What are the bishops saying and doing in response to the end of LLF?


Well, the time has come. The long-awaited (and much leaked) statement from the House of Bishops after the exhausting process of Living in Love and Faith has at least been made public. Before diving into the details, it is worth noting the questions that most people have as they read.

  1. Will there be any proposal to revise the Church’s doctrine of marriage?
  2. Will clergy be able to enter same-sex marriages?
  3. Will there be any change to the questions asked in vocational processes? In particular, will reference to Issues in Human Sexuality be ended?
  4. Will there be the possibility of formally blessing same-sex marriages?
  5. If any of the above change from past practice, will there be a clear, theological rationale offered?
  6. Will the different responses to any of the above cohere with each other?
  7. Will bishops in their dioceses act with integrity to the questions asked above?

The latter has become an important question in the light of the way that some have spoken publicly since the leak of what was going to be proposed—and this, along with the actual press statement issued to fill the speculative gap between Wednesday and today (Friday) have all served to muddy the water and invite people to make great proclamations before seeing the actual proposal from the House of Bishops.

So, what does it actually say? Before jumping to my summary (which you can scroll down to below), I simply highlight some comments in the report as they occur.


Introduction

In this letter bishops describe their shared commitment to welcoming, accepting and affirming every person in Christ, while acknowledging their continued disagreement about same-sex relationships. They express their shared desire to find a way of walking together in Christ.’ This statement completely merges the welcome we give to all people, with the affirmation of ethical decisions and moral issues. In this sense, it is completely obfuscating. The commitment to ‘walk together’ suggests that institutional unity is more important than the need to discern truth and error, something that the bishops actually commit to in their ordination vows.

and are united in expressing their grief and apologising for the way that many LGBTQI+ people have been treated by the Church, causing pain and harm…’ The question is, what is the apology for? One of the (few) gains in the LLF process has been a greater care in the language about, attitude to, and reception of gay people in the Church. But is following the teaching of Jesus, that marriage is between one man and one woman, an act of ‘exclusion’ for which we must apologise? There is a widespread view ‘out there’ that the answer is ‘yes’; so without a change in doctrine this apology will sound shallow and insincere.

Bishops joyfully affirm, and want to acknowledge in church, stable, committed relationships between two people – including same-sex relationships.’ How can this be done when the doctrine of the Church on marriage is that sexual intimacy outside of male-female marriage is sinful? What does this statement even mean?

The draft prayers…they will be commended to the Church under what is permitted by Canon B5, and will not contradict the Church’s doctrine of Holy Matrimony, as articulated in Canon B30.’ But even a brief glance at the prayers, and the introduction to them, show that this is manifestly not true. Calling black white does not make it so; claiming that the prayers are compatible with the doctrine of marriage like this is going to convince no-one.

It is envisaged that these resources can be used flexibly, thus anticipating not just the varied pastoral situations a parish priest may encounter, but also the different convictions clergy may have. Some clergy might choose to use all the resources to dedicate, give thanks for, and pray God’s blessing on two people in an exclusive committed relationship.’ What does ‘different convictions’ mean? Does it now mean that assent to the Church’s doctrine of marriage is now optional? How is that coherent? How does it not undermine ordination vows?

Bishops have also agreed that the conversations about these, and related matters, need to continue in a spirit of love and grace.’ So debate and dispute are to continue through more exhausting years? How on earth is this a good idea?


Pastoral Letter

We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.’ So the question here is, are Jesus’ hard sayings part of ‘God loving us’? Is his teaching on marriage as between one man and one woman, the current doctrine of the Church, not loving? More basically, is Jesus’ central call in his preaching, to ‘repent and believe’, loving? Once more, all the issues of welcome, kindness, and actually teaching are conflated and confused.

We have studied the Scriptures, paid attention to the Church’s tradition and listened to wider society, as well as to the voices of our sister churches in the Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners.’ The scriptures don’t appear to have played much part here; the majority of the Anglican Communion will reject this proposal and the Communion will fracture. So what does ‘listening’ actually mean here?

We have diverse convictions about sexuality and marriage.’ That can only be interpreted as meaning, some bishops believe in the doctrine of the Church on marriage, and others do not. How can that be a healthy position to be in? Has personal decision now triumphed over catholic theological obedience? How does that square with ordination vows to receive, uphold, teach and pass on the faith entire?

Repeated occurrences of ‘the radical new Christian inclusion’: this is an empty phrase, which remains completely unexplored. How can it be ‘radical and new’ if it is rooted in Scripture?

This resource will offer clergy a variety of flexible ways to affirm and celebrate same-sex couples in church, and will include prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing.’ The doctrine of the Church is that such sexual same-sex relationships are sinful, and any sexual relationship outside male-female marriage is to be met with a call to repentance. So how is this statement compatible with current doctrine? It is claimed that there is ‘Legal Advice’ on p22—but all that is offered is a bland statement, without any exploration whatever. These things are manifestly contradictory, even to the ordinary reader. And what about other forms of sexual relationship outside marriage? Can these too be ‘affirmed and celebrated’?

These Prayers of Love and Faith will not be the same as conducting a marriage in church. They will not alter the Church of England’s celebration of Holy Matrimony, which remains the lifelong union of one man and one woman, as set forth in its canons and authorised liturgies.’ Except that, using existing prayers, and praying over rings, looks exactly like conducting a marriage. So it does indeed alter the Church’s celebration.

We respect and share these differences, maintaining that within the theological diversity we represent.’ If some people believe the doctrine of the Church, and others don’t, this is not ‘diversity’, it is contradiction, incoherence, and disunity. 

The same can be said for the statement on the next page: ‘we interpret the Bible differently and have come to different conclusions about numerous matters, including what it has to say about gender, relationships and marriage.’ This is not, as claimed, a ‘compromise’; it is complete incoherence.


Prayers of Love and Faith

The positive aspects of marriage – stability, faithfulness and fruitfulness – mean that it is identified as a special, specific way of life which brings together the ‘goods’ needed for flourishing, or blessing. It does not mean that no other way of life can do so, but that this particular configuration of life is recognised as a source of blessing. The preface to the BCP takes this further by hinting at a sacramental quality in marriage.’

This comment is extraordinary in its incoherence. The doctrine of marriage in the BCP, the formularies, the wider consensus of the church catholic, rooted in the clear teaching of scripture precisely does mean that this is the only place for sexual intimacy. We know this, because the bishops have said precisely this in their previous teaching! Yet there is no hint in this document that there was in fact any previous teaching, let alone any engagement with it, or explanation of why it is no longer valid. Here is the statement from 2005 in the light of the introduction of civil partnerships:

The Church of England’s teaching is classically summarised in The Book of Common Prayer, where the marriage service lists the causes for which marriage was ordained, namely: ‘for the procreation of children, …for a remedy against sin [and]…. for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other.’ In the light of this understanding the Church of England teaches that “sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively” (Marriage: a teaching document of the House of Bishops, 1999). Sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings.

And here is confirmation of this from 2014, when same-sex marriages were made law:

21. The same approach as commended in the 2005 statement should therefore apply to couples who enter same-sex marriage, on the assumption that any prayer will be accompanied by pastoral discussion of the church’s teaching and their reasons for departing from it. Services of blessing should not be provided. Clergy should respond pastorally and sensitively in other ways.

The new statement airily brushes these aside without so much as a mention.

How far does the biblical metaphor of Christ and the church control our theology of marriage, and does the difference between Christ and church map out against sex difference between bride and groom? Would moving away from sexual differentiation as essential constitute a fundamental change, or would it be an extension of the present doctrine, to include a wider category of people? These are questions about which we have not yet reached a consensus.’ If that is the case, then I do not know what the bishops have been reading. Amongst biblical scholars and many other thinkers, there is a very clear consensus: marriage in scripture is between a man and a woman, and sex difference is essential to that. That is why liberal scholars who speak with integrity are happy to say that they simply reject scripture. I offer a longer list here, but one example will suffice here:

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good (Luke Timothy Johnson).

The statement is indeed clearly appealing to ‘another authority’; the difference is that it appears to lacks the ‘intellectual honesty’ to admit this.

Some may wish to use the service for dedication and thanksgiving, and others for dedication and blessing.’ Since blessing a sexual relationship that is not marriage between one man and one woman contradicts the doctrine of marriage, this appears to be saying that it is optional for clergy to uphold the doctrine of the Church. That completely undermines their ordination vows.

To ask for God’s blessing is to express an intention to walk with God and put God at the centre of what we do and how we relate. Our prayers ask for God’s blessing – they are prayers, not pronouncements. God will answer as God chooses.’ This is arrant nonsense, and fails to engage at all with the biblical and theological understanding of blessing. It is clear from scripture that we cannot bless that which God does not.

In Scripture, blessing is given to people rather than things, actions or ways of life. There are, two exceptions: the Sabbath is blessed and in the New Testament, bread is blessed before eating.’ This shows rather astonishing ignorance of biblical texts. Whatever you end up believing about Communion, there is simply no doubt that when Jesus ‘takes bread and blesses’, he is blessing (ie thanking) God, not the bread. You have to be completely ignorant of the historical context of the NT, Jewish practices, and Greek grammar not to realise this.

This distinction between Holy Matrimony and civil marriage now means that all couples who enter a civil marriage are obtaining a civil status (which has always been the case); but they are not necessarily entering a marriage as understood by the Church of England (i.e. Holy Matrimony).’ Again, this is obviously nonsense. If a couple enter a same-sex marriage, then they are entering a sexual relationship which is not marriage according to the Church, so it is (according to current doctrine) sinful. If this distinction really pertained, then we would treat all civilly married couples as cohabiting.

While not explicitly stated in the Church’s Canons, for many years the church has taught that the only rightful place for sexual activity is marriage. There is disagreement in the Church about how this applies in our culture today. The reality within which the Church now lives is that couples inhabit their relationships differently.’ Why does ‘people living differently’ imply that such arrangements are holy and to be commended? This is a bizarre claim.


Towards new pastoral resources 

In the meantime, bishops continue to be asked to respond to pastoral situations for which there is currently no clear guidance in the Church of England.’ The reason for this is that, in the ten or more years that we have been debating these issues, the House of Bishops has failed to engage with the most basic of questions, such as ‘If a married man legally transitions, is he still married? If so, is that because he is still a man, or because we have sanctioned same-sex marriage?’ If those most basic pastoral and theological issues have not been explored, no wonder we are at a loss.

Jesus calls us into relationship with him and into different kinds of relationships with each other.’ I just have no idea what this means. That all patterns of relationship are equally holy? That they are equally to be commended?

It will be vital for the widest range of voices to be heard‘ in replacing Issues in Human Sexuality. Why? And where is a single mention of either biblical theology or the obligations of clergy in the light of their ordination vows?

Agreement and affirmation of the necessary qualities for a relationship to be considered faithful and holy.’ Why is this up for discussion? Why isn’t it simply drawing on the Church’s doctrine of marriage, and the myriad of previous statements by the House of Bishops?

Principles for living well together as a Church with diversity and difference.’ Why is theological diversity here assumed to be a virtue? How does this square with the Church having any doctrine at all on anything?

How to help with navigating different views held within the Church on questions of sexuality especially in delivering relationships and sex education.’ So the Church of England no longer has a theological view which children need to hear of, learn about, and understand in order to protect them from the damaging forces in contemporary culture?


Areas for development

At the heart of Christianity is the incarnation.’ No: at the heart of Christianity is creation, human sin, salvation, Jesus’ death and resurrection, and eschatological hope. None of these feature anywhere in this document as far as I can see. Quite astonishing.

The tradition of honouring those who embrace this way of life [chastity and celibacy] in the church goes back to New Testament times, but it can look like a puzzle or even a scandal in a contemporary society where freedom for sexual expression is readily aligned with personal fulfilment, though we recognise the negative effects of some aspects of this tradition.’ This is a woefully inadequate comment on the centrality of chastity. From this you would never guess that our society has become highly sexualised, that this is a pastoral and theological problem, or that Jesus and Paul were single.

The area of attention we have identified here is about what wisdom the Church may have to share about living well in everyday faithful relationships, whether same-sex or opposite sex, married or not married.’ It is extraordinary that this approach appears to reduce the issue to a question of pragmatic situation ethics, rather than exploring a critique of actual patterns and forms of relationships. It is as if the writer has forgotten that Christians ever had anything to say about this.


Conclusion and Consequences

The list above is long enough, though there is more that could be said, and no doubt will be others. But this is enough to make some observations about what this represents.

First, those writing this statement (and so perhaps those agreeing it?) appear to have abandoned any need to offer something coherent. The different elements of the document are so manifestly contradictory that I found the piece astonishing. Is this where we have got to as a Church?

Secondly, there is simply no attempt to acknowledge, let alone engage with, developed, theologically rooted, statements from the past. Despite all the hours spent in the LLF discussions, it appears as though the bishops feel able to magic something new out of thin air, and give no account whatever as to why their thinking has changed.

Third, the engagement with scripture is just woeful. Simplistic, proof-text ideas are plucked out of context. The citation of Ruth and Naomi as a possible model for same-sex sexual relating is a low point amongst low points.

Fourth, there is no attempt to justify the notion of ‘diversity of views’ in relation to the idea that the Church might actually believe in something in the form of doctrine.

Fifthly, and related, it appears to assume that it is optional for clergy to uphold and teach the doctrine of the Church, and fashion their lives according to it. This seems entirely at odds with their ordination vows.

Sixthly, there seems to be no engagement with the wider church catholic, with the teachings of the early church on sexual ethics and why they were important, with the views of the majority of Christians in the world today, or the majority view of the Anglican Communion.

Finally, there is a complete lack of critique of our contemporary culture, the sexualisation of identity, and the damage that this is doing.

I realise that, having posed a coherent set of questions at the beginning, I have not offered a coherent reply. That is because this document offers none. I cannot see that it really offers any coherent answer to any of those important questions.


What will be the consequences of this statement?

It is difficult to know how different groups in the Church will respond to this. Justin Welby has said (at the press conference) that he himself will not use  these prayers, in light of his role in the Anglican Communion—but that will make no difference at all. This will be the last straw, and the complete break-up of the Communion, which began to happen at the Lambeth Conference in the summer, will surely follow swiftly.

There is likely to be a parallel break-up of the Church of England, though it is difficult to say what form that will take. Justin has used the same language of ‘diversity of views’ about the C of E as he used last summer about the Communion. The difference is that, in the Communion, there are already distinct canonical jurisdictions, so such diversity is, in theory, possible. But how can the C of E hang together if believing in the doctrine of the Church becomes optional? This document is quite literally an invitation for everyone to ‘do what is right in his (or her) own eyes.’

This will very quickly have implications for diocesan finances. Already under severe pressure, many will find the loss of contributions of even a few of the larger, orthodox churches will be a last straw.

And this in turn will have implications for numerical growth and engagement with young people. It is already the case that young people attending Church of England churches mostly attend those who uphold historic Christian teaching in this area, even if they are not yet consistently convinced of it. But as more and more people see the damage that gender identity ideology is doing, more will be looking for a radical alternative. The same is true outside the CofE. Those denominations (Methodists, URC) that have changed their doctrine have few young people; those that haven’t (Vineyard, FIEC, many Baptists, most black-led churches) are the ones young people attend.

Unless something drastic happens, it is hard to see anything other than a widespread collapse of diocesan and parish structures happening over the next five to ten years.

 


Some resources

Regular readers will know that I have hosted plenty of commentary on this issue, and all the articles can be found under the Sexuality tab. (It is worth noting, though, that 90% of what I publish is on other issues.)

Three other resources seem pertinent at the moment. The first is the statement written by Cardinal Ratzinger back in 1986, which included this prescient paragraph:

14. With this in mind, this Congregation wishes to ask the Bishops to be especially cautious of any programmes which may seek to pressure the Church to change her teaching, even while claiming not to do so. A careful examination of their public statements and the activities they promote reveals a studied ambiguity by which they attempt to mislead the pastors and the faithful. For example, they may present the teaching of the Magisterium, but only as if it were an optional source for the formation of one’s conscience. Its specific authority is not recognized. Some of these groups will use the word “Catholic” to describe either the organization or its intended members, yet they do not defend and promote the teaching of the Magisterium; indeed, they even openly attack it. While their members may claim a desire to conform their lives to the teaching of Jesus, in fact they abandon the teaching of his Church. This contradictory action should not have the support of the Bishops in any way.

The second is also a Catholic resource, and also from some years ago, though reflecting on the Jewish heritage of sexual ethics which the followers of Jesus continued:

To a world which divided human sexuality between penetrator and penetrated, Judaism said, “You are wrong — sexuality is to be divided between male and female.” To a world which saw women as baby producers unworthy of romantic and sexual attention, Judaism said “You are wrong — women must be the sole focus of men’s erotic love.” To a world which said that sensual feelings and physical beauty were life’s supreme goods, Judaism said, “You are wrong — ethics and holiness are the supreme goods.” A thousand years before Roman emperors kept naked boys, Jewish kings were commanded to write and keep a sefer torah, a book of the Torah…

The bedrock of this civilization, and of Jewish life, has been the centrality and purity of family life. But the family is not a natural unit so much as it is a value that must be cultivated and protected. The Greeks assaulted the family in the name of beauty and Eros. The Marxists assaulted the family in the name of progress. And today, gay liberation assaults it in the name of compassion and equality. I understand why gays would do this. Life has been miserable for many of them. What I have not understood was why Jews or Christians would join the assault. I do now. They do not know what is at stake. At stake is our civilization.

Finally, I found this vigorous defence of the historic teaching of the Church—still, it seems, the doctrine of the C of E in name at least—from my deanery colleague Dr Jamie Franklin, helpful and refreshing. I hope you will too.


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586 thoughts on “What are the bishops saying and doing in response to the end of LLF?”

  1. Ian, I am glad that you have recognised how far the Bishops have gone today. What I find interesting is you have not said what you are going to do? Based on reading your work for a long time now, but never commenting before, how can you with an integrity stay any longer in a Church that reads Scripture like this? You have not suggested that there will be any battle to try to overturn today’s decisions. The Bishops are clearly going ahead of it, come what may. Around 50% of synod will support it, even though for a significant number it is not far enough. The Archbishop of York today said he will bless same sex relationships, and that it does not believe that same sex sexual activity is sinful. So, what is your advice for godly believers? What are you going to do?

    Reply
    • ‘You have not suggested that there will be any battle to try to overturn today’s decisions.’ Oh, there will be a battle alright! In Synod, in the media, and probably even in the courts.

      There still has not been any change of doctrine; I think all these ideas will be tested against canon law, and I hope they will be found wanting, since I think a five-year-old with her eyes shut can see the lack of coherence.

      Reply
  2. Jamie Franklin spoke out boldly and intelligently – which is more than can be said for the uninformed broadcasters quizzing him.

    Reply
  3. I will comment more fully later on, but you please format the quoted elements of the Bishop’s Proposal into italics please, so that your commentary is more easily distinguished from it. It might just be me, and the fact that I am reading on a mobile device, but it lacks visual clarity.

    Mat

    Reply
  4. Aw, Ian. (Irony Alert) Stop beating about the bush, why don’t you!

    Well said. Well, more than well said: a succinct, cumulative, weighty traverse of the Bishops pleadings.

    Reply
  5. Fantastic news Vicars will be able to use their own convictions on prayers for same sex marriage. So we are nearly there on applying the same for full same sex marriage, as with each priest already being able to decide on their own conviction in terms of marrying divorcees or each Parish on having a woman priest or Bishop as now.

    Those evangelicals who refuse even that compromise are welcome to leave and become Baptists or Pentecostals. The Church of England can then reflect the fact homosexual marriage is the law in England as it rightly should as the established church and allow it in its churches, preserving its place as the established church. Of course the vast majority of under 50s in every poll back homosexual marriage in England and indeed most of the Western world.

    Don’t forget much of the Anglican Communion already allows homosexual marriages anyway, whether in the USA, Wales or Scotland for example. Jesus himself never forbade homosexual marriage but if some evangelicals find other parts of the Bible preclude that the Church would still allow them not to conduct homosexual marriage as per their conscience if they wish to stay

    Reply
    • Whatever your views or mine on marriage, I am disturbed that you seem to take establishment as the theological baseline for how the church should decide things there. It was an interestingly political start to the CofE. This may lead us towards to an interestingly politicised ending.

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    • It is wrong and factually incorrect to assume these issues are not live and divisive in Frontier or Pentecostal denominations. Their arguments may not be public but struggles over these issues do happen in them.

      Reply
      • I don’t think anyone denies that. But the fact is that it is the churches which have retained their commitment to the historic understanding of marriage which in the main are growing and attracting young people.

        Just look round Nottingham…

        Reply
        • But the CofE in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, even with a Conservative Evangelical bishop is in decline, according to the recent statistics for mission. Whereas Southwark, with a liberal bishop, is growing.

          Reply
          • Sorry, that is not true. In the last Statistics for mission which reported diocesan numbers, 2019, the two dioceses were in almost identical positions.

          • Cherrypicking a mostly rural diocese which is seeing decline in rural parishes (as the whole of the church is) and growth in Evangelical town parishes, with a city diocese with many large Evangelical parishes and virtually no proper rural parishes little bit of a lost cause.

          • That’s false. And you probably know that Anglican growth in Southwark diocese has been primarily in Dundonald Church, a very conservative Reform church which rejects women’s ministry.
            Church growth in Southwark has been primarily anong thr many African Pentecostal churvhes that have started in recent years.
            You need to cite some Anglican figures, Andrew,

          • And you probably know that Anglican growth in Southwark diocese has been primarily in Dundonald Church, a very conservative Reform church which rejects women’s ministry.

            Yes, the diocese is totally the wrong area to use here — how many members of the Church of England could even name their bishop, let alone identify their theological position? I’m guessing less than ten per cent? Whereas they will all know the position of the particular church they attend. That’s what matters.

          • I think the bishop in the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham set a target at the start of his translation here to grow the number of people worshipping regularly by 7.000. Ian will be able to confirm this.
            Most recent figures show it to be among the dioceses whose numbers are shrinking most rapidly. The bishop has an impeccable evangelical pedigree. Does Ian have an explanation?

          • Jeremy, yes, there is a clear explanation, and I think in two elements.

            First, largely elderly rural and liberal parishes are declining faster than the mostly urban and evangelical churches are growing. The other dynamic is that people coming new to faith are now attending non-Anglican evangelical churches.

            For example, Cornerstone Evangelical planted a a new church in Beeston five years ago. It now has a congregation of 200 and they have just bought the old town hall and converted into a 350-seater auditorium.

            There are numerous other examples of non-Anglican church growth in Nottingham.

          • I have to note that, having attended services at most of the churches in both dioceses (and in a majority of churches in Exeter diocese), almost the only churches which have: (i) sufficient critical mass; and (ii) a demographic profile representative of the age distribution of the wider population, are ‘evangelical’ churches (although not all of these are necessarily ‘conservative evangelical’). The evangelical churches in places like Nottingham or other university towns (e.g., St Leonard’s Exeter), or the HTB and Bishopsgate satellites, flatter to deceive the overall demographic health of the Church. The vast majority of the remainder are in demographic run-off, and if any are growing in urban areas it is often a function of immigration. Since reference has been made to Southwark, the flagship of ‘South Bank’ theology was St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, made famous in the 1960s by the late Nick Stacey, who filled the side aisles and galleries with offices used by social services of various kinds (Stacey later worked for Oxfam and for Kent social services). When I last went there to attend a service it was forlorn (it is invariably locked up to prevent vandalism), and with a tiny congregation on the one Sunday service available (the congregation is largely Afro-Caribbean). It was almost as though the Church of England was clinging on there in a desperate attempt to keep the flag flying. The Christ Faith Tabernacle in the disused cinema on the edge of St Mary’s churchyard has, by contrast, a huge congregation, also overwhelmingly of African and Afro-Caribbean heritage; its theology is very different. Christian witness is perhaps flourishing in Woolwich, but not in the Church of England. I mention all this because, to use the language of David Voas, my ‘anecdote’ after a nationwide pilgrimage of 15 years, might now amount to a form of ‘evidence’.

            What I find especially interesting about Dr Paul’s comprehensive and close analysis of the language of the bishops’ statement is the extent to which it has caused a visceral reaction on the part of a thoughtful and very well-informed mainstream evangelical, whereas I had assumed (perhaps lazily) that it was chiefly the ‘liberals’ who were especially offended. The comments BTL here and on Joshua Penduck’s earlier post this week, are also illuminating in this respect.

            It is hard to know where the Church of England can go from here, because the only things which seemed to be keeping the institution together were the rather rickety legal and financial structures, which were in large measure an emanation of the residual (and declining) authority of the bench. If that residual authority is now exploded, with scarcely anyone but the ‘payroll vote’ supporting the bishops’ authority, what next? Of course there have been many ‘crisis’ and ‘inflection’ points over the past 30 or so years, and somehow the show has lumbered on, but it has to be asked whether there is much or anything left.

    • Alternatively, the 1st century Christian communities were Spirit led to uphold the truth. Paul decided to mention the sinfulness of same-sex sexual relationships in his letters and Christians honoured that for 2000 years. Now the enemy has found a way to confuse and scatter the flock as we rightly recognise the human dignity of those who have adopted the new sexual orientation identities.

      The scattering is happening at a time when the CofE is facing a much deeper crises – and to stem the flow of declining congregations nobody is willing to say what might exclude anyone from fellowship (tested membership). Does anyone really think all the talk “exclusive committed relationships” will last? Every gay person I have met holds to a more generous and tolerant position than that.

      Or as Paul said to the Ephesian Elders (Acts 20: 28-30)
      Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

      Reply
  6. Although — as a supporter of sacramental marriage being open to same-sex couples — I disagree, that’s as clear and concise a defense of England’s current teaching as I’ve seen.

    That her bishops assumed they could breeze past it with platitudes in service to realpolitik says all we need to know about the state of the English bench. Alienating all equally does not a fair or enduring compromise make.

    Reply
    • Performing homosexual marriage will ultimately be left to each Vicar and Parish on a conscience basis.

      Evangelicals who won’t even accept that compromise can join a Pentecostal, Charismatic evangelical or Baptist Church instead

      Reply
    • Indeed, James B,

      A repeated summation from Ian is, incoherence, as he shows. Not a good look for leadership and intellectual and pastoral integrity in any field of human endeavour, organisation.
      Is marriage a sacrament in the protestant CoE, as I didn’t think it was, though I stand to be corrected, or is it another CoE theological admixture?

      Reply
      • Article XXV is clear that marriage is not a Sacrament of the Gospel. Anglicans of a Catholic disposition are, however, inclined to overlook this!

        Reply
  7. Ian, yesterday in a response to a point I made you commented that “Correspondence with an archbishop has confirmed to me that the language in the press release is mistaken.”
    Could I ask you to expand on this please?

    Firstly, having read briefly through the material today, I can’t quite see where the press release is mistaken. Is that still confirmed by your own reading of the material?

    Secondly, I’m left wondering why an Archbishop is effectively disowning what has been said to the Press by his own Church officers and colleague bishops. That seems to me to call into some serious question the integrity of the Archbishop who has written to you in that way. Having now read the material, do you agree with what the Archbishop has told you?

    Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Yes, I agree with you that the word ‘bless’ was correct.

      The archbishops confirmed to me that doctrine had not changed. It is quite difficult to know what he means by that when the prayers contradict it.

      I had thought that it was not possible for both the press release and the archbishop be contradictory, because I had never imagined that the bishops would produce such an incoherent, ignorant, and contradictory piece of work.

      Reply
      • Thank you so much for replying.
        I actually think the Press Release is a pretty accurate summary of what is being offered.

        And the whole offering is the kind of compromise that I have always said is going to be on offer. I can’t think what else they could have done, given the process we have been through over the last 5 years.

        Reply
        • What else could they have done? From an affirming POV, proposed a change in the canons so priests can choose to conduct same-sex marriages if their conscience allows it (allowing ministers to opt-out is itself a significant compromise). From a conservative POV, issued a defense of current teaching. If they didn’t have the necessary votes in synods, well, how about trying to change hearts and minds?

          This curate’s egg has just alienated people from across the theological spectrum. (It’s also staggeringly tone-deaf: the bishops have been told repeatedly how hurtful many gay and lesbian couples find it for their relationships to be referred to as “friendships” if the intent’s to deny the sexual expression of their love for one another, but the report deploys the squeamish euphemism yet again.) Being a focus for unity does not oblige the bishops to embrace the golden mean fallacy.

          Reply
          • James I don’t think either of the other two options you suggest would have been possible.

            Affirming the status quo was tried in 2017 but failed to get through GS and the Archbishop basically promised at that stage that there would be some change. That’s just one reason why I find it extremely disturbing that he seems to be saying one thing to Ian in private correspondence and quite another to the rest of the world in public. It is quite apparent that the make up of GS is quite different now and more conservative but I think the bishops are very aware that the makeup of GS is not at all representative of the church they ‘lead’. Plus the whole college of bishops would clearly not vote for or support such a move to preserve the status quo.

            Proposing a change to doctrine would not reach the required 2/3 majority in the House of Bishops so it was not something they could propose with any integrity.

            So a compromise or middle way of some sort was the only way forward. And it has been clear for the last 5 years that this compromise will need to allow greater pastoral accommodation, will need to ditch ‘Issues’ and will need to recognise that sex is something to be celebrated in the Church as it is in the world rather than denounced by bishops. And it will need to allow Conservative Evangelicals to opt out as a matter of conscience.

            Can you think of a different compromise or middle way?

            I agree with what you say about the squeamishness regarding sex and the silly use of the word friendship. But at least the report recognises that it is almost universal that couples are having sex before marriage.

          • (In reply to Andrew) Yes, the compromise I suggested above: submit legislation to change the canons to permit equal marriage, and try to persuade synod members to back it; coupled with robust conscience protection for ministers and congregations who dissent.

            Even if this were likely to fail (and likelihood isn’t a guarantee that its foredoomed), an internally consistent and honest proposal would have more integrity than the theologically incoherent realpolitik we got.

          • Thanks James. I am afraid that what you suggest isn’t any compromise or middle way. It’s a simple kicking the can down the road. Do you really want another 20 years of endless waffle and the ridiculous reality of ‘Issues in HS’?
            A key question has to be what kind of compromise would conservatives go for. So far I haven’t seen any indication that they will go for any.

          • Do you really want another 20 years of endless waffle

            But that’s what the bishops are aiming for: ‘The bishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “This is not the end of that journey”’

            So the bishops are aiming for the endless waffle to continue.

          • (In reply to Andrew) The bishops can unilaterally withdraw ‘Issues …’ regardless of other actions, just as they unilaterally elevated a “discussion document” to having more prominence than the Creeds and Articles (alongside flouting its own promise that no questions would be asked of priests and ordinands).

            Not proposing equal marriage in itself kicks the can down the road, while the changes that have been announced alienate all parties. This is no way forward.

            (Despite my disagreement with the bishops’ work, I would like to express, in all sincerity, my thanks to you for defending the proposals: it can’t be easy, and it’s immensely useful to discuss them with someone who supports them. 🙂 )

          • James thanks.
            I am not certain I do want to defend it all. What I am sure about is that there is no possibility that the doctrine of marriage will change under the current Archbishop. But he has a maximum of three years to retirement. It will very much depend on his successor whether your dream of bishops persuading people that the right thing to do is change it comes true.
            What these proposals do is open the door just a little. The apology will have to mean something for people to rebuild trust. Clergy and ordinands who are in same sex partnerships will have to feel sure that a bishop isn’t about to start asking ridiculous questions about intensely private matters. And those who use the proposed liturgies and thanksgiving and blessing will have to know that they can use them very creatively without fear of conservative evangelicals making complaints every time.
            I worked closely with several bishops as Chaplain, DDO, Director of Ministry, Residentiary Canon and so on. Being a bishop has become a thankless, horrid job. The pressures are enormous and the stress enough to drive you mad. I have witnessed – as I know you have because we’ve posted similar things before – people who have such integrity about these matters suddenly become absolutely scared of their own shadows once they have been made a bishop. It’s no way to treat good people, and I really don’t think it was that way 40 years ago. Bishops were much more free then to say it as it is.
            At least they have acknowledged in these proposals that sex is something life giving that people in opposite and same sex relationships take delight in.
            The door is open just a bit. Let’s welcome that and get some sunshine in this murky world that the CofE has become.

          • I worked closely with several bishops as Chaplain, DDO, Director of Ministry, Residentiary Canon and so on.

            All while denying the virgin birth and thinking that the miracle stories in the gospels were made up? Gosh, no wonder the Church of England is in such a state.

          • (In reply to Andrew) You wrote: “Affirming the status quo was tried in 2017 but failed to get through GS and the Archbishop basically promised at that stage that there would be some change.”

            The irony is that the draft proposals represent point (d) on page 19 of GS 2055, which Synod refused to ‘take note’:
            “Leave Canon B 30 as it is but issue a teaching document which
            explains that [civil marriage is no longer the same institution as
            holy matrimony] [civil marriage with a person of the same sex is a
            different institution from holy matrimony] and that a person who
            enters into such a civil marriage should not, merely by doing so,
            be considered as acting in a way contrary to the doctrine set out in
            Canon B 30.”

    • Why not a loose confederation of domestic, non-geographic provinces? (With some kinda timeshare deal on use of the cathedrals and other major assets.) Anglo-Catholics already proposed a third province when England voted to open the episcopate to women, so there’s precedent.

      Via the Porvoo Communion, the CoE’s already in full communion with churches that conduct marriages regardless of the couples’ sex, so altar and pulpit fellowship could be maintained, without attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable.

      Reply
          • And of course the mighty St. Paul’s Cathedral (which is, incidentally, hosting the Catholic Church for Vespers next week).

          • (In reply to Anton) SFAIK, no-one: Rome surrendered any title claims in the 1820s, and I’ve not seen any moves by the Catholic Church to revive the issue.

        • Would Rome even want the formidable cost of the medieval cathedrals’ upkeep? (If there’s recent moves to wrest France’s equally substantial cathedral portfolio back from the French state, I’ve missed ’em.)

          Since the Catholic Church was strong-armed into renouncing title in the 19th Century (in return for emancipation), there would be a strong argument for reserving some timeslots in England’s cathedrals for Catholic services.

          Reply
  8. Whose blessing is being offered? God’s blessing is on a faithful union between one man and one woman and being fruitful in their physical union known as Christian marriage.
    Where in Holy Scripture is there any reference to God blessing any other physical union? I find this charade offensive.

    Reply
    • Well bye then. Off you go to your local Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic Evangelical church and leave the Church of England to the 21st century as the established church to allow homosexual marriages in its churches in line with English law.

      Jesus of course never opposed homosexual marriages

      Reply
      • Jesus stipulated in Matthew that marriage is between one man and one woman and that adultery was the only acceptable reason for divorce. He was fully cognisant of the Jewish law on sexual sin.

        Reply
      • Jesus never expressed a view on marriage between two people of the same sex because that was not happening among the Jewish people amongst whom he was ministering. The Jews were particularly strong on this area, in contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world. So, when the Christian faith started to enter this latter culture, it was necessary for Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, to point out how same-sex activity was immoral.

        Reply
    • Tricia it is very clear that Priests offer a blessing in God’s name. It’s at the heart of the ordination service in the C of E. I know that Conservative Evangelicals don’t like that but it is right there in black and white.

      Reply
      • Andrew – by ‘priests offer a blessing in God’s name’ – are you referring to the spectacles testicles watch and chain job and sprinkling magic water? Genuinely curious about what form this blessing takes. As you know, I’m basically from the Fishermen’s Meeting Hall tradition – and we didn’t have that sort of thing.

        Reply
    • At least one bishop has written to his diocese and indicated that he hopes that what the bishops propose will be able to happen whether or not General Synod agrees. I think he is correct. But views differ as to how much will be able to happen.

      Reply
      • It cannot happen if it is illegal and a breach of canon law.

        Presumably though that would require someone to bring a suit against someone who uses these authorised-by-bishops-but-unauthorised-by-law prayers? Seeing as clearly those in favour aren’t going to ask a court for a declaratory judgement. Who would do that? Who would have standing?

        Reply
  9. This is a genuine question. Not designed to provoke.
    Why do evangelicals find the idea that people who are not married are sexually active so disturbing? Why is it not possible to allow others to make that choice for themselves?

    Reply
    • Why do evangelicals find the idea that people who are not married are sexually active so disturbing?

      Nobody finds it disturbing, do they? It’s just sinful; same as murder, theft, beating false witness, not honouring your father and mother, etc etc.

      Nobody’s ‘disturbed’ by it.

      What I do find disturbing is the idea that people can tolerate such logical incoherence as a denomination effectively trying to say that it believes two mutually incompatible things. I just don’t understand the kind of mind that can go along with such obvious illogicality, that it tries to claim that something can be both true and false at the same time.

      Reply
      • Ditto… “disturbing” was an odd word. I’m “disturbed” that Andrew seems to think it’s a matter of taste in some way.

        Minor concern… I’m not sure about “beating a false witness”.. though some of the Prophets might not hold back…

        Reply
        • I’m “disturbed” that Andrew seems to think it’s a matter of taste in some way.

          Perhaps Andrew Godsall is an ethical emotivist, like A.J. Ayer? It would make sense as some of his other views, like his admiration for Bultman, are stuck in the same mid-twentieth century era of logical positivism. But of course it’s completely incompatible with Christianity. Hence my question about what Andrew Godsall believes about sin, to try to gain a greater understanding (because we should always strive to understand those with whom we disagree).

          Reply
      • “If you’ve done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?” (Douglas Adams)

        Reply
    • After all that has been written and commented on over the years on the site: genuine question – do you really, really, not know, Andrew? What a heart aching, mind-numbing, desperately, saddening tragedy.

      Reply
    • This is a genuine question.

      So is this: do you believe in sin? If you do could you give some examples of things you think are sinful?

      Because you clearly don’t think that sex outside marriage is sinful, but I’m not sure whether this is because you believe in sin and just think that extramarital sex isn’t sinful, or because you don’t believe in the whole concept of sin, or whether you do believe in the concept of sin but have a totally different definition to the usual one.

      Hence the genuine question.

      Reply
      • The question is off topic and that’s simply not fair on Ian. But briefly, yes I believe in sin. Examples? Murder, abuse of others, stealing……

        Reply
        • The question is off topic

          No more than yours.

          But briefly, yes I believe in sin. Examples? Murder, abuse of others, stealing……

          Interesting. Great. So: what do you think makes something sinful? Contravening God’s commandments? Causing harm? Evidencing a wrong attitude? Or in other words if you’re not an emotivist would you describe yourself as more of a deontologist, a consequentialist or a virtue ethicist?

          Reply
          • What makes something sinful? Falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour.
            Let’s keep this on topic by reference to what the new documents say on the matter of sex *before* marriage.
            “While not explicitly stated in the Church’s Canons, for many years the church has taught that the only rightful place for sexual activity is marriage. There is disagreement in the Church about how this applies in our culture today. The reality within which the Church now lives is that couples inhabit their relationships differently. Many would say that when two people aspire to be faithful to one another and fruitful in their service of others and of God, these ‘goods’ of relationships are worth recognising and celebrating. The prayers offered here are an attempt to respond by celebrating what is good and asking God to fill these relationships so they can grow in holiness. Others may question such an approach and would wish to reinforce what they understand to be the Church’s teaching about sexual intimacy and marriage for all cultures and contexts.”

          • What makes something sinful? Falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour.

            Right. And surely sexual activity outside of marriage is falling short and falling in our love of God and our neighbour, isn’t it? So why do you not think it sinful?

          • Many would say that […] Others may question such an approach […]

            And they can’t both be right, can they? So the important question is, which group are right?

          • “why do you not think it sinful?”
            Scripture, Reason and experience show that when two people aspire to be faithful to one another and fruitful in their service of others and of God, these ‘goods’ of relationships are worth recognising and celebrating.

          • Scripture, Reason and experience show that when two people aspire to be faithful to one another and fruitful in their service of others and of God, these ‘goods’ of relationships are worth recognising and celebrating.

            But you said that you think sin is ‘falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour’.

            Sexual activity outside of marriage is falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour.

            So by your definition it is sinful. Yet you keep claiming it isn’t. Your position is incoherent.

          • “Sexual activity outside of marriage is falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour.”

            But that’s the point of this whole debate. Not everyone believes that it always is sinful. I don’t believe that it always is, so my position is not at all incoherent. Please read what I said – it doesn’t help when you can’t at least do that. Let me copy and paste it for you:

            Scripture, Reason and experience show that when two people aspire to be faithful to one another and fruitful in their service of others and of God, these ‘goods’ of relationships are worth recognising and celebrating.

          • But that’s the point of this whole debate. Not everyone believes that it always is sinful. I don’t believe that it always is, so my position is not at all incoherent.

            But you wrote that you consider something to be sinful if it involves ‘falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour’.

            A sexual relationship outside marriage does both.

            So if you claim that sex outside marriage is not sinful then you are contradicting yourself.

            Please read what I said – it doesn’t help when you can’t at least do that.

            I read it. It isn’t relevant. Of course God is capable of bringing good things out of sin — the greatest thing in the history of the world was brought out of heinous sin. But the fact that God can bring good out of them doesn’t stop things that are sinful being sinful, and therefore wrong.

            As Christians we are not consequentialists — we do not judge things based on whether or not good comes out of them. We judge them on — as you rightly said — whether they involve falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour.

            Which sex outside marriage does.

          • “But you wrote that you consider something to be sinful if it involves ‘falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour’.”

            Yes, I did. And that’s a clearly accepted definition of sin.

            I also wrote – and you’ve got to read these two bits together – that not everyone believes that sex before marriage is always sinful. I don’t believe that it always is, so my position is not at all incoherent.

            I can’t keep repeating this any further. You are now reverting to trolling once more. I accept that you think it’s always sinful. We disagree.

          • I also wrote – and you’ve got to read these two bits together – that not everyone believes that sex before marriage is always sinful. I don’t believe that it always is, so my position is not at all incoherent.

            It is incoherent to say that both that anything which involves ‘falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour’ is sinful, and then to also say that a particular thing which involves falling short and failing in our love of God and our neighbour is not sinful.

            If you can’t see the contradiction there I’m not sure I can help you.

          • Sex before marriage does not always fall short of loving God and loving our neighbour. If it did there would be a contradiction in what I say. But it doesn’t.
            If you can’t see that then I can’t help you.

          • Sex before marriage does not always fall short of loving God and loving our neighbour.

            It does though. It falls short of loving God because God has gifted us our bodies and it is not loving to dishonour such a gift by abusing it.

            And it falls short of loving our neighbour because sexual relationships outside of marriage are far, far, far more likely to fail than marriages are, with the concomitant massive emotional, psychological and spiritual damage — and multiply that by a thousand if there are children involved.

            This is regardless of what people ‘intend’. Even sexual relationships outside of marriage where those in them intend them to be permanent fail the vast majority of the time. So clearly entering into such a probably-doomed relationship, even with the best of intentions, is not loving. The truly loving thing would be to wait until marriage, which means the relationship has a much, much higher chance of not failing and doing untold damage.

            Your position is like saying that it is loving to play catch with a live band grenade, because sometimes — very very very rarely — it doesn’t go off.

          • Andrew,

            Loving God and loving neighbour is held to be the summary of the law, the Torah. It therefore follows that the provisions of the Torah in their particularity demonstrate what love for God and love for neighbour look like in practice. Perhaps we need to consider why the very strict provisions on sexual behaviour in this teaching do actually express this kind of love, and so how setting them aside is contrary to kind of love to which we are called.

          • Um yes David. That’s what the whole debate over the last 30 years in the CofE has been about. The last 5 years have seen a formal process for that debate and discussion. And now we have the bishops reflections and proposals following that debate. And, lo and behold, some bishops agree with you, and some agree with me.

    • Why also are evangelicals willing to stay in a Church which allows priests to remarry divorcees on a conscience basis, even if the divorce was not due to adultery of the other party which is clearly against Christ’s teaching? Yet they are not willing to allow homosexual Anglicans in lifelong unions to marry for the first time if a Vicar agrees and despite Christ never forbidding homosexual marriage?

      It is disgusting hypocrisy!!!!

      Reply
      • I have no problem with women priests but Paul arguably did, yet Parishes can decide whether they want a woman priest or Bishop too on a conscience basis.

        So why not homosexual marriage on a conscience basis? Homophobia?

        Reply
        • So why not homosexual marriage on a conscience basis?

          Ah, this one’s easy. Because changing the definition of marriage changes it for everybody. You can opt not to have a woman minister, but even if you don’t conduct same-sex marriages yourself you can’t refuse to recognise ones conducted by someone else. You (whether a minister or a member) will therefore be compelled to act against your conscience.

          Reply
      • Chances are the evangelicals will leave. But wait, who is going to pay the bishop’s stipend then? The churches that are left will struggle even more than they are struggling now.
        We are seeing this in the USA, Wales and Scotland already!

        Reply
        • The evidence of the USA is that Episcopalian congregations earn more on average per head than evangelicals congregations do and can give more in collections too per head

          Reply
          • The evidence of the USA is that Episcopalian congregations earn more on average per head than evangelicals congregations do and can give more in collections too per head

            Never mind if they can — do they?

    • As part of seeking to obey God, some of us have paid a heavy price of abstinence. It is disturbing now to be told that well actually, we needn’t have bothered.

      Reply
      • It should not grieve you. Church denominations are part of the same sinful world that is passing. Corruption in an ‘established’ church isn’t a new thing. Trust in the Lord.

        Reply
      • Though it’s not the first time. Look at all the leaders of ‘ex-gay’ Christian organisations who changed their views and now endorse such sexual relationships. Even Martin Hallett succumbed to such thinking.

        Reply
    • Genuine answer:
      We are not disturbed. Pagans do all kind of things consensually that never cause evangelicals loss of sleep – watching porn, getting drunk, committjng adultery etc – other than to pray for them. Which we don’t do enough.
      What disturbs us is being called on to approve of sinful conduct.
      We evangelicals think of this as grave apostasy and blasphemy.
      But I think you knew that already, Andrew.

      Reply
    • It isn’t disturbing. It’s normal. Like every other sinful desire.

      The Christian calling is to be a slave to righteousness. In the knowledge that this sinful world is passing. Christ is risen from the dead. Trust the Lord is the entire message of the Bible – old and new testament.

      In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6: 11-14

      Yes it is incredibly difficult for a gay/SSA to accept this. Every part of their being says “This is natural for me.” and “I have no other kind of attraction.” and “I only want to be in a loving relationship” and “It’s not all about sex.” and “Prohibiting this seems like cruelty/madness.”

      The Christian path is narrow. The Spirit will guide those who trust in the Lord. The battle is spiritual.

      Reply
    • Because they care about people’s souls and can see the bigger picture. You know that situation in life where you see the same mistake happening again because people were acting short term and not seeing the bigger picture.
      They want to prevent things happening that have already caused damage in others’ lives, sometimes including their own.
      The more mature and Christian you are, the more people you love and care for.
      When people have sex outside marriage, there is no good *overall* life pattern that can be associated with that. It causes the highest kind of problems for the possibility of future marriage, affected children and their stability, and everything else. But since the marriage culture is/was already in place bringing that stability why even have that discussion? The discussion is essentially ‘Hmm, would it be a good idea to go backwards and be regressive?’.

      Reply
  10. Bishops…. Attempting to be managers but at the cost of the prophetic?

    I am entirely confused (as I think they are) by their definition of a “blessing”… which seems to be contradicted within the document…

    Reply
  11. I have no problem with women priests but Paul arguably did, yet Parishes can decide whether they want a woman priest or Bishop too on a conscience basis.

    So why not homosexual marriage on a conscience basis? Homophobia?

    Reply
    • I didn’t think that Paul (St P I presume you mean ) said anything at all about “priests” in terms of church leaders. Presbyters … Deacons.. Yes. Priests… Nope.

      I get you’re annoyed…. that at least is clear…

      Reply
  12. First, a question: are there any openly dissenting bishops? I could ask what are the Archbishops doing going along with this total nonsense, rather than standing up for the church’s clear doctrine? But they are clearly more concerned with some notion of institutional unity than with truth and discipleship, as you rightly note.

    Second, a comment. The false premise of the Bishops’ statement is the same as all other denominations that have binned the Christian doctrine of marriage: that the overriding thing is faithful relationships. You ask in this post: “And what about other forms of sexual relationship outside marriage? Can these too be ‘affirmed and celebrated’?” That’s what the Methodist Church has done – it affirmed all sexual relationships between two people (as long as they intended to be “faithful” at the start) when it changed its doctrine of marriage a couple of years ago. Of course, once you start down this road things don’t stop there, whether or not you want them to. So last year, there was this in an official Methodist Conference report: “Both of these patterns of relating [polygamy and polyamory], which potentially involve long-term committed sexual relationships with more than one partner at the same time, merit further theological attention.” The Methodist Church is now merely an old people’s offshoot of secular society. When those old people are dead, so will the British Methodist Church be. Sadly, the Church of England will go the same way unless someone gives the leadership that the Bishops and Archbishops have so manifestly failed to give.

    Reply
  13. At least the Roman Catholic Church are consistent. They don’t allow a divorced Roman Catholic to remarry in their Churches, they don’t allow women priests and bishops and they don’t allow homosexual marriage.

    If you are going to say you will stick to a Biblical line stick to all of it!

    Reply
  14. It seems that all the efforts of the bishops have gone into obfuscating the language of scripture and the definitions which have always been necessary when talking coherently about marriage. What they’ve utterly failed to do is address scripture head on, accept the clarity of what it says, and draw rational conclusions from it about what God intended when he instituted marriage, particularly in respect of the boundaries he placed around it. The resultant incoherence, which Ian has devastatingly exposed, was always going to be inevitable if the intention was to unite the church around two fundamentally opposing points of view.

    The simple truth is that the whole exercise of LLF was conceived as a fog shrouded route for leading the Church of England to a predetermined end which must not be revealed to the travellers for fear of mutiny. If it were not so shameful it would be amusing to see how impossible the bishops have now discovered the task of revealing the destination with any degree of honesty. What was supposed to be a place for gracious living, where every good thing would abound, can no longer be disguised: “We are proud to offer you here a rubbish tip! Enjoy!”

    Reply
  15. Thank you for that Paul. What I would like to know was what the conclusion was on trans issues.
    This was squeezed in at the end of LLF at our church, almost as an afterthought, and we were actively dissuaded from discussing it.
    But, in my opinion, the issue of whether a transwoman is a woman is enormously important.

    Reply
    • It was probably best not to muddy the waters by discussing it in this context, since despite the illogical LGBT initialism and any of its various equally illogical extensions, which have been imposed on the public by continual, strident repetition, and which have appeared over 100 times in LLF, it is an entirely separate issue.

      I don’t really think that we need either the bishops or LLF to tell us the answer to your question. No, a transwoman is not a woman. And for the sake of completeness, a transman is not a man either.

      Reply
    • I don’t think it is a separate issue at all, and Deut 22:5 gives us some idea of how God views the matter. As with sodomy Lev 20:13, it is an abomination. The woman in the prophetic vision of Rev 17 is the apostate Christian civilisation that at the end of the age comes under judgement: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.

      Reply
      • It is indeed a separate issue. That two different things are forbidden in two different parts of the Pentateuch does not make them into the same issue.

        The passage in Deuteronomy which you cite says “A woman must not dress like a man, nor a man like a woman.” It does not discuss whether a “transwoman” is a woman, which is not a question of religious doctrine or precept, but of biological fact. The answer to that question is “No.”

        Reply
    • It isn’t possible to change sex. A transwoman is a type of man. Sex is a binary. Every single person who has ever existed (since Adam and Eve or the common ancestor of all mammals) had a male father and female mother and was born of a woman.

      We should recognise the human dignity of those who experience gender dysphoria.

      Reply
    • It is hard to answer questions based on such recent and tailor-made concepts.

      They are based on the premise that we have to accept the integrity and meaningfulness of the concepts. Which is just as dictatorial as the idea that we have to reject it.

      The latter is, in fact, a better position, since the concept had not arisen (and therefore not been felt to be needed to describe anything in the world that we experience) earlier.

      Sex is a straightforward concept, being verifiable and falsifiable. It is a matter of biology, chromosomes.

      Gender used to mean the same as sex anyway. It is only *imposed* usage that suggests it does not.

      But even if we accept this extremely new meaning of ‘gender’, it is still incoherent and illusory, being (a) so without substance as to be unsusceptible to diagnosis even by the brainiest doctor, (b) able to be lied about, unlike sex.

      And it is easily explicable by a particular point in western history when people have been pressing, against all the evidence, to obscure the ways in which a woman is not just like a man.

      Dictionaries should crisply provide words for the main actual phenomena experienced in the world. The fact that massively common phenomena like male, female, parent and marriage have not even been allowed a word of their own recently without it being hijacked by other phenomena (when some concepts have 60 words of their own) tells us all we need to know about the dishonesty.

      In any case the answer depends on definitions, and can therefore not receive a definitive answer. Cue endless unresolvable chatter.

      But one thing is for sure: the answer could be a clear No but could never be a clear Yes, or even anywhere near 50% of a clear yes, simply because of biology and chromosomes, and because of the fact that these 2 are unchanging whereas the other dimensions are potentially or actually subject to change and culture.

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  16. It is now clear that the incoherence to which Welby brought the Anglican Communion at Lambeth 2022 has been seen by the bishops as a way forward for the Church of English itself.

    There will, at last, be open warfare between evangelicals and liberals. That is a good thing. The evangelicals need to recognise two things: (1) liberals are vicious – they have only seemed wooly when it suited them or when they were advancing – and the battle will be intense from the off; (2) if the evangelicals keep faith then they will win, for they have Jesus Christ on their side. Liberals preach another gospel.

    I don’t believe that anybody will leave until the outcome of the battle becomes clearer. While that happens, Welby’s semi-congregationalist compromise will do. Is he the worst Cantuar ever?

    Reply
      • They can sticklers for theological correctness

        Theological correctness is a good thing.

        and devoid of love.

        Without theological correctness it is impossible to know what love is.

        Reply
        • I think you know what I mean. Empathy is a real thing.

          If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

          Reply
          • I think you know what I mean. Empathy is a real thing.

            If you’d said ‘devoid of empathy’ then I wouldn’t have had an issue with it. But love and empathy are different things. Empathy can lead one to do very un-loving things; someone who sees an addict going through withdrawal pains and empathises deeply might therefore be moved to give the addict some of their drug, to ease their pain. But that would be very unloving.

            So to repeat: Without theological correctness it is impossible to know what love is.

  17. Do the documents promise freedom at parish level or, ultimately, at diocesan? Can a liberal bishop instruct evangelicals among his clergy to bless civilly contracted gay marriages; and if they don’t, can he discipline them?

    Reply
      • Ask the bishops, I’m just using their language. Off the top of my head I’d say ‘affirm before God’ but I’m not going to put effort into defending that.

        Reply
        • Anton – thanks – however one puts it, for clergy to ‘bless’ in this sense (by which I mean ‘bless’ anything at all – not just restricted to the topic of this thread) doesn’t look like anything that has any Scriptural basis.

          Reply
          • Actually the one bit of the quoted text which did make sense is:

            ‘ Our prayers ask for God’s blessing – they are prayers, not pronouncements. God will answer as [He] chooses.’

            That is perfectly true. The Roman understanding — where there are magic spells that God has bound Himself to so that if a special person says the special words then God is compelled to respond — is obviously wrong and possibly heretical.

            But what’s insane is saying, ‘Here are these prayers; we have no idea whether God will respond. They might be in accordance with God’s will! They might be totally against God’s will! We have no idea! Why don’t you try paying them and see?’

            You shouldn’t pay for something unless you think that there’s as good chance that it is God’s will. You might be wrong — you might pray for someone to be healed and God refuses to heal them, which is why you should always be humble and pray, ‘if it is Your will…’

            But it’s ridiculous to pray for something that you know isn’t God’s will — that’s basically taking God’s name in vain, isn’t it? And yet that’s the situation the bishops seem to have found themselves in: on the one hand saying, ‘pray these prayers’ and on the other, ‘but remember that these prayers may be totally contrary to God’s will’.

            It’s totally logically incoherent.

          • I’m doing my best to keep myself to the definition of sin in these discussions and not get sidetracked into my reservations about ordination. I’m in a CoE congregation at present because to my mild surprise it’s the best congregation in my vicinity, not because I have loyalty to the Anglican system. (That was blown up 20 years ago and I’ve spent most of the intervening time in free congregations.) But I gladly recognise brothers in Christ in all denominations and congregations – and I recognise liberal wolves in most of these too.

  18. T1 – you *can*, of course, say that the C. of E. made itself into an absolute cesspit on the marriage issue when it married the fornicating prince and the divorcee (and the divorcee never once tried to suggest that her previous husband had been unfaithful or was engaged in reprehensible activities such as squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube or anything like that).

    Reply
  19. Thank you Ian for your thoughtful analysis. I recall hearing an anecdote a while back from someone blessed with being invited to attend some gathering for those who were discerned as having possible leadership potential within the church. He said something to the effect of ‘as I surveyed this talent pool it occurred to me the pool was not particularly deep…’ That comment sprang to mind as I read this latest offering and then Ian’s critique!

    I understand completely why the Bishops seek to assert there is no change in doctrine as the prospects of this passing the process of adoption would not be good. I cannot see, however, how one can maintain the position that there is no doctrinal change and would hope that is subject to scrutiny, along with the rest of this incoherent mess. However, they are to be congratulated in achieving a degree of unity; they have managed to unite the two opposing poles in expressing outrage at their proposals.

    Reply
  20. Since what is being proposed comes from the whole House of Bishops, it follows that any bishop who dissents from it must come out publicly between now and the General Synod next month and say so. Failure to do that will obviously amount to individual ownership of, and support for, the whole thing. We lay people really do have a right to know where our bishops stand, and to what extent they are united or divided, well before that date. Keeping a low profile behind the mass choreography, as at Lambeth 22, is not now an option for bishops here within the one Church of England

    Reply
      • I know Marcus personally, I’ve not watched his video though.

        He USED to be an evangelical. I guess you could just about call him a liberal evangelical in that he likes the Bible, he reads it, he tries to square it with the things he believes to be true (even if he knows deep down that some things are a stretch), he talks to non-believers about Jesus, he believes in sin and the possibility of forgiveness.

        But it’s like calling Justin Welby an Anglo-Catholic because he does Lectio, or a Charismatic because he’ll pray in tongues from time to time. It’s not really the primary identity in any real meaningful way.

        Reply
        • I met Marcus briefly last year, shortly after he became chaplain of Worcester college, Oxford. He gave a tour of the chapel to a group of Baptist ministers, of which I was a part, and explained his role there and some of the chapel’s history. He was polite, friendly and knowledgeable.

          An encounter like that is hardly the basis to make strong judgements about a persons’ convictions, but when I opined that Worcester’s chapel was a glorious tribute to the reformed theology of the CofE, what with the ceiling depicting man’s expulsion from the garden of Eden so that when worshipers look up they are reminded of their own fallenness, he frowned at me.

          Oh well. 😉

          Reply
        • While I sort of agreed with his comments in the video about this proposal being an attempt to redifine in some way the CofE, he immediately lost me by comparing it to Apartheid around the 2min 30 mark.

          Reply
        • While I sort of agreed with his comments in the video about this proposal being an attempt to redefine in some way the very heart of the CofE, he immediately lost me by comparing it to Apartheid around the 2min 30 mark.

          Reply
  21. I don’t see much evangelical theology going on here, like sola scriptura. Is he an evangelical like Jayne Ozanne is an Evangelical? i.e. not one.

    Reply
    • From what I remember he’d find it important that the Bible “supports” his liberal views on sexuality, or at least he can explain away the apparent contradiction.

      He basically holds all the arguments that Ian has debunked here time and time again.

      My guess is he’s not mentioning the arguments because he thinks it’s all clear, and people who are traditional on the subject are ignoring the scholarship on purpose… Imagine Ian Paul on ordination of Women if he’s wrong (as many Evangelicals do, and some doubt if he’s “really evangelical).

      I might be wrong but I’m 99% sure that if he was truly convinced, and totally honest with himself, that the Bible disallowed homosexual behaviour and could never condone or forgive it, that he would accept that rather than say “I won’t worship a homophobic God” (like Tutu said) or say “the Bible got it wrong on that, we know better now”.

      So because of that, I’d still classify him as a (liberal) Evangelical if he wanted the label.

      Reply
  22. How long? Just how long has this been going on? When did it all start, over the decades?
    Has anyone done a time and financial cost analysis?
    And all for this…to be continued.
    If leaders of any other organisation for profit or not, charitable or private or public limited corporation produced this Executive Project Report, they would have their organisation offices/ positions terminated.
    There is an expression in business : promoted beyond competence. Now this does not mean that appointments have not been made according to successful public and private organisational management CV’s, but I’m not sure how successfully that has translated to Christian protestant theology and it’s application. We have an answer of sorts.
    And we now know the mandated? direction of travel and bias in future ministry training and ordinands.

    Reply
    • The only answer to this mess created by the bishops is for evangelicals to publicly announce the following:
      1. They reject their confused bishops as apostate.
      2. They are going to recognise faithful bishops instead. If necessary, consecrate new ones.
      3. They are going to stop funding the diocese.

      Money and prestige are the only languages Welby’s bishops understand.

      Reply
      • Fine, just give evangelicals flying anti homosexual marriage Bishops like the Anglo Catholics have flying anti women priests Bishops and let the liberals have pro homosexual marriage Bishops.

        Problem solved

        Reply
    • Or, to put it another way: how could such an
      omicompetent collective produce such an omni –
      shambles?
      And how far does their strategic thinking take them, with reasonable foreseeability and contingent consequences.

      Reply
  23. This is just so incredibly disheartening.

    I know I referred to this in my comments on a previous post, but Helen Cameron’s ‘four voices’ approach to understanding theology highlights just how starkly confused the situation is, and it is worth greater elaboration. Every area is fundamentally disconnected from everything else, and this document categorically drives everything further apart, when the very intention was to try and bring them together again.

    In no particular order;

    You have a strong normative theology in the form of the ‘traditional’ understanding of marriage as expressed through liturgy and the canons of the church. This has been re-asserted in the proposal, though admittedly rather weakly, but as you point out in the article no attempt to reasonably engage with huge volume of tradition seems to have been made at all. Even the LLF material treats the great wealth of liturgy as a mere standby, neatly parked somewhere in the wings until the church makes up it’s mind about this issue, to be either reintroduced as if it was never absent, or (if the decision went the other way), discarded as if it were never there.

    Then you have a formal theology that seems strangely reluctant to assert itself, and which like the ‘tradition’ above appears to have been largely silent/silenced?, possibly because it is simply so weary of having to repeat itself so often. The loudest voices over the last decade have therefore been experiential and anecdotal (on both sides) and while these are valid and important contributions (many of which I have defended herein the comments) they are far from the hard work of biblical theology that the CofE is capable of. This is especially galling, because one of the great strengths of the CofE is it’s power in the academy and the resources it can draw on to think and reflect deeply. It doesn’t take decisions lightly. Obviously this is a contentious thing to say, and is to great degree subjective, I’ll acknowledge that, but it certainly seems that the large majority of academic work produced on the theology of marriage, both from within the CofE and the wider christian academy, only strengthens the traditional position. Not all of it, but most of it. Part of the reason not much has been published recently is because the academic discussion was settled decades ago… Yes, it is right and good that people have been free to challenge things, and offer new perspectives, but one could be deceived by much of the coverage of this process into thinking this were an equal struggle between two rival academic schools, when it is no such thing. Even if we are to accept that the bible has far fewer dogmatically critical things to say about SSM than would have been accepted 50 years ago (cough, Romans/Sodom, cough), it remains as much as the case today as it always did that scripture does not explicitly bless anything other that heterosexual marriage, and so the best arguments in favour of change are often made from silence.

    In the effective absence of formal/normative voices, you consequently have an espoused theology that then attempts to hold two mutually exclusive desires together. What does the CofE actually believe, if not things in it’s liturgy and formularies? How are these formed, if not through the deep thinking of colleges and councils? And how are these things held in tension, if not through reflection on the people and ideas that form your heritage?

    Unlike my own tradition, yours is one where the opinion of individual clergy are largely (or rather, should be) irrelevant: the job of clergy is to communicate and teach things passed down from above, with some flexibility, but strong safeguards. If they don’t do this, well, the commentator above is right; you might as well just be free churches. To cap it all off, you have a proposal for an operant theology that allows enough freedom for everyone to do what they want anyway, disregarding all of the above. If this passes at Synod, and to be frank I don’t think it will, the CofE will be a place where nothing matches and everything is permissible. One can say ‘God blesses this’, while another who made the same vows in the same cathedral under the same bishop can say ‘God hates this’, and we are meant to pretend that this is coherent?

    Attempts to reconcile all of this is a doomed endeavor. It is more like trying to make tesseract of a circle, than square it. Forgive the tortured idiom…

    As I say, disheartening.

    Reply
    • Mat Sheffield – there is something I can’t quite put my finger on. Before today, going on your comments, I’d have said, ‘I’m prepared to bet anybody a pint of Guinness that Mat Sheffield is a church man’. This suspicion had been growing for some time. Sure enough, in a comment further up the page in this thread, you mention that you had encountered somebody in your capacity as a Baptist minister. So I was (probably) right.

      If you’re a Baptist pastor, then the issue of overwhelming importance for you is the congregation you are serving, whether there is genuine Christian faith taking root in their lives. I hadn’t come across these categories ‘normative’, ‘formal’, ‘espoused’, ‘operant’ before – and there is a very good reason; they are unnecessary among Christians – i.e. those who are in the number of the Saviour’s family, who have fallen under the conviction of sin, come to trust in Christ, that His crucifixion was to deal with their sin, that by His resurrection they are assured of the victory in Him and that, as believers, they have the Spirit within them.

      I have come to see a full-time pastor who is paid as necessary – and I’d say it is a necessary evil. The pastor needs time to study the Word if the Sunday sermons, the midweek sermon and the Saturday evening prayer meeting, praying for the mission at home and abroad, are to be decent; the unfortunate aspect of this is that the church leaders then tend to be set apart / set themselves apart, have more in common with each other than with their own congregation.

      The four categories of theology that you mentioned here look to me very much like the product of someone trying to characterise churches and church life in general, rather than concentrating on their own congregation or fellowship that they are part of.

      Reply
      • “The four categories of theology that you mentioned here look to me very much like the product of someone trying to characterise churches and church life in general, rather than concentrating on their own congregation or fellowship that they are part of.”

        I think you are both right and wrong. The four voices are simply a framework for understanding how our theology is shaped, and by what, as an acknowledgement that we don’t do theology in a vacuum. Even for me (yes, a Baptist) there is a place for understanding how the theology I learn and teach in my role as a pastor is shaped by many things, including our inherited tradition, such as it is, and this is a helpful tool that enables me to do it. It is not my master, I do not serve it.

        The real purpose, and the point I was trying to make, is that reflection on how we hold these different things in balance, and which we chose to emphasise, helps us ensure that the views we hold are internally coherent: and as Ian’s article states, if the different voices cannot be reconciled, then this is good indicator that the position you hold is untenable.

        In the most simplistic terms, what the CofE seems to be saying and what it seems to be doing neither match, nor cohere to any historic or academic understanding of what it means to be Anglican. That is why so many people from across the spectrum seem to be so incensed by it.

        …the unfortunate aspect of this is that the church leaders then tend to be set apart / set themselves apart, have more in common with each other than with their own congregation.”

        This is a wise word of caution, and I welcome it. Thank you.

        Reply
    • Mat,
      I agree with much of what you say. Personally, I wish that Baptist churches had a more coherent theology like (notionally) the Cof E is supposed to have but the Bishops like to ignore. The Baptist Declaration of Principle is so theologically sparse to be virtually meaningless. This is starting to become more apparent with the move in the Baptist Union to accredit ministers in SSM of which I am sure you are aware. I confess there are times when I ask myself whether I want to remain a Baptist.

      If the CoE starts to function more like free churches, then I think this will be a bad move with everyone doing what they think is right in their own eyes.

      My feeling is that the way out of this impasse is for separate episcopal provinces within the CofE to be formed. The actions of the Cof E Bishops in all of this will only accelerate the disconnect of the AC from Canterbury. This issue is less about SSM and much more about the authority and interpretation of Scripture.

      So it may be that the fragmentation of the Communion may indirectly act as a catalyst for separate provincial structures being formed within CoE each having (or not), a theological coherence that can be readily understood and recognised.

      Disheartening indeed…

      Reply
      • “The Baptist Declaration of Principle is so theologically sparse to be virtually meaningless. This is starting to become more apparent with the move in the Baptist Union to accredit ministers in SSM of which I am sure you are aware. I confess there are times when I ask myself whether I want to remain a Baptist.”

        I agree, yet remain hopeful.

        “My feeling is that the way out of this impasse is for separate episcopal provinces within the CofE to be formed.”

        I agree again. It will less schism, and more fracture. I also suspect that rather than ‘forming’ new ones, the greater majority will join a pre-existing part of the communion.

        That said, I do believe we are still a short way from this. The release of this proposal seems to have galvanised a great many to fight; they are not beaten yet and I suspect these proposals will not get through Synod.

        Reply
  24. However I ‘wargame’ this with friends or on my own, it is hard to see a route to the future which doesn’t involve scenarios which escalate into anarchic and brutal fragmentation, unless the Church facilitates a proper and friendly divergence/split in the very near future. Certainly, if these LLF conclusions are intended to bring Peace for our Time, well.. maybe that phrase gives a hint as to how successful they will be. The phoney peace is over. And maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing.

    Sad times, but if ‘walking together’ is just shorthand for unacceptable compromise, or worse, a kind of doublethink, where we’re both ‘doctrinally unchanged’ and newly and radically inclusive at the same time, and with all the muddled thinking this duality is causing, it seems for both sides in this, it is a meaningless phrase.

    Perhaps it will serve to allow the Bishops to say, ‘we tried’. But I’d rather they tried to uphold coherent theology and take the consequences of that. Truth is, they’re just as split as the rest of the Church. I fear the best we can do now is to prepare for a friendly and equitable parting of the ways. Sad as that would be, the realistic alternatives (they’re not going to stand up for orthodoxy, let’s face it) all seem worse.

    Jamie is excellent btw, how have I not seen this guy before!? Well done him. May God continue to bless him as he upholds the Gospel with such passion and grace and success.

    Speaking of excellent media contributors, I know many of us will be praying for you Ian at this time.

    Reply
    • Jamie Fanklin can be found on ‘Irreverend: Faith and Current Affairs’ which presents weekly podcasts on YouTube and other platforms. He is regularly joined by one or both of Thomas Pelham (to be found commenting above) and Daniel French. They’re all C of E Revs. Irreverend is something of a breath of fresh air: the boys are never troubled by desire to fall in line with the latest secular (or C of E) nonsense!

      Reply
  25. Ian, it is time for evangelicals in General Synod to stand up and tell the Bishops that they are teaching erroneous doctrine (lex orandi lex credendi); that evangelicals no longer recognise them as leaders because of their apostasy; and that evangelicals will no longer fund the diocesan offices until sound teaching is returned.

    Reply
    • Well there you touch on a major reason why the C of E has arrived at this lamentable position: evangelical failure to unite, organise, and defend the Church of England against the revisionist activist group which now has overwhelming representation in the hierarchy. Some individuals have been heroic but there has been no single person (a John Stott type of figure?) who has been ready or capable of taking a leadership role in what might well have radically changed the course of what has happened. I’m not sniping at any individual; perhaps God has not seen fit to anoint anyone for the task; perhaps the end of the C of E is his will?

      We all know that the whole business of an established church is at best odd and at worst indefensible. But so long as it could be said to be ‘the best boat to fish from’, the oddness of it all could be put to one side: God moves in mysterious ways! Once it has clearly become a hindrance to truth and gospel witness to the nation, it then becomes indefensible. The frustration many of us must be feeling at our own evangelical failure may in fact be our limited understanding of what God knows the future holds. It’s pretty clear that the world order (and our way of life) is rapidly changing; maybe God knows that Christian life and witness will have to happen in different ways?

      Reply
  26. For all that has been said and done it is, and has been in Christian theology recognised which is irrefutably, biblically reductionist, irreducibly, binary :
    There are two ways; two voices..

    Reply
  27. The question I am left with as I read all of the comments here is: what kind of compromise would conservatives go for? So far I haven’t seen any indication that they will go for any.

    Reply
    • The question I am left with as I read all of the comments here is: what kind of compromise would conservatives go for? So far I haven’t seen any indication that they will go for any.

      What kind of possible compromise would progressives go for? Not this one — lots of them have already rejected it, and those who haven’t have explicitly said they don’t see it as a permanent compromise putting the issue to bed for good, but just a stepping-stone.

      So to turn your question around: what kind of a compromise would progressives go for? Because it’s not this one.

      Reply
      • I’m no “progressive” (change is often anything but progress), but I do support equal marriage: regarding compromise, separate provinces drawn along theological lines are, for me, an excellent suggestion.

        I have no interest whatsoever in attempting to impose my beliefs on others in the church, and I’m grieved to see the hurt expressed by evangelicals and others who reject this proposal. We’re miserable together, and we’ll never agree, so let us walk apart, while keeping such bonds of friendship as we can.

        Reply
        • James could you explain a bit more about how separate Provinces would work? Say the Vicar is an affirming but the PPC are split 50/50. What would happen then? and if a new Vicar arrived who wasn’t affirming? Would the individual churches just keep swapping Provinces?
          And how would the whole thing not become a postcode lottery?

          Reply
          • What currently happens when parishes are split over “alternative oversight,” the majority view prevails (unless and until it’s overturned down the line).

            It’s far from perfect — and is indeed currently a postcode lottery — but as shown at present, is workable, and must surely be better than the current impasse.

          • I think it only works because of the tiny numbers of parishes who want alternative oversight.
            Plus I think the overlap of having a parish that wanted alternative oversight for one thing but not the other, or who wanted it for both, would mean so much complexity that it would simply be unworkable. And in this case it would also have serious knock on effects for couples wanting their partnership blessed.
            I’m open to persuasion but I can’t for the life of me understand how the Province thing will work in practice. Maybe the Conservatives will come up with a proposal in time for Synod.

          • Maybe the Conservatives will come up with a proposal in time for Synod.

            Surely the onus is on those who want change to come up with a workable proposal, not the ones supporting the status quo?

    • Why would they? Any consensus that lasts nigh on 2000 years has long ago proven both its coherence and (therefore) its staying power.

      Reply
    • However, if you cite *evidence* that must cause a change, they (and all truth loving ppl) will change their position in a flash.

      Reply
    • I’m not sure that compromise, here and elsewhere, is biblically mandated.
      More than once in the comments the call has been made, to come out from among them. The CoE is at risk of being a libertarian, libertine even, religious sexual sect with its slippery slope theology and bishopric reasoning.
      How real is that risk? Platitudes are not persuasive.

      Reply
    • Does the Church compromise with the world in order to please the world? What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? What fellowship has light with darkness? What concord has Christ with Belial?

      Reply
      • The established church obviously has to comply with the secular law of the land. Which means homosexual marriage which is now legal in England.

        If you disagree (even when given an opt out and flying bishops for evangelical Parishes which disagree as Anglo Catholic Parishes have an opt out for women priests) then you must leave the established church, the Church of England and join a local Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic Evangelical or other anti homosexual marriage Church.

        Reply
        • The established church obviously has to comply with the secular law of the land.

          The Church of England is in full compliance with the law of the land. You seem to not understand the law so I suggest you read: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/306000/140423_M_SSC_Act_factsheet__web_version_.pdf

          Specifically the section:

          ‘Both the Church of England and the Church in Wales have made it clear that they currently do not wish to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies according to their rites. The Government respects this position and the Act contains specific measures to ensure that, as for other religious organisations, it is their decision whether to marry same sex couples according to their rites, and there is no compulsion on them to do so.’

          Reply
          • Already out of date given the Church in Wales now allows homosexual marriages in its churches. If Labour win the next general election Parliament will almost certainly change the law to require the Church of England as the established church to conduct homosexual marriages in its churches anyway

          • Already out of date given the Church in Wales now allows homosexual marriages in its churches.

            Not out of date at all — ‘under no compulsion’ means ‘doesn’t have to’, not ‘may not’.

            If Labour win the next general election Parliament will almost certainly change the law to require the Church of England as the established church to conduct homosexual marriages in its churches anyway

            And if that happens, then the Church of England will have to either change its marriage canons, or be out of compliance with the secular law.

            But unless and until that happens, the Church of England can continue to not conduct same-sex marriages and it will still be in total compliance with the secular law of the land. However much you rant and rave, the law is the law, and the law as if is right now says the Church of England is under absolutely no compulsion to conduct same-sex marriages.

          • Already out of date given the Church in Wales now allows homosexual marriages in its churches.

            Not out of date at all — ‘under no compulsion’ means ‘doesn’t have to’, not ‘may not’.

            If Labour win the next general election Parliament will almost certainly change the law to require the Church of England as the established church to conduct homosexual marriages in its churches anyway

            And if that happens, then the Church of England will have to either change its marriage canons, or be out of compliance with the secular law.

            But unless and until that happens, the Church of England can continue to not conduct same-sex marriages and it will still be in total compliance with the secular law of the land. However much you rant and rave, the law is the law, and the law as it is right now says the Church of England is under absolutely no compulsion to conduct same-sex marriages.

            So stop saying that the Church of England must change to comply with the secular law. That might become true in the future, if the law is changed. But it is not true today.

        • So to be clear: the secular law of the land was specifically and deliberately written so that the Church of England is under no compulsion to perform same-sex marriages.

          The Church of England therefore currently complies totally with the secular law of the land, and if the Church of England continues not to perform same-sex marriages then it will continue to be in compliance with the secular law of the land, because the secular law of the land deliberately and specifically does not compel the Church of England to perform same-sex marriages.

          Reply
    • Why should I want a compromise? I want a faithful orthodox Church on all matters, holding to the excellent 39 articles as the proper way to read scripture. I will fight for that but if I (we) fail I will leave and join a faithful church.

      I have literally no interest in walking together with unapologetic error.

      Reply
  28. ‘Diversity of views’?
    There will always be a diversity of views between those who have studied on the one hand and those who have not on the other.
    Secondly, between those who are culture bound on the one hand, and those who are objective on the other.
    Thirdly, between those whose so called views are just what they want, and those whose views are the result of their assessment of the data.

    Abp Welby is a diplomat at heart. That is the political model, not the truth loving model. Scholarship has no space for diplomacy whatsoever, nor have analyses of reality (wordviews).

    Reply
    • I would say Welby is an establishment figure at heart. He was born into it, brought up within it, and it has served him well. A major feature of establishments is that their necessary and overwhelming instinct for self preservation overrules conviction every time. And this is so ingrained in the individuals who inhabit that world that they may well be totally unaware of it: they will simply follow the establishment wherever it leads. While it’s not an excuse for poor judgement, it may explain the inability of people like Justin Welby to apply their own personal judgement in the way that is available to the rest of us.

      Reply
  29. Scripture does not explicitly bless anything other that heterosexual marriage, and so the best arguments in favour of change are often made from silence.
    Scripture explicitly rejects all forms of sexual coupling outside the marriage relationship of man and woman. The NT word for such coupling outside marriage is porneia, Eng. fornication (‘sexual immorality’ is too vague), referring to copulation with either a porne, prostitute, or pornos, the male equivalent including (LSJ) a catamite or sodomite. The condemnation of fornication in the NT is ubiquitous.

    Reply
    • With respect that’s a bit of a circular argument – you’re saying that gay people are banned from relationships because gay relationships are covered by porneia, but it’s a catchall term. Youd have to first view SSRs as wrong or inferior to include them in it.

      Reply
          • You seem to have misunderstood.

            SSRs are included in the prohibitions in Leviticus.
            ‘Porneia’ refers to the prohibitions in Leviticus.
            Therefore ‘porneia’ includes SSRs.

          • That’s just wishful thinking. Peter is absolutely right about the circular argument here. To use the single reference in Matthew to porneia as evidence of that stretches the word evidence beyond breaking point. Not least because Jesus did not speak in Greek – especially a technical term of that sort.

          • I thought the Acts 15 council reference was the more relevant one. The prohibitions here are definitely levitical. But it is odd that we are discussing whether SSRs are sexually immoral (how vague is that R) when biblically there is no question here.

            Year after year the advance of the argument and strong rebuttals are simply forgotten as the same questions get recycled as though no discussion had previously taken place.

          • But when the churches all read ‘and from porneia’ they were not felt to need any further elaboration, so they must have been known to understood what this meant.

            Together with the term being clear in 1st century Turkey to Greek speakers, we then have the fact that after thousands of hours of thought and discussion ‘sexual immorality’ (as understood by the Jerusalemites) is the preferred translation among those equipped to translate.

          • In Romans 1, there the context is unrighteous desires, which includes SSR.
            Excluded from the would be SSR that was devoid of desire. Here, I’m presuming SSM is sought to cement the desire, in furtherance of that settled desire.
            But here, which is of a piece with other scriptures same sex sexual relations, in *direct contrast and contradiction and God’s opposition* to the Bishops blessing it is God’s present continuous *judgment.*
            If you keep digging, it just gets clearer. God does not approve, bless any SS sexual relations. He exercises his judgment by giving the actors over to their unrighteous desires, idolatrous as they are.

          • PJ – you have misunderstood not least because your circular argument does not summarise what I wrote.

            Porneia refers to all copulation outside marriage (John 8:41, 1 Cor 7:2), including adultery (Heb 13:4) and sodomy (Jude 7). My simple point was that the NT condemns all forms of porneia, including sodomy, and therefore is not silent on the unacceptability of what the C of E’s leadership is trying to legitimise and even sanctify. This is not a debating point. Those who practise such things or condone others doing them will not inherit the kingdom of God. If we are born again, we strive for holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

          • Andrew ‘That’s just wishful thinking.’ No, as one of the other comments notes here, it is an objective observation from both the use of the term in the NT, and the evidence of first century Judaism.

            It is odd that you find it so easy to dismiss actual evidence when it doesn’t suit your case…!

          • As I say, it stretches the word evidence beyond breaking point!
            I find it really odd that you cling to scraps like this when it’s clear that Matthew is putting a word in Jesus’ mouth.

          • I find it really odd that you cling to scraps like this when it’s clear that Matthew is putting a word in Jesus’ mouth.

            I find it really odd that you quote sayings of Jesus that you like as if you can be sure that Jesus actually said them, but when it’s something you don’t like, you claim that the gospel writer is putting words in Jesus’ mouth. Can you explain how you know for sure which words Jesus actually spoke and which you think were invented by the gospel writers?

            Because it seems to me that if you think that the gospel writers were in the habit of putting words into Jesus’ mouth then you have to assume any word they record Jesus as having spoken as suspect. But you clearly don’t regard all Jesus’ recorded sayings as suspect — so how please do you tell?

          • S your interest in these matters is good. You have an inquisitive mind and that is a great start. I suggest that you spend several years studying for a degree or two in the subjects of theology, biblical studies, divinity etc and then read a variety of commentaries and scholars to understand the various principles of biblical criticism. It’s enjoyable, time well spent and endlessly fascinating.
            Toodle oo…..it’s been a long day and now it’s bedtime.

          • Don’t you know S, Andrew G is a walking talking modern day disciple of the Jesus Seminar.
            And as Christopher points out this is being raised as if it somethin new, that has not been wrung dry. There is no substance to his points, and when he asks a genuine question, it is as if all the others aren’t. To me it is gamer playing waste of time from someone who see no authority in it, as scripture as it is an unreliable human construct. And even if Jesus did say it, so what, it has not relevant application today is the, his. revisionist argument.
            He’s lost the biblical argument and is displaying some desparation, it seems to me.
            I have far more respect for trust for James Byron

          • Steven – ok same sex marriage is sex outside of marriage therefore porneia condemns same sex marriage and says it isnt real marriage therefore same sex marriage is sex outside of marriage

            Ian – personally I think it is a massive overreach to say Leviticus condemns same sex relationships, but probably that’s why there is such a gulf in scriptural understanding between true evangelicals and others. My understanding is that it tells the reader not to sleep with men (or shave their beards etc)

  30. Ian and all evangelical members of General Synod:
    You must directly tell the Bishops they are apostate in commending untrue doctrine via prayers.
    You must tell thrm you no longer recognise thrm as bishops until thry reject false teaching,
    You must tell them evangelicals will give no more money to the dioces while false teaching is permitted.

    Reply
    • James
      In general I agree. I am trying to persuade the CEEC to mobilise all evangelicals to challenge the CofE at all levels of the synodical set-up. But not just about sex/marriage, important though these are. The biggest failure of the CofE as a whole is the failure to believe, teach and preach the terrible warnings to flee from the wrath to come, as well as the wonderful promises nd invitations to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning deth and life-giving resurrection. Surely this is the moment of truth, long delayed, for all evangelicals.
      Phil Almond

      Reply
  31. Yes, apostates. They do not have the Spirit of Jesus, the Word of God, and do not hear the voice of Jesus when they read the Word of God. The church is led by a fifth column of deceivers.

    Jude 4. Certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this judgement, ungodly ones, who turn the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
    Jude 7. Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, after likewise indulging in fornication and pursuing other flesh, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
    I Cor 5:11. I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of fornication [or of ‘blessing’ it and teaching that it is acceptable in God’s sight]. [Such behaviour is equivalent to being] an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—[I tell you] not even to eat with such a one.
    Col 3:5. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness.

    Nailing the old man to the cross and putting to death the desires of the flesh is of the essence of Christian spirituality, and these false teachers are opposing God himself.
    Heb 6:4-6. It is impossible, once they have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

    Reply
  32. Given a decade to respond to same sex marriage becoming legal and equal to opposite sex marriage in England, the Bishops response seems to me to do nothing at all and spin it as compromise.

    They “apologise” but continue to use hurtful language that would cost them nothing to change. The most charitable interpretation is that they have not listened “well” or at all.

    They offer to allow priests to bless gay individuals in SSR, but not the relationship itself. That’s no change.

    Reply
  33. Just a tiny footnote, and perhaps not the main issue of the day, which suggests the document might have been more carefully written is to mention 1 Cor 10:16, not the blessing of bread which the bishops speak of but “the cup of blessing that we bless”.

    Reply
    • Yes that is true. But there is a careful discussion to be had about what Paul means here. Thiselton, for example, rejects the common historical reading of ‘discerning the body’ as relating to the elements. The body here is the people, the body of Christ.

      Reply
  34. As a traditionalist/conservative/orthodox/whatever on this subject I can nevertheless see how this is entirely intolerable and a slap in the face of the liberal wing, especially those who are gay.

    “We’re sorry, we’ve wronged you, we think same-sex relationships are so wonderful… but we’re not going to marry you. And as Archbishop I’m not even going to bless them, but I do think people should, honest.”

    That said, if I were still in England I think I’d be leaving. I’m even considering it now, I live in a different country where same-sex marriages are legal but the Anglican church here doesn’t bless them. I’m moving next year to a third jurisdiction where technically the Anglican church doesn’t perform same-sex marriages but many Bishops turn a blind eye to their clergy doing so, and the Presiding Archbishop has said that they have no problem with clergy blessing them. The diocese I’m moving to has a rare Bishop who is holding the line and disallows blessings, but many churches there are liberal on the issue and pushing for it.

    Unlike this threads resident troll’s suggestion a Baptist church is out of the question. I’m not getting re-baptised because they don’t like infant baptism anymore than I’m going to “say a prayer” with a street evangelist “just in case” I’m not really saved.

    I’d be put off the Pentecostals tbh for a number of reasons. Ditto Conservative Evangelical I’d be willing to try a Charismatic church (if more like the UK vineyard), seriously consider Rome (either the Ordinariate or a regular Roman Catholic church) and if the area I was moving to had a vibrant, non-ethnic/language Orthodox church or continuing Anglican churches I’d consider that.

    When it comes to it I feel most at home in Charismatic CofE churches. If I was still in the UK, I’d be loathed to leave but I wonder if there will be an exodus of people leaving, or if when push comes to shove my fellow Anglican charismatics will see it as an issue that they are willing to change their minds on? HTB seem to be going that way with Archie Coates and Soul Survivors are deathly quiet even though Bishop Steven Croft’s son co-leads their church and Mike Pilavachii is listed on Living Out’s supporters on one hand and worked closely with Dean Jeffrey John on the other.

    Reply
    • “Unlike this threads resident troll’s suggestion a Baptist church is out of the question. I’m not getting re-baptised because they don’t like infant baptism anymore than I’m going to “say a prayer” with a street evangelist “just in case” I’m not really saved.”

      I know this is a tangent, and you were responding to trolling, but in our defense it is not guaranteed that an English Baptist church today would demand you were rebaptised to admit you fully into membership. In fact, it’s quite unlikely. There may be Baptist churches out there which still require adult full immersion to be appointed to the deaconate, but I think even this is rare.

      Reply
      • I think this whole question was robustly discussed on-line a few years ago between Jonathan Leeman (USA?) and Andrew Wilson England.
        A local independent Evangelical Church admits both pedo and credo baptism and I think, though not sure, into eldership.

        Reply
      • it is not guaranteed that an English Baptist church today would demand you were rebaptised to admit you fully into membership

        Are they even Baptists then?

        Reply
        • I meant that the requirement for full-immersion baptism would not always be expected for someone who had lived confessionally as a christian for many years, and/or who may have been baptised as an infant. I was responding to ‘RD’ as an example of someone who had been in another tradition for many years; not someone coming to faith in a Baptist church for the first time for whom yes, it would almost certainly required.

          Though interesting, this is a tangent and I will leave it at that. The point was simply to correct a generalisation, not put us on a pedestal when plainly there is plenty to dispute. 😉

          Reply
          • I meant that the requirement for full-immersion baptism would not always be expected for someone who had lived confessionally as a christian for many years, and/or who may have been baptised as an infant

            No, I got that, it’s just that the defining factor of the (ana)baptist tradition is re-baptising those who were baptised as infants. That’s where the name comes from. So if they don’t do that, they shouldn’t really be called ‘baptists’, should they?

  35. Thank you for the second of your concluding links – v interesting and thought provoking – not a perspective I had come across before

    Reply
      • Kyle Harper says the same thing in more detail, I believe. I’ve not read the book, but I seem to recall that you have referred to it in the past.

        Harper, K., 2013. From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA.

        Reply
      • It hit me like a ton of bricks when I read it some years ago. I’d not call it a “Catholic resource” – the author Dennis Prager has a Wikipedia page which makes clear that he is not a Catholic nor was it written for Catholics. But they had the good sense to reprint it, showing better sense than Welby.

        Reply
  36. What is the opinion about couples of the same sex who share their lives but do not have sexual relations ? Not because they have any reason why not other than they believe it is not following Christian teaching ?

    Reply
  37. Sad, but perhaps not surprising. Look at the picture at the top of the page with the bishops in their ecclesiastical garments. It is difficult to imagine that many men who dress like that are actually straight.

    Also, of great importance, when they dress like that, this is their way of setting themselves apart; they are not ‘one of us’, when the ‘us’ means the congregation that they are standing in front of. No doubt, some of them would expect the congregation to stand up when they come prancing in with some sort of a procession at the beginning of the church service – which (of course) further sets them apart.

    Something comes across (at least to me) as fundamentally wrong here.

    Reply
  38. Doesn’t to me, the Church of England is a Catholic and Apostolic church just with the King at the Head of it not the Pope. It is evangelical churches like the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Baptists who don’t do Bishops, not the Anglicans

    Reply
    • It is evangelical churches like the Presbyterian Church of Scotland

      I’m never quite sure what ‘evangelical’ means but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t apply to the Church of Scotland! What do you think it means?

      and the Baptists who don’t do Bishops, not the Anglicans

      And do you think the Anglicans are right to have bishops? What would be your theological argument for why having bishops is appropriate?

      Reply
      • I would say it does, Presbyterians are historically focused on scripture rather than ceremony and hierarchy. The Free Church of Scotland certainly is still evangelical.

        Reply
        • I would say it does, Presbyterians are historically focused on scripture rather than ceremony and hierarchy

          Well if that’s how you define ‘evangelical’, I suppose.

          But isn’t being focused on ceremony and hierarchy a bad thing?

          Reply
          • If you are evangelical maybe, I am not evangelical

            As I say I don’t really know what ‘evangelical’ means.

            But doesn’t being focused on ceremony and hierarchy mean you prioritise form over content? Aesthetics over truth?

          • It means you take the Bible as a general guide and focus on Holy Communion.

            Whereas in evangelical churches the focus is on the Bible as literal truth on every page and sermon and preaching the word the focus, in church and on the streets, with only occasional Communion

          • It means you take the Bible as a general guide and focus on Holy Communion.

            What does ‘take the Bible as a general guide’ mean?

            If you focus on Holy Communion where do you get your theology from and how do you know you’ve got it right?

      • Of course the Church of England is right to have bishops, it believes in Apostolic succession after all like the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran Scandinavian churches.

        If the Church of England did not have bishops it would not be Anglican and nor would it be a Catholic and Apostolic Church

        Reply
        • Of course the Church of England is right to have bishops, it believes in Apostolic succession after all like the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran Scandinavian churches.

          But is it right to believe it Apostolic succession? Is Apostolic succession a real thing or is it mystical nonsense like trans substantiation?

          Reply
          • Absolutely it is a real thing. I am not Roman Catholic but what I do share with them is a belief that our Christian ministry descends from the 12 Apostles. In terms of the Church of England that flows from the line of Roman Catholic Bishops that were in England before the Reformation through to the Church of England bishops up to today

          • I am not Roman Catholic but what I do share with them is a belief that our Christian ministry descends from the 12 Apostles.

            So you really honestly think something magickal happens when someone has hands placed on them by someone who had hands placed on them by someone who had hands placed on them by etc etc etc who had hands placed on them by one of the twelve apostles?

        • T1 – well, having bishops is bad enough, but if you force your bishops to wear Marlene Dietrich outfits, then the applicants for the job are going to have a certain profile – and you shouldn’t be surprised if they start advocating SSM.

          When you mention Lutheran Scandinavian churches – well, I once went to a church service at Uppsala Cathedral – Domssöndagen 2001 – where the sermon was basically 10 minutes of vacuous horse manure, but (for them) that wasn’t such an important part of the service so it didn’t matter. The ceremonial aspect of their service was very important to them and the thing that struck me was that they really knew how to camp it up.

          Reply
          • I have a great affection for the Lutheran Scandinavian churches, which are in my view the Christian denomination closest to the Anglican Churches

          • T1 – I do have sympathy for your position, seeing how things have developed in the C. of E. in broad day light.

            I do not consider the Scandinavian Lutheran churches to be remotely Christian. They almost explicitly state a theology along the lines of ‘oh life can be awfully hard; we are the innocent victims of the rampant vicissitudes that life throws at us, but if you come to Jesus, he will give you rest from the burden of these rampant vicissitudes of which we are innocent victims.’

            Svenskakyrkan tries very hard to make their churches into the sort of space that gives good holy vibes – as if they’re hoping that ‘inner peace’ is something that can be got at by sitting still, meditating and soaking in these holy vibes.

            What is (of course) completely missing from their theology is the idea that is central to Christian theology, which is that the burden that I am under is the burden of *my own sin*, which puts me at enmity with God and, when my eyes are opened to my own sinful nature, also puts me at enmity with myself. This is the burden that Jesus gives us rest from when we come to Him, confess our sins and trust in Him. All of this was entirely absent from anything I saw in the Svenskakyrkan during my 12 years in Sweden.

          • Yes like the Church of England and western Anglican communions and unlike evangelical churches the Scandinavian churches are not focused on preaching against sin all the time. They are more in tune with the modern Western world, hence most of them allow homosexual marriage in their churches

          • They are more in tune with the modern Western world

            Doesn’t that mean they are less in tune with God?

            Surely the Church is supposed to be out of tune with the world? The first-century Church was very out-of-tune with the Roman world. Do you think it should have been more in tune with the Roman world in terms of sexual ethics, etc?

      • S – well, I left Scotland in 1988 – so anything I have to say about it isn’t current.

        I never considered the C. of S. to be Christian or `evangelical’, but to my amazement, the best ministry I saw during my time at Edinburgh University was a C. of S. ministry (Holyrood Abbey, minister James Philip). I considered this to be an ‘experimental error’ and thought he would be more at home elsewhere, but he thought he was in the right place.

        Holyrood Abbey (C. of S.) was my main church; from time to time I went along to hear Derek Prime at Charlotte Chapel (Baptist); also (from time to time) Buccleuch Free Church.

        If you look further up this thread, you’ll find that Anton, to his amazement, finds his current spiritual home in a C. of E..

        Just as I considered James Philip to be out of place in the C. of S., I’d probably say the same of Ian Paul in the C. of E.. He comes across as a good evangelical – and I do wonder what a nice boy like him is doing in the C. of E..

        So I’d say that C. of S. was emphatically not evangelical back then, but it did contain some glorious ‘experimental errors’.

        Reply
      • They are guided through Apostolic Succession, as well as being generally highly educated, virtually all Bishops have postgraduate degrees

        Reply
        • They are guided through Apostolic Succession,

          How does that work?

          as well as being generally highly educated, virtually all Bishops have postgraduate degrees

          Right, but what sources do they use? How do they know their theology is true?

          If you’re willing to trust the bishops to give you correct theology then you must have some good reasons to think that they are using the correct sources so they don’t end up teaching you wrong theology, right? So what sources do they use?

          Reply
          • They are guided by their study of theology at university and the guidance passed down through apostolic succession. As I belong to a Catholic and Apostolic Church by definition the Bishops are correct in their interpretation of theology. The Bible is merely a guide for us, unlike evangelicals we do not take every word of it literally

          • They are guided by their study of theology at university and the guidance passed down through apostolic succession.

            Okay but that still doesn’t say what sources they use. Because we know that, for instance, theology isn’t passed down through the apostolic succession; bishops don’t have ‘theology sessions’ with the bishops they lay hands on, do they?

            As I belong to a Catholic and Apostolic Church by definition the Bishops are correct in their interpretation of theology.

            Well no, correct theology is theology that accords with reality. Bishops can’t ‘by definition’ be right. That would be like saying that a maths professor is by definition correct in their interpretation of maths; but if they said that two plus two equals five, they would not be correct because that wouldn’t accord with reality.

          • Yes it is, the core Christian guidance IS passed down via apostolic succession.

            What the Bishops say is reality in a Catholic and Apostolic Church otherwise it wouldn’t be a Catholic and Apostolic Church but an evangelical church no different to a Baptist Church and no longer an Anglican one.

          • Yes it is, the core Christian guidance IS passed down via apostolic succession.

            Oh I’m sure the basics are, yes, but not everything — if nothing else there wouldn’t be time.

            What the Bishops say is reality in a Catholic and Apostolic Church

            No, that can’t be right: reality is reality. Reality isn’t defined by what bishops say, right? For instance, God isn’t a trinity because bishops say God is a trinity; God is a trinity because that’s the objective reality about God.

            If the bishops were to start teaching theology that didn’t accord with the reality of God — like the bishops were to start teaching that God is four persons, or two persons, or even just a single person, instead of three — then it wouldn’t become correct just because the bishops taught it, right? The bishops would be wrong.

            So again, how do you know that the theology the bishops are teaching you is correct? How do you know they’re not being like a maths professor teaching that two plus two is five?

          • Via Apostolic Succession, divinely passed down from the original Apostles to the Bishops today. Catholic and Apostolic Churches are not purely bible based evangelical ones, the bible is still a guide so they don’t contradictory it completely obviously but otherwise how the Bishops interpret the Bible is key

          • Via Apostolic Succession, divinely passed down from the original Apostles to the Bishops today.

            How does that work in practice? Are you suggesting that God somehow intervenes to ensure that bishops in the apostolic succession don’t teach any incorrect theology — same as the Roman doctrine that God intervenes to make sure that the Pope doesn’t teach any incorrect theology?

            So you have a sort of belief in, rather than Papal infallibility, ‘episcopal infallibility’? Is that what you’re saying?

            So your answer to my point about the fact that if the bishops started teaching that God was a single person and Jesus was a created being, would be that God simply wouldn’t allow them to teach that?

          • Dear T1: What is your basis for saying that apostolic succession guarantees correctness? Amnd how do you cope with the fact that bishops in the Roman Catholic church, the Orthodox Church, and the Church of England all claim to have apostolic succession yet they disagree over some major issues of theology?

          • Friends, this entire conversation in relation to the C of E is futile, since it does not believe in the apostolic succession as the guarantor of truth.

            Please read Canon A5.

          • If you deny the notion of Apostolic succession and that the Bishops are direct successors of the original Apostles you are effectively a heretic in Anglican as well as Roman Catholic terms

          • If you deny the notion of Apostolic succession and that the Bishops are direct successors of the original Apostles you are effectively a heretic in Anglican as well as Roman Catholic terms

            In which canon or in which of the thirty-nine articles does it say that?

            I do note though that Article XX says: ‘it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written’

            That hardly seems compatible with the idea that the Bible is just a ‘general guide’?

            So are you sure that all the things you’re claiming are Church of England doctrine, actually are Church of England doctrine, and you haven’t been misinformed? Because if this stuff about apostolic succession was actual Church of England doctrine it would be in the canons or in the thirty-nine articles, right?

  39. There is something really distasteful in seeing any straight man dedicate so much time and energy to opposing moves to treat gay people better. We should be clear that the Church has an appalling history of treating gay people horribly – that is the context here, and your line of “what on earth have we to apologise for?” is just inappropriate. The history of Christian homophobia is like that of Christian anti-Semitism, a cancer in Christian culture that has destroyed many lives. Playing up the significance of having greater numbers and money is just showing that Conservative Evangelicals often adopt very worldly, and sinful, attitudes to power and its exercise. The greatest numbers of Christians in the world are RC and Orthodox, but that doesn’t make Evangelicals ever want to join them on that account: and English-speaking Evangelicals tend to shun their European Lutheran fellow- (some would say real) Protestants, whose churches bless same-sex marriages precisely because they take the view that Protestants shouldn’t regard marriage as a sacrament anyway, which used to be the Evangelical view too, but that there are only two sacraments, baptism and holy communion. I was brought up in Con Evo churches, which had a totally inadequate account of what it meant to be a man, merely pumping out the line that when you grow up, you’ll find a good woman and marry her (and you will be the head of the household). Such churches had no tradition at all of valuing celibacy, as they are now claiming: indeed, one of the key points of Evangelical Victorian anti-Catholic polemic was that the clerical celibacy of the Catholic tradition was an unnatural demand. To be brought up in a non-accepting environment, where you learn eventually that being honest about yourself to any Conservative Evangelical will lead them to regard you as specially prone to some kind of sin that they are mercifully (and smugly) spared is deeply unhealthy for anyone, and it is no surprise that those churches put off very many people very strongly for life, not just the gay people they wound directly, but often the wider family members and friends of those gay people – I have met many like that, people who won’t go near a church now because their gay brother or son or cousin was made to feel awful by harsh Evangelicals. The result of my Conservative Evangelical upbringing, as a gay man who had to learn self-acceptance, is that I have never wanted to go anywhere near an Evangelical church since I was a teenager, as my experience of them is that they are not safe places for people like me. The wonder is that I hung onto my faith at all, but that only happened by finding a place in the more welcoming and much more pastorally sensitive Catholic tradition. I would like to see you cease to be a stumbling-block for others (which you clearly are at the moment, and which Jesus strongly condemned), and I hope you are blessed with gay grandchildren to learn to love equally and genuinely and non-judgementally wish the best for.

    Reply
    • ‘There is something really distasteful in seeing any straight man dedicate so much time and energy to opposing moves to treat gay people better.’

      I am giving my time to asking whether the bishops are being coherent and faithful in their approach. My desire is that we treat gay people as Jesus would have us. Is that acceptable?

      Reply
        • Ian:

          I am not going to reply to your comment, and I will tell you why. Previous experience on your blog has taught me that if a person with an even vaguely progressive viewpoint advances an argument, they are immediately pounced on by a posse of conservative evangelicals, all simultaneously firing multiple rounds of scripture from the hip. If the person is brave enough to attempt a reply, the posse is immediately back, firing away again. Sorry, but this does not feel to me like a safe place to have any sort of friendly and constructive dialogue.

          I dropped by because, as you know, David Runcorn and I are friends, and he mentioned this post on his Facebook page. So I read through all the comments, and I simply wanted to thank Ian for the honest expression of his own personal experience. I’m going to leave it at that. No doubt the posse will have things to say about my response, but I will not be replying.

          Reply
    • Ian, thank you so much for your full and brave comment here. I fear that you speak for so many in saying how appallingly gay men in particular have been treated by one wing of the CofE. That has to change and whilst the bishops are not going anywhere near far enough yet, they are at least opening the door a little.

      Reply
      • What counts as ‘appalling treatment’? If following the teaching of Jesus is ‘appalling’, then where does that leave us?

        On the RNS Zoom briefing, Helen Lamb spoke movingly of how her conservative evangelical church had learnt to relate to, welcome, and engage with gay people.

        St Helen’s Bishopsgate has for many years hosted an LGB group, led by Charlie Skrine.

        But until in your comments you distinguish between actual treatment and the issue of sex and marriage, then the conversation is futile.

        Reply
    • I agree with many of your sentiments, particularly in connection with the attitudes of Christians in some or many churches (though not forgetting they can be full of non-Christians too).

      But that has no baring on the appropriateness or not of gay sexual relationships. God either approves of them or He doesnt. Im gay and I still believe after many years that He doesnt.

      I find it interesting that youve found acceptance in a Catholic church, given the continued official Catholic view on gay relationships (sinful).

      I dont think Ian is a stumbling block to others finding faith. If he and others with a similar view were, then I would never have become a Christian. But I did, regardless of my sexual feelings. Recognising our own sinfulness in all its varieties is part of that process.

      Peter

      Reply
  40. Foley Beach has responded on behalf of GAFCON in terms almost as robust as IP’s:
    https://anglican.ink/2023/01/19/coe-rejects-the-authority-of-scripture-by-embracing-gay-blessings-says-gafcon/

    Excerpts:
    Once again, our Western Anglican Provinces continue to ‘go their own way’ on matters of faith and practice without consultation or concern for the majority of Anglicans around the Global Communion. Their actions not only deny holy practice, but reject the authority of Scripture, the teaching of the historic church, and the consensus of the Body of Christ from every tribe, tongue, people and nation alive today. …

    We continue to find ourselves disillusioned with the incredible audacity of major unilateral decisions (e.g. changing the nature of what it means to be ‘male and female’ in his image (Genesis 1:27) that run counter to ‘the faith once delivered’ (Jude 3). …

    God does not bless sin regardless of endorsement by church leaders, clergy, and bishops. …

    Most of our Provinces have their origins in the Church of England because of the sacrificial missionary ministry of faithful British followers of Jesus. What are the faithful in England and around the world to do now that the mother Church has departed from biblical faith and morality? We cannot follow the Church of England down this path which leads to spiritual and moral bankruptcy.

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    • The anglican.ink site includes statements from (to date) 13 dioceses (many more than 13 bishops) all warmly affirming sodomy. Not a single bishop dissenting, some regretting that the CofE has not gone the whole hog. Manchester is typical: ‘I would be delighted to serve as bishop in a church that fully celebrated the committed, exclusive and faithful love of two adults, regardless of whether they were of same or different sexes. I believe that view to be consonant with my reading of scripture, which has always sought to interpret individual texts in the light of the overall core themes the bible sets out.’

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