Truth and falsehood in Synod debates

Simon Butler has today made a response to my claim that he made false claims about me to Synod and, though I don’t think that public exchanges of statements are the best way to resolve things, his statement requires that I clarify further than I have already done. (My first explanation and his statement can be found in the comments on the previous post.)

In his speech on Synod, Simon made several claims.

  1. He stated that he had been sent a text. He had not; I had sent him a long and detailed message via Facebook messenger.
  2. He strongly implied that this had been a one-off message. It had not. It was part of a correspondence which had been continuing for the previous 8 days.
  3. He also implied that it was unsolicited. The conversation has in fact been initiated by Simon, and had been moved by him onto issues related to the Synod debate.
  4. He claimed that it was asking intrusive personal questions about his private life. It did not. It did list the public statements Simon himself had made on his own initiative.
  5. He claimed that it was ‘borderline harassment’ and mentioned the question of safeguarding. In fact, I specifically gave Simon the option to question anything I had said, and included these paragraphs:

I am not oblivious to the challenges of the situation that you are in, and can quite understand why you have made the decisions you have—not least to move to a diocese like Southwark, where it is probably the easiest context to be partnered as you are.

Do please come back to me if I have misrepresented the facts of your situation in any way.

6. Simon further claims that he had not named me, but that I had identified myself. In fact, Simon went on to identify the person who sent the message as the person he had first come out to as gay; since he first said this in public on my blog, it is reasonably well known that this identifies me, including I think to the Archbishop.

So rather than receiving an unsoliticed, brief text intrusively demanding information about Simon’s personal life, he had received a factual message, based on his own public statements, in the context of a long conversation which he himself had initiated, with an invitation to correction. I think Simon’s comment is a serious misrepresentation of the truth; I am conscious that the word ‘lie’ is potentially inflammatory, so I will simply say that Simon has misled Synod by a serious misrepresentation through his claims which are factually in error and appear to be consciously made. I am hopeful that Simon might offer an apology for such a serious misrepresentation and withdraw the allegations he has made about me.

The reason why Simon might have felt so strongly about the message was that it was highlighting the lack of transparency in Simon’s own statements about his own situation. In his speech on Wednesday, Simon mentioned that he met his partner 15 years ago. At the EGGS meeting last July, he (for the first time in public to my knowledge) stated that he was ‘gay and partnered.’ But in the previous Synod he had described himself as gay and ‘not called to celibacy’ which suggests that any relationship was in the future not the past or present. From his own subsequent statements, it is not unreasonable to infer that he was in fact already partnered, and he has stated that he is unwilling to answer any question about whether his relationship does or does not conform to the current teaching of the Church as articulated by statements from the House of Bishops. If Simon’s later public statements had been known at the time, I think there is a good chance it would have affected the outcome of the election of Simon as Prolocutor.

To put this in a wider context, I also need to make clear that I have never once asked Simon any questions about his own life and relationships. When we had a conversation in July following his statement in EGGS, I specifically reminded him of that, and stated that it was none of my business to make any enquiries about his personal life, since that was the business of his ordinary (his bishop). The statements Simon had made both to me and in public have been entirely of his own choosing and without any prompting from me

However, the statements he has made do put those of us working with him on Archbishops’ Council in a very difficult position. By his own testimony, he is gay and partnered and has said he is not willing to state to anyone whether he is living in accordance with Church teaching. It means we are having to work together in a context where we feel some of our number are seriously undermining the integrity of the Church and its witness at this difficult time. Simon mentions this difficulty in his Wednesday speech.

This highlights a serious problem that is felt more widely by many who want to uphold the Church’s teaching and the House of Bishops in their support for this. A significant number of those contributing to the debate in Synod were people who are living in defiance of the Church’s teaching, and are therefore not in good standing with their bishop but under discipline. It makes the commitment to future discussion ‘excluding no-one’ difficult inasmuch as the views of those not in good standing appear to be given equal weight with those who are in good standing. Even worse, many in the debate wanting to maintain the Church’s teaching felt intimidated and bullied by the atmosphere at Synod, and this was significantly shaped by Simon’s forthright denunciation of my statement and its reinforcement in the Presidential Address.

This whole episode illustrates the extremely difficult situation we are now in. Simon raises the question of ‘emotional intelligence’ in our debate; I venture to suggest it is not emotionally intelligent to make private correspondence public, to identify someone clearly without naming him, to mislead his hearers as to the nature of a message, or to use the power of the platform (Simon spoke twice about me; I was not called to speak on either occasion and so had no right of reply) to make an emotional point. But what is perhaps more worrying is the idea that emotional intelligence is either equal or superior to the question of whether a statement is actual true, and whether someone has been honest in their own public statements.

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81 thoughts on “Truth and falsehood in Synod debates”

  1. My Anglican heart sinks reading this narrative because the simplest conclusion to draw from it, for the good humour, honesty and hopefulness of all concerned about what kind of church (e.g.) you and (e.g.) Simon Butler wish to be part of is two distinct churches. In one the doctrine of marriage as currently, formally understood by the CofE is (a) upheld and (b) unquestioned for at least a long time to come. In the other the doctrine of marriage is expanded to incorporate the clear desire of many clergy and laity that all forms of marriage provided for by civil law are also recognised and blessed by that church.

    In my own context (New Zealand) I have worked for a long time for the continuation of one church, and remain hopeful (against hope?) that our current process to “square the circle” will find an agreeable way forward. (It is a long story but some peculiar circumstances making up our current “Three Tikanga” church mean I am not as crazy as I might sound to other Anglicans!). Thus I love the statement Archbishop Welby put out since it is full of crazy hope for a united future.

    But is it more plausible to think of the need for a considered parting of the ways towards contexts in which honesty and personal integrity can be lived out?

    • I too like to see a broad church, but, as seen particularly in TEC, that may prove impossible to reconcile with a change in teaching on human sexuality.

      It’d be tragic if the church splits over this, for, much as I may disagree with evangelicals theologically, their loss would be a wound on the greater body. They bring so many good things to the church, from their enthusiasm for the gospel, their boundless optimism, their outreach, their instinct for making worship accessible, and their talent for organization. Exegesis would be particularly hard-hit.

      If some way can be found to keep everyone in the fold, it should be. Given everyone’s red lines, I currently don’t see how it can be, but I would love to be proved wrong.

      • How can it happen unless people distinguish between ‘views’ that are indicated by evidence/research and ‘views’ that are what people desire or wish for?

  2. I’m sorry to hear this abuse of you Ian (and as recorded in the previous blog). It seems lying to synod is acceptable in pursuit of an end. It removes all confidence for me that their view of ‘truth’ has much to do with truth itself. Lies are evil, end of.

    What also winds me up is the deliberate public, tactical portrayal if evangelicals as hard, unreasonable and bullying …liberals are kind, reasonable and gentle. Propaganda is not truth.

    Gods blessing….,

    • Mr. Butler’s already accepted that he made an honest mistake over referring to a text message and not a messenger app. Beyond that, people can honestly perceive things differently. Unless the chat logs are published — which I wouldn’t suggest — we can’t know whose perception’s most accurate. Throwing around further accusations when we don’t know all the facts, and calling people’s actions evil, isn’t gonna help resolve things and mend relationships, which is surely what we all want.

      • Reluctantly I say that it wasn’t this simple. Ian’s five points spell out more than a mere forgetting of the method of communication. And a public ‘miss-statement’ in that context was more than unfortunate. An apology in Synod Is unlikey however appropriate.

  3. It is impossible for a third party to fully understand the ins-and-outs of this situation. It is clearly distressing to both parties. Given that both Ian and Simon Butler have made public statements, would it not be better for there to be no comments from third parties which can only exacerbate the situation and cause further distress?

  4. I know you didn’t choose to make this public, Ian, but now it is, arguing it out in the public square can only exacerbate things. If you’ll excuse the unsolicited advice, it’d be best for all parties if you and Simon Butler could meet privately and come to some kind of understanding, especially as you have to work together.

    • James, I agree, and was on the point of emailing Simon when he published his statement. But I wonder what the dynamic is, when the privilege of being on the platform is put to this kind of use…?

  5. Regarding the presenting situation of the correspondence between yourself and Simon Butler, I have no comment to make as I’m not in possession of all the facts. It is certainly a very unfortunate situation.

    On the subsidiary point of any difficulty you have in working with gay clergy who are not open about their personal relationship status, a more startling example is that of the two diocesan bishops who are in a same-sex relationship with each other. This does not ‘out’ either of them as they could be any two of the forty-two diocesan bishops. The fact that this ‘secret’ is so widely-known must surely give cause for concern to conservatives within the Church. I can only assume that the bishops concerned have been asked to give assurances to their Archbishop(s) that they live within the Church’s teaching, and that they gave acceptable responses. But if they *are* living within the Church’s teachings, why not be open about it?

    • Laurence, thanks for commenting.

      I don’t really live in the world of Anglican gossip as many others appear to, so the fact you claim is not ‘widely known’ to me.

      One of the odd things about ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ is that liberals say they hate it, yet they are precisely the ones who practice it. Most evangelicals are shocked to discover what has been going on, as they are genuinely ignorant about it. That applies to this evangelical in relation to that alleged fact.

      If what you say is true, then we should be informed—not out of salaciousness but out of transparency.

    • You accuse us of being the ones obsessed by sex and genitals and what not, and yet time and time again it’s actually liberals who gossip mongering about relationships. Perhaps I should name the two activists who were happily naming “Gay bishops” as loudly as possible in church house this week, without the slightest care who heard?

      Seriously Laurence, if you think someone is being a hypocrite, name and shame. But this kind of shameless tittle tattle just makes you look very immature. Most conservatives aren’t that bothered what someone’s sexuality is if that person actually celibate – for example look at the lack of response to +Grantham’s outing.

      Time to Man Up and either name and shame or withdraw and apologise.

      • “Most conservatives aren’t that bothered what someone’s sexuality is if that person [is] actually celibate”… old news as it is, I’m tempted to ask why the ganging up on Jeffrey John in that case….?
        In friendship, Blair

          • There are 2 obvious points.

            1. He wasn’t repentant and did not judge that what he had done was wrong.

            2. For what he taught, he could be classified as a false teacher and therefore unsuitable to be a bishop.

            Other points have emerged later

            – e.g., the idea that the centurion & servant story is a gay one shows exegetical ability (and ignoring of counter-arguments) below the level required of a teacher of God’s flock;

            -being ‘out for marriage’ involved him in a move directly counter to the whole of Christendom, in the context of his ignoring and never commenting on homosexual promiscuity, STIs, life expectancy, prevalence of unsafe sexual practices.

            Both the above points show over-selectivity, and what you look for in a Christian leader is truth.

          • Still a bit miffed that I can’t post a comment to refute what you say here, Christopher…

            in friendship, Blair

          • Ian,
            if this is a response to my (probably unwise…) question about Jeffrey John:
            a) how do you know this?
            b) why does this justify the ganging up against him?
            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Ian,

            Do you have a reference for what you’re referring to as Jeffrey John’s own testimony here?

            And apologies for the “bit miffed” comment above but I had no indication that it had posted successfully, and I’ve still not been able to post my comment quoting Jeffrey John to show that Christopher was wrong in what he said above… I await my award for sheer tedium admittedly.

            In friendship, Blair

      • Not everyone reacted as mildly as you to +Grantham’s outing. Your friend Gavin Ashenden, for example, put pen to paper to argue that he had repudiated his faith in Christ in confirming that he is gay and said he is “adopting an erotic sub Christian anthropology as a way od [sic] describing his core identity as a human being. No longer primarily ‘in Christ’, but rather as ‘gay'”. Odd that people who call themselves ‘straight’ are not accused of adopting an erotic sub Christian anthorpology as a way of describing their core identity, but there you go.

        • Well, you know me—meek and mild.

          I didn’t agree with Gavin on Nick’s actual position, with which I have no issue at all. I understand Gavin’s point about the labels…and I have never in my life ever described myself as ‘straight’. In fact I avoid using the terms ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ whenever I can, since they are both ideological constructs and indeed sub-Christian in their anthropology. Use of the former leads to the error that we are either saved by being straight or saved by being married.

          I don’t believe in heterosexual marriage; I believe in male-female marriage.

          • Strange though that so many bishops seem to find their identity in being straight, married, parents, grandparents, hill walkers and Arsenal supporters!

          • That’s not the point I was making. They are mostly keen to show their ‘straight’ credentials. So some of their identity is in their sexuality, but no more for gay people than for straight people. And biography is, indeed, identity. Which is why Gavin’s wrong..

  6. This sort of discussion seems, on the face of it, to be little more than a petty, self serving, squabble between two Christian men who should perhaps know better.
    But I would suggest that it encapsulates the essence of the difficulty that many of us find ourselves in as members of the church of England.
    Some of you who have commented already seem to be suggesting that we should all keep quiet for the sake of some strange sort of appearance of unity.
    Jesus called for us to be united, not united with wickedness, but united around the truth.
    Neither Ian or Simon, if telling the truth, should need to defend themselves as they will be vindicated. But we (the church) should require high standards of those in leadership positions (to whom much is given, much will be required) and therefore following contradictory statements made by leaders in a very public forum, eliciting criticism by the Archbishop, the correspondence should be made public and where necessary repentance enacted and forgiveness sought.(Bring to the light that which is in darkness!)

    • Well, there is one reason why I need to defend myself. Someone misused a position of power to misrepresent me so severely that the Archbishop used me as the example of the opposite of what Jesus is calling us to—and mentioned safeguarding, which raises the prospect of possible discipline and the future of my ministry. I think that is just a bit more than a ‘petty self-serving squabble’, at least on my side.

      I don’t think such private correspondence should ever be put in the public domain (which just makes it worse) but I have explained very clearly where the problem lies.

      • Dear Ian
        I didnt write that very well did I? Though on the face of this it seems like a petty squabble I dont think that it is. I do have great sympathy with your position – it is wrong to be criticised in a public forum as you were without you having the right to reply (whether the criticism is justified or not). There is a clear biblical procedure that could/should have been followed which would have started with your accuser coming to speak to you (with a witness) in private.
        Having not followed this Simon has bought this issue into the public domain in a very unhelpful and what appears to be a self serving way. After all the process should be about challenging a brother in a way that gives him or her the opportunity to be bought back into the fold (not that I am suggesting you were out of it in the first place – I hope that you see what I mean!). Having done it the way it was you are right to feel aggrieved. But the real damage done is the damage that is done to the name of Jesus and to the reputation of the church. So perhaps the right way to deal with this now is for you to go, with a witness to challenge your accuser and if then the problem is not resolved bring it into the public domain of the church. I think that one of the many problems we face, as a church, is the lack of a biblical approach to resolving disputes or to discipline. This is a situation which, on the face of it, needs it.
        I am in complete disagreement with those who have suggested that matters like this should be hushed up and swept under the carpet. I think that approach is, in part, responsible for why we are where we are now. Bless you! Peter

  7. Ian I am surprised and upset about how petty you are being. Where is the Christian love in this correspondence? We are ALL members of GOD’s church. It is HIS church and a lot of what is going on is appalling. You seem to be so self righteous in your manner. As a theologian I expect a more open discerning attitude from u., maybe asking what is God doing in this situation. Why are comments so harsh on gay people? We were at college together, I don’t know if u remember that. U were more caring then. What has happened to you?

    • Petro, yes of course I remember you very well, not least your creative musical talents.

      I have not changed (if anything, I am more mellow these days!) and I am puzzled as to where there are ‘harsh comments about gay people’. Someone has used a position of power to misrepresent me so seriously that I became for the Archbishop the principle illustration of the exact opposite of Jesus’ pattern of life.

      Do you not think I should be allowed to put the record straight? I have done so without malice or rancour.

      • Ian,

        I’m aware this is potentially a silly comment in some ways – here I am commenting on this thread, and it’s, y’know, your blog, your rules and so on – but I wonder if it would have been better not to allow comments for once? That way you’d have been able to set the record straight – but the point of principle is fairly clear and I’m not sure what’s gained by letting us mostly ignorant onlookers have our say … and I speak as one of them…

        In friendship, Blair

        • Blair, I think in hindsight that would have been a good idea. However, I am not wiling retrospectively to censor comments, and I think this is probably a unique place where people of quite opposite views are able to express them and interact with one another.

  8. Ian, I am really sorry to read this. Irrespective of where anyone stands on the substantive issue of the debate, it is hard to read what happened as anything other than a cynical and dishonest manipulation of Synod. It feels as if the Church of England is the latest victim of a ‘post fact’ culture. Simon’s position is untenable and he should both apologise and resign.

  9. You may find this surprising, but I actually have more respect for the integrity and consistency of the conservative bishops than I do for the liberal ones who say one thing to General Synod and the opposite in private. At least they have the courage of their – in my opinion misplaced – convictions. Regarding the two diocesan bishops allegedly in a same-sex relationship, I wouldn’t rush to assume that neither is an evangelical.

    • Laurence, I don’t think we need any more hints or innuendos. I am really not interested in gossip, and I think dropping these hints is as hypocritical as the duplicity you criticise.

      Let’s keep these comments focussed on serious engagement with one another on matters of principle; that is what concerns me. Thanks.

      • I think the point of principle is that clergy should be honest and open about their personal relationships, a point you made about Simon Butler and one with which I agree. It was not my intention to be a gossip monger though I can appreciate that it could be interpreted as that. You’ll note that I went out of my way not to make the bishops concerned identifiable. Anyway, this is your blog and I shall not comment further, as you request.

          • I could, at best, name only 3 or 4 of the Bishops and wouldn’t know which diocese they represent without checking. Even so I am reasonably confident that I have worked out who the two people are based simply on google searches, a process of elimination and an educated guess from the information hinted at here.

            So I could well be wrong, but I think Peter’s point is important. I appreciate Laurence is trying to be vague for the sake of preserving identity here, but the group is so small and their opinions and habits so well known that it does not take a genius to know who is being talked about here.

            If I can do it, easily in about 15 minutes, any lay person with a computer could do the same.

        • So much evidence that we have all along been correct in our assumption that many liberals are just at an adolescent stage without self-control, blurting things out.

          The idea that homosexual orientation itself is a stage of development prior to full maturity has always seemed to me simplistic (1. it depends if you grew up surrounded by your own gender or not; 2. it depends what your circumstances were in the critical years when what was formerly fluid can solidify; 3. adolescent pashes/crushes are not evidence of full homosexuality; 4. so much can be explained by the other gender being inaccessible or out of one’s league at the very time when desire is strongest – which is 17 for men – this can lead to formative and determinative experiences). But the basic chronology which has people more likely to experiment with their own gender earlier (in less mature years) and more likely to have realistic access to the other gender later (in more mature years) is common sense.

          To summarise: (1) Immaturity among LGBT+ activists is often seen. (2) The issue of immaturity in the entire homosexual state is an issue that cannot be dismissed simply because it is against the Zeitgeist (as though that mattered). It should be investigated on its own terms without preconceptions about what the answer ”has”(!!) to be. **If** the stereotypes were true that gay people gossip disproportionately, would that be indicative of an underlying immaturity? The fact that they take drugs very disproportionately and are very disproportionately promiscuous (the men mainly) are 2 signals of above-average immaturity. Do other signals point different ways?

          • I think that it is wider than just “liberals” and “LGBT” being immature (or not as the case may be!). When people have been hurt badly in the past (and as it happens the people I have in mind are neither LGBT nor liberal) they seem to both misunderstand things that are said and to overreact to them. Sometimes they get upset about something that hasn’t actually been said or implied at all (but, sadly, the upset is only too real). We probably all get upset about things that are misunderstandings, but past hurt does seem to have a way of multiplying things.

        • ‘You’ll note that I went out of my way not to make the bishops concerned identifiable’:

          (1) No-one would be thinking of 2 bishops at all had you yourself not raised the issue;

          (2) Peter Ould’s comment on marriage;

          (3) Ian’s comment on innuendos (when you said ‘don’t assume one of them is not XYZ’).

          This post is about truthfulness. I have listed 3 separate ways in which your comment which I quoted above is less than truthful.

    • Hi Ray,

      The sentiment is appreciated, but Psalm 46 refers to the judicial intervention by which God vindicated Moses’ leadership of His people and destroyed the arrogant sons of Korah.

      I’m sure that you don’t mean that we should quietly await divine vindication as Moses did, since John and James were rebuked for desiring to invoke judgment upon the Samaritans.

      Yet, even in this era of divine forbearance and forgiveness, there is the assurance of sudden destruction upon those who do not ‘exercise…to have a conscience void of offence towards God and man’.

      We will persist in warning such that their very impenitence is a portent of that judgment.

      ‘Be still’ and ‘be silent’ are not one and the same (Gal. 2:5)

  10. Not really following this debate too much and not point scoring but would it be worth when people stand up and make statements in synod that it is backed up with evidence. That goes for everyone as nothing is addressed with statement but fact. My previous vicar gave some advice about pastoral issues. If it is private it is tackled privately ( unless others are involved then them also) if it is within a church and church people are aware. it is tackled as a church.if it becomes public the comment and tackling it can also be public! There was an issue in the area where we lived which became public and he was asked for his comments by the media which he gave as the church needs to be seen to correcting the wrong doing? Just my musings 🙂

  11. ‘Emotional intelligence’ looks to me to be a problematic phrase (the fact that it is widely used obviously does not change that) and for four reasons:

    (1) It splices together the emotional with the rational. Is it possible to do that coherently?

    (2) Who is to say which things are and are not emotionally intelligent?

    (3) If it overlaps a lot with empathy, then beware if people tend to use it to complain that others are not understanding where *they* are coming from, empathising with *them*. In other words, it is in danger of being a self-centred perspective.

    (4) The current age is already confused about the distinction between feeling and thinking. Regularly people say ‘What are your feelings about this?’ when what they actually mean is ‘What do you think about this? What is your rational analysis?’. This error shows a tendency to move away from the idea that there is such a thing as objective thought at all – it is all private feelings – which perspective is demonstrated to be wrong by the fact that if we follow this course the researcher or professor is quite wrongly put on a level with the purely-emotional adolescent, and relativism reigns. Talk of ’emotional intelligence’ does not drag us out of that mire, it pulls us further into it.

    • I think you’re right on the money with point (3). Emotional intelligence is an entirely subjective measure of how a person interacts with and responds to first; the emotions of themselves and second, the emotion of others. It is, as you say, an entirely self-centered perspective, and so while it might be fair for SB to say that Ian Paul is not emotionally intelligent (something that would seem to be untrue), it is meaningless to do so. It proves nothing and says nothing of worth.

      • Christopher and Matthew ‘Emotional intelligence is the capability of individuals to recognize their own, and other people’s emotions, to discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and to manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt environments or achieve one’s goal(s).’ Wikipedia. And that is my understanding of it too.

        • That sounds great to me. So long as the new emphasis on EI is not merely a symptom of our already over-emotion-led and insufficiently rational age. Correctives are needed, not further symptoms.

          • ‘If anyone loudly blesses their neighbour early in the morning it will be taken as a curse’

            Prov 27:14

            I think that’s a handy description of Emotional Intelligence

  12. No comments to make, just sending my love and prayers to all, on all sides of this painful debate. Thank you Ian for your candour and openness. Lord bring your peace and healing. x

  13. Ian. I am genuinely confused by this. You claim that the information you have received from Simon has been unsolicited, yet in your comment on your previous blog, you say (of your message) “After reflecting on this for a couple of days, I felt I needed to challenge Simon on his honesty in self presentation. As he notes above, he met his partner 15 years ago. But in fact he had managed the public disclosure of his situation very carefully over a period of several years.” So, you were asking for information. In this blog post you seem to contradict that by saying “To put this in a wider context, I also need to make clear that I have never once asked Simon any questions about his own life and relationships. When we had a conversation in July following his statement in EGGS, I specifically reminded him of that, and stated that it was none of my business to make any enquiries about his personal life, since that was the business of his ordinary (his bishop). The statements Simon had made both to me and in public have been entirely of his own choosing and without any prompting from me”. You then go on to say that you will find it difficult to work with Simon because he will not state to anyone that he is living “in accordance with church teaching”, yet you have just claimed that this is only the business of his ordinary.

    • No Penelope, I have not asked for any information.

      I did not ask how long Simon had known his partner; he provided that. I did not know it before Wednesday, and I have never asked that of him.

      I have not asked him whether he is living within the Church’s teaching. He himself volunteered that he would not confirm that. But now he has made this statement, he has put me and others in a difficult position.

      So I reiterate: I have never asked Simon for any of his details. But what he has chosen to reveal, and the order in which he has done that, has created problems and has clearly not been honest or transparent.

      • Ian, I am afraid I still do not understand. Are you saying that, because Simon will not state whether he is living in accordance with the Church’s teachings – and which you claim is only the business of his ordinary – that you are assuming he isn’t? And that this assumption makes it difficult for you to work alongside him?

        • Penelope, I think you’re not distinguishing between whose business it is to enquire, and who the information affects once in the public domain.

        • Penelope, I am struggling a bit to know why you are finding this difficult to make sense of. What Will says.

          I did not ask for the information to be put in the public domain, but because Simon has chosen to do so, it has put a number of us in a difficult position.

          • Thank you Ian. Am I wrong in saying that Simon has said publicly that he has known his partner for 15 years and refuses to say whether he is living within the current guidelines? If he refuses to answer this question, why should we infer that he is “not” living within the guidelines?

  14. Ian, I think you are not only owed the right to defend yourself publicly on this matter you have the duty to do so.

    If dishonesty is unchallenged as a way of conducting a debate or resolving a dispute it makes that debate a meaningless charade. When it descends into public false witness about another person who is present but is not able to respond it becomes utterly destructive – of the truth, of trust, of relationships, of people’s lives (and even that of whole families). For this reason I completely disagree with the idea that we must all be kept silent for the sake of ‘unity’; such a fake unity simply becomes another lie. People must be made to understand that they will not get away with false evidence (of whatever kind).

    And, more generally, I have to say the whole conduct of the sexuality debate within the Church of England has been dishonest from the start. That dishonesty has been orchestrated by a leadership which, whether by design or delusion, has sought to manipulate the people and the politics rather than address the truth. It has concentrated on process (a subtle process) rather than theology, on feelings rather than facts, on desires rather than obedience. It has decided the church must keep up with secular mores, no matter what the cost, and that its job is to limit the damage while overseeing the inevitable process. Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy.

    Disingenuous public ‘apologies’ have been made on behalf of the church, based on no evidence, as a way of signalling support for a group which is plainly at odds with the church’s doctrine. ‘Conversations’ have been carefully steered within constraints set from above. Mantras like ‘good disagreement’, ‘flourishing’, ‘inclusion’, have been bandied about as fundamentals around which the Christian gospel must be edited to fit. Spin has been used to place a narrative in people’s minds that the new progressive doctrines (21st century sexuality?) are the inevitable way forward for the CofE.

    It has not worked. It is a fundamentally flawed approach. The Church of England already has its doctrine; and it is timeless because its authority is the Bible which is where God’s mind and his ways of working are revealed. And the evidence of science and human behaviour cannot be at odds with this for they are the created work of that same God of the Bible. In that sense there is indeed nothing new under the sun. All our desire, the shouting and the anger and the manoeuvrings cannot alter this; nor can those carefully constructed mantras. Truth is what it is and it sets us free – free to see far beyond our transitory concerns, free from the attempts of others to construct a prison from which our minds cannot escape. Dishonesty will never serve but to make us ever more captive to its own destructive imperative.

  15. Thank you, David. Enjoying a family wedding reception, the finer points of hermeneutics are beyond me, I just pray that a period of listening might be in order and was a correct use of scripture.

  16. There are other issues of truth and falsehood – perhaps more important even than the one on this thread. Yesterday, on R4 “Sunday” there was an item recalling the sad suicide of 14 yr old Lizzie Lowe in 2014. The tone of the piece was to put the blame for this on orthodox Christianity. My experience of Shared Conversations in Scotland was that we were only allowed to share personal experiences – and those in confidence. We were not permitted to discuss research into these matters, nor was there any reference to those who, like Leanne Payne and Francis MacNutt, had experience of ministering healing to people similar to Lizzie. The lie is that the only cause to be considered in such tragedies is social or other stigma – in spite of the facts that research suggests that it is not at the top of the list of actual possible causes, and that reducing stigma does not appear to significantly improve stats for suicide, depression and other morbidities which people experiencing SSA continue to suffer from.

    • …”in spite of the facts that research suggests that it is not at the top of the list of actual possible causes…”
      Nigel, can you give any links to such research?
      in friendship, Blair

    • Yes, reducing stigma does not reduce depression, mental problems, suicide, drug use. If it did so,

      (a) these phenomena would be lower (or have dropped) among homosexuals in Amsterdam, San Francisco, New Zealand, etc.;

      (b) also, they would have been sky-high throughout the time when homosexuality was taboo. So we would have had a striking international cross-cultural and multi-era phenomenon that would have left a fair bit of record. But, because, homosexuality is so largely socially constructed and varies from country to country, era to era, we do not have that.

      • hello Christopher,

        …but you don’t cite any figures (and I’d be surprised if you didn’t have some…);
        …and as to “the time when homosexuality was taboo” – how would it have been possible to research something that cannot be spoken of, or not directly?

        in friendship, Blair

        • Cantab (it would be great to have a name…!) the article highlights that the loss of stigmatisation through legalisation changes the rate of attempted suicide amongst LGBT youth from 28.5% to 27.9%.

          Could we just ponder this tragic statistic for a while? So 0.6% points arise from stigmatisation…compare with 27.9% points which persist?

          Are we allowed to ask why LGBT identity carries with it such inherent mental health problems? Could there be any link to the way that sexuality is characterised as identity in contemporary narratives? And could we attend to the point that Peter Ould makes, that integration in a religious context (even a ‘non-affirming’ one) actually addresses this?

          • “Are we allowed to ask why LGBT identity carries with it such inherent mental health problems? ” Yes, if you show that they are inherent and why they are so, not just concomitant, otherwise your assertion should be treated like phrenology or other crackpot theory. And Christopher Shell’s assertion that rates of drug-abuse and STD infections are ‘not seen’ in the “vast swathes of history and land where homosexuality was seen as an abnormality” is laughable. Conservative Christian African nations have staggeringly high rates of HIV infections, Iran is in the grips of a catastrophic metamphetamine use epidemic, so are the most conservative parts of the US and the Russian federation.

        • I am glad if there is a reduction, though 0.6% is likely to be well within the margin of error, so it is not yet clear whether this is a finding or result at all.

  17. Several bits of research are cited by Phelan, Journal of Human Sexuality 1, pp.54-55 (ff.) – available in full online.

    As to the latter point, vast swathes of history and land where homosexuality was seen as an abnormality have not seen the phenomenon of widespread drug-abuse (for example) among homosexuals, but the period and geographical area of their acceptance has seen just that.

  18. Blair
    One of the papers I had in mind was “Homosexuality and Co-Morbidities: Research and Therapeutic Implications” by Neil E Whitehead. This was published in The Journal of Human Sexuality 2:124-175, 2010. I got a .pdf copy from
    The paper is a review paper and cites a fair number of studies.
    Thanks for your polite and very reasonable request.

    • Nigel I am pretty sure that this paper was referred to in the New Atlantic article I reviewed last summer.

      What was odd about it was that the NA article was criticised for not itself being peer-reviewed, but in fact all the articles it cited were themselves peer-reviewed.

    • The Journal of Human Sexuality is published by NARTH, who are a gay conversion therapy group associated with a variety of conservative groups. The authors cited on this thread are both board members of the journal. It looks academic, but it’s not.

      I would not trust any article from this journal, nor reviews of other studies published in this journal.

  19. Jonathan, you are making the no.1 ubiquitous error of assuming that papers cited by them are written by them. In most cases, they are not. You are saying that a secondary source (which in some cases may even have done zero research, merely collation of the research of others) is responsible for the findings of primary sources. Obviously it is not. When primary research is done, we all know that anyone at all can cite it. So the fact that it is NARTH authors (who are 3dimensional unique human beings who have a lot in their lives beside NARTH) that cite several pieces of primary research on this occasion is neither here nor there.

    Secondly, you are stating what NARTH is without giving scientific evidence on why their basic stance is not right. The mere mention of their stance is supposed to make us reject it, with not a single piece of evidence cited.
    The ideological dishonesty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists on whether homosexuality is inborn (on which they have had to back down big-time) has been documented in detail by Dermot O’Callaghan. Also documented in detail is the political nature of the APA 1973 vote on whether homosexuality is a pathology (an area where one has to be very careful with definitions). If unscholarly ideological tendencies like this did not exist in the very high places where there is least excuse for them to exist, there would be no need for NARTH to exist. Until honesty can be guaranteed, there is every reason for NARTH to exist.

    How would you respond to these 2 or 3 points?

    • Christopher, you are wrong. I do not assume that papers cited by NARTH executives are written by them. I am doubting their interpretation of such papers in a review setting, and the academic credibility of the journal that they founded. Basically, I suspect them of unscholarly ideological tendencies, to use your phrase.

      Dermot O’Callaghan’s academic background is in mechanical science. He is associated with Core Issues Trust, which in turn has close links to NARTH. Again, I doubt his credibility or expertise, or his interpretation of papers. You are asking me to trust the interpretation of someone with no recognised expertise in the area over the professional psychiatric bodies of multiple countries.

      Nigel, if you are referring to Savin-Williams & Ream (2007) it did not cover identity longitudinally.

      • Jonathan, the ‘argument from authority’ is a well-known philosophical fallacy, committed by fundamentalists of all kinds. It is not enough to cite a name or an assertion – there needs to be evidence. You base what you say on the ‘argument from lack of authority’, which falls prey to the same objections. It too is fundamentalist/dogmatic, since you expect us (as I said above) to reject everything (yes, everything without distinction or nuance) said by a given source or anyone connected with a given body, without providing evidence that the body in question says untrue things.

        The RCP backed down – why? You didn’t answer that point. Are you saying that they (or their spokesperson) knows more than Core Issues Trust on every single psychological issue under the sun? How sweeping is that? Is it not more likely that Core Issues Trust, being a single-issue campaign group, will have become highly specialised in their specialism-area, and able to worst RCP in argument in that particular area. The RCP thinks so even if you don’, which is why they made such a substantial and key alteration to their stance on whether being gay is inborn or not. Are you standing above the RCP in this matter and saying that they were wrong to back down as they did? If you are saying that, the on what authority?

        • You speak of ‘interpretation’, but in many cases all that is being cited is conclusions, and conclusions will regularly be straightforward enough not to need much interpretation.

          But the main point is that even if conclusions did need much interpretation, that interpretation would not make the conclusion point in the other direction!

  20. Thank you, Christopher for making the points above.
    In addition, I would add that NARTH or its current umbrella at, provides the option of therapy to those, who in fact, find that they want professional help in the area of SSA or its co-morbidities. They stand for patient autonomy as a matter of justice and the principle that the aims of councelling should be agreed in advance between councellee and councellor.
    If it were true that change in sexual attraction does not take place, then it would hardly be necessary to oppose customer initiated attempts to facilitate such change.
    As things really are, it has been known from longitudinal studies at least from the early 90’s that a majority of those identifying as gay or SSA in their teens end up OSA – the vast majority of them spontaneously ie without professional assistance. If there were significant evidence to the contrary, no doubt the RCoP (and the APA) would have dug it up and paraded it with fanfare and headlines.


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