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The Case against Same-Sex Marriage

7264aABC Religion and Ethics has just published a lecture by Anthony Fisher, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, offering what I think is one of the best, short arguments against recognising same-sex marriage. Fisher has been an academic, having been awarded a DPhil from Oxford in bioethics, and he has published on issues of abortion, family and healthcare ethics.

The article is worth reading for at least two reasons. First, Fisher is not arguing against equal rights, and he recognises the force of arguments around justice and offers a sympathetic description of the case:

In reality, of course, we all know and love someone with same-sex attraction. We recognize that people of the same sex can love each other, sometimes deeply; that they express this in ways that seem similar to the ways married men and women express their love; and that some people want to commit to this in a public ceremony. They are usually good-willed people, who feel they are missing out on something precious. Because we want the best for them, we feel the tug of the view that everything that makes opposite-sex couples happy should be open to them too. We want no more of the discriminatory or violent treatment that such people often suffered in the past and sometimes still suffer.

After all, God made every person unique and irreplaceable, as His beloved images in this world, and if God loves people with same-sex attraction, so must the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the recent bishops’ pastoral letter, Don’t Mess with Marriage, teach that every human being, regardless of race, religion, age, sex or sexual orientation, deserves our reverence; that all forms of unjust discrimination must be opposed; that everyone is entitled to justice and compassion; and that the challenges of healthy and chaste friendships are for every human being, whatever their attractions. If Christians have not always talked that way or walked their talk, we should repent and do better in future.

Secondly, he addresses the issue in the terms that are most often expressed in debate, under five headings: ‘It’s all about justice’; ‘Sexual differences do not matter’; ‘It is all about love’; ‘It is all about numbers’; ‘It does not affect me’.


On the question of justice, Fisher wants to make the case that ‘not all differential treatment is necessarily unjust.’ In the UK, this relates to the fact that the recognition of gay marriage conferred no rights in law that were not already granted by civil partnerships. It seems to me that it is possible (for example) to treat cats and dogs equally, without deciding that we should change terminology and rename all cats as ‘dogs’ (as the recent O2 advertising campaign would have us do). Fisher comments:

So if our marriage laws recognize and support man-and-woman relationships for good reasons, the preservation of those laws will not necessarily be unjust to other kinds of relationship. Under any marriage law, some relationships will not be recognized as “marriage” – siblings, mere cohabiters, “throuples” and so on – but unless we know what marriage is, we cannot judge whether this restriction treats all citizens justly. To put it another way: we all support marriage equality – treating all real marriages equally – the question is: What is a real marriage?

On the question of sexual difference, Fisher summarises traditional teaching from scripture, but significantly connects this with a wider theology of the body and, through that, what it means to be human. But Fisher goes on to note how deep and wide has been this understanding—and therefore how recent and shallow is the idea that sex difference does not matter.

Of course, this ancient wisdom that marriage is inherently opposite-sex is not peculiar to Catholics: Christians share it with Jews and Muslims; the three great Abrahamic religions share it with the other world religions of the ancient world and since; the world religions share it with more local ones, for example, Australian Aboriginal and Pacific Islander religions; and religious traditions share it with most secular philosophies, legal systems and cultures. Though customs around marriage vary between cultures and over time, there is remarkable consistency about these four dimensions of marriage:

  • that it unites people of opposite (but complementary) sex;
  • that this union is intended to be faithful (“to the exclusion of all others”);
  • that this union is potentially fruitful (“to have and to hold” each other as “man and wife” do and so open to children); and
  • that this union is final (“till death do us part”).

In almost every case, a fifth dimension has been that this union is regarded as sacred.

On the question of ‘all you need is love’, Fisher highlights the different relationships that might claim to be expressions of love, but where it is clear that this is not enough to consider such relationships ‘marriage’. This includes fresh debates about polygamy.

In the United States, for instance, there is now a campaign for legalized polyamory. The National Geographic channel recently ran a sympathetic series on polygamy in America, Cambridge University Press in the United States published a book In Defense of Plural Marriage and only this week the New York Times ran a sympathetic op-ed piece entitled, “Is Polygamy Next?”

It is important to note which way causality works (or doesn’t) in this observation:

My point in raising these aberrations in contemporary conjugality is not to equate them with SSM – not at all. It is, rather, to point out that what most SSM advocates and most SSM opponents have in common is a view that these are not marriages. “All you need is love” really isn’t enough. And if we agree on that, then we agree that we need some concept of what marriage is, what its ends, limits and scope are.

On the question of numbers, Fisher engages the question of whether ‘traditionalists’ are ‘on the wrong side of history.’ He notes how slender supposedly landmark decisions have been:

Just how overwhelming was support for this measure in Ireland? While it’s true that 62% of those who voted, voted in favour, what is rarely mentioned is that only 60% of voters turned out for the poll: whatever those low polling numbers indicate, barely more than a third – only 36% – of eligible voters actually voted for legalising SSM in that country.

It is not a little ironic that, if our Government’s proposal for thresholds on strike ballots goes through, then it will now become harder for a workforce to go on strike than it was for Ireland to change the definition of marriage. Fisher highlights how significant disproportionate media coverage has been in propagating the ‘wrong side of history’ argument:

We might also ask why the few countries favouring SSM, rather than the vast majority of nations not tilting in that direction, get all the airtime. Senator Eric Abetz recently observed that the Austrian legislature’s overwhelming vote against SSM (110 MPs to 26) went more or less unreported in Australia, while prominence was given to the “YES” vote on Pitcairn Island – a country with a population of 48! Far from being some sort of outlier, Australia’s current marriage law reflects international law and the laws of the overwhelming majority of nations (172 of the United Nations’ 193 members).

On the final question, of whether ‘it affects me’, Fisher touches on a wide range of issues. I was interested that, as a Catholic, he makes this explicit observation on the way:

Of course, some marriages are infertile; most marital acts are so. Everyone has always known this too, but the point was that for every marriage that does bring a child into the world, that child has a Mum and a Dad.

This connects with an important observation he has made earlier (under ‘Sexual Difference’):

But if marriage is a natural institution that pre-exists Church and state, why should governments get involved at all? For one reason only: because the “marital acts” that bring children into the world also seal and express the “marital unions” that provide for the long-term nurture of those children. Marriage binds those whose love-making was life-making both to each other as husband and wife and to those children as mother and father. The benefits to children of having the contributions of both a Mum and a Dad, committed to each other and to them over the long haul, are well-established in human experience and social science research (for instance, herehere and here). In that sense, marriage is the best Department of Population, Health, Education, Welfare and Crime Prevention we have ever come up with! Other friendships may do other good things and be worthy of support; but only marriage unites a man and a woman and directs their complementary sexual-reproductive natures to the having and rearing of children. And that is why, uniquely of all human relationships, states have an interest in their success.


I don’t suppose that this piece will actually persuade many people, in the sense of changing the mind of someone already committed to supporting same-sex marriage. But it does do two important things. First, it offers support to the idea that opposition to SSM can be clear, compassionate and rationale, and that (at the very least) a well-thought-through case can be made. Secondly, it shows that it is perfectly possible to ‘put one’s head above the parapet’ and make a public statement of this sort. As I have suggested before, it would be great to see more bishops in the Church of England doing this.

One of the comments offers this sobering perspective from another Catholic, G K Chesterton:

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good–” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.


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136 Responses to The Case against Same-Sex Marriage

  1. Andrew July 25, 2015 at 10:43 am #

    I’m interested in Fisher’s comment: “we all know and love someone with same-sex attraction”. It seems to me that, sadly, in many parts of the Church this isn’t true: Christians taking a conservative stance on this issue eschew opportunities to love – a prerequisite of which, of course, is giving attention to – gay people. Many of them will not interact with gay people personally, and will worship in churches where gay people are not made welcome (in my experience evangelical churches seldom have any open gay people in their congregations). Fisher’s use of the offensive term “same-sex attraction” betrays his lack of love: he clearly doesn’t realise that this term continues to be hurtful and damaging to gay people in the Church.

    Regardless of the pros and cons of same-sex marriage, the arguments made by conservative opponents will continue to lack credibility unless they are willing to bring them into dialogue with the real lived experience of gay Christians – and all the pain, heartache and longing that this experience entails.

    • Ian Paul July 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

      Thanks Andrew. It is difficult to say what ‘evangelical’ churches do in general. We have certainly engaged with the lived experience in all the evangelical churches I have been a part of or led.

      • Andrew July 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

        Thank you Ian for your response. I know that it is difficult to generalise about evangelical churches, which is why I have only based my comment on my own experience.

        I’m glad to hear about the churches that you have been involved in, but wonder of I could push you further: did this ‘engagement’ actually extend to welcoming gay people into the life of the congregation? If so, did any accept this welcome? If not, did you see this as a problem? I would also push you on the point about using the term “same-sex attraction”: if enough gay people told you that this term was hurtful to then, would you stop using it? The fact that many evangelicals continue to use this term is an indication to me that they have not been attentive to gay people.

        Thanks.

        • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

          Andrew, I guess that depends on what you mean by ‘extending a welcome’. I cannot tell from the way you ask the question whether you are assuming that gay people in evangelical churches would necessarily either be abiding by the teaching of the Church of England, or necessarily in active same-sex partnerships.

          No, I wouldn’t stop using the term ‘same-sex attracted’ because to deliberately avoid using this depends on an ideological assumption about the nature of human identity.

          • Andrew July 26, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

            By ‘extending a welcome’ I simply mean making clear that they are welcome to come and worship, and to be known and loved, regardless of whether or not they are conforming to the teaching of the Church or not (of course this might be considered later on, but not at the initial stage of welcome). Indeed, I don’t understand why their conformity to Church teaching should be relevant in considering whether or not to welcome them; we welcome all sorts of people who are no doubt sinning in obvious ways! In my experience gay people do not worship at evangelical churches because, frankly, they do not experience the unconditional love and welcome which Christ modelled.

            A brief point on ‘same-sex attracted’: you are trying to avoid compromising your ideological convictions, and in doing so you are forced to use language which is damaging and hurtful to human beings – without attempting to soften the blow, by clarifying that your use of the term is not meant to offend and hurt in the ways that I have described. So the question that occurs to me is: Do you think Jesus would have privileged maintaining ‘an ideological assumption about the nature of human identity’ over demonstrating love towards human beings? Apologies if this sounds blunt, but I do feel very strongly that this use of language (regardless of our theological convictions) is un-Christlike because it does damage to human beings.

          • Clive July 26, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

            Dear Andrew

            In the story of the woman at the well when Jesus revealed who she really was and told her the truth about what was hurting her in her life and told her to worship God … Is that the “…they do not experience the unconditional love and welcome which Christ modelled” what you’re thinking of?

            When Jesus opened his arms on the cross and the Romans drove nails through his hands, did you expect God to save him from execution? … Is that the “….they do not experience the unconditional love and welcome which Christ modelled” that you were thinking of?

            In the story of the woman threatened with stoning when Christ intervened and sai “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” When everyone disappeared he said to the woman “Go and sin no more”.

            Telling the woman to go and sin no more … Is that the “…the unconditional love and welcome which Christ modelled” what you are thinking of?

            When Christ died for us on the cross and accepted his death as a sacrifice for our sins so God did not save. Had God saved him …. Is that the “…they do not experience the unconditional love and welcome which Christ modelled” that you were thinking of?

            … and that is only John’s gospel, not even looking at Matthew, Mark or Luke’s gosepl!

            You said “…they are welcome to come and worship, and to be known and loved, regardless of whether or not they are conforming to the teaching of the Church or not…” which is a very odd thing to say. Can anyone belong but go against the organisation?

            Jesus’ love doesn’t seem the kind of love you are talking about at all.

            The woman at the well in John’s gospel never asked for a blessing on her life and neither did Jesus offer one, yet he still cared about her. Jesus’ love was tell her the truth, but I’m not really convinced that is either the love that you mean or that you can actually handle the truth.

          • James Byron July 26, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

            Although I strongly disagree with the phrase “same-sex attraction” and all it implies, I agree that Ian’s justified in its use, since it accurately reflects his position.

          • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 9:15 am #

            Clive,

            I will try to reply to your comment with patience and grace (mindful of Matthew 12.36-37), despite the patronising and sarcastic tone which you have adopted.

            In the encounters that you describe with the woman at the well, and the woman caught in adultery, I would press you to look more closely at how Jesus interacts with these people – and to reflect on how different this is from how evangelical churches (generally) respond to gay people. Most obviously, Jesus approaches each one as an individual, a child of God, rather than seeing them as part of a category (“sinner”, “adulterer”, “Samaritan” etc), to whom he delivers a pre-rehearsed script calling them to repentance. The Samaritan woman is astonished that Jesus crosses social boundaries to interact with her as person, rather than dismissing or ignoring her on the basis of her difference or presumed sinfulness. In regard to the woman caught in adultery, many commentators have noticed that Jesus ‘bent down and wrote on the ground’ before speaking: he resisted the instinct to condemn or absolve without thinking deeply about the situation in front of him. He does not speak to the woman herself until he was ‘left alone’ with her: at this point, I imagine that Jesus’ gaze on her was not one of judgement or condemnation, but love and understanding.

            I could adduce many other examples from the gospels where Jesus patiently looks at, spends time with, eats with, people who others write off as “sinners” – communicating his love through his attentiveness and willingness to see each person as an individual, flawed but infinitely loved.

            I’m astounded that you think it odd for me to suggest that gay people should be ‘welcome to come and worship, and to be known and loved, regardless of whether or not they are conforming to the teaching of the Church or not’. You ask ‘can anyone belong but go against the organisation?’, to which I reply ‘YES! This is the purpose of the Church!’. The reason why we confess our sins in church is the fact that *none* of us come along to church sinless: why should gay people be denied entry, welcome and love on the basis of their presumed “sinfulness”, whilst people such as yourself face no such judgement and hostility?

            I would encourage you to reflect deeply before you reply: both on the manner of your reply (how Christians should interact with one another), and on the way in which your prejudices and biases might be influencing your reading of Scripture.

          • Clive July 27, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

            Dear Andrew

            There is no “pre-rehearsed script” as you suggest and to be a Christian demands belief in Jesus which, like Jesus, also demands belief in Scripture. I notice that you have avoided the questions and I have come to the conclusion that the unconditional love of Jesus to which you refer is based on a serious misunderstanding of Jesus’ love as you fail to recognise that he demands that every Christian follows him and that every Christian should be willing to change every part of their life as he makes those changes happen. For a Christian there are no out-of-bounds areas of their life at all.

            This is how St Paul recognises in Romans that he is a sinner who constantly sins and is in need of Jesus’ saving grace. All of us, like him, need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There is no escaping it. Demanding change people and giving your life for them is the way of Christ.

          • Clive July 27, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

            I forgot to add that to suggest, as you said “…they are welcome to come and worship, and to be known and loved, regardless of whether or not they are conforming to the teaching of the Church or not…” which is a very odd thing to say.

            It is odd precisely because we live out our lives as Christians so we cannot possibly belong to a Church whilst not conforming to the teaching. If we disagree with the teaching then we have to either 1) say so and discuss it, then 2) leave and find another Church or 3) not go to Church at all.

            We spend a lot of time on option 1 because discussing it takes time, patience and love.

          • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 6:40 pm #

            Clive,

            Thank you for your response. I’m sorry if you think I have ‘avoided the questions’ because I tried to them directly, by discussing the two gospel stories you mentioned. I’m not sure which question you think I’m avoided. If I’m honest I found your theology of the Cross very confusing – what do you mean by saying that ‘God did not save’ on the Cross? This is why I did not address it. If you want me to answer questions clearly you should ensure that they make sense first.

            You say that: ‘To be a Christian demands belief in Jesus which, like Jesus, also demands belief in Scripture’. Of course. I never questioned this. Indeed, we’ve been having a discussion about Scripture haven’t we?

            You also claim that Jesus ‘demands that every Christian follows him and that every Christian should be willing to change every part of their life as he makes those changes happen. For a Christian there are no out-of-bounds areas of their life at all’. You also write that ‘All of us, like him, need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There is no escaping it’. I completely agree with these statements. I have not claimed anything different. If you think that I disagree then you are making assumptions about me and my theology without actually engaging with what I am writing.

            Where we do seem to disagree is that you seem to believe that anybody who wants to come to church, and be welcomed, should first ‘be a Christian’ and conform to church teaching. I do not agree with your claim that ‘we cannot possibly belong to a Church whilst not conforming to the teaching’. This strikes me as an utterly bizarre claim and one that is at odds with Church tradition practice. How is the church supposed to engage in mission if it does not welcome sceptics, doubters and sinners? Of course, once gay people have been members of your congregation for a while, it may be appropriate to discuss their conformity to church teaching… But what we’re discussing is the need for churches to offer an unconditional love and welcome to gay people.

            I hope this has helped clear up any misunderstandings.

          • Clive July 28, 2015 at 6:15 am #

            Dear Andrew,

            What I said was “All of us, like him, need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.”
            … so I don’t understand how you can say in the first paragraph of your post “what do you mean by saying that ‘God did not save’ on the Cross?”
            I don’t see that statement.

        • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

          Andrew
          I was very interested with your post regarding identity and Ian’s respons, as this is something I have been reflecting on over the past few months.
          I am afraid my thoughts are not going to alleviate any suffering. I had actually come to the conclusion that I was not going to use the word gay, as it is a word adopted in the 1990s to define a person by their sexuality. As Ian has pointed out it is a part of the culture of “self” which now infects the who,e if society. In fact I believecfacebook now offers 54 options for your self identity.
          To become a Christian is to die to self and rise to life in Christ. This begins with an acceptance of Christ as Lord of your life. Therefore there is no such thing as a Gay Christian, you are a Christian who is SSM.
          The Northumbria Community say that they are open to all. It’s like a dance- Jesus is Lord of the Dance – people can join in and step out. Everyone is welcome in Church to come and seek. In accepting Christ we accept changes in our life to begin that journey of death to self.
          I would be thrilled to walk alongside anyone making that journey.

          • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

            Thank you Tricia for your response. It’s great to hear about the approach taken by the Northumbria Community – a community that I have much respect for. And I, too, find the image of a dance to be wonderful way of expressing the Christian life. I hope that there are gay Christians in the Northumbria Community, so that the community embodies a fuller realisation of the Kingdom of God.

            You write that the word gay ‘defines a person by their sexuality’. I would disagree: ‘gay’ simply describes a person’s sexual orientation. When I use the word ‘gay’ I am simply describing someone’s homosexual orientation. It is a synonym for homosexual. If you prefer the term “same-sex attracted” then that’s your choice, but you should understand that it is a term which causes hurt and pain – for the reasons I outlined above. I agree that ‘gay Christian’ is a problematic phrase if it implies that a gay ‘identity’ is somehow more important than the Christian identity.

            I would totally agree with you: ‘To become a Christian is to die to self and rise to life in Christ. This begins with an acceptance of Christ as Lord of your life’. This, after all, is orthodox Christian teaching. Dying to self of course has significant implications for our sexuality: through grace we learn to express ourselves sexually in ways which are faithful, fruitful and life-giving. However, our fundamental sexual *orientation* nearly always remains the same, even whilst this grace works within us. The experience of faithful homosexual Christians thus seems to suggest that there it is possible to ‘die to self’ and be ‘raised to new life in Christ’ whilst retaining one’s sexual orientation. Perhaps you don’t agree… but then how do you account for those faithful gay Christians who come to the conclusion, through prayer and openness to the Spirit, that their sexual orientation and commitment to Christ are compatible? Are they simply deluded and mistaken? This is the crux of the debate, I think.

          • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

            Andrew
            I agree with your last line – ‘this is the crux of the debate”.
            Jesus in Matthew 5:30 says “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off”. This is of course not a physical matter it is a spiritual and mental matter. But Jesus uses a shocking metaphor to reinforce the point that sin is a life and death matter. God cannot co-exist with sin that is why the only way of rescuing us had to be through a death which was a “full sufficient sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the whole world”. The revisionists are not being caring – they are being uncaring by leading people down a dead end. Most of them don’t believe in the resurrection. They preach a social justice gospel.
            I believe that the bible is Psalm 119 “a light to my feet and a lamp to my path”. The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into all truth, but never in contradiction of God’s word and the Ancient formularies and doctrines of the church keep us on straight paths. We can never trust our own feelings to be correct if in contradiction with the other three. I believe anyone who considers that continuing in a sexual relationship with another person of the same sex, whilst calling themselves a Christian is deluding themselves.
            I understand that this is hard teaching, but many people turned away from Christ because his teaching was too hard for them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to cheap grace – this is why St Paul says “we are saved by grace- should we then go on sinning” and he answers himself with “no”.
            I realise that for someone who is same sex attracted this is very hard, but It would be far more unkind to say “there, there, carry on God loves you just as you are”.
            Canon Gavin Ashenden has reflected that after 10 years of supporting LGBT issues and considering that people are as they are – he has found sexuality to be very fluid. He says there is from 0 choice to plenty of choice about sexual orientation. But even if it is 0 choice I would say to anyone turning to Christ to lay this at the foot of the cross and trust. He may take these feelings away, he may not and you may have the “thorn in the side” described by St Paul but He will never leave you alone – He is with you always.

          • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

            Thank you Tricia for such a clear and honest response. This is the sort of conversation we should be having, where we are able to understand the fundamental differences in approach that lie at the heart of our disagreement.

            First of all, I agree with you on the seriousness of sin. However, I have to say that you are simply wrong in claiming that those who take an inclusive line on this issue ‘don’t believe in the resurrection’ and ‘preach a social justice gospel’. Churches that subscribe to ‘Inclusive Church’, for instance, are passionate, mainstream Christian churches committed to Scripture and the Gospel, and which take sin seriously. I attend a church which takes a clearly inclusive line in this issue, and I can say with *absolute* certainty that we believe in the resurrection (whilst of course being passionate about social justice too!).

            I agree with you that ‘The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into all truth, but never in contradiction of God’s word…’. Where we disagree is that I do not think that homosexual sex is always wrong or immoral, and I do not see this as in contradiction with Scripture. The reason for this interpretation of Scripture is, in part, due to the lived experience of gay Christians who I know and love: I simply cannot maintain a ‘traditional’ reading of Scripture on this issue when confronted with the powerful witness of gay Christians, whose lives demonstrate so clearly the fruits of a deep commitment to Jesus Christ. The difference between us, then, is that I have allowed my interpretation of what Scripture says (which is clearly debatable – hence the different scholarly views) to shift in the light of experience – specifically, the realisation that Christians in faithful gay relationships can bear ‘good fruits’. So Matthew 7.15-20 is one of my guiding principles here.

            Clearly I am not going to convince you of my position, and that’s ok. But I am troubled that the witness and lived experience of literally thousands of gay brothers and sisters in Christ seems to hold no weight at all in your thinking on this issue, which seems to raise the authority of Scripture to excessive heights, not allowing any room at all for human experience to inform your interpretation. It seems to me that this is, ironically, a peculiarly flat and modern approach to Scriptural authority – not in keeping with the practice of theology for much of Church history. In fact, I believe it to be a form of idolatry, in which the ‘rightness’ of one’s interpretation of Scripture is prized over love for fellow Christians.

            I realise that you will not agree with me, but I hope you have found this conversation helpful, as I have. It’s good to have an honest and robust exchange of views!

    • Andy July 25, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

      Hi Andrew. Can i ask you to explain what you and others find offensive about the term “same sex attraction?” I would be very interested to know since I only picked up on thr phrase in recent years being used by Christians who self identify as that, but for whatever reason do not wish to identify as gay/lesbian. In the interests of seeking to be sensitive, to know this would be helpful. Thank you

      • Andrew July 25, 2015 at 11:54 pm #

        Yes of course. In a sense you’ve identified the problem yourself: as you’ve noticed, the term “same-sex attraction” tends to be used by Christians who have a homosexual orientation but reject a ‘gay’ identity, usually on the grounds that their sexual orientation constitutes ‘brokenness’ or ‘fallenness’ in some way (e.g. the contributors to the ‘Living Out’ project, or the ‘True Freedom Trust). In other words, the term is clearly associated with a perspective which sees homosexual orientation as somehow disordered. In light of this, it is clearly offensive and inappropriate to use this terminology to refer to all gay people, most of whom would not use this language to describe themselves. Their objections would be, I expect, that “same-sex attracted” sounds clinical (almost like it describes a condition or affliction), and it implicitly creates distance between the sexual orientation (the “attraction”) and the person’s true “self”. Creating this distance between ‘orientation’ and true ‘self’ can be psychologically damaging for gay people, leading easily to self-loathing and repression. For many gay Christians, overcoming this damaging division between ‘orientation’ and ‘self’ is an important step in accepting themselves as loved by God. Indeed, in my experience, those gay Christians who struggle with their sexuality in prayer find that they cannot maintain an artificial distinction between ‘sexuality’ and ‘self’, since sexuality constitutes such a fundamental part of one’s inner self, wrapped up in broader desires, hopes, fears and longings – the parts of ourselves which might speak most powerfully to us of God.

        I hope this has helped answer your question.

        • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

          Andrew, this is *the* question which is at stake:

          “Indeed, in my experience, those gay Christians who struggle with their sexuality in prayer find that they cannot maintain an artificial distinction between ‘sexuality’ and ‘self’, since sexuality constitutes such a fundamental part of one’s inner self, wrapped up in broader desires, hopes, fears and longings – the parts of ourselves which might speak most powerfully to us of God.”

          I think that orthodox teaching rooted in the biblical witness sees sexuality as something important in human being, being created by God—but strictly as a penultimate and not ultimate part of human identity.

          To make it ‘fundamental’ in the way you describe is, in biblical terms, to make sexuality an idol. I would never suggest that this is a problem limited to one section of society—indeed, it could be argued that this is the idolatry of our age. But idolatry it is, and I don’t think it is mere coincidence that Paul picks on it in Romans 1 precisely to make the point about rivalry to God.

          • Andrew July 26, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

            Paul, thank you (in all sincerity) for teasing out the key question which is at stake here. I would agree that this is the key question, and am frustrated that so much unproductive conversation between the two sides in this debate is wasted on more peripheral questions!

            You state that ‘orthodox teaching rooted in the biblical witness sees sexuality as something important in human being, being created by God—but strictly as a penultimate and not ultimate part of human identity’. As you’ve noticed, I disagree on this point, but more subtly than you give me credit for. Yes, I think our sexual orientation is instrinsic to our selfhood before God (“identity” is perhaps not the best word to use here), but this selfhood is of course primarily constituted by our relationship with God in Christ. Speaking personally, sexual orientation is an important aspect of my selfhood which cannot be divorced or separated from my deeper longing to know God: in prayer the intention is always to seek God first and foremost, but I cannot help sexuality from getting in the way – the Spirit prays through me, and therefore *through* those fundamental, instrinsic, unchangeable aspects of my selfhood, including my sexuality. Can you see why I do not consider this to be idolatry?

            Where you and I differ, I think, is that I cannot sustain your understanding of the ‘orthodox teaching rooted in the biblical witness’ when confronted with this deep engagement with God in prayer. For me, therefore, my understanding of Scripture has had to shift – shifting in ways which I still understand to be faithful to Scripture. You and I differ because, I suspect, you would be unwilling to re-think your approach to Scripture in the light of experience, in the way that I have? If so, what does the conservative position have to say to people like me who have wrestled with this subject in prayer over many years and come to a different conclusion? This is a sincere question and one which, for me, cuts to the heart of the debate: what do you *do* with the weight of experience and testimony adduced by faithful gay Christians? In your theological scheme, does it carry any weight at all?

            Really appreciate this dialogue, thank you for your honest engagement.

        • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

          Andrew
          Thank you for your post. It has been refreshing to have an open and honest debate.
          I hope I am not uncaring. I just feel that when we stray from the ancient paths we are in danger. The Episcopalian Church in America has been going down this path for many years and has just agreed to amend canon law to allow marriage of same sex couples. That church is shrinking and the orthodox ACNA is in growth, but there has been much pain in the process. A house divided cannot stand. We are becoming more disconnected from our brothers and sisters in the Anglican worldwide church.

  2. Bob Stephens July 25, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    Good article will read again, I fear though that the activists for SSM will be actively rubbishing the Archbishops words already, it seems any thoughts which do not agree with them leads to some nasty un Christian rhetoric and threats which seems to undermine real dialogue as in the Church times this week.

    • Ian Paul July 25, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      What is in the Church Times?

      • Clive July 25, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

        The worrying thing about creating a safe space (as Church Times reports) is that a safe space is only created for the LBGT community there is no safe space by contrast for those who believe in Jesus’ words. The latter are mercilessly bullied with unacceptable behaviour for any reasonable person.

        Since Jesus does talk about marriage and therefore one can’t speak about Same-sex marriage I am left bemused as to what language Andrew thinks should be used.

  3. Martin Reynolds July 25, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    Rather disingenuous argument, dangerous to argue that the majority of countries do it as the majority still criminalise or allow legal discrimination, forced treatment against us. Indeed the most flagrant violence is often in countries like Russia where the church encouraged and support a up scale section 28.

    The Irish vote in favour was rather lower than the most pesemistic opinion pole and reflects not an activist minority in favour, but the opposite, something you would not gather from his treatment of the referendum.

    Opinion polls here and the States are in favour of the inclusion.

    We have children, it is only natural for us to want to bring them up in the safest and most nurturing environment so that they might flourish, marriage clearly offers that environment and I see no valid argument why our children should not have equal access.

    What has been, is no longer, it is more than it was. It is a blessing for us and we bless it by the presence of our families. God is pleased.

    • Ian Paul July 25, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      Er, but one of arguments *for* SSM is that ‘everyone believes in it.’ I think that is the disingenuous argument. Even in the US, despite the court ruling, I think it is still the case the 2 in 5 don’t agree with SSM. And the judges’ decision was split…and according to one judge’s dissenting view, it was a legally flawed ruling. But the US judiciary is politicised in the way that the UK judiciary is not.

      Fisher’s point on parenting is the children of SSM do *not* have equal access, in that they cannot be parented by their biological parents and have a mother and a father. Their context might be better than an alternative (if they are adopted out of care, for example). But it is a matter of fact that SSM parenting is *not* the same as male-female parenting.

      • Martin Reynolds July 25, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

        No, indeed, our disabled children were abandoned by their mummies and daddies ….. over the past 23 years their experience here with us, as you point out, was “not” the same as their experience of male-femal parenting.

        I do agree with one point this man is making, states should not get so involved that they create alternatives to marriage. I think they have been very unhelpful and very confusing. States should limit themselves to recording the marriages and encouraging their citizens to enter marriage by offering inducements. That is all.

        Reading the decision of the American Courts on slavery is indeed an education in politics, but our own judiciary exhibits similar tendencies on important past cases.

        • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

          Martin, I entirely agree with you here: to have offered a home for children abandoned by their parents is a wonderful ministry, and I have no doubt that God will honour your investment of love and care for those you have welcomed. (Are you aware of Krish Kandiah’s campaign on adoption?)

          But the argument for SSM says something rather different: that same-sex couples have a right to parent, and should use either surrogacy or IVF in order to have ‘their own’ children. As Peter Ould has pointed out (in the Facebook discussion on this post), these children can *never* be the couple’s biological offspring, and in fact there is a good case to argue that this is depriving such children of their right to be raise by their biological parents.

          • Pete J July 30, 2015 at 9:51 am #

            Id be careful with that “never” I can think of at least two scenarios which disagree with this.

            1. One partner is intersex, appearing male but with sufficiently female genitals to carry a child (this might sound outlandish, but I know of a historical case where this actually happened!)

            2. At some point in the future biological techniques may exist to allow a child to be born by two parents of the same gender.

            Surely these “rights to children” existed before gay marriage was legal and therefore aren’t tied to it?! What about gay couples who want to adopt? Should they be banned from marriage because you disagree with surrogacy etc?

        • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

          Sorry, I should add one other caveat: we are now in a context in the UK where same-sex couple are seen as good potentially adoptive parents…but where evangelical Christians are likely to be turned down.

        • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

          There is a rather fascinating reflection on the issue of the rights of children here, by someone brought up by lesbian adoptive parents.

          http://askthebigot.com/gay-marriage/

          • Martin Reynolds July 26, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

            But, you see, I understand all this to be part of an attack on gay marriage, is that not so?
            We are told our children suffer because they are with us. That is so deeply disturbing and so cruelly wrong.

            Or is this an argument against surrogacy? An argument that is being used to attack us when surrogacy is being used by single, partnered and married straights far more?

            I don’t grasp it.
            I have never grasped the idea that anyone had a “right” to have children either – gay or straight. Children have the right to be raised in a loving home, Yes!
            I spent 12 years on a fostering and adoption panel listening to horror stories from the lives of the children we sought to place. Some were so badly damaged they could not be placed in a home where there were males …. however I still believe that children’s parents mostly make good parents and so do not find stories from individuals who did not enjoy or flourish in some extraordinary gay families or who come to the view gay marriage and parenting is not good particularly convincing when faced by such a cloud of positive reports and experiences.
            As far as I understand people of all sort having children by a wide variety of methods has little to do with equal marriage. Perhaps I have missed something?
            Within my own community ( church that is ) I remain a firm advocate for married, single, partnered all to offer themselves for long term fostering and adoption.
            The panel I sat on and eventually chaired considered many applications from Christians whose denominations had a public policy hateful to gay people, individuals who came to the panel however were of a different view.
            I only recall one refusal that had a religious element, in the conversations with social workers the applicants expressed concern if the child proved gay and said they would seek therapy to change its sexuality, when told they would not be supported to do that they asked how could they send the child back.

          • Martin Reynolds July 26, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

            I am still waiting to hear why our lads fail to qualify for the protection of marriage which everyone agrees is the best place for children to flourish?
            Even if surrogacy is unsatisfactory, why should the children born this way be penalised by exclusion from marriage?

          • Clive July 27, 2015 at 6:04 am #

            Dear Martin,

            You have made an extremely strange disconnect between marriage and the rights of the child already commented upon elsewhere. you strangely talk about marriage whilst completely ignoring the child in that marriage.

            The child is not some commodity but does seem to be to you which is really odd.

          • Jonathan Tallon July 27, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

            Clive, I find your attack on Martin bizarre. He appears to have done the very opposite of treating children as commodities, by taking time throughout his life to be part of adoption panels seeking the very best for vulnerable children. He has further devoted his own private life to children by adopting children with disabilities abandoned by natural parents. How on earth is this seeing any child as a commodity?

            In Britain, there are a large number of children looking for adoption, but who are hard to place. Very few of them are babies (only about 1 in 50 is under one) and some have complex needs, with physical disabilities, behavioural issues, or learning disabilities (or a mix of all). The options for these children are to be in care; to be in foster homes or to be adopted. Many aren’t adopted.

            In many cases, by far the best outcome for the child (or children – often siblings need to be placed) would be adoption.

            If a suitable, loving gay couple are prepared to offer a home to a difficult to place child, how is that not in the best interests of the child?

            And if a committed couple are bringing up their adopted children, why don’t the children deserve the protection the state affords to children of other couples? No-one has yet answered Martin’s question.

          • Martin Reynolds July 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

            Thank you Jonathan, you have brought clarity and light to the exchange.

            It remains the case that most of the children raised in our families are from previous opposite sex marriages. There is every reason to hope that these children are given the best possible chance to flourish in their new homes. We know marriage to be the best environment for children to flourish and I find it strange that anyone would seek to withhold the best from any child, yet alone to say they are doing it for Jesus!

          • Clive July 27, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

            I am sorry Martin and Jonathan but its not an attack at all.

            You only have to read Ian’s response to you to see that there is no attack.

            It is interesting that you have both chosen that as your defence mechanism.

            Particularly as adoption is only a small part of the story. You only have to look at people like Elton John to realise that adoption is only part of the story just as it is for heterosexual couples.

            In Martin’s comment of July 26 at 7:24 pm Martin has said “I understand all this to be part of an attack on gay marriage” so clearly you have both assumed an attack that doesn’t exist.

            I have personal life experience of an inherited disease through my Father that I knew nothing about because my Father died when I was a child. I discovered that children really do need to know about their biological parents even in adoption. Since children don’t have their own voice I will fight for the rights of children.

          • Martin Reynolds July 28, 2015 at 10:04 am #

            Making the statement that I treat children as a commodity in what I have said or done is a malicious libel and dispicable falsehood. It oozes the double speak and deliberate wish to misinterpret and malign that I have encountered for the last 13 years of public debate. As always it makes me deeply sad that those who abuse me this way are Christian brothers and sisters.
            If it is not an attack then I do not know what might constitute as such.
            I was not commenting on the discussion in the thread when I talked of attack.
            My comment, quoted incompletely, about this thread refered back to the headline used to introduce it and the content of the bishops lecture: The Case Agaist Same Sex Marriage. From my point of view this constitutes an attack on equal marriage. I was asking if the purpose of this piece was to attack families built around marriage?

          • David Shepherd July 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

            Martin,

            The distinction is quite simple and very clear. Fostering, adoption and surrogacy involve the biological parent either surrendering parental rights to the adoptive parents (by consent), or forfeiting those rights by default (through abuse or neglect).

            Assigning the estate of marriage to same-sex couples is a different case from adoption or , in that it recognises them as co-founders of intact families, such that they are legally recognised as co-parents of any child born to either spouse during the marriage.

            The latter scenario automatically strips the biological parent of their rights in order to support a patently false supposition.

            It’s only Schedule 4 of the Marriage (Same-sex couples) Act 2013 that prevents the automatic parental prioritisation of same-sex couples through marriage. In other jurisdictions, such as USA, Netherlands and Australia, the biological father is unfairly excluded.

          • Clive July 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

            Dear Martin

            My comment is not libelous etc etc as you claim. You are simply exhibiting yet another claim of attack where none exists. David has answered your claim with direct reference to the law.

        • Tricia July 26, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

          Your last post is somewhat disingenuous if you have read the post on the link given by Ian.
          The fact is that by allowing SSM you re-define marriage. For me as a Christian Jesus defined Christian marriage in Matt 19 and I will not be moving from my Saviour’s position. This is that marriage is for one man and one woman for life (barring adultery) and it is this marriage which is the best for the child not the marriage of 2 men who cannot be both male and female parent. The man and woman are parents biologically and genetically. There are millions of families bringing up their children in this way, although I u durst and your job brings you into contact with those people who do not. I would say that a lot of problems are caused by people not marrying and changing partners – stability in society is the cause of many childhood problems.
          The children from gay relationships are beginning to find their voice and we are learning to listen. Their need for a mother or father that is absent. The lack of living in a balanced male/female household and their struggles with identity, highlight why marriage between make and female is such a primordial need .
          We hear a lot about LGBT suffering. It is time you learned to listen instead of shouting.

          • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 10:05 am #

            Tricia, yYou say ‘We hear a lot about LGBT suffering’. Perhaps you could describe how you, personally, as a Christian, have sought to alleviate this suffering that you have identified? Which LGBT Christians have you got to know personally? How have you reconciled their suffering with your theological position? If you could answer this question it would make your voice more credibly to LGBT who seek to listen to you.

  4. Jane Newsham July 26, 2015 at 12:42 am #

    OK, I’m confused. I thought same-sex marriage had been legalised in this country so in a sense this article is redundant (no matter how much its author considers this a well-thought-through argument).
    Ian, what do you hope to achieve here? Are you hoping to convince opponents of SSM that this argument is worth promotion? Does this become our message to those same-sex married couples we meet (even those not in faith, not in our churches and possibly never likely to be)?
    • You’re not in a ‘real’ marriage
    • Civil partnership would have provided all the rights you currently enjoy
    • We’d offer you differential treatment but this wouldn’t have meant you’re unjustly treated
    • Now that we’ve extended marriage to you, we’ll be marrying ‘throuples’ next
    • Only a handful of countries have legalised same-sex marriage and there’s every chance that Pitcairn will be the last
    • Man-woman marriage is real marriage because it results in children, same-sex married couples don’t have children (those two you’re raising are not real children)
    • Apparently only 36% of Ireland’s population voted for SSM but for the 40% who didn’t vote – we’ll just assume they would have voted ‘NO’.
    As for “Other friendships may do other good things and be worthy of support; but only marriage unites a man and a woman and directs their complementary sexual-reproductive natures to the having and rearing of children.”
    I suggest that as many children are born out of wedlock as within it so clearly it isn’t only marriage that directs men’s and women’s sexual-reproductive natures. Also, if we’re looking at real relationships and the raising of children, there’s no argument to support the view that a dysfunctional and abusive opposite-sex marriage is still preferable to a loving and nurturing same-sex marriage.

    • Tricia July 26, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

      Jane
      On your last paragraph. Statistics actually show that children thrive and develop best when in their natural household of mother and father. Most people who marry before having children stay together for 15-20 years+ giving stability. Violence in households of married couples is very low. Most violent household are co-habitees often with children from previous relationships.
      I am aware that a same sex couple can offer a good home to a child in need. However, The push to have children for same sex couples is not good for the children involved. In sperm donation the child is fatherless and lose half their identity. In surrogacy the child may well be born to a gestational carrier and never know their mother. This is tragic for the child. We know how adopted children search for the parents. We are condemning a generation of children to have an extreme loss of identity.
      Same sexparenting is not the same – read Jepthah’s daughters for the real life experience of adult children of gay relationships.

      • Jane Newsham July 26, 2015 at 11:35 pm #

        Thank you Tricia,but you too are out of date.
        We now allow same-sex couples to create their own families without stigmatising either these couples or their children.
        Apparently the proportion of gay people in society is only a few percent and of those, not all of them raise families, so even if identity issues arise (which I dispute) it’s hardly the case that ‘we are condemning a generation of children’
        Heterosexuals have had millennia to learn something about parenting but many still struggle with commitment to stable relationships or family life and there are millions more of them – this is where our concerns should really lie.

        • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm #

          Jane.
          You seem to be enamoured off what you consider to be progress. I consider that society is fragmented, broken, amoral and an appalling place for children to grow up.
          Add into this mix , same sex couples having children by artificial means and depriving the child of their heritage and one parent, it is appalling and a Tragedy for the children involved.
          Whether parents are poor parents or brilliant parents does not alter the fact that they are the parents and not strangers.
          As I have already posted. The children of gay couples are finding their voice. We are learning to listen. I suggest you do some listening to those who know what they are talking about.

          • Jane Newsham July 28, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

            Tricia, where any individual takes the opportunity to publicly berate their parents for their parenting you can bet your life that there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on, having same-sex parents may be the least of the issues. Meanwhile, there are plenty of children of same-sex couples for whom it’s been a positive and supportive experience. Look at the children of opposite-sex parents and you’ll see the same breadth of experience but it’s not ‘four legs good/two legs bad’ when it comes to opposite-sex or same-sex parenting.
            What do you want to do about this? Lead or join a campaign to deprive same-sex couples of their chance to raise their own children or create families of their own? I’m afraid this ship has sailed. All any of us is asked to do is to be supportive to those families (of whatever variety) we come across in order to show Jesus to them. Are you up for this?

        • Tricia July 29, 2015 at 10:00 am #

          Jane
          If you had read most of the letters and posts there is a lot of love for their same sex parents. But there is also a lot of confusion and longing for the lost parent.
          What is being voiced is a deep longing for something lost, which cannot be provided – a mother or a father. This is the tragedy. When adult desires are put before the needs of children, it is the children who pay the price.
          I would “deprive” all people whether straight or gay if I could from using sperm donation or surrogacy. This is a new phenomenon in this country and should be banned to protect the rights of the child under the UN Rights of the Child to know and be known by their parent.
          I very much want the church to speak out on this issue and be ready to embrace those broken from the experience.

          • Jane Newsham July 29, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

            Thank you, Tricia. I find your position quite extraordinary and illogical but I defend your right to hold it (especially since, mercifully, you are not in a position to deprive couples from legally sanctioned methods of creating their own families).
            Couples who use surrogacy or sperm donation are actively wanting a child. There are too many other children born as a result of a boozy one-night stand or flimsy relationship – where the parents obviously need support for parenting but won’t accept it, where children go hungry (adult desires having spent any available cash on the bingo) and where one or other parent absents themselves for a time or for good (despite knowing and being known by their own children).
            I agree that two wrongs don’t make a right. I would say that a blogpost opposing same-sex marriage (A) should not be conflated with a tirade against same-sex couples who are raising or creating their own families (B). These are two entirely different issues but both (A) and (B) are now permitted in law. Where the rubber hits the road is where we treat both gay and straight, married and cohabiting, adequate and struggling couples with the same respect and support.

        • Tricia July 30, 2015 at 7:14 pm #

          Jane
          I can’t imagine what you think is illogical about the child’s right under the UN Convention for Human Rights to know their genealogical heritage, and have a mother and father. In fact until under 10 years ago neither sperm donation nor surrogacy was allowed in the UK. France and Spain have same sex marriage but no procreative rights.
          When IVF was first allowed in thec1980s we were assured of the ethical use of this technique. The first child to born was born to her married mother and father who had needed infertility treatment and was in no different position to any other child born.
          Things are now much different. Sperm donation means no father. Surrogacy means eggs being harvested which is dangerous for women and women being used as breeders and the tragedy of a child with no mother.
          I know children are born into households which are not good. But there is a difference between incapable parents and intentionally giving life to a child without one of their parents. This is adult selfishness.

    • Martin Reynolds July 27, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

      I thought this summary accurate and helpful, thank you.

      • Jane Newsham July 28, 2015 at 9:43 pm #

        Thank you Martin. I very much appreciate your contributions upthread.

  5. Clive July 26, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    According to society (not the Church) marriage is only for the rich because only the Middle and Upper Class can afford it.

    Anthony Fisher is making the case that marriage does actually have a purpose and is showing that society’s paucity of view of marriage is wrong. So the article posted has a purpose.

    Understanding the purpose of marriage shows why Jesus’ words about marriage have a point. So it is not wrong for Rt Rev Anthony Fisher to speak about it.

    I sat at the lunch table in the canteen at work and listened to someone opposite say that marriage should now only be for 10 years because nobody loves the other person 10 years on. I stayed silent.
    I stayed silent because I have experienced as a child marital breakdown and know how destructive it is. I also stayed silent because I am not only together with my one and only wife but we are about to celebrate 35 years as a wedding anniversary. Nonetheless that person’s views at lunch shows just how impoverished and bankrupt modern society’s views on marriage really are. It is modern society’s view of marriage that is a serious problem.

    I must go to Church now because I’m taking the service.

  6. Laurence Cunnington July 26, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

    “I am not only together with my one and only wife but we are about to celebrate 35 years as a wedding anniversary. ” Clive

    Good for you! But why say silent – why not be proud of it and act as an example to others? If they mock the success of your marriage, that’s their loss.

    “It is modern society’s view of marriage that is a serious problem.” I agree.

    • Clive July 28, 2015 at 6:22 am #

      Laurence, thank you for your response. Since all of my brothers are at least with their second wife and one is just beginning going through a second divorce, then celebrating 35 years together for my own wife and I would only be seen as insensitive and/or judgmental – Such has marriage been destroyed today.

  7. Bob Stephens July 26, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    Ian, the article was page 9 of the church Times meeting of the West midlands Shared Conversations, it looks as though these sessions are coming up with more questions and answers.

    • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

      ‘more questions *than* answers’…?

  8. Tricia July 26, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    I would suggest that anyone who supports gay marriage should visit the English Manif website and read the new post by Moira Greyland – family history and her thoughts. It enlightens the mind on why we are having all these calls for sex education in primary school!

    • Ian Paul July 26, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

      The story can be found here: http://askthebigot.com/2015/07/23/the-story-of-moira-greyland-guest-post/

      • Christine Quinn-Jones July 27, 2015 at 10:22 am #

        Thank you for this link, Ian – very sobering reading.

        • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente July 27, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

          It’s a story about horrific child abuse, how is it even remotely relevant?

    • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente July 27, 2015 at 7:45 am #

      And there are entire pages by bloggers claiming to have been damaged by their Evangelical parents’ education and homeschooling, so what?

      • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 8:23 am #

        In claiming that homosexuality is caused by molestation — worse, by claiming that the LGBT community is conspiring to rape children to up its numbers — Greyland’s post is out-and-out hate speech. Amongst the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen plenty.

        Due to the extreme trauma of her childhood, Greyland may not be culpable for writing it, but the same excuse doesn’t extend to others who spread her words, or fail to reject her claims in the strongest possible terms.

        • David Shepherd July 28, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

          James,

          Okay, let’s clarify the issue with the scientific study below: http://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TOPSYJ/TOPSYJ-3-36.pdf

          *While it resists any inference of causality*, the study states: ‘Perhaps the most salient finding is that 68.0% of the gay men and 66.7% of the lesbian women who had been homosexually molested maintained it had an impact on their sexual orientation. Although it is an important finding, it is not known what various participants meant by “impact.”…It should be borne in mind that 52.9% of the men and 41.5% of the women reported impact from heterosexual molestation.

          Another important finding is that ‘a majority of molested lesbian/bisexual women (57.6%) and gay/bisexual men (78.6%) in the study found the experience to be pleasurable is consistent with the meta-analysis of Rind, Tromovitch, and Bauserman [11], which concluded that most molested children or adolescents do not regard the experience as highly traumatic. This, of course, should not be interpreted as meaning that molestations should usually be regarded as an inconsequential event.’

          So, further research is required to find out what sort of impact, but we cannot rule out the possibility that molestation during a person’s formative years can have an significant impact on sexual orientation. The evidence points to a more pronounced effect of molestation on homosexual orientation without suggesting that their orientation would *necessarily* be otherwise, absent the molestation.

          If future findings point in this direction, we should explore their impact on our understanding of sexual orientation. How might It alter the Church’s approach towards homosexuality?

          • James Byron July 28, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

            Donald I. Templar, one of the study’s authors, has some interesting opinions about race and I.Q. But OK, not wanting to go ad hom, Templar’s methodology has also been called into question.

            Even accepting (most definitely arguendo) that the study is accurate, it does nothing whatsoever to substantiate Greyland’s accusations about the LGBT community conspiring to molest children to bump their numbers. Do you reject and condemn that claim?

          • David Shepherd July 30, 2015 at 9:14 am #

            James,

            Your reference to Donald Templar is in itself guilt by association. If there’s shame on Greyland for resorting to that tactic, there’s shame on you for abortively casting aspersions on the study because of Templar’s interesting views on race and IQ.

            The critique claims that the study implies causality (or consequence) hat it explicitly refuses to infer. The assertion in the link you gave is groundless.

        • James Byron July 30, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

          David, there’s a world of difference between associating a class of people with your abusers, and associating a man with his own words and method!

          In any case, it’s by the by: as I said, even if I accepted Templer’s research, it does nothing to substantiate Greyland smearing the LGBT community as a whole. Does it?

          • David Shepherd July 30, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

            James,

            Your distinction would carry weight, had the study been conducted and published by one man. Instead, ihe work and reputations of Jessica Jones Steed (who co-authored the study) as well as Tomeo, Anderson and Kotler (co-authors with Templar of the research that preceded it) are all impugned by your insinuation by implication.

            The difference in guilt by association is only in scale, not in contempt for precision.

            My reference to the study was not to substantiate Greyland’s position, but merely to rlelate the state of scientific research, while tirelessly (until now) repeating that a causal link between orientation and molestation has not been proven.

          • James Byron July 30, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

            David, accepting, for sake of argument, that the research is on the up-and-up, and accepting, for sake of argument, that I’ve been unfair to Templer and his collaborators, the research you’ve linked does nothing to justify Greyland targeting a class of people with unevidenced claims of a conspiracy to harm children.

          • David Shepherd July 31, 2015 at 8:50 am #

            James,

            Take a deep breath and stop assuming that I’m trying to advance Greyland’s position.

            I said: ‘my reference to the study was not to advance Greyland’s position’

            You said: ‘the research you’ve linked does nothing to justify Greyland…’

            It sounds like we’ve agreed (for once).

      • Clive July 27, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

        Lorenzo, you are right to ask “So what?” because this works both ways and “So what?” is correct because it is not meaningful to the debate.

        As an example of it all working both ways see here:
        http://www.frc.org/issuebrief/new-study-on-homosexual-parents-tops-all-previous-research

        • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente July 28, 2015 at 7:51 am #

          No, I don’t read the Family Research Council, I believe in not bearing false witness.

  9. James Byron July 26, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    Fisher’s case for banning same-sex civil marriage is weak in the extreme. If it was before a court of law, it wouldn’t survive a probable cause hearing. Filtering out a buch of theological irrelevance, his position boils down to two arguments: men and women are different; and think of the children.

    Yes, men and women are different, but, as Loving testifies, difference alone isn’t grounds to ban a marriage. Fischer offers no substantive, let along compelling, reason why a lack of gender difference justifies discrimination against same-sex couples.

    As for the welfare of children, plenty children are already raised by same-sex couples. If Fischer believes this to be harmful, he should argue for it to be banned. Since he doesn’t, he should explain why the children of same-sex couples would benefit from being denied the stability of their parents being married.

    If this is a showpiece case against equal marriage, no wonder its opponents are being trounced!

    • Andrew July 27, 2015 at 2:50 am #

      On “Loving”: one of the great features of US constitutional law is that one bad decision can be used as a stepping stone for the next, and thus can you hop daintily across chasms that you would have been far better to never go near.

      • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 5:48 am #

        Andrew, you believe the Supreme Court unanimously ruling to outlaw anti-miscegenation laws was a “bad decision”? Why? States’ rights? If so, bad news, 13th, 14th and 15th amendments kinda limited those a century and a half back.

        Loving was certainly a “political” decision, in that it addressed, decisively, an issue of public concern; which just goes to show why the courts intervening in politics isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and can, quite the contrary, be a force for good.

    • Phill July 27, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

      “…he should explain why the children of same-sex couples would benefit from being denied the stability of their parents being married.”

      Do you mean parents in the biological sense, or those who are legal guardians according to the law? I think this is the heart of the matter. If the biological parents of those children were to be married, then it would necessitate the children leaving those same-sex relationships.

      I don’t want to put words in Fisher’s mouth, but I think his point is that marriage is not just designed to promote stability alone but to promote the welfare of children, that is by promoting the best environment for children (living with their biological parents).

      So while it may be better for a child to be adopted by a same-sex couple rather than staying with abusive parents, or being bounced around foster families, all of these things fall short of the ideal which marriage is supposed to promote.

      Stability is better than there not being stability, but this is like saying putting a bandage over a wound is better than leaving it open. It’s better not to have the wound in the first place. If stability is all that is needed, then some form of civil partnership or civil union would do.

      • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

        I was referring to parental rights.

        Phill, would you ban voluntary adoption, sperm donation and surrogacy across the board? If not, ipso facto, you don’t object to children being separated from their biological parent/s.

        • Phill July 27, 2015 at 7:49 pm #

          I don’t think I am being inconsistent here, James. I don’t object to children being separated from their biological parents if that is the least bad option. I just don’t think the state should be actively promoting it.

          Frankly I don’t like sperm donation – I know a single Mum in our church whose son was conceived via a donor. He will grow up not knowing his Father (he will gain the right to know at 18, apparently). Would I ban it? Yes, I think I would – but whether it’s banned or not I think is really irrelevant to this particular question of same-sex marriage.

          I’d say that marriage, in a general sense, is to promote the family and not just the two individuals involved. If a married couple adopt or use a surrogate, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they are in a minority and the usual case is that married couples will have children.

          With same-sex couples, however, every single child being raised in that family is missing at least a mother or father. This is why I think it’s incongruous to call a same-sex relationship a marriage, because I think that’s not what marriage is for.

          • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

            Phill, fair enough if you oppose sperm donation, but if you accept adoption and surrogacy, you nonetheless accept the principle that children can grow up without access to their natural parents. Its extent is by the by: if you believed it to be inherently wrong, you’d oppose it.

            That being so, what substantive reason is there to oppose same-sex parents? Assertions about mothers and fathers are all very well, but those assertions need something behind them.

        • Phill July 27, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

          (This is a reply to your 10:07pm comment)

          James, I accept that there are certain situations where adoption may become necessary (although in an ideal world adoption should never be necessary).

          Adoption is the best response that we have to the world’s brokenness. It doesn’t mean that the government should be *encouraging* broken families so that more children can be adopted. I’d rather that the government actually encouraged measures which prevented adoption in the first place.

          There are quite a number of people in my church who have been adopted. My brother-in-law was adopted, as well as a friend I know… from the conversations I’ve had with them (and it’s not an easy thing to talk about), I think while they are incredibly grateful for their adoptive families, their heart still does ache for their biological parents.

          I mentioned this to Jonathan, but if you read some of the stories on the Anonymous Us website (of donor conceived children) you’ll see just what problems it can cause. There are some collected stories here: http://askthebigot.com/2015/03/15/thoughts-of-donor-conceived-children-of-gay-parents-in-their-own-words/

          • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

            If governments wish to discourage adoption, Phill, they should exclude infertile couples from getting married. They don’t.

            In any case, why discourage adoption? Children adopted are, by virtue of being offered, unwanted by their natural parents. As for surrogacy and sperm donation, the alternative isn’t living with their natural parents, but never having been born. That being so, it’s hard to argue that they’re missing out.

            As for the effect of adoption on children, a more reliable source than a website that publishes anti-LGBT hate speech would be welcome!

        • Phill July 28, 2015 at 8:45 am #

          (This is a reply to JB 11:39pm)

          “If governments wish to discourage adoption, Phill, they should exclude infertile couples from getting married. They don’t.”

          No, I don’t think that follows. Where are these children being adopted coming from? They’re coming from broken homes, from families where social services feel the need to take the children away for whatever reason. I think what the government should be doing is promoting childbirth within marriage, which has been shown time and again to be the most stable for children and the best environment for them to grow up in.

          So I’m not arguing against adoption, I’m arguing that the government should try to reduce the numbers of children put up for adoption in the first place. Aim for the cause, rather than the effect.

          Also, as others have also pointed out – I’ve known at least two couples who thought they were infertile before a child came along after 20 years or more!

          I would rather a child was not born than live without its natural parents. In the case of adoption – alright, we live in a broken world, it’s not ideal but family breakdown does happen. But third party reproduction intentionally brings a child into the world knowing that it will live without its birth parents. I think this is irresponsible and cares little for the rights and desires of the child.

          “As for the effect of adoption on children, a more reliable source than a website that publishes anti-LGBT hate speech would be welcome!”

          The sources are all from the Anonymous Us website, which as far as I know has not anti-LGBT hate agenda. You can look directly at the source website if you prefer: http://anonymousus.org

          Do you know anyone who was adopted, James? Or who was born via third-party reproduction? Maybe you could ask them about their views.

    • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

      James
      You acknowledge that male and female are different. Acknowledging difference is not discriminatory – it is a fact.
      Two men or two women cannot produce a child without a third party – fact
      Men and women parent differently – fact
      Two men or two women cannot give the balance of male/female parenting – fact
      It is not discriminatory to say that a same sex relationship is not the same as a male/female relationship – fact
      It is not discriminatory to say that marriage is between one man and one woman, because it is the God given way in which two become three and become family.
      A same sex relationship may well be a loving relationship, but statistics show it does not give the long term stability fir children that the nuclear family gives. It is not marriage.

      • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

        Tricia, unless you unequivocally reject Moira Greyland’s accusations about the LGBT community and pedophilia, I don’t wish to speak with you further.

        I don’t believe that Christians who hold a traditional position are necessarily homophobic — I’m sure many are not — but there’s a line between that and hatemongering, and Greyland crossed it.

      • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

        James
        I certainly will not reject a human being who has gone through what she went through as a child. I accept that she is on the worst spectrum but this cannot be discounted just to not upset your sensitivities about the LGBT community. You want to live in a rose tinted glasses world.
        she is also not the only one speaking up about her childhood.

        • James Byron July 27, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

          Tricia, I’m not asking you to reject Greyland, or to doubt the truth of her account; I’m asking you to reject her unevidenced allegations that homosexuality is caused by child abuse, and even worse, that the LGBT community is engaged in a conspiracy to molest children. These go way beyond Greyland’s personal experience.

          If you missed it on first pass, and genuinely aren’t aware of the blog’s full content, you should re-read it (Ian posted the link), and would be well advised to do so in future, to avoid inadvertently endorsing such views.

          If, by contrast, you endorse this conspiracy, on practical grounds alone, I have no evidence or rational view to engage with, and therefore, no reasoned discussion can be had.

          • Clive July 28, 2015 at 6:29 am #

            So James, you have revealed that if you agree with the personal experience expressed then you support it and promote it, but if you disagree with the personal experience then you want to see it as a (using your words) “unevidenced allegations that homosexuality is caused by child abuse, and even worse, that the LGBT community is engaged in a conspiracy”.

            It is actually you that is being inconsistent and displaying irrationality.

          • James Byron July 28, 2015 at 6:55 am #

            Clive, as I already said plainly, I’m not questioning Greyland’s personal experience: I’m condemning her wild criminal allegations about the entire LGBT community.

            If you agree with her claims that homosexuality is caused by molestation, and the LGBT community is conspiring to abuse children, then irrationality would be the least of it.

            If, as I hope, you not only disagree with this hate speech, but share in my disgust at it, please say so.

          • Clive July 28, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

            Dear James

            If you believe in freedom of speech as I do (real freedom of speech that is) then people are allowed to say what they want and I don’t take one person’s experience as somehow incredibly better than another.
            So no I do not condemn any such freedom of speech as hate speech. It is someone speaking about their own personal experience and that is all.

          • Tricia July 28, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

            James
            i have considered the post and cannot find her post unevidenced. This is personal lived experience and reflection as an adult.
            Science does inform us that those who are abused as children, do go on to be abusers and unfortunately in her case both her parents were victims who went on to abuse.
            However I also consider that they were part of the liberal thinking of their time. The 1960’s began a process of breaking down the old order of morality. At that time Kinsey began to write about children and sexuality and many on the left were involved. In this country we had The Paedophile Exchange which shared offices with the Labour Party and the head of which was a personal friend of Peter Tatchell. Kinsey’s work has resurfaced in the Sex Ecucation Forum which has gained traction in Europe and we are having parents demonstrating over the sexualisation of their children. There is a movement in the world which seeks to destroy Judeo Christian morality in the west. I quite understand that there are many homosexual people who have no involvement and are merely seeking to live their lives freely, but The big LGBT bandwagon certainly is involved.

          • James Byron July 28, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

            Clive, this has nothing to do with free speech: I don’t want Greyland hooked up for her hate speech, and even if I did, as she’s not inciting violence, it’s protected speech under the First Amendment.

            It has everything to do with her claims about the entire LGBT community, claims that go way beyond any personal experience she’s had, or that she relays.

            It’s disturbing that I should have to work to get anyone here to condemn sweeping allegations linking LGBT people with child abuse. You all know how this libel has been used to attack gay people in the past, and the harm it does. Condemnation ought to be a foregone conclusion.

          • James Byron July 28, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

            Tricia, Greyland didn’t limit her comments to a British civil rights organization in the ’70s (an organization that, in-line with some disastrously wrong libertarian thinking of the time, also opposed the criminalization of child pornography).

            She attacked the entire LGBT community. Said that homosexuality is the fruits of pedophilia, and that a class of people, linked only by their sexual orientation, are conspiring to molest children in order to recruit. Greyland offered no evidence for this, because there is none.

            It’s the definition of bigotry. If you can’t see that, I doubt I can persuade you.

  10. Jonathan Tallon July 27, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Phill, if marriage were restricted solely to those who had their own biological children, you might have a point. But it’s not. Straight couples who adopt can marry. Straight couples where one partner or both are infertile can marry. Straight couples where both are of advanced years can marry. Straight couples who don’t want children can marry. Straight couples, where the marriage will never be consummated, can marry (for example, where one is near death). By your definition, none of these is ‘what marriage is for’. Yet they marry.

    So to require children from both biological parents as the essence of marriage for same-sex couples seems like trying to find something (anything) that same-sex couples can never meet, whilst using different rules for heterosexual couples.

    • Phill July 27, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

      I disagree with you, Jonathan. This issue is inevitably raised in any discussion around same-sex marriage, but I don’t think it’s right.

      Firstly, I think there is a fundamental difference between a heterosexual couple who are too old to bear children or inferfile, and a homosexual couple. In the case of the heterosexual couples, there is something that prevents childbirth happening. In the case of the homosexual couple, it is intrinsic to the nature of the relationship. No same-sex couple will ever have a child in the natural way.

      Secondly, I think we also need to think of what’s best for children. I think what children really want is to live with their mum and dad in a loving family under one roof. That’s the desire that children are born with. They don’t want merely two parents who love them – they want their mum and dad. There are stories of children who were conceived by a donor etc on the Anonymous Us website: http://anonymousus.org/ – many of them really struggle with this.

      Think of it from the child’s point of view: not every couple will bear children, BUT in an ideal world we would hope for every single child to be born into a loving relationship with their mums and dads.

      • Jonathan Tallon July 28, 2015 at 8:59 am #

        Phill, as we age we naturally, intrinsically, lose fertility. Old couples getting married (let’s say the woman is over the age of 75) have no possibility bar a miracle of having a child (oldest natural childbirth 59; oldest with fertility treatment 70). It is intrinsic to the nature of the relationship. Why, IF marriage is for children to be with their biological parents, should such a couple have a right to marry?

        And if marriage is for children to be with their biological parents, why do we allow people to marry who already have children by a different partner (widows, divorced, never married in first place)? It is intrinsic to such a relationship that we know that the child won’t be with their biological parents.

        You would rather allow a heterosexual couple to marry who can never have children than a same-sex couple who actually do – and claim this is for the children?

        It comes across as ‘marriage is for children to be with their biological parents. But we’ll allow any number of exceptions – so long as the couple are heterosexual’. Which means the argument isn’t actually about children, it’s about whether marriage requires two different genders.

        • Phill July 28, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

          Hi Jonathan,

          Don’t you think there is a distinction between what is normal and what is exceptional? You can’t legislate for every exceptional case. But in general, heterosexual couples will usually have children unless there are factors which prevent it. Homosexual couples never will. As you say – the oldest birth with fertility treatment is 70… how many couples get married for the first time over that age?

          The point is that EVERY child born into a same-sex relationship will arrive there missing at least one parent.

          I do think that marriage is about gender difference actually, and children are a very important part of that – but not the sum total.

          I think society does have it wrong a lot of the time when it comes to divorce and remarriage, and I think it goes on far too much. It wrecks families. This goes back to what I said to James elsewhere – I’d rather see the government promoting families and doing what they can to help people stay together so we didn’t have children put up for adoption in the first place.

          It just seems to me that promoting same-sex marriage seems to be shooting oneself in the foot when it comes to children: do we want to say that it’s best for children to grow up with their mum and dad under one roof, and should State have a role in promoting that? If yes, then SSM runs contrary to that.

          “You would rather allow a heterosexual couple to marry who can never have children than a same-sex couple who actually do – and claim this is for the children?”

          I think the same-sex couple could have a civil partnership or civil union if that is what is desired. But I think marriage should be reserved for the promotion of the ideal for families.

          • David Shepherd July 28, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

            Phill,

            Your point here is well made. Infertility is not a prima facie impediment to the estate of marriage, which includes the presumption of paternity.

            The difference is that same-sex marriage has and will continue to lead to the normalisation and prioritisation of intentional parenthood above biological parenthood.

    • Tricia July 27, 2015 at 10:23 pm #

      Jonathan
      There will always be exceptions. But there is the fact of consummation. In the Same Sex Marriage Act it specifically states that a same sex couple cannot consummate, but are married and a heterosexual couple must consummate or they are not married. It also states that a same sex couple cannot commit adultery.
      This is a 2 track system brought about by a political desire to re-define the original interpretation of Christiam marriage.
      So Jesus’ definition of marriage in Matt 19 of the man and woman becoming one flesh and the only case for divorce being adultery cannot be fulfilled by a same sex couple.

  11. Christine Quinn-Jones July 28, 2015 at 12:34 am #

    I’ve read through the comments here and I absolutely agree with Phill that children long to know the identities of their biological parents, a longing which can persist throughout their adult lives. I only have time to comment briefly now but, for those of you who have not already done so, please look at the website of the Child Migrants Trust, founded by Margaret Humphreys. The film, ‘Oranges and Sunshine’ (about the founder’s work) is both heart-rending and uplifting and it is one of the finest films I have seen. I also read the book, ‘Empty Cradles’.

  12. Clive July 28, 2015 at 6:56 am #

    INFERTILITY

    The old worn-out subject of infertility has come up.

    The reality is that a sister can’t go before a court and say “I’d like to marry my brother and it’s OK because we’re infertile”. The Court still wouldn’t allow the couple to marry because of the remote chance of a child being conceived with the parents too closely related. Therefore even the Courts do not accept claims of infertility.

    Infertility claims always were untrue.

    Even in the Bible there are stories of people like Sarah and Hanna unexpectedly having children late in life.

    The reality is that if a couple are male and female then the chance of conception, however remote the possibility, remains a reality and claims of absolute infertility simply don’t work. Even where sterility operations take place there are claims against doctors made where such operations don’t work.

    • David Shepherd July 28, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

      Too true, Clive,

      As Sir William Blackstone, the father of English common law explained of the lifelong contingency for a married couple to beget heirs, who become joint-beneficiaries:

      ‘A possibility of issue is always supposed to exist, in law, unless extinguished by the death of the parties; even though the donees [beneficiaries] be each of them an hundred years old’.

      In contrast, there is a prima facie impossibility of issue for same-sex couples.

  13. Jonathan Tallon July 28, 2015 at 8:47 am #

    So apparently the purpose of marriage is for the children to be with and know their biological mother and father. Shame that Jesus had to grow up with a parent who wasn’t his biological dad. Maybe the virgin birth was a bad idea by God? He hasn’t set a very good example for the rest of us.

    • Don Benson July 28, 2015 at 10:26 am #

      Jonathan, that’s a pretty cheap comment and it’s the sort of thing we all stoop to when, in a debate, we lose sight of the central issue. I plead guilty as much as anyone else here.

      God’s design for marriage was pretty straightforward and has always been instinctively and gladly accepted by the vast majority of people. Once we start thinking we can tweak it because we have all become so much more enlightened in our modernity we end up opening a can of worms which, just possibly, God would have foreseen? A plentiful supply of worms is clearly evident in the above comments.

      In our fallen world there will always be those whose personal experience challenges that which best serves the common good; but it’s almost always the case that changing things in response to those challenges simply works to the detriment of another set of individuals. And this is why, for Christians at least, humble acceptance of God’s way of doing things is a no-brainer. Thereafter, intelligent and sensitive love and support for those with particular problems should be our natural response.

    • Christine Quinn-Jones July 28, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

      Jonathan,
      I really think that you have taken the idea of Jesus as an example for us to follow to ridiculous extremes. Jesus had no biological children – if we were to follow that example we would be going against these words of God: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ Jesus also overturned the tables in the Temple – if we did that, we could end up in court. I mention the overturning of the tables because when I was teaching on supply and covering an R.E. lesson one pupil said he was following the example of Jesus when he knocked some tables and chairs over in the classroom. I am that sure you will agree that the pupil was stretching a point to ridiculous extremes.

      • Christine Quinn-Jones July 28, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

        Correction: should read ‘I am sure that…’

  14. etseq July 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    So Ian has finally shown his true colors – gays are either child molestors or victims of molestors or both. The fact that he lets this slander fester in his comments section just proves the utter moral bankruptcy of anti-gay evangelicals. Absolutely disgusting.

    • Andrew July 28, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

      Hear, hear! Even more pernicious than the statements they make are the statements they fail to condemn.

      • Tricia July 28, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

        Well, well! This is a different post Andrew.

      • Martin Reynolds July 28, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

        Yes, time to move on, I think. No peace returned here. Time to move on.

    • Tricia July 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

      We are the ones with the moral bankruptcy! How dare you. You sit in your ivory tower of victim hood and care nothing for the children who have found a voice at last. Who have been silenced by an LGBT machine that calls hater and bigot at every opportunity.
      Well TRUTH will out, that which is in darkness will be revealed in the full light.

    • James Byron July 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

      Etseq, Ian’s an open evangelical with several LGBT friends, I can’t think that, on reading Greyland linking the entire LGBT community with pedophilia, he wouldn’t be as horrified as we both are. She’d be attacking people he holds dear.

      I too would’ve liked Ian to’ve accompanied his link with a comment condemning Greyland’s allegations, but he may well have taken his disapproval as given. Given your comments, I agree that he should post again, to clarify that his silence isn’t tacit approval of Greyland’s allegations, which I don’t believe it is. He may simply be busy ATM.

      • Ian Paul July 28, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

        The other explanation could be that I am sitting in the middle of a field without much internet access…

  15. Christine Quinn-Jones July 28, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    Andrew and Etseq – you are not objecting to freedom of speech, are you?!

  16. Andrew Godsall July 29, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    I think the primary problem with a Roman Catholic Archbishop lecturing about this is a basic one: Roman Catholics still believe that the primary purpose – indeed in some caes the only real purpose of sex is procreation. And even if they tell you they don’t really think that, if you push them they will say that every sexual act has to be logically open to the possibility of procreation.

  17. Rev Peter Kane July 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Many thanks for including this helpful insight from the RC Archbishop of Sydney on your blog. It illustrates that there is much we Anglicans can learn from the solidity and robustness of the Catholic teaching on this key matter. It would be good to see more CofE bishops putting forward the case for traditional marriage more boldly (the Bishop of Birkenhead is a rare exception) – all we seem to hear are the voices of liberals and revisionists whose views really do not stand up to scrutiny.

    • James Byron July 29, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

      Peter, are you separating Christian and civil marriage?

      I’d agree that, from an orthodox Christian POV, same-sex marriage is hard to justify; from a secular POV, the arguments against it don’t withstand scrutiny, as shown by their string of losses in U.S. federal courts, before judges of all political stripes, and its success in multiple legislatures and referenda.

      Hopping back to a Christian perspective, I’d say that liberals and revisionists should have more confidence in challenging claims of supernatural revelation. Many things now accepted by mainstream Christianity — from divorce to gender equality to religious pluralism — are just as incompatible with Christian tradition as equal marriage. That just shows the inherent weaknesses of orthodoxy.

    • Pete J July 30, 2015 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Peter

      It may seem like only liberal voices are being heard, but all bar one of the bishops firmly support the status quo. I agree they are frustratingly silent on the issue and want others to be open and honest about their sexuality without being so themselves, but I don’t think you can claim there isn’t sufficient support for conservative views in the HoB. In fact only a few weeks ago the ABC sent out a message against the TEC because they know allow individual dioceses to make their own minds up on the matter.

      • Pete J July 30, 2015 at 10:13 am #

        Re – orthodoxy

        And of course the NT is stock full of people (Joseph, Jesus, Peter, Paul, …) going against the orthodoxy of their day. The first command in the NT is the angel telling Joseph to go against what he thought Gods law was telling him to do.

        As Christians we should be following Christs understanding of the law: love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself … Specifically not apply a harsher law to your neighbour than you accept for yourself

        • Ian Paul July 30, 2015 at 10:38 am #

          But Pete, Jesus appeared to think it was loving to hold people to a high standard of sexual ethical behaviour, including the prohibition on same-sex relations as articulated in Leviticus 17 to 20, which he alludes to.

          Why should we think differently?

          • James Byron July 30, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

            For exactly the same reason the church ignores Jesus’ rigid ban on the remarriage of divorcees: it’s cruel, unjustified, and creates a climate in which thinking like Greyland’s can get a hearing.

          • Pete J July 30, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

            I agree Ian that we are called to sexual morality, but it is not for its own sake. We don’t rape because it is an act of hate to someone, for example. I’m not sure if I can formulate quite what Im thinking, but i think for us the law should not be just a random list of tasks and prohibitions, but be about loving one another. (Not forgetting that first and foremost to love God.)

            I do not think we can say that Jesus’ application of the leviticus sex laws is literal and universal since these laws were clearly written to a culture where women were little more than property (all of the laws are written in the frame of (straight?) men, because women had no sexual agency). However, Jesus tells the Pharisees that their wives are of equal importance to them. Jesus clearly has a different understanding of sexual morality than the other Jewish leaders because his understanding is based on every life being important.

            In any case nowhere in Leviticus (or indeed the whole bible) is a verse banning gay marriage, which is what I think you are implying?

          • Ian Paul July 30, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

            James, no Christian ethic has the liberty of rejecting Jesus’ teaching as ‘cruel, unjustified and creating a negative climate.’

            And this ‘rigid’ ban was in fact a rejection of ‘for any reason’ divorce i.e. a rejection of male patriarchy and control over women’s lives. Paul clearly understood it thus, since he happily contemplates possible actions in the light of divorce in 1 Cor 7.

          • Ian Paul July 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

            Pete, thanks for the response. I agree that we are not called to sexual morality for its own sake, but I don’t agree that it is just about ‘loving one another’, since that often collapses into a situation ethic.

            It is also about honouring God, including honouring his image in humanity. We therefore need to follow the form of relating that he has given us (male-female for sexual unions) and not just the qualities or virtues.

            I agree that Jesus does not appear to apply Leviticus as literal and universal, but he does highlight the list of illicit sexual relationships in the Holiness Code (chapters 17 to 22) by using the term ‘immoralities’. It seems to me to be no coincidence that the Acts 15 Council does the same, as does Paul in coining ‘arsenokoites’ in 1 Cor 6.9 and 1 Tim 1.9.

            The reason for this is that these prohibitions are closely connected with the creation narratives in Gen 1 and 2.

            This canonical witness doesn’t simply ban same-sex marriage; it is much broader than this in prohibiting all forms of same-sex sexual relating, into which category SSM of course falls.

          • James Byron July 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

            Ian, Jesus didn’t merely ban “any reason” divorce; he explicitly banned any divorce (perhaps, depending on whether the author of Matthew inserted it, with a narrow exception for sexual immorality). He classed remarriage as adultery; according to Paul, a salvation issue, equal to homosexuality.

            As for whether we’ve liberty to reject Jesus’ teaching, that’s very much open to debate: especially if we’ve already rejected it in practice; or at least, are content to remain a member of an organization that’s done so.

            We are certainly at liberty to reject and condemn an allegation that smears the entire LGBT community, and I again invite you to do so.

          • Ian Paul July 30, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

            James, yes he did, as he was not teaching in a vacuum but responding to the debate between Hillel and Shammai and taking the side of Shammai:

            ‘The House of Shammai held that a man may only divorce his wife for a serious transgression, but the House of Hillel allowed divorce for even trivial offenses, such as burning a meal’

            you cannot read Jesus’ teaching on this by ignoring this background. If the gospel writers omitted this, it was only because they assumed their listeners knew.

            But of course, going with the ethically stricter school of thought means that (in respond to Pete J) that Jesus would have been non-negotiably opposed to all same-sex sexual relations.

            If I belong to an organisation that rejects Jesus’ teaching, then I am very happy to campaign for its reform.

          • James Byron July 30, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

            Ian, I fully agree that Jesus wasn’t teaching in a vacuum, and that his teaching fits with Shammai; I also agree that Jesus, along with 1st century Judaism in general, would’ve been non-negotiably opposed to homosexuality.

            That doesn’t alter the fact that evangelicalism in general, and the Church of England in particular, violate Jesus’ explicit command every time a minister remarries a person who divorced (for any reason other than sexual immorality). Pastoral accommodation doesn’t give an out, any more than it’d give an out to marrying a same-sex couple.

            Liberalization of the traditional Christian position on divorce hasn’t caused anything like the scale or vehemence of the opposition to going against Jesus’ (implicit) condemnation of homosexuality. If a campaign to ban remarriage in church after divorce gains traction, it would remedy that inconsistency, but wouldn’t explain how it arose to begin with.

          • Clive July 31, 2015 at 6:49 am #

            Matthew 19 verse 3:
            The Pharisees also came to Him [Jesus], testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

            Jesus answers THIS question.

            Verses 4 to 6:
            He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

            So Jesus does NOT refuse divorce under all circumstances but he soundly rejects that a man can casually divorce a woman for “any and every reason”.

          • Pete J July 31, 2015 at 8:38 am #

            Ian,

            If there is a “loving God” dimension to marriage i.e. we are somehow worshiping him when we are heterosexually married – why does Genesis clearly show God creating marriage because it is “not good for man to be alone” i.e. man pre-dates marriage and marriage was made solely for man (Im using man here to mean human, not male)? Why when Jesus is asked about marriage does he say it is only of this life and not of the kingdom? Why does Paul actually prefer celibacy to marriage?

            Forgive me, but you dont seem to have understood my point – Jesus doesnt even apply the sexual laws in a universal and literal way.

            My reading agrees with you that the law does ban some form of same gender sex. However Im sure you’re aware that there are lots of laws that we dont apply in a literal way or dont apply at all. Jesus also took this route. Im sure you would agree that at the time of writing that law would have been understood as from an assumed heterosexual male viewpoint – i.e. sex for humiliation, idol worship and lust. (In Leviticus theres nothing about women or intersex people. The only examples of gay sex in scripture are gang rape and rape. Nowhere does scripture explicitly disapprove of gay romance.) so what we are disagreed on is how we interpret this for gay people.

            Could you unpack what you mean by a “situation ethic” – sorry I’m not a theologian.

            This is going to come out much more aggressive than I intend it and it is just an observation and not particular to this conversation, but I dislike it when someones teaching relies on a special understanding of a particular Greek word. I dont speak Greek and I have no way of knowing who is telling the truth. A priest I was talking to was complaining about younger (straight) people having sex before marriage and bemoaned that modern translations of scripture had lost the meaning of porneia and they should write “any sex outside of heterosexual marriage”. So who am I to believe?! Is it literal Leviticus, sex outside of marriage, interpreted Leviticus, just being sexually moral or something else?!

          • Ian Paul July 31, 2015 at 9:36 am #

            Pete, thanks…a lot of points! Briefly…

            1. All the commands are ‘for our good’—they are not about God on an ego trip. But they come from God, and Scripture is consist is claiming that when we decide ‘laws’ for ourselves we not only harm ourselves but we reject the rightful place God has in our lives.

            2. I wonder if you can give me an example where Jesus does not apply the sexual laws in a universal way? If you look at the various ‘vice lists’ in the NT, they always include sexual ethics and they are often modelled on OT text, particularly the 10 Commandments.

            3. The notion that the Levitical prohibitions are somehow limited only to particular contexts is widespread, but mistaken. I explore them here: http://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/leviticus-and-same-sex-relations/

            4. A situation ethic is one where you take principles (like ‘love’) and you simply work out what that might look like in any given situation, without reference either to forms of action, virtues, or anything overarching which might apply across different situations.

            5. Every translation is itself an act of interpretation, so we should never expect simply to read a translation and have all our questions answered. That’s why there are teachers and theologians in the Church. We are all in it together!

            Have you read my Grove booklet on Same-Sex unions? I mostly assume people on the blog have some familiarity with the content.

            Hope that helps.

          • James Byron July 31, 2015 at 3:48 pm #

            Clive, in Matthew, Jesus goes on to say, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Paul and Mark omit even that narrow ground.

            That’s explicit as you can get, yet churches routinely remarry divorcees who divorced for reasons other than the sexual immorality of their spouse, despite adultery being listed by Paul as a salvation issue.

          • Jonathan Tallon July 31, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

            Just to say that I think the case for seeing specific allusions to Leviticus 17-20 in the word ‘immoralities’ is extremely weak, and similarly with Acts 15.

            To claim that we know what Jesus would have thought/said directly about SSM begs the question: we are not (according to orthodox doctrine) dealing with a typical first century Jew, but with God incarnate. Different rules apply.

          • Pete J August 1, 2015 at 9:48 am #

            Ian

            Exactly – so if there is a law (or really an understanding of a law) that isn’t good, then it isn’t from God.

            2. Matt 19.1-11 (contrast with Deuteronomy 24.1-3, for example)
            John 8.1-11 (leviticus 20.10)
            Matt 5.27-30 (again leviticus 20.10)

            3. Sorry I only had time to skim read your exposition. I couldn’t find anything suggesting that leviticus 18.22 should be applied to all same sex intercourse (even in the context of a loving monogamous relationship). You say there is no notion of male dominance in these laws(!), but I disagree *and* I would say they only become consistent with God being a loving God if you apply this understanding. This understanding perhaps even suggests that the passive partner in L18.22 has no/reduced say in the matter, i.e. It could be *only* talking about non-consensual sex. Forgive me, but I think you are wrong to suggest that God is more concerned about sex than about pagan worship. My reading of the bible is that worshipping other Gods/things is the number one sin (if there is a number one sin) as far as God is concerned. I may be wrong!

            4. Isn’t this exactly how we are called to live under the new covenant? If not, apart from a better assurance in forgiveness, what is the difference between the new covenant and the old covenant? How are we to behave when, inevitably, one law conflicts with another?

            5. Thank you for being honest about this. I wish more church leaders were.

            “We are all in this together” does smack a little of George Osbourne saying this to someone in poverty. To put this in context, Im going to spend some of the next 24h trying to decide if I feel brave enough to attend my church on Sunday (will I be prayed against, preached against?!), if the guy who has a particular problem with gays in the church will be there and if I should just hide away at the cathedral instead. Plenty of straight people face seasons like this at church, but I feel like I will always have these problems, since I can’t make myself straight/acceptable.

            I’m not even aware of what a Grove booklet is, sorry if it is annoying for you to have to re-cover the basics.

          • Pete J August 2, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

            James

            I think that we would not consider remarriage after divorce due to domestic violence sinful now? Jesus doesnt mention it, but given the way he treats women, I think he is completely OK with this. Jesus is talking in a situation in which the males have all the power in the marriage and is talking to the males. He is telling them to treat women with as much respect as they treat themselves so this seems consistent with abuse being a valid reason for divorce.

            In that culture of course it would be very unlikely for a wife to be abusing her husband and a wife who was being abused would not have been able to apply for a divorce. We live in a different time now and I think if we just apply the same understanding of the law without cultural understanding then we end up working against what Jesus was all about.

            A good example of this is recently a church in the US disciplined a woman for divorcing her husband. Her husband was using child pornography. He was affirmed by the church (because he was attempting to deal with it) and she was booted out. The church saw the error of their ways, but it does show we have to be really careful about the context of all this.

    • Tricia July 30, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

      Totally agree. Very frustrated by the Bishops silence. Especially given all the noise made by the Bishop of Buckingham running amok in the media.

  18. Pete J July 30, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    I would come at the social justice issue from completely the other angle. It is not that gay people should be allowed to marry in church to avoid injustice, but that allowing us to marry is a shortcut to a socially just church that doesn’t see orientation. I agree that difference doesn’t necessarily mean inequality, but sameness is a shortcut to equality and avoids messy discussions about inclusion/acceptance.

    The bible teaches that our work in Christ is not dependent on earthly characteristics, but churches usually define those of us who are not straight by our sexuality … sometimes over and above our identity as Christians i.e. we are treated less favourably, or even excluded, because we are attracted to the same sex. This differential treatment obviously varies tremendously from church to church, with some safer than others for gay people. In most the problems are hidden. Official CofE teaching is quite clear that gay people are of equal worth to straight people, but the facts on the ground are the opposite. The CofE should be having a discussion about this discrepancy, because it is the real issue. At the very least it should be tackling the widespread homophobia and prejudice against gay people. It should also begin to better educate people on sexuality because often the worst harm is caused by ignorance.

    Part of the problem, in my view, is the culture of idolisation of marriage. In many (most?) anglican churches it is honoured over all other relationships to the extent that you are considered less of a person or infantilised if you are not married. If you put a thing on a pedestal above all other things and then ban a group of people from attaining it, they are by necessity less than the rest of the population. There are plenty of named ministries to support marriage and family life, but I have yet to find any support for celibacy.

    The ‘debate’ over gay marriage is a smokescreen, because in England gay congregants and parishioners can already marry in spite of what the church has to say. The real issue is how gay people are treated by the church and there probably needs to be a big and painful culture shift in this regard.

    Just a minor point – there are tiny legal differences between marriage and civil partnerships. As I understand it, marriages are recognised in other countries that also allow gay people to marry, whereas civil partnerships are not. Separation of civil partnerships is also dealt with differently to marriage and new laws/benefits for married couples would not necessarily apply to civil partnerships. Again all this is a bit of a smokescreen as the vast majority of people opposed to gay marriage are opposed to any form of gay relationship.

  19. Tricia July 30, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    My post is to Rev Peter Kane – seems to have come in wrong place

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