did I say I was a fan of something called ‘the nuclear family’. You are just repeating stereotypes that you *expect people to say without reading what they *do say.

            I don’t think many nuclear families exist. If people are civilised and mature enough (or else live in a society that is these things) to get married, then they are hardly likely to keep their distance from grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins etc, now are they?

            So I am at a loss to know what you mean. Why can’t we all just agree that extended families (which anyway centre on this strange ‘nuclear’ family of which you speak) are obviously how families happen? I don’t see how they could happen otherwise.

  4. I’m afraid this is just the same stuff as before. Talk, talk, talk until the orthodox grow tired of listening to the same old story. Let them have their way and be done with it. The GSFA meeting in Cairo are pointing us to a better way forward. We have a Gospel to proclaim – repent, believe in Jesus and follow His ways. Today is St. Barnabas’s Day. Let’s be good people, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.

        • Is this your way of trying to say you think Christians can (or should?) support the death penalty for homosexuality?

          • I mean exactly what I say. It is God, not man, who prescribed the death penalty for it in ancient Israel. Was He wrong?

      • AJ Bell – read the link that Anton posted above.

        It is very informative. The problem isn’t homosexuality; the problem is anal sex. This is absolutely horrible – and I’ll simply point out to Peter Jermey (above) that Sciambra’s article points out that serious damage is done even on the first encounter – so promiscuity isn’t the issue here.

        I’d support anything that reduces the number of people who get drawn into such activities – anything that acts as an effective deterrent. I think that Sciambra’s description of how he got drawn into ‘the scene’ is interesting and informative. The problem is that, in the form of AIDS in the 1980s there was a death sentence – and it simply didn’t work. People seemed to consider it such a necessity for their lives that the fatal consequences didn’t stop them. So the death penalty is a non-starter here.

        • That is your visceral reaction to a sexual practice that repels you.
          The solution is quite simple: don’t read about it, don’t think about it, don’t do it.

          • Penny, why do you think that there is a widespread sense of visceral disgust at same-sex sex? Do you think this is just bigotry, or does it tell us anything important?

          • Thousands of things repel us – lying, murder, theft, unpleasantness, fraud….

            The solution is simple. If one person doesn’t read or think about or do them – they will stop happening.

          • This section of the comments is very telling indeed. Anton gives thinly-veiled approval to the idea that homosexuals should be executed, even elevating the notion to that of a divine mandate. And Ian’s only comment is to dwell on the apparent moral significance of the “visceral disgust” that some people have for homosexual sex.

            Whatever the merits of this site as vehicle for Biblical scholarship – and they are considerable – there lies behind the discussions of LLF and related matters some very unpleasant attitudes indeed.

          • Sorry Adam—that is just nonsense.

            Anton represents himself and no-one else. I refuse to follow these pointless extended exchanges between small and unrepresentative groups. Many of the comments are out of the boundaries of my comments guidelines, but some folk here refuse to listen.

          • Gosh Ian

            That’s a big discussion which could open several whole cans of worms.
            So, just a very few thoughts:
            most squeamishness about same-sex sex is from men thinking about MSMs and not about lesbian sex (which is either ignored or fetishized). I would suggest that part of the disgust is the fear of being emasculated (a fear which seems prevalent throughout history) and which explains why the passive partner (e.g. in coerced sex such as in prison) is still reviled.
            I think there is also a related but distinct misogyny which figures the female as the one who is penetrated (the receptive as opposed to the active agent) which figures the passive partner in same-sex sex as abhorrent because they have transgressed the normative boundaries.
            Observe here, commenters on anal sex always revile/objectify the one penetrated and describe their degeneracy and danger. Not the one penetrating.
            A very brief reflection on the hermeneutic of disgust.

          • Penelope – well, I for one find the whole idea of anal sex completely abhorrent – in all its forms, whether male/female or male/male, irrespective of whether it is the person doing the penetrating or the person being penetrated (to be disgustingly explicit). So I think you’re building theories that don’t correspond to the facts. The article by Joseph Sciambra indicates that it is also extremely damaging (and once is enough to cause a great deal of damage) so I don’t think it falls under the umbrella of ‘consent’ in the sense that I believe it is not OK even if both parties agree to it.

            Also, I note that you brought up what goes on in prisons as illustrative. As far as I understand it, people who get banged up in prison are supposed to be bad eggs who are morally degenerate and prone to bad things. That, at least is the general theory (although admittedly with the incarceration of Julian Assange in Belmarsh this whole idea has been turned on its head) so I don’t imagine that behaviour among the prison population is representative of people of honesty and decency (one or two very notable exceptions here).

            You’re right that reading and thinking about this is something that I avoid in day to day life. The LLF process has, though, thrust this before us and brought it to our attention.

          • I was referrring to ancient Israel between Sinai and the Crucifixion, in which God decreed the death penalty for man lying with man as with woman i.e. for sexual gratification. Or so Jesus Christ asserted, in view of his comments on Mosaic Law. If you wish to believe in Jesus while disputing what he believed about his father – thereby wrecking Trinitarian unity – then it is your problem. I am merely pointing it out.

            I have said before that gentile nations are free to make their own legal codes; that God gave Israel a free choice of whether or not to accept Mosaic Law; and that the only law I would impose unilaterally were I dictator would be the death penalty for murder, because of the covenant with Noah in Genesis 9.

            I cannot stop you twisting my words. But I can and will expose that that is what you are doing.

          • Why would there be any commenters here on AS considering it is never a flagged-up topic?

            Whereas PCD’s comments, as a recurring pattern, unerringly gravitate down to that level within a few moves, relevant or irrelevant; does that tell us something?

          • Josh, why would it matter that something was or was not (emotionally) abhorrent if it were already (rationally) objectively very harmful?

          • Christopher – this is a good question. I can only point out that in previous exchanges, PCD has pointed out that child bearing is intrinsically dangerous c/f Rachel giving birth to Benjamin. Yet, in the correct context (man and woman in lifelong union) having children is considered to be good. The (emotionally) abhorrent in this case is something that satisfies two criteria: (a) it is (rationally) objectively very harmful and (b) this does chime in with the Divine imperative of right and wrong that we find in Scripture. Child bearing in the correct context (man and woman in lifelong union) has the Divine seal of approval.

          • Yes –
            (a) the illogicality of it can be precisely what properly triggers a negative emotional reaction;
            (b) a gut or visceral reaction is not there for no reason, albeit some reactions may be healthy and others purely cultural.

            On (a) people would often get confused by the fact that my quite extreme emotional reactions about things that were important and which I cared about were at a ‘female’ level while what triggered them was always illogic (stereotyped as a more ‘male’ and left-brained thing). There is of course no contradiction here. One is a matter of degree and the other is a matter of cause or origin.

          • Jock

            As I said, disgust is a poor hermeneutic.
            As it happens, anal sex doesn’t appeal to me. But I don’t base my ethics on personal preferences.
            I have also observed that many acts are intrinsically dangerous – driving a car for example. But we calculate risks every day. And again, AS is not very risky if people use condoms and lube.

          • Christopher

            You do make me laugh.
            I’m afraid it’s you and Jock who are obsessed with anal sex. You bring the practice up in every conversation about sexuality. Despite it being, mostly, entirely irrelevant 🙂

          • You have that prior impression, but I cannot recall a single instance it was even mentioned by me, unpleasant as it is, unless I was responding to some prior comment when some other person brought up such a topic and then omitted to say how unsafe it was.

            However if that is not the case, you will easily be able to cite evidence to the contrary, for which we wait with interest.

          • ‘Not very risky’
            If you ignore skin of one cell thickness
            AND ignore pandemic and explosions in STIs
            AND ignore relative dirtiness of the area
            AND the fact that this is internal and therefore very hard to check
            AND ignore that sphincters do not have vaginal stretch
            AND ignore all previous discussion
            AND ignore lack of biological purpose and special association with the amoral family-breaking and STI producing sexual revolution

            -any one of which would be conclusive in itself
            -Then bingo, it suddenly becomes safe as houses. No precious person gets harmed.

          • Christopher

            Jock at 6.09 on June 14th.
            You on numerous occasions, though I’m not trawling through past blogs on Psephizo to find the evidence.
            And now, when there is no need, you are continuing the discussion, in minute detail. Even though I have already replied lube and condoms 🙂

          • Your answer: ‘Numerous occasions [so numerous, in fact, that I can name zero of them].’

            Yes – precisely the reply I privately predicted you would give.

            You couldn’t make it up.

          • Christopher

            Except you do. All the time.
            Your mendacity means you can’t even acknowledge I was right about Jock.

          • Ian

            People are often disgusted at the idea of their own parents having sex. I dont like to think about heterosexuals having sex. Why should the law or the church prioritize your feelings and not mine?

          • Christopher

            I feel like I’ve pointed this out to you about one thousand times, but most gay people don’t have anal sex – this is just a falsehood that you’ve repeated to yourself enough that you believe it.

            This is why, as I said earlier, it’s important not to have people from a single demographic deciding church teaching or laws. Older straight white men may well assume all gay people are promiscuous and regularly having anal sex, but people who are gay are much more likely to recognize the truth of the matter.

          • Peter, you have just posted 12 comments in rapid succession. I guess I should be flattered that you give so much time and energy to commenting on my blog. But you (as well as others who comment a lot) might need to slow it down. If you need to engage with the same person again and again, can you please do that directly with them offline. This is not a bulletin board.

          • Penelope,

            Agreed, I said that gentile nations are free to choose their own laws. Where, however, might they look for inspiration?

          • Penelope

            If by the Noahide covenant you mean the one in Genesis 9 then Christians should indeed look to it, becaue it is with everbody since the Flood. It says nothing about homosexuality. If, alternatively, you mean the Noahide regulations in Talmud, Christians do not (and should not) look to it. Genesis is of the divine. Talmud is a mixed bag and some of it is wise, but all of it is human.

          • When did I deny you were right about Jock? I am sure he did just that. Why would he not have done?

            In my case, however, you speak of mendacity while yourself being able to cite zero pieces of chapter and verse. (To repeat.) You are operating with a stereotype. So mendacity exists where in this case?

            Peter, can you cite even one time I have brought up so unsavoury a topic, rather than correcting others’ prior perspectives?

            And secondly, can you cite even one time I denied that the rate was below 50%? (From memory, it hovers around 50%.)

          • Penelope – for the record, if you look back over the thread, I was not the one who brought up the subject – my comments followed those of Anton (who helpfully posted the Joseph Sciambra link) and AJ Bell (who was wondering whether Anton thought that the biblical injuction of Leviticus still applied).

            But it is actually the key issue. I’m pretty sure that if it were simply a question of two men, who for whatever reason felt that they could not have a female life partner wanted to enter into a life-long celibate union with each other, you wouldn’t have any problem at all about getting LLF through and prayers for people entering such a union.

            It is precisely because there are those who are demanding their right to such activities (anal sex), insisting that there is nothing wrong with it and demanding that the church bless their union on this basis, that there is a problem getting it through.

            If it really is no big deal, then surely it would be absolutely no problem for people to undertake to live in celibate union with each other.

            But this is clearly not to be expected. The AIDS crisis of the 1980s demonstrates that people are addicted to these activities to such an extent that they refuse to give it up even if it is very likely to lead to a death sentence (i.e. catching some horrible disease which will eventually kill them).

          • Jock
            Simply read Pete’s response.
            And remember, for those who do – condoms and lube.

          • Penelope’s two pronged answer addresses only one at most of the ten points I am so regularly forced to repeat (namely natural lubrication or the lack of it – which has natural law implications she ignores): many of which ten points flag up the highest danger. About which she appallingly does not care, if we go by this evidence. Any one of the points would be decisive in itself.

          • Penelope: condoms (and KY) were amply available in the 1980s, but they reduce the sensation to such an extent that heterosexuals are willing to risk conception and homoexuals are willing to risk HIV. Your answer is no answer.

          • So go on Penelope – let everyone see if you can address the other points:
            -A single instance of AI has 20x more risk than one of VI on average (Pinkerton et al., Archives of Internal Medicine 2004)
            -This is, as proven by the disease record, more risky/dirty than almost any other physical area for those spontaneously driven or even for those not.
            -It will remain so because it is not able to be seen either from the front or from the outside.
            -A sphincter means a non-entrance exit.
            -Lining one cell thick.
            -Microfold cells inside that actively embrace STI-causing microbes.
            -Lack of biological purpose (not just by comparison, but also total).
            -Association with the misery-causing and family-breaking sexual revolution. You put these things in quote marks because enumerable, countable reality is, to ostriches, hoped to be not real.

          • “I’m pretty sure that if it were simply a question of two men, who for whatever reason felt that they could not have a female life partner wanted to enter into a life-long celibate union with each other, you wouldn’t have any problem at all about getting LLF through and prayers for people entering such a union.”

            I don’t think that’s true at all Jock. You might be ok with that, but it’s abundantly clear that CEEC and others are not. Indeed there has been a concerted effort in the revisions to PLF to get any suggestion that we could have prayers for such a union struck out.

            I would also question whether it’s right to suggest that once you rule out anal sex, what you’re left with is celibacy. As far as we can tell the majority of sexually active gay men don’t actually engage in anal sex (and that’s before we get onto the lesbians).

          • ‘You might be ok with that, but it’s abundantly clear that CEEC and others are not.’ What nonsense—and ignorant nonsense at that.

            One of the co-chairs is a celibate gay Christian!

            Sometimes you make really helpful comments here Adam. But at times, like this, you appear simply to parade your prejudice and ignorance.

          • Jock’s idea of a celibate union would founder on the grounds that
            (1) there is not the slightest reason why such unions should be limited to one per person;
            (2) it is not clear how they differ from close friendship;
            (3) the word ‘union’ is undefined; whereas with mums and dads the word union becomes a clear one with a clear meaning and a clear raison d’etre.

          • Ian,

            Ed Shaw’s in a committed long-term partnership? That’s what we’re talking about here: a life-long union, not celibate and single.

            You’re a member of CEEC though Ian. Perhaps you can clarify: did they push for or oppose the redrafting of the Prayers for Covenanted Friendship?

          • Christopher and others

            I am heartily sick of your harping on about anal sex. Stop thinking about it. If you don’t approve don’t do it and advise your friends and family to desist. It has no place in this discussion. And what does ‘natural’ mean in this context? Is oral sex ‘natural’? Does it matter?

            Yes, some men like barebacking. That, I suggest, is up to them. I think they know the risks. You don’t have to remind us in minute detail how thin the lining of the rectum is. WE KNOW.

            It’s a red herring, not remotely relevant to the ethics of PLF. We know you’re disgusted. Stop using that a a hermeneutical lens and try to move beyond juvenile approaches to sexuality.

          • This whole conversation seems quite bizarre to me. I don’t understand why you all keep banging on with it (pardon the pun).

            Time to call time?

          • And Christopher you are continuing to ignore ‘broken’ being a reference to families like St Thomas More’s. And pretend I’m referring to something quite other.
            As ever, you ignore evidence and respond to views which you simply impute to others.

          • This is indeed a good point to terminate this conversation and reflect. Penelope could see one of the nine highly toxic aspects of the highly unpleasant topic to which she has gravitated and against which others must apparently warn. That one was the pleasure-oriented one.

            She later said she was aware of one more aspect – but her awareness will not bring anyone back to life.

            So we are left with the spectacle of her not taking seriously or being able to respond to 7 of the 9 lethal aspects.

            Half sensible people know not to enter such insalubrious realms in the first place. There’s a new world coming.

        • “The problem isn’t homosexuality; the problem is anal sex.”

          Well then, we’re talking about a very different question aren’t we?

          There’s a serious implication here that gay relationships would be ok, and those relationships being sexual would be ok (on the same terms as straight relationships of course – i.e. marriage-like), but anal sex is a problem (for everyone). If that’s what we think, then we really do owe it to people to get Church teaching right on that. It’s clearly become unfashionable in all wings of the Church, but some of us still try to live obediently to Church teachings even when we disagree with them, and a faulty teaching undermines the credibility of the Church on everything it says.

          More than that, shifting the ground to a prohibition on anal sex, means there’s a whole group of people who’ve never thought the Church had anything particular to say to them: straight married couples who practice anal sex.

          For my own part, I can’t say I’ve ever thought about it too deeply given I’m not enamoured with the idea of anal sex. But I am wary of looking on a sin as an arbitrary list of laws to keep (or break). That sort of legalism opens the door to Pelagianism (big problem) and misses the point of God’s commands and laws. In any case, I’m not sure you can tackle the issue in strict isolation. There’s a bigger discussion that’s about the ethics of sex within marriage. The Church generally seems to have shied away from that discussion in favour of fretting over sex before marriage, but if you think about it, most sex that most Christians are having is within their marriages and if there are ethical questions being unanswered there that’s a problem.

          • What God considered worthy of death in the one nation in which He set the laws – ancient Israel from Sinai to Golgotha – was “man lying with man as with woman”, i.e. aiming for orgasm of at least one. That can be done in a variety of ways, but God takes a dim view of them all.

            Noithing since 1967 has stopped two men from entering a civil partnership by making vows to each other in the presence of a witness, enforceable under contract law. The point of a civil partnership is that the State recognises it. This has always been about State recognition. Christians know that the State is not the final arbiter, of course.

          • Anton

            Oh dear, I’m going to have to say it again aren’t I?
            AS. No orgasm nevessary, but probable in one partner.

          • Christopher

            Bless you. Fortunately, you want to bring this insalubrious conversation to a close, having, with Jock, been the one who introduced the insalubrious aspects in the first place!
            What the rest of your comment refers to I have no idea.

          • Well in that case, Penelope, you will have to provide evidence for your false claim that I was part responsible for introducing insalubreity[?]. Your earlier attempt to do so was worse than a defeat: it was a failure to turn up at all.

    • Jim Wallis analyses why people are not taking the Church seriously in the US, and it’s not because the trumpet is giving an uncertain sound. Quite the opposite.
      “A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that the number of Americans who are members of a house of worship dropped below 50% for the first time in eight decades. David Campbell, professor and chairman of the University of Notre Dame‘s political science department, calls this decline, “an allergic reaction to the religious right”. Campbell’s research suggests that many have turned away from religion because of the right-wing political forces of white Christian nationalism and have tragically equated white Christian nationalism with the whole of Christianity. It is a very sad day when some of the meanest and most hateful messages in our society are coming from people and groups who call themselves Christians. And therefore, it is vitally important to demonstrate that there is a true Christian faith in deep opposition to the partisan genders of a false white, wealthy, prideful, nationalism, and patriarchal religion. We must offer an inviting and hopeful alternative vision to that mean-spirited white Christian nationalism, to restore the meaning of Galatians 3:28.
      Young people, many of whom grew up in the church, especially resent imposing oppressive, versions of religion on issues like LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and forcing narrow, ethnocentric faith into public classrooms. Ultimately, and ironically, the growing public regard for inclusivity underlies the painful rejection of the Church by many. “

      The same is true in Europe.

      • It is not easy to be more ‘Christian nationalist’ than being the legally established religion of a specific nation.
        Quite a bit said about unity in this thread – but note that unity is not just about internal Anglican unity, it’s also about unity with the wider church. Or given the current variety between churches, which Christian group do you want to be united with.

        And note that establishment poses a significant church unity problem – many Christians would love to be more united with their Anglican brothers and sisters; but being united with/entangled in the English state is a different matter…..

      • Andrew, the same is not true in Europe—or at least certainly not in the UK. The Christian groups who are growing are the ones who continue to uphold historic teaching—and they are growing.

        • As a 39 Articles Anglican church, ours has around 100 children and young people, over two Sunday services.
          Last Sunday, I sat beside an Anglican from Nigeria who was from a large church there and spoke with enthusiasm about it. His father (and I think grandfather) and family had a long association with the church.
          The CoE is destroying the Anglican world network as surely as a rock fall on a tent.

        • Ian

          I think your claim is misleading in a few ways

          1. Most Christian groups who oppose gay rights are very secretive about it and actually get quite hostile if their positions are made public. They certainly arent telling their congregations what their views are

          2. At least a significant part of the “growth” are people who are already Christians, not new Christians.

          I think suggesting that these groups are successful is questionable because they are mainly enticing Christians away from other groups rather than growing the faith. The implication that they are growing because of their anti gay teaching is plainly false since most people who attend their churches would never hear what their teaching is.

          • Peter J

            1. I don’t know any Christian groups who ‘oppose gay rights’. Being faithful to the teaching of Jesus does not do this; the ability to ape historic male-female marriage within a new arrangement called ‘marriage’ is not a right. One pre-requisite of good debate is to be able to understand and articulate the views of one’s opponents. Your repeated lampooning of the position of orthodox Christians in this way makes the debate very difficult.

            2. Research on church planting, which I have published here, shows you are incorrect. These churches are actually growing through people coming to faith. This must be the case, since many older Christians die every year, and they are at least being ‘replaced’ as the number of Christians in the UK is at least staying steady.

            These churches are not offering ‘anti-gay’ teaching. They teach that Jesus loves all, and calls all to repent and believe the good news of the kingdom. They often do teach about sexuality, and I often help them.

      • David Campbell, professor and chairman of the University of Notre Dame‘s political science department, calls this decline, “an allergic reaction to the religious right”.

        The idea that politics is a science or even a serious academic subject is risible. Universities may act like prostitutes in order to fund themselves, of course.

        • That’s a very clear statement of Michael Oakeshott’s position re politics in the university context, but perhaps science is not one thing or one method but a wide range of both. So particle physics, theology and psychology can all be called sciences but they have different methods and different degrees of precision and ways of working with ambiguity and uncertainty because of their radically different subject matter.

          • Agreed, but I am talking specifically about politics as an academic subject. Although I’ll throw in ‘business studies’ for good measure.

  5. Indeed, Andrew your stated analysis of religion in America may well be correct.
    However, I am not so sure that we can “pin” that analysis on Europe and /or the UK.
    That said, are we not seeing a drift from liberal socialism towards the hard right in Europe. Is this also emerging in our own UK current political landscape?
    “The times they are a changing” People are today looking for certainty and stability
    Can our Church provide that?
    How shall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation? Hebrews 2 vs 1-4

    • The rise of the hard right in recent European and EU elections is largely based on nationalism and anti immigration rhetoric rather than anti same sex marriage or anti abortion feeling (and the same applies to the rise of Trump despite his concessions to the evangelical wing of the GOP on SC appointments as POTUS which reversed Roe v Wade).

      Immigrants of course are generally more religious than the native born UK population

        • The hard left is statist in terms of wanting higher taxes and more nationalised companies and infrastructure. The hard right is statist in terms of wanting to drastically tighten border controls and reduce immigration and in some cases even deport migrants. Some of the hard right is also socially conservative as is a small percentage of the hard left

  6. I’m not convinced the three-fold categorisation of different views in the Church works. For a start, the PLF are a working out of the current doctrine and teaching where the Church allows committed same-sex partnerships as long as they don’t have sex. PLF creates recognition in liturgy of that. It also creates the now bizarre (though maybe they’ll be redrafted again) prayers for friendship where the friendship is not exclusive or seemingly particularly committed. I’ve been racking my brain about why this is there in the format it is, is it meant to be for celibate gay people to attach themselves to other families in the Church in some formalised way? No one seems to know, and no one is talking.

    But more importantly, it’s pretty clear that those who sit on the “conservative” side of these debates are not happy with current teaching and doctrine. There’s a good body who want to get rid of the current permission for civil partnerships. There’s still a good number of people who spent years, if not decades, roundly ignoring Issues in Human Sexuality when it sexual orientation couldn’t be changed and it was wrong to try. Every now and again the debate stumbles into whether it’s a good idea to encourage people who exclusively same-sex attracted into heterosexual marriages. And there are some who will tell you that questions about whether homosexuality ought to be outlawed or subject to the death penalty, is really a question determined by cultural context.

    • Why you cannot make headway is that you persist with the wrong basic assumption that there is a conservative ‘side’ and a radical ‘side’. This cannot cope with people who can think.

      But it is people who can think who are the *only people worth listening to. So how could your position be more wrong?

      Do you actually think there is no possible third (or fourth…) position to hold?

      And, secondly, if there were more that 2 positions, the first 2 positions sound pretty unnuanced and ideological, so the 3rd, 4th etc positions could only be less so, and therefore would be preferable to the first two.

      You however are behaving as though the most unthoughtful positions possible were the only two that existed. That is how many miles you are from even beginning the debate. But that can easily change.

      • My point is that there are more than the three positions Andrew outlined, because what is commonly seen as the “conservative” one (characterised by Andrew as maintaining current doctrine and teaching) masks a litany of different positions that want to change current doctrine and teaching.

        • My reply appeared later. My apologies for not reading properly. My main point was that ‘sides’ are the result of stances/positions, but all stances/positions with any integrity are evidence based anyway (we can ignore those that are not); and evidence is as it is, so never takes sides. Those framing things in terms of ‘sides’ are self-condemned.

    • Blair only invented civil partnerships to sidestep the Church of England’s (biblically based) opposition to SSM. Gay activists and traditionalists both promptly called them out for the nonsense they are. Now this incoherent notion is spawning confusion within the church.

      • It was around that time that I noticed that policy was being determined by votes and interest groups and lobbies with no attention to evidence. A green light for ideologues and a professor’s or honest person’s nightmare. That was sowing the wind to reap the whirlwind.

        • No, he is not saying that. That would be a relativist position. He is saying that the logic, evidence and arguments point away from it. Completely different.

        • Personally I’m much in favour of civil partnerships. By which I mean that if one were starting now from scratch rather than with the outcome of not entirely ideal past history, one should think in terms of the state having a flexible civil partnership scheme which could be used in a variety of contexts not all of whch would be sexual, but which would offer some of the tax breaks etc of marriage for the convenience of other non-commercial partnerships.

          Within the state a variant of civil partnership could be used as the legal framework for Christian and other marriages. This would be a better arrangement than having a nominally Christian state messing around with Christian marriage by imposing the civil partnership in parallel.

          • Stephen Langton

            As a Brit-by-birth married to an American-by-birth, I can tell you that a really important ‘right’ that comes from marriage, but not civil partnerships is that marriage is recognized internationally. Without the legal right to marry in at least one of our countries, we would not have been able to apply for legal residence in either country as a couple. We probably would have been forced to end the relationship because we would have only have been allowed to visit each other as tourists, not live together.

          • Peter Jermey
            I’m proposing a ‘rejig’ of the whole system whereby everybody ideally would be doing widely recognised ‘civil partnerships’ some of which would be used by various religions/philosophies as the legal basis for marriages. Unfortunately I’m aware that this idea won’t be accepted any time soon, but it would deal with problems such as you have had.

            I’m afraid Christian churches should still not accept same-sex marriages for Christians; but should accept the legal and property rights of non-Christian marriages for non-believers.

      • Anton

        I don’t claim to know what Blair’s motives were, but he didn’t INVENT civil partnerships. They had already existed in some other countries well before that, e.g. in Denmark and in the Netherlands.

        • I do claim to know what Blair’s motives were, although, I can’t easily find the relevant interview with someone involved (I wasn’t doing guesswork); also they were perhaps introduced elsewhere for the same reason.

  7. The largest grouping within the Church of England is clearly that which backs prayers of blessing for same sex couples married in English civil law. All 3 houses of Synod, Bishops, Clergy and Laity voted for PLF by a clear majority and by a smaller majority for standalone prayers for same sex couples.

    Now you may argue conservative evangelicals and conservative Anglo Catholics should have the concession that the stand alone services should only have been approved by 2/3 majority in each House (even despite PLF reserving holy matrimony for heterosexual couples alone). However that would be a concession to the minority group within Synod that opposes recognition of same sex couples in church, they would still not be the majority in Synod which is largely now liberal and moderate Catholics and evangelicals

  8. My main gripe with Martyn’s piece is what it does with the passage in Philippians.

    I’ve read some strange takes in my time, but the notion that Paul is urging the church to live more conformably within their disagreements and differences here is a little bonkers. I know Andrew points this out in the opening paragraphs, but Paul’s idealism about the unity of the church cannot be reduced to something as banal as reluctant consensus based on what’s convenient at the time, which is very much how some commentary on LLF has felt.

    It is much richer and deeper than this.

  9. There already are distinct spaces within the CofE

    1. There are churches that are not even safe to attend as a gay person because the church thinks Lambeth 1.10 is too liberal
    2. There are love the sin hate the sinner churches
    3. There are love the sinner hate the sin churches
    4. There are churches that treat gay people as equally as they are allowed
    5. There are don’t ask don’t tell churches

  10. Yes, my apologies. My main point was simply that ‘sides’ cannot exist among truthful people, and therefore should not be referred to given that the real debate takes place only among truthful people. Sides refer to positions/stances, but positions/stances stand or fall by the evidence they are based on, and have no existence beyond that. And evidence never takes ‘sides’.

    • Christopher

      I think there can be genuine disagreement over what people think the truth of a matter is, but I think on this topic in particular there’s a shocking amount of deliberate dishonesty

        • You are preaching to the choir, unfortunately the CofE is clearly never going to have a real discussion about this.

          • Too right. They are so busy trying to please everyone that they even want to please and accommodate Peter Tatchell who has never been minded to disown the black mass (or similar, but more sexual) which he and his Darkness-loving friends participated in during the Nationwide Festival of Light.

  11. Should have mentioned earlier about voting that the reason for requiringmore than a ‘simple majority’ is that whether in a popular vote like referendum, or in a vote by elected representatives, it can get the vote nearer to being approval by a majority of the whole electorate rather than just of those who bothered to vote.

    I also can’t avoid feeling that the state of affairs of the CofE comprising three or more incompatible groups is a function of the state church thing and of the ‘serving two masters’ business whereby place in and pressures from the state compromise simple obedience to God and the Bible, which would have resolved the whole thing long ago on the ‘traditional’ ‘side’.

    • There is no intrinsic merit in being traditional. There is intrinsic merit in following evidence and logic and compasison.

      • 1.The noetic effects of sin are determined, discerned,
        2. Measured how?
        3. Set against which source, standards?
        4. Where are they to be found in this whole LLF farrago?
        5. Where are they to be traced to their watershed sources?
        6. Even as Andrew Goddard has with some perseverance and forensic application has described in some detail its outworking in recent ecclesiastical CoE processes.

      • As a good Protestant I know that tradition doesn’t count against Scripture; my point here was that in effect we have a ‘traditional’ interpretation in the sense of ‘longstanding’ and a modern interpretation – and certainly it is the ‘traditional’ interpretation that fits the biblical evidence rather than being ‘traditional’ in the bad sense. I think it’s also more logical because as I’ve repeatedly explained the ‘gay’ propaganda of “is’s like being black” is badly founded, and although I’d need a more detailed explanation of the point than I’m stating now, I also think that longstanding interpretation is ultimately the more compassionate. The modern interpretation certainly doesn’t fit the scriptural evidence.

        • But far more compelling is the fact that ‘gay is not equivalent to black’ needs to be said some thousands of times at all.

          (1) The point is never responded to, which means people have no answer;

          (2) They do not admit they have no answer, which means they are dishonest people.

          (3) But if they are dishonest people, they have lost the debate and no-one needs to bother about their position, which even they as proponents are unable to defend.

          Why are people being so soft on those who cannot even address key points in the argument and dishonestly think they can sidestep them? And not just sidestep them but sidestep them thousands of times?

          • Christopher – from the foreword of

            Voddie Baucham’s book “It’s not like being black”

            “If we buy the lie that sexual proclivities and preferences are equivalent to race; if we believe that the fight for the rights of “sexual minorities” is the final frontier in the struggle for civil rights, we are not only opening Pandora’s box, but are insulting whole swathes of people who have fought legitimate civil rights struggles.

            I am a black man, a descendant of slaves. I was born in South Los Angeles and have spent the last eight years living and serving in Africa. Anyone looking at me can see that I am black. I don’t “define and express my identity” as black. I was born black, and I will die black. So allow me tio state one thing here that we’ll spend the rest of this book unpacking;
            Whether you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, trigender, multigender, two-spirit, furry, queer, demiflux, otherkin, or as a mermaid, a British Columbian wolf, or an avian-human hybrid;
            Not one of those things is like being black.

  12. In a moment a repost from the ‘PLF’ thread because I think the age of that thread may mean a lot of people will have missed the point there….

    And also the Cliffe College lecturer Aaron Edwards recently dismissed over sexuality issue is currently fighting an employment tribunal case. I think the only way to truly win that case will be to make a serious dent in the claim that “‘gay’ is like being black and therefore opposing ‘gayness’ is an evil comparable to racism”. In recent years similar cases have often been ‘won’ on a technicality as it were, while leaving that bigger issue untouched. I hope and pray that Aaron and his legal team will nail that issue; but I’m not feeling confident….
    And the repost…..

    “So very basically
    There is the world as God created it, as he intended it ideally to be. That original situation no longer exists. We live in a world in which “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” as Paul says (quoting the OT). In a sin-affected world, humans are out of joint with God, and so also out of joint with His creation in all kinds of ways; out of joint with the physical world we live in, out of joint with our fellow humans, and even more than a bit out of joint with and even within ourselves.
    As a resultof this our ‘urges and desires’ are out of joint, and not only in sexual matters but in many other things we have motives and urges and desires which are one way or another sinful.
    One of the ways Paul describes this is a kind of deliberate ambiguity about the concept ‘nature/natural’, with context usually resolving the ambiguity. Things can be ‘natural’ in the fundamental ‘as God intended’ sense – but they can also be ‘natural’ in the sense of being the nature of the ‘natural man’, ie the sinners.
    Living according to our sinful natures causes all kinds of problems even at an ‘earthly’ level, and even more importantly, even if unrealised, it affects our relationship to God and can amount to a ‘choosing of the darkness’ and casting ourselves out of the light of God. And one of the consequences is also that as sinners we are not fully free any more, we have lost a lot of our ‘self control’ so that we are kind of enslaved to our urges and desires rather than ourselves governing them. This is the mess out of which we need to be ‘saved’, which humanly speaking starts by recognising that we are in that kind of mess and turning from our wrong conduct.”

    • But why should we be required to make a serious dent when the evidence has always strongly been that way anyway?

      The media are so dishonest that they think repeating things will make them truer the more often they are repeated. Ask any of them for what scientific papers have been published (let alone what those papers concluded) and they haven’t a clue. The two penn’orth of Dave from Ruislip on a phone in is far more important to them.

      • We need to make a ‘serious dent’ in that perception because that perception is held in the legal system and among bishops and archbishops. And if it can be dented at Supreme Court level the media will have little choice but to pay attention – and likewise bishops…..

        • But it’s not at all difficult. You just say to them, ‘Which studies are you relying on, and what do those studies say?’. Second, you quote the study conclusions that you yourself are relying on. Third, if they prevaricate, tell everyone that they prevaricated.

          • Christopher
            It shouldn’t be difficult; but the “It’s like being black” idea has such a hold it’s difficult to get a hearing for the alternative. In effect that idea ‘is’ the law for the moment, and probably anyone in this area will have to think in terms of losing the case ‘at first instance’ and appealing all the way to the UK Supreme Court to get a verdict that CAN include assessing if the law itself is properly valid.

            Furthermore most of the legal people fighting such cases are still thinking too much in terms of this being a ‘Christian country’ and are not really seeing the need to properly challenge the “It’s like being black” idea. Also it is possible in many cases to ‘win’ on some side technicality which leaves that wider question untouched and therefore unanswered, and still there to affect the next cases.

            The principle involved doesn’t really need ‘special studies’; it simply needs the realisation that the things people ‘just are’ like ethnically black, or blue eyed or similar are not in the same moral/legal category as the sexuality issue which involves (a) acts that people in fact DO, and which unless they are insane are CHOSEN, and (b) in relation to such acts the nearest thing you get to ‘being’ something is to have ‘urges and desires’ about the doings. And if you look at that as a wider concept than just sexuality, urges and desires are not guaranteed to be OK to live out/act out just because you subjectively find them natural. And therefore such things are properly open to challenge/question/criticism.

          • But is anyone actually carrying out my 3 point procedure.

            Because if they are not, they are making it unnecessarily hard for themselves.

  13. “Oh, nearly 150 comments since my own, maybe something of value of has been added?”

    *Spends 10 minutes reading the comments from the last couple of days*

    “My mistake, clearly”

    • I don’t understand why a few people keep pursuing pointless exchange with a few others. I don’t think anyone else reads them. I mostly don’t.

      And it spoils this as a space for genuine, quality, discussion.

      • I suppose I am in the business of ruthlessly pursuing internal contradictions. By homing in on these we narrow down and refine the search for truth. That is exciting (to me, anyway) – provided it is being done properly. Interlocutors normally pay little attention; but non-interlocutors can benefit, I hope, when it is done well.


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