Seeking a Way Through LLF/PLF: Seeing the Forest Not Just the Trees


Andrew Goddard writes: As new LLF groups convene this weekend, in this article, I note the following issues.

  • The three working groups and the bishops need not only to connect the work in each area (“the trees”) but also see the bigger theological picture (“the forest”) where the earlier LLF work is helpful in clarifying issues and options.
  • Two key questions here are (1) how ethics and consequent pastoral guidance are being related to doctrine and (2) how the church best responds to proposed developments in teaching and practice when they have significant, perhaps majority, support but there is not a clear and strong consensus.
  • In relation to doctrine and ethics the recent developments are traced and the current situation summarised.
  • It is argued that there are logically a range of options (four are explored) but that of changing ethics and pastoral guidance while claiming doctrine remains unchanged is hard to defend and few believe it.
  • We need instead to face the fact we have contrasting doctrines leading to contrasting ethics and proposed pastoral guidance and this reality raises major ecclesiological challenges.
  • In relation to ecclesiology and development if we are concerned for unity we need to respect the need for securing more than a bare majority for change but that does not mean there is no space for any development until there is a greater consensus.
  • While keeping the official CofE position unchanged, developments could be explored and experimentally tested in various ways within agreed boundaries—diocesan “local options”, an episcopally led Order of Mission or Society, a distinct provincial structure.
  • The first two would require agreed transferral of episcopal ministry where that was necessary to enable it to continue to be provided in conformity with the church’s continued official doctrine, ethic, liturgy and pastoral guidance should a bishop choose to participate in the alternative experimental form.
  • Exploring this approach could enable ongoing discernment over time while maintaining the highest possible degree of communion.

In dealing with complex questions and decisions it is always important to keep in mind both the big picture of “the forest” and the detailed specifics of “the trees”. Arguably the whole Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process to date has not been particularly good at ensuring this happens.

Three new groups (whose membership has recently been announced) are now setting to work on “the trees” (of standalone services for Prayers of Love and Faith (PLF), the new Pastoral Guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality, and the complexities of pastoral reassurance) under the oversight of a new Programme Board chaired by the Archbishop of York. There is the real danger that these will (like their predecessors a year ago and the whole PLF process through 2023) lack the time to step back and discern how all these have to be fitted together. Even doing that is, however, not sufficient. There also needs to be a sense of the much bigger picture of the task and challenges that the Church of England is addressing in relation to these three areas.

This is what the original work on the LLF resources sought to help the church to do. Their concern was to consider the big “forest” questions of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. They refused to focus in simply on “the trees” of specific decisions about same-sex relationships and the possible pathways for the church in relation to these. Though this approach was in many ways admirable and necessary, in retrospect, that stage of the LLF process (in giving a guide to the “forest”) was too reticent about addressing what we all knew were the specific major political questions and decisions ahead. Then, when addressing those questions from September 2022 onwards, the bishops jumped to answering the liturgical question without addressing (either adequately or at all) the questions relating to doctrine, pastoral guidance or ecclesiology. In addition, they have rarely if ever explicitly drawn on the work of LLF to explain their approach.

If we return to the fruit of the earlier work on LLF it highlights (at least) two major theological features of “the forest” that must not be ignored or forgotten in the determination now to “reset” the process and broker some sort of “settlement”. Neither of these have been prominent in the discussions thus far but making them more central may help clarify the deeper issues and problems we face and the options between which we have to make a choice. They relate, on the one hand, to questions of ethics and doctrine and, on the other hand, to questions of ecclesiology and development.  What follows looks at each in turn and argues that seeking to resolve specific questions (about standalone services, expectations concerning clergy patterns of life, and structural provision) can only be adequately and coherently achieved if these more “big picture” questions are considered first, aided by the earlier work of LLF and lessons from the wider church.


Ethics and Doctrine

Agreements

Although the LLF resources refrained from passing judgment on different perspectives within the church, one of its significant contributions in my mind was mapping out areas of agreement and a framework within which our differences needed to be held. In particular it stressed that across our differences there is a commitment to holiness and discipleship. So, for example, the chapters on being church (Chapter 11) and on human loving (Chapter 12) concluded with the following statements:

The church is called to be holy. It is called to be a community that expresses God’s lavish love to the world. It is called to be a community where everyone is welcome, and from which no one is made to feel excluded simply because of who they are. It is called to be a community that welcomes the poor, the marginalized, the excluded and the deprecated. It is called to be a community in which all people are welcomed into a distinctive form of life, which embodies and communicates God’s distinctive character, God’s life, God’s glory. And so it is called to be a community in which people are enabled to recognize their sin, repent, and receive forgiveness (p 234).

The journey of discipleship is costly. For the sake of the abundant life which God invites us into, various kinds of self-denial, discipline and restraint are called for. We need to unlearn old habits, and learn new ones…This pattern of self-denial for the sake of abundant life is a characteristic shape of life lived within the story of love and faith…Christian disagreements, especially in relation to the patterns of discipline appropriate for lesbian and gay people…are not disagreements about whether discipleship is costly, or whether it calls for the sometimes difficult reordering of our desires. They are not disagreements about whether Christians are called to self-denial and restraint. They are disagreements about the specific disciplines we are called to and about the ways in which those disciplines work for people in different situations (p 258)

Those chapters are followed by the lengthiest part of the book. In this it is argued that key to seeking answers to our questions is looking to God and so we need to consider and understand answers to the question “How do we hear God?” In this there is again a stress on “a shared foundation” (270-2) and the first and longest chapter opens “The Bible holds the central place in our accounts of how we hear the voice of God” (274). It proceeds to argue that

Across our differences, Anglicans affirm that God gives us the Bible for two central and inseparable purposes. The first is to tell us the good news of God’s saving love, and the second is to call the whole world into holiness (275, italics added).

It makes clear (276) that

God speaks to the world through the Bible, guiding, challenging, correcting and encouraging us (Proverbs 3.1; Hebrews 4.12; Jeremiah 15.16). All people are called to turn away from everything in their lives that rejects God, to turn to God in faith, and to grow into loving relationships with one another and with God. God’s great purpose is that we ‘may share [in] his holiness’ (Hebrews 12.10), ‘the holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12.14).

Our current situation

Our disagreement about what we hear God saying to us about the pattern of a holy life, what we need to recognise as sin and so repent of and be forgiven for, and the disciplines and forms of self-denial and restraint we are called to, has meant that the House of Bishops has until now failed to address these matters clearly in what they are describing as “a time of uncertainty”. The need to set out the pattern of life expected of those called to provide leadership as clergy and authorised lay ministers (and to a lesser extent the pattern of life that can be celebrated within a distinct, standalone service) means that this strategy of silence and avoidance cannot continue.

The question now has to be answered as to the content of the Church of England’s sexual ethic and in particular what it says to those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives. The commended Prayers of Love and Faith have sought to signal the church’s welcome to them in fresh ways. There, has, however, been a refusal to be clear as to what the church is now saying as regards loving, committed relationships and sexual conduct, about the pattern of holiness and costly discipleship which all who follow Christ should seek. This represents a significant failure for all who look to the church for wisdom and teaching and perhaps particularly for those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Initially it appeared that the church was developing a new pattern of ethical teaching. The paper to General Synod in February 2023 (GS 2289) spoke of how the bishops “recognise the diversity of committed relationships that exist both in the Church and in wider society today” and “joyfully affirm, and want to acknowledge in church, stable, committed relationships between two people—including same-sex relationships” (p 1, similar language appears in a number of places). Although the paper to Synod avoided the question of whether these could be sexual (as the bishops had not apparently discussed that sufficiently to decide on that question), the Archbishop of York appeared to signal they could be when he told the BBC R4 Sunday programme on 22nd January,

what we are saying is that physical and sexual intimacy belongs in committed, stable, faithful relationships and therefore where we see a committed, stable, faithful relationship between two people of the same sex, we are now in a position where those people can be welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms.

In the course of 2023, however, there were significant developments away from this trajectory. The focus narrowed down from “committed relationships…including same-sex relationships” so that PLF were only to be used for same-sex couples. The new Pastoral Guidance that introduced the prayers when they were commended in December (and of which expectations for clergy will form Part III) was also clear at the start that – in line with the bishops’ stated commitment not to change the doctrine of marriage as also supported by General Synod in February 2023:

The Church of England teaches that Holy Matrimony is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, blessed by God in creation and pointing to the love between Christ and the Church; a way of life which Christ makes holy. It is within marriage that sexual intimacy finds its proper place. (p. 1)

This is a restatement of the various past pastoral statements from bishops. These have clearly established and explained the position where the church’s ethical teaching and pastoral discipline in the light of its doctrine of marriage has included:

1.      No sex outside marriage between a man and a woman;

2.      Committed same-sex relationships (for example a civil partnership) are permitted but they are not marriage and therefore should not be sexual;

3.      Committed same-sex relationships should not claim to be marriage.

Since at least Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 this ethical teaching has not been enforced by disciplinary means on lay people. They have been given freedom to conscientiously reach different conclusions and disregard it. It is important not to forget that this is already an accommodation some find difficult given the agreed importance of holiness and biblical teaching set out above, and IHS notes that this is dissenting from the agreed teaching of the Church. It has, however, been expected that clergy (and in places also licensed lay ministers) order their lives according to this ethic given the nature of their calling and vows at ordination. Many Church of England parishes which are committed to this vision of holiness and discipleship are also committed to the lay leadership within their congregations being required to embody this teaching.

Options

The question now is whether, given the restatement of the doctrine of marriage on the opening page of the new Pastoral Guidance, this remains the Church of England’s sexual ethic and whether Part III of the Pastoral Guidance concerning the pattern of life of clergy and lay ministers will be consistent with this doctrine and ethic.

It is clear that many (probably a majority in the church, certainly among the bishops) want new Pastoral Guidance that does not embody this sexual ethic. For those wishing change in the Pastoral Guidance a crucial question is what new sexual ethic they are proposing the Church of England now teach and allow to be embodied in the lives of clergy. The further question is whether/how that is compatible with the unchanged doctrine of marriage stated above and with Scripture.

Given the agreed importance of holiness and discipleship and repentance from sin noted above and the clear and strong warnings of Scripture against all forms of sexual immorality (porneia) this is undeniably a very significant question. It should really have been addressed before now in this process and certainly cannot continue to be treated simply as “too difficult to answer” or “we simply agree to disagree”.

In considering the options it is helpful to survey the different ways in which doctrine and ethics (and hence the ethical expectations on church leadership that flow from the ethics) might be related to each other. Leaving aside the theoretical option that the church abandon teaching any sexual ethic and simply call on all Christians, including Christian leaders, simply to follow their conscience and keep within the law of the land, the following different approaches might be mapped.

1.      Uphold the current ethic rooted in the current doctrine as summarised above.

2.      Demonstrate that a new ethic can legitimately develop within the current doctrine (of marriage and, for the pastoral guidance, of ordination).

3.      Develop a new ethic that is detached from the current doctrine either explicitly or implicitly.

4.      Develop a new ethic flowing out of a new doctrine.

In relation to (1) this would represent little or no change from where we have been historically  but the new pastoral guidance might at least ensure that the Pilling recommendation is applied that “whether someone is married, single or in a civil partnership should have no bearing on the nature of the assurances sought from them that they intend to order their lives consistently with the teaching of the Church on sexual conduct. Intrusive questioning should be avoided”.

In relation to (2) it would appear that some still hope this might be possible. The original attempt to sharply distinguish civil marriage and holy matrimony was a partial attempt to achieve this. However, it still left unanswered the question of sexual conduct unless the traditional ethic developed to recognise whatever a particular culture viewed as marriage (rather than holy matrimony) as the proper place for sexual intimacy as the Archbishop of Canterbury at one point appeared to signal as a possible development. As I have argued, to revise the church’s pastoral guidance as many want to while claiming no change to doctrine faces major hurdles. It is also a position which very few in the church appear to hold personally as most who wish the ethic and guidance to change also wish the doctrine to change.

In relation to (3) the question is raised as to the basis for any new ethic if it has become detached from the supposedly unchanged doctrine. Few are likely to commend this as a way forward but it may arise by default by changing the ethic but not explaining how it is consistent with the doctrine or explaining the doctrinal basis which many, perhaps most, recognise to be unconvincing.

In relation to (4), although there are various theologically articulated options being advocated, there is still as yet (as was the case back in 2015) no obvious clarity and consensus among those pressing for change as to what any alternative sexual ethic might be. For example, should the current rules be extended so that sexual relationships are now also permissible in civil same-sex marriage and/or civil partnerships but nowhere else? Would this also apply to opposite sex civil partnerships? Or is it simply good enough that the relationship is somehow recognised as “committed, stable, faithful”?

The further difficulties here are that (a) this clearly abandons the repeated commitment not to change the doctrine of marriage and (b) there remain very many in the Church of England at every level who are committed to that doctrine (and the consequent ethic and pastoral guidance). One solution here might be to attempt not replacing the current doctrine and ethic of the Church of England with a new doctrine and ethic but to argue that this new doctrine and ethic can legitimately be held alongside the current teaching. This would be similar to the approach of The Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church and Baptists churches in relation to same-sex marriage (the LLF book has a helpful discussion and categorisation of approaches of different churches at pp. 130-135). It is, however, difficult to see as having coherence as the disagreement is that it means the church teaches something as both a way of holiness and a way of sin from which people need to repent. It is very hard to implement in an episcopal church structure – can a congregation seek to teach that something is sinful and to be rejected by faithful disciples of Christ (as an unjust and harmful denial of fundamental human equality or as a pattern of sexual immorality) when its bishop teaches it is a way of holiness? It is also effectively a change in doctrine and one likely to make the more permissive doctrine and ethic the new default doctrine and ethic of the church and so put pressure on those who maintain the current, less permissive doctrine and ethic, to conform with it.

Because of the deep division between those who would seek (1) and those who would seek (4), the attempt has been to try and find some form of (2) even if in reality nobody really believes this combination of doctrine and ethics and so it becomes a form of (3) where the church’s doctrine is in practice making no real difference to its ethic. I have in the past made comparisons between elements of LLF/PLF and Brexit and it may be the case that the question of how to develop our ethic and pastoral guidance while claiming not to change doctrine will prove not dissimilar to the problem of the border in Ireland. The desire there was to argue that a solution could be found which would uphold no change to the border controls on the island of Ireland while removing the whole of the UK fully from the EU single market on the same terms. The desire here seems to be to argue that a solution can be found which would uphold no change to the church’s doctrine (as restated now in the Pastoral Guidance) while rewriting the church’s ethic and pastoral guidance to remove various restrictions that exist in current Pastoral Guidance because of that doctrine. Both are what, in Brexitland, came to be known as “unicorns” where the only possible response was, in the words of one senior UK negotiator, “We all know unicorns don’t exist. The question now is whether everyone can agree to make do with horses with shells glued to their foreheads”.

The depth of our disagreements about (a) whether or not to stick with the current doctrine and ethic and consequent pastoral guidance and (b) if not which of the other options should be followed, and particularly (c) what alternative/additional doctrine and related ethic might be approved is close to the heart of why we now appear to be “stuck”. In particular it raises the whole question of what all this means for our unity where the honest approach would appear to be recognise that there are two competing and contradictory doctrines which are relate to two competing and contradictory ethics.  All this requires us to step back and consider the second of the bigger picture (“forest”) questions: ecclesiology and development


Ecclesiology and Development

The account above frames our problems in terms of whether or not there needs to be a development in our doctrine and ethic and, if so, what form that should take and how it might relate doctrine and ethics. This is obviously not a new question in the history of the church and various principles have been established about how to discern answers to this and live with different answers. Out of a concern for the unity of the church and a recognition that “the church” is not simply the church militant here on earth and certainly not only the 21st century Church of England there has been a recognition that formal developments in doctrine and ethics require a new clear consensus to emerge. Part of this will also involve discernment as to the significance of the proposed development within the life of the church and its effect on the church’s body of doctrine as an organic whole.

Another of the unfortunate weaknesses of the LLF resources was that – because the remit was to address questions of “identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage” – it did not give sufficiently detailed attention to these and related ecclesiological questions. It did not, however, wholly ignore them. In the chapter on “a story about being Church” (notably pp. 230-34), the final conversation which discusses this (pp. 405-12), and in the last session of the LLF Course attention was given to these questions and possible models for dealing with differences. These drew in part on the earlier work of FAOC on Communion and Disagreement. Returning to that part of “the LLF forest” will be crucial in considering the “three trees” which are the focus of the current process.

Our current situation

The major challenge we have currently in the Church of England is that we clearly do not have more than a bare majority (if that) for developments in our doctrine or ethic or liturgy or pastoral guidance. That is evident from the votes in General Synod on even the comparatively minor development of commending PLF for use in regular services never mind the more significant developments of standalone services (accepted now as requiring two-thirds in all three Houses which it clearly falls well short of currently) or new pastoral guidance.

It would seem, however, that (in line with the supposedly only indicative commitments which were not even voted on by Synod given the widespread concern about them) the desire is nevertheless for the work on Pastoral Guidance to “commit to exploring the process for clergy and lay ministers to enter same-sex civil marriages”.  This determination to introduce this new development is apparently due to a vote on October 9th in which the House of Bishops accepted an amendment to the proposal they “agree that further work be done on part 3 (Ministry) of the Guidance for issuing as soon as possible”. This amendment read “with the intention that it remove all restrictions on clergy entering same-sex marriages, and on bishops ordaining, licensing and granting permissions to officiate to such clergy”. It was introduced by the Bishop of Manchester without any supporting papers offering a theological rationale or legal basis for it and, it now appears, in the face of legal and theological advice which highlighted the significant difficulties with such a development. It was passed by a vote of 18 for, 15 against and 2 abstentions. In other words the development had the support of only 51% of the 35 bishops present and only a third of the total number of bishops in the House (there are 53 seats, although given there are always vacancies this is probably closer to 40% of those eligible to vote). It is also clear from the votes in General Synod that the House of Bishops is much more enthusiastic about development than the House of Clergy and even more the House of Laity. What would we make of any congregation’s leadership deciding to push ahead with major contentious developments based on such levels of support and dissent?

Developments in these areas in all other Anglican churches have had much greater support before being introduced (for example in Scotland and Wales) and even where there has developed a stronger consensus (as in The Episcopal Church in the US) they have often led to painful separations as many of the minority depart to a new ecclesial structure now recognised by most Anglicans globally.

If there really is a concern for unity (not simply a determination to introduce a development which the minority is then expected to accept or be accused of being schismatic) the Church of England would be wise not to proceed with changing the church’s doctrine or ethics, liturgy or pastoral guidance when this has the support of at most only somewhere between 50% and 55% of those within its governing structures.

Options

At the moment, faced with this situation we are in danger of thinking there are only two options:

either the status quo needs to be maintained due to the lack of sufficient consensus for any alternative

or the existence of a bare majority for change requires this development to be introduced into the whole church.

The official line currently seems to be for the latter with some “settlement” then being sought with the sizeable minority who cannot accept the development. In reality, however, it seems that many (perhaps most) in the majority reject any such “settlement”. The campaign against the existing settlement as regards developments in relation to women priests and bishops shows how difficult some in the majority find it to grant any secure provision for the minority.

There is, however, an alternative approach. This seeks to recognise the seriousness of those advocating change and the level of support they have but also the dangers to the church’s unity in proceeding in changing the church’s formal position without further and stronger consensus. Those dangers are horribly evident in the fate of the Anglican Communion in recent decades. It failed to agree a consensual way forward in dealing with provinces determined to develop doctrine and ethics (as for example proposed by the Windsor Report and then the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant). It is now being recognised (as evidenced in the latest Primates’ Meeting) that there needs to be a redefinition of the Communion itself and potentially significant changes to its structures in order to maintain as high a degree of communion as possible and prevent further fragmentation. The ecclesiological challenges are similarly signalled even in The Episcopal Church in the USA. Despite losing many conservative members and clergy, parishes and even dioceses (and so now having an overwhelming majority in support of the recent developments) TEC is still having to find ways of adapting its polity in order to enable genuine “Communion Across Difference”.

So what might this alternative to either continuing to maintain the status quo or embracing a development for the whole of the Church of England look like? Its basic approach would be not to seek to change the official doctrine and consequent ethics, formal liturgies, and pastoral guidance of the Church of England. This would be on the basis that there is clearly not sufficient consensus to receive such a development on the part of the CofE as a whole.

Instead, there would have to be the development of recognised structures and orderly processes for those who are conscientiously and passionately convinced the current doctrine, ethics, liturgy and pastoral guidance are in need of development. Within these structures they would be able (a) to explore and implement some agreed degree of such development within the boundaries of the Church of England while (b) recognising that this was not the Church of England’s formal position and so (c) would necessarily impair relationships with some others within the Church of England. The questions then become (1) what ecclesial shape such exploratory development might best take and (2) how it, and particularly those bishops committed to leading it, would then best relate to the wider church which currently lacks sufficient agreement to embrace the novel developments in doctrine, ethics, liturgy or pastoral guidance as a new standard for the whole church.

There would appear to be at least 3 possible ways such an ecclesial experiment in development might be structured in as orderly and coherent a manner as possible.

One option would be for certain diocesan bishops (ideally with the agreement of a clearer majority of their Diocesan Synod than is currently found in the General Synod) implementing some development within their jurisdiction. They could perhaps use Canon B4.3 for liturgy and their freedom to ordain those they believe God has called to ministry even though there is no consensus that their way of life conforms to the church’s doctrine, ethic and canons. This would follow the “local option” that began the process of development within TEC and then in Canada (famously with New Westminster diocese and now with some dioceses allowing same-sex marriage despite the General Synod rejecting canonical changes).

A second option would be the formation of an episcopally-led Order of Mission or Religious Society, perhaps bringing together within a single recognised ecclesial body the various groups that have sought change. This could articulate and (to some agreed degree) embody within its own life the development of doctrine, ethics, liturgy and pastoral guidance for ministers that they hope one day soon the wider church will have sufficient consensus to embrace as the official practice of the Church of England.

Both of these ways forward would then require some significant form of structural provision to enable, where needed, those who could not accept this experimental development to remain under the authority of an ordinary who remained committed to the historic and still official stance of the Church of England. This may be provided by another bishop in the same region who was not pioneering the development and/or through an episcopally-led Order of Mission or Religious Society (perhaps bringing together the various groups that have recently formed The Alliance) that could be formed for those firmly committed to upholding and embodying received Anglican teaching and practice (as, for example, summed up in Lambeth I.10). 

A similar arrangement of transferred episcopal ministry may also be required for those parishes wishing to experiment with the development but whose bishops remain committed to ordering their ministries by the church’s current received doctrine and discipline. 

A third option which would not require such forms of transferred episcopal provision would be for those committed to the development of a new approach to form a new province within the Church of England. This would then be able to order its own life and welcome into it all who became convinced of the need for this development without having to accommodate within its own provincial structures those who remained opposed to its vision. 

None of these options are without significant ecclesial challenges both theologically and politically/legally. However, such an approach to the ecclesial challenges we face in relation to development may enable the maintenance of the highest degree of communion possible with integrity. It would enable the Church of England to give a recognised space within its life for those strongly convinced and committed to developments that are currently not permitted but without these becoming the authorised position of the whole church. It would do so in a way that sought to ensure that those pressing forward with the development, those sympathetic but waiting for a stronger consensus to emerge, those still unsure, and those determined to resist proposed developments as in error continue to relate to one another within the wider structures of the Church of England including General Synod. 

Such an approach would also allow a period of orderly ongoing discernment within the wider church. This would include in part – on the Gamaliel principle (“if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God”, Acts 5:38-39) – gaining greater clarity over time as to the mind of the church and the work of the Spirit both on the substantive issues and also on how our structures best evolve to enable the highest degree of communion in the face of our disagreements and divergences.  

For those committed to the current teaching who are convinced the proposed developments are in error and dangerous this approach is a painful compromise. The ideal for them would clearly be upholding the status quo. This alternative may however be able to take a form that they can see as a sad necessity but one which is principled and has integrity. 

For those committed to developments this is also a painful compromise especially given they appear to form a majority. The temptation might be to proceed on the basis of that majority however small and however unhappy and large the dissenting minority proves to be. The problem with such a stance is that it represents a major break with well-established good practice for patient securing of a super-majority signalling a clear and strong consensus before implementing a development. It is therefore problematic both in terms of principle as an undermining of catholic ecclesiology (see Oliver O’Donovan on the Scottish experience) and in terms of consequences as it is likely to lead to significant opposition not only to the substance of the development being introduced but also to the process of introducing the development.


Conclusion

The three groups tasked to work on the “trees” of standalone services, pastoral guidance and pastoral reassurance meet together on the 10th to 12th May and the bishops will reflect on the fruit of that meeting in the following week. As they do so it is important that the whole church (not just CEEC) prays for their work but also that sight is not lost of the bigger picture (the “forest”) sketched here: the questions of doctrine and ethics, ecclesiology and development.

It would be tragic and almost inevitably lead to (perhaps catastrophic) failure were the understandable desire to broker a settlement as quickly as possible simply led to political haggling and power plays that disregarded the earlier work of LLF and refused to undertake the serious reflection needed on these key “big picture” theological questions.


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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439 thoughts on “Seeking a Way Through LLF/PLF: Seeing the Forest Not Just the Trees”

  1. I can see that we should be appreciative of the meticulous work that Andrew Goddard has done over an extended period to chronicle and analyse LLF

    Yet in some sense I am in despair that leading orthodox figures such as Goddard still think that such elaborate and frankly impenetrable comments is what is needed.

    It will be in the individual parishes that the matter is now settled. We need leaders to get and convince people to act.

    Ian Paul is a man who heads towards the sound of gunfire. He and others need to decide what they believe should happen and then get out and convince dozens of congregations to do something.

    It needs energy, simple patterns of speech from men with the hide of a rhinoceros.

    Please, lead us from the front

    Reply
    • That’s unfair to Andrew Goddard. He has detailed knowledge of how the CoE works and of the tale of this debacle, and by writing his articles he is performing a valuable service for those who might wish to uphold the biblical line. I have no idea whether he has powers of leadership but that is a different skill and we should pray that God raises people to lead a movement within the CoE to fight for the biblical line.

      Reply
    • Peter

      I think the congregations where there is a strong majority against locally optional blessings for gay couples are going to be pretty few and far between *and* most of them have already been vocal in their objections.

      I would estimate that typical evangelical churches are split 3 ways on the question (against/in favor/indifferent) and that liberal/catholic churches are more 20/40/40.

      Reply
  2. Anton,

    You appear not to have noticed my first paragraph.

    Sometimes there are bigger issues at stake than individual sensibilities. This is surely such a time.

    The idea that administrative sophistication will get us out of this cauldron has been tested to destruction.

    Money and people will settle the matter and they both need leaders to direct them where to go.

    Reply
    • For what should be done, please see my comment below. I am trying to put myself in Dr Goddard’s shoes, painstakingly writing long articles like this and the first response calls it “elaborate and frankly impenetrable.” If God raises leaders to put the CoE back on track then they will need articles like this. I don’t find them particularly easy either, but nobody *has* to read them if they don’t want.

      Reply
      • I am sorry, Anton, but I really do not think Goddard’s feelings are what matter here.

        The article is obviously incomprehensible to the overwhelming majority of people who will be in a Church of England service this weekend.

        We need our leaders to do better. It is sometimes right to say so

        Reply
    • I can appreciate that for a busy vicar having the time and concentration required to ‘read, mark…and inwardly digest’ [sic.] the detail of Andrew Goddard’s article here is unrealistic.

      However, IF you can carve out the time to do so, it seems to me that it boils down to a proposal to allow certain carefully-defined sections of the CofE (probably parts of certain dioceses) to try an experimental period where revisionist practice is allowed gradually to take place.

      This “would enable the Church of England to give a recognised space within its life for those strongly convinced and committed to developments that are currently not permitted but without these becoming the authorised position of the whole church… This would include in part – on the Gamaliel principle – gaining greater clarity over time as to the mind of the church and the work of the Spirit both on the substantive issues…
      For those committed to the current teaching who are convinced the proposed developments are in error and dangerous this approach is a painful compromise…This alternative may however be able to take a form that they can see as a sad necessity but one which is principled and has integrity.”

      If I have understood this correctly as a serious proposal from one at the heart of the LLF discussions, then I for one feel it is a proposal worth engaging with, rather than simply throwing up our hands in despair at the lack of backbone among our orthodox leaders.

      God bless you in your ministry.

      Reply
  3. one of [LLF’s] significant contributions in my mind was mapping out areas of agreement and a framework within which our differences needed to be held. In particular it stressed that across our differences there is a commitment to holiness…

    How can there be a commitment to holiness when the biblical definition of sin is being ignored by one party? There is, rather, a commitment to unity above biblical truth, and I believe we have walked together long enough (2 Corinthians 6:14). Too long, in fact, for events have come to this because, as Andrew Goddard says, “Since at least Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 this ethical teaching [the three points labelled 1,2 and 3] has not been enforced by disciplinary means on lay people.” You cannot slice and dice the holy Bible, and it is time for those who accept what it says about sexuality and what it says about Jesus Christ to speak clearly to those who wish to accept the latter and reject the former. The message? You are heretics and we will fight to force you out. This message must be backed up by prayer, by exploitation of the Church of England’s constitution, and by public shaming of hypocrites. Wise as serpents, innocent as doves…

    Reply
    • Anton

      Neither side is ignoring the sin. They are in profound difference over what the sin is. Is it same sex relationships or is it failing to love gay neighbors as themselves

      Reply
      • Peter, your answer fails because you are demanding that the total number of sins has to be one.

        But WHY does the total number of sins have to be one?

        More intelligence would have seen this immediately.

        Reply
          • No debate has 2 sides. The only thing that can sometimes be 2 in number is conclusions, but in that case conclusions would already have been reached, and if they had already been reached the time for debate would have passed. More likely people are (rather hopefully) claiming conclusions which are not (according to the available evidence) worthy of the name conclusion at all.

            The idea that debates have 2 sides is one of the first red lights re dishonesty. Honest people refine arguments and evidence together, ruling out things that do not correspond to evidence or which are internally incoherent. This is a collaborative process, except among children and the immature.

  4. I have read Andrew Goddard’s detailed work and heard him in person, and he has certainly done the exhaustive and essential spadework. Andrew has laid bare the incoherence and contradiction that lies at the heart of those agitating for change.
    What is called for now is concerted *political action, which is distasteful to most of us but inevitable. It was revealing to see Charlie Skrine of All Souls appear on ‘Youtube’ on the Australian programme ‘The Pastor’s Heart’ where he seemed torn and indecisive in standing up to Sarah Mullaly of London, in concert with St Helen’s Bishopsgate and HTB – easily the three biggest Anglican churches in the Diocese of London -and this after his colleague Rico Tice has broken with the C of E. Evangelicals need to stand together and tell their revisionist bishops: No more. No more money to them, no confirmations. If necessary, call in faithful bishops if they are needed (not likely).

    Reply
    • James
      I’m hoping you will agree with me as follows:

      “It should be common ground among evangelicals that the paramount need of all people everywhere is to hear, believe and obey two vital messages:

      The terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, to flee from the wrath to come; and the wonderful and sincere invitations and promises to all, some from Christ’s own lips, to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection, and to obey him for the rest of their lives.

      But are these messages believed and preached by the whole Church with the earnestness and urgency promised by those who have made the Declaration of Assent and their ordination vows?

      The clear answer to that is “No”. This failure is surely more important than the same-sex disagreement, and the need to help the homeless and those in dire need, very important though such things are!

      That being the case the time has come to follow the remarkable example set out in Galatians 2:11-14:

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

      What is needed in the desperate situation of the Church of England is an open letter of challenge and rebuke to the whole Church about this failure.

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

      I have suggested this to CEEC and Church Society more than once without any response. What do you think please?

      Email comments, positive or negative, are welcome, to [email protected].

      Philip Almond
      (former member of Blackburn Diocesan Evangelical Network)”

      Reply
      • Phil,

        The bishops would completely disregard such a letter on the grounds it was the work of a handful of fundamentalist activists.

        The only thing that will change their outlook will be if and when the money starts to move.

        That will happen one church at a time.

        Reply
        • Peter
          My proposal is not just a letter it is also “together with an integrated plan to get this issue raised formally at all Synodical levels.”
          In any case surely my idea is worth trying!
          Phil Almond

          Reply
          • I agree with you.

            The Church of England looks to bishops and clergy for leadership. I am not complaining about that. We are an episcopal church.

            The reality is that serving orthodox clergy will only accept leadership from within their own ranks.

            We need orthodox serving clergy to rise to the level of events and to salvage what can be rescued from the cauldron.

            Not in pointless meetings. They need to talk directly to orthodox congregations across the Country.

          • Peter

            I mean the Archbishop is (or at least was) a conservative evangelical from Eton, Iwerne and HTB.

            Plus there is already provision for alternative oversight if conservatives don’t like their bishop. There’s no alternative oversight for people who genuinely believe that scripture calls for full gay inclusion – and I’d argue gays are bearing the brunt of the current troubles far more than straight conservatives.

          • Peter J,

            Welby is not a conservative evangelical. Conservative evangelicals have a high regard for the Bible. In contrast, on 3rd November last year Welby told a group of LGBT Christians, in a meeting chaired by David Porter, that he was “totally and unequivocally committed to the goal of a radical new Christian inclusion that embraced LBTQIA+ people”. Given that the CoE already welcomes such people provided that they conform to the biblical definition of right and wrong in their bedrooms, that can only mean a radical violation of the biblical stance.

    • Yes, James, this is the trouble – faithful vicars torn between loyalty to the biblical stance which they believe is where Jesus Himself stands, and loyalty to the church system they have invested themselves in for decades and which has invested in them. But if you fight a battle half-heartedly against a ruthless enemy – be in no doubt of that – then you will lose.

      For this reason it might be that the CoE is doomed: those capable of leading it out of this mire are not inside it. Because I worship in the CoE merely because one of its congregations is the best congregation near me, this would not pain me as it would some. (I have lived in several places and have moved between free churches and the CoE more than once.) But it is a dreadful shame in every sense of that phrase.

      Reply
      • The CoE doesn’t ‘welcome’ queer folk, they are already here. And always have been. Faithfully serving the Lord. On whose authority are they to be welcomed? I’m afraid that neither you nor the Bishops have the authority to welcome or to exclude them.

        Reply
    • James

      The incoherence is the response from the CofE hierarchy, not those who want change. Those who want change dont believe it’s a sin for gay people to marry and want a situation where the attitudes to gay people and gay relationships are allowed to vary at the local level.

      The people who want change didnt ask for endless apologies and silly blessings. They asked for their faith and their beliefs to be respected.

      Reply
  5. Peter J,

    The notion that there is already alternative episcopal oversight available is a myth.

    I will do you the courtesy of assuming you are not being provocative and that you are unaware of the reasons it is devoid of merit.

    No serious Anglican Christian leader has ever claimed that the ordination of women amounts to a false Gospel.

    The arrangements around women’s ministry are in an entirely different category to our current conflict

    Reply
    • Peter

      Im not sure which of my posts this is a response to as there’s no mention of women or episcopal oversight in my comment directly above.

      Reply
  6. The debate in the ivory tower is getting ever more surreal.

    “The question now has to be answered as to the content of the Church of England’s sexual ethic and in particular what it says to those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives.”

    This is indeed an important question. Alas, both the Bishops and the ‘conservative’ factions have been working very hard to make sure it doesn’t get asked. They’d both much rather fret over re-organising and splitting (or not) the Church.

    We’re being invited to believe that the current agreed CofE ethic is that gay people who are not called to lifelong celibacy ought to enter into committed partnerships but not have sex. Whilst this has in practice been permitted, it’s far from a teaching or agreed ethic. That should be abundantly clear to anyone following the debate over PLF where prayers for such committed partnerships were fiercely opposed by the ‘conservative’ factions. At no point in the Synod debates, did anyone from the ‘conservative’ side argue that this “committed partnership but no sex” ethic ought to be the Church teaching or was any sort of accommodation for gay people. It was completely omitted from the paper on doctrine written by the ‘conservative’ Bishops. It should also be clear to anyone who sees what happens to clergy who are in such partnerships. Far from being endorsed as living within the ethic and discipline agreed and taught by the Church they are frequently suspected of living a deceitful fiction where few accept that their relationship is without sex.

    If you really think this is the current agreed teaching and ethic, then it’s difficult to understand what the objection to PLF is supposed to be. PLF sets up a set of prayers for this. So what is the need for changing Church stuctures, unless there’s a bit group of people who don’t agree with this teaching and ethic and want something different. But what is that different thing? What do the ‘conservatives’ want the teaching and ethic be for “those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives”?

    Reply
    • “The question now has to be answered as to the content of the Church of England’s sexual ethic and in particular what it says to those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives.” This is indeed an important question. Alas, both the Bishops and the ‘conservative’ factions have been working very hard to make sure it doesn’t get asked.

      It is untrue that the ‘conservative’ faction wishes to duck this question. Since the introduction of iniquitous ‘hate speech’ laws (exploited by the angry to claim that they are instead alarmed and upset) the conservatives have to frame their public replies not as a matter of moral right or wrong but as a matter of fidelity to the Bible or not. But the answer is loud and clear and the CoE has said it repeatedly in the fairly recent past. The fact is that those seeking change away from the Bible keep asking the question and keep infiltrating the church – a process that will end in victory for them unless the conservatives fight back, as they should. Thankfully no government has recently made it illegal for somebody to change congregation because of theological differences with their leaders; you have to go back 350 years for that.

      Reply
        • The answer is repeated endlessly, not least by principled evangelicals who experience sexual attraction to other men such as Sam Allberry and Vaughan Roberts but don’t act on it. Some people don’t want to hear it.

          Reply
          • And yet you guys keep squiriming and spinning on here in your desperate attempts to give a direct answer. It’s really tiresome.

          • Please see the first list of three points in Dr Goddard’s article, AJB. That is perfectly explicit and was long the church’s teaching, explicable on request by almost any vicar.

          • Those would be the points that the conservatives on this very comments section have disagreed with and disowned?

    • Except that

      a the question about whether the relationship is sexual is being disallowed

      b those in such relationships themselves say that they are sexual, and when they have to say they are not, they are lying

      c many of us at the time said that allowing ‘celibate’ CPs was a grave error

      d we have been proved right as CPs are now clearly marriages.

      So the objection to PLF is that it is a deepening of the doublespeak and dishonesty.

      Reply
      • Fair to say that committed same-sex relationships that don’t have sex being fine and dandy, isn’t actually the teaching and ethic that CofE “conservatives” are trying to uphold then?

        Reply
      • Ian

        A huge problem in the church is that decisions are made but then nobody really recognizes they have been made. Conservatives disagree with civil partnerships and I’ve even come across some arguing that Lambeth 1.10 is not really what was agreed at the time and then complain that liberals don’t agree with church teaching! Well, with respect,neither do you.

        Reply
    • AJ

      The problem is that by even acknowledging that gay people exist, conservatives risk themselves appearing to “backslide”. Conservative theology has no space for gay people. Their theology of gay people is quite literally to pretend to be the guy who “just hasnt found the right girl yet”.

      Reply
      • Im not sure what planet youre living on but it’s not planet earth! Of course gay people’s existence is recognised by ‘conservative’ Christians.

        Reply
        • Plenty of ‘conservative’ Christians around here who disagree. Within one hour this afternoon, we got:

          “The category ‘gay people’ is incoherent” – Christopher Shell

          “You should see now that your simple gay / straight dichotomy isn’t actually true of a great many men, including those who call themselves ‘gay’ now” – James

          “Scripture doesn’t believe in gay people” – Stephen Langton

          “What is often termed homosexuality, is often hypersexuality or precocious sexuality” – Christopher Shell

          Reply
          • Yes, but I’m not a conservative Christian. I’m a researcher and truth seeker who loathes all ideologies. Conservative is an ideology. Conservatives are often right by default but only because radicals irrationally forsake common sense.

            The divide is not between ideologies like conservative and liberal (as irrelevant and jumping-to-conclusions as each other) but between researched and thought through vs not researched and thought through. Thus on this site there will very *often (if far from always) be broad agreement between the more qualified such as Ian Paul, C Seitz, R Bauckham, T Renz, D Shepherd, W Jones, R Grams, S Walton, myself. Many times I have said that the ill-thought-through idea that scholars typically disagree is not only trivial and inevitable (in a world where we do not yet have the whole truth and where, secondly, there are so many thousands of people and of scholars) but the precise reverse of reality since far greater disagreement is to be found among laypeople and between laypeople and scholars; and also scholars only disagree as much because they are very precise people and thus see small distinctions as large.

          • Christopher

            As I observed rece5on Twitter, you are one of the most ideological people I have encountered. You simply do not realise that your epistemology is normative in the 21st century Western world, and thus unmarked. You therefore regard other hermeneutics as distinctive, marginal, biased, unscholarly, without ever having the reflexivity to realise that your own scholarship is a particular product of the white, male, patriarchal, heterosexual, Global North.

  7. I find this so depressing. For my own Bishop to be heading this up is painful. It is just a strategy to keep meeting and talking to wear down the opposition and then claim togetherness, so much time being wasted when we are desperately in need of evangelising the nation.

    Reply
      • I too agree with Tricia. But the liberals will not focus on other things becaue they are not proper Christians and this is their top riority, while the evangelicals DO focus on other things such as evangelising, and the liberals then gain more of the hierarchy.

        Let’s zoom up above the forest of which Andrew Goddard speaks. What are the possible outcomes in, say, 15 years time, and how do we head off the unbiblical ones and get to the biblical one?

        Reply
        • Anton

          I don’t think this is the top priority of liberals actually. I think most liberals are quite frustrated that no progress has been made despite the church senior leadership focusing on little else for the last decade

          Reply
          • They arrogantly think they can define what counts as being ‘progress’?
            Proportionately fewer natural families is progress? The sexual revolution, with its family-related destruction, is progress? What’s regress, then?

          • Christopher

            I dont think you can blame liberal Christians for the collapse in wage and the cost of living crisis.

          • Christopher

            OK but the biggest driver in the reduction in child birth is very obviously the reduction in wages. When my parents were my age a single good salary could still just about buy a family home. Now you cannot do that with two salaries. People aren’t having kids because they can’t afford independent living, not because gay people have been allowed to marry

          • ‘Very obviously’? We are all expected to believe it because you assert with no evidence that it is ‘very obviously’?
            It is certainly a factor. As are:
            -The amount that parents spend now on each individual child compared to earlier times;
            -Norms spread by the media and medics;
            -Less sex is happening;
            -And relatedly less marriage;
            -And there are financial penalties to an extent for having more children;
            -And if you have 2 full time jobs in a household how is it possible to bring up more than 2-3 children?

      • Thank you Ian for your work on General Synod and all those who are battling this huge push to turn the church into a mirror image of the world.
        We are to be in the world, but not of the world.

        Reply
  8. Yes, I said CPs for clergy were wrong and would only lead to trouble.
    The Church of England was unfaithful.
    Evangelicals – including Charlie Skrine – need to tell their bishops they are no longer in fellowship with them until they return to biblical faith and order.
    We hang together or we hang separately.

    No more money, no confirmations, no fellowship until they turn back from error.
    Charlie Skrine – stand with St Helen’s and HTB.

    Reply
    • James,

      As I am sure you know, Charlie Skrine was at St Helen’s before All Souls. Charlie makes an important appeal in a recent interview that the orthodox will need to bear with one another as the grapple with how to proceed.

      I so wish, with you, that we had some leading clergy promoting exactly the message you set out !

      Having said that, they have to be convinced in their own minds that is the right thing to do.

      It is a “knife edge” to know how we appeal to orthodox clergy to start to lead us, whilst also respecting their own conscience to decide how to act.

      Reply
        • Joe, have you done your hatchet job on the leadership of any Nigerian or Chinese churches in the UK recently?

          Reply
        • That’s very unfair on ASLP and, in point of fact, pretty judgmental. I count 36 people in the picture, some 16 of whom are women (hard to tell in a few cases!) and at least 3 BAME (c.10%). The proportions are pretty similar in the individual photos and mini-bios beneath (again 36 people, of whom 15 are women and at least 4 – going by appearance and name – are BAME, as well as 3-4 more whose names suggest they may not be mother tongue English speakers. Given that church leadership is Spirit-led rather than done on a quota basis, I think the diversity quotient at ASLP looks pretty healthy to me, especially when you remember that the majority of black Christians in London choose to attend Black-majority churches.

          Reply
          • Yes, but Joe’s position is racist because he will criticise a mainly white church simply for reflecting populational proportions but will not criticise a black or Chinese church for being wildly discrepant from population-wide proportions. Nor will he live and let live.

          • I do not doubt that AS welcome everyone. But not everyone sticks around or makes it to a leadership position. It’s a solidly middle-class, white/asian church. They must be all on the same train from Richmond on a Sunday morning.

          • Christopher,

            Black and Chinese churches are the same thing – it’s all consumer Christianity, religion as a lifestyle, going to church rather than being the church.

    • You fellas are really going to have to make your mind up about this. Andrew seems to think that CPs is the orthodox ethic and discipline you’re supposed to be defending. It’s going to be hard to take any call to “return to biblical faith and order” seriously the longer you steadfastly refuse to elaborate on what that actually means.

      Reply
      • AJ,

        Andrew Goddard is trying to untie a gordian knot – personally I am not convinced that is worth doing anymore, but he is engaging in an impossible task in good faith.

        The reason it looks a mess is because that is exactly what it is. Nobody imagines otherwise.

        The meaning of a call to return to biblical faith and order is as clear as day.

        Reply
        • It’s as clear as day? Really?

          If I asked Rosaria Butterfield and James White, or the Bishops in Nigeria or Uganda, they’d say that homosexual orientation is a sinful desire that needs to be repented of and changed, and consequently it is utterly wrong for a Christian to describe themselves as gay because this is a sinful thing that will change. Furthermore, it is quite wrong to suggest that people with a homosexual orientation should stay celibate and single, because that suggests they will not change.

          If I asked Greg Coles and Preston Sprinkle, maybe the ACNA Bishops (if they didn’t think their African brothers would hear), they might say that the orientation is not sinful, only wilfully acting on it (which would include lust) is. The orientation is not really going to change, and does not itself need to be repented of. Sexual behaviour is only possible inside opposite-sex marriage. Therefore gay people should either stay single and celibate for life, or enter into an opposite-sex marriage. Both are valid choices.

          If I asked Pieter Valk he might say that the orientation is not sinful, sexual intimacy is only permitted inside opposite-sex marriage, but encouraging gay people into an opposite-sex marriage isn’t right. We are actually supposed to be lifelong celibates, and this is a gift to the Church. However, a vocation for singleness is a recipe for loneliness at odds with God’s love, and therefore some of us at least should be forming new family communities inspired by the monasteries of yesteryear.

          If I asked Wesley Hill, he might say that the orientation is not sinful, and whilst sexual intimacy is only permitted inside opposite-sex marriage, that does not rule out other forms of committed relationships. The traditions of spiritual friendship need to be rekindled, and the Church needs to consider how to include gay people into families, and how gay people can form committed partnerships (albeit without the sex).

          If I asked Justin Lee and Matthew Vines, or Bishop Jeffrey John, they might say that the orientation is not sinful and not changing, we need to apply the ethic of marriage to it rather than create something new.

          And so on.

          Reply
          • You clearly understand the issues and know perfectly well what Goddard was meaning to say.

            Your comment of 5.53 pm is self evidently intended to be deliberately provocative

          • That’s a great taxonomy of positions, Adam—thanks.

            But note two things. First, your last groups claims to ‘apply the ethic of marriage’ to same-sex relationships—but to do so they need to fillet out the central element which is ‘one man and one woman’. So they are not actually doing what they claim.

            Second, although you are right to set out the nuanced positions, above that, they are not as different as you make them out to be. They share at least three things:

            a. a believe that same-sex sexual intimacy is wrong, since it falls into the category of porneia/sexual immorality outside male-female marriage.
            b. that desire for same-sex sexual intimacy is therefore a desire for something that is wrong.
            c. in a sexualised world, we need to develop a deep sense of non-sexual friendship—reflecting the kinship relations in the NT church in a more communal age.

            Where they differ is believing whether a desire for something sinful is in itself sinful, and therefore whether a change in patterns of desire is an essential part of repentance.

            Given that we all experience desires for things which are sinful, and ISTM will continue this side of the grave, I find the position of Wes Hill, Pieter Valk, and Preston Sprinkle the more persuasive.

          • Well, AJB, what do *you* think the Bible says? I am not asking whether you accept the authority of the Bible – please do not answer a different question.

          • ‘Your comment of 5.53 pm is self evidently intended to be deliberately provocative’

            Peter, that is not the case, and it does not help when you ratchet up the emotional register like this.

          • AJB – I think Ian Paul has answered this one well: the positions are not really that different and Preston Sprinkle expresses it best. I think of an “orientation” (sexual attraction) as being like a temptation, and being tempted is not the same as sinning. Heterosexuals are sexually tempted as well and do most of the sexual sinning!
            Whether a relationship can help a person to be holy or present new problems and temptations must depend on the circumstances and persons – I doubt anyone could say in advance. When I was a teenage Christian, I was captivated by the story of the Church of the Redeemer in Houston under Graham Pulkingham, and I was dismayed many years later to learn that Pulkingham’s ministry fell apart because of gay relationships he conducted with men he was counselling, including a married man whose wife blamed Pulkingham for the breakup of their marriage. Pulkingham said his gay feelings left him when he was converted, and he went on to marry and remaind married until his death. But attractions he felt as a young man evidently never disappeared entirely. The sad moral is obvious: to know our limits and to pray not to be led into temptation,

          • Ian

            “fillet out the central element which is ‘one man and one woman’.”

            But that’s *your* belief that the most important thing about marriage is gender difference. Most gay people don’t agree with you because they have experienced life outside a heterosexual universe

          • Ian

            The different conservative positions may seem similar to you, but when you are trying to discover what is an acceptable way to live in your CofE church it’s a minefield. The position may start with “don’t have sex”, but before you know it, it may well have morphed into “dont self describe as gay”. These are not subtly different things when it is your life on the line and that’s why the incoherence from synod and the bishops is so appalling, given they supposedly were going to come up with some clear teaching.

          • *sigh Anton, again? Ok then.

            Celibacy can be a good thing, but we are warned not to prize it too highly:
            1 Corinthians 7 – better to marry than burn with passion
            Matthew 19 – sexual desire is normal so don’t avoid marriage
            1 Timothy 5 – young should marry to stop the Church being reviled

            Beware legalism and placing heavy restrictions on each other.
            Matthew 12 – Christ desires mercy not sacrifice
            Matthew 23 – beware those who tie up heavy burdens on others, but will not move them with their finger
            1 Peter 2 – live as people who are free

            It is not about what is permitted. It is about what we should do. This is why Jesus fulfills the law, and this is why he so often turns around the Pharisees’ questions about whether something is permitted.
            Mark 2 – Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath
            Romans 13 – love does no wrong to a neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law
            1 Corinthians 6 – all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful

            Marriage is a concession for us to channel our sexual desire, and to find companionship
            Genesis 2 – it is not good for man to be alone
            Ecclesiastes 4 – two are better than one
            1 Corinthians 7 – marriage is a concession, not a command
            Hebrews 13 – sexual immorality is what defiles the marriage bed

            So, given gay people are not able to change their sexuality, what are they to do if not called to celibacy? Scripture says that if you not called to celibacy, you should be able to marry. Is an opposite sex marriage a healthy concession for channelling sexual desire and avoiding burning with passion and temptation if you’re gay? Therefore same-sex marriage is the way to go.

          • AJB,

            Your exegesis ignores a few things. Who is marriage between in Genesis 2 wherein it is operationally defined? What adjective does Leviticus use to describe man lying with man as with woman, ie for sexual gratification?

            Marriage is not a concession but the context for bringing up children of the union. If everybody held to biblical sexual morality but nobody got married then the human race would die out within a few decades.

          • AJ Bell, whatever Scripture says about ‘marry’ it does not occur to ‘Scripture’ that a man and a woman are not being spoken of.
            You quote Scripture as authoritative in the principle of not being alone, and then somewhat trash it in terms of the man-woman principle.
            In other words this is nothing to do with the authority of Scripture at all. It is to do with your claiming authority for Scripture on those occasions when it agrees with you. In other words, it is a matter of claiming authority for yourself, without reference to Scripture.

          • Christopher

            Because gay people are not mentioned in scripture and were very likely unknown to its authors.

            I’ve used this example before but if my CEO has a company party and tells us we can bring our wives along, I don’t think “oh my husband isn’t welcome”. There’s a difference between heteronormativity and heterosexual exclusivity.

          • Not mentioned in Scripture?
            Unknown to its authors?
            And then you say it is an innate natural matter, from which it follows that there are roughly the same numbers of them in each generation and culture?
            Well, there are plenty who self identify thus in this generation and culture. Yet very few in the biblical cultures? If it is an innate matter, then how on earth do you explain that?

          • Christopher

            I expect there were a small percentage of people with autism in the first century, but that wasn’t known about then either.

            Scientific knowledge and communication is much better now. This means we do have some scientific knowledge of orientation and also means that gay people can associate with one another and know they aren’t an abhorrent singularity!

          • In fact, our scientific knowledge is now so much better that it totally ignores all the evidence that the physical or biological component of homosexual orientation is no more than around one tenth.
            Worse than that, those ignoring are almost never capable of naming a single scientific or statistical study on the matter, though there are many.
            Now THAT ignorance is scientific progress.

          • Christopher

            I think actually that it’s you who are denying the (10-25%) genetic component that we have really strong scientific evidence for and the first century Christians did not.

          • Peter, I referred to it in the previous comment.

            You think that things that people refer to in the previous comment are things that they are denying?

            How does that work?

            Now can you concentrate on the 85-90% which is the vast majority of the picture, and rules out innateness as a norm. Yet all your language is falsely predicated on the idea that innateness is the norm: ‘gay people’, and the like.

            As for predisposition (of which genetic analysis speaks), there is nothing in life to which some people are not innately predisposed more than others. It is not clear how things could be otherwise. Physiognomy predisposed certain people to criminality more than others, as was widely recognised 100 years ago – but they still serve the same sentences.

          • Christopher

            You say that you accept it, but then you lie about the actual percentage (twice now,lying is a sin) and don’t actually accept that this is anything more than a predilection like having a sweet tooth.

            You then assume the majority cause is bad choices,which is not only unevidenced, but runs counter to the evidence of things like personal experience

          • Peter, that is wrong. You call someone a liar who says 10-15 rather than 10-25.
            Surely the vagueness of your own 10-25 shows how complex and ill-defined such a figure is to calculate.
            And our figures largely overlap anyway.
            And see how round and inexact the numbers are.
            This means that you are desperate to get evidence that people are liars when in fact they are (see above) not. It is only that they have an alternative way of summarising evidence. And that evidence is admitted on all sides not to be susceptible of precise numerical summary!

            Bad choices? That was not what I said here. I said formative experiences. Formative experiences can also be things done to you. By someone else. By a society. By peers. By family norms. There are several categories of formative experience. And there seem to be various ages where (if they happen at those ages) they are highly decisive. Without Christ. Victims of the sexual revolution are many, and only decades down the line do they have the mental equipment to analyse too late what happened at the hands of others’ (or their own) selfish hedonism.

  9. Ian,

    I take your point, but you are not being entirely fair.

    I appreciate that the culture of these discussions is intended to be that of a seminar – and I entirely see why you should frame the culture in those terms. I am not criticising you.

    Yet, surely you would accept the proposition that the discussion is not academic.

    I speak only as an ordinary orthodox Anglican. My life is being massively disrupted in real terms by what is happening.

    Where we should live is now in doubt. Where should we place our social and family heart. How should I think about the future. Money is tight for me. Should I make it even tighter by giving to the Church of England ?

    It is not right to reduce my perspective to that of emotionalism.

    Reply
  10. Extract from one of my blog pieces…
    “Seriously, to make a case that God approves of gay sex, it is necessary to say that God positively designed the gay sex from the creation, as one of the things that in Genesis it says “He saw that it was good”.

    It is also really necessary to accept the ‘gay’ claim that God “makes people gay”. But note that, as per the discussion above [for which you would have to read the whole blog piece, but it is a point I’ve made here before too], the notion of God ‘making’ people to do and choose behaviour is a very different matter to God ‘makes people gay’? As I said above, simply people of the same sex loving one another is not a problem, nor is it a problem that they may embrace and kiss. The biblical problem is about the attempt of a same-sex couple to do same-sex ‘sex’, explicit genital acts. So to say God ‘makes people gay’ means something like this –

    “God made ‘sexuality’ as a thing for males with females, designed complementary anatomy with purposes way beyond just enjoyable stimulation of certain body parts, purposes which include bringing new humans into being. An important part of human life to be treated with respect. In ‘making people gay’ God apparently positively deprives some men of the urges and desires to do and enjoy that wonderful gift, and instead makes them want, rather absurdly and pointlessly, to shove their male sexual organs up other men’s shitholes and down other men’s throats (and ‘lesbians’ to want to do almost stranger and more artificial things for them to imitate real sex)”.

    And honestly, wouldn’t that be a rather weird thing for God to do to people?? And if he did do such things, wouldn’t he be a rather weird God? Do Christians really believe in such a God? In their desperation to argue for ‘gay Christians’, gays and liberal Christians fail to realise that for most people this kind of argument will be seen as a reason not to believe in God at all – at any rate the God as presented in the gay case. The traditional/orthodox view that gay urges and desires are part of the disorder resulting from ‘original sin’ is far more credible….”

    Reply
    • Stephen Langton

      If same sex relationships only become problematic if there is actual sexual activity (and things like holding hands dont count as sex) then conservatives really have no leg to stand on in opposing the blessings even in their own churches. If that is the case then opposing blessings for gay couples is just plain simple homophobia as it has no basis in theology

      So far, all the real world evidence suggests that being gay is essentially innate and there’s no actual evidence of any other specific cause. I think you can argue that homosexuality is in creation due to the fall, but then it’s inconsistent, dishonest and harmful to require fallen humans to fit a pre-fall model of humanity. It’s as workable as saying autistic people have to pretend they aren’t autistic or blind people have to pretend they can see to be accepted into the church.

      Reply
      • ‘Essentially innate’? You know perfectly well, Peter, that this has been disproven multiple times. But more importantly, you know that you have shown no capability to interact with the disproofs, but have (dishonestly?) ignored them. Take What Are They Teaching The Children? ch11 or any other review of the evidence, and go through all the different factors and dimensions showing just how large a proportion of the causation is circumstantial, environmental and cultural.

        Reply
          • Peter, can you familiarise us with the said ‘disproof’. Which studies ae you relying on here? Who disproved what I am saying, in which year, in which paper, published where?
            I quoted (and wrote) a chapter that has around 50 studies cited. You by contrast have cited none.
            So – readers – which do we believe? 50 studies, or zero?
            Peter, can you stop this generality, and actually cite evidence. No-one is likely to believe what you say when others have cited so much evidence and you have cited none. Are they?
            Thanks.

          • And will you stop calling multiple studies ‘my opinion’?
            I did not even do the studies. All I do is see what studies have been done, the larger scale the better, and the more relevant the better.
            And even if I had done them, I would be obliged to be led by the data not by any preferences. That is what study means.
            Mature people are led be reality and data. Not by individual wants, votes or preferences. The latter are nothing but selfishness, which is the opposite of Christianity.

          • Christopher

            You havent cited studies. You’ve cited your own book.

            I posted examples of modern scientific papers on this subject before and you just ignored them

          • I have no book. For the nth time, I wrote zero of the studies cited in the chapter. And also for the nth time, they are the same ones always cited, because they are the broadest ranging. When will you digest these points?

          • Christopher

            You keep referring to a book of which you were one of the authors. You make vague appeals to certain studies but never cite them directly. The last one I looked up was a survey of about 30 young adult children of lesbians from back before same sex sex was even legal.

            At best you are cherry picking studies which seem to fit your agenda (mostly flawed surveys) and refusing to accept scientific evidence or real life testimony because it disagrees with you

          • Read any book which cites the same statistical studies. Why should we debate until you have done so? This could be Michael L Brown, A Queer Thing Happened; Neil Whitehead, My Genes Made Me Do It; Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth; TL Schmidt, Straight and Narrow?; R Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice; JB de Young, Homosexuality – Contemporary Claims Examined. Why does it matter which one you read? – or read any other book of your own choosing that gives the main (i.e., largest scale) statistical studies.

            Are you saying that all the thousands of words you have written are written *before reading what the science and stats actually say?

            You quoted one study. Any of these will give you 50. Which is better? – 1 or 50?

          • The names are nothing. Read what I said. I said that their writings collected together the studies of OTHERS, who ARE scientists and social scientists. Which is exactly why I said it doesn’t matter which book you read. Even Joe Bloggs could COLLECT studies, but only scientists can DO them, and is those scientists you should be listening to. Why aren’t you? This is a complex matter with many subtopics and subheadings. You are still speaking as though there were only one topic.

          • Peter, I know the collectors are irrelevant, but why did you say that the collectors were to a man not scientists? Is this something you wanted to be true, or something you had looked into?
            Jeffrey Satinover is a physics PhD summa cum laude. As well as a fully qualified psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.
            Neil Whitehead was a biochemistry PhD research-scientist.

          • Christopher

            Cite me an actual paper or article based on scientific evidence that actually agrees with your opinion and maybe explain how the results confirm your opinion.

            Just listing names of anti gay activists, even if they had a PhD in physics, is meaningless. Citing your own book is meaningless

      • Per your last para, youre confusing being and doing. And if youre going to use the analogy of autism or blindness, then I suspect most parents of an autistic child would rather they did not have the disadvantages autism typically brings. Similarly I suspect most blind people would rather be able to see. Believe it or not, you can be straight or gay and not be in a sexual relationship.

        Reply
    • I have re-read this several times and am still appalled by your ignorance and vulgarity. The ‘genital acts’ which you describe with so much horrified relish are not the only intimacies enjoyed by male same sex lovers and spouses, and they are also enjoyed by other sex couples. There are many varieties of sexual intercourse which do not include penis in vagina penetration and couples who communicate in these ways sexually, whether gay or straight, are not being ‘strange or artificial’. Your understanding of sexual intimacy seems to imply that any act which isn’t PIV isn’t ‘real’ sex. This is both unrealistic and untheological. There is no requirement, in the CoE at least, for all sexual intimacy within marriage to be ‘open to conception’ and there is no convincing biblical or theological argument for it to be so.
      As for the weirdness of God, one has simply to look at creation to see how infinite Their variety is and how non instrumental. Queer penguins exist because God delights in them.

      Reply
      • I don’t know why the replies have become so remote from the posts to which they are responding. My comment is on response to Stephen Langton’s vulgarity above.

        Reply
      • Thank you Penny for speaking the truth here and spelling out what should not need to be said. There is, of course, a lot of ‘no sexual please, we’re British’ still around, and if you add conservative evanglical on to that it is especially true. And it’s very sad.

        Reply
        • Thank you. This is why the Church really really needs to have a grown up conversation about sex and sexuality. A bishop at Synod won’t discuss it (not for the first time) and in the context of a debate on sexuality. And once again on here we see displayed not only vulgar rhetoric but also a profoundly ignorant and ideological approach to sexuality. This stuff about sexual propriety is always ideological and never theological. I’m really tired of seeing secular conservative ideology dressed up as orthodoxy or faithfulness to scripture. It’s not counter cultural, but its reverse and these threadbare appeals to a misunderstood tradition and ecclesiology are very tiresome.

          Reply
          • Always remember that ‘grown up’ means compromising Christian values. How immature it would be to uphold them.

          • “This is why the Church really really needs to have a grown up conversation about sex and sexuality”

            I wish it were possible. I fear that the reasons people like Stephen writes as he does is because he is too scared to look at his own sexuality. It is a wonderful part of what it is to be human. And the primary calling of Christians is to be fully human.
            It is especially worrying that Andrew Goddard equates being celibate with being holy. There is very much more to holiness and imagining what God thinks about sex is like trying to imagine what an elephant thinks about wearing clothes.

          • Christopher

            Grown up means being adult and mature, not juvenile. Qualities which you repeatedly admire.
            Prurience, ignorance, sniggering, queerphobia, using crude rhetoric are juvenile.

  11. Time for evangelicals to say “The debate is over. Now for action.” Time to coordinate and organise such action. Time to threaten bishops using the donations/parish share weapon. They have broken their vows and therefore have no principles, so they will bend. They are merely behaving like bullies, and like bullies they will fold.

    Time to use embarrassment as a weapon too. Embarrassment is powerful and based on the exposure of hypocrisy. Repeated demonstrations could be arranged outside bishops’ residences with placards asking “Does this bishop believe in God?” and “Should this bishop resign?” Flyers could be handed out explaining in brief and simple language the incompatibility of liberal theology with the Christian faith. Included would be the bishop’s salary, quotes from his (her?) liberal writings and speeches set against scripture, pointed questions about hypocrisy, and statistics for the number of administrators in the diocese and the number of regular Communicants during recent decades. (A website could maintain this information for every diocese.) Similar demonstrations could be held before services outside every church at which the Archbishops give a sermon, and also at their other public engagements; local media could be alerted in advance. Boo them outside churches. Senior bishops from the Anglican Communion worldwide should be encouraged to warn Welby that they will withdraw from the Communion entirely if the Church of England does not desist from its present obvious course.

    Reply
        • I was thinking more that you’re complaining that you think the Bishops are bullies, and then trying to organise a campaign of harassment and intimidation.

          Reply
          • Rather a campaign of embarrassment – which you can’t do to a non-hypocrite – and of withholding of voluntary gifts because faithful service has not been rendered.

    • Anton
      I suggest you and those who agree with you lobby the CEEC (you can send them a message) to persuade them to take the lead and persuade all the DEFs and DENs to adopt this strategy.

      Phil Almond

      Reply
          • We are not meant to leave it to Christ who is and is not a committed believer when choosing a spouse.

          • Anton

            Where did choosing a spouse come from? (Although I thought all good con evos left the provision of an ideal spouse up to Christ.)

            And you didn’t rebut my claim that putting yourself in God’s place is idolatrous.

            Furthermore, you don’t get to choose who is and isn’t a Christian just as you don’t get to decide whether or not, or on what terms, to welcome queer folk. They are already here. Always have been.

          • It’s an example of how we are meant to be able to tell believers from nonbelievers. I didn’t engage with your view that I am idolatrous because your opinion of me doesn’t matter to me.

          • Anton

            Is it really?

            I think if my opinion didn’t matter to you, you wouldn’t bother responding. So I don’t expect a reply to this and hope I don’t receive one. I have no time for disingenuousness. Nor for idolators.

    • Anton, although I agree with your view on same-sex sexual relationships, your proposed ‘protests’ remind me too much of that awful Westboro Baptist church in the US.

      People are free to vote with their feet, by choosing to attend one church and not another. And of course that means which church they support financially.

      Reply
      • I have preented the only winning strategy I can see that does not involve ravaging my conscience. If yours is more tender, feel free not to join in.

        Reply
  12. I agree entirely that it’s unworkable (and not in the least unfaithful) to have a pastoral accommodation that is completely at odds with church teaching. The church leaders look like complete idiots when they cannot explain why the church is seemingly protecting sexual predators, but “othering” gay people

    “The question now has to be answered as to the content of the Church of England’s sexual ethic and in particular what it says to those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives. ”

    Forgive me, but I thought that was what the last decade was supposed to be about. How can the cofe so bungled a decade of discussion that there’s still no well rounded understanding or inclusion of gay people in church teaching beyond “dont have sex” and “you should already know that holding hands is sex”. When asked by the media why gay people cant have relationships etc, bishops just give embarrassed non answers. There is no reason beyond perhaps pretending that gay people don’t really exist or wistfully imagining how great the world would be if we didn’t.

    A huge problem the CofE is facing is that it has no real doctrine which accepts the existence of gay people. We have, at best, been kind of grafted on in inconsistent ways. The idea that those of us in relationships might be welcome to attend and even receive blessings is (AG is absolutely right) completely inconsistent with the doctrine of the CofE, which requires gay people to essentially pretend to be straight.

    “Since at least Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 this ethical teaching has not been enforced by disciplinary means on lay people. They have been given freedom to conscientiously reach different conclusions and disregard it.”

    I dont know if AG doesn’t know any lay gay Christians, but I think you’d be hard pushed to find *any* with any involvement with the CofE that have not experienced this being enforced enthusiastically. Lay readers have lost their readerships, gay people have been turfed out of choirs and bands and told they cant arrange the flowers any more. I have an acquaintance who was forced into an exorcism in exchange for being allowed to remain a youth leader, but then they dumped him anyway when post-exorcism he was still attracted to men. I myself had a pretty nasty experience with a priest who didn’t believe me that I wasn’t having sex (because all gay people are obsessed with sex, dont you know!).

    The enforcement on laity who don’t agree is the driving force in making pastoral accommodations. All the terrible treatment at the hands of what is supposed to be salvation for all by faith is putting local clergy in impossible positions, causing people to abandon their faith and destroying the reputation of the church. Ian will disagree, but I think if nothing at all is done after 10 years of broken promises and dishonest apologies, it will have a far worse impact on attendance than if the CofE finally accept that gay people exist and have the exact same God given desire to marry as straight people do. And it will be far, far worse if the excuse given is technical and legal difficulties and they still can’t come up with a substantive reason.

    Reply
    • Peter,

      The sad reality is that the way you are thinking about the issues is entirely wrong.

      The dilemmas you describe are imaginary.

      The complexity that you and others are seeking to generate is a fiction.

      The call to return to biblical faith could be understand and explained to others by a child.

      The issue is repentance. That is all that is needed and it is a door that is always open.

      Reply
        • AJ,

          Sex is for marriage between a man and a woman.

          Everybody struggles with that in different ways. Everybody.

          You want to privilege the particular struggle same sex attracted people have. You are not entitled to do so.

          It is not an intellectual issue for many orthodox people, as you suggest in your comment below

          The imaginary ideas with which you are associating yourself are causing harm and chaos to the lives of hundreds of thousands of faithful Christian people

          Reply
          • Peter

            If the church’s hostility towards gay people were only about sex then gay vicars would be accepted in every parish.

            It’s not about the sex

          • It is in a wider way about accepting such a designation of one’s identity as a *settled* matter. Secondly, this implies hardwiring and innateness. In a world where that were the case, fair enough. But this is known not to be such a world.

          • So, Christopher, if sexuality is not hardwired and is in fact changeable at will, how come we don’t find that people can change their sexuality at will? How come the efforts to encourage that (such as Exodus International) were such spectacular, and harmful, failures?

          • Christopher

            How come I couldnt make myself attracted to women? How come I know loads of other men with the same experience?

          • Because once you (i.e. your personal history and formation) are (or rather have become) a certain way, that becomes pretty inescapable. Few can operate outside their own identity.

          • How many conversion therapy outfits, religious or secular, will have to close to prove you wrong, Christopher? How many ghastly treatments, from electro-shock therapy to emetics, will have to be proved bogus? How many redeemed evangelical luminaries will have to be caught with their pants down? At the moment, I’d say the evidence is on our side.

          • No, it is not hardwired. It only *becomes so. And even then, only if encouraged in that direction. In so much of this, the word *becomes is the one you are missing.

          • As for Lorenzo’s comment, I cannot renege on an opinion I never expressed in the first place. Quite the contrary – I have always agreed that it is very hard to convert from your formative personal history.

          • You are not telling the truth when you say I do not believe this.
            Secondly, you cannot point to anything I said that suggests otherwise.
            You were a baby. You were a child. After which puberty kicked in – a time of confusion – and, accordingly, confused manifestations attended it.

          • Christopher

            At what age did I become “hardwired”? How do you reconcile words like “inescapable” with your claim that people become gay through bad choices?

          • Because the (more or less) hardwiring that embeds itself as a result of formative actions is very strong. It is central to self-understanding/self-perception and identity. What could be stronger than that?

          • Which formative actions?

            What’s the practical difference between actions taken as a baby that cause lifelong exclusive attraction to the same sex and innate same sex attraction?

      • Peter

        I tried desperately for ~20 years to be straight. I didn’t ask to be gay.

        It’s just a lie that orientation is something that can be repented of.

        I agree it’s not complex and there aren’t dilemmas here. A dilemma is when you have a choice and you don’t know what to do. There is no choice of orientation

        Reply
        • Peter,

          Clergy who struggle with same sex attraction and strive to be celibate should be and are welcome to lead orthodox churches.

          Reply
          • Not all gay people are called to be clergy.

            I agree that some gay people have been accepted as clergy by CofE evangelicals, but it’s very much because they happen to be the right sort of gay and there are far more restrictions on their lives other than just not having sex. Gay clergy in relationships, never mind laity, would not be acceptable in a significant proportion of the CofE

            There’s no clear understanding of what is acceptable or not and clergy do not have the same experience as laity. Clergy may have initially more barriers, but once accepted, they are accepted and supported. Laity experience these unwritten restrictions changing with the wind and generally receive no support at all.

            When our daughter was younger I remember a sign in her school that said something like “you have a responsibility to obey the rules, but you have the right to see what the rules are”. The general experience of gay people in the church is that they aren’t allowed to know what the rules are and the rules keep changing on them. This is why the “Church Clarity” project was set up to encourage churches, especially conservative churches, to actually make their rules and teaching on gay people (as well as some other things) publicly available.

            Not only is there no clarity on what it is conservatives actually believe or under what circumstances gay people can be accepted, but there’s often anger and outrage if these hidden rules are made public. The students in oxford published a guide for gay students to which local churches were actually accepted to them and the general conservative reaction was outrage.

            It seems hard for me to accept that people who are so fearful and deceptive can really know what God thinks about me better than I do. If they knew the truth then they would be able to articulate it. A decade on from when these discussions began there is still no clarity on the conservative position or what they really expect gay people to do (except possibly to kindly not exist).

          • Yes, because, for the nth time, they do not accept the category ‘gay people’. Can you explain why they would accept such a category?

          • Christopher

            The official teaching of the Anglican communion is that gay people exist and has been so for more than 3 decades. You are free not to agree with the teaching. You are not free to say such teaching doesn’t exist or pretend that this is some sort of fanciful notion

          • ???When did I say that such opinions did not exist?
            Not only do they exist, they are everywhere.
            Opinions are everywhere. Accurate ones, inaccurate ones. You name it.
            The Anglicans have a culturally-subservient, transient position.
            You are surprised? I thought this was par for the course for UK Anglicans. Most people would be more surprised if they didn’t.

          • Christopher

            Its not UK Anglicans. Its the official teaching of the Anglican communion, which all of the worlds Anglican churches agreed to 30 years ago. Suddenly this is considered radical and heterodox?!

    • Put simply Peter, there are no ‘gay people’; there are people who do or want to do gay ‘sex’. And precisely because it’s about something people DO and ipso facto CHOOSE to do, it isn’t as the gays portray it something that they “are” and “can’t help being”. And so yes, doing it is straightforwardly a sin, and wanting to do it is a temptation to sin. And the Church should deal with that as it deals with other sins.

      Reply
      • Put simply, Stephen, there are people whose sexual attractions are to other people of the same sex, whether they “do gay sex” or not and even if they never do, just as the sexual attractions of the great majority are to other people of the opposite sex, whether they “do straight sex” or not and even if they never do. So to say that there are “no gay people” is simply a foolish denial of reality.

        Yes, homosexual behaviour is something that people CHOOSE to do, just as heterosexual behaviour is, and no sane, intelligent person will claim otherwise. People’s sexual orientation, on the other hand, i.e. their enduring pattern of romantic/sexual attraction, is NOT a choice. I agree with you, however, about one thing: no-one should say that they “can’t help being” gay. Not because it’s untrue – it isn’t – but for the same reason that no-one should say – and hardly anyone ever does say – that they “can’t help being” straight: it doesn’t need helping.

        Reply
        • There are not ‘people’ of that description, but only ‘people’ who have become that way (and that *does involve choice, among other things, within the overall picture) – sometimes with predisposition too – after a lot of water has already gone under the bridge. Normal people are surrounded by families, babies, children. They therefore know that there are people who can neither be so-called gay nor so-called not gay. What they refer to as ‘people’ are in fact teens and adults only. The very last people one would go to to work out which things are and are not innate. And among these, even the teens are at an unsettled stage, which means that settled things cannot be said of them. But the more they have developed settled behaviour/thought/culture patterns, the more one can. So a lot depends on which behaviour/thought/culture patterns happen in early adolesecence. Which is a very far cry from a settled/lifelong/innate. Do realise that you are saying some people are gay which means that some babies are gay? An extraordinary thing to say.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            Claiming that people have “become that way” is to claim that the vast majority of gay people in the world are lying about their life experience.

            I was never straight. Orientation change is rare. Most gay people are gay at puberty or before

          • Peter, we are so going over old ground. To repeat what I have already repeated:
            -Normal people have lots of family, children and babies around them. You by contrast virtually treat puberty as the start of life.
            You then compound this error by taking at face value the sort of life steps people take at that most confused age of all, puberty! Just as you would affirm all the initiatives to take drugs, smoke, watch pornography, and all the other things that are begun in puberty. Puberty is the common denominator of most negative life paths.

          • So you treat us to yet another of your rambling waffles, Mr Shell, taking issue with ridiculous Aunt Sally propositions which I have neither asserted nor implied. When I said “people”, of course I was not referring to children. The thought didn’t strike me that it was necessary to spell that out, since it never occurred to me that any normal person would have assumed that I was. I have never claimed that some babies are gay – or that some babies are straight, for that matter – or that children can be meaningfully said to have any sexual orientation.

            Yes, people emerge as gay – or as straight or as bisexual – only after a lot of water has gone under the bridge. And yes, sexual attraction during adolescence can be fluid. We all know that. What of it?

            I would add that your analogy with taking drugs, smoking and watching pornography is a manifestly inept one. All those are things that people DO. To be gay (same-sex attracted), as with being straight (opposite-sex attracted), you don’t need to DO anything at all. Generally speaking – although there are doubtless odd exceptions, humanity being variegated as it is – people know what their sexual attractions are before – often long before – they engage in sexual behaviour with anyone, and even if they never do.

          • They are not things that people do at all. They are things that (some) people do only after puberty. That rules out a whole lot of people. The common denominator is puberty. Once again we see this two tier system. And a two tier system that elevates those who do more unpleasant things over those who don’t. Logical?

            If, as you say, they ”emerge as”, as opposed to ”are”, gay (output) only after a great deal of input has already happened, then you’ll agree that that means that I was correct that it is more something people become than something that they are.

            Of fluidity, you say ‘What of it?’ It means that the innateness idea falls – which is the very idea we are talking about.

            The assumed society where families are not central, children are not mentioned at all unless a person is prompted, and people are generally grown up or of a sexually active age is an artificial urban work environment, of just the sort inhabited by gay people who are very disproportionately town dwellers and are often high earners, and are focused on the agegroups who are their own peers and/or with whom they may ‘have a relationship’.

          • Christopher

            I didn’t do any of those things in my adolescence. You’re again dismissing my testimony and the testimony of the vast majority of gay people because it doesn’t fit your opinion

          • Which things? Drugs and that? Read back and you will see I did not say that these were things that homosexual people in particular were doing.

            But even if I had, you have not digested the point about you (one person) being too small a sample to count statistically.

            If a survey were done and it said that people called Peter were statistically likelier than average to be bald, we would all be unsurprised if P Jermey piped up and said ‘Well, that can’t be true, because after all, I have a full head of hair, and I am one person.’.

          • No, Mr Shell, your first paragraph is not logical at all. It is just a series of rather pointless and irrelevant statements. When I said that those were things that people DO, I meant precisely that: that they are actions as opposed to attractions. And you are simply wasting time by pointing out that they are not things that ALL people do, since once again no normal person would have understood me to be implying that they were.

            “The common denominator is puberty.” Certainly, many people start doing foolish and even highly risky and dangerous things at or after puberty. That is a commonplace. Being sexually attracted to people of the same sex is not one of them, any more than being sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex is – although some people may be led by their sexual attractions to engage in risky sexual behaviour during puberty, as some people also are later in life.

            What is this “two tier system that elevates those who do more unpleasant things over those who don’t”? I’m not aware of having ever come across it. Where exactly is this system in force, and who instituted it? You haven’t told us.

            When I say that some people emerge as gay, I mean that they discover that their sexual attractions are to (some) people of the same sex, just as the great majority emerge as straight, i.e. they discover that their sexual attractions are to (some) people of the opposite sex. In that sense, the former ARE gay, just as the latter ARE straight. I am not asserting that either the former or the latter had a sexual orientation before that – still less one that could be known with any certainty – so your quibbling about becoming vs. being is just another piece of otiose time-wasting.

            I make no claim about innateness one way or the other, but fluidity does not disprove innateness. Innate genetic factors play a large part in male pattern baldness, to take just one example, but most bald men once had a full head of hair. So even if – and I do emphasize IF – people were born with their future sexual orientation already programmed in some as yet unknown way, that would not preclude the possibility of fluidity of sexual attraction during adolescence being part of some people’s pre-programmed process of sexual development.

          • Christopher

            But it’s not just me, it’s the vast majority of gay people who all have exactly the same experience. And then there’s also substantial scientific studies which agree with gay people’s testimonies. Versus your opinion

          • Which experience are you talking about, Peter? I have agreed with most of what you said, and disagreed with the absurd idea that it begins innately in babyhood or childhood at a time when you cannot even remember! Everyone joins me in agreeing that you cannot speak at all about a time which you do not remember. And everyone also agrees that trying to put babies and sexual orientation in the same sentence is not done by good people.

          • Christopher

            You seem to be now claiming that orientation cannot be considered innate because gay people are gay because of sinful behavior when they were babies, or at least before they can remember?

            What evidence do you have of this?

            How can it be moral to hold babies accountable for their behavior?

        • But to say ‘Ive been gay my whole life’ means to others that you believe you were ‘born’ with a gay sexuality, you know, from birth (if not before) because that is what ‘whole life’ means. But sexual feelings dont even begin for most until around puberty. So your statement is meaningless.

          Reply
          • Sexual feelings may not begin for most until around puberty ( and they can be confused and find all kinds of attraction), but a clearer sense of male or female identity is usually clear much younger. Studies in Norway showed this – young boys overwhelmingly want to play with trucks, young girls with dolls. This despite attempts to bring childrn up “gender neutral”.

          • Slightly different preferences across the population on average is not an assertion of male or female identity. If a little girl likes playing with a train set, it’s not a sign that she really has a true inner male identity.

      • Christopher

        The vast majority of people who are gay knew they were gay at or before puberty. You continue to reject this as evidence because it disagrees with your opinions.

        Reply
        • Exactly. Because puberty does not bring turmoil at all. It is a stable state which is wise and to be trusted, Peter.

          Reply
          • Christopher

            Puberty often brings a great deal of change and turmoil.

            Do you know when I was that age, we were told that homosexuality was a normal phase we would grow out of. Turns out, that’s just a lie!

  13. Ian,

    Does it not seem obvious that these are wildly different situations and lives to lead for a gay person?:
    – lifelong celibacy (only Valk thinks this is what being gay requires)
    – marriage to someone of the opposite sex (Sprinkle thinks is great, Valk opposes)
    – civil partnership to someone of the same sex (Valk and Sprinkle are against, but Hill supports)

    For too many people in the Church and in this debate, this seems to be merely an intellectual game. For some of us, we’re talking about our lives, and the lives of those we know are coming after us. The differences here are profound. To pretend that telling someone at 16 they now have to embrace lifelong celibacy, and telling someone they could enter a civil partnership with someone of the same sex, are essentially the same message is absurd.

    Reply
          • Its hard to imagine someone more evangelical than Justin Welby. He’s also dishonest and puts peoples backs up and lots of people.don’t like him, but none of that de traditions him

          • Back to this again Anton?

            Evangelicals, particularly on the conservative side, like to tell themselves that they have a unique reverence for Scripture over and above everyone else in the Church, but it really isn’t so. Whilst being rooted in scripture is absolutely important to evangelicals, this is neither straightforward nor a unique feature. And it really doesn’t lead to a uniform interpretation, even on key questions like infant baptism or ordination of women.

            What does set evangelicals apart is attaching a particular emphasis to the importance of the conversion experience, as an emotional and personal encounter with God, and salvation therefore that is expressed in the past tense (“I have been saved”).

            This contrasts with the historic Protestants who would put more emphasis on adopting a correct theology and prayer, Catholics who place an emphasis on encounter with God in the sacrament, and Orthodox who view salvation as an ongoing and future life with God.

          • Define then as what you dislike rather than what they are, then attack them… this has nothing to do with anybody other than yourself.

            Children who grow to adulthood in evangelical families are no more aware of a Converison Experience than were faithful Jews living in Old Testament times.

            The entire dispute boils down to: What does the Bible say and what it its authority?

    • Amen. As are teaching teenagers that their desire for intimacy and romance are desires for an intrinsic wrong, and their persistence evidence that they are unredeemed, which is downright evil.

      Reply
      • I don’t understand your use of the word ‘evidence’. You are not using it in the normal way.
        For ‘persistence’ you mean ‘persistent’. For ‘as are’ you mean ‘as is’. For ‘desire’ you mean ‘desires’.
        Your points are oddly phrased. Intimacy is too vague a term. Are you talking about sex or not, and secondly if you are, why are you being so indirect about it? Indirectness is a sign of covertness, having something to hide.
        Added to which, no-one has ever said that either ‘intimacy’ or ‘romance’ is an intrinsic wrong. Who are the people who have said that, whom you were referring to? In fact, it is easier to think of circumstances where these are good rather than wrong.
        It is true that they are context-dependent for whether they are right or wrong. What isn’t? You are not seriously suggesting that ‘intimacy’ is something that is right in all circumstances without further elaboration?
        As for its being evil to say someone is unredeemed, that means that everyone is redeemed. Which means redemption is no big deal or is nothing at all. Which means that Christ is and did nothing at all.
        ‘Evil’ is a strong word. You are calling basic Christianity, which says some are redeemed and some are not, evil. So which other position is preferable to the Christian one?

        Reply
        • Yes, I should have reread myself.

          “Amen. As is teaching teenagers that their desires for intimacy and romance are desires for an intrinsic wrong, and that the persistence of such desires is evidence that they are unredeemed, which is downright evil.”

          I’m not at all suggesting that intimacy is right in every circumstance, only a natural human desire. As is sex. I have met quite a few gay teens who were taught by their evangelical pastors that they had no choice but to lead an unwanted life of celibacy, or end up toast. I deem it evil.

          Have you ever taught this to a young person, Christopher? How would you put it to them?

          Reply
          • ”Get ready for marriage – it’s great – and to that end make yourself marriageable.” That is something to look forward to, if you like.
            There was before the sexual revolution far less of a concept of ‘sex’ outside what Marie Stopes called married love. Peter Williams demonstrated this in his Keswick talk. It would not be a word in common usage granted that it is restricted to private circumstances which are therefore not spoken of; and wherever this is not the case, then that is to the detriment of those concerned, making it abusive to normalise such a perspective.

          • You would of course be prepared to marry a homosexual spouse, Christopher? Do unto others etc.

            To a gay teen that will be as appealing as marrying a man to you. And it’s really not fair on the other spouse, at all. Even the board of Orthodox Rabbis walked away from that piece of advice.

          • You said I would be prepared to do what???
            Your level of understanding what others say is not high.

          • I asked you what you would say to a gay 16yo and you said: ‘get ready for marriage, it’s great, and to that end make yourself marriageable.’ I can only assume that you would want them to marry a spouse of the opposite sex. You may not be as clear as you think you are. If you advise a gay youth to marry a presumably straight spouse, I merely asked if it’s something you would ever contemplate for yourself. If not, why do you feel allowed to advise this?

          • Christopher

            If people weren’t having sex before 1963 then where did my parents come from?

            Intimacy can mean sex or it can mean wider expressions of love. It’s not at all clear what it is that conservatives in the CofE actually oppose. One minute they are claiming only to oppose sex, but the next they will tell you that merely identifying as gay is a sin.

          • Christopher

            Having several gay male friends who, in good faith, took their churchs advice to marry women and seen the deep damage such arrangements ended up causing everyone involved, I think it’s stupid and reckless for you to continue to recommend anything like this!

            I think you should actually get to know some real life gay people because your opinions simply dont match reality and these are the same truth free opinions that did so much harm to Christian millennials and Gen Xers. At least learn from the mistakes of the previous generation and dont repeat it.

          • Peter, why is it that every reply I give to you is for the nth time?
            A digestion problem?
            I should get to know some ‘gay people’?
            Why are you so dishonest as to claim knowledge of a person’s life whom you do not even know. Please admit that you were untruthful in assuming whom I did and did not know.

          • People weren’t ”having sex” before 1963??

            Number one – where did I say that? Your levels of understanding are below that of a typical one of my school pupils.
            Number 2 – have you ever compared family sizes before and after 1963??

          • Christopher

            You keep writing comments that suggest that some great evil came into the world in the 1960s. It’s really absurd and annoying. Why do I keep replying with the same rebuttals? Because you keep making the same ignorant points! If you’re genuinely interested in gay people then there’s nothing stopping you from genuiney learning about us, but you seem stuck on believing myths that were disproved decades ago

          • It did. Though from earlier beginnings. We had in the 1960s a PM and Home Secretary who had lost their consciences through their own compromised sexual behaviour (and a head of BBC who actively rejected moral compass), and there was a whole raft of measures which for the first time went against the Christian basis of society and law. Why is that not a significant watershed?

            If you are going to deal in generalities, you will lose out to those who deal in specifics.

          • Anyway, you say it is ‘absurd’ and then provide not even one piece of evidence that it actually is absurd!!
            Strange.
            As for it being annoying, that could well be because it challenges your comfort zone.
            Do you actually think that things that are annoying to one random person are less likely to be true?
            How does that work?
            The concept of the sexual revolution is very widespread and there are no statistics that fail to support it very strongly indeed. Whether those statistics relate to a divorce between sex and marriage, to pornography, to marital breakdown, to homosexuality becoming more visible, to STIs rising, to indecency in film and stage, to killing off the children who had not even had a chance to be born yet…. How could these massive statistical changes, which are a fact of history, be unreal when even the law was changed to facilitate the said statistical changes?
            So are you just sticking your fingers in your ears and saying that massive statistical changes on multiple fronts never happened?
            I don’t think anyone will believe that even one of them did not happen.
            They all happened.

            Which ones did not happen, Peter?

          • Christopher

            And all national leaders were perfectly behaved Christians before the 1960s? I think not.

            Yes I’m well aware of the sexual revolution, the Civil rights movement and the partial decriminalization of homosexuality. I just disagree that somehow life was better before these things or that this was some sort of dramatic turning point.

            The generation who lived through that, from my perspective, have been one of the most happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous in our national history.

            My generation are struggling because of more recent economic challenges and political choices that have nothing to do with the 1960s. Liz Truss wasn’t even born then. I suppose maybe you could argue that she would never have become PM without the sexual revolution, but nor would she if the Nazis had won ww2 or if the Roman Empire had never fallen

          • It was a dramatic turning point of epic proportions. So many things very swiftly increased at least fivefold. I listed about 20 of these myself in WATTTC.

            I mean – you could say that is happening all the time. 20 different things quickly increasing at least 5fold.

            *Where is it happening? Give at least one example.

          • Christopher

            I guess I just find it really unhelpful to be told that my entire life experience is a lie made up decades before I was born and that I’d be much better off rotting in a prison cell, because all was right with the world when homosexuality was illegal, domestic abuse was legal and nobody held bishops or politicians to account.

            I don’t understand what you are asking me for.

        • “Indirectness is a sign of covertness, having something to hide.”

          Then the ‘conservatives’ in this discussion must be hiding a lot.

          Reply
          • Indeed. They can’t even agree if same-sex orientation is a real thing, if it is sinful (even when it does not lead to sex), if it can be overcome through grace and mortification or, if it cannot, what manner of intimacy is acceptable. I really would want them to tell me what they’d tell their son or daughter if they came out to them.

          • The conservatives are hiding many things. Witness the Iwerne stuff, which of course Christopher was a part of and loved. It is one of the things that makes discussion with him so pointless.

          • I am as direct as you like, I don’t know about anyone else.
            Give me one example of where I have refused a direct question, and withdraw the slur.
            Many would be surprised to see me classified as ‘conservative’. That is an ideology and ideology is what I most hate. I am a follower of evidence only. When many follow what they would *like* the evidence to say, it is an easy matter to say instead what it *does* say. This is usually common sense, and gets termed ‘conservative’ because it is not a radical revision. Usually the truth is what it seems on the surface to be; radical revisionism (a later development which often says that although things may seem to be a certain way, they are actually not, but are the way we would wish them to be) says it is not; therefore the conservative pov so-called is more often right, but it deserves no credit for simply saying obvious and commonsense things.

            Hiding? The Iwerne 1978-81 doings have had enough coverage, so that there is now endless repetition of the same material. So what is being hidden, then?

            I wearily say for the nth time that not only was I fringe in my Iwerne involvement (admiring the setup hugely, though), almost no-one of that period would recognise me by sight or name.

          • As I said Christopher, you loved Iwerne. And were blind to its weirdness and danger.
            And your own unconscious prejudice remains hidden to you. Though it is not hidden from others.

          • AJ

            Much as I would like to bash the conservatives, I think it is wider than that. As society has opened up, become more honest and less deferent to “elders and betters”, church leadership (of any tradition) has become more closed, fearful and focused on money. They think they will encourage people to come to church by covering up the problems, but they are actually driving people to lose their faith.

          • Andrew is still talking as though ‘Iwerne’ is an entity that has only one aspect. Of course it had hundreds. Someone who thought it had just ten would be an arch-simplistic. So what can we say of someone who claims to think it has just one – an entire 90 year old ministry summarised with the wave of a hand?
            A good or poor level of analysis? Certainly one that is oft-repeated, proving a lack of ability or will to understand this basic point. And, in addition, of specific knowledge.

          • Christopher – Iwerne had a single aim. A very wired aim. The fact that you came from the privileged sector that it was aimed at blinds you to the wierdness.

          • The weirdness? I was a scholarship child not from a moneyed family. Growing up at times we had little income, tho’ an owned house. Contrast that with the landowners that were my peers.

          • Andrew’s knowledge is so small on this topic that he treats the entire organisation as a single thing with a single amorphous aim, and certainly no human individuals. Translate: he *knows* only one thing so far. And through research would learn a 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc thing.

          • It means you should be much more aware of how weird the whole project was. Yet you loved it and admired what it wanted to do.

          • Christopher it certainly did have a single aim. To claim boys from the top public schools for Christ – whatever that might mean. And if they couldn’t be persuaded by ice cream and jelly, then it would be beaten in to them.

          • That’s right. It would be beaten into them. Which is why the first and last person to introduce any beating ministry in connection with this milieu was so *outside* the culture he was not even allowed to stay in the same country.

            But as ever the main point is that you know this already (and – secondly – even if you did not, it has been repeated to you often enough, to be met with dishonest silence), but the dumbed down 180 degrees inaccurate version is spicier, hence you prefer it.

          • Christopher

            I think we can say that the formative experience of men who went to top private boarding schools (and then Oxbridge) was vastly different to the vast majority of British men and that this small number of men are massively over-represented in national decision making and that Iwerne was a deliberate attempt to create evangelical influence over this group of men

          • Everything is ‘different’ from everything else. What is most important is asking what is beneficial.

            If you don’t want specialised ministries of that kind, that means you don’t want specialised ministries to the homeless, to drug addicts, to women, to toddlers. You want every ministry to do everything? It will then be more focused? And more effective?

          • Christopher

            When they realised that there might be a scandal, he was sent off to gratify his lust by beating black boys.

          • Yes, I remember the letter that said ‘Can you please go off and satisfy your lust by maltreating black boys’, but have no recollection at all of the many times when the other dimensions of that circumstance were ignored by your one-dimensional analysis.

          • “If you don’t want specialised ministries of that kind, that means you don’t want specialised ministries to the homeless, to drug addicts, to women, to toddlers””

            I don’t understand your logic there at all. Probably because there isn’t any! What it means is that we exercise some discernment about the kind of specialist ministry we support.

          • So some categories of people are worthy of specialist ministry and others are unworthy.

          • What, so we should have a specialist ministry to those who are left handed?
            In case it escaped your notice Christopher, the top public schools have chaplains and chapels. There already is a specialist ministry. What Iwerne was saying was that the chaplains and chapels were not doing their job properly.

            Because you are a product of the top public schools you are can’t quite see this point. Privilege has been built into your psyche. Those at public schools don’t need further privileging.

          • Here you are saying a lot of untrue things at once.
            (1) You are saying it is necessarily true that chaplains and chapels are doing their jobs properly. An error of logic.
            (2) You are saying that people are not allowed to have other – or indeed extra, as in my and many others’ cases – approaches to Christianity than than provided by chaplains and chapels. An overweening command from someone not qualified to give it.
            (3) You are saying that only where there is privilege is there more than one manifestation of Christianity. Yes, Andrew, only where there is privilege is there more than one manifestation of Christianity. Which is why there are so very many in Jamaica and on the Old Kent Road.

          • (4) If only one manifestation were allowed (and that is impoverishment if you like) then why would it have to be the one you dictated rather than some other?

          • No Christopher. I’m not saying any of those things.
            I’m saying that privilege is a questionable thing. But because you are so privileged you can’t even begin to see it why having even more privilege than you already have is even more questionable.
            And where is my chaplaincy to left handed people?

          • Christopher

            Iwerne wasn’t about creating a specialized ministry but about trying to gain influence over people likely to become Prime ministers and bishops.

            I’m not saying that these people don’t matter or are bad people. I am saying that they had a very peculiar upbringing compared to the rest of the country and generally have a warped sense of reality – David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Justin Welby, Kwasi Kwarteng

          • “Iwerne wasn’t about creating a specialized ministry but about trying to gain influence over people likely to become Prime ministers and bishops.”

            Exactly so Peter. It was a way of buying influence. But I suspect those who are so privileged don’t quite get that point

    • AJ,

      The people who are treating it as an intellectual game are those who are making up the ideas with which you are associating yourself.

      Civil partnerships are a piece of nonsense that have been around for five minutes. They are a complete red herring in regard to the church and marriage.

      Every single faithful christian learns that they must be sexually chaste throughout their lives. It is a universal calling.

      Reply
      • Civil partnerships prevent you from being deported if entered in with a British citizen. They give you a say over their treatment and care when they are diagnosed with cancer. They allow you to inherit without paying exorbitant taxes. They are not a piece of nonsense.

        Reply
        • Lorenzo,

          Those privileges belong to marriage, as properly understood, and marriage alone in relation to people who are not otherwise related.

          They should never have been debased by Civil partnerships

          Reply
          • Debased? My partner has a pancreatic tumour, thankfully small and stable. I am not a British citizen. Should he die, I would be on the street in old age with a CofE pension, were we not partnered. I would not even have a say on the welfare of the dog he bought.

          • Be that as it may, Anglican clergy should not be in civil partnerships. Leaders’lives should not appear compromised or ambiguous. The early church understood this when it banned the practice of virgines subductae. It was seriously mistaken legalism that misled the C of E into this. The Roman Catholic Church understands these issues better than English Anglicanism.

          • James

            I hope you can agree that the status quo is impossible and unfair on gay clergy. Told on the one hand that they can form relationships and even have legal rights, but on the other that these aren’t actually acceptable even though it’s official church teaching, but there’s no clear reason given why.

        • I am sorry you have received such appalling responses to your case for the goods of civil partnerships.
          I can only imagine how distressed you must be to encounter such vile and hateful opinions on a Christian blog.

          Reply
          • I’m thick skinned but don’t think I’m going to comment here any longer. Thank you, Penelope.

          • I can understand how you feel that way Lorenzo. It is a pity because yours is one of the clearest and most helpful voices here. I am appalled at the responses you have received.

    • AJ

      I know several gay men who were told by their churches that the solution was to marry a woman. This has led to deep hurt, divorce and children of divorced parents, but not orientation change.

      I think one of the huge mistakes of the CofE and churches more generally are the vague apologies. Maybe we wouldn’t have pundits still pushing for gay men to marry women if the church specifically acknowledged that this was something they got wrong in the past?

      Reply
      • But ss ‘unions’ have a worse stability rate not better. So they would be advised against all the more so, for the same reason you gave.

        Reply
        • Presumably you have stats to back up your claim on our ‘unions’, no need for quotation marks, by the way. I mean the duration of same-sex civil marriages and partnerships among Christians by comparison with straight ones, not anecdotal claims about your usual lurid fantasies about ‘the gay lifestyle.’

          Reply
        • Christopher

          I just googled it and same sex marriage has roughly the same divorce rate as opposite sex marriage. A problem is that if you are in the church bubble then you are encouraged to believe all sort of ‘orrible things about gay people that are essentially just myths. Some of this is people being too quick to believe something that backs their own opinion (I will admit that I do this myself!) and some of it is people thinking that lies and exaggeration are justified because they may encourage a gay person to become straight.

          If you use real life instead of this fiction then you get a very different understanding of gay people.

          Reply
          • Not so. The take up rate for [‘]marriage[‘] (percentage not quantity) is lower in the first place among self styled homosexuals, which means that for each percentile (e.g. 48th percentile), stable marriage will be likelier for man-woman unions.

          • Er – Peter – if I was just imposing my own opinion (and yes, you do do that yourself, as you say) then why would I bother to research 71pp chapters fill of stats from large scale studies which tell us what the realities are with no preferences or presuppositions allowed? Whereas you have done the same or not?

          • Of course the take up rate among same-sex couples is lower. Same-sex marriage hasn’t been a thing for long (ten years?) and churches have been doing their damnedest to discourage lesbian and gay people from even contemplating marriage. This thread alone is evidence.

            Meanwhile straight folks divorce merrily for any reason they see fit, in direct opposition to a dominical commandment, but this does not cause any threat of schism among evangelicals. The scale of the problem is staggering, however.

          • Christopher

            LOL!

            I don’t think you count single gay people as divorced/unstable – if nothing else many of them will be single because their religious leaders require them to

          • I don’t count them as anything, since you know perfectly well that the category ‘gay people’ is problematic. I cannot believe that after all the times I have rehearsed the babyhood – childhood – adolescence thing, you are still speaking in terms of ‘gay people’.

          • Lorenzo, if you are saying that the post-sexual revolution descent into family breakdown is dark and evil, then you are if anything understating the point.
            Don’t listen to the evangelicals who deny it – this is merely social conformity that excuses unbelievable suffering.
            Moral – don’t adopt the sexual revolution, and indeed don’t adopt anything that has bad effects. Duh! (as the saying goes).

          • Christopher

            So your position is that gay marriages and civil partnerships are unstable, despite having the same divorce rate as heterosexual marriage, because gay people don’t exist and therefore cannot marry?!

          • Again you get zero for accurate reproduction of another’s thought. Well below the average standard of my schoolchildren.

            Self-styled gay people do exist and it is of them that we are speaking.

            Where there is dichotomy between biology and action, there is automatically (ipso facto, indeed) increased instability. Where there is comparatively greater promiscuity, there too is increased instability.

          • Christopher

            so why are you claiming that same sex marriages are less stable than opposite sex marriages?

        • I know 2 or 3 men like that, too. That’s because most people with SSA are actually bisexual. It’s a question of the strength of desire and whether you follow desire or you learn to direct it.
          I also know of three cases in Christian marriages where one partner with SSA (two of them men, one a woman) left their spouse for a same-sex relationship. All three were parents.

          Reply
          • James

            Agreed. There’s a difference between a bisexual man marrying a woman and a gay man marrying a woman

          • But the three who left their spouses *were bisexual – as are most who identify as ‘gay’. Sexuality is a spectrum.

          • This would seem to be an important point – do you think this is a conversation about people who are actually gay, or do you think we’re actually bisexuals?

          • Those who now claim to be homosexual or lesbian are actually clearly *higher than average on impregnating when young (in the first instance) and being impregnated when young (in the second instance). People are trying to sell the lie of discrete categories. The 99 genders / sexual preferences thing describes people’s actual behaviour in a context where they have no constraints as opposed to a context where they show social responsibility and develop smoothly towards fuller maturity. Arrested development to maturity has never been higher.

          • Christopher,
            You may know that the secondary schools (and maybe primary schools?) of this country are plastered with posters proclaiming an endless spectrum (each with its little flag) of “sexualities”, nearly all of which simply means “shades of gay”. Heaven knows what this garbage is doing to the minds of 11 years reading it.
            I am intrigued by your comment about those who now claim to be homosexual having a higher than average ‘rate of impregnating or being impregnated’. Where are these stats? I think it is clear that many men who call themselves homosexual now were married once to women and are fathers, while many women who call themselves lesbians were once married to men and are mothers.
            It is this fact that suggests to me that many who call themselves homosexual now are really bisexual but they have left (heterosexual) marriage to pursue a gay relationship. This is certainly true of some of the prominent voices in British church circles: Roy Clement, Colin Coward, Jeremy Pemberton. How did they come to leave their wives and families? What crises did they undergo?

          • Christopher

            Yes but there’s a huge difference between orientation and gender, especially in a society that places moral values on different orientations.

          • James

            Some are bisexual, but many married women because of social pressure and in Gen X many gay men married women because their churches told them to.

          • Peter Jermey – then you have conceded my point that many men who call themselves ‘gay’ now are actually bisexual – because they were married to women for some years and fathered children, so evidently they had some heterosexual attraction – even if homosexual attraction came to prevail.
            That is what happened to Roy Clement, and to Gene Robinson, a husband and father for many years before he left his marriage.
            The interesting things in people’s lives are always the things they never tell you – what happened in their head and in their private hours.
            You should see now that your simple gay / straight dichotomy isn’t actually true of a great many men, including those who call themselves ‘gay’ now.

          • Jeremy Pemberton is quite open about why he married a woman. And Peter J’s comment on why some queer folk enter other sex marriages hits the nail on the head.

          • James – see Lisa L Lindley et al., ‘The Association of Sexual Orientation Measures with Young Adults’ Health-Related Outcomes’ (American Journal of Public Heath 2012).

            This is not at all surprising. What is often termed homosexuality is often hypersexuality or precocious sexuality. The worst sin is to be vanilla. The wider context is being victims of the way of ”thinking” (ahem) called the sexual revolution.

          • The names you mention, James, are young enough to have had harmful roots planted and embedded by the 1960s society. Which can later strangle healthy shoots.

          • Not quite sure what point you’re trying to make Christopher. You’re citing a study which concluded that men and women who identify as “mostly straight” and have sexual partners of the opposite sex, had the greatest risk for poor health-related indicators (depressive symptoms, perceived stress, smoking, binge drinking, and victimization).

          • Whoops, AJ, my error. Author correct and journal correct but this was the article 3 years later (2015) ‘Sexual Orientation and Risk of Pregnancy among New York City High School students’.

          • That study also doesn’t say what you claimed it did. It does not say that gay men and lesbians are more likely to have a pregnancy. The sample they look like is conditioned on those who engage in heterosexual sex in their adolescence. So, in New York 15-20 years ago, of the adolescents having heterosexual sex, those who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, appear to have done so in more risky ways. The authors go on to speculate about the connection to being forced into heterosexual sexual encounters as part of what’s going on.

            It’s clear you cannot be trusted to read and report this sort of research accurately.

      • Possibly. More likely it would be swept away as something that never happened. Look at the way the ex-gay movement has been quietly airbrushed out of history in the evangelical quarters of the CofE.

        Reply
          • I’ve been heavily critical of folk like CEEC and other evangelicals in the CofE, in the past but even I don’t think they support Core Issues Trust.

            If they did of course, that would be another full-blown repudiation of Issues in Human Sexuality.

          • No, I meant that if you are seeking supporters of Core Issues Trust (and I am a strong supporter myself, finding it incredible that people react as they do to such mild people and ministry), the majority of them will be evangelicals.

          • Why doesn’t it surprise me that you’re a supporter of an outfit which advocates for reparative ‘therapy’.
            Which is:
            1) dangerous
            2) ineffective
            3) illegal

  14. AJ,

    When you say 11.29 am above

    “You are still not doing it, why the reluctance ?”

    Are you saying you do not understand the statement “sex is for marriage between a man and a woman”. I am afraid I think the meaning of that statement is crystal clear .

    I am sure the problem is with me, but could there be just the tiniest possibility you are being provocative ?

    Profuse apologies if that is my emotionalism getting the better of me again.

    Reply
    • “The question now has to be answered as to the content of the Church of England’s sexual ethic and in particular what it says to those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual and how it assists them to live holy lives.” – Andrew Goddard

      Reply
      • Many of us are bewildered by Goddard.

        The idea he is asking a question which has not been answered does not merit serious attention

        However, if your point is that this thread is about Goddard’s article, fair point.

        It remains the case I could not have made the actual orthodox position clearer.

        Reply
        • Unfortunately Andrew Goddard doesn’t really mean ‘holy lives’. What he means is lives without any sex. And the two are not the same. The fact that he isn’t aware of that rather negates anything he has to say about holiness.

          Reply
          • Since the concept ‘sex’ is not much used (given that it refers to something private unless it has been part-removed culturally from marital privacy) unless in sexual revolution cultures, it tends to refer to nonmarital sex. In which case the correlation with lack of holiness is clear. Whereas the correlation of marital with holiness is not a necessary one, albeit much likelier.

          • “Since the concept ‘sex’ is not much used ..”

            Thanks Christopher. I laughed out loud! You are obsessed by what you *think* gay men get up to in private. And conservative evangelicals are obsessed by the whole concept of the sex that they think others might be having. Even to the point of saying what kind of things they think married people should and should not do. It is very sad. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out what their problems are.

          • ? Where did any of that figure in my comment? OPbsession with sex? Sex others might be having? What married should or should not do? 3 topics totally absent from what I said. Read it again.

            When you do so you will see I said not ‘The concept ”sex” is not much used.’ but ‘the concept ”sex” is not much used unless in sexual revolution cultures.’ And no-one, unless a family hater or person intent on devaluing precious souls, would want to associate with one of those.

          • Christopher every comment you make ‘devalues precious souls’. The fact that you have zero insight into your own obsessions is truly astonishing for someone who puts such store on ‘evidence’.

          • So long as we can rest assured that AG is far more acquainted with the contents of my head than I am myself, we will all be happy And not at all deluded.

  15. To bring the question back to LLF and Goddard’s article.

    I have listened to interviews with Charlie Skrine and Vaughan Roberts on the future of the Church of England.

    It is simply impossible to conclude from the commentary and advice of these two national leaders of Anglican othodoxy that there is any realistic prospect this is all going to end well.

    There are others, Goddard and by inference Ian Paul, who are clearly on a very different page. They appear to be firmly of the view that with “one more heave” there can be some kind of answer.

    Who are the laity to believe ?

    Please do not dismiss the despair of the laity as emotionalism. It is nothing of the sort. Our church and our (orthodox) leaders are in a state of disarray. We are quite obviously accelerating across the last few yards into a brick wall.

    Of course we are unhappy and indignant.

    Reply
    • Peter do you think you speak for all of the laity?
      I think we are at the point where we should allow the laity to decide on this matter. I predict a sizeable majority in favour of same sex marriage being allowed in Church for both laity and clergy.

      Reply
      • Andrew,

        Did I say I think I speak for all of the laity ?

        My criticism is of orthodox clergy. They are acting, thinking and too often speaking as if the crisis facing the Church of England is a crisis for the clergy.

        The orthodox laity are being treated with disdain – by the orthodox clergy. I understand they are worried about their jobs and homes, of course. Yet, they obviously have no real care for the laity.

        Why should we listen to them, or follow them – or pay for them ?

        Reply
        • You sort of implied it I think. But that wasn’t really my point.
          What do you think of my suggestion that we allow the laity to decide now?

          Reply
          • Andrew,

            I entirely agree with you – though as you know, we are on opposite sides of the argument

            Peter

          • Arguments ought not to have sides, and by excluding those who think they do, a lot of headway can be made. Arguments are about refining the search for truth, which includes ruling out everything internally incoherent or self–contradictory and then seeing what is left, and also includes truthful observation and analysis.

          • Great idea, Andrew. Truth is decided by votes.
            We tried this out last week at St Botolph’s, and after a full debate decided to throw out the Nicene Creed, 37-14 with 8 abstentions. A vocal group from the MU, under their new leader Mrs Ahmed, stated that they really couldn’t make any sense of the Trinity, so out it goes.
            Mrs Ahmed has indicated that this ‘cross stuff’ doesn’t go down well with her either.

          • A disingenuous suggestion, given that the culture has changed since 1967 and the church recruits from the world; and that, as Andrew Goddard says above, “Since at least Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 this ethical teaching has not been enforced by disciplinary means on lay people.” So the church of England has become filled with people who agree with you and disagree with the Bible. Would you agree that the church is a theocracy, not a democracy?

          • ‘Come out’ in those circumstances is particularly dishonest, in that it suggests their feelings have always been the same way. Women’s biology is subject to much change; so too, accordingly, their feelings. Why cannot it be a matter of reduced libido, increased aversion to men, or both?

    • With one more heave, there can indeed be an answer. And that heave requires decision makers to have read and digested the science and texts on the matter.

      Reply
  16. Off topic – apologies.

    Find your MP here: https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/

    Contact him/her to express your views about four amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill which relate to the protection of unborn babies and which will be debated on May 15th in Parliament

    Under the 1967 Abortion Act, abortion is permitted in certain circumstances up to 24 weeks of gestation. The law further allows abortion up to birth if the mother’s life is at risk or if the baby has any disability, including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, and clubbed foot. 

    Conservative MP Caroline Ansell’s proposed amendment would lower the upper limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. 

    An amendment proposed by Conservative MP Liam Fox would amend the law to protect children with Down’s syndrome from discrimination because of their condition. 

    A third amendment, tabled by Labour MP Diana Johnson would in-effect decriminalise abortion up to birth, by removing laws which prevent women from self-performing abortions after 24 weeks gestation. 

    Another amendment tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy would remove key legal deterrents which prevent women from self-performing abortions at home in the late stages of pregnancy, and would remove safeguards in place on abortions prior to 24 weeks.

    Reply
        • Abortion law rests on the central concept of viability. That is agreed on all sides to be central. It is neither central nor even relevant. The ”argument” runs that if a baby in one category (premature) would survive if born at a certain gestation, healthy babies in the opposite category ought not to be killed if they are of that gestation. (At the same time as people are pulling out all stops to save their brothes and sisters).
          Or, to summarise, if you are NOT premature you can get killed if you are of an age that you would not survive if you WERE premature (which you are not).
          These are the tactical incoherences dreamed up at the start of the abortion legality movement which the dishonest dreamers never dreamed would be swallowed.

          Reply
          • Abortion is used in practice as post hoc contraception, and I reckon that many campaigners for it are so militant because they have had abortions and are trying to drown out their own consciences.

          • That is obvious that they are doing that. And such use is strictly illegal – but hey, the babies can’t sue.

  17. Answering several people above – my distinction between what people ‘just are’ and what they ‘do and choose’ is rather fundamental to this whole issue, and indeed to issues way beyond the sexual. When gay propaganda tries to portray ‘gayness’ as in the ‘we just are so’ category they make a major error and confusion.

    The common comparison made by the gays is with ethnic difference, in order to achieve for ‘gayness’ the same kind of legal protection that is given to people who ‘just are’ ethnically different. And if the comparison were valid, fine; but it ain’t!

    Ethnic and similar genetic differences really ‘just are’. Nobody gets to CHOOSE hair colour, eye colour, skin colour etc. And in serious terms it is not possible to DO those things (disguise the reality, yes, but truly ‘do’ hair colour etc, no. Nor do these differences inherently force people to behave morally differently to people with different hair colour etc. And again no amount of urges and desires about them will change the basic innate reality.

    ‘Gay’ in contrast is very much about the doing – sexual actions. And – a key point – any underlying ‘being’ that can be claimed is nowhere near as simple or morally neutral as hair, eye or skin colour. People DO the sexual acts on the basis of urges and desires to do the acts in question. And here’s the rub – urges and desires, sexual or otherwise, are not guaranteed to be simply good, simply OK to act on or live out. Lots of human urges and desires are questionable in all kinds of ways.

    It is true that as a category, “Doing because ‘urges and desires'” is a very wide category – in effect all the way from the saintly to the satanic. But precisely for that reason it is not possible to simplistically say “Oh, I have such and such urges and desires, so it must be OK for me to act them out”. Even if people are happy to have the urges and desires for their own actions, they may not be happy for others to have the urges and desires and act on them – are you happy for others to have urges and desires to steal from you, lie to you, and the like…?

    And because it’s not about things people ‘just are’, these things people “Do because ‘urges and desires'” are open to question and challenge, to different opinions based on different worldviews, etc. And cannot and should not be given the privileged position given in law to the truly ‘just are’ things like ethnic differences.

    In a world where “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, people’s urges and desires can be well messed up, and ‘because sin’ people can be kind of captive to bad urges and desires. For Christians if they clearly have urges and desires to do things God has forbidden, then those are temptations to be repented of and resisted. Nobody says it’s easy, but that resistance is still necessary.

    Reply
    • Stephen

      Gay means a person who experiences exclusive attraction to the same sex. There are celibate gay people, monogamous gay people, gay people in heterosexual marriages and promiscuous gay people.

      Lots of straight people engage in same sex sexual behavior.

      There’s a complex interaction between orientation and behavior.

      Reply
      • In other words, a messy picture. Just like we have always said. No straightforward this orientation and that orientation.

        Reply
      • But it isn’t really ‘exclusive’, is it? Why have numerous ‘gay’ men been married before and fathered children? Why do numerous women ‘come out’ as lesbian in middle age, after raising a family – like a former colleague of mine?
        Sexual feelings aren’t ontological like the colour of your eyes. They are more plastic than you are willing to admit.

        Reply
  18. Stephen, all the people you are talking to here have heard this point many times. But every time they hear it, they dishonestly pretend that nothing has happened and simply carry on as before.

    This crowbarring of such behaviour into the civil rights / innate narrative began as a tactic. Many have been duped by it, simply because it has been jammed and repeated ad infinitum. The repetition is the tactic. The unlikeliness of the point is what requires so much repetition.

    Why not just reject their contribution since they have already proven themselves dishonest in this way. There is no way any debate can proceed unless they address this point. The fact that they try to sidestep it shows that they already know they are wrong. But if they are dishonest – they have already lost the debate.

    Reply
    • Exactly. The idea that this discussion requires deeply learned scholars is nonsense. It is about the authority of scripture and what scripture says on the subject. One is a matter of faith and the other is, for the matter at issue, extremely simple. Of course the liberals have lost the debate. It is up to us to prevent them turning their opinion into a power program within the church. They have already seized the culture, to the great detriment of Western populations. Behind their initiative stands Satan. He is concealed, as ever (‘occult’ means hidden), but clear to those to whom God has granted eyes to pierce the muddle. I do wonder how God would respond if a large and sober (no charismatic hysteria, please) gathering of Anglican evangelicals – as senior as possible – were to pray 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 in relation to the Archbishops.

      Reply
      • Anton

        Scripture says nothing directly about gay people, that’s why the “conservative” teaching on gay people is so confused. It’s only the sex that’s wrong, but no you shouldn’t get a civil partnership or hold hands or tell people that you are gay. Why? Well erm…

        Reply
        • All of the questions in your comment have the same answer. The category ‘gay people’ is incoherent.

          Reply
        • Why do you imagine ‘gay’ is a binary, exclusive category? Why have many men who call themselves ‘gay’ been married before?
          People like Roy Clement or Jeremy Pemberton or Colin Coward?
          It isn’t really so black and white, is it? It’s more about relative strength or attraction.

          Reply
          • Has Colin Coward been married to a woman? This is news to me. But in any event, sexual identity categories are not, as far as I am aware, accurately scientifically measurable. The edges blur; some apparently 100% heterosexual men may have a slight capacity for attraction to their own sex; bisexuals are rarely 50/50; men in enforced same sex contexts have homosexual relations which they find they neither need nor want when living in a mixed sex environment etc etc.
            So drawing any conclusion about my, or anyone else’s sexual orientation, from the fact of them having been married to a woman before they were married to a man is an impertinent mug’s game.
            In my own case, comments in the public domain are far from the whole story, and that story is mine alone. Suffice it to say that, from as young as I can remember I have been gay. Internal and external social expectations, and lots of fear and shame, pushed me in a different direction – but it never went away.
            I am amazed at the hate and vituperation on this thread; haven’t some of you got better things to do than be angry about sexual minorities?

          • What is this aversion to something so wonderful as young childhood? First sexual attraction is I would guess 7-8. You are saying you cannot remember before 7-8? Which would be odd, and mean that you have completely blanked out a high proportion of what is fundamental to you and of your formative impressions. Or are you saying you experienced sexual attraction at the age of 3-4? Which would be odder. There is something odd here either way.

          • Jeremy

            It isn’t Christian morality on show here.
            It’s the prejudices and fears of a group of white, Western, patriarchal, cishet, sometimes elite males, born in the 20th century, and very contextuallly and fulturally determined, dressed up as biblical truth.
            It’s cultural normativity disguised as timeless truths, as what ‘nature’ teaches us, and as what the Bible ‘says’. It’s being bound by a particular – and modern – reading of scripture and tradition. It is, I suspect, a result of a deep fear of sex and shame about sexuality which engenders prurience, disgust, juvenile smuttiness, and vulgarity.

          • So what Jeremy Pemberton has stated is what I have always believed, that binary “identities” of ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ are not real – despite Peter Jermey’s insistence otherwise – but that everybody is capable of either attraction – though in most cases the attraction may be weak or never acted upon.
            Bisexualism, in other words, is a possibility for anyone, given a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances. And bisexual men have left their wives when those circumstances arose. As Jeremy says, the full story is rarely told.
            Similarly, married women in later life have left their husbands to form partnerships with women. How does this arise?
            Having homosexual or heterosexual attractions is NOT ontological.
            Which is just another way of describing the plasticity of sexual feelings.
            Or consider a propensity for and dependence on alcohol – what we call ‘alcoholism’, although there may be a grey area in diagnosing a person that way.
            Is alcoholism an ‘identity’? Is it genetic or epigenetic? Are some people ‘born alcoholic’ or does it develop situationally?
            Is *any person capable of becoming an alcoholic or is it a fixed, unchosen and permanent characteristic of a person?
            You see the problem in equating a person with his feelings.

          • “It is, I suspect, a result of a deep fear of sex and shame about sexuality which engenders prurience, disgust, juvenile smuttiness, and vulgarity.”

            I’m so glad you don’t indulge in ad hominems, Penelope. And so impressed by your superpower of mind reading.

          • Yes, there is are multiple problems in equating people with their feelings, which is why most of us would not think of doing so.
            (1) It is only the less mature who are feelings-oriented anyway. Not a promising start.
            (2) Feelings grow or shrink depending on how much they are fed or indulged.
            (3) Whereas certain other traits are, by contrast, hardwired.

          • But of course, the ‘heterosexual’/homosexual binary was coined for this very purpose – to give the false impression that these are two equally good, equally normal, equally natural alternatives, and that we have not a hint that anything (like for example babies and biological fit) differentiates them.

            Once that bifurcated language is in place, everyone will frame their thoughts by it. Job done. But language can be framed in numerous ways, which means that those ways that correspond to science and reality are better than those that don’t, and the present way is only one random (and in fact engineered) one.

          • Christopher

            That’s not why the words were coined in the 19th century. And heterosexual had, at first, a different meaning from that used today.

        • Peter J
          Scripture doesn’t believe in gay people, it construes the whole issue a different way. Scripture definitely believes in same-sex love, see eg David and Jonathan and Jesus and ‘the disciple he loved’ (almost certainly John). And such relationships can legitimately be pretty physical and intimate. However Scripture also rather definitely teaches that sexuality is heterosexual and that God does not make people do absurd pseudo-sex like men shoving their male organs up other men’s back passages. Humans inflict those absurdities on themselves. As with other aspects of sin in general, people who are at odds with God, whose relationship with God and everything else is disordered, do all kinds of things which God would prefer they didn’t do, and
          to some extent are ‘captive to’ their disordered urges and desires, sexual and otherwise.

          Yes there is confusion among Christians. Some of this stems from the long-standing error of having ‘Christian states’ in which theological and moral dissenters are persecuted and suffer discrimination over and above legitimate disagreement with their ideas and practices. But also note that the USA and UK in particular suffered a kind of social shift/moral panic in the late Victorian period which rather distorted perceptions (to the point they might have criminalised David and Jonathan and even Jesus and John). We are still living in the aftermath of these two factors….

          Reply
          • Stephen

            Please if you are determined to hold onto contingent, non-theological, culturally bound prejudices, could you do so without stooping to such crude rhetoric?

          • Jesus and St John the Apostle were a gay couple who chose not to engage in anal sex, but were physically intimate to a degree that would have been illegal in Victorian Britain? Do you really think that? Because it sounds, to put it as politely as possible, very outlandish.

          • AJB – no, you are misrepresenting what Stephen has said. He is saying (if I understand him correctly) that the notion of ‘gayness’ as an identity isn’t found in the Bible, and in this I think he is correct. The Bible focuses rather on desire and actions and does not make a genus out of these.
            Much of our modern problem – a sign of the intellectual world we inhabit – comes from conflating friendship with eroticism. Most of my friendships would be called ‘same sex friendships’ because they are with other men, but none of these friendships is erotic.
            I think we all remember the pro-gay apologetic that was around years ago which insisted that “the Bible supports same-sex relationships” because (it was claimed) this was what David and Jonathan had – and it was also implied that this existed between Jesus and the Beloved Disciple. And for good measure even Ruth and Naomi were thrown into the mix!
            Of course this ‘apologetic’ was fraudulent and dishonest, but it was widely promoted, and I think there are those in ‘Changing Attitudes’ who actually believe it.
            Stephen may overstate things when he asserts that in Scripture ‘such relationships can legitimately be pretty physical and intimate’. Yet it is the case that in non-European cultures, physical contact between friends of the same sex can be closer than we would typically see in England today. Men holding hands in India denotes close friendship, but I don’t think it would have erotic connotations. Similarly, a young man leaning on the breast of an older man revered as his teacher. Different times and places have different cultural codes that don’t translate easily into our situation. But misreading the past is easy to do.

          • It is harder to do the more educated you are, which means not pretending to think that one’s own era and culture are the only ones (when one knows well that history has been a long process, most of which one is not even familiar with) nor any more likely to be superior.

            In this case it is well inferior. Can anyone think of any other culture so impoverished that they are unfamiliar with friendship? But that is a barometer and fearful warning of just how much of a nadir the sexual revolution is.

        • Scripture uses neither the word homosexual nor heterosexual. It addresses behaviour, and persons of all sexual preference may do what the Bible permits or prohibits.

          Reply
  19. For the avoidance of doubt, I hold to the orthodox view of marriage and therefore view Civil partnerships as a grievous error. Not – as Penelope appeared to imply – because I am engaging in hatefulness. CPs mislead people and take them into sin.

    However, I am appalled by the grotesque homophobia on display in the comment by Stephen Langton – 1.47 pm today

    I presume Ian Paul has long since given up on reading the posts on this thread and has other more important matters on his mind.

    If you are still reading them, Ian, you really should have intervened and told Langton to desist from such shocking language

    Reply
    • Peter
      From where I’m standing, my ‘shocking language’ simply spells out in non-euphemistic form what the Bible means when it talks of men ‘lying with a man as with a woman’, or when Paul in Romans writes of ‘men committing shamelessness with men’ (Berkeley version). And is it really ‘grotesque homophobia’ to point that out, or is the grotesquerie on the part of those who do such things and have the brass neck to effectively claim that ‘God made me do it’?

      If you read other things I’ve written you will realise that I’m not simplistically saying all gay men do these questionable things. Rather I try to positively support loving relationships in same-sex couples, condemning only the minimal things that are rather explicitly condemned in Scripture. I’ve tried very hard to give a balanced view including pointing out that men loving men and not doing such things are not sinful. I’ve made a genuine and serious attempt to unravel much confusion that has arisen over the last about 150 years and has been evident in other posts here on both sides of the issue. But I’m not willing to ‘fudge round’ what we are really talking about, and let ‘nice’, non-shocking language perpetuate the confusion….

      Reply
      • Stephen,

        You are defending the indefensible and in the process incinerating your credibility.

        Nobody should listen to a word you say until and unless to acknowledge your error.

        Reply
          • Stephen,

            You have been rebuked for your obviously grotesque use of language on a public access forum that associates itself with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            You need to grow up and apologise

        • Peter, for what it is worth, it seems perfectly obvious to me that the more precise language is, then the more in the interests of truth it is – which is what debate is all about.

          And the more so because this debate is full of circumlocutions and euphemisms, which are often a dishonest way of avoiding what is really going on. One cannot even begin to debate that which is not mentioned in the first place.

          There is a large misunderstanding if you say it is the language that is reprehensible. it is the reality of which the language speaks that is reprehensible. The language would not even occur if not in the interests of exposing the reality.
          It reminds me of when people object strongly to *pictures* of babies getting killed (which obviously the displayers also hate) and not at all to the actual deeds without which the pictures would not exist. How on earth can shocking actions be exposed remotely accurately without using the precise shocking language that lets people see precisely what they are and how bad they are?

          What is your alternative?

          Reply
          • Christopher,

            The bible is clear that sexual intimacy is intended for marriage between a man and a woman. It is perfectly obvious what this means. There is no euphemism or circumlocution involved here.

            We are clearly told in the New Testament that we should be modest and discrete in our use of language pertaining to human functions. Only a fool thinks the language used by Langton is remotely necessary to convey meaning.

          • Anton, like others, I deprecate the use of vulgar language in public forums (although many of use very similar language in private discourse and nobody is offended) – but even when we use the $5 words, the pro-gay voices still get offended and accuse us of ‘being obsessed with what people do in private’. Which is really just an ad hominem inversion of what is really going on.
            Who is ‘obsessed’? Is it not those who want to denominate same-sex genital acts as ‘holy’?
            As a cultural aside, many years ago I ceased to be interested in the rubbish that is Eurovision and paid the subject little attention. Now I read of people who do follow it calling it ‘a giant gayfest’, complete with homosexual imagery on TV. We have come a long, long way since ‘Puppet on a string’ and not for the better.

          • Peter

            On that basis, you
            (a) permit those who dishonestly use euphemisms (hoping no-one will notice what they mean) to get off the hook;
            (b) disallow precision in debate, when debate is the very first arena where precision is crucial;
            (c) disallow medical and scientific discourse, which requires accuracy;
            (d) do not permit the sheer scariness of the reality to permeate the mainstream and thus save lives by scaring people off.

            I repeat: Everyone knows how vulgar the language is and deplores, and the language would not be happening unless the realities were happening and in need of being exposed and stopped. Surely if we deplore the language we deplore the reality much more.

          • Firstly, Penelope, precise is exactly what it is.
            Secondly, I did not see that word occur in any of the comments.

          • “I did not see that word occur in any of the comments.”

            Then Christopher, as I so often suspect, you read what you want to read rather than reading precisely.

          • Christopher

            If you did not see ‘that word’ in any of the comments, how can you claim it was precise language?

          • ??But why did you mention the word at all, given that it had not appeared in any of the comments. Unless I missed it. I didn’t follow your train of thought on this.

          • Christopher: do you find it impossible to read with any precision? Have you actually not bothered to read the comments again? Or even do a word search? You really are undermining your claim to be a ‘researcher’.

          • To redeem your own claim to be a truth-seeker (and to prize disinterested scholarship) I suggest that you read Stephen’s comments again. Carefully and attentively.
            Otherwise, your claim that he was using precise language when you have apparently not seen the term he used, is both slipshod and ideological.

          • I am clearly the lowest of the low not to have trawled through 430 comments in search of an unsavoury word.
            You have been justly stern and forebearing with this felony of mine from your position of great wisdom. I promise never to do such a thing again.

          • But never mind. Heads have been shaken, tuts have been tutted, wrists have been slapped, and now after a period of reflection one hopes this errant individual can attempt to make a fresh start.

    • Thank you Peter. I think Stephen’s crude queerphobia is evil. It’s also risibly ignorant about straight sexuaities, let alone gay ones.

      I don’t censure people for being opposed to CPs. I do think attacking someone whose partner has pancreatic cancer, and who would have no legal rights without a CP, is reprehensible.

      Reply
  20. Penelope,

    I did not and would not make a personal attack on individuals. If you look at the comments that is not actually what I said.

    My comment was a defence of the goods of marriage which the state diminished when it created CP.

    Lorenzo’s situation is deeply distressing. It is just common humanity to see that.

    Reply
    • Peter I am sure Penny is thanking you precisely because you didn’t make a personal attack. I am sure she is exprsssing her disgust at Stephen and thanking you for doing so also. Contrasting your approach with those who personalise things. I fully agree with her and thank you also.

      Reply
      • Thank you Penny and Andrew,

        A grievous feature of the comments on this blog is the absence of any sense that behind the words in each comment is a person.

        Without that, the comments are nothing but a display of dominance behaviour.

        I wish you both well

        Peter

        Reply
      • I’m an orthodox Anglican priest, Penelope, and have been most of my life. If you think my comments are “egregious”, I will happily accept that word in the original sense of ‘egregius’ (yes, I used to teach Classics as well). If you think they are false, then you arguing from the viewpoint of a different religion.
        If we differ, it can only be because your religious and ethical beliefs are not historically orthodox. That’s a simple doctrinal fact, not a moral judgment, and I can’t help you there.

        Reply
        • I am an orthodox Anglican laywoman. I would not describe Charlie Skrine or St Helen’s whom, I think you mentioned above, as either orthodox or Anglican.
          I hope not all of your beliefs are false, but, as I commented above, yours and many of the opinions on show here, are products of a culturally contingent patriarchal, Western (usually male, often elite) ideology dressed up as ‘according to nature’ and/or ‘biblical truth’. It is, of course, a very partial and particular reading of scripture and tradition.
          I could help you but I fear you would be unwilling to and uncomfortable with refocusing your hermeneutical lenses and to detach yourself from a distinctive ecclesiology.

          Reply
          • No, Penelope, you’re not an orthodox Anglican, you are a modern liberal Protestant, a former Roman Catholic, who affirms the ‘goodness’ of abortion, ‘one night stands’, and homosexuality, and takes a very sceptical view of the Bible, especially its dogmatic character. There are bits your believe, and much that you reject. As you are fully entitled to, in this post-Christian age. Your opinions are the product of a culturally contingent feminist secular Western (university, sometimes elite) ideology dressed up as “progressive” and/or “scientific”. It is, of course, a very partial and particular reading of science as well as 20th century historical criticism.
            But that isn’t what ‘orthodox Anglican’ means. It means a commitment to the historic creeds as a true summary of the Bible, the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ, the reality of natural law, and the necessity of conversion and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
            I could help you, but like me, you don’t care to be patronised.

          • James
            I am most certainly not a Liberal Protestant. The very idea! Nor have I ever affirmed the goodness of abortion, one-night stands nor homosexuality. So, forgive me if I still don’t trust your hermeneutical lenses. Or your ability to read texts with dispassion and attention.

            My beliefs are not progressive and certainly not ‘scientific’. You must look to Christopher for a belief in the unalloyed goods of science.

            Of course I’m a feminist, how can you read the gospel and not be? Of course I am a product of the secular West. How could I not be? The difference is that I can acknowledge and reflect on the implications of positionality. And you, and others here cannot.

            My ‘view’ of what the Bible is and is not is one shared by the majority of reputable scholars. Attention to context, purpose, contingency, redaction, error, translation, corruption is not scepticism. It’s scholarship.

            I am an orthodox, creedal Christian who believes in the incarnation and resurrection and the continuing work of the HS in the World. I don’t have much time for natural law. At least as expressed by you and some commenters here. Very dodgy. Although you do get queer penguins.

          • ‘Queer’ penguins? Distinguish between
            (a) enjoying the company of – and doing activities with – the same sex – like most human females and males do;
            (b) stepping in as needs must;
            (c) actually indulging in sexual acts;
            (d) being the victim of gender imbalance;
            (e) having an appetite that needs an[y] object – more dogs than penguins in this case.

            Leaping in with a one-dimensional touche’ or first seeing synoptically what are the existing dimensions? Everyone knows which is much better.

          • Christopher

            Your reply is utterly irrelevant to the reality that queer penguins occur in nature. They co-parent as well. Very sweet.
            I doubt they’re part of Fallen nature, more likely part of God’s very good, and queer, creation.

          • You didn’t understand my answer then. The famous pair of penguins were later found not to be ”gay” at all – that was anthropomorphism. They were responsible individuals and were doing as needs must. Think of when there are uneven numbers of boys and girls in a class and then you have to pair up.

          • Christopher

            Keep up with the research Christopher. Gay penguins abound in nature, not only at London zoo 🙂

          • Gay is a human term. How do we know? Are they (dare I utter it) mutually affectionate?

  21. Peter
    Apparently in your mind ‘calling a spade a spade’ is somehow “obviously grotesque use of language”.
    Meanwhile an awful lot of pro-gay comment is “a display of dominance behaviour…” – rather nasty bullying – based on the truly grotesque error or category mistake that doing gay sex is somehow something people just are without choice like hair colour, rather than as is the truth that gay sex is chosen behaviour based on questionable urges and desires.

    Reply
    • Stephen,

      Your display of self justification is all the evidence that is needed to confirm that you are either a very immature christian or an unbeliever.

      I would urge you to humble yourself for your own sake alone.

      Reply
  22. Christopher,

    Reference your extravagant list of the consequences of moderation in speech by christians.

    I have been listening to public orthodox preaching for thirty eight years. I was converted through it. I am absolutely certain that, under God, many many thousands of others have been converted through the same preaching.

    I have never heard an orthodox preacher use the kind the grotesque language you are defending. Not once. Ever. In thirty eight years.

    The idea it is needed is a facile absurdity.

    Reply
      • James,

        You appear unaware of the fact that, unlike Ezekiel, Stephen Langton is not a prophet of the Living God.

        It is for Him, not you and not Langton, to express Himself in terms He chooses.

        We are called to moderation of speech. As for the issue of proportion, read the comments. The offence Langton caused is enormous.

        You do not get to decide that ok, James.

        Reply
    • I very much doubt that any of the debaters would use it in a sermon context either! In debate, accuracy is of the essence.

      Reply
  23. So you object to use of a coarse term to make clear the reality; something I understand the Bible itself does even if English translations may tone it down.

    But since you don’t comment on it I have to assume you approve of the problems caused by the gay category mistake I mentioned, which allows gays to legally intimidate and persecute at considerable cost to those they go after (or to the public purse when it turns out they’ve wrongly sued or wrongly set the police on people). The language involved may be polite, but the activity is a moral atrocity.

    With some background in law, I reckon it is only a matter of time for some legal team dealing with a ‘gay wedding cake’ or a supposed case of ‘hate speech’ by a street speaker will get their act together sufficiently to get the UK or US Supreme Court to realise the category mistake and rebalance the situation so that the gays have to be truly equal where now they actually have a degree of improper privilege. Meantime it will be disappointing if people participating in discussion here don’t catch on to something so obvious…..

    Reply
    • Stephen,

      You speak of “gays” as a group who should be viewed with concern and suspicion. Let me be clear with you, Stephen. That is a false religion.

      People fall into sin. That is the universal category. We must call each other to repentance and that includes the universal call to sexual chastity – both within and outside of marriage as historically understood.

      We all grapple with different forms of sexual temptation. That makes absolutely no difference to our category.

      Reply
        • Christopher,

          You are ignoring context.

          Langton is expressing what can only be described as a generalised suspicion of a category of people who are united only by their sexual preferences.

          There is not the remotest biblical basis for such an attitude toward a category of humanity.

          Reply
          • That is exactly the issue. We tend to group categories by nature. Necessarily so, since the less hardwired something is, the less a category is justified. What we have here is a self-claimed category, even chief category, whose right to be an actual category is disputed, given that it is often subject to change.

  24. Christopher,

    You have turned the issue on its head !

    Langton is engaging in a generalised suspicion of a category of people based only on their sexual preferences.

    That is to be condemned as entirely unbiblical. You are making it difficult when it is simple.

    Reply
  25. Peter
    As can be seen from several of the posts above, ‘gay’ is a pretty diverse category including some who by Christian standards are not sinful and are maybe wrongly self-identifying. To be really precise would require me to repetitively write sentences of near Pauline length (though hopefully not the one-and-three-quarters-chapter sentence Paul managed in I Thess!!). I’m doing my best with a mess not of my creating….

    The last bevy of posts seem to come to this; what we might call ‘the gay lobby’ are of course aware that it would not be all that good for their case to admit that ‘gay’ includes people who do ‘anal sex’ and a few other questionable practices. Lots of ordinary people would be put off by what they would find absurd and even somewhat disgusting acts. Christians in particular would not find acceptable the suggestion, under the mantra of “God makes people gay”, that the God who created the wonders of heterosexual sex would then deliberately (and surely rather weirdly?) deprive some people of that pleasure and ‘make’ them instead do absurdities like anal sex.

    Consequently, somewhat disingenuously (and I feel that’s the polite way to describe it) said ‘gay lobby’ try to fudge and evade that particular reality and talk only in ‘nice’ terms of what ‘gay’ can involve. And if the opposition have the temerity to expose the truth, that stuff like anal sex can be involved, the gays pile in with distractions attempting to claim that somehow the opposition clarifying the activity is way worse than the activity itself that some gays are engaged in.

    Confusion suits the ‘gay’ case – it should not be encouraged…..

    Reply
    • No one on here is upset by the term anal sex. We have got so used to Christopher bringing it up. Frequently. What I- and I believe Peter – object to is juvenile smuttiness (when the proper words could have been used).
      And I strongly object to sex acts which are not PIV being described as disordered or as imitations of ‘real’ sex. That is ignorant, shameful, and a slur on both gay and straight couples and on their authentic expressions of their sexualities. Both gay and straight couples enjoy anal sex. If it’s not your bag, fine. Don’t do it. But don’t assume that all share your distaste. Many gay men do not enjoy or indulge in anal sex either.
      Finally, there is no such thing as a gay lobby. Unless you mean the space between Colin Coward’s front door and the door into his hall.

      Reply
      • Penelope,

        I am afraid I think it is much, much worse than just puerile behaviour – bad though that would be.

        It is obviously and transparently intended to generate a sense of disgust towards people who experience same sex attraction. Langton spells that out himself with pride.

        History has taught is that the spirit which moves people to such behaviour comes from the Pit and we should shudder when it is encountered.

        Reply
        • Indeed. Though I think much of the disgust is felt by the writer himself. I am not going to speculate on why that is. I hope he finds space to reflect on his own violent reaction to certain sexualties and his desire to demonise them.

          Reply
      • For the nth time (and note how often it has become necessary to say that) – What has taste or distaste got to do with it? Natural law, common sense and disease have everything to do with it. To think everything is ‘if it rocks your boat’ is a privileged, pleasure-dominated, dilettante way of looking at things that leaves out most dimensions and all the important ones.

        Reply
        • Indeed Christopher. But so many men seem to be repulsed by anal sex so that disgust becomes their hermeneutic.
          Disgust is a poor hermeneutic, as is ‘science’ used as a proxy for ethics. And natural law, which isn’t really part of the Reformed tradition, doesn’t get you very far either. Unless you believe insert tab A in hole B is natural law. Ponder the queer penguins.

          Reply
          • For the nth-squared time, mature people couldn’t care less about emotions like disgust because they are not emotion centred but reason centred. And you don’t need much reason to tell you Russian roulette is not a good idea.

            Utterly appalling.

      • If I bring it up frequently, you could get within 180 degrees of what I say – my focus on objective harm rather than irrelevant trivial disgust.

        Reply
          • ?
            When did I do that? I made no connection of RR with sexual intimacy, only with a perverted practice.

            Mature people want to prevent unavoidable deaths. Whereas immature people don’t care so much about that, maturity being by definition about caring for others.

  26. Stephen,

    You astonish me.

    It was clear to me that your intention was to generate disgust towards people who experience same sex attraction. I refrained from labelling you as a homophobe only because Ian Paul pulls me up short if I am critical of anybody.

    Yet you openly and proudly explain above – in words of one syllable – that generating a sense of disgust towards people who experience same sex attraction is your precise intention.

    You are a homophobe. Unless you repent, I will not respond to you or acknowledge you again.

    Reply
    • Peter I fear that the approach of those like Stephen and Christopher make it almost impossible for others of us to see how the word ‘orthodox’ has not been hijacked and how the word homophobic has been underused in calling out the dreadful behaviour that those two in particular display.

      Something President Lincoln once said is crucial for us all.
      “We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

      Thank you Peter for being one of the better angels.

      Reply
      • Thank you Andrew,

        In the midst of it all we cannot become enemies and I offer you the sentiment you share with me

        Peter

        Reply
        • So, to be clear, Peter, you believe homosexual relationships are God’s will for some people and civil partnerships are a potentially holy pattern of life? Is this what you are saying?

          Reply
          • What are you taking about James.

            I have lost count of the times I have said sexual intimacy is for marriage between a man and a woman.

          • Peter, I am trying to understand what you are saying. Andrew Godsall believes that same-sex marriage is a good and holy thing for people who are same-sex attracted. I think Penelope agrees with that, as well.
            Are you now saying that civil partnerships are not right and that homosexual sex acts are sinful? Is that your belief?

          • James

            Perhaps, instead of haranguing Peter, you could read his earlier comments which make his position perfectly clear.
            You might then become less anxious when you’re drawing the boundaries.

  27. James,

    I have told you what I believe. Andrew Godsall and Penelope know what I believe. I think they are wrong in their convictions.

    They are courteous and personally generous in their comments addressed to me. I am glad to honour their personal decency.

    I am under no obligation to behave like a bigot.

    Reply
    • Peter, then to be clear, you do think civil partnerships are wrong for Christians and homosexual genital acts are sinful and opposed to God’s will? Is this a correct statement of your beliefs? I could not tell from the exchanges above. This is your belief?

      Reply
      • James,

        I will express myself as I decide.

        Sexual intimacy is for marriage between a man and a woman.

        I entirely reject your attempt to insist my position is unclear. It as clear as day.

        Reply
      • James, take a break, eh?
        You want Peter to spell out some of his assumptions that you seem to be inferring from what he said. What about the your own assumptions that other readers might infer from your “exchanges”? For example, do you believe in a god who is merciful and gracious?

        Reply
      • If you can’t even read texts on here, I don’t think we’re going to take much notice of your culturally determined opinions.

        Reply
  28. Peter
    “I have lost count of the times I have said sexual intimacy is for marriage between a man and a woman”.

    Which is exactly what I am saying – why are you apparently having so much problem with me and if that is your position what are you demanding I apologise for?

    Reply
    • Stephen,

      Read the exchanges between us. You have said a great deal more than the statement of mine which you quote.

      I am not entering into foolish games with you. Take responsibility for your own statements.

      I have nothing more to say to you

      Reply
  29. Peter
    Quite happy to take responsibility for (my) own statements. Including my choice to use strong language so that ‘nice’ language would not obscure the reality under discussion. Rather less happy to take responsibility where others have misinterpreted and distorted me….

    To the assorted ‘others’ – you do realise that what you’re all so distressed by and ‘having the vapours’ over is in fact your own position; apparently it’s not so comfortable for you when someone spells out the reality behind the ‘nice’ words you usually hide behind.

    I also note that there don’t seem to be many takers for the discussion on the issue of the category mistake in the gay case – the difference between supposedly ‘just being’ gay and the reality that ‘gay sex’ is chosen behaviour to which different rules apply. Like I said, only a matter of time before the lawyers sort that one out and change the current imbalance….

    Reply
  30. James,

    I think I am right that you are an anglican clergyman. (I do not have the energy to check back through 400 comments)

    You must disassociate yourself clearly and in print from the menace and animosity on display in Langton’s statement above.

    Reply
    • Peter,
      Would you consider that Paul is displaying ‘menace and animosity’ when he castigates the Judiaziers in Gal 5:12 who are leading the Galatians into sin?

      I am not an expert in NT Greek but I believe the import and tone of Pauls’ language in this passage is actually played down in most modern translations.

      Reply
      • Chris,

        You appear to be possessed by the delusion that Stephen Langton is an Apostle of the Living God.

        Langton is a mere man. A very rude and belligerent one at that.

        Reply
        • Peter,
          I do not know Stephen Langton and I have no reason to believe he is an Apostle of the Living God (I don’t think Ian Paul is either for that matter). I’m certainly not one.

          But – I do get do your point. Its fine for Paul to use language that is rude and belligerent -after all, he is only wishing that that the Judiaziers would cut their own balls off – menacing and expressing animosity to them as he is an Apostle of the Living God, but such language is reserved for him – not for the rest of us who are not.

          Somehow Peter, I think if you were around at the same time as when the letter to the Galatians was being read out to the church at Galatia then I am certain you would be castigating Paul for his language as you often like to do with others on this blog.

          -but then I might be wrong …

          Reply
          • Chris,

            Your attempt to draw a parallel between the belligerent homophobia of Langton and Paul’s letters is intellectually risible.

          • Peter – following the discussion here, I find the most hypocritical, censorious, anti-Christian contribution, is yours, because on the one hand you made it clear that you would deny to gay people something that is really useful – civil partnerships.

            LORENZO (above) outlined the practical benefits of civil partnerships, in terms of legal status – pension rights and inheritance, power of attorney and duty of care if one of the partners gets sick. There was absolutely nothing about sexual practices in any of that. Introducing CPs was also a way for society to acknowledge that people need companionship, that for some people a liaison with someone of the opposite sex won’t work and respecting the fact that in some cases it is mutually beneficial if people choose their life companion from the same sex. So you would deny gay people a piece of legislation that is both very useful in practical terms and also gives gay couples a level of dignity that they did not have before.

            Stephen, on the other hand, pointed to sexual practices that are always disgusting wherever they are seen (yes A.G. – they may well exist in heterosexual relations – and when they do, it is always a dominant male coercing a submissive female into things she would probably prefer not to do) and in all cases, it is well understood that it can have a detrimental effect on the functioning of the anal sphincter (hopefully we don’t have to go into the details here).

            So you on the one hand have made it clear that you are dead against something that is genuinely useful for gay people (and which I approve of) – namely, the Civil Partnership legislation, while on the other hand hitting the ceiling when someone alludes to horrible activities which do go on – and where there is a lobby demanding that these activities be accepted as reasonable.

          • “it is always a dominant male coercing a submissive female into things she would probably prefer not to do”

            Jock you can produce no evidence for that because there isn’t any. You have indicated before that you think the only purpose of sex, even within marriage, is for reproduction and that you don’t see any need for sex beyond that. So it is no surprise you aren’t aware of the range of sexual practices that a heterosexual married couple engage in.

          • Jock

            As I have commented elsewhere, disgust is a very poor hermeneutic. Just because you, and Christopher, Stephen, and James find certain sexual intimacies distasteful this doesn’t mean that such intimacies are inherently unpleasant or immoral.
            I find rice pudding utterly repellent but I do not conclude from this that rice pudding is intrinsically disordered and should not be enjoyed by other people. We should not frame the propriety of things by our reactions to them. We should especially not claim, without any evidence, that certain practices are coercive simply because we cannot imagine the passive partner deriving any pleasure from them.

        • Langton is indeed a mere man. He is a mere man who has got rather fed up with assorted gays and their supporters throwing their weight around on the basis of a false claim that ‘being gay’ is the same kind of thing as ethnic differences when it is clearly in a distinct moral and legal category. And also fed up of them fudging the realities of gay ‘sex’ with sanitised language.
          It is interesting that when I spell out one of the major acts of gay ‘sex’ loads of people come down on me for daring to mention it explicitly – but are apparently (a) perfectly happy with people doing stuff so weird they don’t want to talk about it openly themselves, and (b) have the blasphemous brass neck to claim that God makes people do such things when the Bible could not be much clearer that he disapproves.

          Reply
          • Stephen: it isn’t one of the major acts of gay sex. It’s just as much an act of straight sex. The fact that you don’t understand this is one of the reasons you choose to use immature language. Another reason you choose immature language is that the act – whether performed by gay or straight people – disgusts you personally. The particular reason it disgusts you so much one can only speculate upon. But as the various authors of scripture don’t use the language you resort to, that can’t be the reason.

          • Maybe it is because he like all half conscientious people are disgusted by Russian roulette and by the media silence as editorial policy about diseases that can so harm precious people including the young.

            And you are not?

  31. ‘menace and animosity’????

    OK, I’m annoyed to have been misinterpreted with animosity which suggested my comments came from ‘the Pit’, and I guess the annoyance shows. But the nearest I get to ‘menace’ is to point out that the current false privilege of homosexuality in law is likely to be overturned before too long.

    Whereas the ‘menace and animosity’ of gay bigots using that legal category mistake is really scary and does real world harm….

    Reply
  32. Andrew Godsall
    I’m 76 years old and a very well-read hyperlexic, though I don’t go for outright porn. I’ve been studying this stuff and feeling my way into it since around the time homosexuality was decriminalised, a step I supported on biblical grounds to do wirh my rejection of state churches and coercive Christianity. Of course I know that anal sex is also a so-called ‘straight’ practice, and I know a lot more than that about sexual practices. Whether ‘straight’ anal sex is an appropriate practice for Christians is of course open to question to put it mildly.

    My choice of language is simply about being explicit enough that what is at stake cannot be fudged or evaded by ‘nice’ language.

    What is at stake is whether God approves of ‘gay sex’; he clearly does not have a problem with even quite intense same-sex love short of the attempt to imitate heterosexual sexual intercourse. In all kinds of ways the Bible is clear that God disapproves of such same-sex pseudo-sex and for Christians that should be the end of the argument.

    Whereas in say an atheist view gay sex is just one of many things that happen in a purposeless world, a Christian view has to include the situation of a personal God and his purposes for the world he has created. To justify same-sex ‘sex’ as an appropriate Christian activity it is in effect necessary to say “God makes people gay”, that he deliberately intended it from a ‘pre-lapsarian’ position. If you do some grown-up thinking about that, there is a rather serious question whether God would really treat people to that, really make people do such absurd and pointless things.

    Reply
    • The question that you – along with many (most) conservative Christians – fail to address is whether we can ever fully kmow what God approves or disapproves of. These are both human and limited terms.
      I respect that you believe that scripture is the only reliable guide in this matter. But that is by no means the only approach to scripture. And by no means the only Anglican one. It’s nearly 40 years since I had to write papers for ordination training about the use and abuse of the bible. But needless to say I find your approach to the bible more abusive to the texts than useful. And I have also found your whole approach to the matter homophobic. And that stinks, frankly.

      Reply
      • Andrew
        1) But it is also the case that we have been given the Bible precisely so that we can know as much as possible “what God approves or disapproves of” so that we have an objective guide and are not just inventing the answers to suit ourselves. And generally of course the Bible is clear… otherwise it wouldn’t be a lot of use would it?
        2) I basically do interpretation in the ‘Reformed’ style; as per a quote from the translator Tyndale which I refer to quite a bit, on the one hand the key way to interpret the Bible is the ‘literal sense’. However asTyndale also goes on to point out, this is the literal sense in contrast to the others of the medieval ‘four-fold sense’ scheme. It does NOT mean ‘dumb wooden stupid literal’, but rather more like ‘read it much like an ordinary book’, that is with full allowance for various figures of speech and other literary artistic devices, genre issues and the like, and we are meant to use our brains to work it out. Of course as with ordinary books this is not just a free-for-all….
        3) Courtesy of the combination of high functioning autism and the hyperlexia mentioned earlier I am actually a pretty flexible interpreter and on the whole do not suffer the excessive literalism sometimes found with autism. I don’t necessarily just follow the conventional; I have something akin to the ‘outside the box’ approach which is perhaps better known among mathematicians and physicists and enables working out of things like relativity theory. When I’m working things out I go quite deep and consider lots of alternatives. I have considered the various interpretations supposed to support homosexuality and I find them strained, unconvincing, the bad kind of argument from silence, etc. The straightforward interpretation does generally make way better sense.
        4) I also note things sometimes overlooked – for example the simple proposition that if you think about it, if God were ‘OK’ with gay sex the Bible would in effect have to say a lot more about it. The ‘law code’ sections would have to cover all kinds of extra contingencies that would arise if gay sex were supposed to be a regular thing.
        5) Calling someone a ‘something-phobe’ is not a logical argument; indeed it really acts as a way to avoid discussion by dismissing the person disagreeing with you as not worth taking seriously because he supposedly has a mental defect. And that stinks, frankly….

        Reply
        • No. Homophobic is not a general slur. It is a precise term based on observable attitudes. Another ‘conservative’ noted the behaviour as well.
          The rest of your list has been the subject of so much debate here over the years. I’m not going to go over it all again.

          Reply
          • No, you are mistaken there, Andrew. ‘Homophobia’ is a coinage of the past 40 years (and linguistically a rather barbaric one when you analyse its parts). It takes the pejorative abbreviation ‘homo’ and combines it with the semi-scientific sounding ‘phobia’ (used by psychiatrists to denote irrational fears like ‘agoraphobia’ or ‘triskaidekaphobia’) to imply that opposition to and dislike of homosexuality is somehow an irrational and pathological condition when it is nothing of the sort. It’s all about labelling and shaming an attitude (the default position of almost all human cultures, in fact) as a ‘sickness of the mind’. That is precisely the definition of a ‘slur’.
            ‘Transphobia’ is the latest manifestation of this politico-cultural move, but maybe the Cass Report represents a turning of the corner on this. One hopes so.

          • The things wrong with that word are many, and it is to no-one’s credit that they somehow failed to see even one of them when there are so many to see:
            (1) It is a portmanteau word artificially created (not as lexicographers would approve) by combining a slang prefix/abbreviation with a common usage suffix.
            (2) Etymologically it means ‘fear of that which is the same’. The same as what?
            (3) No-one can actually produce even one person who emotionally fears homosexuals or homosexuality – though there are plenty who are rationally opposed to the latter.
            (4) The similarity to arachnophobia or triskaidekaphobia pretentiously suggests a technical psychological term.
            (5) But no-one can produce an individual who has been clinically diagnosed to have this ‘condition’.
            (6) The word is confusingly use to mean a kind of hatred. But phobia means fear not hatred.
            People do exist who hate the damage caused by the latter. I am not surprised: well they might. I detest that damage myself, naturally, because of the preciousness of those affected, and also detest the way it was avoidable but caused by legislation from of all people the authorities who should have known better. I do not know whether there are people who detest the former, but that would be a hateful position to take. Presumably there are, and presumably there are also news stories attesting to the same: the world is large, and one can find people of all descriptions.
            The term is often broadened to mean anyone who hates (?! – see above) any one thing *connected to homosexuality. Presumably thousands of things are connected to it, and it would be difficult indeed, not to mention irrational and uncaring, to hate zero of these, including the negative ones (negative correlations etc).

            ‘Homophobia’ so-called is a meme that has been jammed repeatedly into normal discourse, and the less intelligent fall for it, which is what the initiators were counting on happening, since very many people just repeat things they have often heard: the more often heard, the more they repeat them.

    • You can say it is a straight practice too, but the association was made (which association engendered the term ‘sodomy’) because men-women not only, unlike homosexual men, have another penetrative option (to put it mildly) but that option is the default and only when it comes to nature’s imprimatur and confirmed design.

      Reply
      • You, Stephen and James are rather good examples of men who fear gay (male) sexuality. As is clear in every comment you make about anal sex and in your privileging of PIV sex as normal and default.
        Homophobia is indeed a neologism and it means what people mean when they use it. That’s how language works. It is fallacious to argue that words ‘mean’ their etymology.

        Reply
        • Yes, Penny. Christopher’s 1.49pm comment goes straight into the Encyclopedia of Silly Comments about Language.

          Reply
    • There is no such thing as ‘gay sex’. Sexual intimacy is a buffet not a set meal. Perhaps meze or tapas would be a better analogy. Lots of couples engage in all kinds of sex acts and there isn’t necessarily a main course. Nor is anal sex a simulacrum of penis in vagina sex; it’s simply another expression of intimacy. There is no imitation. That’s a hetero normative way of seeing sex, which is, perhaps, a polite way of saying that you’re queerphobic.
      If you weren’t you wouldn’t frame queer sexuality as ‘absurde and pointless’, which is rather offensive thing to say about the sexual intimacy which queer people enjoy. Not would you allow your personal prejudices to determine what God intends. That’s idolatry.

      Reply
      • This is a reply to Stephen but it could as well apply to Christopher and James’ queerphobic rhetoric.

        Reply
        • Penelope,

          I abhor the language used by Stephen and the evident desire to stigmatise a group.

          I do think the picture with Stephen is different, for reasons that are in his comments – by inference – about his issues with perception and empathy.

          That does not remotely excuse his homophobia but I would, myself, draw back from condemnation of him personally

          Reply
  33. Stephen,

    You are describing a degree of personal impairment and frailty which does alter matters somewhat.

    I would not condemn you personally to the extent that is necessary with people who are not impaired or frail. You do need a degree of grace.

    However, your stance and vocabulary is absolutely unacceptable.

    Reply
    • Peter
      Rough translation – “Oh good, he’s admitted to an ‘impairment’ – so we can all now patronise him and look down on him, and pat ourselves on the back for how nice we’re being to the poor retard – and we can ignore everything he says because obviously he can’t possibly be right….”

      An early researcher on autism, Hans Asperger, said very clearly that society should value his slightly weird teenage patients because their mindset could produce really helpful answers to intractable problems. Inevitably he wasn’t quite prescient enough to put that concretely as “You need people like this to develop the computers that could win your war for you….” but autistic people played major roles in physics, computing, and things like the Enigma code-breaking. We are good at not taking things for granted, at seeing and tugging on loose ends that lead to solutions.

      “unacceptable stance”? – don’t look at me, look in a mirror…..

      Reply

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