Tragedy, sexuality and speaking the truth

Peter Ould writes: When I look back on my life (I’m coming up to my 45th birthday next year – very middle aged and very middle class) there are two events that more than anything else have shaped who I am today. Both were defining moments in my life, both were experiences of minorities, both were things that unless you’ve experienced them yourself, you cannot really comprehend what they are about.

The first of these things is coming out as gay. It is hard to explain to people who are heterosexual what it is like to be “different”. I remember when I spoke to a group of students about this over 15 years ago the best thing I could think of at the time was to play “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat and ask them to really listen to the lyrics, to understand the pain of being different that was being communicated. When you grow up in a society that is heteronormative (and most straight people simply do not perceive how heteronormative Western society is), being homosexual is very difficult. Throw into that mix being a Christian as well when the predominant assumption, often badly articulated, is that singles will get married and have children and you can see how hard it is to just be honest about who you are. But being honest about who I was was something I attempted to do in my twenties. Slowly I shared the reality of my sexuality with friends in church and then more openly as I endeavoured to explore what it meant to be gay and yet theologically orthodox. Over time I’ve realised that the process of coming out is an ongoing one as new relationships and environments such as the workplace mean that sharing the reality (and complexity) of who you are. I barely had the courage to do it in my adult life (and to be honest the reality of my sexuality really only became apparent to me after University) – how much harder it must be to do it as a teenager?

But this experience pales into comparison against the greatest pain of my life – having to bury my second child. Our son Zachary was diagnosed with Edwards Syndrome in the womb and was stillborn weeks later. Now, almost a decade later, I still have days when the grief overwhelms me. As a priest I had done a few funerals of children, but nothing prepared me for having to sit in my own son’s. Losing a child is something that you simply cannot understand until it happens to you. Yes, you can imagine it, you can picture what it might be like, you can shed the tears in fearful anticipation. But until it happens, you simply do not understand.


It is because of the confluence of these two things in my life that I have taken an interest in the suicide of Lizzie Lowe, the Manchester teenager who hung herself after struggling with the conflict between her sexuality and her Christian faith. It is because of the confluence of these two things in my life that I have also said very little in public, or private, about her death because I know intimately the complexity and pain of these events. In recent days though I have once again become angered by the way that Lizzie Lowe’s death has been politicised by revisionists in the church, including her parish vicar Nick Bundock. One particular aspect that has particularly stirred me to write about this publicly is the way that key facts around the tragic suicide of Lizzie have been omitted in the “official” narrative because they contradict the revisionist political message that is being pushed every time her death is mentioned.

A recent BBC report quotes Nick Bundock as saying the following,

I used to be somebody that would hold a traditional view. But we lost a teenager, at 14, to suicide. And that puts everything else into perspective.

This fits into the story that Nick Bundock tells elsewhere how Lizzie Lowe was afraid to come up because she was in a theologically conservative church where she didn’t feel safe, and that it was the shock of her death that forced the church’s leadership to re-examine their theology and pastorally practice. It’s a compelling, heart-wrenching and challenging message.

It just isn’t the whole truth.


There are five key facts that we should all be aware of before accepting at face value the narrative being propagated around Lizzie Lowe’s death.

  1. The idea that the church was not talking about sexuality is simply untrue. A previous curate had come out as lesbian to the congregation before Lizzie’s tragic suicide. In the light of this it is hard to argue that the church Lizzie attended was an “unsafe” place to be gay. Churches take a huge amount of their tone and vision from their leaders and for one of them to be open with the congregation about their sexuality (and their liberal theology on the issue) does not fit the picture of a traditional conservative Evangelical church.
  2. The idea that a conservative church (and leadership) moved to a more liberal position after Lizzie’s death is simply not accurate. The vicar, Nick Bundock, was already preaching liberal theology (and described himself as ‘post-evangelical’) and had already lost some of his congregation over that. I have spoken to more than one former member of the congregation who challenged Nick on his drift into liberalism well before Lizzie Lowe’s death.
  3. Far from being a home where a homophobic conservative theology was being expounded, Lizzie’s parents would have met their daughter coming out to them with nothing but love. They themselves in the BBC interview affirm this.
  4. If you read the news reports of Coroner’s findings (rather than relying on the vicar’s report) you can see that the Coroner explicitly absolves the parish church and the national Church of England from any blame in Lizzie’s death. The Coroner is clear that there is no connection to be made between the theology of the church, either at the parish or national level, and Lizzie’s suicide.
  5. The Coroner’s report also lays out how Lizzie had been talking to fellow students about her sexuality and they had urged her to tell her parents. The Coroner’s report also details how Lizzie had self-harmed in the past.

When you put all this together, the actual story is far more nuanced than the simple narrative of the revisionists makes out. It is simply untrue to claim that Lizzie Lowe committed suicide because her church didn’t talk about homosexuality or if it did only did so in negative terms (it actually had a church leader come out to the congregation), that Lizzie committed suicide because of the conservative theology of her church or her parents (neither is true) or that her death led to a shift in the teaching of the church’s leadership (that shift had been underway well before her death).


This article is difficult to write because I know it will upset and anger many people. I will be accused of dismissing the struggle to come out, whereas actually I understand exactly how hard that internal conflict it. I will be charged with somehow wanting to diminish or even not recognise the real pain that Lizzie’s parents, friends and church family felt at her loss, but as the father of a dead child myself I can assure you that is the last thing I want to do.

But what I do want is truth. If we are going to have a discussion about sexuality and sexual practice in the church, we have to be open and honest when doing so. It is not good enough to just give one side of the story – we owe it to every single person in our pews struggling with reconciling their faith and sexuality to see the whole picture, warts and all.

As we enter a crucial time in our denomination’s discussions in this area, we must make sure we do not weaponise our personal narratives and place emotion above truth. It is saddening enough that one teenager feels that the only way to resolve her internal conflict is to commit suicide and there are definitely lessons to be learnt by all of us in the church about making it clear to our children that this is not a literal life and death issue. At the same time however, it behoves us all to not shape such stories around our own agendas. We deserve more than that. Our churches deserve more than that. The gay people in our pews deserve more than that. Lizzie deserves more than that.


Update: thanks to all who have commented on this. In the first day or so, the comments were helpful, and there was some respectful interchange between very different points of view. David Runcorn has expressed concern below about the conversation becoming ‘toxic’, and I would agree with him that some of the discussion has become very unhelpful. I have therefore closed the option of further comments being made, but will leave the discussion in place. Ian.


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235 thoughts on “Tragedy, sexuality and speaking the truth

  1. I wondered if you were going touch this on the blog.

    I’m glad you did, and I thank Peter Ould for writing it.

  2. “We must make sure we do not weaponise our personal narratives”…says Peter Ould, with no apparent sense of irony.

    • So far as I can see, Andrew, Peter Ould used his own experience simply to explain why he has had a particular interest in the Lizzie Lowe tragedy. Thereafter he concentrated on some ‘key facts’ to do with the circumstances of what happened.

      Personally I think it is regrettable that it was ever considered appropriate to use such a sad event as debating material to assist a campaign among Christians for changing a particular area of doctrine. If key facts have been omitted, that is even more regrettable.

    • I think it’s close to the line, but doesn’t cross it.

      Peter is pretty forceful in his condemnation of Nick Bundock, implicitly making the accusation that he’s either a liar or a hypocrite.

      I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘weaponise’ to describe what Peter wrote though, because while this personal narrative is clearly used to be critical of several people and organisations who seem to be showing contempt for the truth, that’s not the same thing as using narrative to obscure the truth, or worse change it himself.

      The full line, which you only part-quoted, ends with “… and places emotion above truth”. That was the nature of the warning.

      It’s not about people being able to use their personal narratives to leverage an opinion (everyone does this to some degree), but a warning about using that narrative to deliberately obscure the facts of the case.

    • I was at pains not to make my own personal narrative an argument, but rather an explanation why I might have a valid voice of criticism – but the criticism stands and falls on the facts, not my narrative.

      I have been tempted to use my personal stories as a weapon – at times I have fallen to that temptation. It was wrong then and it’s wrong now.

  3. In my experience that presented pain is usually real, It’s the story that needs probing for transference, projection and now ‘weaponising’.

  4. There is a pattern of campaigning we all need to be aware of here. I think that in smoky backrooms people have cottoned on to the fact that all you need to do is find one single human interest story, sometimes play fast and loose with the facts (because who has the time to research them?) and then milk that one story for all it is worth. For the precious girl in this story read also Tini Owens and Savita Halappanavar.

  5. And this is also the ultimate cherry-pick. Out of all the UK population, anyone can always find one that (kind of) fits their favourite hobby-horse narrative.

  6. The mob mentality in recent sexuality/abuse cases tries to get us to see one angle to the exclusion of all others. Now, why would it do that?

    Because, not by coincidence, that is the very angle that fits their narrative.

    The angle may well be accurately portrayed, though sometimes it isn’t. But one thing will always remain true. Real life is not a one-angle thing. Truth lies in comprehensiveness and a holistic view.

    Therefore, even the accurate portrayal of one angle is an inaccurate portrayal of a whole case.

  7. Thankyou Peter for your model of faith and faithfulness in the midst of your own tragedies. It is a privilege to know you and to witness your journey through them.

    The terrible loss which you speak to here can only cause us to mourn with those who mourn and pray God’s grace and comfort for the dear parents.

    Your factual perspective and corrective, however, is necessary and helpful in challenging the theological politicising use of this tragedy.

    Kyrie eleison

  8. Thank you, Peter Ould, for speaking out about this misrepresentation and for doing so with sensitivity. This makes me really angry, too.

    Since I first became aware of the Lizzie Lowe story via the BBC, I shall write directly to the BBC and urge them to publish a corrective piece to this one-sided narrative.

    One important point here, I think, needs clarification if you are able. The previous curate who came out as lesbian, do you know whether this curate was in a practising relationship? I’m sure you appreciate the significance of this point: a member of our congregation, who is perfectly orthodox but openly same-sex attracted (and therefore has elected to remain single), recently went in for ordination. If he chose to come back as a curate to our conservative evangelical church he would be most welcome. The curate’s being in a relationship or otherwise says a great deal about the conservatism or otherwise of Nick Bundock’s church prior to this tragic event.

    • I’m not sure whether the curate being in or not being in a relationship is relevant to the point I’m making. The narrative is that the church didn’t talk about sexuality, or if it did it only did in negative terms. The curate coming out to the congregation demonstrates that simply isn’t true. It also demonstrates that people in the church knew it was possible to be openly gay and a member of the congregation.

      The issue therefore WASN’T that the church was not a welcoming place and that’s why Lizzie felt she couldn’t share – the conflict for her was a personal one and not about the parish.

      • Perhaps you are right, but that isn’t the conclusion her parents, friends and church family drew. Let them tell their story and listen to them Peter.

        • Can you explain why anyone in this context would tell their story and omit these kinds of really significant facts…which in fact contradict the narrative?

          Nick repeatedly says that he was an evangelical, and had to then rethink. But I know that he called himself post-evangelical before all this happened, so that simply isn’t true.

          Why the half truths here?

          • As I’ve shown below, these are not just omissions. Bundock goes way beyond just factual omission in claiming on video that through the coroner’s hearing, they discovered a ‘conspiracy of silence’ around sexuality.

            That’s some conspiracy of silence which still allows a curate to trust the congregation enough to be able to ‘come out’ them!

          • Thanks David,

            There was more we could have put into the article (as you point out yourself) but I didn’t want to be too brutal.

          • This whole post and discussion it has created is so heartbreaking.

            It is beyond offensive to suggest that Lizzie’s parents (who have been telling their story and endorsing the story that Nick and others have contributed to) and Nick are telling “half truths”. There is always more to a story than can be put into a short video, interview or article. That doesn’t mean people are telling ‘half truths’ – you always have to tell the elements of the story you think are important and tell them. You and Peter, for example, have not mentioned how controversial this liberal movement has been, including the walk out of over 25 church members even after Lizzie’s death.

            In direct answer to your question, I don’t know why he would describe himself as evangelical or post-evangelical. I’m not even sure I could define those terms and would personally consider post-evangelical to just mean evangelical without the political baggage. I certainly don’t think it matters one bit.

            I will only repeat that Lizzie’s parents and her church family know the situation and context a hell of a lot better than you or Peter. From what I can telly, they have accurately and openly discussed where there church was on this issue (See this interview, for example – quote below https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/lizzie-lowe-death-church-changes-15185483). There is no reason for conservatives to get defensive or launch a counter offensive. Just listen. At the very least, I would endorse Peter’s previous writings on this that even if you cannot agree with a change in theology, you must consider a change in pastoral practice to make sure this never happens again. Peter has written well on conservatives having a better story which is open and welcoming to gay people whilst holding to traditional conservative theology. I would urge you to pursue that, rather than attack those who are trying to work out how best to stop young people killing themselves.

            ‘Lizzie’s vicar Nick says before her death he felt the church was open and welcoming but he chose not to openly discuss the divisive subject of sexuality. “I felt, wrongly, it was better not to stir up a hornet’s nest about sexuality. If we don’t talk about it, people can have their progressive or traditional views and that’s fine and we won’t do anything to upset the apple cart, we won’t talk about it.”’

          • Hang on. ‘It is beyond offensive to suggest that Lizzie’s parents (who have been telling their story and endorsing the story that Nick and others have contributed to) and Nick are telling “half truths”.’

            So we are in a situation where known facts, attested by people who were part of this situation, are not to be admitted if they contradict the main narrative that has been put out here—and put out in the service of a particular cause (that of Inclusive Church)?

            Is that what you are really saying?

          • It’s entirely conceivable that there were omissions.

            However, it was not an omission for Nick Bundock to claim on video that the Coroner’s hearing revealed that the church’s ‘conspiracy of silence around the issue of sexuality’ was implicated in Lizzie’s suicide.

            Such a damning implication would not have been omitted from reports of the Coroner’s hearing.

            Nick Bundock’s account simply deploys this claim to lend credence to his mission for the Church to embrace revisionism as a safeguarding remedy for churchgoing LGBT youth.

            Yale Prof. Marie-Amelie George’s insightful study of the expressive effects of safeguarding bans shows how this is supposed to work: https://www.law.ua.edu/lawreview/files/2011/07/Expressive-Ends-Understanding-Conversion-Therapy-Bans.pdf

        • ”Sexuality” (definitions are always useful for faddish words like this) is a divisive topic, yes. But there are 4 options.

          (1) Talk about it in a free-for-all discussion, and you end up talking about nothing else. Bang go mission, children’s work…all to what avail? Am I wrong?

          (2) Don’t talk about it. This is pragmatic, as a result of (1). But it means that you come across as dishonest. Anyone can put across a coherent message if they pick and choose what they are prepared to talk about. That is what politicians do. The church is expected by many to be a welcome relief from the political way of doing things.

          (3) Talk about it, and take the culturally accommodating line. Marry the Zeitgeist and be widowed in the next. Realise later – and why didn’t you see earlier? – that the new morality is the same thing as the old immorality. Is opposed to the historical Jesus. And to everything that has passed as Christian. And, to boot, mucks up people’s lives to staggering percentage degrees, like everything connected with the sexual revolution does.

          (4) Talk about it (firmly and clearly and in detail, but not too often, and in proportion to other topics), and take the informed and well-thought-out line that Christians always have. That is what most churches have done in most places and most times. And that is why our age is in so much greater a mess in this respect than they were.

      • Hi Peter,

        thanks for your reply.

        You’re right; it’s not relevant to whether the church talked about sexuality.

        I only mention it as a further barometer of the claim that the church was theologically conservative prior to this tragic event. If the curate came out as lesbian, _and_ was in a practising relationship (or was seeking one), _and_ had the support of Revd. Bundock in this, then that says a lot about the supposed ‘conservatism’ of the church before this event. But regardless of these details, you do make a good case in point 2 anyway, that the church had already moved away from a conservative position.

        Thank you again for writing this timely article.

    • A few quotes from Nick Bundock on the Beyond Inclusion video https://youtu.be/4Wz2ylsz9-I:
      “It was only later, at the coroner’s hearing, that we discovered that, actually, it had been our conspiracy of silence, as it were, around the issue of sexuality, that had been the crucible in which Lizzie had existed in those months up until her death.”

      “What transpired was that Lizzie had a huge gap in her life between her faith that meant so much to her; she was a really committed Christian young person. But, she was also wrestling with and coming to terms with the fact that she was also a gay young person. And somehow, in her mind, in her spirituality, in her psychology, she just couldn’t bring her Christianity and her sexuality into a conversation. There was a gap there, and, it was clear from the Coroner’s hearing that this was a really big part her decision to take her own life. She just couldn’t believe that God could love her the way she was. And this was, obviously, a huge shock to all of us. But, it was also the start of a journey of deep reflection for the church. How could we allow the silence around sexuality to create a context in which Lizzie couldn’t discuss what she was going through?”

      Since there was no ‘conspiracy of silence’, it’s regrettable that Bundock’s recollection appears somewhat distorted by the adage: ‘never let the truth stand in the way of a good story’.

  9. First, can I say I cannot begin to imagine the loss of a child, and Peter’s grief. Thank you for being open about this.

    Secondly, I wish to address one point – you say “Far from being a home where a homophobic conservative theology was being expounded, Lizzie’s parents would have met their daughter coming out to them with nothing but love. They themselves in the BBC interview affirm this.”

    I have heard Nick Bundock speak about this, and he emphasised this point himself, that the parents would have only met Lizzie with love.

  10. Please could anyone tell me how/if I can watch the BBC Inside Out programme? I have tried to find it on i player, but so far without success.

  11. I wondered how long it would take before you broke your four year long silence on the tragic death of Lizzie Lowe. At first I thought your silence was because you finally realised just how damaging your psychotic theology was to vulnerable people, and you could see how any comment on the case would show how far your thinking had departed from the teaching of Jesus. But here I see that you lack such self awareness and have broken cover with misrepresentation, unsubstantiated assertion and special pleading. I’m afraid you come across much as the American gun lobby does after a High School shooting – the fault is not with your beloved weapon of choice (in their case assault rifles, in yours a homophobic theology), instead you try to wriggle out of moral responsibility, in denial that clinging onto your inhumane views somehow doesn’t cause harm to vulnerable people.

    Are you genuinely claiming that there was no link whatsoever between Lizzie Lowe’s suicide and a psychological struggle between her Christian and sexual identities? Are you further claiming that no other gay person has ever had a struggle between their Christian and sexual identities which has deepened their personal anguish, affected their mental health and caused them to consider self harming or suicide?

    So let me ask you a direct question, a simple question with a straightforward yes or no answer. Do you accept that a conservative theological position on sexuality can cause an LGBT+ Christian to experience psychological trauma leading to increased incidence of mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, self harm and suicide? Yes or no – take your pick, no wriggling, no dissembling.

    If your answer is no, are you claiming that the many LGBT+ Christians who say that it does are lying?

    If your answer is yes, could you tell me how many dead teenagers are an acceptable price to pay for maintaining your harmful views?

    Because it’s really very simple. Either the many, many gay Christians who speak of the anguish and harm caused to them by conservative theology are lying, or you are wilfully damaging them by putting your doctrinal “purity” above their lives. Please tell us which you believe it is.

    God has not called you to hurt people in the way that you do, your theology is not pure – it has blood on its hands. In the name of Christ, take down this article, issue an apology and repent of the damage your homophobia has done to so many of God’s children.

    • If Nick Bundock wanted to lay blame for Lizzie’s suicide at the door of conservative theology, he could have just gone ahead and done so.

      Instead, he further insisted that the Coroner’s hearing implicated the church’s ‘conspiracy of silence around the issue of sexuality’ in Lizzie’s suicide. Yet, there’s no record of such a damning assessment.

      It was only said to lend the credence of a public verdict to Nick Bundock’s own agenda of promoting the adoption of the Inclusive Church Charter.

      Just like he did last Autumn, when he preached in Ludlow at the request of Inclusive Church Hereford.

    • So which church tragedies of this nature took place in the years before the ‘homophobia’ narrative took root?

      Just as with transgender, the facts on the ground are directly related to the narrative that is being put across.

      There is (Savin-Williams & Ream; Diamond) no way that one can classify a child of that age as ‘gay’. 80-90% who feel that way (not least because of the options offered them by their particular culture) even 2 years later at 16 will not do so by 18-20.

      Pashes at school are well known.

      And it is certain that one’s main emotional attachments will very often be to one’s own gender at such an age, as at most childhood / teen ages. One has only to mention friendship.
      That has always been the case, but what has it to do with ‘gay’?

      Further, it will not be controversial to say that females are more elegantly formed than men – a fact that can be and is appreciated by females as well as males. Again, what has that to do with the way that mammalian families come into being?

      As ever with the main TV companies, the narrative is so tightly and exclusively defined before one even starts, and the editorial power (even to cut off mid-sentence – and obviouslt to litter the cutting room floor) is so extreme that it is a foregone conclusion that the editorial slant will always fit the exclusive Big Brother narrative. Not conspiracy theory – just the fruit of observation over decades.

  12. Just because the coroner has not found fault with the church at a level of culpability for a Coroners Verdict does not mean that there are not issues to be addressed by the church in terms of the climate in which young (and older) Christians are trying to reconcile faith and sexuality.

    Just because there had been some talk of sexuality in the church prior to Lizzie’s death does not take away from Nick’s argument. The fact that there were such negative reactions that people left the church illustrates the climate of hostility in some parts of the church to those who are LGBT.

    The fact that a church’s response to the tragedy of a teenager’s suicide is written off as revisionist and liberal illustrates the climate of hostility to those trying to reach a more compassionate teaching on the subject.

    Lizzie’s parents wanted people to learn from their experience; it is they who have asked that the church’s rhetoric and response changes. This article illustrates the concerns they are raising and seeking to tackle. As a former university chaplain I can testify to the devastating impact of conservative evangelical theology on young people trying to reconcile faith and sexuality. It doesn’t have to end in suicide to blight people’s lives.

    • “Just because the coroner has not found fault with the church at a level of culpability for a Coroners Verdict does not mean that there are not issues to be addressed by the church in terms of the climate in which young (and older) Christians are trying to reconcile faith and sexuality.”

      There may well have been such issues to address. However, Nick Bundock stated on video: “It was only later, at the coroner’s hearing, that we discovered that, actually, it had been our conspiracy of silence, as it were, around the issue of sexuality, that had been the crucible in which Lizzie had existed in those months up until her death.”

      So, even if the church’s culpability was not sufficient to form part of the Coroner’s Verdict, Nick Bundock still claims that this ‘conspiracy of silence’ discovered and implicated in Lizzie’s suicide at the coroner’s hearing.

      When the failure of social services is implicated in a person’s suicide, it is in the Coroner’s report. Here’s an example: https://www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/inquest-concludes-death-of-leon-evans-contributed-to-by-failings-of-community-mental-health-services/

      It’s inconceivable that such a damning discovery about the church was omitted.

      Citing what you describe as the ‘devastating impact of conservative evangelical theology on young people’ doesn’t lend credence to Nick Bundock’s claim about what the Coroner’s hearing revealed.

      The latter was just a dishonourable attempt to demonise conservative evangelical theology as a youth safeguarding risk, thereby sidelining an authentic theological debate.

      That way, revisonists can insist that the Church should summarily dismiss every conservative theological argument on the basis that such beliefs about sexuality are toxic to young kids.

      There are far more honourable approaches to argue against conservative evangelical theology than resorting to pretence that the Coroner’s hearing implicated the parish’s ‘conspiracy of silence around the issue of sexuality’ in Lizzie Lowe’s suicide.

  13. I wonder if we are allowing the minute details of a horribly tragic event to cloud the discipleship issue here – yet again. Rather than trying to change people (which is not our job!), I believe that our primary mission is to be Christ’s representatives on the earth, loving and accepting all people and drawing them to their loving, healing God (who does the changing God sees as necessary)? We appear to be letting our personal fears get in the way of our pastoral responsibility. In the end, only God knows the heart of a person, after all, Jesus said we are we are to make disciples not try to convert …

    I am not denying that God has high moral standards for us all – but we are not seen, by those both inside and outside the church, to be addressing others human issues in equal measure. What about divorce? Tackling adultery? Speaking out against greed? Illuminating domestic violence? Quelling gossip? Irradiating slavery?

    Sex is a human obsession, but the church has this opportunity to rise above the panic and model faith and dependance on God for the ultimate intimacy in love.

    • Thanks Sara-Jane, that is interesting. But if Christ’s core message was indeed ‘The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe…’ then as his representatives do we have the same message?

      And give that the first people became disciples when they responded to Jesus’ call to ‘Come and follow me’, how can we separate ‘conversion’ from ‘discipleship’? This same Jesus said (in the AV) ‘Unless ye be converted, ye cannot enter the kingdom of God’.

      And in my experience, it is precisely those churches which do teach the ‘traditional’ view of sex and marriage which are also engaging in all these other things. Why do we need an ‘either/or’ approach?

  14. I found Peter Ould’s piece moving and appropriate. I don’t know any more of the details of Lizzie Lowe’s sad death than anyone else, but surely the gay issue is only part of the story?

    There are lots of things that Christian teenagers might struggle with confessing to their church, and even contemplate suicide because they couldn’t. Some of these might be things that are genuinely shameful, such as (say) shoplifting or racist attitudes. Being gay is not and should not be shameful, whatever your theology is about homosexual behaviour.

    We are all sinners, and should be gentle with each other. We are all different in various ways, and should listen sympathetically to each others’ differences.

  15. I have now watched the video – the deep sorrow of Lizzie’s parents was almost palpable. It is tragic that Lizzie was in such despair that she saw suicide as her only option. The reason for Lizzie’s despair – feeling that she could not reconcile her sexual feelings with her Christian faith – is an anguish that many of us have never experienced, and Peter Ould, as someone who has experienced that anguish, wrote about it sensitively and compassionately.

    Many factors contribute to the sense of isolation and despair that lead people to believe that suicide is their only option. I would have found this documentary more enlightening if some of the other complex factors had been addressed, rather than a specific focus on anguish about sexual orientation in a Christian context – a factor that the presenter described as ‘controversial’.

    I have wondered if some youngsters might have felt unhappy about attending the Pride event at the church. Maybe they felt that they could not share their misgivings without reproach. Maybe they felt that their only options were to attend and feel lonely in a crowd, or to stay away and feel isolated from some of their peers. I don’t know, of course, but I think it is possible that some youngters were in that position – and God loves them, too.

    • ‘I would have found this documentary more enlightening if some of the other complex factors had been addressed’. Indeed. But how could that be done without intrusive questioning of the family itself?

      Which is why I think the use made of this story is very unwise. I would never have counselled such a move if it were a situation I was involved in.

      • Hi Ian,
        Thank you for your response. ‘How could that have been done without intrusive questioning of the family itself? ‘ It might have helped if the presenter and reporter could have explained that although suicide is complex, given that the main reason for Lizzie’s suicide was anguish about being unable to reconcile her sexuality with her Christian context, this would be the main focus of the documentary. This perspective could have been offered in a sentence or two.

        While the presenter mentioned that this is a controversial subject, the documentary was not presented as a debate – it was an ‘Inside Story’ about Lizzie’s parents and their church, so in that sense I think it lived up to its title.

        • And therein lies the difficulty. I understand that there are other pastoral issues involved here—but to probe those would be intrusive.

          The BBC might have done their job, but there is little doubt that the reason this publicity has been encouraged has been in the name of a cause. And anyone who questions the cause, and the use of this story in it, is attacked as ‘insensitive’.

          It is not a great approach…

          • Said as if Peter Ould doesn’t have a cause…….and Ian Paul doesn’t have a cause….As Bing Crosby once said ‘Everybody has an angle’.

          • Hi Ian,
            ‘The BBC might have done their job…. as ‘insensitive’ – absolutely. As far as I can see the criticisms about insensitivity have come mainly from viewers who have commented online.
            I don’t want to rush to judgement but I noticed a tweet from the reporter, Abbie Jones, which showed a clear bias in favour of LBGT inclusion and the Pride event at Didsbury church. I don’t know whether her views are representative of the BBC or whether they knew about her bias when they asked her to participate in the documentary…

    • Everyone has an angle, Andrew, so therefore all angles are equally good or bad????

      The better researched an angle, the more we will listen to it.

      The more multi-angled a perspective, the more we will listen to it.

      The only alternative would be to have no angle at all. Which is impossible. Even people who are 100% correct have an angle. Just, it is the correct one.

      Why are you focusing on angles as though they were the same thing as bias (which they are not), rather than on multiplying the number of different angles that we can see, and on arriving at the best-researched answer? It sounds like obfuscation.

  16. Ian
    Yes, we need to convert our hearts to enter the Kingdom of God, but that conversion is the job of the Holy Spirit. As fellow humans we are called to preach the ‘good news and make disciples’ – very distinct from the ‘render the seeker heavy with guilt and shame and make them despair’ that appears to be advocated and practiced in this debate over sexuality.

    Even Jesus who is God called people to himself to be disciples, but they cannot have been ‘instantly converted’. They were disciples, seekers who were ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Was Judas converted in the depts of his heart? Conversion is not our job, it is God’s. Calls to discipleship are our job – judging lest we be judged by the same measure. And all this is to be done in love (modelled by Jesus’ interaction with Zacceaus and the woman at the well, for example). I am not seeing love and calls to discipleship in our corner of the issue – and this pains me to the core.

    I am convinced that the most important job of a christian is to cause people to seek God, to make disciples. We teach, we love and we make example. God does the changing. When we try to be god, we cause untold hurt and pain. Theology of sexuality aside – where is the love??? The love that may have given Lizzie space to explore who she is in God … not who we think she is.

    • Thanks Sara-Jane. But where have I (or any here) suggested we should ‘render the seeker heavy with guilt and shame and make them despair’? You previously and here appear to exclude an important part of Jesus’ message, and when I suggest we should do what Jesus did you interpret this as ‘shaming’. I wonder why this is.

      ‘Where is the love?’ Well, by the testimony of Nick Bundock and his parents, it was not absent. Are you suggesting that the context was in fact unloving, and that was the problem?

      • The comment I made about heavy guilt and shame is not a comment on any edicts issued, it is an observation on the affect of this kind of legalistic gospel on those who are in need of God. We have caused this great sadness. We, the church, who have loved last and guilt-shamed first.

        We who spend time on line arguing the minutia of grammar and translation instead of living the Gospel of Love and Forgiveness. Isn’t this the very behaviour Jesus warned against “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” Matt 23:4?

        And for my part I am sorry, and I ask forgiveness for the Pharisetical (sp?) half-truth gospel I have blindly lived. No more. Jesus first, then discipleship and good living, condemnation left to the judge!

        • Isn’t this the very behaviour Jesus warned against “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” Matt 23:4?

          No, surely it isn’t; the thrust of Jesus’s argument there is surely that the pharasees ‘preach, but do not practice’ (previous verse).

          If someone is not practicing what they preach, the solution is certainly not for them to stop preaching!

          • Really? I have never heard or read it as such. Was Jesus not commenting on the way they preached ‘religious laws’ rather than The Law? So encumbering the people with more than they should be carrying? We each have enough burden from The Law which we break daily. Was Jesus not saying that the burden of guilt from sins exposed in the light is enough, that people seeking God should not have a row of man-made hoops to jump through too?

            And that brings us right back to “rendering the seeker heavy with guilt and shame and making them despair” ……

          • Was Jesus not saying that the burden of guilt from sins exposed in the light is enough, that people seeking God should not have a row of man-made hoops to jump through too?

            Not as I understand it. As I understand it Jesus was condeming the Pharasees for acting as if they were not themselves sinners.

            The problem with pharasees isn’t that they codemn others as sinners, it’s that they don’t apply the same standards to themselves. It’s hypocrisy.

          • Exactly S (to your second comment here). And that very same Pharisee-hypocrisy is being modded in certain branches of the church pointing fingers at certain sins over others. We all sin.

            In this argument over sexual sin the church is portraying as a Pharisee, or worse a rabid mob armed with stones. Judging others over themselves, putting themselves about as pure and others as sinful. The one without sin cast the first one …

          • Hi Sara-Jane – excuse me chipping in here.
            !t is true that we are none of us without sin, but in the passage about adultery, wasn’t Jesus referring specifically to the sin of adultery? In that context, it spoke volumes that none of the men threw a stone at the woman. But I don’t think it follows that none of us can ever rebuke another for sinning – if we have taken the log out of our own eyes with regard to a specific sin, we can then see more clearly to take the speck out of the eyes of another. So, for instance, if we honour the truth, we can see more clearly to take the specks out the eyes of others whom seem to be less than truthful.

          • In this argument over sexual sin the church is portraying as a Pharisee, or worse a rabid mob armed with stones. Judging others over themselves, putting themselves about as pure and others as sinful. The one without sin cast the first one …

            I have never seen anyone on the conservative side saying they are pure.

            Indeed when it comes to, for example, divorce, it tends to be only the conservative side which condemns divorce, while the liberal side says divorce is nothing to worry or feel guilty about, and is fine with divorcés re-marrying.

          • It is true that Jesus said ‘let him who is without sin’ not ‘let him who is without adultery’.

            I am amazed at liberals thinking divorce is ok. think of all the abandoned peaceable spouses. That sounds the reverse of ‘liberal’ to me. It sounds, and is, unbearably cruel.

  17. But don’t we all need to become clear what is sinful and what is not sinful? That is what the disagreement is about. Nobody is ‘trying to be god’. We are all trying to understand and obey what the Bible says. That is what the disagreement is about.
    Phil Almond

    • “We are all trying to understand and obey what the Bible says.”
      That’s far too simplistic I’m afraid. We are trying to discern the word of God, which is what the bible bears witness to. We also need tradition – which of its very nature is a changing thing – and human reason, which may be different now to the way it was 100 years ago, and human experience.

      • We are trying to discern the word of God, which is what the bible bears witness to. We also need tradition – which of its very nature is a changing thing – and human reason, which may be different now to the way it was 100 years ago, and human experience.

        Um… isn’t this the very crux of the disagreement? That is, when you get right down to it, it’s about whether the Bible is reliable as a guide to the word of God?

        (This is my big problem with liberal theologies: at the end they all seem to require saying, ‘well, we know better than the Bible’. And that, it seems to me, is sawing off the branch you’re sitting on becaus eif we know better than the Bible, why be a Christian at all? I mean, how do we know anything about God — is it not from the Bible? And if the Bible is unreliable about one thing, isn’t it unreliable about all things? I mean, liberals are quite keen on saying that ‘God is Love’ — but isn’t our only evidence for that, that it says so in the Bible (I seem to remember a song to that effect)? So if the bible is wrong about sexuality, couldn’t it also be wrong about God being love? If it’s unreliable about one, why is it reliable about the other? That’s why I find liberal theologies unconvincing, anyway, they seem to me to basically be appeals to some ‘inner sense’ of God’s word, which makes them not so much Christian as Quaker or something.)

      • human reason, which may be different now to the way it was 100 years ago

        Surely reason can’t change? That would be like saying logic could change, like in a hundred years modus tollens might no longer apply. Which is silly, right?

        • Watch, for example, the recent three part series about the history of electricity that was shown on TV. You will see how easily reason and logic changes over the course of 100 years. Not silly at all. Reason and logic have to be subject to experience.

          • I’m sorry, I don’t have time to watch a whole three-part series for such a small nugget. Can you give an example of how reason has changed (as opposed to new evidence being discovered, and the same old reason as we’ve been using since Plato has been applied to it)?

          • Reason changes in the light of experience. Reason has to be tested by controlled experiments. We could use ‘reason’ to get an idea about the surface of the moon, but not until we went there could such reason be tested.

          • Reason changes in the light of experience

            No, it doesn’t. Reason is the process by which we go from experience (ie, evidence) to conclusions.

            If the evidence changes, the conclusions change, but reason doesn’t.

            A sound argument can become unsound, but a valid argument can never become invalid — or are you suggesting that it can?!?!

          • But the bible is a record of experience – not a statement of hard facts.
            A valid argument becomes invalid in the light of new experience.

          • But the bible is a record of experience – not a statement of hard facts.

            So that means we cannot believe that God is love because the Bible says so?

            A valid argument becomes invalid in the light of new experience.

            No, it doesn’t. The validity of an argument is independant of the truth of its premises. ‘All elephants are pink. Nellie is an elephant. Therefore Nellie is pink’ is a valid (but unsound) argument.

            Do you know logic at all?

          • S – evidence and experience can be interpreted in different ways. Once you discover that things behave in different ways, as was the case in the discovery of electricity, then your reasoning has to change.
            Reason and logic, I’m afraid, are not the same things.

          • Once you discover that things behave in different ways, as was the case in the discovery of electricity, then your reasoning has to change.

            Can you give a specific example, then, of how reason has changed?

            Because what you say seems totally wrong to me.

            After all isn’t the reasoning by which Euclid bisected the angle exactly the same reasoning by which we send probes into the depths of space? Obviously, adding on things such as the curved nature of space-time; but the fundamentals of geometric reasoning have not changed, they have simply been expanded into new domains.

            Or do you suggest that at some point int he next few centuries it might become possible, spontaniously, to square the circle?

          • S – you are trying to use logic as your approach, and not reason. They are different things. I’ve given you an example. Two in fact. The discovery of electricity and the surface of the moon. Reasoning those things out changed in the light of experience.

            The bible is not a book of logic. It’s a series of books of human experience and relationships, some of which are not reasonable or logical at all, and some of which are so culturally conditioned as to not mean anything unless we understand context.

          • you are trying to use logic as your approach, and not reason. They are different things. I’ve given you an example. Two in fact. The discovery of electricity and the surface of the moon. Reasoning those things out changed in the light of experience.

            Those aren’t reason, though, they are knowledge. There’s no ‘reason’ involded in the surface of the moon, it’s just a matter of knowing facts.

            Reason is how you process facts once you have them.

            So again, please, an example of how reason has changed: what was reason befoe, how did it change, and what was it after?

            The bible is not a book of logic. It’s a series of books of human experience and relationships, some of which are not reasonable or logical at all, and some of which are so culturally conditioned as to not mean anything unless we understand context.

            So we come back to the old song: Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.

            But if the Bible is unrelaiable, what evidence is there that Jesus loves me? Does Jesus love me at all?

            (In fact is Jesus even alive? The only real evidence we have for that is in the Bible too, isn’t it? So if the Bible is unreliable, what evidence is there that Jesus even rose from the dead? Maybe he didn’t.)

          • “Reason is how you process facts once you have them.”
            Yes. So once you have different facts, you process things differently. I weigh 10 stone. But that would feel very different on the moon. So I have to ‘reason’ the way I do things up there very differently.

            “So we come back to the old song: Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.”
            Blimey – are old songs becoming infallible now as well?

            “But if the Bible is unrelaiable, what evidence is there that Jesus loves me? Does Jesus love me at all?”

            The evidence is in the experience that the bible describes, not the bible per se. You are making a category mistake.

          • Yes. So once you have different facts, you process things differently. I weigh 10 stone. But that would feel very different on the moon. So I have to ‘reason’ the way I do things up there very differently.

            Um, no. Reason works exactly the same on the moon as it does down here. On Earth you exert a force on the ground of your mass times the accelleration due to gravity. The exact same formula is true on the moon.

            That’s how reason works. It’s the same everywhere.

            “But if the Bible is unrelaiable, what evidence is there that Jesus loves me? Does Jesus love me at all?”

            The evidence is in the experience that the bible describes, not the bible per se. You are making a category mistake.

            I don’t understand. What evidence is there that Jesus loves me?

            I don’t believe Jesus loves me. Persuade me.

          • “Um, no. Reason works exactly the same on the moon as it does down here. ”

            Um, no. Logic works the same. You reason things differently because you are dealing with a different set of facts for the same objects.

            “I don’t understand. What evidence is there that Jesus loves me?”

            The evidence is in the communities founded in his name. Some of which you can read about in the bible.

          • The notion that different facts should be processed differently is false. You may reach a different conclusion, but the process of eliminating unreasonable alternatives is the same.

            For instance, Sean Spicer made a statement which exaggerated the attendance numbers for Donald Trump’s inauguration.

            Should we entertain the White House Press Office’s notion that Spicer was in possession of “alternative (or, as you say, different) facts” which needed to be processed differently?

            Perhaps, in line with your prioritisation of experience, it wasn’t false for Spicer to declare of Trump’s inauguration: “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”.

            It was true…for him.

          • “Um, no. Reason works exactly the same on the moon as it does down here. ”

            Um, no. Logic works the same. You reason things differently because you are dealing with a different set of facts for the same objects.

            No, I reason things exactly the same. If I want to, for example, launch something from the surface of the Earth into space, and form the surface of the moon into space, I reason out the escape velocity using the exact same equations. If I want to work out how much fuel I need to reach that velocity, I use the same formulae.

            Maths works the same on the moon as on the Earth. Gravity works the same on the moon as on the Earth. The interaction of the two, and how we think about them — which is what Reason is — works the same on the moon as on the Earth.

            Of course our intuitions about how things work, which were formed on Earth, will be totally wrong on the moon. If I go to lift somethign on the moon I will probably instinctively use too much force because my intution will be wrong.

            But intuition is not Reason — it is almost the opposite of Reason.

            Are you confusing intuition and Reason?

            “I don’t understand. What evidence is there that Jesus loves me?”

            The evidence is in the communities founded in his name. Some of which you can read about in the bible.

            That is not convincing evidence. Those who founded the communities could have been wrong. And as we have established according to you the accounts in the Bible could be inaccurate.

            So what actual evidence is there that Jesus loves me? I don’t believe it. Convince me.

          • “The notion that different facts should be processed differently is false. ”
            David, I’m sorry but if you are walking in one sixth gravity you don’t proceed the same way as if you walking on earth. You are the same body but you process things differently. You work things out a different way = reason.

          • “Are you confusing intuition and Reason?”

            No. I think you are confusing reason and logic.

            “That is not convincing evidence. Those who founded the communities could have been wrong. And as we have established according to you the accounts in the Bible could be inaccurate.

            So what actual evidence is there that Jesus loves me? I don’t believe it. Convince me.”

            Clearly not everyone *is* convinced by it!

            I am not sure where I have said the bible is inaccurate. What I have said is that it is not a book of logical propositions and to treat it as such is to make a category mistake.

          • “Are you confusing intuition and Reason?”

            No. I think you are confusing reason and logic.

            What on Earth definition of reason are you using, then?

            Clearly not everyone *is* convinced by it!

            Well, what evidence convinced you?

          • The OED’s relevant definition of ‘reason’ (sense 5) is:

            ‘The power of the mind to think and form valid judgements by a process of logic; the mental faculty which is used in adapting thought or action to some end; the guiding principle of the mind in the process of thinking. ‘

            So, you know, I am at an utter loss as to what definition of ‘reason’ you could be using that is somehow nothing to do with logic.

            Please explain.

          • S – here is a useful definition of the differences:
            Logic tends to seek absolute truth via a series of judgement using specific rule-sets (like 1+1 = the judgement of 2, or since Socrates is a man and men or mortal Socrates is mortal), and reason compares judgement and draws inferences associating terms and logic to seek probable truths and deeper understanding using a mix of formal and informal rule-sets (a sort of critical thinking that uses logic, skepticism, justified beliefs, philosophy, hypotheses, and many other modes of thought to draw inferences from judgements and terms and reasoned arguments).

            As to what convinced me: joining a community that celebrated the love of Jesus among them.

          • Andrew,

            You’re wrong. The reasoning is based on same Newtonian physics (gravitation potential energy (GPE) = mass x acceleration due to gravity x height).

            So, taking account of the fact that the acceleration due to gravity is one-sixth of that on earth doesn’t require a different reasoning process.

            Nevertheless, you still haven’t answered my question: ‘Should we entertain the White House Press Office’s notion that Spicer was in possession of “alternative (or, as you say, different) facts” which needed to be processed differently?

          • reason compares judgement and draws inferences associating terms and logic to seek probable truths and deeper understanding using a mix of formal and informal rule-sets (a sort of critical thinking that uses logic, skepticism, justified beliefs, philosophy, hypotheses, and many other modes of thought to draw inferences from judgements and terms and reasoned arguments).

            That doesn’t sound much like ‘reason’ to me. That sounds more like heuristics.

            Nevertheless, are you saying that ‘critical thinking’ works different on the moon to on Earth? Surely not.

            Are you saying that ‘critical thinking’ works differently now than it did a hundred years ago? A thousand?

            Clearly, it doesn’t. Aristotle’s process of critical thinking was exactly the same process of critical thinking we use today. It was just applied to a different set of data. But the process was the same.

            So even if we define ‘reason’ as ‘critical thinking’ then it still doesn’t change, whether from here to the moon, or from here to antiquity.

            The set of data we use it on might change. But the reasoning itself is the same.

            As to what convinced me: joining a community that celebrated the love of Jesus among them.

            So what evidence did that community present to you, that convinced you that Jesus (a) was alive and (b) loved you?

          • it doesn’t work by evidence but by faith…

            Not for me, I’m afraid.

            But if it really is about some ‘inner feeling’… how is that Christianity rather than Quakerism?

          • (After all the whole point about Christianity is that it’s about facts, not faith. ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’. Faith is worthless unless the facts are true, and how do you know the facts are true without evidence?)

          • ah yes, I forgot you had the evidence of the Moody and Sankey hymnal…

            I’m not quite sure what your point is. I thought I had the evidence of the inspired word of God.

            But according to you the Bible isn’t the inspired word of God, which I guess means I should chuck this whole Christianity thing in, right?

            Oh well, I get to look forward to a good lie-in this Sunday.

          • None of which alters the fact that the C of E will have to come to a settlement about this issue as neither ‘side’ is going to walk away and pretend it doesn’t really matter……

          • None of which alters the fact that the C of E will have to come to a settlement about this issue as neither ‘side’ is going to walk away and pretend it doesn’t really matter……

            But, they can’t continue to co-exist in the same organisation indefinitely either.

            Hence why I think a split is inevitable.

            It may not be a sudden clean split, of course, as in 1662, but a gradual drifting-apart; I think in fact that may be more likely. But i don’t think the present situation is sustainable.

          • The Bible is not a book, Andrew. It is a multi genre library, so how can you generalise about it. An awful lot of it – and all of the New Testament (the main bit of the Bible for Christians) is written in literal genres. (Buzz me if you are not sure why Rev. is written in a literal genre.) No-one says about letters or biogs – which bits are intended literally!!

          • Christopher: of course the bible is a multi genre library. I have made that point many times. You can’t generalise about it.
            But then you go on to make a vast generalisation about the NT. Half of the NT are letters – hardly a literal genre. They are letters written 2000 years ago for a particular context. As you say, no one asks if a letter is literal!

          • Letters are hardly a literal genre???

            So you get a letter from a mate and ring them up to find which bits they intended literally? Yes/No.

          • Goodness no, I have no reason to ring her up. I realise that what she has written is basically thinking out loud about a current situation and she might well have revised her thought next week, let alone in 2000 years time!

            Are newspapers literally true Christopher?

          • I realise that what she has written is basically thinking out loud about a current situation and she might well have revised her thought next week, let alone in 2000 years time!

            So the Bible is just what God was thinking thousands of years ago, and He might have changed His mind in the meantime — is that what you’re saying?

          • No. I’m saying the bible were inspired writings that were written by human beings and are subject to all kinds of errors. Some of the bits of the bible are poetry. Some are like newsletters. Some are letters to particular communities and were only intended to apply for a certain historical situation. But this is basic ordinary level theology. None of the bible is a book of logic. So don’t pretend that it is. But it was certainly inspired wasn’t it?

          • No. I’m saying the bible were inspired writings that were written by human beings and are subject to all kinds of errors.

            So… it’s no different from any other human writing, then?

            If we want to know about God, the Bible is no more reliable a source than anything else written by human beings and subject to all the same kinds of errors?

          • The question was whether something is a literal genre or not. Letters and newspapers are literal genres.

            You then shifted the goalposts to ask whether they speak the truth. That is of course another question entirely.

          • “So… it’s no different from any other human writing, then?”

            Well it bears witness to some very important things don’t you think? And it has lasted a rather long time. And is a bit more important than yesterday’s copy of the Times for both of those reasons.
            The question you always have to ask is: what did they believe then that made them express things in the way that they did?

          • Well it bears witness to some very important things don’t you think?

            It certainly claims to, but according to you it’s riddled with human errors. So why is any given bit of it any more likely to be true than anything else?

            If I want to know about the nature of God, is the picture in the Bible any more reliable than the picture in Paradise Lost? Milton, after all, was a human just like the ones who wrote the Bible. So is Paradise Lost a valid source for what God is like? If not, why not? What’s the difference between it and the Bible?

            And it has lasted a rather long time.

            So has the Iliad. Does that mean we should believe in Zeus? If not, what is the difference between the Bible and the Iliad?

            The question you always have to ask is: what did they believe then that made them express things in the way that they did?

            Why should I care what they believed, unless I have reason to think that what they believed was true?

            All that matters, after all, is what is true and what is not, right?

          • S: if you want to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of scripture then be my guest. It’s not a belief that most Anglicans or even most Christians happen to share.

          • if you want to believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of scripture then be my guest.

            I don’t believe in the infallibility or inerrancy of scripture, but I want to know in what way you think the Bible is any different from any other human-written book.

            Why do you pay more attention to what the Bible says about God than to what the Iliad says — or do you even?

          • S: that’s really easy. It’s because it bears witness to and tells us in various ways the story of our salvation. And because it’s about my family, the community of faith I belong to.

          • It’s because it bears witness to and tells us in various ways the story of our salvation

            Okay, but if its full of errors, how do you know that that story of our salvation, that it bears witness to, is true?

            The Iliad bears witness to the story of the siege of Troy. Do you think that story is true? If not, what is the difference that makes you think the story the Bible bears witness to is true, but the story the Iliad bears witness to isn’t?

          • Christopher: I think you’d benefit from an exploration of the meaning of the word literal. Clearly a letter writer can mean all kinds of things in writing a letter. It depends what kind of letter it is.

            S: I’m glad to read that you also can see errors in the bible. I think our discussion has gone as far as it usefully can here but I’d be delighted to buy you lunch or coffee and we can continue it more fruitfully. Please ask Ian for my contact details.

            This blog post has not reflected well on the host or the writer and I hope that Ian might now heed the advice of David Runcorn and please close it.

          • Christopher: I think it would be worth you exploring what the word literal means. Letters clearly range in their intent.

            S: I think our discussion has gone as far as it usefully can here. Please let me buy you coffee and we can actually meet, which would help with understanding I’m sure.

          • In normal circumstances letters are the first or intermediate written explorations of a theme. Rarely are they the last word. They are part of a conversation. That’s true of the biblical letters. We are still having conversations on those very themes. So you can’t take them ‘literally’ without distorting their intent – which was the writer expressing an opinion and offering advice and wisdom. And advice and wisdom change under different circumstances.

        • Andrew

          Even science realised that Einstein’s theory of relativity did not CHANGE at all Isaac Newton’s theory but simply widened the scope a lot showing that Isaac Newton’s is still valid particularly here on earth.

          So even I cannot think of where the new ideas are always better than the old ones simply because they are new and I for one am fed up of hearing childish modernists saying that something has to be revised simply because it is over 50 years old. as an attitude that is pathetic.

      • If it is all about ‘discerning’, then
        (1) that sounds awfully vague,
        (2) there are no agreed criteria for successful discernment.
        This vague situation suits some people down to the ground.

        It *is* about discerning, but who says that the discernment process is impossibly complicated. In many ways the scriptural message is clear, so why not follow the clear bits? What is the presupposition that things will be impossibly complicated based on?

  18. My children were friends of Lizzie from the Christian music camps they went on together, so I do know a considerable amount about the situation, including from a teenage point of view.

    The first of the ‘key facts’ mentioned in this article is about the previous curate coming out to the congregation. Can you give the date when this happened? This will help me in my thinking about how to tie together the content of this blog post and what I know about this situation.

    The second of the ‘key facts’ uses the word ‘liberal’ without any definition. Could you provide one for this context please.

    Key fact number three talks about how Lizzie’s parents would have met her coming out with love. My wife and I would have said the same. However, we never said this explicitly to our children, until Lizzie’s death. Would our children have known? Or would all the ‘heteronormative’ aspects of everyday life (including church life) carried more weight?

    I read an article by Nick Bundock on the Manchester Diocese website (sorry, can’t find the link) a couple of years ago that detailed the deliberate way they included ‘inclusion’ into all aspect of church life – and we should note that inclusion for this church covers much more than just sexuality.

    My experience growing up in a church like this church was is that the ‘ideal’ seemed to be happy, married with children, successful job, well educated, white. While this view wasn’t put forward deliberately, it could be inferred from all aspects of church life. Those who are depressed, single, out of work, poorly educated, non-white would therefore feel ‘non-ideal’. While this wouldn’t be deliberate on the part of the church it could be worked out by any intelligent teenager. My non-idealness was to be depressed – and the level of ‘not fitting in’ was huge. Add to that the lack of answers to your own prayers for change and one’s confusion is only likely to increase. And it seemed to be enough to lead Lizzie to the conclusion that she couldn’t fit in.

    • Thanks for this helpful comment. The curate who came out was someone I knew from theological training, and I think I am reluctant to say much more, as this is trespassing on personal details.

      But this illustrates the whole problem here. A personal narrative has been put into the public domain, not simply for reflection, but in the service of a particular cause, that of Inclusive Church. Then we are told we are not allowed to question the narrative (see Church Mouse comments). And this is very difficult, since tragic stories like this are never simple, and the lives of teenagers are challenging and complex.

      I think it was a pastoral mistake to ever make this use of this story.

      • On balance I agree with your final sentence.
        However, we do use stories all the time – but in church we call them ‘testimony’.
        Stories that involve either ourselves or those near to us do cause us to start to think more about issues we would otherwise ignore and just follow the status quo.
        For example, I thought very little about homosexuality until my sister came out. If I have changed my view at some point after that, it was from an uninformed sort-of acceptance of a conservative view (absorbed from a conservative church, very conservative family and a more conservative society 25 years ago) to something different now. Actually, I didn’t change my view ‘because’ of my sister (just to keep her happy) but formed a view for the first time because my previous ideas wouldn’t have been ‘my’ view anyway. Does that make sense?
        Humans like stories. Maybe much of the Bible is narrative for that reason …

  19. “When you put all this together, the actual story is far more nuanced than the simple narrative of the revisionists makes out.”

    And indeed far more nuanced than the simple narratives that reactionary conservatives make out. I agree with E Sanderson and Catherine Shelley above and I’m grateful to them for their clarity.
    Part of the truth that is not being recognised by conservatives is that the sexuality questions are much more settled out in the wider society of the Western world. The truth is that the tension between church and society and within the church itself won’t get any easier until we reach some settlement on this issue, much as the Elizabethan church had to reach a settlement and the question of women in the episcopate had to reach a settlement.

    • The truth is that the tension between church and society

      Surely the existence of tension between church and society is usually an indication that the church is doing something right?

      Ought the aim really to be a church which is totally aligned with the values of the society in which it sits, so there is no tension between them?

      and within the church itself won’t get any easier until we reach some settlement on this issue, much as the Elizabethan church had to reach a settlement and the question of women in the episcopate had to reach a settlement.

      Now this I agree with; or, rather, I suspect that the resolution of the tension will only come with two ‘settlements’ being reached, and a split, just as the Elizabethan church’s settlement eventually inevitably ended up with dissenters being ejected and forming their own organisation.

      • “Surely the existence of tension between church and society is usually an indication that the church is doing something right?”
        Sounds totally pharisaical to me! Are you saying the church has never got things wrong?

        I’m afraid I don’t see either lot of ‘dissenters’ leaving or being ejected. The only solution is an internal settlement. Just as we have had with woman in the episcopate.

        • Are you saying the church has never got things wrong?

          No, I’m saying that when the church has got things wrong, it’s usually been because it was trying to fit into society rather than the other way around.

        • If most ‘heresies’ were as a result of cultural accommodation that would be totally unsurprising. Ancestral religion in Africa. Shamanism in Korea. Prosperity in America. The sexual revolution in the UK and West. It is a given that people will see their own culture as a norm, which of course it mostly is not, either geographically or historically.

        • Andrew, why would church and society just so happen to go in the same direction out of the thousands of directions that could be gone in on any one issue? That’s simple logic, not Pharisaism.

    • Andrew, I do not much respect the intellect of someone who throws in the word ‘reactionary’. It is just as bad as ‘progressive’ – it prejudges the issue without contributing a jot of actual thought. Where are the safeguards against this word being used for anything that is not new-fashioned? The sun is not cold because it is old. The age dimension is independent of the truth dimension. There are 4 categories of things: good and old, good and new, bad and old, bad and new. To think otherwise is to commit chronological snobbery, a common philosophical fallacy highlighted by Chesterton and Lewis.

  20. This wasn’t hard to write. A ‘truth’ that values itself over and above such abuse and hatred is no truth and pleasures in it’s own vindictiveness. I have made it known that I’m not happy with arguments using individual stories as you have, but you are doing so now. I have always tried to respect your views Peter but you have pitched a new low here.

  21. I think the point David Shepherd has pressed repeatedly in the comments is disputable.

    I don’t see any inherent contradiction between what Bundock said, as quoted by David above, and what the coroner’s report said, as quoted by the media at the time. The coroner made explicit that Lizzie’s inner conflict between her faith and her sexuality, and her inability to talk about it, was a major factor in her suicide; that the church, therefore, missed an opportunity, or there was a gap they could have filled, seems to me a reasonable inference for the church itself to make (and one that they’re entitled to make). That’s what I assume Bundock meant when he referred to what he discovered through the coroner’s report.

    • A person of that age cannot have a ‘sexuality’ without further qualification. Nor have most cultures believed that they could. Or even had such a word in their vocabulary.

        • David R, surely you cannot be another one who thinks that the nature of the world is to be found in law.

          Law is man made.

          It is constantly changing even within a single culture.

          It is different depending on what culture you are in.

          It sometimes is made to serve the private interests (reelection) of the lawmakers.

          It is a convenient alternative reality which people exploit.

          Reality is found in science not in law. If law fails to reflect scientific reality, then so much the worse for law. It merely demonstrates that law can sometimes be ideological. But we knew that anyway. How could things be otherwise when laws are made by the not-very-incredible achievement of walking into one lobby or another (usually, having not attended the actual too-short debate, and often, not having read up about it). Something a 3-year-old could do.

          Your perspective reminds me of the man who was given out and complained to the umpire ‘I never hit it.’. The umpire said, ‘Look in the morning paper.’. The man replied, ‘You look – I am the editor.’. Reality cannot be created by fiat, and those that try to do so expose themselves as belonging to the company of the immature and selfish.

          • All that has nothing to do with my point. We were discussing the coroner’s report, and you took issue with my using the term ‘sexuality.’ It was the coroner’s term, so your argument is with him.

        • Then why are you playing devil’s advocate? Are you in favour of coroners not being familiar with the science, and meekly following the media-created popular culture?

    • Hi David,

      Lizzie’s inner conflict between faith and sexuality which led to her being unable to talk about cannot be the basis for claiming from the Coroner’s hearing that the parish had a ‘conspiracy of silence around the issue of sexuality’.

      There was no evidence of the parish’s conspiracy of silence being discovered, as Bundock described, from the Coroner’s hearing.

      If there is other evidence from the Coroner’s hearing which supports the conclusion of a ‘conspiracy of silence’, then feel free to share it here.

  22. As I wrote last year, Lee Gattiss’ account of the history of that tragic expulsion, known as the Great Ejection, bears a striking resemblance to recent events in the CofE :
    ‘Charles was playing for time and trying to keep the presbyterians sweet with gracious words until a new Parliament was elected, to whom he had said he would defer. Clarendon, his Lord Chancellor, was “still apprehensive of Presbyterian political strength and uncertain of the popularity of Puritanism”, and so concessions at this stage seemed wise while the future was uncertain. The re-establishment of the Church of England proceeded apace “under cover of this feigned conciliation”, with more bishops and cathedral staff being appointed and increasingly widespread use of the Prayer Book.

    Meanwhile, other evangelical groups such as the Independents / Congregationalists and Anabaptists were infuriated with the Presbyterian leaders who had resisted moves towards a general toleration in favour of their own comprehension in a national church structure. In the jockeying for position and influence in the coming new order, “evangelical” groups inevitably disagreed on tactics and the limits of toleration. They were thus divided and soon to be conquered.

    We should all be aware that like Charles II, Justin Welby is merely playing for time. History has a way of repeating itself.
    1. As the Puritan cause became linked in the public mind to rebellion and volatility, so will evangelicalism become linked in the public mind to the threats of ‘spiritual abuse’, unruly divisiveness and to the safeguarding of LGBT youth.
    2. As with the pamphleteers, the more vociferous and implacable evangelicals will be demonised and singled out for harassment.
    3. As in the ‘Savoy Conference’, Sheldon swept aside the ‘good disagreement’ of the Worcester House Declaration to dismiss all but a few exceptions to the BCP from the Puritan camp, so too ‘Living in Love and Faith’ will eventually dismiss all but a few nods in the direction of marriage orthodoxy. For this, last year’s CofE Schools Guidance on HBT bullying shows form.
    4. As with the Act of Uniformity, ministers will be expected to abide by a code which will prevent overt denunciation of same-sex sexual behaviour as devaluing LGBT identities and (to use Jayne Ozanne’s phrasing) ‘spiritually abusive’.

    In this regard, the CDM process will become the judicial mechanism for eliminating clerical dissent in the next Great Ejection.

  23. There are quite a few things I could mention both in the article and the comments, but I will simply say that as I remember events unfolding in our neighbouring parish, it would be quite appropriate to speak of a realisation arising “from the coronor’s hearing” (not, note, from the final judgement) that there had effectively been a conspiracy of silence around sexuality. It was the emerging picture which led the church to ask serious questions. That these questions were painful in many ways cannot be doubted and to ask the church and its clergy now to keep quiet about them seems to be to ask them to continue their previous silence for the same reason as before: to avoid controversy. It did not have a happy result back then.

    • Yes. There is a conspiracy of silence in many churches, because they know it is contentious. Diplomacy / avoidance of controversy / avoiding the time-consuming / making sure the people are happy – that is what it is about. I date this shift from mentioning disagreements with the culture to not mentioning them to around 2004. A time when the disagreements with the culture were getting particularly serious.

      This is the wrong approach, almost certainly. I outlined the 4 options above.

    • Hi Marcus,

      Nick Bundock didn’t claim that they discovered the conspiracy was “from the Coroner’s hearing”. Instead, claimed that this was discovered “at the Coroner’s hearing”.

      Now, there’s a world of difference between the Coroner’s hearing itself implicating such a “conspiracy of silence” in Lizzie’s suicide and the parish’s own emerging belief that such a conspiracy not only existed, but also contributed to her death.

      At the Coroner’s hearing, neither any “conspiracy of silence” nor conservative evangelical theology was implicated in Lizzie Lowe’s suicide.

      So, let’s be clear that Bundock cannot and should not highlight this tragedy as evidence, acknowledged by a public authority, that parishes which continue to support the orthodox understanding of marriage and sexuality pose a safeguarding risk to LGBT youth.

  24. Now why should I be surprised that Peter Ould would be welcomed to appear on this blog.
    After all he happens to be the poster boy for Evangelical Gays (there are just a very few of them) who have joined the band-wagon of those bi-sexual (Borderline Gays) people who are so ashamed of their homosexual tendencies that they rush into print to show just how ‘orthodox Evangelical’ they are by choosing to marry rather than burn. There is enough evidence to show that, if P.O. were intrinsically gay, he would never be capable of engaging in what it takes to procreate. I know that because I am intrinsically gay.

    His dissing of the follow-up from the tragic death of Lizzie, is the very type of cynical ploy that he accuses Nick Bundock of pursuing in his credibly open Evangelical parish.

    Shame on you, Ian!

    • If I may say so, Ron, that is an unpleasantly personal comment and it’s the kind of thing which can only bring our church’s discussion of Christian doctrine about sexuality into disrepute.

      As has been mentioned here already, the case in question should never have been used as part of a public campaign to change the church’s doctrine. Nothing could ever be proved from it.

      All it does reveal is that use of personal anguish is a powerful way of silencing those with whom you disagree – they are immediately placed in the dock for being insensitive or even hateful. Yet it brings no one any nearer the truth. Instead it not only risks more private hurt from public discussion, but also seems to guarantee ill-will in a situation where there should only be shared sadness.

    • I would say, shame on you, Fr Ron.
      While the case speaks of a “conspiracy of silence”, your comment is an example of a “conspiracy TO silence” those who speak from the knowledgable position of being same-sex attracted but hold with orthodox views about the expression of sexuality. It does not suit those pursuing the agenda of the promotion of acceptability of same-sex activity to have a more nuanced narrative from those who can speak from their own experience and yet not support the supposed ‘goodness’ of same-sex activity. The proponents of the gay agenda are happy to have those who are rabidly against gays. Such can be portrayed as hateful and as such their views rejected. Since it is harder to discount the views of those who are avowedly gay, the only tactic is to attempt to ignore or silence such voices.

      In terms of the argument and discussion, I think there is an analogy to the issue of evolution as a football between Christians and atheists. The latter are happy to argue with young earth creationists, but stumble when it comes to those with a deeper understanding of both theology and science.

      The lack of conversation about these matters in many churches is a real problem. However, that conversation should not exclude voices like that of Peter.

      Ron, perhaps you could address the actual content of the post, rather than attacking the people. The substance of it is that the narrative promoted is that the death of Lizzie was caused by the conservative church, so the church must change to be more inclusive to avoid such suicides. Peter has shown, to my satisfaction at least, that this narrative does not have a good factual basis.

  25. Peter Ould’s post states explicitly ‘If you read the news reports of Coroner’s findings (rather than relying on the vicar’s report) you can see that the Coroner explicitly absolves the parish church and the national Church of England from any blame in Lizzie’s death. The Coroner is clear that there is no connection to be made between the theology of the church, either at the parish or national level, and Lizzie’s suicide.’

    I have searched online through all the news reports that I can find, and have found nothing to corroborate this statement. I’ve left a comment on the Facebook thread linked to this to ask if anyone can supply a link to such a statement. It’s been there over 36 hours and no-one has.

    Can anyone here help, or am I to assume that a large number of these responses are based on something that simply isn’t true?

  26. I have been loathe to comment much on this post, beyond addressing the point I did higher up the comments. However, I would like to address each of Peter’s five points.

    1. Quote: “The idea that the church was not talking about sexuality is simply untrue.” Having a curate coming out as gay does not in itself mean that discussions about sexuality are happening in a church, or that anyone would feel safe about being honest about their sexuality. I am aware of churches where it is known (at least by some) that a member of the congregation is gay; this does not mean that the subject is talked about or that the environment is ‘safe’. Nick Bundock has been open about knowing there were a range of opinions within the church, and therefore avoiding the issue for fear of stirring up conflict. To call this ‘untrue’ is simply wrong.

    2. Quote: “The idea that a conservative church (and leadership) moved to a more liberal position after Lizzie’s death is simply not accurate.” Nick doesn’t say this in the programme. And in my encounters with Nick (and in his printed articles) he has not said this. To quote from Nick in the Crux article mentioned higher up: “It’s not that we were ever ‘hard line’. Actually we’ve always been a pretty broad expression of evangelicalism. But like many similar churches we’ve largely avoided the topic of homosexuality in order to preserve the peace.” When I have heard Nick speak about this he has said the same thing. There were a range of views in the church, not a monolithic conservative approach, though it did include those with a conservative approach. It is also true that the church did move after the tragedy. The fact that, according to the programme, 25 members left shows that a shift did take place.

    3. Quote: “Far from being a home where a homophobic conservative theology was being expounded, Lizzie’s parents would have met their daughter coming out to them with nothing but love.” As I indicated earlier, Nick Bundock has been clear that this was the case. I am puzzled why Peter mentions it, as no-one has suggested anything else.

    4. Quote: “the Coroner explicitly absolves the parish church and the national Church of England from any blame in Lizzie’s death”. Like John Duncan, I cannot find this reported. I do know that the church leaders went to the inquest hearings confident that they had supported the family well in a time of tragedy and were shocked to discover that it was (in part) a conflict between sexuality and faith, and having no-one within the church with whom she felt able to talk to, that was a factor in the tragedy. The experience of the inquest was a catalyst for the change in the church and church leadership, and any suggestion that it wasn’t is simply wrong.

    5. Quote: “The Coroner’s report also lays out how Lizzie had been talking to fellow students about her sexuality and they had urged her to tell her parents. The Coroner’s report also details how Lizzie had self-harmed in the past.” I am puzzled as to the relevance of noting this at all.

    I am also puzzled about the reaction to this story. There is a straightforward lesson for all churches, no matter the theology. If the church doesn’t talk about sexuality, it is unlikely to be a safe space for anyone who needs to. And this applies more widely to disability etc.

    In short, the five points are either wrong, irrelevant or misleading. As Peter says, “what I do want is truth”.

    • A good response, Jonathan. I find the five points vague and open to interpretation, and certainly not sufficient to support the conclusion that the church is being dishonest. I, too, gained the impression from the film that the church was quiet on the subject of homosexuality rather than conservative.

      • John, Jonathan and David: thank you for articulating so carefully what I have been struggling to formulate for 24 hours. I have found this post disturbing and am very unsure about the wisdom of posting in in the first place.

      • I, too, gained the impression from the film that the church was quiet on the subject of homosexuality rather than conservative

        But in that case it is not wrong to use this story to push the idea that ‘conservative churches kill young people’?

        • I’ve neither drawn that conclusion nor felt pushed to draw that conclusion. It’s the sort of thing some activists might say, but it’s far from the impression I received from the BBC doc or anything I’ve heard from the church or Bundock.

          • It’s the sort of thing some activists might say

            Indeed it’s been written on this very page:

            ‘Do you accept that a conservative theological position on sexuality can cause an LGBT+ Christian to experience psychological trauma leading to increased incidence of mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, self harm and suicide?’

            That’s basically saying ‘conservative churches kill young people’, isn’t it?

            Or how about:

            ‘As a former university chaplain I can testify to the devastating impact of conservative evangelical theology on young people trying to reconcile faith and sexuality. It doesn’t have to end in suicide to blight people’s lives’

            Again, thisis pushign the idea that ‘conservative churches kill young people [or if they don’t actually kill them, blight their lives in other ways]’

            So while you may not have drawn that conclusion from this story, I think it’s clear that some people are definitely using this story to push that very conclusion.

    • I too have spent the last few hours trying to put something together along these lines, but you have said it far more coherently that my words.

      The only point you did not touch on is made by Marcus Maxwell’s comment that just because the Coroner did not include something in his report does not contradict what Nick Bundock is saying. Nick drew presumably drew his own conclusions from hearing the evidence at the inquest when coupled with his own knowledge of the situation, and it is unhelpful to suggest otherwise. Without being there and having his detailed inside knowledge, it is difficult for any of us to agree or disagree with his conclusion.

      On the use of the term Liberal I point to a recent social media post by Church Mouse where he commented on the use of the label ‘liberal’. He lists three types
      Liberal evangelicals [or Progressive Evangelicals]
      Liberal Catholics
      Progressive liberals
      You can read more at: https://www.facebook.com/thechurchmousecafe/posts/2243731959195751?__tn__=K-R
      We all have our own views on what they mean, but in reality, there is a spectrum of opinions that some like to characterise as binary. Church Mouse cites a tendency for Evangelicals to characterise anyone with a view more liberal than themselves as if they were what he terms Progressive Liberals, and certainly not Evangelical.

      • “Nick drew presumably drew his own conclusions from hearing the evidence at the inquest when coupled with his own knowledge of the situation, and it is unhelpful to suggest otherwise.”

        Well, it might not be helpful to Bundock’s position, but the meaning of “at the hearing, we discovered” is clear: *at* the hearing (not afterwards) that there was either evidence and/or disclosure(s) which revealed the purported conspiracy of silence and that this was implicated in Lizzie Lowe’s tragic suicide, which led him to ask: “How could we allow the silence around sexuality to create a context in which Lizzie couldn’t discuss what she was going through?”

        It’s also clear that Bundock has been promoting the adoption and fulfillment of the Inclusive Church charter in other parishes as a remedy to safeguard LGBT youth, and without which other “open evangelical” churches would readily fall prey to that selfsame conspiracy of silence, which he has declared to be officially implicated in LGBT suicide.

        It doesn’t take a genius to work out how his message demonises those evangelical parishes which refuse to subscribe to the Inclusive Church’s agenda.

        • David. I do not understand the significance of whether it was “at” or “after” the hearing. Nick Bundock said “at” the hearings. Where does “after” come from?

          • Yes, Nick Bundock said “*at* the hearings, we discovered”.

            This was a collective discovery *at* the hearing and is certainly no basis for presuming (as you suggest) this to be tantamount to saying “Nick drew his own conclusions from the hearing”. That’s why I put ‘not afterwards’ in parenthesis.

          • David, I do not think I made myself clear. My point was that Nick, when listening to the proceedings of the hearing, since he had a more intimate knowledge of his own church than the coroner, might be more self critical of his own church than the coroner did in his final report.

          • Nick,

            Let’s not belabour this. Below, I’ve transcribed another of Nick’s talk in which he explained: ‘ the story was…,something along the lines of, ‘cos it fits the narrative, doesn’t it? “Conservative, homophobic, church compounds teenager’s misery”. You could almost write the story really.

            And, of course, thereby he promotes the idea that any church which is holding to conservative theology (as he claims his parish was doing in 2014) is a safeguarding risk to vulnerable LGBT youth.

            Of course, if conservative evangelicals dare challenge that implication, the response is: “Have you no shame? How many more LGBT children must die on account of your theology?”

            Yeah, we understand exactly how this works. So, what’s left to discuss.

          • I will not belabour it either. I will stop here as I am inclined to agree with what I take to be Simon Butler’s final comment further down this this thread

          • If it’s deaths you want, whose philosophy caused all the deaths from STIs, the shortened average lifespans of those men who do not marry (an ever increasing number), and the concomitant stress and ‘mental health problems’, which are bound to go hand in hand with promiscuity and the promiscuity presupposition?

    • Thank you Jonathan. I have been unable to articulate my feelings here because I am so very angry about Peter Ould’s blog and some of the callous and prurient comments here and did not trust myself to say anything calm and reasonable.
      Peter Ould blocked me several years ago and I am sure is not interested in my reflections n his blog. But, for the record, I found his account of coming out in a heteronormative society, which no straight person can adequately understand, very moving; and, perhaps, salutary for some of the contributors here who have made glib comments about the reality of adolescent sexuality. However, Ould’s use of his own child’s death as a stick with which to beat Nick Bundock has, I believe, plumbed new depths. Nick Bundock’s Church has become theologically more inclusive after Lizzie’s death and her parents fully support Nick. That is all we need to know, further speculation is mere voyeurism.

      I hear that Ould has been invited to debate this on Radio 5. I very much hope that he (and others) decline. The suicide of a teenager is not a fit subject for adversarial debate in public.
      I find many of the comments on this blog very troubling. Questioning whether a 14 year old has a ‘sexuality’ and whether it might be mutable when we are talking about a 14 year old who killed herself because she was afraid that her sexuality was wrong is heartless, callous and, at best, disingenuous. Suggesting that a theologian who interrogates normative narratives of marriage and relationships has an ‘agenda’ shows fear of theological exploration and reflection. Does no one ask why Lamech has two ‘wives’? Are we afraid of the multivocal witness of scripture? Do we want to silence those who ask uncomfortable questions?
      Really, despite the conservative ‘agenda’ so often iterated here, I thought contributors were better than that. I thought people wanted genuinely to engage with difficult and painful questions. From this debate I infer that some of the people here simply want to inhabit a fantasy land of their own contriving, which has nothing to do with scripture but which seems to derive from a mythic picture of a ‘golden age’ when marriage lasted and there was no such thing as homosexuality, abuse, abortion, underage sex, adultery etc. etc. It doesn’t exist. Except in your ahistorical imaginations.

      • The suicide of a teenager is not a fit subject for adversarial debate in public.

        But then why did the leadership of the church bring it up in public?

        Nobody would be debating it if they had not first brought it up as a reason to make churches more ‘inclusive’.

        Shouldn’t it be the ‘inclusive church’ leadership that you are ‘so very angry’ at, as they are the ones who went out of their way to publically weaponise a teenager’s suicide?

        • To tell a story, not to make it a topic for the posturing of a sixth-form debating society.
          Are you suggesting that churches shouldn’t be places where suicidal adolescents are able to discuss their sexuality, indeed, suicidal people of any age? Surely, even conservative churches would want to assure gay people that they are loved by God and made in His image (even if they teach that gay people must be abstinent)? Or are you suggesting that gay adolescents should be convicted of their shame and guilt simply for being gay?

          • To tell a story

            No: in order to advance a controversial ideology.

            Do you really think it’s okay to use a teenager’s suicide like that?

          • Yes, that appears to be the lesson which the Church and their priest have learned from Lizzie’s suicide.

      • adultery etc. etc. It doesn’t exist. Except in your ahistorical imaginations.

        Of course adultery exists. If it didn’t exist, there wouldn’t need to be a commandment forbidding it, would there?

      • Your own embrace of unrestrained hyperbole beggar belief. Susannah Cornwall is as free to describe PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals, and : “hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do” as you are to agree with her.

        Inclusive Church just needs to be more than the front organization with a mere semblance of a far more radical hidden agenda that the likes of Cornwall would want to supplant pseudo-radicalism (as Cornwall calls it), if the latter should gain ascendancy.

        • David
          Where did I say that I agree with Dr Cornwall? I believe that, as a Christian theologian, she has the right – indeed it is her role- to interrogate normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition. Her reflection that those who argue for PSF relationships are pseudo radicals is hardly controversial; their stance is assimilationist, not revolutionary. That is an observation. It neither commends the pseudo radicals nor those who contend otherwise, it calls the Church to listen to the latter. As I suggested in my question about Lamech, do we avoid difficult texts and awkward questions?
          I have argued here before that same-sex marriage is the conservative option. Many gay people regard marriage as a patriarchal and compromised institution of which they want no part. So, it’s not unrestrained hyperbole, it’s theology.

          • Penelope, you use the term “Patriarchal” extensive and yet it is clear you do not actually understand what it means. Please can you at least go an find out what it means and stop using such terminology so incorrectly.

          • Penelope,

            “Where did I say that I agree with Dr Cornwall?”

            Excuse me, but where did I say that you did agree with her? Saying that you’re free to do so is not the same thing.

            I believe that, as a Christian theologian, she has the right – indeed it is her role- to interrogate normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition.
            Er,…I think that concurs with me saying “Susannah Cornwall is…free to describe PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals”

            It neither commends the pseudo radicals nor those who contend otherwise, it calls the Church to listen to the latter.
            Cornwall wrote: “It might therefore be important to continue questioning and querying the ostensibly positive project of inclusivism, lest it be that inclusivism is simply a cipher for assimilationism.”

            So, Cornwall sees value in challenging what might only appear to be positively inclusive today, because non-monogamous, flamboyant, lesbian, gay and bisexual people remain excluded, while the inclusion of pseudo-radical PSF same-sex couples is mere assimilation.

            As with same-sex marriage, the questioning and querying about non-monogamy isn’t so much a “call to listen” as it is a call to capitulate.

            And you really can’t dress up Cornwall’s conclusion in favour of polyamory (“I hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do”) to look like an interrogation of normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition.

            Cornwall’s conclusion about polyamory is not an interrogation and, as Inclusive Church’s commissioned author of its book on sexuality, it proves that their agenda and the guidance they accept goes far beyond merely “assimilating” pseudo-radical PSF same-sex couples into Christian marriage.

            As I said, Inclusive Church is just a Trojan Horse.

          • David
            Yes, of course I’m free to agree or disagree with Dr Cornwall. As are you. That’s one of the benefits of a democracy.
            I have commented below, to Ian, that would really prefer not to engage in further discussion on this toxic thread. But no, Dr Cornwall wrote ‘might’ and ‘may’. However much these suggestions trouble your normative hermeneutic, they are tentative; to be discussed, explored, reflected upon. They are meant to disturb our traditions and our accepted narratives and assumptions. This is, in my opinion, what the Bishops’ Teaching Document should be asking. Not, the narrow and exclusive question of what is the place in the Church for same-sex love? But, what is sex, what is it for, how do we communicate through our sexuality, how do we express it, whether continent, committed or kinky, can we, as humans, faithfully reflect God’s purpose for us in our sexuality and generativity? Then we might have a theology of sexuality which reflects the living tradition of the Church.

      • The whole point is that if she had not been fed the line/lie ‘everyone has something called a sexuality’ independent of the hard science of their biology (a line/lie which in other ages she would not have been fed) things could have been different.

        That is even before we get into the fluidity issue that applies so much at age 14.

        And even larger than either of these points is the fact that it is utterly healthy to have intense girl-girl friendships at an age where other girls will indeed by your most significant contacts and marriage is a long way down the line – it is only a sex-obsessed society that would classify something so normal and universal as that as ‘gay’.

        This matters so much because most children will see their same-gender friends as particularly significant. If people want to whisper ‘Pssst! have you ever thought you might therefore be gay?’ to these precious souls, then there are legions who do not want them to do so and bleed for them.

        • Christopher
          Might I be so bold as to ask what is your sexuality and when did you become aware of it?
          I’ll start: I’m heterosexual. I knew that long before I was 14, but it was clear then when I fell in love with my history teacher. Though I am female, it has never wavered.

      • Are you actually saying that a generation or so ago marriages did not ‘last’ in a totally different way from now? (I believe that in 1958 the rate was 1.9 per 1000 married people?) You are saying that an extemely striking statistic does not exist? Or what are you saying?

        What has any of that to do with ‘a golden age’? Those are your words. Yes – it is far better than now, since marriage is the *main* thing correlated with health and happiness. So undeniably a much *more* golden age in this particular respect, not necessarily in others.

        If the statistics you gloss over are the most striking ones of all, then where is truth or honesty?

    • Jonathan

      Many thanks for articulating the objections that I think Nick Bundock wanted to make (according to his FB post about it)–thanks for contributing this for him. (Although I invited him to make any comment, I understand his wanting to stay out of the fray).

      I am not going to make a response to your observations; Peter Ould might want to (since he has personal contact with a number of folk in this situation), though I am tempted simply to leave the two accounts to stand and allow readers to make their own minds up.

      But your last comment puzzles me: ‘There is a straightforward lesson for all churches, no matter the theology. If the church doesn’t talk about sexuality, it is unlikely to be a safe space for anyone who needs to. And this applies more widely to disability etc.’

      You are surely aware that this is *not* the straightforward conclusion that is being drawn. This story has been used unequivocally to said ‘Conservative theology harms people; the only cure is to revise the church’s teaching and theology on marriage and sexuality’. It is been used this way at Synod fringe meetings; it is used this way in comments above, as ‘S’ highlights (though I find some of S’s comments less helpful); Nick has been careful not to articulate this quite so explicitly, but this is the force of his comments and I’d be amazed if he was unaware that this is the use being made of the story.

      As I said in response to someone above who knew the family and situation, I think it *extremely* unwise every to make use of a story like this in such a wider debate.

      But the net result for the C of E is that not only this parish but this deanery is, by declaring itself ‘Inclusive’ actually excluding anyone who upholds the current teaching of the Church from applying for a post there in ministry.

      I hope you are now a little less puzzled…

  27. Hi David Shepherd
    I can’t find how to reply to specific comments – perhaps my browser isn’t up to it.
    But “from…” was a quote from your quote earlier. If Nick Bundock also said “at” the hearing, my point stands. Neither of these prepositions necessarily indicates that the coroner’s findings implicated the church. Both suggest that the comments and evidence at the hearing made the church think again. Which is what Nick has said on more than one occasion. I don’t see an attempt here to gain some sort of official authority.

    • Neither of these prepositions necessarily indicates that the coroner’s findings implicated the church

      In that case shouldn’t the church leadership be working harder to make it clear that the idea there was any connection between how the church handled the subject, and the tragic events, is entirely their speculation?

      My mentioning their reaction, and the coroner’s inquest, in close proximity, they are in danger of giving people the impression, unless they are careful to correct it, that there is a connection stronger than pure speculation, don’t they?

      So they should be clearer about that, so avoid misunderstandings of the kind which have bedevilled this article. They should say, ‘Even though we have no real reason to think that there was any connection between the way the church handled this subject and the death, just a vague speculation that maybe there might have been, we have decided to change how we do things anyway.’

      That would make the truth clear and avoid having to have massive arguments about whether things were ‘from’ or ‘at’.

      • Hi S,

        Exactly.

        As an analogy, after the inquiry into the Grenfell Towers tragedy, cladding contractors might confess that: “it was only later, at the hearing, that we discovered that, actually, it had been our conspiracy of silence, as it were, around the issue of fire protection, that had been the crucible in which residents had existed in those months up until their death”.

        This would be mean that the official hearing and/or its witnesses had directly implicated them, as perpetrators of this “conspiracy of silence”, in the tragic loss of life.

        Make no mistake: Nick Bundock has intentionally referenced the Coroner’s hearing as a makeshift official declaration that the ‘conspiracy of silence’ is a publicly acknowledged safeguarding issue for LGBT youth, but also that it arises in parishes which maintain the orthodox stance on same-sex sexual relationships.

        Ergo, when promoted as a measure aimed at safeguarding of LGBT youth, he can visit parishes far and wide on his mission to persuade them to set aside Christian orthodoxy for the Inclusive Church approach.

        • ‘he can visit parishes far and wide on his mission to persuade them to set aside Christian orthodoxy for the Inclusive Church approach.’
          Yes he can. They are entirely free to invite him. (though ‘to set aside Christian orthodoxy’ is your take on his intentions of course). And Conservative voices are also very actively and vocally at work – not least on this thread. Let’s stop talking here as if only one side has an ‘agenda’.

          • Yep, they’re free to invite him. But he should also be validly criticized for “intentionally referencing the Coroner’s hearing as a makeshift official declaration that the ‘conspiracy of silence’ is a publicly acknowledged safeguarding issue for LGBT youth, but also that it arises in parishes which maintain the orthodox stance on same-sex sexual relationships.”

            “‘to set aside Christian orthodoxy’ is your take on his intentions of course”…Um, no. He wouldn’t be campaigning for change if Christian orthodoxy already endorsed and approved of same-sex sexual relationships.

            In terms of the agenda of Inclusive Church which inivited him, we might also discuss the work of Susannah Cornwall, their theological adviser, who, aside from writing their Sexuality resource book, also wrote Unfamiliar Theology (2017).

            She clearly supports polyamory:
            “Elsewhere in the book, I ask questions about what kinds of iterations of family, marriage and parenting might be so unfamiliar that they lack all continuity with what has been understood as good and life-affirming in these institutions.”

            “As an example, in Chapter 3, I take the case of polyamory, and reflect on the extent to which the exclusive ‘twoness’ of marriage is an unbreachable theological barrier even where the sex and gender of the spouses is not. **I hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do**, and that reflection on what polyamory does best (including close attention to dynamics of consent and power, and disruption of the dyads which have become petrified in some mainstream theologies) may prompt useful self-critical reflection on the parts of apologists for ‘traditional’ marriage.”

            “Ethically reflective polyamory seems to offer distinctive endorsements of phenomena such as communality, consent, honesty and a lack of jealousy perhaps more effectively and incisively than many justifications for monogamous marriage have succeeded in doing (and this where monogamous marriage has been self-critical enough to allow for such consideration in the first place) . Monogamy no more has a monopoly on ethical behaviour than Christianity does on marriage. And proponents of polyamory and open relationship are keen to remind their detractors that there is plenty about monogamy that has been violent, oppressive and harmful.”

            In her doctoral thesis, she even described PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals:
            “Pseudo-radicals have no interest in non-monogamous, flamboyant, lesbian, gay and bisexual people” (Stuart 1997b: 187). It might therefore be important to continue questioning and querying the ostensibly positive project of inclusivism, lest it be that inclusivism is simply a cipher for assimilationism.”

            Now, that’s a hell of an agenda.

          • Enjoy supper. Not sure how referring to my so-called ‘mood’ can explain away Inclusive Church commissioning as the author of its resource book on sexuality someone who has publicly endorsed polyamory.

            That speaks volumes about the ultimate ‘inclusive’ ethos and enterprise.

          • “publicly endorsed polyamory.”
            That’s quite a distortion of the facts David Shepherd. Susannah, in a scholarly way, “asks questions about” and “hold that *aspects of* polyamorous constructions of relationship *may* be understood to mediate grace …..

            That’s quite different to publicly endorsing, but don’t let the facts get in the way of an angle.

          • Andrew either you are very naive or you think we’re stupid if you think Inclusive Church’s agenda does not include more than PSF relationships and that it has shown its hand by effectively endorsing the work of Susannah Cornwall.

          • That’s quite a distortion of the facts David Shepherd. Susannah, in a scholarly way, “asks questions about” and “hold that *aspects of* polyamorous constructions of relationship *may* be understood to mediate grace …..

            The quotation, as I read it, definitely does not support that idea that polyamory is totally proscribed for Christians.

            Does that not equate to endorsement?

          • Yeah, talking about an angle: revisionists can publicly “hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do” in a scholarly way, of course, and it magically falls short of a public endorsement…Yeah,…right.

            All that’s left is to apply that ersatz ‘scholarly’ rationale behind Cornwall’s description of committed same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals.

            This perfectly echoes the discredited Changing Attitudes’ report Sexual Ethics – A Report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Working Group in which we read:
            “‘Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace.’”

            Ah, again (of course), this only suggests openness to the *possibility* of *special circumstances* casual sex can become occasions of grace. Just like *aspects* of polyamourous constructions of relationships.

            Anyone falling for that would amply demonstrate the Abe Lincoln quote that “you can fool some of the people all of the time”!

          • ‘Thus while it is clear to us as LGBTs when we survey the gay scene, and indeed much of contemporary social life, that casual sex can often be addictive and destructive, we think it is important to remain open to the possibility that brief and loving sexual engagement between mature adults in special circumstances can be occasions of grace’

            Wow.

            Surely that’s basically saying that sometimes, casual sex is good?

            How is that not an endorsement of casual sex?

            Is the Christian position not that casual sex is always wrong?

          • ‘Aspects’ of a heist are good. Camaraderie, exercising the mind, sense of adventure. Same applies to ‘aspects’ of a murder plot etc.. So why avoid the question of whether the parts justify the whole?

          • If this wasn’t such an unpleasant and unnecessary thread, I would be highly diverted by your assertions that Dr Cornwall supports polyamorous relationships and that Inclusive Church supports casual sex; the latter hasn’t even convinced most of you that PSF ss relationships are innocuous.
            I might even suggest that interrogating particular traditions and readings does not abrogate them.
            I might suggest that theology has always been shocking and queer.
            I would suggest that Augustine would be deeply shocked by Luther’s theology of marriage and by the 1930 Lambeth Conference decision that the use of contraception is licit.
            I might ask why you believe that polyamory is proscribed for Christians, without recourse to Mark 10 and Matthew 19?
            I might suggest that scripture and tradition are far more multivocal than you allow.
            I might suggest that your own fear makes you naive about inclusion

          • Why not accept both good and bad? That would be delightfully multivocal. How about both beneficial and harmful?

            What is the point about Mark 10 and Matt 19?

          • Penelope, I think you need to say more about why this thread is ‘unpleasant’.

            In their recent books, both Jayne O and Vicky Beeching appear to be advocating ‘casual’ sex that is sex outside a lifelong, committed monogamous relationship.

            This surfaces frequently in this discussion, and in a debate about those arguing for ‘inclusive’ approach (quite distinct from the discussion about the post itself or the situation) surely this is relevant…

          • Ian, the blog and the subsequent discussion are deeply unpleasant because of the prurient speculation about Lizzie’s motives and the reaction of her Church and her vicar, Nick Bundock.
            I think both Peter and some of the commentators here have shown scant regard for their pain and guilt and a total lack of respect for the decision they have taken, even if they disagree with it.
            I am perfectly happy to discuss Dr Cornwall’s work and Beeching’s and Ozanne’s books (though I thought neither endorsed casual sex), but they are non sequiturs here. It would be more appropriate to discuss them on another thread. Not one about the tragic suicide of a teenager. Goodness knows why David Shepherd brought up Cornwall’s work except to attack Inclusive Church because Nick Bundock now supports it. And t all rather smacks of desperation.

    • So, I’ve transcribed the pertinent part of this talk and the Coroner doesn’t implicate the parish’s conspiracy of silence in Lizzie’s suicide:
      “I wasn’t prepared for the way in which that perception changed overnight…Lizzie was gay…Lizzie took her own life.

      At the Coroner’s hearing on the 19th of December, 2014. So, just before Christmas, I was at the Coroner’s hearing with Hilary and Kevin; representatives of her school, friends, who were in a most appalling state of disarray. And a member of, a journalist from Manchester Evening News.

      We were in court, and the evidence was presented to the court. And it became clear, as the Coroner rolled out the case before us all, that the most significant factor in Lizzie’s decision had been the perceived gap that she felt between her sexuality and her Christian faith.
      The Coroner look at her friends, who knew that she was depressed, who felt very guilty, but said, “You could not have done anything. Don’t carry this guilt. Go free”. And it was a beautiful thing that he did for them, ‘cos their live could have been ruined.

      And he turned to the school and he said, “Actually, you did everything you could. Lizzie, ironically, took her life, in the school’s suicide prevention week.” And one of Lizzie’s texts was, to her friends was, “How ironic this week is going to be”, which was a reference back to the fact that it was suicide prevention week. And then he turned to Hilary and Kevin and said, “You were loving parents. This will live with you for the rest of your life, but you were good parents.”

      And then he turned to this theological thing. And said, I conclude that the gap between Lizzie’s profession of faith, her commitment to Christianity and her emerging sexuality as a lesbian young woman, 14 years old, was too big for her to cross. And she couldn’t reconcile it. It led to a deep depression and that’s why she took her life.

      Well, really, that was the first day of the rest of our lives. Sitting in the gallery was the Manchester Evening News and, before the day was out, the story was…,something along the lines of, ‘cos it fits the narrative, doesn’t it? “Conservative, homophobic, church compounds teenager’s misery”. You could almost write the story really.

      And it went from the Manchester Evening News to the Guardian to the Times to the Independent, and most., significantly to Twitter. 19th December.

      In this detailed account, this tragedy of suicidal depression which resulted from being unable to reconcile Christian faith with sexuality does not add up to any collective discovery, at the hearing, which implicated the parish’s ‘conspiracy of silence’ or its theology (conservative, according to Bundock’s narrative) in Lizzie’s death.

    • So correct me if I’m wrong, but what this looks like to me, is the classic Politicians’s Response to a Tragedy.

      No politician has ever responded to a tragedy by saying, ‘This shows that I was wrong all along, I have decided to reconsider my views’.

      Instead, all politicians respond to all tragedies by saying that the tragedy shows they were right all along and now it is even more urgent that their already-decided-upon views be implemented as quickly as possible to prevent another tragedy.

      In this case, the church leadership seems to have wanted to become an inclusive church, but been afraid of the reaction from the congregation, so had to play it quietly.

      Then in the wake of the tragedy, they seized their chance — just like politicians — to do what they had obviously wanted to do all along, using the tragedy as an excuse.

      Is that not what has happened?

      • No it’s not. I realise this blog is really a hatchet job on Nick Bundock thinly disguised, but I think he is entitled to have his words taken at face value. Ian Paul and Peter Ould whose motives need to be explored here.

        • Of course, you ignore Bundock’s hatchet job on what he called “this theological thing” with his cleverly surmised headline, “Conservative, homophobic church compounds teenagers misery” after the friends, family and school were publicly exonerated.

          If you want conservative evangelical theology on sexuality consigned to the dustbin of history demonising it through this kind of narrative is the most dishonourable way to do it.

      • No Christopher. I’m not minded to enter into a dialogue on this matter. To do so would be to give credibility to what is utterly discreditable. This is a toxic thread based on a toxic article.

      • OK. So, unlike the rest of us, you don’t have to analyse the sequence in order to state conclusions on it.

        Having failed to do so, you then expect us to think your un-analysed version is *more* credible than the version of those who *have* analysed the sequence, when it could not possibly be even *equally* credible.

        In summary: don’t do the thinking, then expect to be awarded a walkover.

        I wasn’t born yesterday.

        • You weren’t born yesterday but seem to have a rather juvenile debating-society attitude towards what is appropriate in this discussion. Sensible people don’t want to engage because they do not want to legitimise either Ould’s appalling blog nor the subsequent prurient discussions.
          Nick is supported by his church and by Lizzie’s parents. There is no need for further voyeuristic speculations and people who support Nick are not required to give an account of themselves to you, Ould, or to anyone else on this thread.

          • Nick is supported by his church

            Of course he is: the people who didn’t support him had to leave! At least twenty-five of them, apparently.

          • But the discussion is not about that. It is about ascertaining the *sequence* of things that are agreed on all sides to have happened.

            Shutting off discussion for emotional reasons is a tactic that can well be employed by those who are not sure that their version of events is correct, but also want to gag others for fear that this will be exposed.

            We have seen the same thing with Savita Halappanavar and with Tini Owens. People are high-handedly forbidden from discussing the ramifications for millions of people because the ‘received’ version of the narrative of one person is held sacrosanct. Don’t hard cases make bad law? But that has become the tactic, because people have seen that it works. That is why I foresee the same thing happening again and am minded to expose it, because the consequences could be horrific. Every time people try to stop others discussing matters of fact, they of course have no authority to do that, which makes their motivation (it is only darkness that works against bringing the truth to light) the more interesting.

          • Debating societies of course have no different logic to other contexts. A fallacy within a debating society remains one outside it.

          • No one is trying to stop you, Christopher. You can speculate to your heart’s content, just don’t expect anyone sensible to answer your prurient questions.

          • Had to leave, S? They had agency. They chose to leave

            Well, I suppose they could have stayed somewhere that it was clear they were unwelcome, yes.

            But the point is that claiming that the vicar is supported by his church doesn’t mean very much when that is only the case because the only members of the church remaining are the self-selected lot who didn’t object to the direction in which he wanted to take it.

          • Penelope – I don’t know why you speak of speculation, when the point of Peter’s article was to prevent relatively hard evidence.

    • Simon, how sad that, rather than engaging respectfully as others have done, matching the tone of the post, you descend to personal insults. A new low in commenting?

      I wonder if you could listen to ‘one of your own’, Tim Goode, who commented on FB:

      ‘This is a very moving and personal post and I respect greatly the delicacy that the writer has taken in being sensitive to the feelings of others and in sharing their vulnerability with us.
      The challenge is that the writers approach and the conclusions they have come to could also equally and validly come from a opposing view point. And there is the rub. No one (I hope) is saying that one cannot be gay and hold a conservative viewpoint on sexuality. Lizzie’s tragic story is one of many (too many)and each one a unique set of circumstances.’

      One of you is clearly very badly mistaken.

  28. Notes

    This is a response to the original blog post, rather than to any of the comments on it.

    As a long-standing member of St James and Emmanuel, who knows those involved, I would like to endorse Nick Bundock’s account of events in the BBC programme and highlight some of the factual errors and inaccurate assumptions in the above blog post. It seems particularly important to correct inaccuracies in a blog post whose title includes the phrase ‘speaking the truth’.

    The only possibly misleading detail in the BBC programme was the implication that Nick’s own theology changed as a result of what happened to Lizzie. My understanding is that Nick already held an affirming theology before Lizzie’s death, but that, as he said in the programme, he kept quiet on the subject, not wanting to stir up ‘a hornet’s nest’. I believe Nick has made this clear, if not in the edit of this programme, then elsewhere.

    Contrary to what the above blog suggests, the church was definitely not talking openly about sexuality before Lizzie’s tragic death. Most of the congregation were ignorant of the leadership’s views on the matter until that year. It just wasn’t discussed. I, and I imagine many others, assumed that in a large evangelical Anglican church the clergy were likely to hold conservative views.

    In fact the silence on the matter was significant enough for that silence itself to be a topic of conversation amongst some in the congregation. I do not say this to blame Nick or any other of our church leaders, who were doing what they felt was best for the church as a whole at the time, but to support Nick’s narrative that there was a culture of silence within the church on the topic of homosexuality prior to Lizzie’s suicide.

    St James and Emmanuel has always been a broad church in terms of theology and churchmanship. On all subjects the clergy have the unenviably difficult task of maintaining the unity of a church spread across four vastly different congregations, over two sites, and with a very wide-range of views and theology. It is understandable that the issue of sexuality was avoided, since raising it was sure to give rise to very strong and conflicting positions. As indeed it has.

    The suggestion in this blog post that a former curate ‘came out as lesbian’ to the church is also inaccurate, and gives a very misleading impression. The curate’s sexuality was certainly not common knowledge within the church during her curacy and even after her departure, many in the church remained unaware of it.

    I do not wish to enter into arguments and am not going to engage in further debate here. However this blog post is accusing the BBC, St James and Emmanuel, and Nick Bundock in particular, of factual inaccuracies where there are none, while itself using factual inaccuracies and false assumptions to support an opposing position.

    • Hi Alison,

      Thanks for your insights from the standpoint of a long-standing member of St James and Emmanuel.

      You stated that: this blog post is accusing the BBC, St James and Emmanuel, and Nick Bundock in particular, of factual inaccuracies where there are none.

      What’s in dispute is the characterisation of the church’s theology on sexuality as conservative and implicated at the hearing in Lizzie’s tragic suicide.

      For instance, you mention (and I accept that): “St James and Emmanuel has always been a broad church in terms of theology and churchmanship. On all subjects the clergy have the unenviably difficult task of maintaining the unity of a church spread across four vastly different congregations, over two sites, and with a very wide-range of views and theology.”

      Despite being a “broad church”, I also understand that there was “a culture of silence”.

      What doesn’t make sense is that, despite the clergy’s “difficult task of maintaining the unity of a church spread across four vastly different congregations, over two sites, and with a very wide-range of views and theology”, in his talk to 2:23 (https://www.mixcloud.com/Two23Network/nick-bundock-at-two23-april-2018), Nick Bundock didn’t challenge or question the damning summary headline laying blame at the door of conservative theology. In fact, the Coroner did not implicate that at all:

      “And then he turned to this theological thing. And said, I conclude that the gap between Lizzie’s profession of faith, her commitment to Christianity and her emerging sexuality as a lesbian young woman, 14 years old, was too big for her to cross. And she couldn’t reconcile it. It led to a deep depression and that’s why she took her life.”

      “Well, really, that was the first day of the rest of our lives. Sitting in the gallery was the Manchester Evening News and, before the day was out, the story was…,something along the lines of, ‘cos it fits the narrative, doesn’t it? “Conservative, homophobic, church compounds teenager’s misery”. You could almost write the story really.”

      In the press, I’ve seen no such headline to this effect. And despite there being, as you say, a ‘culture of silence’ at the church, the Coroner’s hearing did not implicate conservative theology in Lizzie Lowe’s suicide.

      So, however much Bundock believes that “conservative, homophobic, church compounds teenager’s misery” might fit the narrative, your own words declare that, despite the church’s reticence on sexuality, St. James and Emmanuel is “a broad church in terms of theology and churchmanship.”

      So, Nick Bundock might declare otherwise, but your own description reveals that, even if the church, as a whole, realised that its safeguarding had failed Lizzie Lowe, this was not on account of the church holding to conservative evangelical theology. As you say, clergy were “maintaining the unity of a church spread across four vastly different congregations, over two sites, and with a very wide-range of views and theology.”

      So, what’s a blatant falsehood is for Lizzie’s tragic death to be the basis of campaigning, as Nick does through Inclusive Church, for a change to conservative evangelical theology on sexuality, as if it was implicated in LGBT suicide.

      And it’s exactly this falsehood with which Peter Ould has taken issue.

  29. It bears repeating why this is such a crucial issue. Day after day we are subjected to a monopoly of the very narrow secular narrative, with editorial policy simply assuming that alternative perspectives will in the end be bogus. The question is whether Christians may under pressure submit to conform to this secular narrative, even at the expense of the facts. If they did so, that would not be truthful, but would be an example of peer pressure.

    The opponents of this are all those normal truthful people who know that the real world is as it is, not as dictated by any narrative. Narratives usually emanate from special-interest groups anyway.

    • PLease, God, Christopher, this is not a response to Alison’s comment. Because, if it is, I will think you beyond shame.

        • I had by 8.53 read it. It advances the debate – good! We also have a coherent sequence and some of the apparent discrepancies are explained. It strikes me that in terms of sequence Alison’s picture is in many ways to be preferred to Peter’s.

          The issue of conforming to the secular narrative I regard, of course, as serious. It would be serious even if the idea were not to request silence and exclusion of others – but regrettably both requests are in effect being made, compounding the bad situation.

          Jonathan saying that self harm is irrelevant I strongly disagree with. The idea that there is something in lesbianism itself that could cause depression (two things in fact – biology and mind having become out of kilter; roots in the harmful sexual revolution) is given no airtime (just wait for the censoring voices, who forbid analysis as though analysis were a bad thing insstead of taking the discussion forward) but seems to me strongly plausible.

  30. It is of course both possible and highly likely that among those reading this blog discussion, hosted by an influential and persuasive conservative evangelical teacher and supported by people posting angry, outspoken and lurid views of same-sex love, are people as quietly vulnerable, anxious and isolated as Lizzy once was – and even as surrounded by the love of others as she was.
    I find myself praying they are not reading this debate.
    So much more care is needed than is being shown here – both the tone of the discussion and even hosting it at all.
    Please Ian – close the discussion. It is all too toxic and going nowhere.

      • Yes, we listened and I transcribed part of his talk; particularly, when he said of the Coroner: “And then he turned to this theological thing. And said, I conclude that the gap between Lizzie’s profession of faith, her commitment to Christianity and her emerging sexuality as a lesbian young woman, 14 years old, was too big for her to cross. And she couldn’t reconcile it. It led to a deep depression and that’s why she took her life.

        Well, really, that was the first day of the rest of our lives. Sitting in the gallery was the Manchester Evening News and, before the day was out, the story was…,something along the lines of, ‘cos it fits the narrative, doesn’t it? “Conservative, homophobic, church compounds teenager’s misery”. You could almost write the story really.

        For the Coroner to conclude that there was a gap between Lizzie’s profession of faith and her emerging sexuality does not tally with Nick Bundock’s assertion that “at the coroner’s hearing, that we discovered that, actually, it had been our conspiracy of silence, as it were, around the issue of sexuality, that had been the crucible in which Lizzie had existed in those months up until her death.”

        So, in place of conservative evangelical theology being implicated by the Coroner, the discovery of a ‘conspiracy of silence’ at the hearing and even calling his church conservative were Bundock’s own embellishments, aimed at lending further credence his belief that conservative theology was implicated in Lizzie’s death.

        It’s not nit-picking to separate Bundock’s (or even the PCC’s) conclusions from the Coroner own conclusions, which he pronounced authoritatively at the hearing.

        Nevertheless, I can see why revisionists are desperate to dismiss that distinction, so that they can condemn conservative evangelical theology as officially recognised to be a safeguarding risk to LGBT youth.

        Of course, should supporters of marriage orthodoxy respond to such condemnation with anything short of an admission of guilt over LGBT suicide and willingness to adopt the Inclusive Church mantra, they are met with accusations of gross impenitence and insensitivity.

        After all, if that approach facilitated General Synod’s condemnation of conversion therapy, it might well facilitate that body’s future condemnation of conservative evangelical theology on sexuality.

    • I hope that Ian doesn’t close this discussion.

      There are many quietly vulnerable LGBT people who attend conservative evangelical churches and adhere to the church teaching on sexuality.

      They will want to know whether that teaching in a conservative context similar to their own has truly been impugned as a safeguarding risk by an official Coroner’s hearing into Lizzie Lowe’s suicide.

      They will now know from an actual parishioner (Alison Kay) that St. James and Emmanuel was not a conservative parish, but as she put it “a broad church…with a very wide range of views and theology”.

      They will also now know, even if there was a “conspiracy of silence” (which should be changed), that this was neither implicated at the Coroner’s hearing, nor was this attributable to St. James and Emmanuel being a conservative evangelical church.

      In fact, the only way that conservative evangelicals figure in this story is that they challenged the response of the PCC in adopting the Inclusive Church statement and, for doing so, they we’re no longer welcome.

  31. But David, truth itself persuades: anyone of conscience uses rhetoric in the service of the quest for truth, not to subvert the quest for truth (or else doesn’t use it at all). Such people are in any case truth-seekers, and therefore independents with regard to what conclusions are arrived at. For example: in this instance I have not researched the facts, so have not stated a conclusion. What I have done is (a) speak against the tendency to discourage investigation, which may sometimes be put down to vested interests, (b) note that people do in fact fall in with the secular narrative which is in fact extremely narrow (basically, you have to believe in the Big Bad Homophobes; and believe that 14 year olds are accurately described as ‘gay’ (and refuse to study or even know about the research on this); and various other impossible things before breakfast). Boo to any rejection of the need to study research. Vested interests are generally behind it. How could you or anyone support it?

    • Christopher, ask Peter when he knew or suspected that he was gay. Ask him if that was the result of a secular narrative. Or vested interests. Ask him if he has read the research which ‘proves’ that he couldn’t possibly have been gay.
      And, please realise that we are talking about the lives of vulnerable young people. The sort of vulnerability that Peter describes in his blog. The sort of vulnerability that leads to shame and self harm. If you won’t listen to others, listen to Peter.

      • Among vulnerable young people, thousands are falling victim to large lies of the sexual revolution:
        -that you can just bond and unbond without psychological harm
        -that ”relationship” histories that are not marriage directed are likely to end in anything but (a) sadness and (b) continuing immaturity
        -that STIs are collateral damage
        -that self control is a bad word
        -that unwrapping your presents before Christmas will make you happier – it always makes you unhappier. Those who have something to look forward to have happy eyes. Those who don’t, don’t.
        Continue with this narrative and you put young people in line for a sad destiny, i.e. make them vulnerable unnecessarily.

        The assumption that ‘gay’ is a coherent or easily defined word is part of the problem. I have been saying for years that it is incoherent. Fr Ron and Peter already have opposing ideas about it. You also mischaracterise the conclusions of the main research.

  32. Christopher Narrow narratives. Vested interests. Plenty of those in evidence here. I am with Simon Butler at this point – and for the same reasons him.

    • Then David you also need to listen to Tim Goode, who I think is a trustee of Inclusive Church:

      ‘This is a very moving and personal post and I respect greatly the delicacy that the writer has taken in being sensitive to the feelings of others and in sharing their vulnerability with us.
      The challenge is that the writers approach and the conclusions they have come to could also equally and validly come from a opposing view point. And there is the rub. No one (I hope) is saying that one cannot be gay and hold a conservative viewpoint on sexuality. Lizzie’s tragic story is one of many (too many)and each one a unique set of circumstances.’

      Either Tim or Simon are very badly mistaken.

      • Ian Why do I? I am staying with the blog topic. I think the wider debate is completely inappropriate and horribly insensitive. The conservative responses here have been to increasingly widen the debate and so to smear the motives of those actually involved in this story. Three people with genuine local knowledge and actual involvement in this church and the tragedy that this blog centred around, have joined this thread and offered a courteous critique of what Peter wrote and the conclusions he drew (nor, for the record, did they appear to take sides with regard to the issue itself). I find no reason, not least from my own experience of leading churches containing differing convictions on contentious issues, not to believe them. It all sounds very much how these things play out in Christian communities and their leadership – though mercifully without leading to such a tragedy. Peter’s reading and claims look increasingly narrow and one-sided.
        I have no wish to continue this discussion here.

        • Why do you? Because you have stated you agree with a comment which, rather than staying with either the tone or substance of what the blog post addresses, has descended into (to borrow your term) a toxic ad hominem attack on the author.

          The reason I shared Tim’s observation is that he is someone on Simon’s ‘side’ of the debate–but who sees this post in very different terms. So I am curious that you are agreeing with Simon rather than Tim, with whom I have had a very respectful exploration of different views. I had thought that that was the approach you were seeking.

          I agree that some of the debate above is unhelpful. But the concern of a number of folk, including some commenting here who know the situation very well from first hand experience, is that the inappropriate widening of the debate happened when this tragic situation was used to support the Inclusive Church strategy.

          And, in contrast to Tim’s measure appreciation, if you want to see ‘toxic’ just pop over to the discussion Nick Bundock has hosted on the Christians for LGBT+ Equality:

          https://www.facebook.com/groups/12180773894/permalink/10156674422463895/

          Here’s a small sample:

          ‘atrocious’, ‘horrible’, ‘properly nasty’, ‘shameful’, ‘dangerous’, ‘an odious contemptible shit’, ‘ghastly’, ‘I already had a very low opinion of Ian Paul anyway (I won’t call him reverend nor doctor, nor will I call him by any other appellations which are more suitable). He has a sad obsession against LGBT+ folk…They are covert gay bashers hiding their nastiness under the cloak of Christianity. Nasty, nasty, nasty.’, ‘They’re very well known obsessive homophobes. ‘ ‘utterly wicked article, highly loaded language, manipulative’, ‘Just when you though it wasn’t possible for some within the church to sink any lower, there’s Peter Ould plumbing the depths!’ ‘The latest article is sickly sweet. The kind of sweet that rots from the inside.’…

    • David R – the philosophical fallacy you commit here is by assuming that even if I am presenting narrow narratives and having vested interests (and I am not knowingly doing either, just seeking to go with the facts and stats) that *means* that revisionists are not. Non sequitur.

  33. Not sure that the gospel message was ever intended to be entirely positive (God loves you!), as so many nowadays seem to believe. Also not sure that “good news” is a very good translation of “evangel”. The gospel is good news to some, and bad news to others. Or, as Luther said (following one of the Church Fathers I think), “The purpose of the gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”

  34. I have known this church for a long time, and never thought that Lizzie’s death was handled well by this church or the leadership. There has been a lot of public handwringing over a very personal tragedy. A girl took her life. That her suicide should be at the centre of the church’s discussions about inclusion is distasteful at best.

    I don’t think Peter is any better than Nick in this respect.

  35. Nick Bundock’s 2:23 presentation adds extra important points:

    (1) It was suicide prevention week. (One can hypothesise that that is a coincidence, or – with less plausibility – that it is not. Lizzie’s text messages apparently make the latter option almost certain.) One of the dimensions of such a week is that (a bit like ‘drug awareness’ and so on) it puts things in the minds of all children of a certain age group which many of them would not otherwise have entertained. They could have been going happily through their lives, and then they are told to concentrate on the topic of suicide. Concentrating on it means thinking a lot about it. It is quite a thing to tell precious 14 year olds to have such a topic absorb their minds.

    (2) We are in the Manchester area, with all its dodgy social attitudes and ‘liberalism’. We are near to Wales with all its teen suicide pacts.

    (3) Anne Atkins’s father once had a discussion with a father about a boy who was playing up. At the end of it, as an aside, the father said ‘Oh by the way my wife and I are getting d******d’. The scales fell from Mr Atkins’s eyes, yet somehow the dad was oblivious to the obvious causal connection. The same applies here. Lizzie and others were going through what was called ‘an emo phase’ when they dressed in black and had gloomy conversations. Huh? These things are part and parcel of depression before you even start. Without argument, this thing is presented as a phase, a normal phase. If it is normal, why do so many people not go through it, fewer unless the culture allows it? Even where it is normal, that does not make it healthy. As a phenomemon, no aspect of it looks at all healthy, wouldn’t we agree?

    (4) Further, if she was (allowed by the culture to be) at that sort of place in her life, it is a place that has very little in common with church practice or ethics. Presumably therefore she may have been surrounded by schoolmates with revisionist sexual and social ideas – popular (so what?), but attested to be correlated to negative outcomes.

      • And I wrongly called him ‘Mr Atkins’.

        A further point:
        (5) 14 year olds are in flux physically and mentally, are subject to bewildering short-term changes, so what they do would not be done by people of more stable ages. That is an issue of brain development. In particular, most ages would be long-term enough in their thinking to realise that there were people who loved them, who might have wanted a written explanation, etc.. This tragedy may tell us more about the nature of being 14 than about being evangelical and loving (good!) other girls. All the more reason not to put negative things in 14 year olds’ minds.

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