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Synod’s debate on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)

Glynn Harrison and Andrew Goddard offer some reflections on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) in the light of the forthcoming Synod debate and a recent paper by Michael King and Robert Song.

1. We are grateful to our colleagues and friends Michael King and Robert Song for their observations on the effectiveness and potential harm of ‘conversion therapy’, or sexual orientation change methods (SOCE), in a document recently circulated to members of General Synod and published online. We have greatly benefited from our mutual discussions on these issues in the past and look forward to continuing our conversation in the future. We share their desire to see any potential for harm minimised and feel we should sketch out some of our points of agreement, but also disagreement, in the light of their brief paper.

2. We appreciate the acknowledgment of the significant limitation in what may be counted as ‘scientific evidence’ in these contentious and highly complex debates. We also welcome the statement that deciding whether a ban on SOCE is justified “requires the exercise of wider moral and prudential judgement, and is not strictly a matter of scientific evidence”.

3. We are particularly heartened by their recognition (as we have pointed out previously) that the evidence is limited by the total absence of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in this area. As our colleagues explain, the RCT is the ‘gold standard’ method for drawing conclusions about causation, whether we are considering benefits or harm. Even where RCT’s have been carried out there are further complex methodological considerations to bear in mind before making bold and sweeping assertions or moving to ban particular forms of intervention.

4. The fact of this complexity should perhaps cause Synod to reflect on whether as a body it is equipped to make broad declarations about the effectiveness, or potential for harm, of SOCE. This is particularly the case given the vast array of different counselling and pastoral approaches included under this general label.

5. Having acknowledged the lack of RCT’s, our colleagues cite other sources of evidence regarding both the effectiveness and the harms – two distinct but often conflated outcomes – associated with SOCE. These take the form of various surveys that have been carried out among people who report having been involved in some sort of SOCE. However, recent difficulties experienced by political opinion pollsters should alert us to the hazards of making bold generalisations on the basis of selected samples.

6. One study (Dehlin et al, 2014) is mentioned because of its larger sample size, but larger numbers do not necessarily eliminate certain forms of bias. Further, Dehlin et al. recognise the problems with trying to generalise from their convenience sample of people connected with the Mormon Church. The weaknesses which Michael King and Robert Song report as leading Spitzer to retract his paper on sexual orientation change – “biased recruitment of participants who could not be regarded as representative of people receiving such therapy”, “the validity of self-report”, “the lack of any control sample”, “the vagaries of memory” and “the tendency of people consciously or unconsciously to rewrite their past” – are also present in Dehlin et al’s study of harm. This raises the question of how we ensure methodological criticisms are applied fairly and consistently across studies.

7. However, despite these and other differences between us, including important differences regarding the roles of biological and social factors in the patterning of human sexual interests, we agree with our colleagues’ general conclusion

while the strongest form of scientific evidence about the effectiveness and/or harmfulness of conversion therapies is not available, there is still good reason to think that conversion therapies are often ineffective and have the potential to be harmful.

This statement is non-contentious and, indeed, applies to many other forms of counseling, forms of pastoral support, or more formally ‘therapeutic’ interventions, that have not been subject to the kind of outright proscriptions proposed in the motion before Synod.

8. Given this important agreement, a key question is “what constitutes a reasonable response in these circumstances?” For those Christian believers who experience a sense of conflict between their sexual interests and their Christian identity, and who seek counseling or pastoral support, we believe that, in common with other counseling approaches, it is necessary to explain the lack of high quality evidence for the prospect of radical change (e.g. the absence of reliable RCT’s) and the potential for harm that could result, especially from unrealistic expectations and promises of benefit from any particular counseling support. Indeed, we note that influential support groups for Christians who experience same-sex attraction such as ‘Living Out’ and ‘True Freedom Trust’ focus on the need for acceptance and formation in Christian discipleship rather than offering bold claims of sudden shifts in the patterning of sexual interests and attraction.

9. However, we believe that in making further judgments about a reasonable response, two other factors need to be considered. First, we are disappointed at the minimization of the reality and extent of sexual fluidity. Although it is acknowledged that “sexual fluidity does occur” it is also asserted that “it is deeply misleading to state that…sexual desires can change”. Further, there is no comment at all about the issue of bisexuality – among adults who identify as LGB, bisexuals have been reported as comprising a majority among women and the proportion now appears to be rising markedly among younger people. Figures may vary, but we consider this to be a serious omission.

10. Bisexuality poses a major pastoral challenge to the Church at this point in the unfolding of the sexual revolution. For example, what are the implications of the motion before Synod for the pastoral and counseling support of a bisexual married person with children who wishes to hold to their marriage vows by ordering their sexual interests in line with their religious convictions and identity? There are many faithful Christians who wish to interpret and respond to their sexual interests in line with their identity in Christ, and the teaching of Scripture and the church, rather than re-define their identity on the basis of their sexual interests. The motion risks closing down conversation about the pastoral and counseling challenges of bisexuality at precisely the point in secular discourse when people are beginning to move beyond the old binary of ‘gay’ versus ‘straight’. Synod thereby risks buying into yesterday’s ‘science’.

11. Second, we recognize that Synod may be impressed by, and somewhat in awe of, the professional bodies that have signed up to statements such as that which it is being asked to endorse in the motion. We should bear in mind however that, notwithstanding their well-intentioned nature, these general declarations are not formulated within a Christian worldview of what it means to flourish as creatures made in the image of God, called into a self-sacrificial life of holiness within God’s work of redemption.

12. Within a purely secular framework people may be offered ‘gay affirmative’ counseling that seeks a full integration of same-sex, or bisexual, sexual interests into their sense of identity and affirms and supports them in their sexual relationships. Some Christians may also choose this course of action. Other Christians however will choose to embrace the biblical worldview as the integrative framework of their identity, and seek counseling or pastoral support that is correspondingly modeled on its teachings. They also have a right to do so, subject to the safeguards we have outlined above (paragraph 8).  This approach (recognized by the American Psychological Association in their Report of the Task Force on Appropriate Responses to Sexual Orientation (2009)), has been called the pursuit of ‘telic’ congruence. We believe this to be a more thoughtful and appropriate response to these complex questions and commend it to our friends and colleagues on General Synod.

Glynn Harrison, formerly Professor of Psychiatry, University of Bristol

Andrew Goddard, Senior Research Fellow, Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics.


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106 Responses to Synod’s debate on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE)

  1. Gill Kimber July 6, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    ‘They have the right to do so.’ Frequently forgotten in the oft-polarising arguments on this vexed (and tedious) subject.

    • Clive July 7, 2017 at 6:40 am #

      Yes the subject can rightly be described as “tedious” but we are right now facing the absolute destruction of the CofE over this subject. It is very clear that far too many people are neither willing to discuss the actual science nor even the theology but much prefer the human fashions based upon emotion.

      Any group that ceases to believe fully in either the Lord Jesus Christ or the Bible as Jesus did, ceases to be a Church at all and then merely hangs on to a name devoid of any meaning.

  2. Graham Ball July 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

    Could you please explain a little more? Are you challenging this as a dogmatic debate ending assertion? Or do rights trump everything?

  3. Will Jones July 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    Great response. I hope General Synod are listening.

  4. Ray Skinner July 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    Before the February Synod, I emailed or wrote to each of those in the House of Bishops,asking: “…as the new Teaching Document is prepared, and ‘guidance for clergy and questions to ordinands and clergy’, I plead with you, do not ignore the confusion children and young people are left with in the current climate, with their emerging sexuality…” Where O where is any cognisance given, to what is commonly understood still in most cultures, that teenage sexuality can often be ambivalent, needing time and space to settle?

  5. James Byron July 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    This hinges on what, exactly, is meant by therapy.

    If it’s a kind of prayer-based meditation, making no pretense at clinical effectiveness, nor offering any promise that sexual orientation will change, it’s outside the remit of regulators (and given that a group of friends could do it, any “ban” would be hopelessly ineffective).

    If it’s making unjustified claims without evidence, and presents itself as a clinical process, then it should either cease, or make its true nature clear.

    So which is it?

    • David Shepherd July 6, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

      It’s worth noting that Jayne Ozanne’s definition of conversion therapy, includes prayer: ‘The term covers a wide array of approaches designed to change a person’s sexual behaviour or gender identity. These can include talking therapies, prayer, deliverance ministry, hypnosis, aversion therapy – such as electronic shock treatment.

      What will be condemned by the motion is the aims of these approaches, rather than their claims.

      So, even without claims of clinical effectiveness, the ultimate result of the GS2070A motion will be ‘open season’ on organisations, like Core Issues Trust, and any clergy who even remotely associated with them.

      My prediction is that ‘conversion therapy’ will replace the outmoded ‘fundamentalism’ pejorative as the newest slur of choice against conservative evangelicals.

      • James Byron July 6, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

        Ms. Ozanne’s of course welcome to take a moral stand on this, one I’d agree with.

        We disagree, I believe, over method. Since I suspect that I’m a lot more libertarian than her, I wouldn’t attempt to legislate morality. If a group wants to offer this kinda ministry, then as strongly as I disagree with their aims, so long as they’re making no false promises of effectiveness, they should be free to do so.

        • David Shepherd July 7, 2017 at 12:09 am #

          Hi James,

          The legal paper Expressive Ends: Understanding Conversion Therapy Bans (Marie-Amélie George) pretty much sums up the tried-and-tested purpose behind Ms. Ozanne’s method:

          ‘Since the religious dimension of conversion therapy is far removed from the medical practice that the laws address, why have LGBT rights groups made the bans such a central part of their legislative agenda and why have commentators ignored the religious aspect of conversion therapy? It is true that the laws are prospectively useful, in that they likely have some effect in curtailing the behavior of the remaining dissenters and also create a barrier to regression. However, this answer seems insufficient and unsatisfying, given the extent and expense of the campaign. The better explanation is the laws’ substantial expressive power, which serve two extremely valuable purposes for the LGBT movement.

          First, the bans identify conversion therapy writ large as ineffective and potentially harmful, a characterization that LGBT rights groups hope will create a broad social norm against conversion therapy. This furthers their desire to eliminate all forms of conversion therapy, no matter the practitioner. The bans’ criticisms of conversion therapy apply to all practitioners, not just licensed mental health professionals, and thus help serve as an oblique assault on all forms of conversion therapy.

          Second, and as importantly, the bans undermine two interrelated arguments that religious conservatives have used to oppose gay rights claims. The laws help ratify the idea that sexual orientation is either a characteristic that no one should be forced to change, or is immutable and thus cannot be altered. LGBT rights groups have seized on the latter in their discussions of the laws, as pressing forward a claim about sexual orientation’s immutability has been central to both establishing gay rights and refuting opposition arguments.

          Additionally, the laws indicate that the state needs to take an active role in protecting LGBT youth, a radical reformulation of typical child protection arguments, which have focused on defending minors from the dangers of LGBT adults. The normative shifts that the laws introduce are extremely consequential for contemporary LGBT rights battles, with implications for debates over antidiscrimination laws, protections for sexual minority youth, and LGBT adoption and foster care rights.

          Of course, Jayne Ozanne knows that General Synod will not exercise the depth of legislative scrutiny which caused Parliament to stop short of declaring an outright ban on conversion therapy. So, GS2070A/B constitute a stalking horse to ascertain support for consequent, farther-reaching declarations that sexual orientation identity and gender identity are as immutable as, well, the ‘law of the Medes and the Persians’.

          ‘The law of the Medes and the Persians’…Strange how, without warning, a comparable biblical episode of enforced religious intolerance can pop into your head, eh? But, brushing aside accusations of a persecution complex, the prospect of CofE Con Evos being figuratively ‘thrown to the lions’ now really isn’t so far-fetched.

        • Origen Adam July 21, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

          In some countries people use bleaching products on their skin as they want to be white. Would the libertarian in you permit that too?

  6. Chris Wooldridge July 6, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    I love how, on the main page of this blog, the preview to this post accidentally links to Song of Solomon chapter 1.

  7. David Shepherd July 7, 2017 at 8:41 am #

    In the appendix to the BRGS Report, we read:
    ‘Leave Canon B 30 as it is but issue a teaching document which explains that [civil marriage is no longer the same institution as holy matrimony] [civil marriage with a person of the same sex is a different institution from holy matrimony] and that a person who enters into such a civil marriage should not, merely by doing so, be considered as acting in a way contrary to the doctrine set out in Canon B 30.

    If there was any doubt of this being the preferred option, then look at the House of Bishops’ Juky Synod response to Mrs Andrea Minichiello Williams (Chichester):

    Q18 Can the Chair of the House of Bishops confirm that the Church continues to believe, in accordance with the teaching of the Bible (Genesis 1.27) and Canon B 30, that God created us male and female in his image and that this distinction of gender is part of divine revelation?

    The Bishop of Willesden to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:
    A According to Genesis 1, all human beings are made in the image of
    God. It would be wrong to think of one group of human beings only – e.g. only men, or only women – as reflecting the divine image. This is the teaching of the Bible and continues to be the belief of the Church of England. Canon B30, read in conjunction with the Book of Common Prayer, expresses the teaching of the Church of England on Holy Matrimony.

    Not marriage, then, but Holy Matrimony!

  8. Don Benson July 7, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

    Regarding the real intention of Jayne Ozanne’s motion to proscribe ‘conversion therapy’, there is a pretty obvious strategy. It’s not just one small step for mistreated LGBT people in a church which continues to treat them shamefully. It is a subtle way of dealing a killer blow (if the motion is passed) to those who oppose the Archbishop of Canterbury’s “…proper 21st century understanding of being human and of being sexual.” There are 3 stages to it.

    If accepted , General Synod (and therefore the Church of England as a body) de facto accepts the notion of sole genetic determination for same sex attraction. This notion is fundamental to the gay rights agenda because it allows campaigners to use equality and justice for an opressed minority as a way of making a compelling emotional case for their particular interests – so compelling that it already overides the interests of a far greater majority in a number of basic life choice areas. But unless there is 100% certainty that same sex attraction is determined 100% by genetic inheritance it would be outrageous to deny help for release from it (or how to live with it according to Biblical standards) to those who freely wished to choose that help for themselves – even if there were some possibility that it could be harmful (there’s little in life that carry’s no risk of harm, not least mainstream medical treatment). But we know that the scientific evidence here is far from conclusive and that the interaction between genetics and environment is infinitely complex and variable. In any case there’s no way of measuring the power and possible fluidity of sexual attraction; there’s only subjective reporting of what we feel at a particular moment in time. And then there’s the power of the will – we know that can be incredibly strong when we choose to employ it, some people will and others won’t wish to ask for support in their situation. Jayne’s motion simply reinforces the myth of sole genetic determination: that’s propaganda.

    But the way that the myth is enforced is by taking away choice – proscription is used as a method of coercion. You’re not only invited to accept Jayne’s unproven 100% genetic supposition, you’re then asked to enforce it by withdrawing the option for same sex attracted Christians to seek help. This is tyrrany, and I venture to suggest it is wicked. Jayne’s motion, if passed, would place every Christian who got involved with pastoral care of gay or lesbian people in the dock: anyone whose action might in any way be construed as suggesting the possibility of release or reduction of their homosexual desires would be open to the charge of abuse. Far better to give up and not take the risk.

    But what if the motion is passed? Well the third stage is the killer blow. The church’s doctrine of ‘one man one woman within marriage’ will be at odds with the motion proscribing conversion therapy. And guess which will take precedence? Anyone who now argues for the orthodox position on sexuality is at odds with the will of General Synod; that means the ship has sailed on the issue, Synod’s taken a view, and you’ve been left behind – gay “marriage” is only a matter of time. In effect, to vote for the motion is to vote for closure on the whole sexuality debate (such as it has ever been); a line has been drawn and there’s no conceivable way back. So there it is: Propaganda (tick) Proscription (tick)Closure (tick). Job done.

    • David Shepherd July 7, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

      Hi Don,

      In most respects, I agree with your analysis of this situation. However, (and with all due respect) that Synod ‘de facto accepts the notion of genetic determination for same-sex attraction’ is not how Ozanne’s strategy works.

      Again, I quote from Marie-Amélie George’ Expressive Ends: Understanding Conversion Therapy Bans:

      http://www.law.ua.edu/lawreview/files/2011/07/Expressive-Ends-Understanding-Conversion-Therapy-Bans.pdf

      Conversion therapy bans promote a specific vision of sexual identity, one in which sexual orientation is immutable, stable, and embodied through sexual behavior.

      This tripartite identity paradigm is one that has become prevalent in LGBT rights litigation, in which “individuals who engage in same-sex sexual conduct can be legally classified by a fixed and clearly demarcable gay, lesbian, or bisexual sexual identity.” This is true even though sexual identity can be and often is fluid for individuals, and sexual conduct is not necessarily central to everyone’s identity formation. The model does not necessarily claim that homosexuality is ingrained at birth, but rather that sexual orientation is deeply rooted and that it forms a constitutive part of gay and lesbian identity.

      Sexual orientation is immutable not because of its cause, but because it is both extremely difficult to alter and so central to a person’s identity that no one should be sexual orientation is in fact immutable, many individuals experience it as such and it forms a constitutive part of their identity. Gays and lesbians consequently form a “quasi-ethnicity” based on a shared “fixed, natural essence, a self with same-sex desires,” which provides the basis for claims of status-based discrimination.This model highlights parallels between race-, sex-, and sexual orientation-based discrimination, emphasizing how all are based on irrational prejudices, unfounded stereotypes, and unjust assumptions. The claim as to immutability tends to obfuscate the two other parts of the identity paradigm, that sexual orientation is fixed and asked to change that part of themselves and expressed through conduct.

      In one fell swoop, the immutable identity paradigm can undermine every scientific and theological declaration to the contrary. The arguments of this post can be routinely dismissed and Peter Ould’s erudite analysis set at nought.

      Nevertheless, even shrewder is how this paradigm will be cast in the mould of a safeguarding issue (which is the other key topic for July Synod debates).

      As M-A. George also writes:

      ‘Perhaps as importantly, the laws identify LGBT youth as a population the state needs to protect and one that is vulnerable to harm. The extent to which the state should protect this group, and from whom they need to be defended, is a matter that is deeply debated. The question is whether LGBT rights groups can extend the state’s normative commitment to a marginalized population, so as to reshape how communities approach sexually non-conforming youth. The bans on conversion therapy signal that the state has a duty to the bullied students, which could influence governmental and social responses. These laws demonstrate an emerging legal response to LGBT youth welfare claims, which may yet translate into a corresponding social norm. At the same time, LGBT rights groups are identifying themselves as the protectors of youth, rather than religious conservatives.

      This new rhetoric is designed to reverse the previous (and discredited) conservative narrative in which child protection was framed as a basis for opposing the participation of LGBT people in mainstream society.

      So, it should be no surprise that this reversal is echoed in Pete Broadbent’s prepared reply (on behalf of the Chair of the HoB) to July Synod’s question 16:

      ‘As GS 2070B, from the Secretary General relating to Jayne Ozanne’s Private Member’s Motion on the subject, suggests, really robust evidence concerning therapies or practices of this kind is elusive and what there is, is often ambiguous. The question itself, rather narrowly, speaks only of “unwanted sexual activity” – not unwanted sexual attraction or feelings – and so the range of reliable evidence is likely to be minimal.

      ‘The key point is that when people are vulnerable they must be safeguarded from manipulation or exploitation by anyone with an agenda of their own. People may well seek counselling on the sexual areas of their lives and, as their vulnerability may not be immediately apparent, any counsel they are offered must be in the context of accountability, proper professional standards and best safeguarding practice.’

      Alea iacta est. The fastest way to create a fresh, new tone across the Church is to rally everyone in efforts to safeguard against July Synod’s newly-defined common enemy: the conservative spiritual abuse of latently vulnerable LGBT youth.

      The likes of Core Issue Trust will be thrown to the wolves!

      • Don Benson July 7, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

        David, I’m really grateful for your intervention here. But it’s no pleasure to find out that things are even more insidious and dangerous than I would have dared to suggest. There is a truly evil reversal of truth here which now has such a grip on people’s minds that everything and everyone can and will be sacrificed to a new devilish tyranny. Of course the fruits of it, not least in our own Church of England, have become ever more obvious to those with eyes to see and time to read what is going on, but the most disheartening thing is this vast silence from all but a very few Christians who will not bow the knee.

        Of course from the true Christian’s perspective, releasing people from an imprisonment of mind (of whatever cause) is a wonderful benefit of accepting Jesus Christ as your saviour, even though the battles still rage until we no longer draw breath. But for any self professed Christian to ally his or her self with the forces that turn truth on its head and work only to strengthen those prison bars for other people (especially the young) is a denial of the Saviour which must carry eternal consequences.

        In one sense whether Synod ‘de facto accepts the notion of genetic determination for same-sex attraction’, as I stated, or whether it connives with a vision of sexual identity which doesn’t depend on genetics but is equally immutable makes little difference to the result of a Synod approval. But, as you say, it leaves orthodox Christians with such a task in unravelling the deceit that they will lose the attention of the undecided and receive the opprobrium of the revisionists.

        If anyone with a vote on Synod who is undecided happens to read this I would urge a most serious consideration of the implications of what they might be about to do.

  9. Jeremy Pemberton July 8, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

    What a fantastic result in Synod. Such very substantial majorities in all houses. It will interesting to see which parliamentarians pick up and revisit the idea of a formal ban on SOCE/”conversion therapies”. But if is now entirely clear that the Church of England has officially aligned itself with the RCGP and others in declaring these activities wrong, harmful and ineffective..

    • Ian Paul July 17, 2017 at 9:58 am #

      Jeremy, the C of E hasn’t ‘official aligned itself’ because Synod is simply not competent to judge. Or if it has aligned itself, it has done so only by the incompetence of Synod. There is no change in Church teaching on the basis of this.

  10. David Shepherd July 8, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

    Hi Ian,

    Simon Butler declared:I feel terrified of going to an EGGS (Evangelical Group at General Synod) meeting because of what I’m likely to face.

    It is as foretold (maybe even prophetic): In one fell swoop, the immutable identity paradigm can undermine every scientific and theological declaration to the contrary. The arguments of this post can be routinely dismissed and Peter Ould’s erudite analysis set at nought.

    Also, ‘The fastest way to create a fresh, new tone across the Church is to rally everyone in efforts to safeguard against July Synod’s newly-defined common enemy: the conservative spiritual abuse of latently vulnerable LGBT youth.

    ‘For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household’ (1 Pet. 4:17).

    This demonisation of conservative evangelicals and the ensuing witch-hunt will distinguish those who have an abiding faith in the entirety of scripture’s prophetic revelation to mankind (and by which Daniel defied the ‘law of the Medes and the Persians) from those who will capitulate because they are just paying lip service to faith in Christ.

    Let the second Great Ejection begin!

  11. Simon July 8, 2017 at 10:07 pm #

    1Cor6v9-11 – esp v11 “such WERE some of you” – I wonder what Paul did to help bring about a change from what was an ‘are’ to a ‘were’ and whether Synod would regard Paul’s method as abuse?

    • Christopher Shell July 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

      Can people please answer this point: Paul got good results in terms of significant lifestyle-change from root up (though problems remained) – would you have taken him for counselling and re-education? I bet this is one of those questions that is going to be ignored?!

  12. David Shepherd July 9, 2017 at 9:56 am #

    I correctly ‘called’ the strategy by which the GS2070A motion would be carried. But let’s be clear about the scope of the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Conversion Therapy in the UK, which Synod has endorsed.

    The MoU describes conversion therapy as: ‘the umbrella term for a type of talking therapy or activity which attempts to change sexual orientation or reduce attraction to others of the same sex. It is also sometimes called ‘reparative’ or ‘gay cure’ therapy.

    In comparison, GS2070A broadens this scope to: ‘a wide array of approaches designed to change a person’s sexual behaviour or gender identity. These can include talking therapies, prayer, deliverance ministry, hypnosis, aversion therapy – such as electronic shock treatment. In some cultures in the UK many young LGBT adults are threatened with “corrective rape” therapy.

    The danger here is in 1) the conflation of orientation with one’s sense of identity and behaviour and 2) the conflation of spiritual ministry with psychotherapy.

    The Government’s response to calls for an outright ban on CT explains why the significance of this motion to the Church is only symbolic and not regulatory:

    ‘The Government have already said that there are no plans at this stage to introduce statutory regulation of psychotherapists. We do not believe that regulation would necessarily prevent this type of counselling in any case, as it would not depend on the type of therapy offered.’

    ‘The Professional Standards Authority oversees the work of the health care profession regulators, including the Health and Care Professions Council. Those powers facilitated the establishment of voluntary registers for unregulated health care professionals and health care workers in the UK, social care workers in England and certain students…

    ‘The accredited voluntary registration scheme to which I am referring is not a form of regulation, nor is the PSA a regulator. To be accredited, organisations must provide evidence to the PSA that they are well run and they require registrants to meet high standards of personal behaviour, technical competence and, where relevant, business practice, but the scheme does not endorse any particular therapy as effective and it makes it clear that accreditation does not imply that it has done so. However, organisations seeking to be accredited can set their own rules about what therapies their members can or cannot offer.’

    ‘As accredited voluntary registration appears to be gaining momentum and is proportionate to the risk, we believe that statutory regulation would not be appropriate and the costs to registrants or the taxpayer could not be justified. This is not to say that we are ruling out statutory regulation for this group for ever. We will continue to assess the need for it. I give an absolute assurance about that.’

    This is not to say that lesbians, gay men and bisexual people cannot seek counselling or therapy because they are distressed about a particular aspect of their sexuality—that is very important—or that a therapist should not try to help their patient with whatever is causing them distress, which may involve helping them to come to terms with their sexuality, family arguments over their sexuality, or hostility from other people. Supporting people through aspects of their lives that are difficult or challenging is a large part of what therapists do.

    For the Church, going beyond the Government’s reasoned rejection of statutory regulation introduces serious questions.

    For example, how exactly do you regulate spiritual ministry related to sexual behaviour? Do you make it an offence for clergy to pray with anyone for God’s grace to impart behavioural change related to sexual identity? Do you make a safeguarding issue out of any preaching, prayer or recitation related to scripture on sexually sinful behaviour, given that latently vulnerable LGBTI people might eventually consider that to be an assault on their sexual orientation or gender identity?

    So, for the Church, the entire consequent regulatory enterprise will be completely unworkable.

    Beyond this, GS2070A/B may appeal to secular reasoning (albeit selectively deploying the declarations of professional psychotherapy bodies), but it lacks any basis in a theologically reasoned statement, which coheres with scripture and tradition. Jayne Ozanne’s passing reference to Ps.139.14 was a paltry and unsuccessful attempt at this.

    Promoting the orientation=identity=behaviour paradigm as a ‘quasi-ethnicity’ works in the legislative arena, because it is part of the State’s remit to create such statutorily protected identities.

    The real challenge is for revisionists to further demonstrate (presumably in the Teaching Document) that the ‘orientation=identity=behaviour’ paradigm can also be theologically reasoned in a manner which is compatible with Christian scripture and tradition.

    So, it’s one thing to persuade Synod to endorse a ban on conversion therapy (in the sense defined by the MoU), but it’s quite another to persuade Synod to endorse as Christian teaching the notion that same-sex sexual acts should be affirmed as arising from an inalienable and immutable God-given sexual identity, especially when there’s theological tradition, and a scriptural basis for declaring the exact opposite.

    In fact, it will be very difficult (and revisionists know that dislocating theological contortions will be needed) for the sexual orientation=identity=behaviour paradigm to overturn the HoB teaching declaration that: ”Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively,’ (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999)

    • Don Benson July 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

      David,

      Taking a broad view, if, as Justin Welby said yesterday, the teaching report is unlikely to be produced before early 2020 there is a huge amount of time for a great deal of ‘creative’ wording to be spun into a teaching document of mind-blowing obfuscation. Remember this is going to be ‘new’ and ‘radical’! You will certainly be able to pick it apart and destroy it, David, but by then no one will be listening – psychologically they will already be living in the new sunlit sexual uplands. Remember the small number of us who are to a greater or lesser extent engaging with all this from a true evangelical / orthodox point of view are mostly talking to ourselves (so far as I can tell).

      My guess is that some kind of parallel way of thinking will be evolved which holds the Synod’s new acceptance of homosexual desire as not disordered (because it doesn’t require therapy to sort it out) in a kind of balance with orthodox biblical understanding. Perhaps there will be a new reading of 1 Corinthians 6; biblical teaching will be viewed through the lens of our new 21st century understanding – use enough words and anything can be achieved to convince most people’s minds (people like to say ‘yes’). Also 30 months will see off some of the more awkward ‘conservatives’, and there will have been a whole bunch more of de facto disciplinary relaxations spearheaded by bishops all around the country. Think how far we’ve come in the last 30 months up to and including yesterday’s quantum leap. Gay marriage will be the last hurdle but, after yesterday’s leap, we’re surely half way there now. Perhaps the teaching document will end up by explaining a broadly accepted agreement towards gay marriage (much opposition having gone by then).

      I really think that, after yesterday, it’s pretty much an easy downhill all the way for the revisionists. Whether Synod realised it or not (I think a lot probably didn’t) they’ve crossed a major red line now. One day there’ll be a book about what really happened, who did what and how it was done. And there’s a dispiriting lesson here: honest academic documents don’t win hearts and minds; people don’t read the small print. If we have any aim of changing minds now or in the future we have to do a lot more than just talk amongst ourselves, we need leaders, and we have to be focussed on good, easily available, clear, concise, written or spoken communication. And of course we need to manipulate, cheat, distort and dissemble too (joking)!

      But our amazing God is sovereign, we are just his servants and, like plastic ducks in the bath tub, we bob back up no matter how many times we are pushed under. Our job is to be faithful and allow his Spirit to work, and seeing that happen is worth all the put-downs which come our way.

      • Will Jones July 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

        Are you sure Synod has actually endorsed the view that SSA is not disordered? Does the MoU actually state that homosexual orientation (or some equivalent) is not an illness (or equivalent)?

        I agree that if Synod has endorsed such a view it is difficult to maintain opposition to same-sex marriage. For if SSA is not disordered how could anyone have an objection to its expression in some context? If same-sex activity is sinful then the desire for it must be disordered.

        Of course the problem here is that the WHO ceased to regard it as an illness in 1992, so the Church is up against it trying to maintain that view against the opinion of experts and authorities.

        • David Shepherd July 9, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

          Hi Will,

          Have a read of the MoU here: https://www.psychotherapy.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Memorandum-of-understanding-on-conversion-therapy.pdf

          The background (point 6) explains that: ‘There has been a long history of medical and psychological professions seeing homosexuality as a form of arrested sexual development. Up until 1974 the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1992 the World Health Organisation declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder.

          This statement appears to form part of the basis for point 2 that: ‘The MoU is informed by a position that efforts to try to change or alter sexual orientation through psychological therapies are unethical and potentially harmful.

          • Will Jones July 10, 2017 at 11:04 am #

            Thanks, David. I’m still pretty shocked that in passing this motion Synod failed to provide any reassurance at all for its own members engaged in pastoral ministry with others of its members who are only seeking better to live in accordance with its own teaching on these matters. And that was despite those people directly asking them to. It suggests a refusal to recognise any alternative viewpoint on these matters, even when the people who hold those views and who they directly affect are standing there explaining them to them in careful, rational terms. I’m most disappointed with the bishops, who really should know better.

            I am also yet to get a clear answer to the question of why I am supposed to believe that gender conversion therapy is effective and beneficial, but sexuality conversion therapy is ineffective and harmful. On the face of it, that claim is absurd.

          • Will Jones July 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm #

            (I meant members of the Church of England in my above comment rather than Synod itself.)

          • Simon July 10, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

            Absurd indeed – the governing body of the Church makes decisions of serious theological and pastoral significance without any engagement with Scripture, nor Church Tradition, nor Reason –
            we are led, as Luther put it, by ‘Blind Moles’.

        • Clive July 9, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

          Dear Will,

          We either follow our Lord Jesus Christ or we don’t.
          We either believe in the Bible as Jesus does (which is holistic and complex) or we don’t

          That’s what being a Church means. The real trouble is that a) the question you asks avoids either belief in Jesus Christ or the Bible and b) The CHURCH of England is in very serious danger now of ceasing to be a Church just like the Scottish Episcopal Congregation has ceased to be a Church.

      • David Shepherd July 9, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

        Hi Don,

        Most revisionist commentary sees the Teaching Document’s 2020 deadline as kicking the whole issue into the long grass. They’d much prefer for the HoB to quickly authorise liturgy for LGBT couples and to devolve decisions on its use to parish, or diocesan level.

        What conservatives need to realise is that these GS2070A/B and GS constitute a stalking horse which allows the HoB to assess the potential negative impact of even farther-reaching revisionist motions. They’re trying to work out what the moderate majority will tolerate without provoking a major backlash.

        My challenge to Jayne Ozanne is to go further to draft motions that demand disciplinary consequences for any church minister who contravene her broadened definition of conversion therapy.

        Make disciplinary martyrs of respected charismatics and evangelical leaders, whose prayers and Spirit-filled ministries she collectively demonises as ‘spiritual abuse’ and let’s see what happens.

        And to Jayne Ozanne,

        I’m aware that this may provoke a stock victimisation response, but I still challenge you to go beyond the toothless tokenism of Synod endorsements to a workable motion by which the HoB would declare disciplinary action against any clergy engaging in any kind of preaching, prayer or deliverance ministry that you would care to describe as ‘spiritually abusive’.

        That’s if you or anyone else can even craft a legally enforceable definition of the latter.

      • Christopher Shell July 9, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

        Well – if no-one is engaging with us, that tends to show that they can’t: accordingly, they lose the debate by failure to answer counter-arguments, and, further, lose it doubly or resoundingly by failure even to address counter-arguments.

        • Origen Adam July 21, 2017 at 7:46 pm #

          I can also mean that Prof. Paul has banned us from commenting!

  13. Will Jones July 9, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

    So can someone explain the vote: has the CofE condemned the ministries of Living Out, True Freedom Trust etc? Has it banned ministers and others wanting to help people with unwanted SSA? Or is it less drastic than that? Can we still offer to help people live as faithful Christians as long as we don’t claim to affect ‘orientation’? Will there be some explanatory guidance?

    I still don’t really understand why we are supposed to support people who want to convert from male to female but not from gay to straight. Surely the latter is at least as likely to be possible and beneficial? Certainly gender transition therapy carries great risk of harm.

    • Christopher Shell July 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      Will, I second that. I often notice that the most searching questions are met with silence. Perhaps people hope we won’t notice. I do notice. Answers, please: do you actually think it is ok to go male to female (or vice-versa) but not ‘gay’ to ‘straight’? If your answer is no, then say so, If your answer is yes, also say so – and provide (a )reason(s).

      • David Shepherd July 9, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

        Christopher,

        This silence is fairly typical of these largely symbolic political victories. The proponents rally everyone behind the common cause, e.g. LGBT ‘equality’, or conversion therapy, or transgender bathroom rights.

        Almost magically and out of thin air, specious arguments are deployed which cast the campaigner as the brave, self-effacing hero (hurray!), while caricaturing any opposition as pantomime villains (hiss, boo!) and victims (ahh!)

        However, you just have to read John Haskey’s study, Civil partnerships and same-sex marriages in England and Wales: a
        social and demographic perspective’ to see how such political triumphs only serve to legitimise the cause through legal authority influencing public opinion.

        Since 2014, the actual take-up of same-sex marriage has been abysmal.

        • James Byron July 9, 2017 at 11:50 pm #

          Not everyone who supports gay rights takes this line, David, as I hope I’ve shown above. Personally, I’ve no interest in trying to impose my views on everyone else, and plenty of a libertarian persuasion join me in that.

          • David Shepherd July 10, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

            James,

            It’s heartening to know that liberalism doesn’t always msnifest itself as an illiberal power grab.

            As much as you’ve said this, I’d also have preferred to avoid this kind of messy break-up in which your side on this issue have ‘lawyered up’ with their high-powered Synod advocate: someone for whom Synod’s permission for the false and wholesale denigration of conservative evangelical theology and practice in relation to sexuality as LGBT spiritual abuse is just a tactic aimed at negotiating the most generous divorce settlement on behalf of liberals.

  14. Christopher Shell July 9, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    I do agree. This is the worst of law. Once something is legal it gets the air of authority in the public mind. Just as in the 1960s-70s the BBC’s celebration of sexual anarchy gave a perceived (though actually, of course, spurious) authority and normality to sexual anarchy. Who, after all, would wish to be abnormal? The consequences were played out in people’s lives, sufferings, court cases, prison sentences, psychiatrists’ couches, coffins.

    I do hope people will soon see the ’emperor’s new clothes’ situation vis-a-vis what law really is. It is non-experts who have votes to gain and to lose performing the incredible feat of walking into a lobby. Rather than (wait for it) another lobby.

    I forgot to say that that is only part of the truth. Sometimes law involves people performing the even more strenuous task of pressing a button instead.

  15. James Edmonds July 11, 2017 at 2:05 pm #

    The reason gender transition therapy is different to gay conversion therapy is is this: Gender transition therapy is a process of helping people to better come to terms with and live with who they really are- it is a matter of changing the superficial (appearance, self-image, learned behaviour) to match the deep. Gay conversion therapy attempts to destroy and change the deep. This cannot be done and so it’s abusive.

    • Christopher Shell July 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

      James, how do you decide ‘who people really are’? That sounds like genetic determinism. You know as well as anyone else that the phrase ‘who they really are’ is not a straightforward one.

      People ‘are’ quite different at different parts of their life.

      They ‘are’ quite different depending on whom they meet…

      ..and what formative experiences thet happen to have, that sometimes reshape their brain…

      as do the habits they happen to adopt.

      The large majority of the evidence is against you.

      There are no gay babies.
      There is no sexual desire at all before age 7, by which time much circumstances-water is under the bridge.
      ‘Gay’ identity is very unstable in earlier years – before things settle down in 20s (and – yes, by the 20s a colossal amount of circumstance-water is under the bridge, making ‘who they really are’ an even more meaningless concept by that stage). However, if people have been told ‘you are gay’ before that, then their later lives will be much different from what they would have been in times when such things were seen (more accurately, in most cases) as just a phase, part of growing up.
      Those brought up by lesbians are 400% (at least) more likely to identify as lesbians (Stacey and Biblarz, American Sociological Review 2001).
      Cultural norms and expectations affect people’s self-identification massively. Thus in the last 20 years (UK Social Attitudes Survey) the number of women in sexual involvement with other women has quadrupled. How can you not see that as socially-relative, culturally-relative?
      Laumann 1994 shows that urban men and college women are massively more likely to self-identify as gay. His and other studies show a basically unvarying picture: that those men who now identify as gay are (on average) some 500% more likely to have been molested than the average.
      Identical twins studies, of which there were many convergent ones around 2000, show that identical twins, normally so prone to copy one another, resist doing so 89% of the time (men) or 85% (women) where it comes to copying the gay ‘orientation’ of their twin. What does that say about genetics or about things being determined from the womb?

      Do address these points. There are several of them, which suggests that evidence from many angles points away from your paradigm – many thanks.

    • Will Jones July 11, 2017 at 4:08 pm #

      James – it’s difficult to see how a person with male genetics and anatomy can really be described as female ‘deep down in who they really are’. There’s nothing superficial about genetics and biology. Isn’t it more accurate to say they have an unfortunate mental disorder? See http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/04/19080/.

      The question really though is why we think we can and should help people with an unwanted sex but not with an unwanted sexuality.

    • David Shepherd July 11, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

      James,

      So to summarise, you appear to believe that:
      1. Our physical sexual characteristics are in-born, but, for those with gender identity disorder, natural sexual characteristics are superficial (as you say, appearance, self-image, learned behaviour)

      Ergo, for those with gender identity disorder, you believe that their physical sexual characteristics should be transitioned to fit in with gender norms.

      2. In contrast, sexual identity/behaviour is not in-born. Sexual identity/behaviour is partly learned, but not superficial like physical sexual characteristics.

      Ergo, you believe that an LGBT person’s sexual behaviour should not be transitioned to fit in with gender norms.

      Clear…as mud!

      • Philip Almond July 11, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

        I am told that at the July 2017 General Synod the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a presentation on the proposals for the Pastoral Advisory Group on Human Sexuality and the Development of the Episcopal Teaching Document. Does anyone know, please, where that presentation can be found on the internet? Many thanks.

        Phil Almond

  16. James Edmonds July 12, 2017 at 11:24 am #

    What I am interested in is the stuff inside a person’s mind and heart that can’t be changed. Whatever that might be, it’s of paramount importance- more important, I think, than biology. I’d accept biology is not ‘superficial’, but it is much, much, much less important that psychological reality. The reasons I think ‘disorder’ is the wrong word to use are a) that a trans person’s psychological make up can’t be changed (that’s what I think) and b) that it is not harmful or problematic EXCEPT in as much as it is in conflict with their biology. Aside from that, living in alignment with that interiority is a source of joy and wholeness. It seems wrong in these circumstances to say they have a mental disorder- rather they have a physical problem- which is that they’ve got the wrong body. The psychological them is the ‘real’ them- and it’s only by being that person that they can be fully incorporated into the community and the body of Christ.

    • Mat Sheffield July 12, 2017 at 11:40 am #

      I can’t decide if you’re trolling us….

      Are you genuinely saying that an inward, “psychological reality”, is immutable, whereas an outward, “physical reality” is not only mutable, but desirably so in that it should be conformed to the pattern of the mind?

      If so, I am not convinced there is any hope for this debate to continue, as you place yourself in opposition to not only Science and History (though neither of these is binding), but to basic Pauline and New testament reasoning and therefore fundamental christian doctrine, wherein the “renewal of the mind” is of paramount importance. The lesson of scripture is surely that the body may be important, but the inward is what needs to fundamentally change. The “person” is not a separate division of abstract attributes, but the whole.

    • Will Jones July 12, 2017 at 11:49 am #

      But psychology is well-known to change, and this change is well-documented. Did you get round to reading this? http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2017/04/19080/. It’s by a person who transitioned there and back again and now tries to help others avoid a similar fate. You’re presumably aware that those who transition continue to suffer with very high rates of mental illness, depression and suicide?

      This is surely the nub of the issue though: should we seek to conform our psychology to our bodily reality, because our body is a key part of our nature (and healthy psychology is defined by alignment with our bodily nature), or our body (and behaviour) to our psychology, because our psychology is fixed and ‘who we really are’ while our body is a mere tool?

      I think the evidence and scripture point clearly to the former. But the latter is the currently fashionable view and those who hold it regard the alternative as offensive, discriminatory and morally unacceptable. This is likely to get very nasty.

      • Christopher Shell July 12, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

        Fashion is worth zero when it comes to accuracy or academic debate.

        It comes down to preference. People are saying that their own preference and the preference of their peer group is worth more than that of any other group. That is elitism and oligarchy.

        They are also saying that they are too important or grand to submit to the normal debate process of argument and counter-argument. That is inaccurate and arrogant.

        If they don’t debate they do worse than someone who debates and loses. They don’t even enter the arena.

    • Christopher Shell July 12, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

      James,

      1. you didn’t address the fact that:
      -people are to a great extent made the way that they are *now* by their circumstances, whereas you are treating this as something innate.

      I can buy that the way someone is at age 1 or 2 is their essence. No way will anyone buy that the way they are at 21 or 22 is their essence.

      2. As said above, the way people ‘are’ is something that *changes* through the years. You’d need to address that point.

    • Christopher Shell July 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm #

      On what grounds is biology less important than psychology? You asserted this and gave no arguments or evidence. So why would anyone accept your assertion?

      Biology is more testable and definable; biological findings are clearer and normally more rigorous too. Biology is a harder science. It is practised by better trained and better qualified people on average. Not anyone can set up as a biologist.

      So there are several reasons for seeing biology as more important than psychology. But what are the reasons for seeing them as equally important. (Let alone psychology as the more important of the two!) I can see exactly why people would *want* psychology to be the more important, because that would mean they could have what they psychologically wanted without truth/evidence/research and inconvenient things like that getting in the way.

      • Mat Sheffield July 12, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

        “On what grounds is biology less important than psychology? You asserted this and gave no arguments or evidence. So why would anyone accept your assertion?”

        Whatever the weakness of his assertions immediately after (and I don’t agree with him either), James was not, I think, talking about the relative merits/importance of Biology and Psychology as academic fields/disciplines with their respective influence in this debate, and passing judgements thereon, but as determining factors influencing a person’s identity (whatever that actually is)?

        For James, “…..biology is not ‘superficial’, but it is much, much, much less important that psychological reality..”…..simply when it comes to how he defines and expresses himself. I think this is true for most people and not a wholly objectionable concept. It only becomes so when there is conflict between the two, and usually there isn’t.

        • Will Jones July 12, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

          I think that’s right. As rational, self-aware beings we are strongly accustomed to subduing physical nature and making it serve us whenever we can, and we are not used to being expected to submit ourselves to its forms out of principle (rather than necessity or for our own well-being). It can seem almost superstitious to do so. It isn’t though of course: it’s recognising that we really are physical as well as spiritual beings, biological as well as psychological, in our essence.

          Our addiction to abortion I think comes from a similar source. We refuse to accept that a psychological pleasure (sex) can have a physical consequence that places moral demands upon us. So we rationalise that the foetus isn’t really a ‘person’ so can be destroyed without moral qualms. But in reality of course it is an unmistakable human individual, no less than a newborn baby.

      • Mat Sheffield July 12, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

        To clarify, I agree with you Christopher Shell, but I think the two questions raised by James’s comment; the first on identity and self-definition, and the second on weather or not that is ‘ordered’ or ‘disordered’, are distinct, and need to be dealt with as such.

    • Simon July 12, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

      “the psychological them is the real them”…. mmmmmm – I have met two people whose “psychological them” claimed and genuinely believed themselves to be Jesus Christ. But they weren’t the eternal logos revealed as Jesus of Nazareth who saved me through his death at Calvary 2 millennia ago. Reality is not subjective.

  17. James Edmonds July 12, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Mat I think you’re misusing the New Testament idea of the ‘renewal of the mind’. This is clearly not, it seems to me, some kind of biblical answer to the scientific/philosophical question of whether or not some aspects of our psychological identities are fixed. Will in my opinion correctly identifies the issue- but I disagree with his conclusion on it. I would add that it seems to my philosophically out of keeping with Christian tradition to grant the body some kind of ontologically superior status over the mind or ‘soul’. Rather, the great majority of Christian philosophers have viewed ultimate reality as mental rather than physical. Clearly God is not physical. Against this background it doesn’t seem to me so unreasonable to suggest that the body might sometimes have to be conformed to the mind. Of course the body has to be treated with care- but we know things can go hugely wrong with bodies- why should the sexual aspects of the body be given elevated status- why are they always created ‘correctly’, when arms, legs and brains can go wrong? The raises questions about creation of course. The *posibility* of genuine disunity between physical gender and physchological gender (if that’s a thing) is the real question here.

    Simon, we can have delusions, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some non-delusional aspects of our physcology that are fixed.

    • Mat Sheffield July 12, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

      To clarify my use of Scripture, I was not trying to “proof text” you out of the debate, but to make ostensibly the same point Will did, that given the question:….

      “should we seek to conform our psychology to our bodily reality, because our body is a key part of our nature (and healthy psychology is defined by alignment with our bodily nature), or our body (and behaviour) to our psychology, because our psychology is fixed and ‘who we really are’ while our body is a mere tool?”

      ….I would be inclined to the former.

      I would not, as you suggest I might, say the body is ontologically superior. But I do think that most christian understandings of the soul are ‘bodied’, and that this ‘bodiedness’ is fundamental to, and not at odds with, our created purpose as image bearers. The philosophical idea that the body is simply a tool/vessel of the mind is a platonic, not a Christian one.

    • Will Jones July 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

      ‘I would add that it seems to me philosophically out of keeping with Christian tradition to grant the body some kind of ontologically superior status over the mind or ‘soul’.’
      Yes that would be out of keeping. In Christian theology the body is not superior to the spirit (soul, mind) but an equally integral part of the constitution of material beings. This means that sometimes the needs of the body are to be subordinated to the life of the mind, and sometimes the body is to show the mind the form of life it should adopt. The mind is also given form in part by the physical brain, of course.

      ‘Rather, the great majority of Christian philosophers have viewed ultimate reality as mental rather than physical.’
      Not sure what you mean by ultimate reality. Human beings are irreducibly material as well as spiritual in Christian theology, and we will always, for eternity, have a body.

      ‘Clearly God is not physical.’
      Except the Son became incarnate in flesh and will remain so for eternity. So God has united his own being with physical matter.

      ‘Against this background it doesn’t seem to me so unreasonable to suggest that the body might sometimes have to be conformed to the mind.’
      Yes, in a sense. The body does serve the mind, our psychological and spiritual needs. But it doesn’t merely serve the mind. It does make claims of its own over our being, since we are irreducibly physical, and the physical is not simply subordinated to the spiritual. We need to discern where physical nature (or more accurately the form of physical nature) makes claims upon us.

      ‘Of course the body has to be treated with care- but we know things can go hugely wrong with bodies- why should the sexual aspects of the body be given elevated status- why are they always created ‘correctly’, when arms, legs and brains can go wrong?’
      You are right of course. So it is a question of discerning when it is the brain/mind which has gone wrong and when the body has gone wrong. I’d say that in the case of a person with male genetics and anatomy, it is surely the brain/mind which has suffered a disorder. And indeed, it is regarded as a psychiatric disorder

      ‘This raises questions about creation of course. The *possibility* of genuine disunity between physical gender and psychological gender (if that’s a thing) is the real question here.’
      I don’t think it’s so much about the possibility of disunity, as whether the explanation lies in a problem in the mind or in the body, and how it should be addressed.

    • Christopher Shell July 12, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

      James – the renewal of the mind means nothing like what you are currently advocating. Not even close.

      Also, it is the people who have good minds who can be critical of modern transient fashions and obsessions.

      You could equally well say that God does not change (in his essence) and so is more similar to the physical body than to the mind which can ‘change’ any number of times.

      There is no word ‘physcology’: it’s ‘psychology’ (related to the concept of ‘psyche’).

      Things can go wrong with our bodies: everyone agrees, since no-one wants to abolish hospitals. But it is our minds not our bodies which are more in danger of being affected by the particular culture we are born into.

      Possibility of disjunction between ‘physical’ gender and ‘felt’ gender? Of course – but Christians have always been well aware that people (any of us) can, *over time*, get messed up or mixed up. In some cases, because the greater the disjunction the greater the thrill or buzz of rebellion, high-seekers or the immature or just anyone who likes excitement will have the option of going for the greatest disjunction possible in order to get the thrill (temporary but still sought-after) that transgression provides.

      The idea is that physical and felt genders will often be poles apart: one very much male and one very much female. If there is real disjunction, one would expect rather that the cases would fall somewhere in the middle rather than there being a total disjunction. It is counter-intuitive for a male body to produce or house a female psyche or vice-versa.

      How would a male know that they felt like a female, since they would not know what females feel like? Likewise how would a female know that they felt like a male, not having first-hand experience of being a male?

  18. Don Benson July 12, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

    One of the great sadnesses for me at the weekend was seeing and hearing the unequivocal support that our 2 archbishops gave to the SOCE and transsexual liturgy motions. Having just about managed to pose as being neutral on same sex marriage up to this point, they had allowed themselves an escape route if they finally came to their senses. They’ve certainly closed this off now as far as any credibility to continue in office is concerned, and they now have no coherent argument for opposing the gathering momentum to SSM. And, given the voting figures, whether or not the house of laity realised what they were doing, the die is now cast in Synod.

    So the big question is: whither now for the orthodox faithful in the CofE? Some will be certain of God’s call to stay on and fight till the very end – we may assume groupthink has captured all minds but none of us knows the true loyalty of everyone; till the very end there’s always hope to release a few more people from the coming tyranny. But heads-in-sand time has to be over for anyone who hoped it would all come good by some miracle. The church, and particularly its leadership, is now at odds with its core doctrine. But would it ever be right for individuals to desert a faithful minister with a fruitful ministry at their local church? Whole churches seeking alternative Episcopal oversight would seem a far better way to go, but doubtless there could / will be a lot of dispute over buildings and suchlike, as has been notorious with TEC. The alternative is for whole churches to stick it out, which the more prosperous ones could do. But in time, if the quadruple lock were to be given up (this seems likely), such churches would be vulnerable to legal action by same sex couples who were denied “marriages”. In practical terms the loss of that lock would sound the final bell for all faithful parish churches and their clergy.

    While we rightly point out the utter fallacy of the notion of the immutability of homosexual inclination when all other inclinations are held suitable causes for therapy (or surgery!), the question of the future for faithful individuals and churches now needs to be at the forefront. It is indeed a huge failure for all of us, a shocking witness and, on the face of it a huge set back for Christian witness in England. But we must move on – that’s the whole nature of God’s people – not looking back but pressing ever onwards. And that will demand humility, wisdom and leadership in spades. None of us wanted it but we must all be up for it.

    • Will Jones July 12, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

      Yes, you have to wonder what the bishops and archbishops thought they were doing. What theology lay behind those decisions? Do they not understand its implications? Are they intentionally endorsing heterodox theology or just being oblivious? Either way it’s not reassuring for the faithful and orthodox.

      How on earth do they plan to create liturgy, which implies approval and sanction, for something we don’t have a theology of? When did the Church formulate its theological understanding of transgenderism? Did I miss that teaching document?

      It’s all so shallow and chaotic and cackhanded. It feels like the CofE is blundering its ponderous way towards schism, exodus and irrelevance, and the pilots are all too worried about posturing to the crowds to notice. What a mess.

    • Philip Almond July 12, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

      Don
      Lets not give up yet. The Archbishops and Bishops need to be challenged, publicly, on where they stand on Articles 9-18, 31 (say) in the light of the Declaration of Assent and Canon A5. The Church of England belongs to those who believe those doctrines ex animo. It is time for humble, courteous honesty and painful disagreement – in the public domain.

      I realise it is easy for me to say that – I have nothing to lose.

      Phil Almond

      • David Shepherd July 13, 2017 at 1:13 am #

        Don/Philip/Will/Matt,

        For a parable of what is happening, you really only have to look back to Elf Acquitaine’s crooked dealings in Africa, as they formed a consortium with Shell and BP to prevent the Nigerian government from nationalizing its oil resources by dangling the ‘giant carrot’ of a £6 billion Bonny Island Liquefied Natural Gas plant.

        Nigeria’s plan to nationalise the oil industry was halted, but the promise to ship LNG from Nigeria to Europe never materialised as the plan was scrapped amid charges of human rights abuses and corruption.

        Fast-forward fifteen years, and here we are with Welby dangling the carrot of ‘good disagreement’ and ‘mutual flourishing’ before the Church, when there’s plenty of evidence that he can’t deliver on them.

        As I explained before, the GS2070A/B and GS2071A/B motions were stalking horses. On the face of it, the substantial majorities by which they were carried should embolden liberals to push for greater concessions in advance of the Teaching Document.

        These large majorities have even some of the most devout moderate evangelicals wondering about how they might need to adjust to this tectonic shift in the moderate majority in order to survive.

        The one thing which stands in the way of liberal ascendancy is the potential for a financial backlash at the ‘grass-roots’ parish level.

        In terms of finance, the Archbishop’s Council 2018 budget has incurred a 9.3% increase in apportionment over the past three years. Yet, for 2019/20, that increase is dwarfed. The budget report states: ‘ In our illustration, which assumes a reducing capital draw-down from the Church and Community Fund and no additional external funding or major changes in the cost structure, apportionment increases of 9.4% and 11.1% would be required.

        Now, have a look at this table of 2015 diocesan parish share to see that, based on parish income trends, these proposed increases are completely unsustainable: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AssphAYLL1d4gZ46XOkqFvPOp6IO3A

        In 2016, the Church Estate Commissioners committed £230.7 million to the CofE. That doesn’t mean that they’ll flog any more of the £7.9 billion ‘family silver’ to meet the escalating Training for Ministry costs of the ‘Resourcing the Future’ programme.

        So, what might a leader do on realising that, by 2020, these funding shortfalls could very well end all hope of cementing a lasting reversal of decline, and turn his cornerstone initiative into a crumbling ruin?

        Well, he might well fast-track and subtly encourage the entire Church towards accomplishing another of his ‘visionary’ initiatives in the same timescale.

        Yet, whatever Welby and Sentamu may try to do to advance the cause of same-sex couples, it will only increase resentment and disaffection among the rank-and-file laity. It is their reluctance to extend further financial support for this patent abandonment of Christian scripture, tradition and reason that will only hasten the Church of England’s numerical and spiritual decline.

        They’ll make a good show of papering over the cracks by repeatedly re-calibrating their estimates for training to meet the ordinand growth rate, but I predict that ‘Reform and renewal’ will eventually become a by-word for ecclesiastical mismanagement.

        The Archbishops have underestimated the power of rank-and-file churchgoers.

        • David Shepherd July 13, 2017 at 8:44 am #

          And if you have any doubt that the CofE is in trouble with Resourcing for the Future, then look at July Synod’s desperate efforts to stave of the haemorraghing over the next 5 to 10 years of 25pc of clergy
          In their 60s by allowing them to defer compulsory retirement at 70.

          At the same time, figures also show that 555 ministers left the clergy in 2015, while only 457 joined – leaving a deficit of 98.

          Conservative PCCs should begin a parish share quota capping protest (especially in those dioceses where the average parish share exceeds 50pc of parish income) and to investigate alternative episcopal oversight. Think Truro, Newcastle, West Yorks and D, and others.

          The CofE hierarchy and General Synod will now see the real cost of going beyond legitimate concerns about unethical conversion therapy practices to their support a blanket special pleading exemption of same-sex sexual activity from the universal call to repentance in the gospel.

          • Philip Almond July 13, 2017 at 9:42 am #

            GS MISC 1158 and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Presentation at the July 2017 Synod outline the approach to producing the Episcopal Teaching Document on Human Sexuality. As I see it those in the Church who believe that the Church’s doctrine on Human Sexuality should remain unchanged have two broad options.

            Either take the view that the result is a foregone conclusion – the Document will not leave that teaching unchanged and there is little point in making an enormous effort to set out the case that it should not be changed; or, make that enormous effort: participate in whatever groups are set up (even if the dice are loaded against us in some procedural or other way); if not invited to participate, produce a minority report; make every effort to set out the case, humbly and courteously, not only behind closed doors but in the public domain.

            If the latter strategy is chosen, the first question to be decided is: whatever are the components of the case for no change, what is the paramount argument? I suggest it is: that same sex attraction is a sinful inclination like any other sinful inclination (we all have sinful inclinations) and like any other sinful inclination it is the result of the Fall of Man.

            The Archbishop of Canterbury’s presentation on the proposals for the Pastoral Advisory Group on Human Sexuality and the Development of the Episcopal Teaching Document contained the following:

            “The ways in which the topics on the Episcopal Teaching Documents have been drawn up have three key assumptions and this also applies as an underlying understanding in the Pastoral Advisory Group.

            1) Every person is created in the image of God and is someone for whom Christ lived, died, resurrected and ascended. This is not primarily about issues or questions but about people and people are to be treasured and loved and valued.
            2) Those within the CofE who are engaged in the debates are all concerned to be faithful to the love, truth, mercy and justice of God and all wish to ensure that the Church is faithful to a God of love, truth, mercy and justice
            3) That we must seek to act in a way that reduces fear of each other and of the future. Fear of God is a different category.”

            “We come also with an established doctrine, of structures of belief, clear boundaries of acceptability set out in the declaration of Assent and reflected at the level of the Anglican Communion in the Chicago-Lambeth quadrilateral. Scriptures, creeds, historical episcopacy and the dominical sacraments”.

            The three key assumptions do not mention the Fall and Original Sin, despite these being ‘established doctrines’ (Articles 9 and 10) which, according to the Preface to the Declaration of Assent, are among those Christian truths to which the Church, led by the Holy Spirit, has borne witness.

            This is an important omission because the Fall and Original Sin have a direct bearing on the Sexuality disagreement.

            I urge those who believe that the Church’s doctrine should remain unchanged to challenge this omission in the ‘key assumptions’ mentioned in the Archbishop’s presentation – this should be the first step in the enormous effort needed.

            Phil Almond

          • Will Jones July 13, 2017 at 10:18 am #

            Hi Phil.

            I do actually agree with you that the fall and its consequences is a grave omission in that statement of assumptions. Without the fall it isn’t clear why Christ died for us or why there might be a problem to be addressed.

            In terms of your paramount argument, I think you’re right that that is the key point, but it does beg the question of why it is sinful. Is it just because God/scripture says so, or can we give a rational account of this? That’s where we get into the more involved arguments. To my mind, then, the key sub-argument is the doctrine of creation, which explains what the fall was a fall from: God created humankind male and female, with mutual sexual attraction and complementary anatomy for the continuation of the human species, and that is what God declared good. Departure from that original created form is a result of the fall and a reflection of the dysfunction it introduced (which is why scripture describes it as ‘unnatural’ and certain behaviour associated with it as sinful).

          • Mat Sheffield July 13, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

            Thanks David, there’s lots to think about in what you’ve written, so I thank you for it.

            I’m mainly with Don on this, and find his polemic justifiable. I too think the die is cast beyond recovery, and that the Archbishops’ “unequivocal” support of these two motions really does betray any further attempts for the ‘traditionalists’ to hold fast to current church teaching, as it is kicked from under them (not that it was exactly stable anyway..). Their silence had been powerful, but it no longer counts for anything and is likely to make way for, what was Don’s word?, a progressive ‘Tyranny’ leading the church, from which the faithful should escape.

            Indeed, I also agree with Phil and I fear that further resistance would only cause greater damage to an already wounded church, and actually risk empowering opponents further. I still do not think it is inevitable, but when we start to see that liturgy be formed, if indeed it is, then we are at the beginning of the end so far as I am concerned. But then, I am very pessimistic.

            It is very easy for me to say this however, as I stand outside the CofE and will likely remain unaffected by these changes for quite some time.

            So, is there hope? I happen to think so.

            I believe that the ‘dead horse’ Phil keeps flogging in the comments needs to come back to life. So much of this could have been avoided if the church had better articulated and taught it’s key doctrines properly, doctrines laid out in the 39 articles and declaration of assent; if it disciplined it’s clergy and trained them to teach it, and if it held its congregations to a standard of holiness at least as high as the world around them.

          • David Shepherd July 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm #

            Hi Phil/Will,

            All that you both explain is true, but to make any headway with Synod, you will have to deal with their de facto acceptance, implied by GS2070, that, in the modern world, sexual orientation identity is now considered to be as essential to individual personhood (i.e. identity) as their race, or sex.

            This means that any call to abandon the same-sex sexual acts which ensue for either celibacy or straight marriage will be framed as tantamount to a homophobic destruction of LGBT identity.

            Present a detailed exegesis of Genesis verses related to marriage and revisionists will simply assert:
            1. that the God’s purpose in creating male-female sexes was complementary, but only for the act of procreation. To say otherwise is to deny the Christology of Gal. 3:28.
            2. that the context of the Genesis archetype is ANE’s valorisation of enduring lineage and posterity
            3. that marriage belongs to the old creation, so that Paul even valorised the benefits of singlehood and celibacy above marriage. And that, as such, the New Testament should open us to the potential goodness of non-traditional sexual relationships, which diverge from the Genesis archetype.
            4. that, regarding NT verses which condemn homosexual behaviour, a few scholars have made it debatable whether their context can be extended beyond just idolatrous, coercive, or exploitative same-sex sexual practices.
            5. that, marriage is presented for anyone without the gift of celibacy. to channel unruly sexual desire into the discipline of permanent, stable and faithful monogamous coupling.

            Now, I have no doubt that the outcomes of the Pastoral Advisory Group and Teaching Document are already skewed with loaded dice. For instance, why is it that, since Bishop Keith Sinclair’s dissenting statement in the Pilling Report, we’ve not heard much from him, or other conservative bishops, who could provide a much-needed counter to the outspoken revisionism of Alan Wilson, Paul Bayes, Colin Fletcher and David Walker?

            This deafening silence is a bit too much ‘roll over and play dead’ for my liking. It’s time for Parish share revolt and alternative episcopal oversight.

          • Will Jones July 13, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

            David, you summarise the counterarguments admirably.

            They’re untenable of course:
            1) The sexes exist for procreation and procreation is what sex is for. It is its raison d’etre. It has other purposes, too. But the fundamental purpose is necessarily procreation, for otherwise it would not exist in nature. Sexes exist for sexual reproduction.
            2) Posterity is still important, since for as long as the world endures it is necessary for humanity continually to renew itself, both universally and its individual peoples.
            3) Under the New Covenant celibate singleness is a valid and high calling. But no grounds are given in scripture for regarding other forms of sexual relationship similarly. Indeed, such possibilities are specifically reprimanded, and sexual immorality is always prominent among lists of sinful behaviours.
            4) Scriptural condemnation of all homosexual behaviour, understood in its own cultural context, cannot reasonably be doubted.
            5) Marriage is indeed for everyone without the gift of celibacy. But some people may not be able to participate in it because they suffer from some form of dysfunction or disorder. That is unfortunate but cannot of itself justify endorsing other forms of sexual relationship.

            I agree, the silence of the orthodox has been terrible. I appreciate it will be because it is a message that doesn’t play well in much of society, especially polite society, and so is thought to be detrimental to mission. But it has given revisionists an open field, and made it look like orthodoxy has no defenders of consequence and no sound defence.

            I’m beginning to agree with you about the dire situation and the necessary action. However, as I work for a diocese and my wife is in ministry, this is not quite so straightforward…

          • Will Jones July 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

            Sad to see Eugene Peterson has now capitulated to the revisionists: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/07/eugene-petersons-theological-sigh.

            These are dark days.

          • David Shepherd July 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

            They are, but what will ensue will bestow on us the assurance that ‘if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.

            This is nothing compared to what our spiritual forbears suffered under Diocletian. Yes, some stalwarts did cave in. but the revealed truth of scripture was not lost to syncretism with the falsehood of idolatrous Roman sacrifices. The doctrine of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ has and will always endure beyond the worst atrocities committed against Christians in the name of State religion.

            Our worldly lives are expendable, but the gospel isn’t. I think it’s time for us to get very loud about the gospel and take the cost in stride. (2 Tim. 4:2)

            ‘That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1:5)

          • Jonathan Tallon July 14, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

            Replying to Will (13th July 5:32)

            1. You keep on asserting this. But it is abundantly clear from nature that humans have sex for all sorts of purposes beyond having children. Procreation doesn’t figure much in Genesis 2 either. We are more than animals. And Christianity is not a fertility cult.
            2. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that people can’t or shouldn’t have children. So this is irrelevant.
            3. Is sexual immorality sinful? Yes. But this begs the whole question of whether same-sex marriage is sexual immorality. It is not an issue the New Testament deals with.
            4. Scripture nowhere condemns ‘homosexual behaviour’ because no-one in the ANE thought in those terms. It does condemn male same-sex activity in a context where this was mainly pederasty, sometimes pagan temple worship. Neither of these actions could remotely be described as ‘homosexual behaviour’ in any meaningful sense of the term. Any use of ‘homosexual’ is anachronistic.
            5. I am happy that you think marriage is for everyone without the gift of celibacy. That is precisely why I support same-sex (equal) marriage.

          • Will Jones July 14, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

            Hi Jonathan.

            1. I didn’t deny sex has other purposes. It is about its fundamental purpose, its raison d’etre. We are more than animals, but we are part of the natural created order.
            2. This was a response to the idea that posterity is an anachronism.
            3. The NT does deal with same-sex sexual activity.
            4. It is only a few scholars who tendentiously try to claim that it is not all (male) same-sex sexual activity that is covered by scriptural prohibitions.
            5. Marriage is for everyone without the gift of celibacy, but not everyone finds themselves able to participate in it. Same-sex relationships cannot be marriage, properly understood, so your point is invalid (it’s a category error).

          • Mat Sheffield July 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

            @Jonathan.

            Will was explicit; there are other purposes for sex, but the PRIMARY one remains procreation. This is not an ‘assertion’ and cannot be dismissed as such; it is demonstrably true scientifically (biologically), anthropologically, psychologically and, (more debatably I admit) theologically. Simple reason should show this to be true. As humans we exhibit a sexual binary, bodily/physically, because God’s desire for humankind was to multiply and this distinction exists to enable that purpose. If we were not meant to procreate, or if procreation was not fundamental to our nature, we would not be sexual beings….

            You are the one who is missing what is abundantly clear here; sexuality is inherently (but not solely) reproductive in purpose.

          • Christopher Shell July 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

            Jonathan, so if homosexual behaviour is condemned in certain ‘contexts’, name the ‘contexts’ in which it is spoken of in a non-condemnatory way.

            1.

            2.

            3.

            The Levitical law is pretty comprehensive on these things. If it were necessary to clarify that something that was apparently always spoken of very negatively was actually not bad, only its ‘contexts’ were bad, then why did they not clarify that?

            And next, name other things from the Levitical law which are good or OK in themselves, but abruptly become bad in certain ‘contexts’.

            (There are unanswered points on a couple of other threads.)

          • Will Jones July 15, 2017 at 8:30 am #

            Eugene Peterson has retracted his affirmation of SSM:

            http://aliveliterary.com/eugene-peterson-issues-revised-statement-following-religion-news-service-interview/

  19. Christopher Shell July 12, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    As for leadership, can anyone name any great leaders whose focus was on reconciliation (assuming that all ‘sides’ must be bona fide) more than on truth, integrity or conviction?

  20. David July 13, 2017 at 3:04 am #

    I vividly remember the opening of Ian Paul’s post of 21 July 2014: “I am heading back (on Sunday) from what I can only describe as an inspirational service at Canterbury Cathedral where my friend Rob Innes was ordained as the new Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe.” How encouraging that was to read!

    Now, nearly three years later, Adrian Hilton, in a post of 12 July 2017 entitled ‘The abuse and intimidation of members of the CofE’s General Synod’, includes a tweet of 9 July, “Ian Paul. If you can watch. ‘See how he loves himself ’ to paraphrase a famous saying”, and comments, “Of course, the Rev’d Dr Ian Paul, who writes the excellent scholarship-serving-ministry Psephizo blog, could not possibly be speaking intelligently, wisely or discerningly. The Rev’d Andrew Foreshew-Cain disagrees with him, so Dr Paul just has to be an overweening narcissist.”

    Meanwhile, Bishop Robert’s blogpost of 11 July 2017 on his experience there concludes, “At its best, the General Synod models an open and respectful process of debate, raises the profile of the church and further its mission. I felt that at the York Synod we were indeed sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and Christian mission was carried forward.”

    I find this about equally saddening and bewildering.

  21. Simon July 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Is this Renewal & Reform?

  22. Simon July 13, 2017 at 2:23 pm #

    What I had in mind was more like what Isaiah saw:

    So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
    and his glory from the rising of the sun;
    for he will come like a rushing stream,
    which the wind of the Lord drives.
    Isa59v19

    • David Shepherd July 13, 2017 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Simon,

      God must first utterly bring down the proud, scattering them to the ends of the earth through the desolation of heathen conquest.

      Isaiah’s wonderful words of prophetic consolation will eventually become precious in the eventual godly sorrow of those humbled and made destitute of worldly glory by His inexorable hand of chastening.

  23. Don Benson July 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

    In a strange way the evident success of the Devil’s deceits have to be an encouragement to us Christians who enjoyed some of the softer times of the 20th century in England: it reminds us that the spiritual battle is real (we recognise the age old deceptions), and if the battle is real it’s a lot more than just a well worn metaphor for Sunday sermons; it’s among us and we sense its ferocity and it rekindles an appreciation of the amazing eternal inheritance which is ours and which will be seized from us unless we depend on Jesus our Saviour. Perhaps ‘encouragement’ is the wrong word; maybe I should say ‘spur’ – a spur to fight the good fight, but always realising how foolish we are if we expect to win battles in our own strength. It’s our Lord’s fight, and any little bit of strength we have comes from Him alone.

    And he must feel the pain when our brothers and sisters fall for the deceit far more than we do. So, even as we call them out on their weakness or lack of discernment or denial of the true Gospel, can we just ‘give them up’ and walk away? What if some people need and deserve more time to grasp the true implications of where they are heading? But compromise (good disagreement) and endless circular ‘conversations’ won’t and never were going to cut it; instead what we have to offer is the truth without diversions and manipulation, and I believe there’s now every reason for a fearless church-wide declaration (prophesy) of the truth.

    I’d love to see that happen. But I’d love to see it done in a united and effective way rather than lone individuals here and there. I’d love to see a succinct, accessible and memorable document (approx 700-800 words, equivalent to one side of A4?), backed up by verbal communication wherever possible, setting out the sexuality issue for Christians in truthful but engaging language. Ideally it should be circulated in every possible way to individuals and, hopefully, to every parish church in England.

    Too assertive? Tough! Divisive? Tough! Disloyal? Tough! There does come a time when the truth trumps all else and I believe we have reached that time. But it would need very careful unambiguous wording – no unfounded assertions or easily demolished arguments! Loyal to the whole Gospel, alert to the best science, attractive to the best human instincts, logical to sound minds, prayed over by all who care: it might not save the CofE as an organisation, but if it saved one individual from a spiritual cul-de-sac it would be worth it.

    • Will Jones July 13, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

      The Manhattan Declaration may provide some inspiration: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2009/11/manhattan-declaration-a-call-of-christian-conscience

    • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 8:46 am #

      Hi Don,

      I agree with most of what you’ve so eloquently stated. Perhaps, the on-going debate here and on other blogs has been the stuff of erudite theologians, philologists, researchers and moral activists.

      Perhaps, it is time for the best minds to collaborate on a succinct, but engaging and credible one-page explanation, in layman’s terms, of the overall case against same-sex sexual activity.

      At this point in the Church’s negotiation of ‘good disagreement’, proposals to amend canon law in relation to marriage have been completely taken off the table. That, in itself, is a huge and largely uncelebrated concession to traditionalists and victory over the revisionist position of marriage.

      I would also note that the Synod arguments in favour of GS2070/71 relied heavily upon the post-modern rejection of traditional meta-narratives about sexuality and biblical marriage and dismissed them as unattainable and heartless absolutes for LGBT people.

      Instead, the moderate majority at Synod were persuaded by the post-modern trend towards personal narratives.

      So, Ozanne set forth a single bible verse about being ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and then presented her personal harrowing account of journeying through ‘spiritual abuse’ at the hands of over-zealous religious movements, all of which was completely at odds with that verse and anyone’s notion of ‘mutual flourishing’.

      We should also factor into this persuasion the widely-held contempt for any behaviour which even vaguely resembles that of the Church caricature of the despised fundamentalist demagogue.

      The only antidote for this post-modernist mind-set is to allow this personal narrative of revisionism, the victimised LGBT identity, to spawn an even more distasteful meta-narrative: intolerant liberal ascendancy.

      The ascendancy of this ‘big idea’ of liberalism will not tolerate those who proclaim and promote biblical absolutes. In fact, it is this eventual unyielding imposition on good-natured traditionalist church leaders which will turn each of them into a martyr: each having a credible personal narrative of suffering under illiberal tyranny.

      This will be the effect of Synod eventually going beyond just endorsing of the 2015 memorandum of understanding against conversion therapy and further mandating, under the guise of safeguarding, that, on pain of disciplinary action, all lay and ordained ministries must sign up to a uniform code of practice for identity-(i.e. behaviour-) affirming ministry towards LGBT people.

      The only thing needed now is for us to stand our ground, wait in defiance of the on-coming tyranny and make sure that the Church hears the harrowing stories of unfairly persecuted traditionalists.

    • Philip Almond July 14, 2017 at 9:18 am #

      I am thinking of writing to the people listed on the CEEC website to suggest that the groups they represent get together and compose an Open Letter to all the Archbishops and Bishops, humbly and courteously challenging them to state whether, in the light of the Declaration of Assent, they believe the Doctrine of Original Sin, pointing out that the omission of any mention of this doctrine in Justin Welby’s July 2017 presentation needs rectifying, urging them of the need for the warning of the Wrath of God to be much more widely proclaimed in the Church of England. The letter I write would begin like this:

      ‘Probably you are all very busy, so I hope you are not too exasperated to receive this email. I am making two assumptions in writing to you.

      The first assumption is that that the groups you represent, whatever doctrinal disagreements there are between you (e.g. Wright versus Piper, Ordination of Women, Calvinist/Arminian), are all convinced of one truth – that in a world where there are many human needs, some of them harrowing, there is one need which we all have by nature and which, relatively speaking, is infinitely more important than all other needs – the need to be delivered from the holy wrath and just condemnation of God which we all face from birth onwards – by obeying the exhortation to submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience and fear.

      The second assumption is that you all agree that this terrible but true diagnosis of the human condition is believed by only a minority of ordained and non-ordained in the Church of England and that you all agree that this diagnosis, this warning and exhortation to flee to Christ from the wrath to come, is not generally proclaimed in the teaching and preaching ministries of the Church.

      Of course I am sure we all agree that no one will take any notice of the warning and the exhortation unless, as Warfield put it, “there come a breath from heaven to breathe upon these slain that they may live”. But, faced with the solemn words of Ezekiel 3:18, I hope we all also agree that all who believe these things have a responsibility to proclaim the warning and the exhortation while praying earnestly that God in his love, mercy and grace will send that breath.’

      What do you think about this idea? Criticisms, objections, suggestions etc. all welcome.

      Phil Almond

  24. Will Jones July 14, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    Hi Phil.

    I think we need something specifically on the presenting issue of SSA. The fall needs to come into it, but to simply focus on it (and wrath) is too broad brush and will fail to have the desired impact on the issue at hand.

    • Philip Almond July 14, 2017 at 10:28 am #

      Will
      I have got to say that I disagree. Important as SSA is, it is dwarfed in importance by the (I surmise) disagreement on Original Sin and the Wrath of God. I think we should start there.
      Regards
      Phil

      • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

        Hi Will/Phil,

        Any strategy is best discussed off-line. Unsurprisingly, most of the CEEC council members have been reticent about CS2070/71.

        Anyway, beyond symbolic gestures behind these motions, we need to see how they will be incorporated into church policy.

        In the mean time, the Church continues to register numerical decline among its clergy, many of whom are ensuring that their so-called ‘red line’ on this issue becomes completely inaccessible and now appear far more interested in mitres than marriage doctrine.

        No doubt a new ‘Mitre Matters’ blog on the vestment ‘controversy’ would tap into a far richer vein of polite, good-natured engagement across the CofE. Just the right remedy for restoring chummy churchmanship.

        Nero fiddles, while Rome burns!

        • Will Jones July 14, 2017 at 2:07 pm #

          Where’s Ian gone – is he away?

          • Mat Sheffield July 14, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

            That or he’s penning the very piece we’re discussing here….

        • Philip Almond July 14, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

          David
          I’m afraid I disagree. The time has come for openness and painful honesty, including being open about what those who believe that Article 9 is true are planning to do. Including openness about what pew-fillers like me think – which would not be possible off-line.
          Regards
          Phil

          • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

            Hi Phil,

            I don’t disagree with the importance of the doctrine of Original Sin. Nor am I saying that we don’t need to articulate the doctrines challenged by issues with openness and painful honesty.

            I am saying that, in this open forum, which is read by both sides, I’m not about to give early notice about how we might try to bring the revisionist advance to a grinding halt.

            Instead, let them try to work out the next move.

          • Philip Almond July 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

            Yes David. I understand that. But I’m sure you can see that the only we your ‘how we’ can include ‘me’ is by an open forum like this.
            Regards
            Phil

          • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

            Hi Phil,

            My name in this comment now has a link to my Facebook page.

            If that’s okay, then free to private message me. It’s fairly easy to set up a closed Facebook group.

          • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

            Hi Phil,

            My name in this comment should now have a link to my Facebook page.

            If it works for you, then free to private message me. It’s fairly easy to set up a closed Facebook group.

          • David Shepherd July 14, 2017 at 7:42 pm #

            Link in last comment works

      • Mat Sheffield July 14, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

        I’m not as convinced. I agree with Will that the purpose should be explicitly addressing SSA, but the narrative/rhetorical framework it must be addressed within is Original Sin. I don’t think it needs to be (or even can be) an either/or decision. So much of the problem we face is that these two things remain separated, when they need to be looked at together.

  25. David July 14, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

    David Shepherd writes, “The only thing needed now is for us to stand our ground, wait in defiance of the on-coming tyranny”.

    What, in C of E ecclesiology, are the contours of that for parishes and chaplaincies? What various things can various of the ‘Synodically governed’ do (formally speaking)?

    • David Shepherd July 15, 2017 at 8:39 am #

      Hi David,

      I’ve added a link to this piece on canonical obedience by the ecclesiastical lawyer, Philip Jones: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/ecclesiasticallaw.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/canonical-obedience/amp/

      The case of Long vs. Bishop of Cape Town is cited with the judge’s clarification that: ‘‘canonical obedience does not mean that the clergyman will obey all the commands of the Bishop against which there is no law, but that he will obey all such commands as the Bishop by law is authorised to impose’

      In the case of chapliancies, we have seen the Pemberton case in which, on the basis of Canon B30, entering a same-sex marriage was held to be contrary to the Church’s doctrine of marriage.

      Regarding disciplinary action against same-sex married clergy, the Church has generally avoided the CDM route and opted for routinely denying them preferment.

      In contrast with contravening canon law, for traditionalists to stand their ground, simply means continuing to maintain and promote the position articulated in Issues in Human Sexuality that: ‘5.2 The first [principle] is that homophile orientation and its expression in sexual activity do not constitute a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as completely with the terms of the created order as the heterosexual. The convergence of Scripture, Tradition and reasoned reflection on experience, even including the newly sympathetic and perceptive thinking of our own day, make it impossible for the Church to come with integrity to any other conclusion.’

      ‘Heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation or with the insights of revelation as the Church engages with these in the light of her pastoral ministry.’

      So, if a churchgoer, who struggles with same-sex attraction, reads this guidance, coming to the same conclusion, and asks their parish priest for prayer and pastoral support for their sexual identity and behaviour to become more congruous with the observed order of creation, how can fulfilling that request be a disciplinary offence?

      Consistent with Marriage – a Teaching Document, we should also declare that: ‘Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively

      Equally, the Synod-endorsed Memorandum of Understanding 2015 is very clear on the scope of interventions that can be described as conversion therapy. They do not include any mention of prayer and deliverance ministry which featured in Jayne Ozanne’s GS2070A background information.

      Finally, parish share protests are not unprecedented, there was such a revolt in 2004, over appointing Jeffrey John to become Bishop of Reading.

      After the Holy Trinity Barnet’s PCC had unanimously agreed, as a protest, not to pay the parish share, the vicar, Rev Charles Dobbie (who is still in good standing) stated:
      ‘We have suspended the quota in its entirety with immediate effect and until further notice until the situation changes for the better.’

      “It is our expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy.’

      “We are just an ordinary parish church in the Church of England and we hope other churches will follow our lead.’

      Instead of giving the money to the diocese, the parish donated the withheld quota to the True Freedom Trust charity.

      I don’t see why parishes shouldn’t follow this example as a protest against Synod passing a premature and unnecessarily divisive motion (GS2071) for the HoB to look into providing transgender liturgy (which articulates CofE doctrine) without the usual commissioned reflection on the theological and pastoral implications which precedes such a motion.

      • Philip Almond July 15, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

        Hi David Shepherd

        I would like to thank you and all others who have posted comments on my Philip Almond July 14, 2017 at 9:18 am post, including your Facebook suggestion. Unfortunately, rightly or wrongly, one of my idiosyncracies is a resolve not to have anything to do with Facebook, in spite of all the safeguards.
        In any case, I recognise your caution and have decided not to continue this discussion here. I will reflect on all that has been said and decide whether to do what I have suggested or whether not to and in either case pray that God in his mercy will rebuke and revive and reform us all to a new obedience to his revelation, something which only he can do.

        Many thanks

        Phil Almond

      • David July 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

        Dear David Shepherd,

        Many thanks for all this lucid detail and thought!

        It is encouraging!

        David

  26. Christopher Shell July 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    This Synod may well be seen as a classic example of what we always knew to be true: that the ‘revisionist’ (‘progressive’…) position is not even trying to make sense. It is not truth-oriented but goal-oriented. It is trying to get the answers that fulfil the wishes or desires of the preferred and favoured group. Whether those answers make sense or form a coherent whole together is not their concern.

    We know the position makes no sense because the position says not merely that something relatively minor and everyday such as changing desires is shocking and must be banned, but that even *desiring* to change them must be banned or at least never facilitated and never supported.
    While *simultaneously* those who go the whole hog and change not desires but their entire gender and have body parts cut off in surgery – these must be strongly affirmed for doing so.

    You are allowed to to extreme things but never to do certain mild things even if those mild things are on the same trajectory as the extreme ones.

    A good example of nonsense.

    The one it reminds me of is the same ‘progressives” idea that it is fine to actually kill a baby; but to show the photographic evidence (which would not be there at all save for the killing that caused it to be there) is barbaric. The lesser thing (within one and the same trajectory) is seen as dreadful, while simultaneously the far more striking thing (within one and the same trajectory) is seen as a positive good or as ok.

    However, if anything more egregious was when Andrea Williams spoke of closing the rich-poor gap, affirming marriage, the right to life and freedom of speech etc. – and what she said was rejected.

    A satirist couldn’t make it up.

    I could hardly see anyone at the whole Synod apart from Andrea W and Ian P who stood for anything recognisably close to what I stand for, but thankfully the rest of the Christian world has mostly not gone mad. Neither Archbishop looks to me to be preaching a life-giving transforming rounded gospel at all. Neither is showing any capacity to avoid following the crowd. It can’t be that bad to be unpopular surely – but they do both seem afraid of that, because I have seen them adapting their views precisely in line with cultural shifts and microshifts. And I had high hopes for both of them. I hope if either of them ever reads this (or even if they don’t) that in the end those hopes won’t be disappointed.

    • Christopher Shell July 14, 2017 at 10:49 pm #

      Angus MacLeay also spoke well. Sarah Finch is another excellent representative. But I hope they don’t become just a remnant.

  27. Christopher Shell July 14, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

    W Andrea Williams was booed, she had spoken nothing but the truth. Neither she nor Christian Concern had put Jayne Ozanne’s ‘relationship’ in the public domain: that had indeed been done by JO’s own ‘open’ facebook page.

    Synod is booing people for telling the truth. So they react to truth as though truth was their enemy? Yes, maybe truth actually is their enemy. Which side are they on?

    This booing of a truthful statement backs up what I said two posts back: that truth is not their concern.

    If truth is not their concern, debate is pointless, and Synod itself is pointless since its resolutions are not intended to have truthful content. The answer to that is not to disband Synod but to clamp down on disregard for truth and (positively) to exalt truth.

    • Nick July 16, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

      “W Andrea Williams was booed, she had spoken nothing but the truth.”

      This behaviour was disrespectful, wrong and in direct contradiction to the Gospel command to love one another.

      However, the reported reaction to Eugene Peterson’s statement with threats from a major organisation to stop selling his books, threats of burning his books and worse is (I was going to say equally wrong but on reflection) worse for the same reason. It leaves a doubt in the mind as to whether his ‘clarification’ was genuine of forced by the reaction. One comment made to me on hearing the reported backlash that if the reports of hate mail were true then it showed that the backlash was not of God, for God is love.

      I suspect Steve Chalke will be treated with worse disdain by such people. Though he is does not look like he about to retract his views.

      “4. It is only a few scholars who tendentiously try to claim that it is not all (male) same-sex sexual activity that is covered by scriptural prohibitions.”

      I think there is a need for some to put themselves in that dispassionate position that they espouse and really listen to the tone of their own language. When figures such as Peterson (though since retracted) question a traditional interpretation then it should at least be accepted that there is a point to discuss. Yet some here just dismiss such views as unbiblical (rather than not according with their understanding of the Bible).

      It may not be the intention, but to an undecided reader the use of the word “scholar” in some of these posts almost seems to be trying assert a moral superiority saying that other views clearly do not come from scholars and so do not merit proper consideration.

      I believe such language from either side of these arguments is contrary to my understanding of the Bible.

      • Will Jones July 16, 2017 at 11:16 pm #

        Hi Nick. There was no intended tone. The responses to Jonathan were brief simply because this is a debate we have had here a number of times before and I was merely summarising the usual points. You’ll notice that Jonathan was himself using a similar ‘tone’ and brevity in his points to me, but I don’t regard it as a problem. Indeed, your own points take a similar form, but that’s ok!

        Peterson wasn’t questioning a traditional interpretation. In his interview he didn’t engage with scripture at all. His subsequent retraction suggests he was mainly speaking in pastoral mode.

        We do dismiss such views as unbiblical. That’s because they are. We can discuss that, but that should not be taken as an indication of agreeing that there is any real ambiguity in the texts. It is a central point of the orthodox argument that the only ambiguity is brought to the texts by people who want it to say something else. From an impartial point of view there cannot be any doubt that biblical Judaism took a negative view of all (male) same sex sexual behaviour in any context, and that this is what the texts are expressing.

        • Nick July 17, 2017 at 11:44 pm #

          Will.

          It is the aggressive response outside this discussion that that concerns me more than what is said here. I believe that the ill-tempered nature of the argument is reflecting a untrue picture of our God. What ever Peterson said he did not deserve the response from the christian community that he received.

          You say he was in pastoral mode and that may be true, but I do have a problem in these being two separate modes with potentially contradictory answers.

          “It is a central point of the orthodox argument that the only ambiguity is brought to the texts by people who want it to say something else.”

          I am very conscious of this danger. It would help if some traditionalists could take the same care as some (not all) of what you call revisionists have done to explain how they have reached their understanding rather than just resting on the statement that their view is orthodoxy. Then there could be a more healthy debate.

          But maybe that will have to wait for the Bishops’ teaching document.

      • Christopher Shell July 17, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

        Nick, the statement you quoted about scholars was in fact more or less accurate, but there is no way we should be counting scholars (who may be parroting each other; may be operating outside their specialisms; may be experiencing a strong pull from their preferred ideology, in which the academy as a whole – mostly nonspecialists in this matter – will encourage them) – we should be counting *arguments* or rather arguments that stand up logically.

        • Nick July 17, 2017 at 11:48 pm #

          Christopher,

          That is very well put. You make a very good point.

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