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Sex and morality in Church and society

Following the debate in General Synod on the House of Bishop’s report on the Shared Conversations, various bishops have been making statements to their dioceses outlining their reflections on the debate and where we have got to as a Church. Perhaps the most striking was that made by Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, in his Presidential Address to Chelmsford Diocesan Synod.

There are some welcome things in this address, not least the focus on the importance of the apostolic faith, and the attention to be given to ecumenical relations as we think about sexuality. But there are also a good number of very surprising things. The first comes in the first substantive paragraph. Reflecting on the role of the episcopate, Bishop Stephen comments:

The bishop is the focus of unity for the Church, the person through whom the sharing in the apostolic ministry of Christ is continued, and the guarantee that the Church in this time and place is in continuity and communion with the Church in every time and place.

This seems to me to be unusual language for any Anglican to use. I would agree that apostolic succession should be understood in relation to the faith ‘revealed in Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds’, especially when we include the word ‘uniquely’ as it is in the Declaration of Assent. It is in this sense that St Paul talks of his apostolic responsibility to ‘pass on to you what was passed on to me’ in relation to the content and truth of the proclamation of the good news (1 Cor 15.1–3).

This means that bishops have a responsibility to be guarantors of ‘the apostolic ministry of Christ’, but neither their existence nor their actual ministry can be the unqualified guarantee of that ministry. The Lambeth Quadrilateral notwithstanding, episcopal ministry is not the esse of the Church of England, even if it might be of the bene esse. And the oath of canonical obedience is in ‘all things lawful’—there is a mutuality of accountability between the episcopate and the presbyterate in keeping faith with the apostolic deposit of truth. Jesus’ prayer was not simply ‘that they may be one’, as is repeatedly and rather oddly claimed; it is that ‘they might be sanctified in the truth; your word is truth’ and in that sanctification ‘they might be one’ so that the world might believe. It is not so much about an absence of schism, but the presence of united cleaving to the truth Jesus has made known.


The second surprising thing in the address (and doubly surprising given the opening comments) is what sounds like the grudging concession to those who want to remain faithful not only to the Church’s historic teaching on sexuality, but what is in fact the Church’s (and the bishops’) stated current understanding:

Many Christians in this diocese were disappointed that the House of Bishops statement did not go further in opening up the possibility of the Church formally blessing same sex unions. I understand this. But I also recognise the principled objection to such change by those who are, after all, only remaining faithful to the Church’s traditional and canonical understanding of marriage and human relationships, a position that is shared by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church and by a majority of the Anglican Communion.

If such a position involves ‘remaining faithful’ to current canon law (which Bishop Stephen suggests he does not see changing) and this has continuity not only with past understanding but the current position of the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners, I wonder why he does not see his role as teaching into this, being a shepherd of the sheep rather than a referee between conflicting and irreconcilable views. If one of these positions is, as he states, ‘faithful’ to the Church’s teaching, then the other, by definition, is presumably not. (How can you be a ‘faithful Anglican’ whilst denying Anglican teaching…?)


This leads to a third surprising comment. On the one hand, the new teaching document will explore what is possible ‘within current arrangements’, and that prohibits the offering of public prayer which would give the appearance of a blessing of a same-sex sexual relationship. Yet on the other hand, Bishop Stephen cannot see any reason why ‘prayers of thanksgiving for these relationships – perhaps a Eucharist – cannot be offered.’ It seems strange to me that any bishop should feel so relaxed about contradicting the current position of the House of Bishops, without offering any account of this—and why he does notice that it is, in fact, contradictory.


But perhaps the most astonishing and surprising comment comes earlier on. In reflecting on the relationship between sexuality and missional engagement, Bishop Stephen makes this startling claim:

As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.

For some reason, Bishop Stephen sees the issue of the Church’s teaching on sexuality as a unique turning point in relation to culture, as if we have never experienced this sense of being out of step with prevailing morality and criticised, on moral grounds, because of it. I cannot really make sense of this statement, since even a moment’s reflection on some current areas of debate illustrates how implausible this is.

  • In Britain, the Church’s endorsement of the current welfare system is seen as immoral by those who believe in the importance of personal responsibility and what they see as the corrupting influence of a dependency culture. They even have clear New Testament teaching on their side: ‘Anyone not willing to work shall not eat’ (2 Thess 3.10)!
  • More broadly, Margaret Thatcher’s embrace of Friedman’s neo-liberalist economic policy was part of a moral crusade to help people find a renewed sense of responsibility. She saw the power of the unions as something morally evil, which prevented people from fulfilling their (God-given) potential and served to undermine key principles of our Parliamentary democracy.
  • The fact that globalisation and neoliberalism has led to the greatest and most rapid reduction of global poverty is seen as a moral justification for this approach to economics.
  • Many Christians in other traditions, most notably in North America, see the socialism of many British Christians as immoral for a similar range of reasons.
  • On the question of abortion, many in our culture see traditional Christian opposition to abortion as immoral, since it seeks to control women’s fertility and reduce their moral right to freedom of action and control over their own bodies.
  • On the vexed question of immigration, whatever the arguments from selfishness and self-preservation, there are moral questions about the damage done both to individuals and nations by encouraging unrestricted movement, and a moral question about whether aid offered in situ is not better in the long term than luring those with most initiative out of war-torn countries.

I might not agree with the moral objections to Church teaching in these areas—but I recognise that the case is made in terms of morality. I don’t for one minute underestimate the depth of disagreement and even disgust that many express towards the Church’s teaching on sexuality. But ‘the first time’? Really?

I can only think of two reasons why someone might think that sexuality was unique in making the Church look immoral. Either this person is operating in a Christendom paradigm, where society was essentially aligned with Christian morality, so the role of the Church was simply to articulate the assumed norms of wider society, to which most would naturally assent, or at least recognise the Church as articulating the ‘moral’ position. Or such a person is operating in a position of privilege, where their moral view is expected to be received with authority and acquiescence, and recognised as morally superior to the views of wider society. Both imply a basic lack of awareness of changes in culture and its relation to the Church over the last 50 years.


In fact, belief in the immorality of Christians has marked relations between church and society since the first centuries of the Christian era.

  • It is now widely recognised that the first followers of Jesus were branded atheotes, ‘atheistic’, because of their morally objectionable refusal to worship the gods of the pantheon in return for recognition of the god that they worshipped. Such stubbornness was widely seen as a moral failure in Roman society, where mutual accommodation was seen in this context as a positive virtue.
  • Failure to honour ancestors according to traditional cultic practice in certain cultures was also seen as morally offensive, and continues to be a problem for Christians in contemporary cultures that are committed to ancestor ‘worship’ around the world today.
  • The rescuing of abandoned infants and the opposition to infanticide was morally problematic for the first Christians, since it was seen as rejoicing in weakness and infirmity instead of focussing on the natural strengths of the human race.
  • In his work Against Celsus, Origen has to defend Christian opposition to warfare, by arguing that:

‘As we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead us to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them’. (Book 8, ch 73)

  • In other words, he is having to counter the accusation that Christian pacifism, in betraying the powers that be, is morally problematic. Christian pacifists in the First and Second World Wars faced similar moral opposition.

On just about every major issue where Christians have taken a different moral line from the wider society in which they sit, they have been seen by that society as ‘immoral’. The notion that we have always been seen as morally superior, but that an immoral society has wickedly and knowingly rejected our clearly moral position, is just that—a notion, and one that can only be sustained by both an ignorance of the past and an extraordinary belief in the uniqueness of the present moment. It was not much more than a decade ago when, in wider society, same-sex marriage was itself seen as sufficiently ‘immoral’ that, should someone who was married petition for a legal recognition of a change of gender, they had first to obtain a divorce!

I would be genuinely interested to know what Bishop Stephen makes of these examples, and why he sees the situation in relation to sexuality as unique and unprecedented.


Bishop Stephen then makes clear what this extraordinary claim leads to:

Nor can we simply ignore the biblical passages that pertain to this debate. They are part of our story and our inheritance. But what we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.

Because of our unique modern situation, and our uniquely superior understanding of human sexuality and anthropology, it seems we must now set aside the clear teaching of both Jesus and Paul (not ‘simply’ of course, but with sophistication!) that marriage is to be between one man and one woman (as a reflection of the Stone Age creation myths found in the first chapters of Genesis), because we now know better. When others have suggested this, I have asked in what other area of life we have similarly set aside New Testament teaching. After all, we are happy to listen to Jesus and Paul on questions of economics, power, justice, peace, reconciliation, conflict resolution and so on. Surely in all these areas we also now ‘know better’ about human nature, understanding, relationships and society? But I have not yet received any answer: it is in the area of sexuality, and sexuality alone, that we need to set aside what Scripture teaches. I wonder why this is?


Bishop Stephen is quite right when he notes the imperative we have to offer good news in the area of sexuality:

Neither can we ignore the culture in which we are set where same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage are not only considered normal, but positively taught and encouraged in many homes and schools as a social good.

But what he singularly fails to do is articulate what the historic teaching of the Church in this area might look like, and instead appears to assume that secular sexual ethics has got it right, and the Church—in its historical connection with the apostolic witness, and its ecumenical connection with Christians around the world—has got it wrong, and along with them, so have both Jesus and Paul.

This is not a model of ‘representing and proclaiming afresh the faith that is revealed in Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds’ that I find coherent, compelling, attractive or persuasive, and I think we need to do a lot better. It confirms for me that the issue of sexuality is not causing splits and failure in the Church: it is highlighting where those failings have long existed.


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159 Responses to Sex and morality in Church and society

  1. Philip Almond March 20, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    ‘It confirms for me that the issue of sexuality is not causing splits and failure in the Church: it is highlighting where those failings have long existed’ (Ian Paul)

    That is true.

    ‘As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set’ (Bishop Cottrell).

    The culture in which the Church is currently set sees as immoral the doctrines of Original Sin and the Wrath of God.

    Phil Almond

  2. Edith March 20, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    I support your position. The church must not allow modernity to hamstring it when it cones to defining proper conduct in terms of sex and morality. Tweeted.

  3. Marcus Small March 20, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    It seems to me that some moral intuitions are universal both in time and space. Others are time bound, they reflect the human understanding of their times. Religions have been a very good way codifying and transmitting these intuitions from one generation to the next, especially in pre-literate and or non literate societies.
    How are we to discern what is universal and what it time bound? One approach might be to say that the religious texts of a religious community are factually and morally inerrant and therefore authoritative. Another might be to accept that the universal and time bound are all mixed up together. Therefore if an interpretation of a particular text is challenged by a deeper understanding perhaps we have to question both text and interpretation.

  4. Don Benson March 20, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    It may seem unhelpful on a site such as this, but I would suggest that one can get too taken up with detail (too involved even) to be able to see what is clearly obvious if you stand back a bit and acquaint yourself once again with the fundamentals. Of course confusing people (manipulating them even) by burying their minds in petty and often irrelevant detail, with as many tangents thrown in as you can come up with, is an effective tactic for diverting them from what they originally understood with simple but profound clarity. Life in its fundamentals is not so very complicated, but in its details it is infinitely complicated. Biblical teaching does not offer a corresponding infinity of prescriptions – that would be far too complex to absorb – rather it presents enough truth which, if received by Christians in humility, guides them as they navigate their own individual paths through life. The same is true for churches too.

    And you would think that bishops, above all others in the church, would be those who constantly remind those to whom they minister of the truths which are there to guide us – fundamentals which don’t change according to society’s whims; and you would expect them to defend those truths, constantly to explain them, and to live them out in everything that they do. You would expect them to be of sufficient character, sufficient intellect, sufficient communicative skill and sufficient awareness of the world around them to be able both to take on (at an intellectual level) outside forces which seek the church’s demise and simultaneously to be a rock of comfort for Christians within the church (many of whom face challenges in their own lives of the kind that a bishop is unlikely to encounter). We really do not need bishops to tell us that that the outside world doesn’t view us very favourably; Justin Welby tried doing that when he was shocked by attitudes in the House of Lords during the passage of the ‘Equal Marriage’ legislation – where had he been all these years?

    And you might wonder what sort of a bishop it is who seeks to take every advantage of the letter of a law within the church rather than point to and work to uphold the spirit which that law serves. But, there again, if he or she does not accept the spirit of the law why should he or she be bound by it? Would it be too demanding to ask where the integrity is in holding onto a job (and taking the salary) when you are at odds with what is expected of those who hold such a position?

  5. Christopher Shell March 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    What he says about ‘the first time’ would be complete nonsense even if the sexual revolution did not produce havoc in its wake.

    Given that it does (can people actually believe the difference in divorce – or lack of marriage – levels since the sexual revolution kicked in? – to make just one point), what he says is even worse.

    I admire him immensely for being so lacking in personal ambition as to throw in the towel (as a potential focus of unity) at the very point when he is favourite to succeed Bp Chartres.

  6. Susan Ellis March 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    There is a big problem that the country is trying to liberalise the church in sexual matters at a time when dreadful abuse cases are being investigated into pediophiles. There has been masses of abuse covered over for decades from all kinds of institutes including the church. People were left extremely damaged for the rest of their lives by perverted people. Not living the kind of heterosexual life they had hoped for with raising their own children. How are people going to prevent peoples lives being ruined from abusive people before any liberalisation ever occurs? Surely care and protection of people should come first.

    • Penelope Cowell Doe March 21, 2017 at 9:10 am #

      Paedophilia has been happening in societies long before the church reflected on liberalising attitudes towards sexuality. It is, moreover, extremely offensive to compare homosexuality with paedophilia. The two are in no way related. And faithful, covenantal same-sex relationships of the sort the bishop is discussing have absolutely no connection with immoral and criminal abuse of children (which is, by the way, most often committed by ‘heterosexals’).

      • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

        Penelope, I am not sure Susan is comparing the two. But it is hard to say that ‘the two are in no way related.’ They have been connected often in the past; Peter Tatchell’s early agenda was to argue for all forms of consensual relating, and that included both same-sex relations and consensual sexual activity with children.

        The odd thing I find in this debate is that, within the Church, it is primarily about the rights of a protected identity group, whereas whenever I have observed the discussion in the wider world it is about the right to freedom of sexual expression.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe March 22, 2017 at 10:59 am #

          Ian, that Tatchell, and others, in the 1970s were arguing for lowering the age of consent for homosexual males (which was, at that time higher than for heterosexual people) and for lowering the age of consent generally does not show a correlation between paedophilia and homosexuality. It is a most unfortunate correlation which some conservative Christians (not you) make.

          • deborah salmon March 22, 2017 at 11:34 am #

            Petitions for lowering the age of consent have also been pushed forward only just a couple of years ago when it was discussed yet again about lowering the age of consent to 14 by certain people.
            This thinking is still out that and being pushed for….!

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

            Tatchell, an admitted cruiser, wants it lower than it now is, and speaks generally in a homosexual context.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

            Christopher that’s a non sequitur. Peter Tatchell campaigns on gay rights and in other areas. There is no correlation between paedophilia and homosexuality.

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

            It may be a non sequitur from some angles that you were thinking I was meaning. There is only one angle I was meaning, and that angle is not a non sequitur.

            What is that angle? That there is a correlation between three things:
            (1) being the sort of person who is a cruiser,
            (2) being the sort of person who affirms homosexual quasi-sexual acts, and
            (3) being someone who is less concerned about young children becoming sexual.

            Because all the various aspects of the harmful sexual revolution that began some time between 1955-63 (of which these are 3) are invariably correlated with one another. The sexual revolution is the unifying factor.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 23, 2017 at 9:49 am #

            Christopher
            1) I don’t know what a ‘cruiser’ is. I assume you mean someone who is sexually promiscuous. If that is so, it is a label that applies to all sorts of people. Donald Trump, for example; who calls himself a Christian. Trump has also been accused of sexual assault (non-consensual sex), which, to my knowledge at least, Trump hasn’t.
            2) I don’t know what quasi-sexual acts are. If you are implying that the only ‘authentic’ sexual activity is penile-vaginal penetration, then many heterosexual people are indulging in quasi-sexual activity!
            3) Many people, of all sexual orientations and none, argue for the lowering of the age of consent, to reflect what is happening in society, i.e. teenagers having sex. In some European countries it is 14, I believe. And, in some American states (Christian) girls can marry at 12. This is not paedophilia.
            There were more ‘underage’ female prostitutesi n London in the 18th and 19thC than between 1955-63.
            I repeat there is no correlation between paedophilia and homosexuality.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 23, 2017 at 9:50 am #

            Correction 1) which to my knowledge Tatchell hasn’t

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 10:16 am #

            Penelope, the very large correlation between the two is studied by the papers cited below.

            Repeating something does not make it any more accurate if it was not accurate in the first place.

            Which papers were you relying on when you made your ‘no correlation’ assertion? Is there precisely no difference between homosexual and heterosexual child abuse rates? Wouldn’t that be too much of a coincidence for the two percentages to be precisely the same?

            Cruisers – people whose normal pattern/practice is to go out on the pull rather than settle down. I expect dictionaries recognise this meaning.

            ‘Sexual activities’ – how to define this phrase? Because the word ‘sex’ means ‘gender’, they are cases of man and woman being drawn together.

            Don;t you think the rates of teenagers having sex will vary depen ding on what norms they are taught by media? By teachers? Or what society they grow up in?None of these are blank slates or raw data. If teaching or norms are harmful, results will be harmful (rubbish in: rubbish out). There are plenty of societies/cultures e.g. British Indians, churchgoers that largely do not fit the pattern you cite, which is a highly culture-specific era-specific pattern. These societies/cultures are also the happiest, most secure, and highest achieving. So we should proceed in a direction away from that??

            What you say about 18th-19th century is entirely correct.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 23, 2017 at 11:05 am #

            Christopher http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:00 pm #

            Penelope, the only research cited that points a different way is that of Carole Jenny. This particular paper I had come across before. Her sample size was 269, and the molesters themselves were not interviewed. Because they were not interviewed, no-one knows their orientation. Orientation is normally found out by asking the people in question. That did not happen on this occasion – so how could anyone know what their orientation was?

            The point that’s often thought central is the difference between paedophile desire and adult sexual desire. But there are a lot of problems with seeing that as a clear difference:

            (1) Normal adults who marry, form partnerships with, and date other adults quite regularly show a desire for children also, as internet search figures prove. Desire for children is perfectly mainstream, just as it is also perfectly wrong and harmful.

            (2) Normally when those under 16 are desired it is those only just under 16 (for example, the Catholic priests inaccurately called paedophiles were mostly ephebophiles). You can see that it is a fine line. If people are desired around the time of their 16th birthday (as they indeed are in large numbers, especially by their peers) they are scarcely not going to be desired before their 16th birthday dawns. Poor Charlotte Church suffered a tasteless countdown.

            (3) Of those adults who are desired, the youngest adults are desired the most. If anything this is especially so among homosexual men, but it is universally so.

            Points (1), (2) and (3) show that the attempt to make a clear divide between those who desire children and those who desire adults is doomed to failure.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:54 pm #

            You mention Donald Trump above, and an aspect of him that neither of us admires. If you come across as being always positive about Tatchell and never positive about Trump (who didn’t even need to be dragged in at all, suggesting that you were keen to ‘position’ yourself in the Trump debate – virtue signalling?) then of course I would see that as both simplistic and a sign of bias and untenable in view of Tatchell’s failings. Each of them like most of us has both strengths and weaknesses.

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 10:02 am #

            Penelope are you arguing/suggesting that the age of consent should be lowered to 12/13 and that it is not paedophilia to engage in sexual acts with children of that age?

            If so, I presume you are appealing to the technical definition of paedophilia as sexual attraction to pre-adolescent children. But of course sexual abuse in our society relates to sexual activity with children under 16, not only pre-adolescents. Do you want that to change? A few years ago a barrister argued that the age of consent should be lowered to 13 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22459815. Do you agree?

            I also assume you are aware that the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the Council for Civil Liberties were very much entangled with PIE during the 70s. ‘On at least two occasions the Campaign for Homosexual Equality conference passed motions in PIE’s favour’ (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26352378). In fact, the seduction of teenagers was mainstream at that time, with songs like Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night (including the immortal lines ‘Don’t say a word my virgin child/ Just let your inhibitions run wild/ The secret is about to unfold’) being the best selling song of 1977 and Ringo’s ‘You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, You’re Mine’ coming out in 1973 (when he was 33) (to name two).

            Homosexuality and sexual attraction to younger teenagers and children may not be connected as psychological conditions, but they are related culturally and socially (and historically), through connection with the idea of free sexual expression and the idea that innate sexual desires should not be denied or their expression stigmatised.

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

            Penelope are you arguing/suggesting that the age of consent should be lowered to 12/13 and that it is not paedophilia to engage in sexual acts with children of that age?

            If so, I presume you are appealing to the technical definition of paedophilia as sexual attraction to pre-adolescent children. But of course sexual abuse in our society relates to sexual activity with children under 16, not only pre-adolescents. Do you want that to change? A few years ago a barrister argued that the age of consent should be lowered to 13. Do you agree?

            I also assume you are aware that the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the Council for Civil Liberties were very much entangled with PIE during the 70s. ‘On at least two occasions the Campaign for Homosexual Equality conference passed motions in PIE’s favour’ (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26352378). In fact, the seduction of teenagers was mainstream at that time, with songs like Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night (including the immortal lines ‘Don’t say a word my virgin child/ Just let your inhibitions run wild/ The secret is about to unfold’) being the best selling song of 1977 and Ringo’s ‘You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, You’re Mine’ coming out in 1973 (when he was 33) (to name two).

            Homosexuality and sexual attraction to younger teenagers and children may not be connected as psychological conditions, but they are related culturally and socially (and historically), through connection with the idea of free sexual expression and the idea that innate sexual desires should not be denied or their expression stigmatised.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

            Will,

            butting in briefly here – you note that “the seduction of teenagers was mainstream at that time” but then conclude that “Homosexuality and sexual attraction to younger teenagers and children…are related culturally and socially (and historically)”. Isn’t that something of a tension if not a contradiction? Evidently heterosexuality has also been so related – so why single out homosexuality?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 24, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

            True Christopher. But st the moment I can’t see that Trump gas any moral strengths. That’s not virtue signalling. I find him odious and immoral. Tatchell has many weaknesses and has, in my opinion, made mistakes. But I think he is essentially a
            moral person who tries to fight social evil and injustice

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 24, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

            Will whatever gave you the impression that I had argued for lowering the age of consent?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

            Christopher and Will. Re Tatchell and others arguing in the 1970s for consensual sex between children and adults. It seems very shocking now. But read p.56 of the Gloucester Report. Autres temps..

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

            Blair: The Campaign for Homosexual Equality and the Council for Civil Liberties were very much entangled with PIE during the 70s. ‘On at least two occasions the Campaign for Homosexual Equality conference passed motions in PIE’s favour… In 1977 the Campaign for Homosexual Equality passed by a large majority a resolution condemning “the harassment of the Paedophile Information Exchange by the press”. When Peter Hain, then president of the Young Liberals, described paedophilia as “a wholly undesirable abnormality”, a fellow activist hit back. “It is sad that Peter has joined the hang ’em and flog ’em brigade. His views are not the views of most Young Liberals.”’ (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26352378).

            Penelope: It was this bit: ‘Many people, of all sexual orientations and none, argue for the lowering of the age of consent, to reflect what is happening in society, i.e. teenagers having sex… In some American states (Christian) girls can marry at 12. This is not paedophilia.
            There were more ‘underage’ female prostitutesi n London in the 18th and 19thC than between 1955-63.’ If you’re not then I’m glad. But you haven’t answered the question. Are you in favour of lowering the age of consent? if so, to what?

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 24, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

            Will, re Tatchell (and butting in on your response to Blair, sorry) see my ref to the Gloucester Report (above, I hope). When a Church report from the 1970s is so sanguine about paedophilia, it is hardly surprising that secular organisations were even more so. Like many attitudes of the past – both liberal and conservative – it seems very shocking now.
            I am not in favour of lowering the age of consent in the UK, although criminalising 14 and 15 years olds who are having sexual relationships doesn’t seem very wise either. I think some US states allowing girls of 12 to marry is appalling. But underage sex is not paedophilia and even an adult having sex with a 14 or 15 year old, whilst it is probably abusive and may be coercive, is not paedophilia (which is, I understand the desire for prepubescent children).

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

            Penelope – do you have a link to a pdf of the Gloucester Report perchance? Would be interested to read it but can’t locate it.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 24, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

            Will, I can’t locate a PDF. I could scan or photo the page on ‘child abuse;, its’ quite short. I think I bought my copy from Amazon and it wasn’t expensive. If you want me to scan, I can’t do it until tomorrow.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

            Hello Will,

            thanks for your response – but you haven’t addressed the point I made, which was why you single out homosexuality to link to paedophilia. Your response gives more evidence that it was by no means only homosexuals who had such a link in the ’70s.

            & Penelope, can I ask a similar question to you as to Ian, though he ignored it – do you have evidence that Peter Tatchell advocated sex between adults and children? I realise the answer could be ‘yes’ – but for something as serious as this I’d have thought a quote would be in order…

            in friendship, Blair

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

            Blair: The ‘hang ’em and flog ’em brigade’ refers to those who opposed homosexuality. The link was the aim among ‘most Young Liberals’ to increase acceptance of transgressive sexuality, and ‘most Young Liberals’ and the CFH saw the two as conjoined causes. I think this link is evident in the quotes and the BBC article.

            Penelope – thank you, that would be very interesting, but I can’t see how you’ll get it to me! I don’t really want to put my email address on the comments thread.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

            Hi Will,

            tedious as ever, I am sticking to my point that your first comment above (which included the line “seduction of teenagers was mainstream at that time”) and indeed the BBC article you link to, show that it was not only homosexuals who were linked to paedophilia in the ’70s. From the BBC piece:
            “But PIE managed to gain support from some professional bodies and progressive groups. It received invitations from student unions, won sympathetic media coverage and found academics willing to push its message”.

            Thought I had a pdf of the Gloucester Report but turns out it’s the Osborne Report, which was rather later… but if Ian can see both your e-mail addresses I wonder if, with your consent, he could pass them one to the other?

            in friendship, blair

          • Will Jones March 24, 2017 at 7:22 pm #

            Thanks Blair. Yes that’s a good idea – more than happy for Ian to convey them from your (and Penelope’s) email to mine if he’s willing.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 25, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

            Blair, re sex between children and adults. I don’t know if Tatchell advocated it or suggested a radical lowering of the age of consent. I know that there was an unfortunate link between the PIE and the Council for Civil Liberties in the 70s, but have forgotten where I read that. Google will probably know!

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 25, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

            Blair, Will et al. My email is penelopedoe1@btinternet.com. I am assuming that everyone who comments on this thread, whilst we all may disagree, is honorable. If you email me I will be able to reply.

          • Blair March 25, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

            Hello,

            Will – you’re welcome, but as I say I have a pdf of the Osborne Report but not (I don’t think) the Gloucester Report. If you’d like a copy of the former I’d be happy to send it to you, if you’re happy for Ian to pass me your e-mail address or vice versa (I’m not as brave as Penelope with posting mine in public!).

            & Penelope, thanks. Peter Tatchell offers a lengthy clarification of his views here:
            http://www.petertatchell.net/lgbt_rights/age_of_consent/Under-age-sex-Statement-of-clarification-by-Peter-Tatchell.htm

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 28, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

            Penelope, it is not right to say ‘autres temps’. Not only was there never a time (in the period of which you speak) when Christians generally held that view, there was never a time when they were not strongly opposed to it.

            We grow weary of the repetitive pattern: innovate in an adolescent direction; say inaccurately taht ‘everyone’s doing it’ (as though that were a recommendation), mature 30 years later and realise that the Christians and mature people were right all along, as had always been as clear as day to them themselves.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 29, 2017 at 8:38 am #

            Christopher autres temps was partly in response to p56 of the Gloucester Report (which echoes those attitudes of the 1970s). It’s not about anyone ‘doing it’, it’s about very different attitudes to child abuse.

        • Blair March 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

          Ian,

          that seems something of a calumny towards Peter Tatchell unless you can provide a quote or reference…
          As an aside, a quick Google reveals that a number of EU countries (e.g. Italy, Germany, Portugal) have their age of consent set at 14. I am not trying to suggest that means we should follow suit, nor that it would justify such a move (which I don’t think remotely likely anyway) – but it does at least set this in context.
          In addition, I think it worth reminding people that the 2003 Sexual Offences Act actually raised the UK age of consent in some circumstances, to 18 (e.g. in teacher-student contexts).

          in friendship, Blair

      • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

        Penelope, what do you mean by saying that there is no greater-than-average association between homosexuality and paedophilia? The association is far greater than average – and what is more, your assertion gives no chapter and verse. Why did Freund and Watson; WD Erickson; JMW Bradford: Laumann; or JR Hughes (meta-analysis) bother to do their research?

        • Blair March 23, 2017 at 12:54 am #

          Hi Christopher,

          the last part of the abstract for Freund and Watson’s (1992) study reads: “…This suggests that the resulting proportion of true pedophiles among persons with a homosexual erotic development is greater than that in persons who develop heterosexually. This, of course, would not indicate that androphilic males have a greater propensity to offend against children.” I wish I were more equipped to critique such research but given the last sentence of that, I wonder what your point is in referring to this study? I confess to not having time or patience to try the other references…

          in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 10:05 am #

            Blair, of the 2 Freund studies (the latter with Watson):
            A main finding was that homosexual offenders abuse much higher numbers on average. The earlier of these 2 papers found homosexual offences to be 80% of the total (even though homosexuals are only 1-2% of the population), and the later paper Freund/Watson found that homosexual paedophiles on average molest 7-8 times as many victims as heterosexual paedophiles. These figures are staggering.

            As for the old cliche that paedophiles are gender-blind, that applies to a third at most (two thirds molest only one gender; even those who molest both may just be hypersexual or especially depraved rather than being bisexual as such).

            Penelope, what papers were you relying on when you said that there was no correlation between homosexuality and paedophilia?

          • Blair March 23, 2017 at 11:45 am #

            Hi Christopher,

            Very briefly it seems to me that you’re simply trading here on ambiguity in use of the term homosexual. In this context it can mean both adult males attracted to other adults, and abuse of children by adults of the same sex as their victims. Without carefully distinguishing your usage it seems to me you’re using this ambiguity to slander a group of people and associate them with abuse or a likelihood of abusing. I note you didn’t comment on the sentence from the abstract which I quoted.

            In friendship, Blair

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 23, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

            Christopher cited above.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

            Blair, I did comment on it indirectly by emphasising that Freund’s findings were grim for homosexuals.

            Of course, ‘homosexual’ just means ‘same-sex’, so boy-man is homosexual, one can scarcely say it is not,

            The sentence you quoted manages to find a classification system that makes things seem less bad for homosexual men than they might otherwise be. The difficulty with that is that there is no reason why that particular classification system (which distinguishes true paedophiles from androphiles, when in fact **both** supposedly very different groups are likely to prefer [say] teenagers, so that in reality there is not in most cases a lot of difference between the 2 groups) should be the one that is adopted.

            One might equally say: because child molestation is disproportionately same-sex, that points to homosexuality itself being a sign of immaturity. This has indeed often been mooted, e.g. among those who either:
            -think homosexuality = remaining in the pash/crush stage that most grow out of; or
            -see it as the result of adolescent experimentation becoming formative and ingrained; or
            -note other signs of homosexual immaturity such as a greater-than-average propensity to be emotional not logical, or to backbite, or to indulge in domestic violence, or to fail to understand that there are nonsexual types of love,

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

            to which one could add a greater than average inability to be serious or reverent in the way that mature people are.

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 10:17 am #

            Blair, also when you said I was ‘trading’ that implied dishonesty. If I were dishonest I would be finished as a scholar (would not be a scholar). If I had been being dishonest I would have remembered that.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 11:07 am #

            Morning Christopher,

            ‘trading’ may not have been the best word to use but I stand by the point that the ambiguity in use of ‘homosexual’ here is what your argument relies on.

            You talk about the classification system Freund and Watson use but give no evidence for your assertion that “in fact **both** supposedly very different groups are likely to prefer [say] teenagers, so that in reality there is not in most cases a lot of difference between the 2 groups”. Moreover, given your comment to Penelope, remarking that “Normal adults who marry, form partnerships with, and date other adults quite regularly show a desire for children also”, why do you single out homosexual men in other comments? As an aside, thanks to Google Scholar I note a study by Schiffer et al (2008), in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, which, if I understand rightly (a fairly big ‘if’ admittedly) showed some neurological differences in arousal between same-sex attracted paedophiles and non-paedophile same-sex attracted men, so there may be grounds there for suggesting more difference between the two groups than you suggest.

            Your next paragraph begins with a non sequitur, I suggest – “because child molestation is disproportionately same-sex, that points to homosexuality itself being a sign of immaturity”. I don’t see how that follows. In the rest of the paragraph you give no evidence for the “other signs of homosexual immaturity” you claim and I suggest that this is little other than prejudice on your part.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

            To take these points one by one.

            (1) How can you possibly know what another person was intending to build their argument on? In fact, that thought did not cross my mind – but even if it had, how could you know that? The point that only the person themselves knows (and certainly knows *best*) what is/was in their head is basic to all debate. You agree with that, surely?

            (2) Moreover, if you stand by that point, you are still suggesting I was dishonest. Untrue in fact, but also impossible for you to know even if it had been true.

            (3) There is no need for ambiguity, since where we acknowledge that the word is used in different ways, all we need to do is address each of these ways one by one. It is only dishonest people who like to perpetuate ambiguity and use it for their own ends. You’d agree with that, I imagine.

            (4) To use ‘homosexual’ even for man-boy is etymologically and logically correct. Those who distinguish sharply between being attracted to adults and to children have two massive obstacles: (a) among the former, younger ‘adults’ are most popular (the whole fashion and photography and lads’ mags world etc bears this out, as you will know already), and among the latter, older ‘children’ are most popular (very few are attracted to the youngest ages, as you will know already); (b) age is a continuum – there are by no means 2 discrete totally-distinct groups called ‘adults’ and ‘children’.

            So we can’t allow people to say that same-sex attracted paedophiles or (still less) ephebophiles are totally different to adult-attracted homosexuals unless they are able to answer that point. They may be somewhat different, different in degree. It will vary case by case. Schiffer’s study will bear witness to these differences of degree. It is a truism that there will always be differences of degree – it could not possibly be otherwise.

            Also the word ‘paedophile’ suggests that the gender of the desired is not an issue. (We are speaking of unpleasant things here, and I apologise.) Quite the contrary: in at least two thirds of cases, it is an issue. Therefore even using the word ‘paedophile’ is potentially a bit inaccurate and ideological. It presupposes that the age not the gender is the main thing. In fact that will sometimes be the case and will sometimes not be.

            One should correct ideological societies that screen out certain possible questions. In our society one is not allowed to suggest, within the spectrum of possibilities, such possibilities that may be deleterious to homosexuals. But in fact homosexuals will come out worse than heterosexuals in 50% of measures by the law of averages alone – no harm in that. If we see such things as greater average promiscuity and inability to form lasting partnerships, then one thing that reminds us of, one thing that this seems to be, is immature adolescent behaviour.

            On domestic violence being significantly greater among homosexuals, see Greenwood AJPH 2002, Houston/McKiman JUH 2007, and the meta-analyses of previous studies done by Finneran/Stephenson TV&A 2012 and by Buller PLOS Medicine 2014.

            Certain things I cite are based on Christian interaction with homosexual advocates over more than a decade – their unallowable flight from statistical evidence; their use of ‘love’ in a way that does not even distinguish between two massive and different realities (friendship and sex). The backbiting and/or gossip thing is more based on a belief that the stereotype could not possibly be found funny or used in comedy if it did not contain more than a little truth. At all times we are talking averages, obviously.

            You imentioned my singling out homosexual men even when heterosexual are far from blameless. You surely cannot think that the statistics for both groups will be on exactly the same level. That would be beyond coincidence. There are plenty of cases where het are really bad and homo. are quite startlingly worse. This is just the basic absolute/relative point. Absolutely both are bad. Relatively homo. are much worse in this respect.

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 12:20 pm #

            When you quote me accurately as saying ‘that points to homosexuality itself being a sign of immaturity’, you leave out the beginning of the sentence ‘One might equally say’. I was not saying I did or did not believe either position, just that the data in question could just as easily lead to either of the two conclusions, and we have no right to be selective between them based on our preferences, since our preferences are irrelevant where it comes to evidence.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

            Hi again Christopher,

            re your points 1-3: I am not claiming to be able to know what was in your mind or what you intended. I was responding mainly to your post to me above in which you said: “A main finding was that homosexual offenders abuse much higher numbers on average. The earlier of these 2 papers found homosexual offences to be 80% of the total (even though homosexuals are only 1-2% of the population), and the later paper Freund/Watson found that homosexual paedophiles on average molest 7-8 times as many victims as heterosexual paedophiles”. It still seems to me that this way of summarising things uses an ambiguity in ‘homosexual’, the effect of which is to suggest that homosexuals – LGB people if you will… – are more likely to be abusers. The meta-analysis of JR Hughes you referred to above, links to a 1994 study which concluded that this is not the case. If you wish to avoid ambiguity, why not use more precise / neutral terms? Some use the term MSM (men who have sex with men) for instance – in a similar way, why not use a term like ‘same-sex child abuse’ or ‘male / female perpetrator’ rather than a term like homosexual, with its other connotations?

            On your point 4 – etymology is beside the point; it’s usage and how terms are understood in use that I’m referring to. I accept to a point that there are differences of degree, as you go on to say – but that does not licence your singling out of homosexual people. Further down you mention gender: the Hughes meta-study you pointed to, mentioned above, notes evidence that the majority of victims of child abuse are girls. So the differences of degree you talk about must surely apply to heterosexual people too.

            You write, “Those who distinguish sharply between being attracted to adults and to children have two massive obstacles: (a) among the former, younger ‘adults’ are most popular (the whole fashion and photography and lads’ mags world etc bears this out, as you will know already), and among the latter, older ‘children’ are most popular”. On the latter point, I wouldn’t know, as I have not sought out any evidence but I note that – again – you do not provide any. On the former, I accept that there is some truth in this but would suggest that this is little different from the surrounding culture – whether same-sex or other-sex, youth is greatly valorised in our culture – and again this does not warrant the singling out of gay people.

            And yes, a stereotype may well contain some truth but it still remains a stereotype – not remotely the full picture, and surely not sufficient evidence on which to base a view of a group of people.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 4:21 pm #

            It is not jjust a case of etymology but of the natural/literal/etymological meaning and usage of the word as it has always been till recently.

            This then leads us to ask why there was a change.

            People redefine things to suit their interests and agendas. For example, killing a child before it implanted in a womb was dishonestly legally redefined not to be a kind of abortion, as though we are defined by our surroundings.

            Likewise, as soon as you define ‘homosexual’ as ‘homosexual adult’ (not the obvious meaning for it) then the figures or stats will look better for them – ample motive to so do.

            That is what I meant.

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

            As for the most desired ages: here it is easy to see that youth is the most desired age among adults, and also that in almost every setting men have had less qualms here than women, meaning that a man-man situation will very often lead to the brakes being off.

            It is less easy to see, investigate or tabulate which ages are most desired under 16, since ages 7-13 are most vulnerable but 14-15 will be a lot more experienced on average which will involve a lot of seduction in practice.

            I am one of those who thinks with good reason that complaints of a rape culture are inevitable if you have a fornication culture in the first place. I find the whole thing a tragedy, and the more so because it is not inevitable and plenty of cultures are and have been very different. Where fornication culture is not there, rape culture will not be there to anything like the same extent. A fornication culture means that there are no clearly defined lines, and any number of grey areas. Plus a drunk person is practically a different person from the same person when not drunk; a woman is a different person with or without PMT. These are all reasons that sex-is-for-marriage makes sense.

            But all this does make defining consent and abuse very problematic indeed. There will be degrees of consent and abuse involved where seduction takes place. It is not black and white.

            Age 14-15s are one of the factors that make the separation into so-called homosexuals (i.e. homosexual adults) and homosexual paedophiles impossibly difficult – beacuse of the sliding scale. Maybe the answer is to cut them out of the picture altogether. But that is not the real world.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 6:26 pm #

            Hi again Christopher,

            I’m not aware of any recent change in usage of the word homosexual – I’d have thought it has been used for some time to mean a same-sex attracted adult, not ‘same sex’ tout court. You say that if the word is used as I’ve suggested it generally is, “then the figures or stats will look better for them [‘homosexual men’]” – but I pointed above to a study, which I’m aware of only thanks to you signposting Hughes’s work, which concluded that gay adults were not more likely to abuse, so I don’t see how that comment applies. As I said above, you could use clearer terminology like ‘same sex abuse’ or similar.

            On “most desired ages” I note that again you aren’t citing any evidence. It may well be the case that “defining consent and abuse [are] very problematic indeed” in cases involving teenagers of some ages and I expect there’s some truth in your comments there but the fact that drawing a clear line at a specific point is tricky, does not mean no line can be drawn at all. You say that “Age 14-15s are one of the factors that make the separation into so-called homosexuals (i.e. homosexual adults) and homosexual paedophiles impossibly difficult” – by “homosexuals” do you mean men in this instance? If so, as I said above there is evidence from multiple studies (see Hughes again) that the majority of children abused are girls – so yet again I ask why the singling out of ‘homosexuals’?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 24, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

            The majority of children abused are girls simply because the vast majority of abusers are male.

            What is remarkable is (a) that the majority is not an especially large one despite the fact that as many as 98% of the population is apparently heterosexual; and also notable is (b): that when it comes to individual instances of abuse, boys are abused far more often on average (Freund & Watson).

            Clearer terminology is what it is all about, yes; the clearer and more precise we are, initial ambiguities vanish.

            Re usage, ‘homosexual’ is not a single word anyway. That is one of those ambiguities that we ought to pounce on. There is both ‘homosexual’ the noun and ‘homosexual’ the adjective. Neither has priority. One would be on very thin ice if one said that the adjective did not apply to boy-man. And the only reason that the noun applies more to adults is that one cannot talk in such fixed terms about younger people: the reason is nothing to do with the age of people desired by ‘homosexual’ men.

            Thinking about this has been an education for me. To summarise:
            (1) Finkelhor in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect 1994 says that 7-13s are most vulnerable. That is no more nor less than a trivial truism, for several reasons:
            -(a) No-one would expect younger children than that to suffer much abuse;
            -(b) 7-13s are by mere definition more vulnerable than 14-15 year olds;
            -(c) 14-15 year olds are the precise age where both the police and the providers of contraception turn a blind eye.
            -(d) 14-15 year olds are also far more sexually active than 7-13 year olds. So are less likely to associate sex with abuse.
            -(e) 7-13 year olds aren’t likely to fight back. 14-15 year olds are considerably stronger, plus may well do so. So we are measuring level of opportunity not level of desire.
            -(f) Accordingly it is impossible to measure which age is the object of most desire here. Even if 14-15 year olds were much more desired, abusers would think twice in case they fought back (as they might if they were unwilling); while if they were willing then they would not understand themselves to be victims, albeit Christians and others would.
            -(g) If 16 year olds are popular and desired among normal adults, 14-15 year olds are also going to be so desired, because the whole thing is a sliding scale rather than Kevin the Teenager turning into a monster overnight.
            -(h) 14-15 year olds get the message in our society that sexual activity is normal, so are they likely to report it as abusive?
            -(i) 14-15 year old boys are only too happy in many cases to indulge in sexual activity. There may be an equal amount of abusive intent in the abuser of 14-15 year olds as there is in the abuser of 7-13 year olds; the difference lies not in the amount of abuse but in how welcome or unwelcome it is in the eyes of the victim.

            It is accordingly very hard to determine which under-16 ages of boys are most desired overall; and even harder to draw a clear dividing line between the categories ‘homosexual adult’ and ‘ephebophile’. Further, since the abusers involved here all seem in general to be immature and are not in the business of the equal exchange of love or even understanding what love is, it will be no surprise if children young enough to exercise power over are often chosen. Further still, I do not see what is wrong with the simple assumption that people broadly choose victims/’partners’ that reflect the age of their own inner maturity or lack of it.

          • Christopher Shell March 25, 2017 at 7:38 am #

            Hughes’s meta-analysis also says it seems impossible to view homosexuality and paedophilia as unrelated.

          • Christopher Shell March 25, 2017 at 7:39 am #

            However, perhaps the most comprehensive writer on the homosexuality-paedophilia link – both on the conceptual/introductory question and on the evidence, is Julia Gasper. I wish all UKIP people were similarly scholarly.

          • Blair March 25, 2017 at 10:41 pm #

            Evening Christopher,

            (I would have added, ‘and all’ but I’ve no doubt that there’s only 2 of us reading these comments by now…;) )

            1) You write that “The majority of children abused are girls simply because the vast majority of abusers are male”, but that rather implies other-sex desire being entangled in that abuse, which yet again puts a question against your singling out of homosexuality to link to paedophilia. I’m a little surprised at your word “remarkable” given how many times you have argued that sexuality is fluid…

            You add that Freund and Watson say that “when it comes to individual instances of abuse, boys are abused far more often on average” – but without careful further explanation it’s not clear what should be inferred from this (abused by whom; were the perpetrators male or female; what gender/s of adults were the perpetrators attracted to, etc).

            Undoubtedly it’s true that “There is both ‘homosexual’ the noun and ‘homosexual’ the adjective”, but I don’t see why “One would be on very thin ice if one said that the adjective did not apply to boy-man” – or at least if one said that normal usage does not so apply it. And if you mean boy-man why not use that phrase – or indeed a word like ‘pederasty’, or ‘underage sex’?

            Thank you for pointing to some evidence about which ages may be more vulnerable. I was somewhat surprised when you said this study’s findings were “that 7-13s are most vulnerable” but that this “is no more nor less than a trivial truism” – one might think it had important implications for protecting children of those ages. I’m not sure what to make of some of your subsequent reasoning, although (e) and (h) look a bit in tension. You “do not see what is wrong with the simple assumption that people broadly choose victims/’partners’ that reflect the age of their own inner maturity or lack of it” – and there may be some truth in this although I wonder how it would apply to people who desire much older partners.

            2) “Hughes’s meta-analysis also says it seems impossible to view homosexuality and paedophilia as unrelated”. I don’t think that gives a very accurate impression. Hughes’s study has a shortish section on the possible relationship between same-sex abuse and adult homosexuality. This splits into two sub-sections, for and against. In ‘against’ he notes the 1994 study I mentioned previously, whose “conclusion was that the risk of child abuse by a homosexual was only 0% to 3% and, thus, that a child is unlikely to be abused by a gay or lesbian”. He has a couple of other references but calls this study “the main evidence”. In ‘for’ his main focus is not on likelihood of abusing but on development – he says that “The main evidence in favor of a relationship between pedophilia and homosexuality is
            the common cause of fraternal birth order and postnatal learning” (it’s later birth order that was found to be common to both).

            I’m guessing it’s Hughes’s concluding remark in ‘for’ that you’re referring to: “Also, an adult male sexually attacking a prepubescent 10-year-old boy would be probably called a pedophile and then 4 years later with the same boy would be called a homosexual, by definition. It seems to be questionable logic to view these 2 conditions as completely unrelated”. “Questionable logic” is some way off “impossible”, I suggest. Apart from the fact that Hughes’s remark doesn’t really relate to what went before it, it too is questionable – such a person could be called a number of things other than ‘homosexual’, such as ‘ephebophile’ as you suggested, or indeed ‘pederast’ or ‘abuser’ depending on the act and context. Perhaps I’m being uncharitable but it’s difficult not to think that Hughes’s own agenda could be peeping through here.

            3) I’ve only done a cursory search admittedly but haven’t found anything by Julia Gasper on homosexuality and paedophilia.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 26, 2017 at 7:38 am #

            Does Gasper perhaps publish online only?

            Yes – Hughes was only making the same point as I was, that ‘there is a fine line’ so the motives of those wanting to make a sharp distinction between

            Silverthorne and Quinsey, Sexual Partner Age Preferences (published on researchgate this month) indicate on p74 that the evidence suggests that it may be that homosexual men have a lower average desired age than do heterosexual men. They do not make the opposite suggestion.

            Under (1) you make a serious error. I do not at all say that something called ‘sexuality’ is fluid. I say (with the research) that the sexual preferences of the minority of people who are or have been self-styled homosexual or engaged in homosexual behaviour are fluid.
            But even the word ‘fluid’ implies oscillating, and that is not accurate. The broad type of change we see, according to the evidence, is that people who used to call themselves homosexual become heterosexual. This can be called fluidity, but it is one-way one-direction fluidity.

            You make a good point about choice of partners reflecting inner maturity age. Yes – this would not apply to those who choose much older partners (sugar daddies etc.).

            The proliferation of terms, as though a paedophile, ephebophile, or normal desirer of youth, were likely without qualification to be 3 different people – this ignores again that time is a sliding scale and people’s development is also on a sliding scale. What it reminds me of is the way that abortion activists make the major error of speaking about a zygote, a blastocyst, a foetus, a baby( , a child, a teen…) as though these are different individuals. Quite the reverse – it is obviously the same human individual at different stages, and (this is the important point) the point at which one stage ends and the other begins is fuzzy and ill-defined. Because it is ill-defined, the classification-system is to some extent arbitrary, and other alternative classification systems involving more or fewer stages would be equally possible.

          • Christopher Shell March 26, 2017 at 7:50 am #

            In addition, you mention that I do not specify the gender of the perpetrator. This is a point that I do not understand, since it is well known that almost all perpetrators are male. What I was drawing attention to was the combination between two notable features of adult-minor sexual activity:
            (1) the adult is male;
            (2) the child is much, much more likely to be male than the sexual partner of a male adult would be.

          • Christopher Shell March 26, 2017 at 7:59 am #

            CORRECTION – (2) than the adult sexual partner of a male adult would be.

            Lobbying for paedophilia in the 1970s and at other times has been largely the preserve of males. So we have males lobbying for an activity that is far more male-male than adult sexual activity is on average. (Once again, these are very unpleasant things that are spoken of.)

          • Blair March 26, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

            Evening Christopher,

            1) sorry – I should have been clearer. The cursory search I did re Julia Gasper was using Google. The first two pages don’t link to anything by her on paedophilia and homosexuality. Her blog was linked to, and I wouldn’t use the word scholarly to describe it although she did get a lot of points from me for strongly criticising the private finance initiative in the NHS (which might show something of my agenda, such as it is…. and is also a long way off topic I admit).

            2) I don’t accept that Hughes in his 2007 meta-study is making the same point as you are – I tried to give grounds for saying so above. In addition I think it worth emphasising that the sentence of his you were referring to, does not follow on naturally from the section it closes.

            You talk of “those wanting to make a sharp distinction” – but (I fear this is getting repetitive) as I said in a previous comment, I accept to a degree that there are points where a sharp distinction cannot be made, but the fact that it is difficult to draw a clear line at a particular place does not mean that no line can be drawn at all.

            3) I had a quick google for Silverthorne and Quinsey – i think I’ve found the one you’re referring to (from 2000?) and if so that you’ve accurately reported what they found. My quibble is that it isn’t relevant here. Their sample of gay men had the strongest response to 18 year old male faces whereas straight men responded most strongly to 25 year old female faces. In and of itself I’m not sure why that much helps your argument here.

            4) Correction accepted – I didn’t summarise your view accurately re sexuality and fluidity. As an aside here I seem to recall Jonathan Tallon and Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente criticising your reading of the research on fluidity – although even if what you say above is right as it stands, I don’t see that it supports your singling out of homosexuals to link to paedophilia.

            5) On terminology: of course a classification system is to some extent arbitrary but that doesn’t mean we can’t attempt some precision, surely – and it remains important to use terms in a way that does not have the effect of smearing an identifiable group of people, as I keep on saying. As another aside I accept that time and human development are on a sliding scale but the implication of that sentence (correct me) seems to be that people somehow ‘grow out of’ paedophile desire – I’m not sure Hughes’ study would support that.

            6) “you mention that I do not specify the gender of the perpetrator” – indeed yes, but that was only in the context of your mentioning Freund and Watson’s study, not more broadly. My point being that to make the argument you’re trying to make, one would need clarity on the factors I put in brackets. It does not follow, from the 2 “notable features” you’re drawing attention to, that men attracted to / who have sex with adult men are more likely to abuse.

            We definitely agree (!!) that “these are very unpleasant things that are spoken of” – thanks for engaging. I’m sure you’ll want to reply to this comment but maybe after your reply, we could leave this discussion where it is?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 26, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

            (1) Julia Gasper: Homosexuality and Paedophilia: A reference guide. Refuses to be merely fashionable, and references a lot of what has been published and scientifically determined about this topic.

            (2) Re Hughes I don’t want to split hairs. He is right that the same man abusing the same boy a few years down the line does not have a different activity nor a different motive. He is right that the importance of fraternal birth order links the two conditions (I am not using the word pathologies nor eschewing it) – of course, few people will have such a male-dominated household as the average third-born or fourth-born son, and having a male-dominated household may mean two things: (a) gravitating towards male company, and (b) being surrounded by fewer civilising constraints such as females may on average be more likely to provide.

            (3) If gay men’s preference in males was 7 years younger than straight men’s, how can that not help my argument? On the contrary, of all findings, few could help my argument more. Is that not right? The gay men’s preference was (a) significantly different from the straight men’s, and (b) close to the illegal age. If their preference was (say) 2.5 years away from being illegal, and straight men’s was 8.5, then that makes them 3 to 4 **times** closer on average than straight men to preferring illegal ages.

            (4) Jonathan did criticise only one aspect of the fluidity thing (though in conversation with Ian not me, I think). He pointed out that Savin-Williams and Ream was not a longitudinal study. It does seem to me unlikely in the extreme that its findings would have been significantly different if it had been. However, I did also make the point that other studies of fluidity **were** longitudinal, and gave the same basic picture. This really is a big difference between what people call homosexuality and what they call heterosexuality, and casts doubt on the accuracy of that terminology, particularly on the fact that the two terms ‘homosexuality’ and ‘heterosexuality’ are to the eye so similar as to be like twins. The idea of making them look like twins was to set them up as equal and similar alternatives. This fluidity thing (together with biology and reproduction 101) gives the lie to this – they are not the same **sort** of thing in central respects. The more fluid realities are, the less they can be called realities at all.

            (5) Actually the implication that people grow out of paedophile desire was not one I was intending at that point. I do believe it to be true sometimes however. The 18 year old who desires a 14 year old may no longer do so a few years down the line. In fact this is incredibly common. Paedophile is to some extent a legal term. The law has to see a massive change happening at the 16th birthday and another at the 18th. We all know that this is a legal fiction and totally untrue. It is not clear what else the law could do – but it is still totally untrue.

            (6) I think men are more likely than women to be amoral: period. Look at the figures for rapes, abuse, murder. The discrepancy is simply massive. That being the case, men with men will be more amoral than any other combination.
            Now, if you are defining ‘homosexual’ as ‘one who has sex with adult men **only**’, then your argument is circular and therefore worthless – it is trivially true, true by definition alone.
            If you are saying that a man attracted to girls of say 12-13 is not heterosexual (or is paedophile as opposed to heterosexual), then I think you are skating on thin ice. of course he is, and of course therefore it follows that another man who is attracted to boys of 12-13 is homosexual.
            There is another reason why one cannot oppose the term ‘paedophile’ to ‘homosexual’ (or ‘heterosexual’). It is because the former deals with age and the latter with the unrelated topic of gender. It is like comparing apples with oranges. A person can be paedophile re age preference and homosexual re gender preference. The only defence for denying this would be if paedophiles as a class were gender-blind. But as at least two thirds of them are not, that defence fails.

            Best

            Chris.

  7. Jonathan Tallon March 20, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    Ian is right about the early Church in particular being viewed as immoral. However, I took +Stephen to be talking about the Church of England. And I think he has a point.

    The contemporary examples that Ian produces are not really comparable (with one exception). They were issues primarily about the best means to an end. People don’t generally accuse the church of immorality directly for supporting welfare. They might believe that such support is naive or misguided, but not evil. The exception is abortion, but here it is generally accepted that it is a matter of individual conscience (hence free votes in the Commons on these issues).

    The situation with sexuality is different. More and more people believe that the official position of the Church of England is wrong, in and of itself. It is lumped in with racism and sexism. Any proffered motives are unlikely to be heard – all that is perceived is bigotry, without any redeeming features. None of the other examples from Britain leave this impression of the church.

    Should this make the church change its canons? Not of itself – the church must sometimes stand firm against the mores of a society. But:
    a) At the very least it should make us stop and consider whether what we teach is the most loving thing, or whether we need to reconsider how we interpret scripture;
    b) We should not kid ourselves about how keeping official canons and approaches makes us look to society.

    Oh, and as usual, I disagree that Paul or Jesus are clear about a faithful, permanent, loving relationship between two members of the same sex.

    • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 1:54 am #

      Jonathan, we must move in different circles! I have come across people outside the Church who do not just think the Church’s position on welfare is naive or misguided—they think it is evil. For a related viewpoint, do have a conversation with a Christian from the American South, many of whom see this not only as immoral but in connivance with the devil!

      On a. I think I have done quite a bit of that, as have others.

      On b. I don’t kid myself—but Stephen Cottrell appears to think there is only one answer. There is an alternative, but that involves 1. actually believing the Church’s teaching, based on confidence in Scripture 2. being willing to speak publicly on this and 3. being prepared to forego having a position of respect in wider society as a result of being faithful. I don’t presume to know which of these is the key issue for Stephen.

      • Jonathan Tallon March 21, 2017 at 8:49 am #

        Ian, when you find a group of average sixth formers spontaneously booing when you outline the church’s approach to welfare, I’ll concede the point. (The experience of a colleague when she described the church’s policy on same-sex marriage).

        Individuals may have strong opinions on a variety of issues, including welfare, but in Britain the Church’s position on sexuality and gender is the only one which is leading to widespread condemnation across the board.

        In other countries, and in other millenia, you have a point. But for England, this is a new development.

        • Will Jones March 21, 2017 at 9:52 am #

          I hardly think the church should be taking lessons from society on healthy sexuality – society is in a complete mess sexually. Why anyone would look at the world and say, there’s our model for sexual ethics, is beyond me. How about the church just stays faithful to the teaching on sexual ethics in scripture, and leaves the world to go astray if it wants to. I don’t think we should concern ourselves overmuch with the disapproval of a bunch of sexting teenagers raised on an enfeebling diet of progressive propaganda.

        • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

          Jonathan, sorry to be blunt—but why would anyone start with sixth formers by explaining the Church’s policy? I think even I would boo! What you need to start with is a biblical anthropology of sexuality, but by beginning with reflecting on their own thoughts about sex and sexual experience, and encouraging them to think about what is happening in the world just now.

          I agree there is widespread condemnation in media. But is it a coincidence that the media are dominated by a liberal agenda. Have you ever noticed how many gay men and women there are on TV?! There are actually a good number of folk, both within and outside the church, who would want to take a more ‘traditional’ position. But have you noticed what happens to them when they try and say something in public?

          And even if it is a new development in England, our theology cannot afford to be shaped by such a short memory and such a narrow horizon.

          • Jonathan Tallon March 21, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

            The sixth formers were just an audience meeting religious leaders and asking questions. The response is revealing as it was a spontaneous reaction. Sure, you can explain biblical anthropology, reflect on experience etc. But your starting point is people think you’re bigoted.

            But I am not restricting it to sixth formers. We are now in a position where the Conservative party (the Conservative Party – more liberal than my organisation – I despair) is more ‘liberal’ on this issue than the CofE. And the reason the media appears ‘liberal’ on this issue and those offering alternative views get short thrift is because it is reflecting the majority of society. Only 17% of the population think homosexuality is morally wrong (Yougov Feb 2015). There is a large majority in favour of same-sex marriage.

            How we respond is another matter, but again, I think we are utterly deluded if we fail to recognise how we are perceived, and that this is of a different order from disputes about welfare.

          • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

            I have no delusions on how we are perceived…but I think that we have been perceived to be like this on other issues in other contexts in the past, and any bishop who thinks this situation is a ‘first’ is themselves deluded.

            ‘But your starting point is people think you’re bigoted.’ Er, if I meet a group of religiously illiterate sixth-formers in a post-Christendom society, my starting point will always be that I am a stone-age, superstitious, irrational idiot.

            So? The challenge here is to offer an apologia, not capitulation.

        • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

          Jonathan, sixth-formers

          (a) have, biologically, adolescent brains with all the lack of developed judgment that implies;

          (b) have, biologically, adolescent brains with all that implies in terms of sexual desire within what has been allowed to drift into being a non-marriage culture;

          (c) have never heard another ‘line’ being voiced within their peer-group, their media, or their schools;

          (d) would not be able even to BEGIN to say what the many counter-arguments are;

          (e) have had only a few years’ experience. If you think they should be listened to above older, wiser and more experienced people, then in a few years they themselves will fall into the latter category so, accordingly, they will soon reach their ”sell-by date” (at the very time when they are beginning to get a bit of wisdom and experience). It is a truism that the older you are the more experienced you are.

          There is nothing so sad and illogical as people desperate to get down with the youth.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 22, 2017 at 11:47 am #

            Christopher. To perhaps moderate your opinion of sixth formers, head over to theoreO.wordpress.com for a blog by a theologically literate sixth fomrer

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

            Penelope,

            (a), (b) and (e) are undeniable biological facts.

            (c) and (d) are the fault of education and media, not the fault of 6th-formers. Therefore, both (c) and (d) are not connected to my view of 6th-formers.

            I am glad if s/he is theologically literate and will check it out, though myself I don’t consider theology a sufficiently hard science in the first place – that doesn’t stop people being literate in the history of theology, which is all to the good.

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

            theoreo site has been deleted.

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 9:30 pm #

            My main issue was with the way that sixth-formers are unaware of any of the many and strong counter-arguments. I can’t name one counter-argument that Elizabeth showed herself aware of. She was writing, to all intents and purposes, as though people are born gay.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe March 23, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

            Christopher the aetiology of homosexuality is still much disputed. Despite some fluidity in orientation generally, there are a number of homosexual people (mainly male) who are incontrovertibly orientated to partners of the same sex/gender.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

            It need not have a single aetiology. But to suggest that this is an area where one can say little…on the contrary it has been a heavily studied area.

            ‘Incontrovertibly’ – no. It may be or seem incontrovertible now, just as paedopilia and smoking are nigh impossible to overcome. But no-one was born a paedophile or smoker, or even remotely drawn to either practice. It was circumstances that later made them so. You say ‘are’ which suggests something innate. It obviously is not innate since babies are not attracted to anyone, and it is a very strange idea that they would be.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

            A society that either did not see paedophilia or smoking as bad or saw them as goods would see people finding it very hard to have motivation to give them up. The same applies to homosexual practice in the present culture. Because it is often seen as not being bad (in ignorance, or feigned and deliberate ‘ignorance’, of the statistics), it becomes nigh impossible to give it up. Incontrovertibility will therefore be extremely different in different cultures. Where there is a tabu things will be very different incontrovertibility-wise from the modern west.

    • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 4:29 am #

      Jonathan, you talk about ‘interpret Scripture’. My questions:

      1. Do you give equal weight to trained biblical scholars and to pew members? If not, what are the proportional weightings you give? Who is qualified to ‘interpret’? Are, for example, those who know neither of the biblical languages qualified to do so? Or should we talk about different grades of qualification? If the latter, then rather than trawl through the views of all Christians, life is too short not to confine oneself to the views of biblical scholars.

      2. Any ancient text will have interpretative issues, but the question in this case is whether these relate to tangential or central points. Your position does seem very strange and/or dishonest given that even a child can see how negative every single reference to homosexual acts is – similarly to references to lying, murder, adultery.

      If you can name exceptions to this rule (times when a biblical text speaks of homosexual intercourse even neutrally or even in a slightly rather than very condemnatory way), then what is the text you are referring to? Because that does not apply to any of the main texts.

      3. I am not in any way speaking as one who says ‘if the Bible says it, it is true’. This needs to be tested in any instance. The issue in this particular case is not truth but what the Biblical texts are actually saying.

      4.Are you aware of how the average male homosexual defines faithfulness?

      On another point, I don’t think you replied to my earlier point on Savin-Williams and Ream, fluidity etc.. Why do you think that other studies like Diamond’s, including longitudinal studies, give the same fluidity picture?

      • Will Jones March 21, 2017 at 9:58 am #

        On faithfulness – since learning of the alternative meanings given to faithfulness is some quarters I think we should insist on the more precise term exclusive.

        • Jonathan Tallon March 21, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

          Will, I would be very happy, for the avoidance of doubt, to change my statement to: “Oh, and as usual, I disagree that Paul or Jesus are clear about an exclusively faithful, permanent, loving relationship between two members of the same sex.”

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

            It was also very remiss of them not to be clear about fishtanks and blow-driers.

      • Blair March 22, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

        Christopher,

        briefly: can you name any biblical texts that speak of the lending of money at interest in a neutral or non-condemnatory way?

        I was slightly surprised at this line: “The issue in this particular case is not truth but what the Biblical texts are actually saying”. Did you mean to imply that the biblical texts may not be aligned with truth, or am I misreading?

        in friendship, Blair

        • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 9:35 pm #

          You make 2 points.

          (1) No, I can’t. I would never lend money at interest. I had a friend Paul at Cambridge who did his PhD on that, and worked for the Jubilee Centre. I agreed with him.

          (2) What an amazing generalisation. The biblical texts are in many genres and contain hundreds of thousands of assertions. The assertions need to be tested for truth. Do you doubt that? Who will be impressed if you claim ‘the Bible’s’ entire truth as a wonderful reality, when in fact it is nothing but a presupposition (covering hundreds of thousands of assertions) that has not been investigated?

          • Blair March 23, 2017 at 12:59 am #

            Hi again Christopher,

            thanks for your response. Re (1), can I ask how widely you apply this – e.g. do you apply it to all your banking and financial activities?

            Re (2), I wasn’t meaning to generalise – my surprise was likely based on a wrong assumption so apologies for that. I agree entirely that “The assertions need to be tested for truth” – but I don’t doubt that we disagree on how that applies to the matter at hand….

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 10:00 am #

            OK, I never lend money at interest, but I very rarely lend money. Banks are a separate issue. They charge interest on what they lend. That is what they do, not what I do.

          • Blair March 24, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

            Hello Christopher,

            thanks for clarifying. That likely puts us in the same situation – I too very rarely lend money but, as I imagine you do, I have a bank account. If so we’re both involved, or at the least linked to, a system of lending money at interest.

            The reason I mention usury is that it seems to me that it offers an interesting example for interpreting biblical texts. As you note there are no positive biblical texts on usury, and so also there is no possibility of a ‘trajectory’ argument; yet still it was possible for Calvin and others (see Andrew Goddard’s essay, ‘Semper reformanda’, available online) to argue for a change in the church’s teaching and a rereading of the texts. I accept that the analogy with the texts on same-sex sex is not perfect but I think it’s strong enough that the usury case can be drawn on by those of us arguing for change on ‘the gay thing’.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 25, 2017 at 7:35 am #

            If people have a mind to, they will argue such things. It is perhaps the vast majority of mistakes that come down to one root: cultural conformity.

          • David Shepherd March 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

            David,

            I wrote: ‘And we do hear revisionist arguments that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships. It is also insisted that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified and rendered archaic by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.

            While you considered ‘archaic’ to be unhelpfully provocative and took issue with what you called the ‘revisionist’ label, you wrote that you broadly agreed with this paragraph.

            So, with the offending words removed, you are broadly arguing ‘that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships and insisting that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.

            However your methods might employ care, thoroughness and rigour, that means that you are ‘trying to nullify wholesale any verses which denounce same-sex sex.’

            In my book (and the dictionary), to nullify means ‘to invalidate, to render inoperative’.

        • David Shepherd March 25, 2017 at 11:17 pm #

          Blair,

          We’ve been here before: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/do-we-ignore-biblical-teaching-on-usury/#comment-338704

          Asked and answered.

          • Blair March 26, 2017 at 12:15 am #

            Hello David,

            thank you for the link – but the key point for me is the one Jonathan Tallon makes in an exchange with you further down the page: that for 1500-odd years the biblical texts were read as an absolute prohibition on usury, but then over time were reinterpreted (not ignored or set aside) such that it’s coherent (for instance) for Justin Welby, a few years back, to lambast Wonga and other extortioners while commending (for instance) microcredit schemes that may involve low-rate interest and accepting modest interest rates for banking in general. I’m suggesting something analogous could be done with the texts on same-sex sex, granted that the analogy isn’t perfect, and in full awareness that you disagree – but to emphasise that it’s not a question of ignoring or ‘setting aside’ the texts in question.

            in friendship, Blair

          • David Shepherd March 26, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

            Hi Blair,

            You’d have a point about reinterpretation, if, as I’ve done, you could locate complementary passages, which explicitly mollify the scripture’s prohibitions.

            In contrast, the arguments made in favour of revision do not seek to qualify, but, instead, try to nullify wholesale any verses which denounce same-sex sex.

            There is also a vast difference between campaigning for something (such as interest for a commercial venture) to be rendered permissible versus advocating that something else (such as same-sex sex in a PSF relationship) should be blessed and affirmed as holy, good and just before God.

            Whatever the pronouncements made by the ABC against Wonga, unlike same-sex couples, the company isn’t really looking for the Church to bless and publicly affirm them.

          • David Runcorn March 27, 2017 at 11:42 am #

            David You write: ‘In contrast, the arguments made in favour of revision do not seek to qualify, but, instead, try to nullify wholesale any verses which denounce same-sex sex.’ This is simply not true. I know we don’t agree but I respect your biblical rigour and ask you do the same (even if you still think I am misguided).
            The interpretive question that needs asking of any biblical text is:
            What is the text actually forbidding?
            Why was it being forbidden then?
            How is this text to be understood for the challenge of faith and discipleship today.
            And where this concerns ss relationships the question to ask is – in what way does that text relate to contemporary experience of faithful ss relating? e.g. Is that this?
            That process is a whole lot more careful, thorough and biblically rigorous than ‘nullify wholesale’.

          • David Shepherd March 28, 2017 at 2:42 pm #

            David,

            I wrote: ‘And we do hear revisionist arguments that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships. It is also insisted that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified and rendered archaic by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.

            While you considered ‘archaic’ to be unhelpfully provocative and took issue with what you called the ‘revisionist’ label, you wrote that you broadly agreed with this paragraph.

            So, with the offending words removed, you are broadly arguing ‘that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships and insisting that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.

            However your methods might employ care, thoroughness and rigour, that means that you are ‘trying to nullify wholesale any verses which denounce same-sex sex.’

            In my book (and the dictionary), to nullify means ‘to invalidate, to render inoperative’.

          • Blair March 28, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

            Dear David (S),

            am aware there’s something of a risk of parallel discussions here, but a thought or two following your reply to me above.

            I wasn’t trying to suggest that Wonga are looking for the C of E to bless them and didn’t mean to give that impression – maybe that’s one of the limits of the analogy I drew. And I accept also that there’s a difference between permitting something and celebrating it – maybe that’s another such limit (although it’s tempting to add the aside that one could be forgiven for thinking lending money at interest *is* celebrated in our culture, given the ways we talk about ‘the City’ and ‘the markets’, and other factors… but that’s another topic isn’t it).

            The nub of where we disagree is in your first two paragraphs. I wonder if it’s worth emphasising that the prohibition on usury was absolute in Christianity and Judaism – and that in the midst of debate there were voices arguing that the scriptural prohibitions could not be mollified. (Rabbi Steven Greenberg: “The sages might have continued to hold the laws of interest taking as absolute and considered any form of legal fiction circumventing them as wicked deception. There were traditions that would have supported such a commitment to the fullest application of the laws of usury” – Greenberg 2004, p232; if memory serves Andrew Goddard’s essay, ‘Semper reformanda’, may have similar material from a Christian context). Here we are in the midst of debate about same-sex sex – and there is no knowing which way things might ultimately go. Just to be clear – I’m not assuming that it’s inevitable that things will go the way i might wish; I’m bringing this in mostly to continue with the analogy with usury, limited as it is, and to suggest that it wasn’t always obvious that the proscriptions of usury could be reinterpreted.

            But more importantly, some examples of revision which I suggest do indeed seek to qualify or reapply the verses in question, but not nullify them. On Romans 1: here is Mike Higton’s reading http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-11-reading-romans-1/
            Here is James Alison’s: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng15.html
            There’s also Gareth Moore OP’s book, ‘A question of truth’ (Continuum 2003). Rabbi Steven Greenberg’s book, quoted above, is ‘Wrestling with God and men: homosexuality in the Jewish tradition’ (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004).

            Greenberg’s book, which I strongly recommend, is a rereading of Leviticus 18:22 which suggests that the rationale for the prohibition is about humiliation and violence: in the world of the text, “all intercourse between men cannot help but be a degrading, abominable humiliation of one male by another” (p192), not least because of the social context where men had higher status than women. He builds to a rereading that proposes that “what troubles the text is not sex between men per se, but sex that by its nature humiliates and demeans another” (p38). There is much more to his argument than that short summary conveys and I hope this is not a travesty of it. One little example, one small piece of the argument is Greenberg’s noting that a Hebrew phrase from Lev 18:22 only occurs in one other place in Hebrew scripture. I suspect it’s not news to you that Lev 18:22 can be transliterated, ve’et zakhar lo tishkav mishkeve ishah – toevah hi (and with a male you shall not lie the lyings of a woman – it is abhorrent). ‘Mishkeve’, ‘the lyings of-‘, also appears in Genesis 49:4, the account of Reuben’s rape of Bilha. “Here, in a context that is fully heterosexual, the language is clear. ‘Mishkeve’ is the word for intercourse used when the motive is not love but a demonstration of virile power, not connection but disconnection, not tenderness but humiliation and violence” (p205).

            Let me underline two things. Greenberg is *not* arguing that Leviticus only prohibits male rape – see the above quotation. (As another aside: Greenberg doesn’t mention this text in the book but when it was launched in the UK, at Jewish Book Week 2004, Greenberg was introduced by James Alison who noted that the story in 2 Samuel 10 shows a similar way of imagining to that of Leviticus – that male-male sex can only be a degradation). I’ve given a tiny piece of his argument as an example, in hopes of showing that this is not a nullification of the text. I don’t for a moment imagine that this will convince you that his argument will hold, but am foolish enough to hope that you might rethink your remark about ‘nullifying wholesale’.

            The genius of Greenberg’s book, I suggest, is that after 200+ pages and having presented his rereading, he faces square on that it won’t fly, at least not in his own context. So there follows a long chapter imagining a conversation between a gay Orthodox Jewish man and a rabbi: “Because most Orthodox authorities will not accept any bold rereadings of Leviticus at present (if ever), the chapter elucidates a more narrowly defined jurisprudential way of compassionately addressing the gay Orthodox question” (p38). I wonder if something similar could happen in Christian circles….perhaps in places it already has…..?

            in friendship, Blair

          • David Runcorn March 29, 2017 at 4:14 pm #

            David I know what ‘nullify’ means. But it was not me that used the word – you did! And you continue to accuse me of doing something I am not with regard to the scripture text. The issue is not ‘believe the text or ‘nullify’ it’ (your word not mine). The issue is one of interpretation – as it always is. The text is not for removing or skirting round it is for careful interpreting to discern what it taught then, what it teaches today and how we are to be faithful to it within the whole witness of scripture. So hear me very clearly my brother. I would never ‘nullify’ scripture. So when I ask you to please read me more carefully it is because this matters deeply to me – as it does you.

          • David Runcorn March 29, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

            Blair thank you for your helpful piece on reading Leviticus. A good example of careful exegesis and interpretation leading to the possibility of new readings of the text.

          • David Shepherd March 30, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

            Hi Blair,

            In my response to Jonathan Tallon on usury, I contrasted reform with revision in the parallel example of the Church’s stance on widow re-marriage.

            I wrote:
            ‘In terms of being at odds with post-apostolic tradition, we could also consider authoritative writings of Tertullian, Justin Martyr and Athenagoras banning re-marriage of widows.

            Look at the canon law in force by the time of the Council of Nicaea:
            Canon XVIII:
            ‘He who married a widow, or a divorced woman, or an harlot, or a servant-maid, or an actress cannot be a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, or any other of the sacerdotal list.’

            So, what you’ve said of usury is also true of widow marriage. It was an absolute prohibition and to paraphrase your statement: ‘it wasn’t always obvious that the proscriptions of widow marriage could be reinterpreted.’

            Athenagoras wrote: ‘For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she be dead, is a cloaked adulterer, resisting the hand of God, because in the beginning God made one man and one woman, and dissolving the strictest union of flesh with flesh, formed for the intercourse of the race.’ (Athenagoras, A plea for the Christians)

            Tertullian also insisted that widow re-marriage was a major impediment to spiritual growth (although, in agreement with St. Paul, briefly mentioning that it is not a sin for widows to remarry):

            ‘How detrimental to faith, how obstructive to holiness, second marriages are, the discipline of the Church and the prescription of the apostle declare, when he suffers not men twice married to preside (over a Church), when he would not grant a widow admittance into the order unless she had been ‘the wife of one man;’ for it behooves God’s altar to be set forth pure. (Tertullian – Book 1 Ch. 7)

            As with usury, the eventual change to this teaching did not involve discounting the applicability to the era of the reformers of scriptures relating to widowhood. Instead, the reformers showed how the scriptures elsewhere contradicted the Church Fathers’ position.

            The eventual reform of this teaching involved a return to the scriptures to demonstrate that the Church Fathers’ prohibition was overstating St. Paul’s recommendations ‘for the present distress’ (1:Cor. 7:26; 1 Cor. 7:40). In fact, it would contradict 1 Cor. 7:39, if 1 Tim 3:2 or 1 Tim. 5:9 was understood to all but prohibit the remarriage of the widowed, or prevent their ordination to holy orders.

            I see nothing of this reformed approach in revision. Indeed, reform is in stark contrast with what you provide as: ‘some examples of revision which I suggest do indeed seek to qualify or reapply the verses in question, but not nullify them.

            For instance, Higton summarises: It only makes sense for Paul to put a description of homosexual desire in the centre of this passage if, for him, homosexual desire unlike heterosexual desire automatically means a form of sexual desire in which the individual’s gratification has become the central, the all-consuming element – if, for him, homosexual desire automatically means a form of sexual desire which by its very nature is incapable of the kind of loving mutuality that we have been discussing all along. If that is not what Paul is assuming, his argument makes no sense.

            In writing this, Higton falters badly in seeking to demonstrate that, in the context of Rom. 1, to denounce a sexual relationship capable of what he calls ‘loving devotion’ would be a non-sequitur. His logic does not bear scrutiny when Christ Himself declared that even impenitent tax collectors are capable of mutual devotion and the evil can exhibit familial kindness (Matt. 5:46; Matt. 7:9-11)

            St Paul’s argument isn’t that those he describes are incapable of mutuality or family devotion. Instead, the apostle echoes Ps. 19:1-4 when he argues that we can induce God’s transcendent authority and power from His intentional ordering of creation, which is, in turn, understood from the natural world:

            ‘since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’

            And St. Paul’s description couldn’t be clearer of homosexual coupling as the final concomitant of denying God’s authority, revealed through nature, as created by Him. The behaviour described is as much ‘against nature’ (para phusin) as his later description of grafting a wild olive branch into the cultivated variety (Rom. 11:24), which runs contrary to natural ordering of plant life.

            As much as Cottrell, Higton is propounding virtue ethics when he writes: ‘To say that, nevertheless, we have learnt that there are other forms of homosexuality – that there are forms unimagined by Paul which can, as easily as heterosexuality, answer the calls to loving mutuality, to committed faithfulness, and to faith that I have discussed earlier – is not to deny the fundamental thrust of the passage. It does not deny that sin is fundamentally characterised by rebellion against God and by rapacity, that sexual relationships are one place in which that disorder is particularly clearly displayed, and that it is understandable that Paul in his context should single out the forms of homosexual relationships he knew of as particularly clear and dramatic examples of that.

            He may well generalise that rebelliousness and rapacity are contrary to virtue, but, in our contemporary context, he refuses to specify as vices the selfsame acts which Paul declares as reaping divine retribution. Instead, he restrict the applicability of Paul’s denunciation of homosexual acts to just ‘the forms of homosexual relationships he knew of’. This, of course, is pure speculation in favour of specific forms of homosexual relationships that Higton knows (and approves) of.

            In respect of same-sex sexual relationships, Higton’s argument is a nullification. Higton simply relies on unwarranted non-sequitur reasoning to exclude any relationship capable of what he calls ‘loving mutuality’ from the condemnation of Rom.1. Yet, there is no scriptural basis for doing this when Paul is denouncing same-sex sexual acts as ‘para phusin’.

          • David Shepherd March 30, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

            David,

            You wrote: ‘I know what ‘nullify’ means. But it was not me that used the word – you did! And you continue to accuse me of doing something I am not with regard to the scripture text.

            I’m pretty tired of your personal affronts. Before, in response to my remarks about a ‘a significant contingent of those favouring Church affirmation of PSF same-sex relationships’, you wrote: ‘You will therefore know that I claim to base my understanding on scripture – not a by-passing of it – so I am disappointed by your argument here. It is a distortion.’

            You also took issue to the ‘revisionist’ label and ‘archaic’ which is acknowledged. Yet, to be clear, it was you who saw my paragraph using the word ‘nullified’ and wrote: ‘Back to that paragraph – that is broadly my position David. I am fine with the broad thrust of it (though the word ‘archaic’ is unhelpfully provocative to describe the teachings of scripture).

            In future, if my paragraph doesn’t sit well with you, don’t claim that it is broadly your position, only to later say: ‘you continue to accuse me of doing something I am not with regard to the scripture text’.

            It just makes you self-contradictory.

          • David Runcorn March 30, 2017 at 7:10 pm #

            David S I confess to being surprised by your last comment. Others will have to judge if my tone strayed into personal affront towards you – It was not my intention I assure you.The examples you give are my response to the points you make and some of the language – but not, I think, directed personally. Indeed I have more than once thanked you for your engagement and your careful contributions on these threads. I meant it. I can cope with people suggesting my reading of scripture mistaken – it often will be – but I do struggle with any suggestion that I am simply ignoring or ‘nullifying’ a text as of no meaning or relevance to today’s discussion. (to agree with a ‘broad thrust’ of a statement is hardy to agree with the precise words used is it?). Blair’s piece of Leviticus was a helpful response that illustrated a rigorous process of interpretation that might point in a more including direction without in anyway nullifying the text. But let’s take a break .Thank you again for engaging with me. We disagree strongly but I trust we do so in the love of Chrjst and out of a love for the Word.

          • David Shepherd March 30, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

            David,

            To be clear, with respect to my statement with which you broadly agreed, I prefaced: So, with the offending words removed, you are broadly arguing…’

            The use of ‘broadly’ means that my comment was never intended to as a definitive statement of your position.

            This left the door wide open for you to clarify even further. Yet, you wrote that ‘you continue to accuse me of doing something I am not with regard to the scripture text.’

            This is what I took exception to: the groundless accusation that I was continuing to accuse you falsely. That response was completely unwarranted.

            I’m happy to leave off from our exchange. And whether or not the ascendancy of virtue ethics appears inevitable, I’m also happy to keep on highlighting the differences between genuine reform from revisionism, .

            …And that is in the love of Christ and out of a love for his word (Deut. 13:3)

          • David Shepherd March 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

            Hi Blair,

            I’ve not had the chance to read Greenberg’s book, so I won’t comment conclusively until I do.

            Please have a look at the following critique, which contrasts Greenberg’s interpretative focus on with the explanations of anthropologist Mary Douglas and of writer and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva on how Leviticus functions as a logical whole:
            http://gswaim.wixsite.com/aglspdev/single-post/2013/10/01/Levitical-Interpretation-and-the-Homosexual-Prohibitions

            Despite this, I refuse to end this discussion in Leviticus 18:22, nor Rom. 1:18-32.

            Instead, the last word should go to 2 Cor. 2:1-11.

          • Blair March 31, 2017 at 12:20 am #

            Evening David (S),

            thanks for your responses.

            Taking things backwards, as it were – I’ve only skimmed the piece by Kenneth Mumma (love that name!) that you linked to. I’m not sure his critique of Greenberg’s interpretation works that well – for instance he doesn’t seem to notice Greenberg’s reference to Genesis 49:4 which I referred to above; and his criticism of what he calls Greenberg’s “tight bit of logic” looks really quite odd. Perhaps more importantly, to whatever extent we might agree that Leviticus functions as a logical whole I’d have thought that a problem for Mumma’s article for Christians is that the tradition does make distinctions between Levitical laws – e.g. article 7 of the C of E’s 39 articles. (Indeed doesn’t Mumma hint at this himself? “…observant Jews are not justified in declaring that the proscription against homosexual behavior is irrelevant while maintaining the validity of the rest of the laws. Likewise, non-Jews are not justified in turning to Leviticus for support of anti-homosexual positions if at the same time, they reject the applicability of the dietary laws, for example”).

            Looking back at your other comment, I’m hoping I understand the distinction you’re making between revision and reform. For you, the latter is a return to biblical texts which may result in a change of teaching that’s properly grounded in a contextualised reading, whereas the former is a nullifying or cancelling of texts deemed problematic, for reasons good or bad. Well, I hope that’s a fair summary… With all due predictability, I don’t agree that every rereading of the texts traditionally held to ‘deal with’ same-sex sex falls under your heading of ‘revision’. On the thread discussing usury you linked to before, I note a comment from you to Oliver Harrison sketching the context of biblical verses on usury and suggesting how they can be reapplied; I think the references I gave above are doing something very similar with the verses on same-sex sex, though am well aware you disagree.

            Again, no surprise that I don’t think you’ve quite done justice to Mike Higton’s piece. I think you were more accurate when you said he “restricts the applicability” of the text than when you say he nullifies it. You write that “St Paul’s argument isn’t that those he describes are incapable of mutuality or family devotion”, yet given the other vices linked to same-sex sex in the text (…”foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless…”) surely that is a part of his argument, and this *because* in Paul’s eyes same-sex sex is to be seen as “the final concomitant of denying God’s authority”. MH does mention ‘para physin’ too although you don’t mention this.

            I wonder whether you see any problem with what might be called the ‘standard’ reading of Romans 1… for instance whether same-sex sex can be extracted from the other vices in the text, so that even if it is not in the context of the kind of disordered life those vices speak of, it is still condemned? I also wonder what you make of Rowan Williams’s words which ‘stand behind’ Mike Higton’s article: “What makes this text [Romans 1] less than decisive for some contemporary Christian interpreters is that the ‘phenomena’ in view here are described in terms of considerable imaginative ‘violence’ – the blind abandonment of what is natural and at some level known to be so, and the deliberate turning in rapacity to others. To see this as an account of ‘the phenomena of homosexual behaviour’ is to beg the question somewhat, when it is cast as a self-conscious flouting of a truth already made known” (‘Knowing myself in Christ’, in Bradshaw, ed., (1997), ‘The way forward?’, Hodder & Stoughton).

            More tentatively (could just be out of my depth) I’m unsure about your condemnations of virtue ethics in recent posts; this may well be off topic but I would have thought that one could have a virtue ethic entirely aligned with a conservative view that held that gay relationships couldn’t be virtuous – ie that the question of what is deemed a virtue is logically prior so that it’s not virtue ethics per se that should be your target. I’m not sure if that’s valid or makes sense.

            in friendship, Blair

          • David Shepherd March 31, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

            Blair,

            Thanks for taking time to reply. I’d begin by repeating that I haven’t read Greenberg’s book and therefore, I cannot comment conclusively on it.

            In respect of you own impressions about Mumma’s critique of Greenberg, you wrote that ‘he doesn’t seem to notice Greenberg’s reference to Genesis 49:4’.

            Greenberg appears to be relying solely on the comparison with Gen. 49:4 in order to conclude that: ‘mishkeve’ is the word for intercourse used when the motive is not love but a demonstration of virile power, not connection but disconnection, not tenderness but humiliation and violence

            This leaves me to wonder why Greenberg doesn’t consider other instances in the bible, where mishkeve is not used, despite the motive not being love. For instance, Deut. 22:25.

            Greenberg is not an expert in OT linguistics and he does not appear to probe the grammatical structure in the way that Jerome T Walsh did to arrive at an interpretation of mishkeve which challenges the ‘traditional’ understanding of these texts (based on philological work of Saul Olyan).

            It would be worth reviewing the fascinating scholarly exchange between Walsh, Thomas Renz and Robert Holmstedt: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-grammar-of-leviticus-18-22

            Holmstedt wrote: ‘If Walsh called Lev 18.22 and 20.13 the use of the so-called cognate accusative, he is incorrect. The verbs in both cases (tishkav and yishkav, resp.) have complements/objects marked by the direct object marker ‘et, that is zakhar (a male). The phrases in question mishkevey ‘isha (in Lev 18.22 and 20.13) and mishkav zakhar are adverbial, indicating the manner of the verbal action. That is, in Lev 18.22, it simply says, “you shall not lie with a man (as) lyings-of-a-woman”.

            Renz asked Holmstedt: ‘whether and why you think we can be confident that “male” is a direct rather than oblique object here

            Holmstedt responded: ‘The real point, contra Walsh, is that my initial claim *does* stand — in neither case can the phrase /mishkav/ be the “cognate accusative”! If the verb is intransitive, it takes no objects. If it is transitive, then the much more likely object is the /’et zakhar/, etc.

            In defence of his position, Walsh cited Gesenius, Juoun, and Waltke and O’Connor as his authorities.

            In response, Holmstedt delivered the coup de grace by writing:
            the irony here is too delicious not to point out — you’re retreating (though inaccurately) behind old grammatical analyses when it comes to the description of verbs but then challenging the traditional syntactic analysis that generations of scholars arrived at based on the very grammatical framework that you’re taking your stand on (but somehow finding a different analysis).

            With respect to my reply to Oliver Harrison, I’ll repeat my earlier distinction: ‘You’d have a point about reinterpretation, if, as I’ve done, you could locate complementary passages, which explicitly mollify the scripture’s prohibitions.

            Instead of speculatively inferring a relationship between the usury verses and the alleviation of poverty and hardship vs. investing for commercial gain, I located references that gave explicit context to qualify the prohibition.

            By comparison, Greenberg’s speculates that, when ‘mishkeve’ is used in scripture (twice), the common denominator is the demonstration of virile power, despite this word not being used to describe rape in Deut, 22:25.

            You write: ‘yet given the other vices linked to same-sex sex in the text (…”foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless…”) surely that is a part of his argument, and this *because* in Paul’s eyes same-sex sex is to be seen as “the final concomitant of denying God’s authority”.

            No, because Paul uses plurals (‘they’ and ‘them’), not to define the path of personal moral ruin, but to describe the inexorable societal symptoms of divine reprobation which result from the patent disregard for ‘what can be known of God’ and can be ‘understood by the things that are made’. This is the common denominator of all the vices mentioned in Rom. 1.

            However, you can’t take these various effects of divine reprobation exercised on a cosmic scale (note the universality and continuous tense in Rom. 1:18) and then assert that every one of these symptoms which Paul describes as prevalent in those societies is invariably experienced by every person within those societies. not can you reason: ergo, if a same-sex attracted person does not experience all of these symptoms, they are beyond the purview of Rom. 1.

            However, there is a ‘blind abandonment of what is natural and at some level known to be so. However, the blindness is the eventual overpowering by instinct and habit of conscious self-judgment and self-denial . For many, the ‘violence’ is directed inwards: endeavouring at all costs to put to death their internal misgivings once and for all.

            In terms of virtue ethics, your response does not really make sense, but I’d refer you to my comment here: https://www.peter-ould.net/2014/02/23/human-flourishing/

          • Blair April 1, 2017 at 7:58 pm #

            Hello again David,

            will try to sketch a response to the points you make below…

            1) I’m mostly standing by my impressions of Mumma’s critique, especially given the part that I quoted.

            2) Greenberg and Leviticus – I wonder how much mileage there is in us discussing this, at least in the context of Greenberg’s work given that you haven’t read his book and so must be relying (at least partly) on my attempt at a summary above. I suspect it’s questionable whether I’ve done justice to the book. But anyway: I think it’s worth emphasising again that the link to Genesis 49:4 is only one piece of the jigsaw in Greenberg’s argument. I’m not sure your objection that ‘mishkeve’ doesn’t appear in other biblical texts where love is not the motive, has that much force; although perhaps it could be said that Greenberg’s following comment could be tweaked to “‘mishkeve’ is *a* word used when….”. A little aside – this may be a daft idea but I wondered if a reason why ‘mishkeve’ is not used in Deut. 22:25 is because that text refers to the open country, whereas perhaps ‘mishkeve’ has connotations of (or can be used euphemistically to refer to) lying on beds or couches, hence its rendering in Gen 49:4….? That may not be valid, I accept. I was going to ask if you know the Hebrew of Deut. 22:25 but am not sure if that would illuminate the Leviticus text much.

            I do recall the discussion about the grammar of Lev 18:22 but have not had time to go back to it; though in honesty I remember thinking that a huge number of words were expended but that it didn’t seem to take us that far. Saul Olyan reveiwed Greenberg’s book in 2005 in ‘Shofar: an interdisciplinary journal of Jewish studies’. (I’m not sure if you can access the full text of it without e.g. being part of a university library). It’s a fairly short review and he does make some notable criticisms, for instance that “Though much of Greenberg’s presentation and analysis of Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 is dependent on my own published work [ref to his journal article of 1994], this fact is not sufficiently acknowledged”, though Olyan’s article is listed in the bibliography. He too is unconvinced by the link to Gen. 49:4 though for a very different reason: “Nothing in the poetry of Gen. 49:4 suggests Reuben raped Bilhah, pace Greenberg, nor is rape suggested in the later prose versions of the incident in Gen. 35:22 and 1 Chr. 5:1”. I confess I don’t know the texts well enough to test that out. Nor have I had time to look up Olyan’s original 1994 piece. I’m not sure where all this leaves us…

            I will return later and respond to the rest of your post.
            in friendship, Blair

          • Blair April 1, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

            Hello again,

            I meant to add above that I don’t think it fair to say that Greenberg “speculates” in linking Gen. 49:4 to Lev. 18:22 – it is at least a clear verbal echo and so there would seem to be some warrant for it. Moreover, there is the social context I alluded to previously, in which men were of higher status than women, so that there might be thought some grounds for arguing that ‘treating a man as a woman’ cannot but be a degradation. If God ordains that higher status, it would seem fitting that God abominates such a degradation; but if God does not ordain it, and men are not of higher status…

            3) turning to Romans 1…: from your response, I’m guessing you don’t have a problem with what I was calling the ‘standard’ reading of the text as it seems to me that this is what you give above. You add that Paul is arguing on a cosmic scale, a societal level, and so not every member of every society will display every single listed vice. The problem comes for me in the application of this. In Paul’s argument, it seems, same-sex sex is somehow emblematic of all the vices listed, so that even if an individual person does not show forth every vice, any same-sex sex would have to as it were ‘have the flavour of’ those vices, such as the rapacity and lack of love that Rowan Williams and Mike Higton speak of. But if there can be same-sex sex that does not have such characteristics, what then? You say that one cannot reason “ergo, if a same-sex attracted person does not experience all of these symptoms, they are beyond the purview of Rom. 1”; I’m not sure that’s quite what I’m saying. And is it not begging the question, as Rowan Williams suggests, to reverse that reasoning to say, even in the absence of the other vices/symptoms listed, same-sex sex can only be a mark of idolatry, of a disordered life turned away from God? To do that, as the usual application of this text does, is to break the link Paul makes, it seems to me.

            I’m not sure my thinking is very clear tonight so I don’t know how well that works…

            I’m also not sure what to make of your penultimate paragraph so am wondering if you could clarify it a bit…? The second sentence especially. You then say, “For many, the ‘violence’ is directed inwards: endeavouring at all costs to put to death their internal misgivings once and for all”. I’m wondering on what basis you say this? If I have a sense of what you mean, my experience is more like the reverse of that, that my “internal misgivings” tend to grind me down, and any violence directed inwards tends to come from them rather than from any attempt to challenge them. But I may be misunderstanding here.

            4) On virtue ethics: I may simply be out of my depth; hearing a couple of lectures hardly qualifies me, after all. The BBC ethics website gives what looks like a useful thumbnail: “Virtue ethics is person rather than action based: it looks at the virtue or moral character of the person carrying out an action, rather than at ethical duties and rules, or the consequences of particular actions”. I understand that this is a tradition traceable back to Plato and Aristotle and that part of the latter’s argument was that the good life is one in which the person cultivates virtues so that they become habituated to them over time, and the virtues become ;second nature’. One lecturer noted that such ethics might well entail the use of moral exemplars, such as Jesus, but noted that they also prompt the question of what virtues are considered important – hence my remarking that what is deemed a virtue is logically prior to developing and growing in virtue. If this is valid, approval of same-sex sex is not intrinsic to virtue ethics, whereas some of your comments seemed to imply that it is. I’m trying to clarify not patronise here but am not sure if that comes across…. (by the way, I can’t access Peter Ould’s site at the moment for some reason).

            I think I’ve gone on too long again….

            in friendship, Blair

          • David Shepherd April 2, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

            Hi Blair,

            1. Although I’ll re-iterate, once again, that I haven’t read Greenberg’s book, it does appear to be a “tight bit of logic” for him to ascertain that ‘mishkeve ishah only proscribes ‘the engulfment of the penis’ (i.e. anal sex) on the basis that its converse, mishkeve zakhar must refer to vaginal penetration. Especially, when the latter phrase admits of other meanings.

            You also stated: ‘I’d have thought that a problem for Mumma’s article for Christians is that the tradition does make distinctions between Levitical laws – e.g. article 7 of the C of E’s 39 articles.

            However, Article 7 actually states: ‘Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

            Certainly, Lev.18:22 has nothing to do with either ceremonies, rites or civil precepts. Instead, it prohibits the indulgence of same-sex sexual passion, or lust. In this regard and consonant with Article 7, St. Paul clarifies the purpose of the law, as it imparts moral insight to our consciences:
            What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust [epithymian], except the law had said, you shall not covet.[epithymeseis‘ (Rom. 7:7)

            2) What you describe as a ‘verbal echo’ and the social context of gender inequality may provide clues, but they do not provide sufficient evidence to make Greenberg’s theory anything but speculative. You even admit that, albeit for a different reason, Walsh, whom Greenberg cites, is not particularly convinced by the rabbi’s thesis.

            3) You also wrote: ‘In Paul’s argument, it seems, same-sex sex is somehow emblematic of all the vices listed, so that even if an individual person does not show forth every vice, any same-sex sex would have to as it were ‘have the flavour of’ those vices, such as the rapacity and lack of love.’.

            Yet, as St. Paul charts the escalation of vice, he repeats the word, paredoken thrice to describe God abandoning the godless to the custody of their passions [epithymiais], to do as they please.

            As I explained above, the common flavour of all the vices is the ‘patent disregard for ‘what can be known of God’ and can be ‘understood by the things that are made’ (Rom. 1:19-20) Hence, Paul highlights the egregiousness of this contempt for what can be ‘understood by the things that are made’ by writing: ‘Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.’

            This contempt does not render couples unable to sustain mutual devotion. For instance, despite the unlawfulness of their divorce and re-marriage, Herod Antipas and Herodias were loyal to each other throughout tetrarch’s fall from power and exile to Gaul until his death. And note that Caligula offered to allow Herodias, as Agrippa’s sister, to retain her property. However, she chose instead to join her husband in exile.

            4) In terms of virtue ethics, I think you’ve missed my point. So, if Ian will allow, I’ll re-post my comment from Peter Ould’s blog.

            Nevertheless, I do feel that this exchange has run its course and that I have sufficiently distinguished the speculative nature of revisionism when compared to scriptural basis for reform.

          • David Shepherd April 3, 2017 at 11:28 am #

            Re-post of my comment on Virtue Ethics in response to Peter Ould’s blog post on eudaimonia (mutual flourishing):

            ‘We often use a phrase ‘in good spirits’ to connote mental well-being and that’s a transliteration of eudaimonia. One writer gives the literal meaning of eudaimonia as a state of ‘being protected and looked after by a benevolent deity’ (eudaimonia: Wikipedia).

            While Greek philosophers debated the means by which this state could be achieved, they all agreed on the goal of achieving one’s highest potential in the fullest command of our human faculties: arete, or virtue. Eudaimonia is self-actualisation.

            For Epicureans, to think that the gods would stoop down to concern themselves with and intervene in human affairs was an idea unworthy of their transcendence. Instead, the goal of life was to achieve enduring imperturbable contentment: one in which pain and suffering are minimised.

            In contrast, the Stoics laid greater emphasis on the moral qualities that constituted a virtuous being. Any well-being or actions associated with achieving virtue were secondary, as were the Christian virtues of compassion, forgiveness, meekness and self-sacrifice. The reason was that the latter might betray an overwrought concern for the fate of others.

            There is no link between eudaimonia with agape-love. I shall extend practical help to others, if and only if it contributes to my achievement of my full potential. The Greek concept of human flourishing would emphasize a measure of personal detachment in marked contrast to St.Paul’s ‘body of Christ’ theology.

            Notably, another writer explains the achievement of potential, i.e. virtue or arete in this way: ‘The concept implies a human-centered universe in which human actions are of paramount importance; the world is a place of conflict and difficulty, and human value and meaning is measured against individual effectiveness in the world.’ This is an attractive frame of reference for anyone seeking to make the gospel relevant to society.

            In the gospel, the achievement of human potential is teleological and not measured by immediate temporal abundance (John 12:24). St. Paul claimed: ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’ (2 Cor. 4:7 – 12,16)

            So, by what standard of human flourishing, could a person who is self-described as ‘hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down’ be considered to thrive?

            Yet, facilitated discussions will be held ‘in the context of human flourishing’.

            We also believe Christ’s silence was not prompted by a resolve to remain unperturbed by circumstances beyond his control. His silence was full restraint from self-protection in order to fulfil the demands of divine justice on behalf of humanity. He was resolved to do the will of God, knowing that He would be vindicated in resurrection. So, far from imperturbable calm, He, who knew no sin, cried out in the agony of being made sin for us: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

            Most strikingly, the St. Paul’s hymn in Philippians probably represents the major fault line between Christian and Greek thought:

            ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
            Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
            But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant,
            and was made in the likeness of men:
            And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,
            and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’
            (Philippians 2:5-8)

            In the Greek world-view, there is no redeeming virtue in abandoning the pursuit of what is proper to one’s self-evident nature (the form of God for the form of man reduced to the most contemptible of deaths).

            If unquenchable life is proper to Christ’s pre-existent nature, to die is firstly wholly incongruous with that nature, and to be executed in such agonising despair is the penalty for not coming to terms with the reality of one’s life in the context of society. Such a death appears to serve no purpose. Such an end would be more proof to them of unfulfilled potential, rather than virtue.

            For Greeks, to undermine what is true of one’s underlying nature as Christ did, for any reason, is unforgiveable. For Christians, it is the foretaste of Christ’s divine nature in us that leads us to prioritise the values of that ‘life to come’ over everything else.’

    • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 4:37 am #

      In a nutshell, to my knowledge all critical New Testament commentaries on Romans or 1 Corinthians of the sort used in universities are not just opposed to your overall stance but 180 degrees (or thereabouts) opposed to it. People spend years or decades seeing how the thought of a New Testament book hangs together. What authority ought we then to give to your words on ‘interpretation’. Oh how convenient a word ‘interpretation’ can be. But we ought first to use that word accurately.

      • Simon March 21, 2017 at 7:19 am #

        I am reminded, reading Christopher’s comments on Interpretation of the Biblical texts concerning homosexuality, of the comment made by the world class NT Professor and prolific commentary author,, Luke Timothy Johnson: ‘I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself…

        ‘I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality.’
        https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/homosexuality-church-0

        • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

          Jonathan, the list of liberals who admit (what any six-year-old can see – and do we really want to be less bright than a six-year-old) that the biblical writings are negative towards homosexual practice includes these leading figures:
          Pim Pronk
          Luke Timothy Johnson
          Walter Wink
          William Schoedel
          Bernadette Brooten
          Louis Crompton
          (and among non-biblical scholars) Richard Holloway.

          • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

            and Dan Via

          • David Runcorn March 22, 2017 at 10:50 am #

            Christopher No one supporting faithful same-sex relationships on the basis on scripture – as I do – denies that the only texts in the bible that to refer to same-sex sexual activity are strongly negative. The question that needs asking of those texts is:
            What precisely is being forbidden there?
            Why is it so important to forbid it (and so severely)?
            How does that text and what is describes relate to contemporary expressions of faithful, loving, committed relationships between people of the same sex?
            In other words ‘is this that’?

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

            David, do you want the same points to be repeated that have been made for decades? Can we progress please. It is an easy dodge to say that Jesus and Paul did not address a point that never occurred to them. That dodge can be played with any issue.

            But
            (1) The social construction of lying, murder and adultery etc are also different these days, just as the social construction of homosexuality is. (I am not saying that any of these things is entirely a social construct, of course).

            (2) Many texts can be named that emphasise the man-woman thing (creation – complementarity) but none that emphasise the number two above all other numbers. The 21st century western thing is that any ‘relationship’ (???) between two adults is equal (and more equal than between 3 or more). Does the Bible exalt number over gender-mix? Not only does it not do so, but it emphatically does the opposite.

            Can you address (2) – thanks.

          • David Runcorn March 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

            Christopher
            What I was pointing out in my response to you was good interpretative practice when reading the scriptural text isn’t it? So a plain text a six year old might understand will still need careful setting in its context and interpreting for its meaning then and application today. If you eat prawns, do not require women to wear hats or keep silence there in church, or do not stone adulterers then that kind of interpretative questioning has already been happening on some issues the bible pronounces very clearly on.
            As to your comments in response to my own I am genuinely struggling to understand you. What ‘same points’ are you referring to? I made no reference to Jesus and Paul so I am not clear what you think I am ‘dodging’. I do not understood your point 1 at all. Nor point 2 about numbers being exalted the bible (or not). Sorry. I can’t relate any of that to what I wrote to you. Please be patient with me.

          • Christopher Shell March 22, 2017 at 9:47 pm #

            All I mean is that whenever this issue is debated the same points come up decade after decade. Many of the points have already been answered very well. Those answers are being ignored. Therefore there is dodging being done by some people, though probably not by you.

            The prawns, hats and silence are not relevant, since in those cases no-one doubts what the bible text says – they just don’t obey it (and in not obeying it, they may be either correct or incorrect). The position I am opposing is the idea that it is all a matter of so-called ”interpretation” – that in fact the texts may not be saying what they appear to be saying. (”You wish!’ is the answer to anyone – ideologues to a wo/man – who takes that line.)’

            ”Interpretation” certainly does not mean ending up with the opposite meaning to what the text says. I could not imagine anything less worthy of the name ”interpretation” than that.

            The whole ‘permanent faithful stable same-sex’ idea is based on 2 adults being the special thing. I cannot name a single Bible passage that says that the number 2 is special in this way. But we can all name passages that say the male-female combination is both fundamental and special. Because Jesus, Paul, and all the rest of them saw male-female as special but did not see the number 2 as special, there is no chance that, even if they could have conceived of permanent faithful and stable same-sex sexual relationships, they would have approved them.

            A further point. Where homosexual sex is condemned in biblical texts, do the texts ever say that only the impermanent, unfaithful and unstable manifestations of it are condemned? No – these 3 concepts never appear in these contexts.

          • David Runcorn March 23, 2017 at 9:00 am #

            Christopher Thank you for acknowledging I am not trying to dodge here.

            You say: ‘The prawns, hats and silence are not relevant, since in those cases no-one doubts what the bible text says – they just don’t obey it’.

            Can I ask you to clarify for me … are saying that women should wear hats or stay silent in church? (You omitted stoning from this list). I genuinely seek clarification here.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

            Of course you do. I already answered that in 2 ways. First, where I said that obviously a biblical text saying something does not **ipso facto** make that thing true. Second, where I said ‘and in not obeying it, they may be either correct or incorrect’.

          • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

            (In the case of hats many think it’s speaking about hair; however, the general point is not that the text is always clear but that even when it is clear people won’t necessarily obey it, and their failure to obey is not to be cited as being significant – after all, people very often don’t obey when they don’t want to.)

  8. James Edmonds March 20, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks Jonathan, I think you are exactly right about the comparisons to other moral issues. People may think the consequences of the church’s support for social welfare might be evil, or that they are being naïve, negligent or dim-witted (and evil in that sense), but not that they are purposefully aiming at something bad. That is what they think about our support for the personal and spiritual violence that is involved in enforced sexual repression- especially when we can’t offer any good moral reasons to support our contention that it’s the will of God.

    • David Shepherd March 20, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

      As endorsed by upheld by ECtHR in Schalk & Kopf v. Austria, the enduring concept of marriage is that it is ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’.

      This is consonant with explanation of Sir William Blackstone KC SL about how Marriage and Parental Responsibility were related:

      ‘The duty of parents to provide for the maintenance of their children is a principle of natural law’, he wrote, ‘an obligation …laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own appropriate act, in bringing them into the world’.

      Blackstone went on further to explain how the State attaches parental rights to those who are presumed by marriage to be responsible for the child’s conception:
      ‘The main goal and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong.’

      ‘This goal is undoubtedly better accomplished by legally recognising all offspring born *after* marriage, than by legally recognising all offspring of the same individuals, even those born before marriage (so that marriage takes place afterwards)

      1. Because of the very great uncertainty there will generally be, in the proof that the offspring were actually conceived through the same man; whereas, by confining the proof to the birth, and not to the conception, our law has made it completely certain, which child is legally recognised, and who is to take care of the child.’

      So, marriage provides certainty of parental recognition. Barring clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, if a child is born to a married woman, her husband gains automatic legal recognition as the second parent, without any intrusion upon their family privacy.

      Marriage facilitates this by presuming spouses to be co-parents of any child born into the marriage. This is marital presumption of legitimacy.

      In the US, Netherlands, Canada and part of Australia, this has been reframed as the marital presumption of parenthood: a right of marriage, which is being blindly demanded by same-sex couples to the detriment of natural fathers.

      Case law examples include:
      In re: M.C.: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/09/6197/
      Q.M. v B.C. http://law.justia.com/…/2014/2014-ny-slip-op-24345.html

      In the latter case, the couple intended via marriage law to disestablish the father’s parental right in favour of the mother’s former lesbian spouse.

      This demonstrates the ultimate goal of influential proponents of same-sex marriage: for the law to automate co-parenthood on same-sex couples through marriage and at the expense of the child’s other natural parent. It’s called intentional parenthood.

      The International Lesbian and Gay Association proposed as an amendment to Article 12 of the European Convention on Family Status : ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.

      This debunks the myth that marriage is really just about ‘two people who love each other’ and that the Church should affirm fully such marriage ‘rights’ for same-sex couples. God forbid!

  9. Peter Kay March 20, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    Thank you, Ian.

    Regarding the church’s ‘immorality’, one example comes from Japan. Christians there are considered to be ‘anti family’ since they don’t worship their ancestors.

    • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 1:48 am #

      Yes, that was one of the (many) cultures I had in mind. I think in such contexts this is seen both as morally problematic and culturally offensive.

  10. David Shepherd March 20, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

    From his address, it’s clear that the bishop is promoting virtue ethics, whether unwittingly or not. This is not surprising, given that even before his inauguration as Archbishop, Justin Welby has encouraged the current penchant for mutual flourishing, which derives from the eudaimonia of Greek virtue ethics.

    In particular, we notice the bishop’s repeated reference to the moral dimension of sexual relationships as an intangible quality divorced from the morality of specific actions. This approach typifies virtue ethics, which is anti-incarnational by asserting that morality is not reflected by the actions (or consequences thereof) of the individual, but stems from whatever actualizes a particular individual’s identity.

    So, Cottrell vaunts virtue ethics when he identifies:
    1. The missiological damage (treated as vice, especially in relation to children and young people) is caused by the Church’s position on same-sex marriage when at variance ‘with much of society and what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country’
    2. The prohibition (treated as vice) by the Church of LGBT persons in the committed faithful expression of their love for another (treated as virtue)
    3. The ambivalence and opposition (treated as vice) towards faithful and permanent same sex relationships (treated as virtue) is legitimizing homophobia in others (treated as vice)
    4. The recognition that what we know now about human development and human sexuality (virtue) requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.

    Perhaps, most telling is how Cottrell echoes the revisionist argument advanced by David Runcorn in Pilling, when, in welcoming LGBTI+ people, he says: ‘we want to listen to them and work with them so as to find appropriate ways of expressing their love – for it is not good for human beings to be alone – in permanent, faithful, stable relationships.

    I have challenged Runcorn’s theological arguments in support of SSM in a previous comment thread: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/how-do-we-journey-in-grace-and-truth/#comment-340213. I’d be happy for anyone to debate this with anyone who agrees with his position..

    In fact, the tenor of Cottrell’s address promotes antinomianism. That is, virtue ethics, being impossible to evaluate against universal norms of scripturally acceptable conduct, can only be in terms of mutuality mantras such as ‘permanent, faithful and stable’.

    The effect is to undermine scripture as the chief source of apostolic authority on the basis that ‘what we now know was not known then’.

    Finally, while it may be generous to declare that: whether you believe there should be same sex marriage or the blessing of same sex unions or whether you do not, you are still a faithful Anglican, recent debacle surrounding Philip North’s diocesan appointment shows what will happen again and again, once virtue ethics achieves ascendancy.

    • Will Jones March 21, 2017 at 10:14 am #

      I can’t believe a bishop is still touting the mission argument for the affirming position. Someone really needs to let him know it’s a totally baseless claim. There is not a shred of evidence from anywhere that changing teaching on this brings any overall growth to a church. In fact if anything the opposite appears to be the case: conservative churches are thriving, while international experience shows no turnaround in the fortunes of denominations which change teaching, and indeed accelerated decline as conservatives leave. People, and especially bishops, really need to stop repeating this demonstrable myth.

  11. Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 4:48 am #

    Ian, I think that the reason the line is taken that ‘in the area of sexuality alone’ do we need to set aside scripture’ (and people would also cite slavery here, I’m sure) is that this is the area where people would most *wish* it to be set aside, for obvious reasons. Pure ideology.

  12. Tim Fox March 21, 2017 at 1:05 pm #

    Ian many thanks for this thoughtful piece. One thing which has occurred to me recently is that whilst Jesus does not say anything about homosexuality he does speak out strongly against divorce. However, the church now accepts remarriage and the ordination of divorcees.
    Whilst this does not change the Christian concept that marriage is between a man and a woman and that the only right context for sex is within marriage, it does make me wonder how the church’s stance on homosexuality will change over the next decade.

    • Ian Paul March 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

      Tim, The C of E also still believes that marriage is a life-long commitment; remarriage after divorce is accepted (reluctantly?) as a way to repair that which has broken.

    • Christopher Shell March 21, 2017 at 4:11 pm #

      I think the capitulation on divorce was disastrous and set a fatal precedent. Its coinciding with social change was no accident. The social change was agreed to be astonishingly bad for family stability. So the denomination followed in the direction that was bad for family stability.

      ???

      Thers is no saying or stance of Jesus better attested than the one on divorce in Mark.

      DIvorce is a more serious matter than homosexuality.

  13. Clive March 21, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    Dear Tim,

    Jesus DOES speak about divorce in the NT gospels and about remarriage. Starting with the first gospel in our Bibles, try Matthew chapter 19 for divorce and progress through the gospels from there.

  14. Clive March 21, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    Sorry Tim, I misread your statement – My mistake

  15. Stephen Griffiths March 21, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

    The bishop advocates following the wise counsel of Gamaliel.
    I assume that means that we would look for signs that changes in teaching and pastoral practise regarding marriage are approved by God. How would the Church of England evaluate that process?
    If the unity of the Anglican Communion (and TEC in particular) is anything to go by, the Gamaliel principle shows us that changes in teaching and pastoral practise regarding marriage are not approved by God. Or perhaps there are other success criteria.

  16. Mrs S Wilson March 21, 2017 at 5:59 pm #

    Thank you for another good, clear article. Looking at the mess our society is in at present, I am amazed that there are those who think we have progressed from previous generations. What gives us the right to think that, when we look around?

  17. Phil Taylor March 22, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    I will preface my comments by saying 2 things. The first is that I do not say them lightly. As a church youth worker in Chelmsford diocese I could possibly get I trouble for saying this, but I feel it needs to be said. The second is that it comes from observation of things he has said, including directly to a question I posed to him.

    I believe Bishop Stephen has an inconsistent theology. He comes from a more Anglo-catholic background and he has a great love for it, but he is also of a mind, as commented on in this blog, that modernity should update our thinking. The problem is that he is not consistent in how he applies it.
    As a personal example, I was at a youth workers gathering where Bushop Stephen was meeting and sharing with us and we were given a chance to ask him questions. I asked him about the idea of youth workers doing a communion in a youth church setting, in effect a question about lay presidency. He was very clear in his response, communion should only ever be presided over by an ordained priest. His reasoning was that this was the practice of the Church going back through the centuries and we should stick with the tradition of the Church over the modern innovation of lay presidency.
    This leaning to tradition very much comes from his anglo-catholic background, something he has shared with us earlier and alluded to when he answered my question. However in the areas of women priests and bishops and human sexuality he seems to forget any such leaning and instead turns to the modernity argument, which is where I see his inconsistency. His personal leanings seem to be inclined to ignore Scripture and tradition in favour of what he would deem to be reason, thus ignoring 2 of the CofE’s 3 key approaches to theology in favour of 1, and the one that I would deem to be the weakest since I would say it should only be applied in light that of the other 2.

    It does give me cause for concern, both for my own diocese and for how things will progress in the human sexuality debates, now that statements like this are coming out. Not least because it was the clergy that broke the intent of synod in the vote (it was they that had people standing to force the vote by houses) and with the murmurings of bishops potentially causing the House of Bishops to split, or even change how it would vote in future, it could be that we are left to looking to the laity to hold fast to what is good and true.

    • David Runcorn March 22, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      Phil I think you are misunderstanding how +S understands tradition. Evangelicals also appeal to tradition when we say, for example, ‘this is how the church has always taught and understood scripture on this issue’. When he says he believes in the continued tradition of priestly presiding at the eucharist it is not a wooden ‘we have always done it that way’. That is not what tradition means. That is traditionalism. As Richard Chartres puts it – ‘Traditionalism is the obstinate adherence to the mores of the day before yesterday – the dead faith of living people. Tradition is the spirit-filled continuity of the Church’s life, through which the truth is communicated from generation to generation in fresh ways in order to stay the same.’
      So I see no inconsistency in his continued holding to a tradition of, say, church practice in worship in one context but urging the need for a fresh and developing understanding in another. Of course each requires a fresh reading reflecting on scripture. We may disagreement with him in the process. But that is the debate the church has to have in every age – and it is what we are doing today.

      • David Shepherd March 22, 2017 at 9:01 pm #

        So, I guess it comes down to whether your fresh and developing understanding can persuade a majority at GS to honour eucharistic tradition as Spirit-filled continuity, while condemning as ‘wooden ‘we have always done it this way’ any attempt to sustain Anglican marriage tradition.

        It all comes down to what is perceived as a legitimate development.

        In fact, the Rochester report (Women in the episcopacy – GS 1557) explores the notion of legitimate development and what constitutes reception in great detail.

        Critically, I would refer you to section 3.6.18ff that reviews Peter Toon’s leaflet, Reforming Forwards? – The Doctrine of Reception and the Consecration of Women as Bishops :
        ‘However, says Toon, the current Anglican concept of reception is based not on an appeal to sureties of the past, but on an appeal to what might be in the future:

        ‘In its present form, Anglican ‘reception’ is not an appeal to the sureties of the past, or even to what has been. Instead, it is an appeal to what might be someday, with the associated permission to test or experiment with the proposed possibilities of the future. This kind of ‘reception’ is, thus, a novelty in itself. It is no longer a ‘reformation’ (an effort to achieve the original, pristine form). Rather it is a ‘reformation forward,’ so that the true form of the Church may not have been seen or achieved yet.

        That is not, however, an eschatological consideration, according to which we are not completely sure of what Christ will make of us. Rather, it is an inversion, an experiment to determine what we will discover of Christ and his Body, the Church.

        In the end, one is faced with this question: Is there justification provided in the Scriptures for a principle of experimentation?

        No previous effort at reformation or renewal has looked to the future, rather than to the settled past. It may even be said that the reformation forward is contrary to every basic principle of church polity. For the experiment to proceed, it must be permitted by human authority. But until the experiment succeeds, it cannot be known if the human authorities granting permission have the divinely given authority to allow the experiment.’

        • David Runcorn March 22, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

          David Is this his argument against women bishops then? It has never happened before? And what about Jesus suggesting the test of fruit? That involves trusting something that must wait for the future? When we pray ‘your kingdom come’ are we not asking to be led into a future do not yet see?

          • David Shepherd March 23, 2017 at 4:22 am #

            David,

            While it’s no secret that Toon was a traditionalist theologian, his position on Anglican reception cannot be (and, for the Working Party, was not) be swept under the carpet because of it.

            Particularly, the Rochester Report observed:

            3.6.19 Toon is right to claim that in Christian theology appeal has traditionally been made to the authority of antiquity. In what we have said about Scripture and tradition we have affirmed the importance of this appeal to the past.

            However, it is not clear that Toon is right to claim that the modern Anglican concept of reception involves an appeal to the future rather than to the past.

            3.6.20 Those in the Church of England who have supported the ordination of women have generally argued that their ordination is consistent with the witness of Scripture and tradition.

            In contrast, it is a significant departure from the Anglican concept of reception and legitimate development when we see a significant contingent of those favouring Church affirmation of PSF same-sex relationships not only abandoning any appeal to the past (by comparison with supporters of women bishops), but also arguing on a basis which dismisses the validity of the witness of scripture and tradition against same-sex sexual acts as primitive and inapplicable.

            Also, regarding your question about fruit, please clarify the point which you’re trying to make. For instance, I would not assume, despite the biblical pronouncements against same-sex sexual activity, that the mutual devotion and churchmanship of a PSF same-sex couple are unmistakeable products of authentic Christian spirituality.

            The fruit which is in full view is the corruptive reliance upon anti-incarnational virtue ethics which declares that morality is not reflected by the actions (or consequences thereof) of the individual, but stems from whatever actualizes a particular individual’s identity.

  18. Blair March 22, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Ian,

    please bear with the pedant in me but I think there’s a typo here…?

    “It seems strange to me that any bishop should feel so relaxed about contradicting the current position of the House of Bishops, without offering any account of this—and why he does notice that it is, in fact, contradictory.”
    ….you mean, “and why he does *not* notice that it is, in fact, contradictory”….?

    in friendship, Blair

  19. David Runcorn March 23, 2017 at 7:40 am #

    David Thanks. I agree with the response of the Rochester report to Peter Toon. But I do not accept the way you then develop your argument regarding same sex relationships and scripture. I know you have read at least some of what I have written on this. You will therefore know that I claim to base my understanding on scripture – not a by-passing of it – so I am disappointed by your argument here. It is a distortion.
    I emphatically do not argue ‘on a basis which dismisses the validity of the witness of scripture and tradition against same-sex sexual acts as primitive and inapplicable’. We just disagree on how we interpret what we read there. Incidentally ‘primitive’ and ‘inapplicable’ are strange words to use in this context. And in referring to ‘sexual acts’ you are presumably not referring to committed, faithful relating.

    As to fruit – well when Jesus says you will know something by its fruit he is plainly teaching that some things need time to reveal themselves. What else can it mean? How are we to live with that? (how does Peter Toon biblically justify ever planting anything new in his garden?). I can only say that among my Christian friends who happen to be gay I am consistently challenged in my discipleship by the quality of faith and the fruit of their ministry. But what is it doing there at all if, as you claim, the fruit on display there is actually an expression of a ‘corruptive reliance upon anti-incarnational virtue ethics’.

    • David Shepherd March 23, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

      David,

      Thanks for your reply. You appear to have missed the fact that I qualified my remarks about those favouring Church affirmation of PSF same-sex relationships by referring to a significant contingent.

      Therefore, your inference was mistaken that I was specifically referring to you.

      I was not referring to same-sex sexual acts as primitive and inapplicable, but, instead, I was describing how the witness of scripture and tradition is dismissed by a significant contingent of revisionists.

      A simple rearrangement of the words will clarify: but also arguing on a basis which dismisses as primitive and inapplicable the validity of the witness of scripture and tradition against same-sex sexual acts

      And we do hear revisionist arguments that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships. It is also insisted that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified and rendered archaic by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.

      Hopefully that clarifies that I was neither engaging in calumny, nor thinly veiled homophobia.

      Christ’s reference to fruit was preceded by His warning about false prophets being ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. Elsewhere, Jesus told a parable about wheat and tares which cannot distinguished easily until they mature.

      In the latter parable, the field in which both are permitted to grow is not the Church, but the world.

      The Rich Young Ruler appeared exemplary until Jesus probed his darling sin of worldly greed. Even before conversion, Saul of Tarsus was considered blameless concerning the righteousness which is in the law until confronted with the righteousness of Christ.

      The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they gave nothing, nor that they gave little, but that they tried to maintain the admirable appearance of sacrificing all, while withholding what they considered too precious to part with.

      This self-same ethos is at work in churches today.

      • David Runcorn March 23, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

        David I am sorry for where I misread you. But nor did I anyway accuse you of ‘calumny, nor thinly veiled homophobia’.

        As to your paragraph – “And we do hear revisionist arguments that the scriptural prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex sexual relationships. It is also insisted that NT condemnation of same-sex sexual acts is nullified and rendered archaic by ‘what we now know’ about sexual orientation.”
        (In passing – I have given up complaining at the use of the label ‘revisionist’ by those defending the ‘traditional’ teaching to describe those they disagree with. It is a courtesy to call other groups of people by the names they recognise and accept for themselves. ‘Revisionist’ is a label in this debate. And I did not call traditional teaching on this subject ‘wooden’ either – I used the word to describe what Richard Chartres defined as ‘traditionalism’).

        Back to that paragraph – that is broadly my position David. I am fine with the broad thrust of it (though the word ‘archaic’ is unhelpfully provocative to describe the teachings of scripture). And yes we do know things they did not then. So I agree with the ABC when he calls for an understanding of sexuality that is twenty-first century as well as biblical.

        • Christopher Shell March 23, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

          Of course we know new things, but ‘orientation’ (not being a new idea) is not one of them, so which are the relevant new things that we know, that actually make a difference?

        • David Shepherd March 23, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

          David,

          I’ve never set great store what you call these ‘labels’. It’s a short-hand for those who support a revision to the Church’s position on same-sex sexual relationships.

          You assert that: ‘It is a courtesy to call other groups of people by the names they recognise and accept for themselves.

          The issue here is that it often by such names that groups of people euphemisms of their beliefs. And ‘affirming’ is just one of many prefixes preferred by (inserting long-hand version here) those who are arguing for the Church to affirm permanent, faithful and stable same-sex sexual relationships.

          Such groups are by no means homogenous. For whereas some argue for a change to the canon law of marriage (same-sex marriage advocates?); others are calling upon the Church to accommodate same-sex civil married couples pastorally, while distiguishing this institution from holy matrimony, which, they say, as a rite of Christian tradition should remain unchanged.

          We also know how self-labelling can be turned into blatant propaganda. Suppose a group is campaigning for a change in Government policy in order to confer all immigrants, after three years living in the U.K. with British Citizenship. They might do a bit more than just recognise and accept themselves as advocates of ‘equal citizenship’.

          In fact, they’d probably have conjured up the title for themselves during a PR brainstorming session.

          I’m sure that there’s also a perfectly innocuous synonym for ‘archaic’, but it escapes me for now.

          From what you’ve written here, I very much doubt that you’d describe thoughtful opposition to your stance on same-sex sexual relationships as part of an argument for Spirit-filled continuity.

          And for you to describe opposing views as ‘outmoded’ or ‘passé’ could probably be construed as equally provocative. Yet, surely we can ‘speak the truth in love’ without having to dance around potential oversensitivity aroused by any and every unintended negative connotation.

          You may well agree with the ABC’s call for an understanding of sexuality which is 21st century. Yet, I see little of this 21st century understanding among ‘affirming’ Anglicans in these comment threads when Peter Ould and others here are constantly having to correct their misquotes and distortions of 21st century research into human sexuality.

          • David Runcorn March 23, 2017 at 10:00 pm #

            David

            ‘From what you’ve written here, I very much doubt that you’d describe thoughtful opposition to your stance on same-sex sexual relationships as part of an argument for Spirit-filled continuity.’
            I have no difficulty recognised spirit-filled living in those who deeply disagree with me on this subject. If I have understood you here I am genuinely puzzled you can read otherwise into my words.

            ‘And for you to describe opposing views as ‘outmoded’ or ‘passé’ could probably be construed as equally provocative.’ Baffled by this comment too. I have used neither word anywhere. Nor would I. I can’t even spell the second one with the right accent.

            How hard it is to have this debate without each reading into the words of others things not written or intended. I speak for myself too.

          • David Shepherd March 24, 2017 at 1:39 am #

            David,

            If you read carefully, I didn’t read that anything into your words.

            I prefaced my reference to these alternatives by writing: ‘I’m sure that there’s an innocuous synonym for ‘archaic’, but it escapes me for now.

            So, for avoidance of offence, I will use the indefinite pronoun, one:
            ‘‘And for one to describe opposing views as ‘outmoded’ or ‘passé’ could probably be construed as equally provocative.’

            It was a reflection on the pejorative connotations of these words and not an accusation.

            I agree with your final sentiment wholeheartedly. It’s too easy to be misconstrued through a single word!

          • David Shepherd March 24, 2017 at 3:08 am #

            David,

            As a final comment, I’m sure that you have no difficulty in recognising spirit-filled living In those who disagree deeply with you on this subject.

            I contrast, my doubt was that you would view the opposing stance on same-sex sexual relationships as part of an argument for Spirit-filled continuity: the phrase by which you distinguished tradition from traditionalism.

  20. David Runcorn March 24, 2017 at 9:35 am #

    David My final comments
    – Re your last para. I obviously do not think that opposing ss relationships ensures ‘Spirit-filled continuity’ if that means receiving God’s particularly approval. But I do not mean by that that conservative churches are not filled with the Spirit. They are. Rather I believe there is a call to Kingdom community and life in the Spirit they do not experience because they do not believe it to be right or possible. The phrase was not mine by the way.

    My thanks for this exchange and I acknowledge your care to trying to hear through my clumsy words to what I was trying to saying. Not easy … I hope you have heard the same from me.

  21. Blair March 28, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    An article I wish I’d remembered to link to in the conversation I had with Christopher Shell, above…

    In friendship, Blair

    http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000,002.htm

    • Christopher Shell March 28, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

      An extremely useful review-article. I referred to Jenny’s research above. The article makes the fundamental mistake of seeing ‘paedophile’ as an orientation. It would be an orientation if paedophiles were all gender-blind, but only a minority of them are, and even among them there may be preferences, variations in opportunity etc..

      Given that it will therefore be agreed not to be an orientation tout simple, we are back to needing to use terms like ‘homosexual paedophile’ and ‘heterosexual paedophile’, which puts the ball back in the other court, all the more so when it comes to ephebophilia whose difference from adult-adult behaviour is blurred.

      • Blair March 28, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

        Thanks for looking at it, Christopher. I think we might still be disagreeing about use of terms, but… 😉

        in friendship, Blair

  22. Christopher Shell March 28, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

    Blair, the use of terms is absolutely critical. Over a number of years I have seen people trying to get away with the entirely spurious and perfectly circular argument ‘homosexuals whose preferred partner-age is adult do not abuse children’. That is true by definition (as Bart Simpson might say: ‘Well -duh!’), and therefore obviously neither proves anything nor addresses the question.

    Conclusion: people should not get away with that ‘argument’.

    In addition, it does not address the second question of why such a disproportionate amount of paedophilia is same-gender, given that sexual activity is for over 90% of people an other-gender thing.

    best

    Chris.

    • Blair March 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

      Hi Christopher,

      ok – perhaps my remark above needs modifying to note that we agree that use of terms is important. A great author once wrote that “…no English word has clean edges” and that’s no less true here. I previously gave some reasons for thinking that ‘homosexual paedophile’ or ‘heterosexual paedophile’ aren’t the most useful and that both ambiguity and potentially repeating an old smear against a minority group could be avoided by using other phrases (‘same-/other-sex abuse’, etc). I’m not trying to make a circular argument, but to be clear.

      Moreover, Jim Burroway’s article, to which I linked above, points to 3 studies giving evidence that gay men are not more likely to abuse than other men, which gives some grounds for reply to the ‘statistical disproportion’ argument that you and Julia Gasper advance.

      in friendship, Blair

      • Christopher Shell March 30, 2017 at 6:29 am #

        Blair, that obviously begs the question. It all depends how you define what a ‘gay man’ is. ‘Gay’ suggests that someone is that way, in essence, innately. Many reject the word ‘gay’, pointing out that people’s behaviour (let alone their **nature**) is not that way, it just becomes that way, and even then there is a lot of fluidity involved.

        If you take the maximally advantageous path of defining a ‘gay man’ as someone who is attracted to male **adults**, then your (or Jim Burroway’s) argument is circular and therefore invalid. This point has been repeatedly made – we need to take it on board and move on in the light of it.

        There is no way that people can get away with defining all attraction to youth in terms of **age** and all attraction to greater maturity in terms of **gender**. Talk about selective! (It reminds me of those who call abortion a ‘legal medical procedure’ – it is all about the vast majority of the iceberg which they try to avoid mentioning.) And why are people selective unless they have something to hide? Greater clarity comes from always mentioning both age and gender, and I suggest we all do that, since it would be a backward step to go from greater clarity towards less clarity.

        It is arbitrary to use the word ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ for one particular agegroup only. Answer what is the difference from using it for younger only and not older. That is just as illogical as using it for older only and not younger.

        • Blair March 30, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

          Hello Christopher,

          I fear this exchange may show little other than my folly in rekindling this (by linking to Jim Burroway’s piece), having said above about leaving it…

          …just an aside about ‘gay’ to begin though: I’m well aware some reject that word but there are some, from a conservative perspective, who use it while being clear they don’t accept/claim that they (or anyone) are born gay. Wesley Hill would be a good example. (I think I agree with him on this, while disagreeing with him on same-sex sex, but he does come across as someone of notable integrity).

          But to the point: if the argument was that ‘gay men area attracted to adult men and therefore don’t abuse children’, you’d have a point – it would be circular, question-begging. But I don’t think that’s what I’m saying (or what Jim Burroway’s article says). His article is not making an argument based on definition, and nor is it saying that gay men don’t abuse children – but that there is evidence that gay men *are not disproportionately likely* to abuse (the studies I referred to above).

          You go on to say that “There is no way that people can get away with defining all attraction to youth in terms of **age** and all attraction to greater maturity in terms of **gender**” – but I have already suggested (several times) terms which would meet this criterion but without ambiguity, like ‘same-sex child abuse’. (At this point i’m wondering if you’re engaging with me, or whether there’s something of a straw man creeping in.) I think it’s also notable that in previous comments you’ve referred to the work of Kurt Freund, and that Jim Burroway notes that in some studies he uses terms like ‘androphile’ and ‘gynephile’ to make careful distinctions about orientation without the ambiguity of ‘homosexual’.

          You’re insisting, it seems to me, on a strict if rather reductionist logic about using ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’ but I’m suggesting that, given their connotations, the way these words are likely to be heard and interpreted is highly likely to mislead – in particular, to have the effect of repeating the old slander that ‘homosexuals’ are more likely to abuse, whereas there is evidence that that is not the case. “Greater clarity comes from always mentioning both age and gender” – yes, but this can be done without using potentially misleading terms.

          in friendship, Blair

          • Christopher Shell March 30, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

            OK, I think that in practice people very rarely obey the requirement of mentioning both age and gender – this is not something to brush aside lightly. It is a standard that we ought not to be content not to meet, in the interests of accuracy.

            Jim Burroway, as I understand it, is still speaking about a group of people who are normally attracted to adults, so it does seem to me circular to then ‘discover’ that these people are not responsible (disproportionately or otherwise) for child abuse. Quite obviously, child abuse will generally be perpetrated not by that group, but rather by those who are attracted to children. There is not significance, therefore, in his finding.

            The way words are heard is vital, yes. We have however to combine this with the way in which the language can be manipulated to achieve the desired outcome. The words being heard this way may be in part the result of such prior manipulation.

            Sam-sex child abuse, as you put it, is certainly very disproportionate indeed given the biological design of all mammals and the basics of reproduction.

  23. Christopher Shell March 28, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    Also, the article you linked to called the use of ‘homosexual’ for boy-man ‘literal’. A high proportion of the things people say and write are literal, so that cannot be a drawback.

  24. Christopher Shell March 29, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    (final word)
    To speak (as is actually customary) **only** in terms of a gender-neutral ‘orientation’ re attraction to younger people and **only** gender-oriented ‘orientations’ re attraction to older people is pure sleight of hand.

    Does anyone disagree, or fail to see this unwarranted almost-180-degree difference? With presuppositions like that, people could get away with murder.

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