The Bishop of Grantham and ‘crossing a line’

4368This week I was planning to reflect on the relationship between compassion and power in John 11, and on what helps disciples to grow. But quite a lot happened over the weekend, and it deserves some comment.

The one that has grabbed the headlines was the announcement by the Guardian, late on Friday night, that the Bishop of Grantham, Nick Chamberlain, was the ‘first bishop to announce that he is in a gay relationship.’ Of all the reports, the Guardian’s was probably the most reliable, not least because it included towards the end the admission that the headline was completely misleading.

In 2003 the Times reported that the Right Rev Peter Wheatley, then the bishop of Edmonton, was gay and living with his partner. He said he was “a celibate Christian living by Christian teachings”.

Wheatley retired early in 2014, presumably to avoid the kind of publicity that he could see coming and which Chamberlain is no experiencing. In fact, there is a Wikipedia page on gay bishops, which has a section on the Church of England. It is not entirely accurate, and it took a whole day to be updated to include the Bishop of Grantham.

And what is the significance of this non-first? Formally speaking, absolutely nothing. The Huffington Post puts it rather well: ‘The Church of England has reacted with complete disinterest after one of its bishops became the first to publicly confirm that he is gay and in a relationship.’ Adrian Hilton reacted with customary spleen: ‘The Bishop of Grantham is gay and celibate—SO BLOODY WHAT?’ (There was a little irony that he hosted a contrary comment from Gavin Ashenden the day before—but we will come back to that.) So, no line has been crossed; nothing has been tested; the teaching position of the Church has been observed, and in Nick Chamberlain’s case, always has been.

I was notified of the news prior to the Guardian article’s publication, and it occurred to me that the first question that would be asked was: is this news? Given that he was consecrated so recently, in November 2015, were those involved in the appointment aware of his situation? Justin Welby, in the Guardian piece, gives an unequivocal answer: yes, at every stage, and Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, confirms this. So all discussion and debate could probably end there. Except…

There is a small host of other questions that have arisen from this incident. The first question some people ask is, why is it anyone’s business? Isn’t a church leader entitled to some privacy? Well, yes and no. The difficulty for all clergy is that, at ordination, we are asked:

Will you endeavour to fashion your own life and that of your household according to the way of Christ, that you may be a pattern and example to Christ’s people?

to which we respond: By the help of God, we will. We have made a public commitment in relation to our personal lives, and it is not unrealistic to expect some scrutiny here. But that can easily be abused, and I think that is what has happened in this case. Nick Chamberlain decided to go to the Guardian after a ‘Sunday newspaper’ (probably the Sunday Times) ‘threatened’ to out him. In fact, this cannot technically happen, since it is against the press regulation rules. Colin Coward, on the Changing Attitude Facebook page, put up a sort of apologia, explaining that, according to his conversations with journalists, the Sunday paper in question was simply going to report on an ‘unnamed gay, partnered bishop in the Church’ and they consulted the Bishop of Grantham as to whether he would like to be named or not. I think most people will treat these weasel words with the contempt that they deserve. Wayne Plimmer, a clergy colleague in Beeston, commented to me:

I also have in mind the human being at the heart of this … a faithful friend of thirty-five years standing who has sought to respond faithfully to God’s call.

It looks very much as though this ‘non-outing’ was timed to coincide with a letter from Andrew Foreshew-Cain and other same-sex married clergy and laity, designed to ‘put pressure on the House of Bishops’ to change the Church’s position. But of the eight clergy signing the letter, four were already known of, one holds no licence (and hasn’t for a decade), one is retired, one is in academia, and one is an incumbent about to retire. If the letter does anything, I would have thought that it would encourage the House of Bishops to think that the process of discipline is working rather well—and the great irony is that this letter has largely been lost in the debate about the Bishop of Grantham. So Colin and/or Andrew’s action has backfired spectacularly.

Is the idea of being in a celibate relationship possible or helpful? Jayne Ozanne argues vehemently that it is not possible to define or distinguish a sexual from a non-sexual relationships, since no-one can give here  a list of things that you can and cannot do in either situation. (In fact, Sean Doherty has offered an answer to that question.) But that is a nonsense position; there is no end of situations where two people are required not to be in a sexual relationship, including a school teacher and pupil, or a professor and undergraduate student. Is it really the case that all such limitations are meaningless? This is the ethical situation of the hair and the beard: suppose (for health and safety reasons) an employee is required not to have a beard. How many whiskers are actually allowed before this constitutes a beard? If I don’t shave for a day, am I contravening this? Or two days? or three? There is no objective answer—subjective judgement is required—but this does not make the regulation meaningless.

Gavin Ashenden argues online and on the radio that Nick Chamberlain’s appointment is very unhelpful. I do like the way he starts the broadcast with a personal expression of support and sympathy for Chamberlain, and that he immediately goes on to agree that the appointment, in principle, is perfectly reasonable, and has clear historic precedent. But he then goes on to criticise Chamberlain’s use of the word ‘gay’, as buying into a sub-Christian and mistaken anthropology which defines us by our sexuality. I disagree with Gavin here, since Chamberlain says very clearly to the Guardian and his sexuality is only part of who he is, and he would much rather talk about ministry. It is notable that he makes no comment along that lines that he wants the Church to change its position.

Then of course there is the intervention by Peter Jensen from Sydney in the name of GAFCON. I don’t really understand why Jensen believes he has a brief to comment on affairs in the C of E; I have never taken it on myself to pronounce on the way he leads his diocese. The letter notes that the appointment is in line with the current position of the Church—but still thinks the appointment is a ‘major error.’ That doesn’t really make sense. What I think he intends to say is that the Church’s current position is a major error. The objection is to ‘same-sex relationships which are not sexual.’ The difficulty here is that I am in a number of same-sex relationships which are not sexual; I call them my friends, and Nick Chamberlain appears to be doing the same. It was interesting to note that, in his interview on Radio 4’s Sunday programme yesterday, he underplayed it as an ‘exclusive’ relationship, saying of his friend that ‘he, amongst many others, helps me stay sane.’

A fourth objection is of quite a different kind. Some have suggested to me (on the basis of a Reformed theology reading of Romans) that ‘same-sex attraction is a sin, whether or not one engages in same-sex sex’—that is, desire itself is sinful, and that to experience same-sex attraction, even if not acted on, is problematic in relation to ministry and leadership. I think this is a poor and mistaken reading of Paul’s language of ‘desire’; if the Reformers read it this way, then I think they need to be reformed by Scripture; I think it is a very odd way to understand emotion, temptation and sin (if I have depression, am I sinning by thinking negative thoughts?); it looks like it is buying into a discredited approach to ‘healing’ same-sex attraction; it undermines the ministry of those who experience same-sex attraction and are either celibate or other-sex married; and it is pastorally unhelpful.

[In the first version of this blog, I erroneously attributed to Lee Gatiss, chair of Church Society, the idea that being same-sex attracted was a bar to ministry. He has at no time said this, and it is not a view he holds. His comments to me, in an earlier discussion, were: ‘Whether it’s the right thing to put on a placard or lead with in apologetic conversation, I’m wondering whether it is actually true (or not, which Ian says) that homosexuality (same-sex attraction) is sin….I’m saying that it looks to me like Protestant theology and interpretation of the Bible has always said it is….Article 9 would seem to be saying that a same-sex attraction is a sin, whether or not one engages in same-sex sex. All sinners are disqualified from the kingdom, unless they repent and believe.’ Though I disagree with Lee’s view here, I wrongly inferred from that a view on ministry, and I am very happy to fully and publicly apologise to Lee.]

No doubt those in Lincoln diocese will have other questions about Nick Chamberlain’s own teaching position on this question. But I would like to finish with Wes Hill’s very helpful reflection:

Without intending to overstep any of my boundaries as a layman, here is the kind of thing I would love to hear Bishop Chamberlain say one day:

Yes, I am in a committed, faithful relationship with another man. I love him deeply and hope to spend the rest of my life in his company. And no, we don’t sleep together. But I think it’s important for you to know that we don’t sleep together because of our love for each other. You see, we’re Christians, and Christians believe that God has made us and that He set up sexual relations for a specific purpose. God intends sex to bind a husband and wife together in intimacy and to lead to the gift of new life through procreation. And, likewise, God intends same-sex closeness, guarded by chastity, to build up each of the same-sex friends in love of Himself and love of neighbor. It would actually, then, diminish the closeness my partner and I enjoy if we were to sleep together. It would be taking one thing—sex—and using it for a purpose other than what its Designer intended it for. And, as we all know, when we misuse the Creator’s gifts, we don’t gain more intimacy; we simply find ourselves further alienated from Him and from one another. So, no, we’re not having sex. And we’re living our lives as celibate men in the hope that we’ll be able to love each other more deeply, more truly, and more in line with how God in Christ has made us and redeemed us to be.

Something like that, at least, is what I find myself praying for Bishop Chamberlain—and for all the gay folks in my broken, beloved Anglican Communion.

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120 thoughts on “The Bishop of Grantham and ‘crossing a line’”

  1. Ironically, I think it is the fourth objection – the one which seems most strongly conservative – which actually makes the case for the affirming side. Because, regardless of whether the particular reading of Ronans is quite right, the fundamental theological claim is accurate: as we mature and grow in Christ through the Spirit, we *should* experience a lessening or unholy desires. We should find ourselves wanting to be less vindictive, less dismissive, less greedy, as we grow in virtue. In other words, it is right to argue that sinful desires lessen as Christians mature in faith.

    What then must we conclude when we see a group of Christian disciples (gay Christians) maturing in faith and virtue in lots of ways, experiencing the lessening power of sin and temptation (including selfish sexual temptation) – but finding that their desire for same-sex sexual intimacy remains? What do we conclude when people grow in holiness, but feel that this growing holiness doesn’t negate their same-sex desire? Surely the only conclusion is that the desire itself isn’t wrong; it is holy; and God doesn’t want to change it.

    • An equally likely explanation is culture. If people are surrounded by affirmation of something, it makes that thing nigh impossible to resist. It need not be intrinsically nigh-impossible to resist. Given a different culture / family / peer-group, the thing might never have been seen as an option at al. It all depends what we present the norms as being, in word and deed.

      • I don’t know whether to laugh, or cry, Christopher, at your idea that somehow gay Christians are “surrounded by affirmation”. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but your comment here is tragic. Have you ever thought what it must be like to be a same-sex attracted Christian, in a church where heterosexual marriage is praised and exalted above everything else? Where you pray desperately to be “normal” like everyone else? The “culture” that many gay Christians experience week-by-week is not the “affirmation” of secular culture, but the tightly heteronormative culture of conservative Protestant Christianity.

        Against all the pressure to conform, against all the prejudice and bigotry and lack of empathy, gay Christian disciples are still being transformed by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ. That’s astonishing and wonderful – a testament to the grace of God. But their fundamental orientation is not, generally changed. Surely we should pause and reflect theologically on this fact.

        • I meant the surrounding culture, not the surrounding Christian culture.

          ‘Heteronormative’ is an astonishing word. Do you not think there is a good reason why no former culture had such a word? You can’t *make* something be normal which is the whole foundation of the origin and existence of living animals. It is *already* the most normal thing in existence and always has been.

          I don’t see ‘conservative Protestant Christianity’ to be more this way than Jesus was. What would be the evidence for such a view?

          Can you please apologise for your use of the unintelligent word ‘bigotry’. Bigotry implies making up your mind before looking at the evidence. Many people on this blog and elsewhere have looked at a lot of evidence over a long period, and have also noted in that time frame how absent from revisionist comment are any references to the massive statistical discrepancies between self-styled heterosexual and homosexual people on such matters as life expectancy, STIs, promiscuity, engaging in unsafe sexual practices, urban residence (men) , college education (women), history of molestation, upbringing by lesbians, fluidity of orientation-description.

          An orientation that was not held by the individual as a baby nor could have been known to be held till the age of first-sexual-attraction (7/8?) is not ‘fundamental’.

          • Thanks for your reply Christopher. But of what relevance is the ‘surrounding culture’, when for all practical purposes, the ‘culture’ experienced by Christians – the culture that is determinative and normative for them on a daily basis, in terms of their behaviour – is the culture of the Church?

            I apologise for not clarifying my use of the words ‘heteronormative’ and ‘bigotry’. I think I have used them in a different way to what you assume. ‘Heteronormative’ does not mean taking heterosexuality to be ‘normal’: of course it is indisputable that the vast majority of people are heterosexual. ‘Heteronormative’ has always meant more than this: a ‘heteronormative’ culture is one that seeks to *deny the existence* of anyone who doesn’t fit this ‘norm’, to airbrush them from social and cultural life and to pay them no attention. In conservative Protestant church contexts, this takes the form of assuming that everyone is heterosexual and called to marriage. I lost track for instance of how many sermons in conservative evangelical churches included the phrase “When you’re married…”. This is the objectionable thing: the assumption that “true” Christians are those who are married, whilst those who aren’t are second-best. It is psychologically damaging – not just to gay people but to single people to. Clearly this is miles apart from the sort of attitude which Jesus had – an attitude of attentiveness to people, never forcing them into categories. I hope that clarifies my use of the word.

            If bigotry is taken to mean “bigotry implies making up your mind before looking at the evidence”, however, then I do stand by my use of this word – because many many people who automatically take a ‘conservative’ line on issues of sexuality ignore the evidence of gay people’s lives. This is what I tried to highlight in my original comment: for some reason, the testimony of gay people’s lives in Christ is ignored. The issue here is what constitutes “evidence” in our theological and ethical debates. I would argue that “evidence” *must* include paying attention to the evidence of people’s lives: this is the Christlike, biblical pattern. If we ignore people, for the sake of defending the coherence of our theological arguments, then frankly we are guilty of idolatry and a failure of love.

            I hope you now understand better where I am coming from.

          • The surrounding culture affects how you are treated at your workplace, in court (Christians have been suffering here), in the media.

            I have never read in any previous culture or period of history that the assumption that people will marry is something bad. Where is the evidence of people formerly objecting to this? Your objection is the product of your particular circumscribed culture and era.

            The evidence of people’s lives – too much generalisation here. People’s lives are not good (period) or bad (period), mostly. Most people will have sins which they struggle with, but many of these will be seen as good people. The sins which people struggle with do not figure among the factors that bring an overall on-balance assessment that they are good people.

            Not much of a cultural struggle may be experienced by many self-identifying gay people in a gay friendly wider culture (though this does not apply in your own case). Therefore they can be happy and relaxed in the present culture. Often these days it is more counter-cultural to be Christian than to call yourself gay.

  2. It seems to me the major issue with the bishop is not whether he’s living in a celibate relationship or not, but whether he is only living in that state reluctantly to try and please the institution until such time as “the church’s teaching” changes. (Do you notice they keep referring to “the church’s teaching”, as if to reinforce that it’s something at the whim of the church to define and change?) Comments that the Bishop of Grantham made on the radio, and other things, make me suspect that he would very much like the teaching of the church to change – no hard evidence for this, but I’d like him to clarify.

    An analogous situation: say another man, let’s call him Ian, is appointed bishop. Ian believes that polyamory should be recognised and celebrated by the church. He is married but also ‘in a relationship’ with another man and a woman, which he claims is celibate. He is technically living within the church’s teaching… but is he really committed to it, to upholding it? And I think this is the issue with Nick Chamberlain. He may be living within the teaching of the church, but if he’s only reluctantly doing it as a concession to the institution until they change their mind, I don’t think he really is.

    • Phill:

      So why is this a first-order issue? A different analogous situation: Jane is appointed bishop. She is not in favour of infant baptism; but she recognises that this is the position of the Church. Her own children were not baptised as infants and she is honest about this; but she does not preach against infant baptism and she does not imply that churches in her diocese should not baptise infants. Is she also “technically living within the church’s teaching” only and not committed to upholding it?

      If Jane’s abiding by the church’s theology of infant baptism is of a different order than +Nicholas’ abiding by the church’s theology of marriage, why?

      This is not meant to be facetious. The teaching of the church seems to be that both are issues where faithful Christians, reading Scripture faithfully in the light of reason and tradition, can come to different conclusions; and that there are a range of acceptable conclusions within the bounds of orthodoxy. But in both cases, the church is committed to one particular interpretation of orthodoxy; and those holding teaching offices within the church are required to commit themselves to living and preaching in accordance with that interpretation. In neither case does the church say that they have to be privately committed to that interpretation – which you are implying is necessary.

    • I think you’re right. We are not interested in ‘the church’s teaching’ as if this was just some administrative or disciplinary matter (such as the age of ordination or whether clergy may be members of a political party), but rather in God’s teaching in Holy Scripture, discerned by the wisdom of the Church’s teachers.

  3. Is this news?

    Like you my initial reaction was to think this, but even following your example from the ordination vows (that I would agree creates some expectation of scrutiny) I think the line between between being open/subject to questions of integrity and being outed by the national press is incredibly significant.

    Is this new?

    Again, perhaps it is because I’m not part of the CofE, but I was under the impression this was already the case, that there were already openly gay bishops (yes, plural) in the CofE. I am more surprised by this than anything else.

    Is it “good”?

    I can’t see this changing very much at all. It looks like all the key parties are behaving with honesty (they are not hiding behind procedure and fostering undue secrecy) and, perhaps most surprising of all, no one seems to be pushing any particular objective either. The troubling aspects to this announcement are that so many are trying to read into this announcement their own particular viewpoint.

  4. Just a small correction Ian. Peter Jensen has retired (Glen Davies is now Archbishop of Sydney). Peter Jensen is responding his role as Secretary of Gafcon, presumably reflecting the view of the Gafcon Council.) Therefore the Gafcon statement should be understood as the views of the entire movement.

  5. The key issue here is not whether or not a rule is being broken – the key issue is whether it sets an example to believers in faith and practice to cohabit exclusively with someone you’re sexually attracted to. The very least we can say is that it shows very poor judgement, and is not modelling how to flee temptation. It’s very far from showing “not even a hint” of sexual immorality, and for that reason alone he should resign his position. Yes, we hold leaders to a higher standard, as is right and proper in accordance with the Scriptures.

    Note that I’d apply the same logic to someone exclusively cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex as well if they were unmarried.

  6. I think there may be a bit of ‘jot and tittle’ legalism going on here. We probably all understand that no disciplinary line has been crossed so far as the CofE is concerned, but there’s a bigger picture for which current lines of church discipline are not adequate.

    Out there in the real world no one is going to buy into claims of celibacy by two ‘gay’ people living under the same roof even if the possibility of celibacy cannot be denied (the same would apply to a man and woman living together). And that is why CofE support for civil partnerships was always untenable and therefore something of a time-bomb under its future position on sexuality in general and SSM in particular. If there is no element of sexual attraction between two people they are friends only – and that may well be a most loving, committed and lifelong relationship. But living arrangements do arouse other people’s interest whether we like it or not.

    I very strongly deprecate ‘outing’ and any intrusive interest in people’s private lives, including within the Christian community, but once things come to light it is impossible to withhold a judgement when the integrity of the church’s position is at stake. If that is so, then it seems self evident that disciplinary rules for all Christians, and bishops and clergy in particular, need to be unambiguously in line with scriptural teaching. This, in the long run, is much healthier for the church and much kinder to any individuals who could become unfairly exposed to public scrutiny due to the outworking of that ambiguity. Whatever our position on sexuality we must all have huge sympathy for Nick Chamberlain and regret that our own Church has created a situation in which he has become a reluctant centre of attention.

    Regarding Gafcon’s interest in this, I think they have a more strategic view of the worldwide Anglican Communion than many in the CofE who retain a somewhat aloof view – still acting as the superior partner amongst less progressive partners who have some catching up to do. As fellow believers in a worldwide Christian family everything that is currently happening in the CofE is absolutely Gafcon’s business.

      • Could I ask – what would you think ‘in a relationship’ would mean to an ordained Christian, and why do Christians, proponents of transparency, use or let pass meaningless, vague, Trojan Horse phrases like that?

          • But the question was ‘what do *you* think it would mean to an ordained Christian?’ For a man to describe another as his “partner” in the everyday world usually denotes marriage-equivalent intimacy. Christians – and certainly not bishops – should never use such expressions. We are called to live lives beyond reproach or suspicion in the eyes of non-believers.

          • Brian and Chris, I take it from your remarks then that, when the Bible applies the language of a husband and wife to the relationship of David and Jonathan, the Bible is using language which would be unworthy of Christians; Trojan horse phrases?

          • For example, 2 Sam. 1:25-26. I wonder how some of the people commenting here would respond to a Bishop saying that the love of a man (with whom we understood he’d formed a covenantal relationship cf. – 1 Sam. 23:18) surpassed for him that of the love of women?

          • You’re serious aren’t you?

            Is your contention that every time the Scriptures use “a-habat” that it refers to erotic love?

            Is your contention that the reference in 1 Sam 18:1-3 to Jonathan loving David “as his own soul” is an erotic connection? If so, please can you give us other examples in Scripture where this language is used of erotic love. You will of course want to refer to the underlying Hebrew and show how it is used elsewhere.

          • Furthermore David Beadle, if you want to argue that the root Hebrew “aheb” refers only to erotic love, please explain it’s usage in Gen 22:2. Is Abraham in an erotic relationship with his son? How about Gen 37:3? Is Israel in an erotic relationship with his son Jacob?

            Does Proverbs 18:21 refer to an erotic relationship with the power of the tongue?

            How about Deut 4:37? Is YHWH having sex with the Patriarchs?

            Let me know if you want more examples.

          • No, I’m not saying there’s an erotic connotation; I’m not arguing that at all. I’m responding to those who are saying it’s wrong for the Bishop to speak of being in “a relationship.” I’m saying that Scripture refers to committed relationships between men and compares their love to marriage between a man and a woman. Whether or not it’s erotic is besides the point, here – +Nicholas has given assurances that his relationship is within the guidelines of Issues, and so that is not the matter at stake. The question is, does the Bible suggest it’s acceptable for a man and a man to be in a(n abstinent) committed relationship with one another, which is comparable in certain ways with a heterosexual relationship? Yes it does.

          • “I’m saying that Scripture refers to committed relationships between men and compares their love to marriage between a man and a woman.”

            It compares in this case a particular bond of brothership and describes it as deeper than a simple erotic bond.

            How is this validating modern same-sex relationships as Biblical marriage?

            I am though in agreement with you that there is nothing Biblical per se about a celibate relationship between two people of the same sex.

          • This is where the imprecise use of language really causes problems. David, the phrase ‘comparable in certain ways with a heterosexual relationship’ is completely meaningless. I go shopping with my wife. So if I go shopping with a man, does that mean my relationship with him is ‘comparable in certain ways with a heterosexual relationship’?

            This kind of thing just generates a smokescreen.

          • The point is that aspects of a marital relationship between a man and a woman can be applied to understanding a covenantal relationship between two people of the same gender. I would agree with you that the relationship between David and Jonathan, and other relationships (e.g. Jesus and the Beloved Disciple) are not the same as same-sex relationships in the modern sense. But using committed relationships between men and women as points of comparison, analogy or allegory for covenanted relationships between two people of the same gender is thoroughly Biblical (for the latter cf. Ruth and Naomi) – even considering the differences in social and cultural expectations and understandings of relationships, marital and otherwise.

          • Ian, I think that example entirely different. No one’s talking about incidental and spurious comparisons we might be able to make like comparing faces and trees. There is an explicit comparison with the marital relationship applied to David and Jonathan – a relationship with covenantal commitment.

            We may be talking at cross purposes, here, I’m not trying to enter into a debate about the equivalence of committed SSMs with marriage, or even to compare sex in an SSM with marital sex. The point is that using terms such as “relationship” and “committed” between two men is hardly novel.

          • “The point is that aspects of a marital relationship between a man and a woman can be applied to understanding a covenantal relationship between two people of the same gender.”


            Could it be applied to understanding a covenantal relationship between a parent and adult child? Could it be applied to understanding a covenantal relationship between three or more people? If not, why not?

            I think your position ends up in special pleading. You extract the aspects of marriage that you want to apply to the different relationship that you seek approval for, but that needs to be done consistently for any kind of relationship.

          • Actually, I don’t see why certain language, comparisons and allegories related to marriage can’t be used of any close relationship with particular and binding commitment, e.g. of a woman and her Mother-in-Law, as with Ruth and Naomi. If this is not acceptable, why not? It’s in the Bible often enough.

            I suppose this applies to where there’s a sense of both parties having made a commitment somehow. It’s not quite the same in a parent-child relationship where there’s a non-negotiable relationship in the first place. I can’t think of any example in the Bible of comparisons being drawn so explicitly in a parent-child relationship as they are of David & Jonathan, or Ruth & Naomi.

          • If David thought his love for Jonathan was greater than for any woman, we can appreciate what he meant – there must, for example, be an intense bond between war veteran friends.

            Husband-and-wife language – where is that, David?

            There is a huge misunderstanding here. I never once said it was wrong for the Bishop to say he was ‘in a relationship’. I said it was wrong for him to say this AND THEN NOT DEFINE WHAT HE MEANT.

            The phrase is one of the least self-explanatory phrases one could imagine.

            Moreover, in common parlance, the phrase is used dishonestly as a Trojan horse phrase, smuggling in extra unmentioned baggage under a superficially unexceptionable veneer.

            Is it wrong for *anyone* to be a great deal more vague than they need to be? Yes – because then they strike one as being perhaps dishonest or what is called ‘disingenuous’ (amounts to the same thing).

            Is it even more wrong for a bishop to do that – if that is what they are doing? Yes – because higher standards will be expected of bishops if they are of a calibre to be chosen for their office. (Not that I for a moment uphold the Anglican double-standard *expectation* for clergy and laity, but the Pastoral Letters do [not unreasonably, cf. job interviews] expect that leaders will, not just in expectation but in reality too, be of a high calibre.)

        • Christopher, I didn’t use the phrase ‘in a relationship’ so I’m assuming you may be referring to something you’ve read in the media? I share your implied dislike of purloining and re-engineering words and phrases to serve a devious socio-political purpose.

          I of course used the word correctly when talking about a straightforward friendship – and there’s nothing of the Trojan horse about a normal friendship is there? Are you sure ‘Christians, proponents of transparency’ would be happy to talk about being ‘in a relationship’ with all the ambiguity that might imply? I rather hope not. On the other hand we can only engage with the culture where God has put us, so an overbearing legalist policing of language may be counter productive, even if technically correct!

          • (a) If people use phrases like ‘in a relationship’ they prove themselves to be unclear thinkers, so rather than being cultural leaders they ought to cede to clearer thinkers.

            (b) There are certain phrases that we can classify as Trojan Horse phrases. What they do say sounds innocuous; what they do not say (which actually is more relevant and decisive) is being deliberately and dishonestly hidden.

      • ‘I’m not sure the gentlemen in question *are* living under the same roof.’

        Yes, I have no idea either. And I really don’t want to comment on Nick Chamberlain’s personal circumstances, my point was on the more general inadequacy of the Church’s guidance regarding this type of situation.

  7. Three things are unremarkable. Someone experiencing same-sex-attraction at this far remove from their primal birth state. Someone house-sharing with a friend. Someone being celibate.

    All that is wrong in this case centres on the phrase ‘in a relationship’, which the bishop himself may or may not endorse. Why?

    (1) Truthful and honest people do not use meaningless phrases.

    (2) Truthful and honest people do not use vague phrases.

    (3) There are only 2 ways the phrase can be used: (a) non-exclusively – which is clearly not the case here, and (b) exclusively. So if it is (b) in this case, in what does the exclusivity consist? What makes the other man more than a friend? I can think of only two things. (I) An agreed lifelong exclusive bond, or (II) a former sexual bond.

    (I) is unlikely because strange in our present culture. But it is less unlikely from an ordained person mindful of the rules. (II) puts Bp Chamberlain in the same position as Jeffrey John – JJ is not repentant about his former practices; nor is his teaching on the topic Christian. These 2 reasons, lack of repentance and wrong teaching, obviously disqualify JJ from being a bishop but would also in most denominations disqualify him from being a Christian leader or baptism candidate.

    Bp Chamberlain’s position is similar but he may be a case of (I) rather than (II). He seems to have swallowed the secularist agenda, thought, and terminology, though. Again, it would be normal for Christian leaders and baptism candidates to define themselves sharply against these, and it would be remarkable for them to speak for all the world as though they themselves were secularists.

    • “Someone experiencing same-sex-attraction at this far remove from their primal birth state.”

      I have to admit that I have been puzzling over that one and don’t quite know what, if anything, to make of it. Unless it is intended merely as an illustrative example of the kind of meaningless phrases which you say that truthful and honest people don’t use, perhaps you might care to tell us what it’s getting at?

  8. People keep using orientation-language as though people are simply born gay. But from whichever angle one examines such a claim (and the angles are many) it does not add up. See previous discussion. To this we add:

    It is not going to be asserted that babies are gay.

    It is not going to be asserted that people experience gay attraction or any other kind of sexual attraction till they are around 7 or so.

    Therefore everyone agrees that a lot of water has gone under the bridge between our original birth (or even conception) state and the first time we experience any kind of sexual attraction that might lead us to think we were or were not ‘gay’.

    There was no ambiguity in my initial wording.

    • Thank you for that reply. I can’t comment on any instances of people using orientation-language as though people are simply born gay, as you haven’t given any. I would just observe that the use of “orientation-language” does not of itself carry any implied assumption, one way or the other, about whether people are simply born gay – or about whether people are simply born straight. As I have previously said, no-one knows the cause(s) of either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation. Yes, a huge amount of research has been done, and researchers can keep on finding correlations till the cows come home, but correlation is not the same thing as causation, and most claimed correlations apply only to a minority of people.

      “It is not going to be asserted that babies are gay.” Well, I would hope not, but there is probably someone somewhere who will assert it. For myself, I can see no meaningful sense in which any baby can be said to have a sexual orientation of any kind.

      I agree that a lot of water has gone under the bridge between our original birth state and our gradual awareness of our sexual attractions, whether to people of the other sex or of the same sex. It sounds to me, however, rather as though you are implying some significant inference from that commonplace fact of human experience. If so, it is anything but clear what it is.

      • First of all, I never ‘imply’ anything! At all. I believe in transparency. Who wouldn’t.

        The point is the simple and obvious one that (as has been oft-repeated) if anyone tries to make so-called sexuality a category like pigmentation or gender, both of which are inborn, it won’t wash. Yet, incredibly enough, a lot of the discussion is predicated on that falsehood.

        If you say all causations are simply correlations, does that apply in every area of study, or is this just one of the areas where it actually does apply? Please answer this one, as I have noticed that people e.g. cigarette manufacturers regularly use the correlation-not-causation chestnut as a get-out excuse.

        Is not correlation the best possible key to causation? Even with the oft-cited link between rates of icecream consumption and rape there is no direct causation but a clear causative network, heat being the parent.

        According to chaos theory (and also according to an accurate holistic and comprehensive view of the way the world works), ALL our circumstances may potentially have a simultaneous effect on our action. That makes causation a highly complicated matter.

        But we are not looking at correlation anyway. We are looking at *comparative* correlation. When the figures for heterosexuals and homosexuals are vastly different, there must be a reason for that. And there is not a great deal of difference between a ‘reason’ and a ’cause’ Or would you disagree?

        Please don’t use the phrase ‘heterosexual orientation’ – it sounds as though it were some kind of condition. It is a ubiquitous default. Things have unsurprisingly developed that way – as though there were any other possible way for things to develop. It is all to do with reproduction and the survival of species. All this idea of the equality of different orientations may therefore fairly be regarded as nonsense, though NB the word heterosexual was deliberately coined to give that impression. Apropos of which, people sometimes mistakenly think that the semantics of their particular culture and era provide the only possible way of understanding the world. Why would it be? To think that would just be proof of one’s narrowness and small horizons.

        I don’t understand your generalisation ‘Most claimed correlations apply to only a minority’. Examples?

        The ‘born gay’ mistake is the central one. It is what the whole media/activist/political misunderstanding rests on. All the main (flawed) central concepts – gay, homosexual, orientation – derive from this error.

        • Whether sexuality is an inborn category like pigmentation or gender is of little importance. It is still a category. You say that “a lot of the discussion is predicated on that falsehood.” What particular contentions of those taking part in the discussion (whichever discussion you have in mind) are predicated on that falsehood?

          My point about correlation as distinct from causation is that none of the correlations that have been found definitively answers the question of what causes of either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation. To take just one example, you have previously referred to “correlation of homosexual orientation with a history of molestation”. But most homosexual people have not been sexually molested, and there are plenty of heterosexual people who WERE homosexually molested. That illustrates what I meant when I said “Most claimed correlations apply to only a minority”.

          I shall certainly continue to use the phrase “heterosexual orientation”, because there is nothing wrong with it. I do not agree that it sounds like some kind of “condition”. It accurately describes most people’s ongoing and consistent pattern of sexual attraction to people of the other sex. The word “heterosexual” was coined, not to give any “impression”, but as a technical term to describe the majority sexuality. To say that heterosexuality is “a ubiquitous default” is simply a way of saying what everyone knows perfectly well: that the vast majority of people have a heterosexual orientation.

          “…as though there were any other possible way for things to develop.” Well, there clearly is, since a small minority of people do not have a heterosexual orientation but a homosexual one. You may dislike the terms “heterosexual”, “heterosexual orientation” etc. but you have not shown that there is anything misleading about them. They denote real aspects of human sexuality; that they are/were not in use in other cultures or eras certainly does not in any way invalidate them for that purpose.

          Contrary to your assertion, none of the concepts “gay”, “homosexual”, “orientation” derives from – still less does any depend upon – what you call “the ‘born gay’ mistake” or, indeed, on any other theory of the cause(s) of homosexuality (or of heterosexuality).

          • Actual it is insufficient to have a correlation – you must have a causation as well.

            There is a statistical correlation found between the number of people who eat margarine in Maine and the divorce rate there, but nobody is suggesting that if you eat margarine you will get divorced. That is correlation, yes – but no causation.

            There is a strong correlation between world-wide non-commercial space launches and the awarding of Sociology doctorates when clearly the two are not actually connected. That is correlation, yes – but no causation.

            There is similarly a good correlation between the age of Miss America contestants and murders committed in the USA by steam or hot vapours. Make of that what you will, but the clear point is that just because statistics show there is a correlation doesn’t mean that the two are in any way connected. That is correlation, yes – but no causation.

            Correlation on its own is not enough. Thus the BBC made the mistake of say that people who voted for Brexit also agree with the death penalty, which turned out to be garbage. The BBC made the mistake of thinking that a correlation was sufficient when it was not.

            By contrast, the EU strongly supports the entry of Turkey. The BREMAIN voters clearly knew that at the time of the vote. Until very recently Turkey had 29 different offences for which the penalty was death. Now Turkey has had a coup and there are even pictures of soldiers being beheaded. There is a picture of a group beheading a soldier with clearly no concern of justice, there is also a picture of a woman with a beheaded soldier laid out at her feet with equally no concern about any legal action being taken. Turkish MPs are now calling for the increase in the number of offences for which death is the penalty to be returned to the original 29 offences. Thus, BREMAIN voters want the EU knowing that the EU wants Turkey when Turkey has corporal punishment. This means that the link between BREMAIN voters and Corporal punishment can be clearly shown. This means that there is causation – fortunately for Bremain voters there is not a clear correlation.

            Thus for any scientific claim you need BOTH correlation and causation. One on its own is not enough.

          • Clive, all your points on correlation vs causation are obvious to anyone who knows the meanings of those 2 terms. But the discussion needs to move beyond the obvious, which is why I made further points:
            (1) everything in our environment is part of a causative web, making causation an extremely complicated and involved business – not a simple linear A causes B;
            (2) constant correlation is the most ubiquitous concomitant of actual causation – thus the two are closely linked;
            (3) correlation is by its nature easy to show and causation is by its nature difficult to show, so anyone who crows that only correlation has been shown is not considering that that is nothing more than the normal state of affairs;
            (4) we have not been talking about correlation but about comparative correlation; there must be a reason why homosexuals and heterosexuals ‘score’ so differently in certain matters; and a reason and a cause are much the same thing.

            William, if gay and homosexual are not terms referring to an innate state, then they are like the word ‘smoker’ (a behaviour has been adopted which has then become part of one’s lifestyle, practically hardwired, and it’s very hard to see how it could ever be shaken off). But smoking status is never mentioned together with gender and ‘race’, whereas sexuality is very frequently and mistakenly linked with gender and ‘race’, ás some fundamental part of identity.

            ‘Dislike’ never comes into what I say because dislike is an emotional and not a rational thing.

            There comes a point where something is so ubiquitous that it is pointless to have a word for it. You could have the word ‘breather’ for all humans who are breathing, but that is to neglect the fact that *all* living humans are breathing. Likewise all humans are male and female and their biological organs have demonstrable purposes.

        • Christopher Shell: “if gay and homosexual are not terms referring to an innate state, then they are like the word ‘smoker’ (a behaviour has been adopted which has then become part of one’s lifestyle, practically hardwired, and it’s very hard to see how it could ever be shaken off).”

          You could, of course, say exactly the same about the terms “straight” or “heterosexual” (or any synonym), and the dichotomy would be as false in the one case as in the other. The suggestion that if a trait is not an innate state it must be an adopted behaviour is a non sequitur. The causes of being right-handed or left-handed have still not been definitively established. Unless they are innate states, must they be adopted behaviours which then become part of one’s lifestyle? Clearly not.

          The comparison with smoking status is a singularly inept one. To be a smoker you have to DO something: you have to start smoking. To be heterosexual or homosexual you don’t have to do anything at all. Most people are aware of being sexually attracted to people of the other sex before, often long before, they express their attraction in sexual behaviour, and even if (as in the case of lifelong celibates) they never do. The same applies to the sexual attraction of a small minority to people of the same sex.

          You say “There comes a point where something is so ubiquitous that it is pointless to have a word for it.” Yes, and if there existed no sexual orientation other than heterosexual, the word would doubtless never have been coined. But to say that everyone is heterosexual just as everyone breathes would be a denial of reality. The introduction of the term recognized the plain fact that a small minority of people are NOT heterosexual. That fact is not in any way affected by the fact that all humans (with the exception of some very rare anomalies) are either male or female.

          • Will,

            What you have written doesn’t work.

            The problem really isn’t “being homosexual” with respect to anybody including, in this case, the Bishop of Grantham, that’s not any real problem at all. The problem really is “being homosexual” AND “doing something”.

            Thus when you wrote the following, it didn’t work:
            “The comparison with smoking status is a singularly inept one. To be a smoker you have to DO something: you have to start smoking. To be heterosexual or homosexual you don’t have to do anything at all. Most people are aware of being sexually attracted to people of the other sex before, often long before, they express their attraction in sexual behaviour, and even if (as in the case of lifelong celibates) they never do.”

            It is therefore not adequate for you to say that “….To be heterosexual or homosexual you don’t have to do anything at all.” when we are actually talkiung about being homosexual AND doing something, e.g. Keith Vaz.

            To be attracted to the same sex isn’t really the problem – whereas to do something due to their attraction to the same sex is the heart of the problem since that becomes against the New Testament scriptures universally whereas the former is only referenced by the scriptures in a debatable fashion.

          • Where is your evidence that most people had same-sex desires before they acted on them?

            Even if there were copious evidence for this, the people in question would have been young and unformed. Any action they did could be identity-forming.

            For those that began with same-sex sexual experience (and also for those that didn’t) their initial experience could not help but be identity-forming to some degree.

            But plenty of young men will begin with same-sex sexual experience for no better reasons than that they are raging with hormones at precisely the same time when they are not mature enough to be accepted by any young woman. Which is an extremely common circumstance, but is nothing to do with orientation at all. But if their first experience is of that nature, it will affect their brain and their sense of who they are.

            To these we add the very disproportionate number of presently ‘homosexual’ people who suffered molestation, ranging from 100% unwilling to 100% willing.

            Most unwise behaviours begin in adolescence, the age of unwisdom. This is why smoking is a good parallel. It is precisely in these unformed years – especially in weaker and less structured cultures – that people do stupid things which they would never do if they asked the question ‘What would I not be proud of looking back from my deathbed?’. I don’t think that the similarity of the age when people take up smoking to the age when (in the same sorts of ‘cultures’) they take up irresponsible experimental forms of sex (not to mention other irresponsible behaviours) is a coincidence at all.

            We are supposed to learn from these people, and view their behaviour as normative? On the contrary – of all people, they least deserve to be copied.

          • Clive, what I have written works perfectly, and your reply confirms it. You say that being homosexual “is not any real problem at all”, that “To be attracted to the same sex isn’t really the problem”, and that “The problem really is ‘being homosexual’ AND ‘doing something’.”

            By saying that you don’t regard being homosexual as a problem just so long as one doesn’t actually DO anything about it, you are agreeing that you don’t have to DO anything to be homosexual. There are in fact people who are homosexual but who never do anything about it (just as there are people who are heterosexual but never do anything about it).

            On the other hand, there is no such thing as smoker who has never smoked, just as there is no such thing as a drug addict who has never taken drugs or an alcoholic who has never consumed alcohol. That is why I said that Christopher Shell’s comparison of homosexuality with “smoking status” was a singularly inept one. It is.

            Whether doing anything about being homosexual, i.e. homosexual behaviour, is of itself a problem is a different question. You obviously think that it is. I don’t. Which certainly does NOT mean that I approve of any and all homosexual behaviour that anyone may engage in (e.g. that of Keith Vaz) any more than I approve of any and all heterosexual behaviour that anyone may engage in.

        • I think you will find if you investigate, Mr Shell, that most heterosexual people will testify that they had other-sex desires before they acted on them, and that most homosexual people will similarly testify that they had same-sex desires before they acted on them. It is, indeed, difficult to conceive of people acting on desires that they didn’t already have. I knew that I was sexually attracted to people of the same sex many years before I had any sexual experience, and I know that am I far from being alone in that respect.

          Same-sex sexual experimentation is a different matter. It is far from uncommon in adolescence. You may disapprove of it, but the evidence does not support your speculation that it is identity-forming in the way that you suggest; if it were, the gay population would be far larger than it is. Homosexual people do seem to be more vulnerable to sexual molestation, but the majority have never been molested in that way. It is no doubt true that “Most unwise behaviours begin in adolescence, the age of unwisdom”, and smoking is often one of them, but to compare homosexuality, on that basis, to taking up smoking is as absurd as to compare heterosexuality to taking up smoking.

          • If I will find these things if I investigate – and that may be true – what studies deal with this question? Is this something you have investigated yourself? I wonder what the percentages are.

            Savin-Williams and Ream show (if anyone doubted) that people may consider themselves ‘gay’ in the unsettled unformed years of adolescence. This is simply a matter of the immaturity that will be expected of people that age – the vast majority disown ‘gay’ status later. Of course, if people live in a society that has fewer mechanisms and structures for growing out of immaturity, they may never do so.

            On this issue of fluidity see not only SW and R but also Lisa Diamond.

            Fluidity means that more people call themselves 5 than 6 on the Kinsey scale: most homosexuals are not 100% homosexual. This is a large complication that militates against the binary heterosexual/homosexual picture you generally give. That binary picture is beloved of the press and campaigners, but not of scientists.

          • I don’t dispute that people may be uncertain about their sexuality during their adolescent years, and that many who think that they are gay will eventually realise that they are not. I don’t doubt either that some who consider themselves “straight” will eventually realise that they are gay. For anyone who is reaches adulthood with a definite homosexual orientation there is far less likelihood of it changing and there is no known means of making it change.

            Negative attitudes to gay people and their relationships, although still far too common, are now decidedly on the decline, at least in the civilized western world. I attribute that mainly to our having the good fortune to live in a society that now provides more mechanisms and structures for growing out of immaturity.

            To be frank, I really am not sure what to make of the claim that most homosexuals are not 100% homosexual. Nor am I sure what to make of the claim, which has also received publicity recently, that half or more of heterosexuals are not 100% heterosexual.



            I suspect that, whatever the truth of the matter, it makes little or no difference in practice to the lives of most homosexual or heterosexual people.

            I would reiterate that the comparison of homosexuality (or of heterosexuality) to “smoking status” is a ridiculous one.

          • William, the reason that your reply is inadequate is the absolutely colossal degree of the precentages involved here – scroll down and see my remakrs to Andrew and Lorenzo on the topic of fluidity (Savin-WIlliams and Ream / Lisa DIamond, etc.).

            In all that you write, your message is ‘as for homosexual, so for heterosexual’. This unwarranted presumption is like a strait-jacket that is impervious to evidence. The vast majority of ‘gay’ 16 year olds renounce that description. Is that the case with the vast majority of ‘straight’ ones (in your parlance)? Not even remotely.

            What are the ways in which you think that the stats for heterosexuals show a *different* pattern from those for homosexuals? Or are they much the same in all respects (!)? The chances of that actually happening are statistically negligible; but one can see how people’s ideologies could comple them to assume that. Which papers are you relying on here?

          • William,

            The whole point of the affirming camp citing key studies which correlate sexual orientation with genetic or non-social factors has been to promote the notion that sexual orientation identity is (or should be) synonymous and consonant with one’s sexual orientation. And on that basis (regardless of the actual cause) once sexual orientation is demonstrated to correlate with genetic factors, it is then argued that these factors make it unreasonable and unhealthy for any society or organisation to prohibit its members from embracing a particular sexual orientation identity.

            As an example, consider Dean Hamer’s critique of the recently published New Atlantis study by Mayer and McHugh, Hamer claims that they were biased in overlooking a number of key studies.

            He writes: They then discuss, at great length, an obscure study of 7th- to 12th-graders, published in a sociology journal, that doesn’t even measure sexual orientation, instead relying on a single question about “romantic attraction.” It’s an odd choice of articles to review given Mayer and McHugh’s emphasis on proper trait measurement; perhaps they were driven by the fact that it failed to find any heritability, thus supporting their claim that nobody is “born gay.” A very different conclusion was reached by a careful meta-analysis of all the available twin data, recently published in a large review that Mayer and McHugh fail to even mention.

            The large review is Sexual Orientation, Controversy, and Science by Bailey, Vasey, Diamond et al.

            One of the most fascinating and insightful aspects of this study is the section entitled ‘A question of choice’. On page 61ff, the authors highlight how meanings assigned to the word ‘choice’ have been conflated and then they conclude:
            The meanings of words can be illuminated by how people use them, and an important regularity in the way people use “choice” concerns the distinction between behavior and feelings. We choose our actions, but we do not choose our feelings. Consider the following two sentences:
            “I choose to have sex with partners of my own sex.”

            “I choose to desire to have sex with partners of my own sex.”

            The first sentence is conventional and sensible; the second sentence is neither. Einstein summarized Schopenhauer’s famous argument appropriately and thusly: “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills” (as quoted in Planck, 1933, p. 201).

            Applied to sexual orientation, it makes sense to say that people choose their sexual partners, but it doesn’t make sense to say that they choose their desires. Sexual orientation is defined as relative desire for same-sex or other-sex sex partners. Thus, it makes no sense to say that one chooses one’s sexual orientation. One does, however, choose to behave consistently or inconsistently with one’s sexual orientation. That is a lifestyle choice.

            So, far from concluding that people are ‘born gay’, the study explains that:The question of whether or not people choose their sexual orientations has clouded rather than clarified thinking. We can answer the question without knowing anything scientific about the causes of sexual orientation, because the answer depends entirely on what we mean by “choice” and “choose.” If a “choice” requires a lack of causes, then people cannot choose their sexual orientation because all human behavior has causes.

            If “to choose” means “to make a decision,” then we do not choose our sexual orientations because sexual orientations are patterns of sexual desire, and we do not choose our sexual desires. Of course, advocates of therapeutic attempts to change sexual orientation might argue that even if sexual desires are not initially chosen, individuals can choose to alter their desires through processes of conditioning and reinforcement. As we discuss in greater detail below, however, there is no evidence that such attempts are successful.

            We still choose how and whether we act upon our predispositions. Therefore, the real focus of our discussion should be on why, by comparison with any other enduring predisposition, it is particularly immoral to challenge a person’s choice to act upon their same-sex sexual attraction.

            I’m not so sure that the smoking analogy is inept. In my teenage years, as I watched the movies, early TV ads (before they were banned) and other social and environmental influences, I was attracted to smoking.

            Although I no longer smoke, I am also aware that I felt those desires to smoke long before I took my first drag, i.e. before I was ready to ‘DO something about it’.

            My desire to smoke, which eventually built up into an 20-a-day habit, could easily be described by some as an enduring pattern of emotional and psychological attraction towards nicotine.

            Nevertheless, I doubt that the APA would describe this enduring desire for tobacco, which persists to this day, to be a part of an identity.

            Also, for the State or any organisation to challenge me to abstain from acting upon a nicotine attraction is neither considered dangerous to my mental health nor injurious to my rights.

          • The smoking analogy works in some ways and not others, of course. But it is an angle that has been far too neglected: Surely it is significant that unwise sexual behaviours arise just when one might expect – in the years of unwisdom within cultures that accept those years to be an inevitable part of growing up. They are extremely similar to smoking, alcohol and drugs in this respect. Human nature loves the buzz of rebellion and transgression.

            Once taken up, however, these things are not so easily dropped. They have already become part of who we are.

          • “The vast majority of ‘gay’ 16 year olds renounce that description.”

            If that’s so, then that’s fine. But what, if anything you are inferring from that? You don’t really say.

            “Is that the case with the vast majority of ‘straight’ ones (in your parlance)? Not even remotely.”

            Nor did I assert or suggest that it was the case with the vast majority. But I did say that for anyone who reaches adulthood with a definite homosexual orientation there is far less likelihood of it changing, and that there is no known means of making it change. For “anyone” I should perhaps have said “any male”. Otherwise I stand by that statement.

            “What are the ways in which you think that the stats for heterosexuals show a *different* pattern from those for homosexuals? Or are they much the same in all respects (!)?”

            The stats in respect of what exactly?

            I agree with you that unwise sexual behaviours, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are similar to smoking, alcohol and drugs in that, like the latter, they ARE unwise and that they are especially common during the “years of unwisdom”. Are we to conclude that either heterosexuality or homosexuality itself is similar to smoking, alcohol and drugs? I see no reason to draw any such conclusion.

          • The stats in respect of anything. I have met several people who have been so blinded by the artbitrary binary nature of ‘homosexual’/’heterosexual’ parlance that they cannot conceive that either group can be on average superior or inferior to the other in any matter whatsoever. What are the chances of that?

            Both Savun-Williams/Ream and Diamond disagree with the idea that homosexuals do not change after reading adulthood. The slippage in the former paper between age 17 and 22 men is 30%. Yes, people do get progressively more set in their ways, in all matters not just this matter, but that fact says nothing about whether those ways are beneficial or harmful. Some will be one, some the other.

            You are simply assuming we have to talk uncritically in terms of ‘homosexuality’ and ‘heterosexuality’ when that is exactly the point at issue – whether or not there is something called orientation (as opposed to biological complementarity) that is sufficiently un-vague and un-fluid that we can meaningfully speak in terms of it. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the names of 2 orientations, and orientation itself is what is being tested under the microscope.

        • Christopher Shell:

          In what sense are you using the words “superior” and “inferior” in this context? And what exactly is the supposed connection between “the arbitrary binary nature of ‘homosexual’/’heterosexual’ parlance” and belief or disbelief that one group can be “superior” or “inferior” to the other?

          You appear to be suggesting that people’s sexual attractions are “ways” that they get “set in”. What evidence do you have that this is the case, for either homosexual or heterosexual attractions?

          Few classifications of human traits deal with phenomena that fall in reality into sharply divided categories, into one or other of which each person must fall, and many human traits, whether physical or psychological, are fluid in at least some individuals. I have not heard those considerations urged against the meaningfulness of those classifications. I see no reason why sexual orientation should be regarded as an exception in that respect.

  9. Back when, a few years back, some in the affirming camp proposed a new outing campaign, I said that not only would it be wrong, but that it’d be spectacularly counter-productive: either the bishop would admit to breaking church teaching, and resign or repent; or they’d have upheld it. In either case, they’d find sympathy and support from many who hold to the traditional position, and it’d do nothing to change the church’s teaching,

    The only people who’d look bad would be a tiny core of frothing zealots, and those doing the outing, who’d succeed in lowering themselves in the public’s eye, and would alienate their natural allies, as Peter Tatchell did (even the famously pro-equality BBC wouldn’t have him on air). Thankfully, in this case, the announcement came from a newspaper, but that’ll be little comfort to the target; however, does appear that he’ll avoid the response that greeted Jeffrey John, for which all can be thankful.

  10. Can you point me to some factual support for your claim that the “non outing” was part of a plan to destabilise the CofE current approach?
    Making a statement of that order without even a tiny attempt supporting it is as reprehensible as your claim.
    it is gossip.
    the worst sort of gossip.
    I was struck by the further claim that after a decade and more of being “outed” the bishop of Edmonton and his partner suddenly left to avoid press attention.
    It was true that he resigned almost immediately after having sanctioned Andrew who has a living in his former episcopal area, but then what had changed was the way the CofE had decided to respond to married clergy.
    So we ended up with a surreal situation where a bishop who is living with someone in a longterm and committed relationship that is completely unregulated then issues a rebuke to a priest in his diocese who has married his partner.
    I am sure Jensen is delighted you haven’t attacked the way he runs his diocese, though he hasn’t actually had a diocese for over three years. Perhaps his willingness to comment on the CofE has something to do with the fact he has nothing else to do now?
    While you may not have had much to say about Jensen and his diocese there was a great deal of criticism being levelled at his theology at the same time the bishop of Edmonton was being outed.
    Indeed there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Jensen was so horrified at being threatened with exclusion from the Anglican Communion back then that he decided to turn the tables and get the CofE thrown out instead.
    You have to give it to him, he has made allies of those he would see as nonChristians and forged alliances with the most dubious characters but he has divided the Anglican Communion and rendered it impotent to carry out the threats against him. He is a player.

    • “Perhaps his willingness to comment on the CofE has something to do with the fact he has nothing else to do now?”

      You can make barbed comments if you wish, but Jensen is actually pretty busy now in retirement in working for Gafcon and preparing for the next Gafcon conference. I don’t think he’s short of things to do. As I am sure you know, he is working to establish a global alternative to the old Canterbury-led ecclesial arrangement which is no longer trusted much in the Global South.

      • “Indeed there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Jensen was so horrified at being threatened with exclusion from the Anglican Communion back then that he decided to turn the tables and get the CofE thrown out instead.”

        I don’t know what Martin Reynolds is referring to and I have never hear that Peter Jensen thought he would be “excluded from the Anglican Communion”.

        Martin Reynolds should substantiate this serious allegation or withdraw it.

    • “Indeed there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Jensen was so horrified at being threatened with exclusion from the Anglican Communion back then that he decided to turn the tables and get the CofE thrown out instead.”

      Where?…. Because there is a danger of “the worst sort of gossip”.

      I have no axe to grind for or against Jensen.

      (Posted in error further down and can’t delete it!)

      • Ian H
        Brian gives us the answer
        Jensen is busy establishing an alternative to a CofE led Communion.

        From statements made by Jensen and others including his legal guy and by the extensive published writings of Dr Muriel Porter we can be sure that expulsion was on the cards if Sydney had moved ahead with authorising lay celebrations of the Eucharist.
        They have lay celebrations and have removed all penalties in Canon Law that would make such celebrations unlawful but have not publicly “come Out”
        English Canon Law only can be applied to office holders, so lay people in general cannot be forbidden to marry. It is interesting that in Wales where Canon Law applies to all it was probably deemed impolitic to say lay people can marry and clerics etc may not – so all may marry.
        There is a massive body of evidence to support my statements whereas until we have the facts from Ian Paul, what he writes is just tittle tattle and gossip.

        • “From statements made by Jensen and others including his legal guy and by the extensive published writings of Dr Muriel Porter we can be sure that expulsion was on the cards if Sydney had moved ahead with authorising lay celebrations of the Eucharist.”

          Expulsion by whom? The Archbishop of Canterbury? Let’s have some documentation on that. Muriel Porter asserts a great deal but proves nothing.

          • Many in times in the past, as well, I received communion in Pentecostal or Baptist services led by people not considered “ordained” by Anglicans. So they were “lay celebrations”, as far as some (High?) Anglicans are concerned.

            Were these services sinful or dishonouring to God? I don’t think so.

          • I am sure we are all in awe of your ecumenical graciousness, Brian.
            Muriel Porter is an able and thoughtful Christian, she has a profound understanding of the Sydney situation .
            You ask who was to get rid of Sydney, and I find it difficult to imagine you are asking this seriously or were somehow blissfully unaware of the crisis that caused the bishop to publicly pull back from the overwhelming decision of his Synod.
            However , in a way, it was to be Canterbury or rather the device he developed from the Windsor Report.
            The Covenant was the chosen tool to see off Sydney.

            It was a cleaver device, one I suspect will have a renaissance in another decade or so.
            I was there when Jensen’s legal guy ( was it Robert Tonge?) told a gathering including Canon John Rees and Gregory Cameron, that Sydney would never accept any such legal framework that might interfere with its sovereign ability to decide its own doctrine.
            From the smiles, this was clearly the hope and back then the Covenant looked like a sure thing.
            Of course Nigeria and probably Uganda were expected not to subscribe as well.

            Now let’s get some FACTS about how those who wrote the letter outed the bishop.
            Or are we to accept that it was just malicious gossip?

        • No Martin, In Wales the issue is marriage IN CHURCH. You can marry but you cannot marry your same-sex partner in Church. State marriage is seen as different to Church marriage.

          • No Clive
            I was refering to Canon Law and the English Bishops decision to sanction clergy who offend Canon Law and marry. I was making the point that English Canon Law applies to office holders only whereas in Wales the Canon Law applies to all members of the Church and there are no sanctions on anyone who gets married in Wales.

          • No, Martin, I live in Wales and Canon law does not apply to all lay people simply because they are allegedly members of the Church. You’re off the mark there.

          • From the Preface to the Constitution of the Church in Wales

            The Constitution was first drawn up after the separation of the Welsh dioceses from the Church of England in 1920. Together with rules inherited from the Church of England at disestablishment – rules drawn partly from Acts of Parliament, post- Reformation canons of the Church of England and the medieval canon law, all of which the Church in Wales now has the power to alter or repeal – the Constitution forms the internal law of the Church in Wales. It is binding upon all members of the Church in Wales, both clerical and lay, but not upon the people of Wales generally, and, in common with the rules of other voluntary associations, it is enforceable in certain circumstances in the civil courts. It is the product of the freedom given to the Church in Wales by the Welsh Church Act, 1914, to govern its own affairs.

          • Martin,
            if your particular slant that you wish to put on it were true then the issue of services of blessing for SSM wouldn’t be the issue it is. Whereas, in reality,

            a) The Archbishop of Wales said in a press release that he wasn’t going to put marriages for SSM in Church in Wales because it would not have sufficient support


            b) Only some dioces (I think just over half now) permit blessings of SSM when dioceses such as St Davids, the heart of Wales, do not.

            So I say again, I think you are mistaken.

          • Clive you have completely missed the point.
            We are discussing the problems faced by gay clergy in relationships.
            English bishops have decided to discipline office holders who marry, there is an expectation that relations are non sexual. English Canon Law only applies to office holders and there are no sanctions in place for lay people who marry.
            While in Wales where the Canon Law covers all there are no sanctions against any member of the Church in a civil partnership or marriage and there is no expectation that once regulated, these relationships should be without sexual intimacy.
            Indeed Welsh bishops now seem to, quite properly, insist that partnered clergy get hitched!
            This has nothing to do with marrying people in church, forbidden still by statute.
            I hope you now understand and accept that all “alleged members” of the Church in Wales are subject to Canon Law!

          • Dear Martin, You continue to go over the top. you said: “Indeed Welsh bishops now seem to, quite properly, insist that partnered clergy get hitched!” … They do not! Nor can they get married in Church. Kindly stop exaggerating.

          • Cluve, you really don’t seem to have grasped the changes in Wales.
            I know of two clergy and one ordinand who have been told to get hitched.
            I also know that the bishop of Monmouth would not induct a cleric to a benefice until he had regularised his domestic arrangements.
            This is not an exaggeration just the sign of how these matters are now dealt with on an equal basis here in Wales.
            While the Church in Wales has A lawful service to celebrate our relationships I am sure you are aware that full marriage services are easily available the length and breadth of Wales, even in St David’s!
            I have been doing these services for nearly 30 years without a single complaint.

          • Of course, Clive, I have been prevented by stattute from entering those marriages in the books provided by the civil registration service.

          • Clive, I have myself officiated at such a marriage in that diocese, so enough of your inability to follow the argument, failure to grasp the structure of the Church in Wales and false allegations against me.
            This blog seems full of people who are willing to make unfounded accusations and are unwilling to acknowledge their offence against their fellowChristians.
            Enough of this.

          • Gents, is it possible to play the ball and not the person here?

            Martin, if you conducted a service, as I understand it you were acting against current Canon Law in Wales and probably breaking ordination vows…unless the C in W has become congregationalist?

            Could you clarify?


          • Ian, thank you, it was getting hard to sustain a wish to continue .
            I would be glad to explain how I came to do these services, but first, tell us, where is the support for your contention that those responsible for the letter had some part in the bishops non-outing?

          • Martin – I have not made any false allegations against you whatsoever. I am grateful for Ian’s intervention. I will stop there as you have entered the realm of strange allegations.

          • Martin,
            For the benefit of the rest of us could you explain how it was you officiated at such a service and why you do not think it broke Canon law?

          • Martin, I know the outing connection from conversations with journalists. But there is no connection between this and the question of your conducting marriages.

            The C in W recently rejected this, so you must have been acting against canon law, must you not? So your claim that this ‘happens in Wales’ is only that is happens illegally?

          • At the time of the Welsh Revival the pubs emptied, the pit ponies would not move because they did not recognise orders that did not contain swear-words, and a generation containing many godly men and women – still remembered by the older citizens today – came into being. Something very real and very good happened.

            The Loughor pastor wept (when my wife and I visited in 2004) as he remembered the children of the revival – and at the difference between then and now.

          • Conversations with journalists ….. Ah! Bearing witness against your fellow Christians from whom I am sure you asked confirmation?
            My enquiries say there is no connection.
            Christian witness is thin when some are defending a position, how miserable is that.
            Like many priests I have been proudly performing a variety of marriag/blessing services for some 30 years.
            It was something I wrote extensively about when I was Director of Communications for LGCM.
            We were then advertising a connection service between those seeking blessing/marriage and those clergy honoured and privileged to officiate. LGCM had a list of hundreds of clergy willing to help.
            Clive must accept that it is no exaggeration to say that I gave or provided speakers for hundreds of interviews for the ten years from 2002 on this subject. I made it quite plain in these interviews that I had and was continuing to perform these ceremonies.
            Chris Bishop asks how I came to officiate at these services, well, apart from the LGCM. Connection srvice, family connection or in the case of St David’s a Vicar who was happy to host the service but asked me to do the liturgy.
            All the bishops knew what I was doing, I advertised it!
            Only one bishop wrote forbidding me from doing these services in his diocese and I obeyed his injunction.
            No bishop specifically aproved though on one occasion the couple were closely related to the then Archbishop.
            The services I used were not aproved, I wore correct clerical dress.
            I have never been charged with any offence in our ecclesiastical courts, and I suspect that using unauthorised services is something many clergy are guilty of.

  11. I must admit to not reading all of this but I have read varying reports of the Bishop and his stance and statement. I fully understand someone wanting to live with someone else who they care for and to have a companion. I have a couple of points though.The language he uses language about this relationship is akin to marriage ie a lifelong permanent bond that is faithful to one another. So in their minds it is marriage in all but paper. I am sure in Christian terms the only relationship that is permanent, exclusive and lifelong is marriage between a man and women. Outside of that it is singleness not other forms of exclusive relationships.
    If his sexuality is not an issue and a small part of him he has made a decision that is based on a huge part of his life and this does not free him from that but confirms his identity with him entering into a lifelong union. Our identity is in Christ and for him to shape who we are not through another person. In singleness we are free to develop friendships to develop love for other friendships and to forge other loving relationships and be part of community.I am sure many within Living Out have testified to the fact that not being in a relationship has made them free to explore other meaningful relationships and life has become richer.
    Thirdly what does this say yet again to people who have come out of gay relationships in regard to church teaching and are now single. Not just gay people here but straight too?
    The only exclusive permanent relationship God designed as someone of the opposite sex as this is the perfect balance for a relationship and what we need to grow and develop with someone who is other than ourselves.
    Many people would find his language hard and more people in the church while some are demanding more inclusion will feel more isolated within the church and that the hard decision they have made is once again ignored.
    I can understand the position that the church felt they had to make in allowing these relationships but it still does not take many other peoples views in to consideration and it allows people in leadership positions that do not speak to the people they are called to serve.
    If the church upholds singleness and then confirms lifelong unions that are exclusive what are they actually saying.

    Yes there may be love there and affection and friendship for these two people there is for lots of relationships? it is not or should be exclusive and lifelong as that is only given for marriage. Just my thoughts….

  12. Some basic prudential principles seem to have been forgotten in this matter.

    1. Christians, especially Christian leaders, must live lives above reproach. There is no ‘privacy’ before God and there should be no obfuscation before fellow Christians, or ambiguity or suggestion of scandal.

    2. Catholic moral theology talks about frequenting the ‘Occasions of Sin’, i.e. playing with fire by exposing oneself to the risk of temptation (like an alcoholic taking a job in an off-licence). If you are sexually attracted to another person (and he to you), it is *not* moral wisdom to continue the relationship.

    3. In the eyes of the world, “partner” denotes a romantic and sexual bond. Whatever Chamberlain means by this word – and he has not been candid – he used the word (as well as “committed relationship”, whatever that means) – and has left the ‘outside world’ to draw its own conclusions. That is not how Christ enjoined us: ‘Let your yes be yes’ etc.

  13. “Indeed there is more than enough evidence to suggest that Jensen was so horrified at being threatened with exclusion from the Anglican Communion back then that he decided to turn the tables and get the CofE thrown out instead.”

    Where?…. Because there is a danger of “the worst sort of gossip”.

    I have no axe to grind for or against Jensen.

  14. This, in my opinion, Ian, is the most important bit of your article:

    ” it looks like it is buying into a discredited approach to ‘healing’ same-sex attraction; it undermines the ministry of those who experience same-sex attraction and are either celibate or other-sex married; and it is pastorally unhelpful.”

    As one who is ‘other-sex’ married, but nevertheless ‘celibate’, I can agree with you on this point.

  15. Putting aside the interference of the former bishop of Sydney, it would be good to know if there is any evidence to support the contention in this article that the bishop was used as part of a campaign to put pressure on the House of Bishops.
    If there is not, then it is rather a shame to see the facts being presented in this way.

  16. ‘re +Peter Wheatley. Bishop Peter was 67 when he retired ( 2 years over pensionable age) Those of us in the Edmonton Area ( I was his DDO) always thought he would retire before the Bishop of London so that Richard Chartres could make the appointment. That is what happened.

  17. Ian finished with Wes Hill’s helpful reflection and it is disappointing to see that some of the responses so far took no serious notice of it.

    The reality is that it was profoundly wrong and deeply unchristian to use the press to blackmail the Suffragan Bishop of Grantham or any clergy.

    Clergy are NOT perfect people. We have to stop putting them on pedestals in the media and elsewhere. It is true that Bishops should be held to a higher standard but that does not mean perfection and if even St Paul in his letter confesses to constantly trying to do the right thing, failing and consequently too many times doing the wrong thing then we cannot really hold any Bishop to a higher standard than a Saint and especially not St Paul. Bishops will make mistakes, clergy will make mistakes – live with it. As Christians we should understand that and simply accept that people are trying to do the right thing but will very often be failures.

    Christianity is one of the few religions (possibly the only one) in which ALL of its adherents are failures. There are no perfect Christians and that is one of the tenets of Christianity.

    So it is profoundly unchristian to bully any person over any aspect of their life.

    Noticeably the Bishop of Grantham has also not spoken of trying to change the Church’s teaching.

    Thus, in the press, there is also a public letter trying to pressurise the House of Bishops into changing their teaching. To write such a thing privately is Christian and OK but to write it publicly is secular power-play and profoundly unchristian. Sadly it is signed by the usual team.

    This whole bad unchristian behaviour has to stop.

  18. Ian

    One of your paragraphs is:

    ‘A fourth objection is of quite a different kind. Some have suggested to me (on the basis of a Reformed theology reading of Romans) that ‘same-sex attraction is a sin, whether or not one engages in same-sex sex’—that is, desire itself is sinful, and that to experience same-sex attraction, even if not acted on, is problematic in relation to ministry and leadership. I think this is a poor and mistaken reading of Paul’s language of ‘desire’; if the Reformers read it this way, then I think they need to be reformed by Scripture; I think it is a very odd way to understand emotion, temptation and sin (if I have depression, am I sinning by thinking negative thoughts?); it looks like it is buying into a discredited approach to ‘healing’ same-sex attraction; it undermines the ministry of those who experience same-sex attraction and are either celibate or other-sex married; and it is pastorally unhelpful’.

    As I believe: it is true, from the Bible, that we are all born with a faulty, corrupt and inclined-to-evil(sin) nature. This may be an inclination to pride, to deceitfulness, to selfishness, to cowardice, to unrighteous anger, to lust, and other sinful inclinations, which all arise from the heart, as in Matthew 5:28, Matthew 15:19, Romans 7:5, Romans 7:23, Romans 8:7, James 1:13-15. Both Jesus (Matthew 5:29-30) and Paul (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5) exhort us to put these inclinations to death, and to resist the temptation to obey these inclinations. This may be a life-long, acute, agonising struggle, maybe punctuated by repeated failures.

    If, as we debate and disagree about this sensitive, important and highly charged subject (human sexuality), we don’t agree that the Bible teaches this, then we need to debate whether it does or not before discussing the human sexuality question.

    If we agree that the Bible does teach this then the key question is whether same-sex attraction is one of these post-Fall evil (sinful) inclinations. In my view it is. Obviously, rather than saying ‘same-sex attraction is a sin’ I am saying ‘same-sex attraction is a sinful inclination’. Does this way of putting things at all allay the concerns your paragraph expresses about this ‘fourth objection’? I agree that it is pastorally very challenging indeed, whatever one’s sinful inclinations are.

    Phil Almond

    • Philip: if it is a sinful Inclination, why is it not healed by life in the Spirit? Why is it that gay people’s sexual orientation is not generally changed as they grow into fullness of life in Christ? (see my comment at the top). This is the ‘key question’ which follows on from your ‘key question’.

      • Andrew

        Because, as I said, for any sinful inclination, ‘This may be a life-long, acute, agonising struggle, maybe punctuated by repeated failures’. I know this is a very hard truth, for all of us, whatever our own sinful inclination, but especially so for those whose sinful inclinations are of a sexual kind. But what Jesus says in the Sermon are ‘hard’ words, are they not?

        Phil Almond

      • Andrew, where is your evidence that this is in fact the case? There are 2 problems with such an assertion. (1) It is only anecdotal, not evidenced. (2) It lumps together all ‘gay’ ‘Christians’ as if all of them were the same, rather than there being 200 different circumstances and outcomes for 200 different people.

        • Philip and Christopher, this it really quite astounding. Philip, the scientific evidence is undeniable: for most people, their sexual orientation remains fixed and is resistant to attempts to change it. Look around you. Look in your churches. Speak to gay people on their churches. To pretent that homosexuality can be ‘cured’ or ‘healed’ or ‘changed’ flies in the face of empires and scientific evidence – it is a willfilly delusional and damaging position to hold.

          Christopher, please don’t patronise me by telling me that overcome sin requires struggle and hard work. I am a mature adult Christian and I know how challenging and disorientating it can be, to seek to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is arrogant of you to assume that you are the only person who understands this – and that others (such as gay Christians) are somehow not trying as hard as you are, not struggling enough. Can you not see that?

          I notice that neither of you have disputed my theological argument. You have simply challenged the evidence. Your view of the evidence is simply wrong: attempts to overcome or change one’s sexual orientation simply do not, generally, work. This is why the ex-gay conversion therapy movement in the US has been discredited. So the logic of my argument stands: if gay people’s sexual orientation does not change as they as conformed to Christ by the Spirit, then this is because it does not need to. They can model holiness and Christlikeness as a gay person. They do not need to change.

          • Andrew – the scientific evidence is not as you say. Which papers are you relying on here? Lisa Diamond and Savin-Williams/Ream, among others, show the extreme fludity of homosexual self-designation. There are even more people at 5 on the Kinsey scale than at 6. Things are much less clear-cut.

            It is surely a major factor that a society is gay-friendly. If a society is gay-friendly that will naturally make it almost impossible to forswear homosexuality, because it will be everywhere around you and there will be no motivation to do so. Whether it’s easy or difficult to forswear it depends on the particular culture/society – it’s not a constant.

            Your theological argument – you have the advantage on me here as I am not sure that there is any agreed theological system, or any theological system that deserves to be agreed upon. Consequently I rely on what I suppose are harder and less manupulable sciences such as historical-critical New Testament study and the Philosophy of Religion. Most of what calls itself theology is unscientific: neither verifiable nor falsifiable – and therefore if it is not these things, why should we listen to it?

          • ‘The scientific evidence’ – that is quite a generalisation. Could I ask which papers you are relying on here. Re fluidity of homosexual self-designation: The papers of Savin-Williams and Ream, and of Lisa Diamond – which I thought were among the very largest studies – give almost the opposite picture. But the picture they give is the normal one among such studies. What is your assessment of them?

            Of course the more gay behaviour is accepted by a society the less motivation and ability there will be to change it. (And the less, the more.) You are speaking as though all societies are like our present society – which is obviously not the case.

            I don’s see theology as being scientific enough to provide ‘arguments’ – unlike historical-critical New Testament study or philosophy of religion. ‘Theology’ is regularly used by people to spread their ideologies. It is not a sufficiently hard science, nor are its claims sufficiently verifiable or falsifiable.

          • Christopher (if I may), have you actually read the papers of Savin-Williams and Ream, and of Lisa Diamond. By the very admission of their authors, they do not show what you hope them to show: ‘extreme fluidity.’ The latter in particular –and its findings are available to anyone who cares to look, even online– will be a treacherous ally in the cause of conservative evangelical apologetics on the matter. It is a small study, by any standard. It is confined to women. Its sample was Dr Diamond’s own few students (young women who take women studies as a subject at a liberal university) and shows that their ‘self-identification’ changes circumstantially. No one on the affirming side would deny that. As the old joke goes, the only difference between a straight man and a gay one is a couple of pints. To enrol such studies to prove that sexual orientation is ‘extremely fluid’ and can be changed, however, flies in the face of out hard research and the lived experience of thousands, even in the ex-gay movement.

          • Hi Lorenzo

            The statistics involved are astounding. There are many studies.

            Diamond finds that fully two-thirds of the women changed their orientation self-designation in just ten years, one-third did so twice or more.

            (One thing this proves is that our categories bisexual, lesbian, unlabelled don’t match the reality.)

            All women (sic!) reported declines in their ratio of same-sex behaviour compared with other-sex behaviour over the 10-year period. Again, a very clearcut stat.

            Savin-Williams/Ream’07: fully 81% of remales calling themselves same-sex attracted at at 16 called themselves opposite-sex attracted at just 17! That much fluidity that quick. For men the figure was 61%, and by age 22 fully 90%. No wonder that people say that exgays (who are not ‘allowed’ by the powers that be to exist, even) outnumber gays (who are always portrayed as being everywhere). So a central issue is accuracy vs lies.

            Savin-Williams and Ream only reflect what other studies also find:
            -Two years earlier in the same journal (ASB), Kinnish et al. found exclusive opposite-sex attraction to be 17x more stable than exclusive male SSA, 30x more than exclusive female.
            -The National Health and Socila Life Survey 1992 had already said that three-quarters of boys ‘gay’ at 16 were not at 25.

          • Lorenzo, this is a useful discussion. You just ought to be aware that, yes, Christopher has read all the research quite carefully!

            I read the research (not as extensively as him) but in the same way. It is well established that female same-sex attraction is unstable (a better term than fluid?) in a way that female other-sex attraction is not. This is not the case for male same-sex attraction, which is much more stable.

            There are two things to conclude from this. First, the two phenomena are quite different from one another, and I think most would agree that the elements of causation are generally quite different.

            The second is that arguments for sexuality as a protected characteristic must rely on a ‘rights’ argument (as in freedom of religious belief) and not on an ‘inherent characteristic’ argument, like racial identity.

          • It is not well established that female same-sex attraction is unstable (if you want to a use the term rather than fluid?) in a way that female other-sex attraction is not, for the very simple reason that you cannot have one without the other, unstable means unstable, just like some women ‘go gay’ in certain circumstances like imprisonment, some ‘go straight’ after having had all-consuming girl-crushes in college… fluid is as fluid does.

          • Christopher, the statistics are not what I would call outstanding, and no, there aren’t that many studies, only a handful, all of them dodgy as they involve self-reported self-definition. Lisa Diamond’s so-called research simply shows that a few young American women who take women studies as a subject (and their is already a very niche social category) declared that they changed their ‘self-definition’ over the years. Wow! Should she repeat the study now, she’ll find that lots and lots of American (and British) young adults ‘self-define’ as non-gendered, genderqueer, asexual, polysexual… you name it. Self-definition changes all the time, socially. The question is: does the sexual attraction to the same sex endure even though some women may not consider it ‘defining’?

          • Lorenzo, that’s wrong. If you ask same-sex attracted women how they self-identify and come back 10 years later, and do the same with other-sex attracted women – the difference in instability-percentage between the 2 groups is simply astounding (whereas you are implying something very inaccurate indeed: that it is about the same).

          • Christopher is misrepresenting Savin-Williams and Ream. It did not ask participants at 16 and 17 whether or not they called themselves ‘same-sex attracted’ (which is an identity question). Participants at these ages were only asked about specific incidents (have you experienced a romantic attraction to someone within the last year), not about how they would describe their own identity.

            Please do not use Savin-Williams and Ream as evidence of stability of same-sex identity or self-designation. It does not provide evidence that can or could answer that question.

          • Andrew
            The first sentence in my September 7 reply was, as I see it, just a straight answer to the question in your September 7 post. I agree that my final sentence is patronising and for that I apologise. But I don’t see there is anything in my post which suggests that I am the only person who understands nor that I think that gay Christians are not struggling hard enough.
            But I would like to make sure we are not misunderstanding each other, and/or to identify the point at which we start to disagree. This may take several posts, if you don’t mind doing it a step at a time.
            I know that you don’t agree that same-sex attraction is an inclination to sin. But, setting that aside for the moment, do you agree with all I said in the paragraph of my September 6 post, ‘As I believe….repeated failures’.
            Phil Almond

  19. Hello Ian and all,

    Think I agree in the main that this isn’t really news. But two things:

    – am surprised that you don’t have any words of criticism for the article by Gavin Ashenden, to which you give a link. It’s contemptuous in tone, peppered with typos, and has snide little asides like, “(They could have referred to the Holy Scriptures, but House of Bishops guidelines seem to have more authority in the C of E.)” Perhaps worst is that near the beginning he says, “It is a horrid thing to be talked about in the public domain” – and then spends several hundred words doing just that.

    – more importantly, it seems to me that your piece brings to light a lack of logic in your position. You’re very clear that you don’t think ‘same-sex attraction’, the desire itself, is sinful – but of course equally clear that such a desire should never be expressed. How is this logical – can a desire be deemed neutral or good if it should never in any context be acted on?

    in friendship, Blair

    • “How is this logical – can a desire be deemed neutral or good if it should never in any context be acted on?”

      Desires are not neutral. They are inclinations to things which are either good or bad. So a desire can be holy or unholy – as Anglican prayer has always recognised.

      We are talking instead about temptation and whether we mentally say yes or no to them.

      I can be tempted by all kinds of things. When I say yes to wrongful desires, I cross over into sin, whether or not I succeed in acting on the desire. This is what Jesus meant by ‘committing adultery in the heart’.

      • Brian,

        Agreed. If a person’s desire is strong enough to become an unfulfilled craving, it is lust.

        I think we need to distinguish sinful propensity from sinful craving, though.

        As Christ explained (without excusing) our very human susceptibility to temptation: ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’.

        At the same time, St. Paul is clear that mentally indulging an intense wrongful desire is sin: ‘“for I had not known lust [epithymia] except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7)

        James also says: ‘“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”?? (James? ?1:15?)

        So, the notion that there is no sin in a wrongly directed desire which takes hold of our thoughts, while stopping short of a physical act is patently false.

        Of course, the Church’s role should not be to police any Christian’s internal thought-life.

        Nevertheless, Ian should clarify how that the indulgence of same-sex attraction through an exclusive, permanent cohabitation arrangement differs from epithymia.

    • Gavin Ashenden’s point about the relative importance of the words of Jesus and of church statements is an obviously correct point. It is a great example of putting the horse before the cart as it should be.

  20. Anglican prayer (BCP Collect) on the character of desire:

    O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels,
    and all just works do proceed;
    give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
    that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
    and also that, by thee,
    we being defended from the fear of our enemies
    may pass our time in rest and quietness;
    through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

    Temptation comes unbidden by and to the tempted.

  21. Hello Brian,

    Thank you for this and for quoting the collect, which I don’t think I’d seen before.

    I don’t disagree with you – but I think, if I’m reading correctly, that what you’ve said reinforces the point I was making above. If we’re talking about temptation, then clearly we’re talking about a desire to do something that shouldn’t be done, as it’s rather rare to talk of being tempted to do good. But in that case it’s surely inconsistent to say that that desire is not sinful – and if I’m understanding him, this is what Ian is wanting to say of same-sex attraction (sic), that the desire is not sinful but it’s a desire for something which is always and everywhere sinful.

    I wonder if some words of Rowan Williams’s help here…:
    “For Jesus to have suffered real human temptation, he must have gone through some of the same mental processes as we do; and if he could be tempted, yet not be held guilty, there must be some level in our minds and hearts where we can say that we are aware of the possibility, even the attractive possibility, of wrongdoing, yet not be involved in a conscious refusal of God. The technicalities of doctrine about Christ turn out to have a direct pastoral relevance for those tormented by guilt about what they cannot help. There comes a point where we deliberately welcome the image of wrongdoing and begin to put flesh on it in our imaginations, and that is when responsibility begins”.
    (Williams, ‘Silence and honey cakes’, Oxford: Lion, 2003, pp55-56).

    It seems to me that Williams’s words could be applied so as to be merciful to any of us who struggle with temptation – but maybe also to bring some clarity too. Lee Gatiss’s position on same-sex desire is at least logically consistent, whereas I don’t think yours is, Ian.

    in friendship, Blair

    • Thank you for your comment, Blair. It seems to me that ‘desire’ has many strands to it, and many of these have positive and good sides to them. Not all desire is erotic or sexual in character; there is the desire for companionship, friendship, mutual esteem and understanding. Any exploration of love and friendship must include a consideration and exploration of these dimensions of ‘desire’. Every Christian’s desires need to subject to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit so that they become more Christ-like and Christ-pleasing.

  22. Ian,

    a couple of things:

    – if “the two phenomena [male & female ‘same-sex attraction’] are quite different from one another”, shouldn’t they be responded to differently as well – but don’t you usually suggest the same response (sexual abstinence) in both cases? What are your references for “most would agree that the elements of causation are generally quite different” (and why does different causation matter?).

    – “arguments for sexuality as a protected characteristic must rely on a ‘rights’ argument (as in freedom of religious belief) and not on an ‘inherent characteristic’ argument, like racial identity”. Correct me, but I’m guessing this is an attempt to weaken claims that sexuality is/should be a protected characteristic…? If so I’m not sure it works that well. Consider disability: if you or I have an accident and temporarily become a wheelchair user, disabled, while recovering, that’s no less a protected characteristic for not being permanent. You or I would have just as much protection from discrimination as if we had a congenital impairment that meant we were wheelchair users. So I’m not sure what force your point here has.

    in friendship, Blair

    • Blair, it is not Ian et al who are claiming permanency of orientation, but those who wish to press upon everyone else their view of same sex relationships regardless of the actual evidence.

      • Hi Clive,
        I think you’ve slightly missed the point i was making above – I’m aware that Ian is not claiming permanency of orientation. If I understood rightly, he was arguing that because orientation is not permanent (this isn’t my experience, but letting that pass for now) it is not an inherent trait, as race is, so one can’t argue that sexuality should be a protected characteristic on these grounds but merely on grounds of rights. I was trying to challenge that way of arguing using disability (which may be permanent or temporary, congenital or develop later) as an analogy.
        in friendship, Blair


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