What are the options after Living in Love and Faith?

Andrew Goddard writes: What follows builds on the previous article’s account of where the Church of England is in its LLF process of discernment, the importance of the bishops providing a theological argument for the way forward, and the need to recognise that we begin with an existing, long-established teaching on what constitutes a chaste pattern of life in relation to the nature of marriage as the proper place for sexual relationship. 

It explores six options beginning with reaffirming current teaching (Option One). If that option is not followed then it needs to be recognised that embracing different teachings (Option Two) creates major problems and effectively collapses into one of the following options, whilst simply articulating the qualities of relationship that are needed for a chaste sexual relationship (Option Three) is insufficient as some institutional form needs to be provided. This form could either be marriage (Option Four) or a new structure that the church now commends (Option Five). Alternatively, the church may recognise and commend a form of non-marital relationship but continue to teach that it should be non-sexual (Option Six) whilst continuing to affirm current teaching on marriage.

Option One: Reaffirm Current Teaching

One option for the bishops would be to reaffirm received teaching as to how “sexual activity is rightly ordered, and serves the true flourishing of those involved” thus enabling “faithful witness in chastity and holiness” (LLF book p 253). This would be to reaffirm the rightness of their judgment in 2017 after the Pillling Report and Shared Conversations (in GS 2055) that there should be “no change to ecclesiastical law or to the Church of England’s existing doctrinal position on marriage and sexual relationships”. 

While this would clearly distress many, particularly after the LLF process (although that process has neither promised, nor been premised on, any particular outcome) it is important to recognise two points.

Firstly, the principled point is that the bishops are being asked, given their episcopal calling and gifting, to discern whether or not to change an existing doctrinal position of the church. They are not being asked simply to express their own personal convictions or to find the response which will cause least uproar on social media or within the life of the church. It would be perfectly legitimate for them to conclude that the LLF process has brought many positive changes to the church’s life but that the case to change church teaching remains unconvincing.

Secondly, pragmatically, the majority of General Synod members supported this conclusion of no change to teaching five years ago and this new Synod, particularly in the House of Clergy in which the “take note” motion was defeated, appears to be more conservative on these matters and so may well welcome such a decision. 

Were this to be the outcome it would clearly be necessary to explain why the arguments for a change in teaching set out in LLF were found to be unpersuasive and why their fundamental critiques—that current teaching is morally objectionable and unChristian as it is unjust and unloving, even abusive—were flawed. There would also probably need to be a fresh statement of the received teaching, building on elements in LLF, to show how it is indeed “inspired by scripture’s glorious and joyful vision of God’s intention for human life” (LLF learning outcomes) and to address contemporary questions, concerns and practical implications in both church and society. 

If the bishops were to propose a different direction of travel, some form of doctrinal development, what might this look like? We can, I think, assume they will not simply abandon any church teaching in relation to these areas and say that these matters (like other important life decisions such as how to vote, whether or not to be vaccinated, whether to be a carnivore, vegetarian or vegan) are to be left totally to individual Christians and their conscience to decide. If they did, all such conscientious decisions should then be accepted by fellow Christians and not subject to challenge and critique by the church’s teaching so as to prevent anyone feeling judged or excluded because of their choices.

There therefore remain, it seems, five additional serious options which are currently being proposed as new Church of England teaching. Were one or more these to be commended by the bishops it is vital that they “show their working” and in particular provide biblical and theological justification and consider the implications of such a change on Church of England, inter-Anglican, and ecumenical relationships. This in itself is a major challenge given the short timetable of producing something for February 2023 General Synod.

Option Two: Embrace Different Teachings

The bishops might decide, in the face of such serious disagreements, to recognise two or more different views. This would be to supplement the current teaching with alternative teaching(s) and is, in relation to the definition of marriage, what the Methodists and the Scottish Episcopal Church have recently done: marriage in the eyes of these churches could be either a union of a man and a woman or a union of two men or two women. Although sometimes claimed to be no more than allowing freedom of conscience to those who currently disagree with church teaching, there are, in fact, several serious problems with this. 

First, it abandons any claim to coherent church teaching and seeks to formalise and give institutional approval to mutually exclusive and contradictory beliefs concerning what is sin and what is holy, what forms of life are obedient to God and what are forms of disobedience. 

Second, there would still be the need to articulate which new understanding(s) were being added alongside the current teaching as part of the church’s doctrine and which were not. The options below therefore still need to be considered and decisions made and their basis for inclusion (being held by a certain threshold proportion of bishops?) explained and defended. 

Third, certainly subjectively from the perspective of those who hold received teaching to supplement received teaching, with some additional, alternative teaching is no different from abandoning that received teaching and replacing it with the additional, more expansive account of chaste and holy living. Objectively, there are major problems with embodying contradictory teachings in law, and once a new pattern is accepted and given a legal status, and perhaps liturgical form, it will be the case that whatever is added is now officially viewed by the CofE as chaste and holy rather than, as previously, a form of sin and a sign of our falling short of God’s purposes. 

Option Three: Focus on Qualities of Relationship

The church’s teaching might move to affirm certain qualities of relationship (e.g. permanent, faithful, stable) as necessary for the relationship to be chaste and holy and for questions of sexual expression within it to be of no concern to anyone other than those in the relationship. A major advantage for many is that this account of chaste and holy sexual relationships removes any distinctions based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity which are now regularly viewed as unjust and discriminatory. The Methodist Conference appears to have done something like this in affirming in 2021 that “All significant relationships should be built on the example of Christ, in whom we see the supreme example of self-giving love, commitment, fidelity, loyalty, honesty, mutual respect, equality and the desire for the mutual flourishing of the people involved” and that it “recognises that the love of God is present within the love of human beings who are drawn to each other, and who enter freely into some form of life-enhancing committed relationship with each other, whether that be through informal cohabitation or a more formal commitment entered into publicly”.

Here again, however, a number of key issues would need to be addressed. 

First, what qualities of relationship are necessary and why, biblically and theologically, is it these, rather than the received teaching, which should now determine the boundary that between a chaste and holy pattern of life and a form of sexual immorality? Why is the question of the form of such relationships being abandoned, when this has been an integral part of Christian teaching until now?

Second, there would need to be a way of determining, in any particular case, that the relationship had those qualities. All our relationships—sexual or not, marital or not—are marred by sin and fail in practice (sometimes in major ways, sometimes very publicly, more often privately) to be all that they should be or we hope they will be. As with marriage, this discernment will depend in large part on the explicit stated promises of those involved that they commit themselves to embody the necessary virtues and disciplines in their relationship. 

Third, as a result, while this may give people a vision for ordering their own lives, it is insufficient to enable the recognition by the church of particular relationships as bearing these qualities. This further step requires going beyond defining the qualities to giving such relationships an institutional and social form that can be recognised and celebrated as providing a structure for living a chaste and holy pattern of life. This leads us to the final three possible options which the bishops might consider and propose as alternatives to current teaching. 

Option Four: Extend Marriage to Same-Sex Couples

The bishops might recommend that the current teaching extends the doctrine of marriage so the estate of holy matrimony is opened up to welcome same-sex couples into it as a chaste and holy form of sexual union for them.

One question is whether the church would still maintain its stance that all non-marital sexual behaviour (whether same-sex or opposite-sex) remains a form of sexual immorality. 

A second question is once again the need to provide a biblical and theological rationale. This now needs to address how the received doctrine of marriage is affected by this development, in relation to such matters as:

  • marriage being a gift of God in creation,
  • the nature of humanity as male and female, 
  • the significance of procreation and its connection to marriage, and 
  • the nuptial male-female imagery that runs through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. 

As part of this, the bishops would need to explain the weaknesses in the long list of previous statements about marriage which were noted in the previous article.

A third concern is that while any changes to CofE teaching are likely to cause difficulties ecumenically and in relation to most of the Anglican Communion, these are even greater if they touch the doctrine of marriage as evident from the words of the Primates in 2016:

The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.

In keeping with the consistent position of previous Primates’ meetings such unilateral actions on a matter of doctrine without Catholic unity is considered by many of us as a departure from the mutual accountability and interdependence implied through being in relationship with each other in the Anglican Communion.

Option Five: Recognise a New Pattern of Sexual Relationship Alongside Marriage

The bishops might argue that the current teaching be expanded so as to recognise a new pattern of life alongside, and additional to, marriage which may be a sexual relationship and remain chaste and holy. This has been argued for in some detail by Robert Song in his Covenant and Calling where he calls this pattern one of “covenant partnerships”. Among the important challenges here are, first, the need to explain what this new pattern of life is, why it has not been recognised until now, and both why it is now viewed as acceptable and why it is not viewed simply as a form of marriage.

Second, whether this is simply a form of same-sex union or whether it could embrace non-marital opposite-sex cohabiting sexual unions (perhaps, as some have argued, evaluating them as a contemporary development of the tradition of betrothal). The latter is a pattern which is obviously statistically much more common in society (and perhaps in church congregations) than same-sex unions.

Third, whether (and, if so, how) the church provides a means for a relationship to take this new acceptable institutional form alongside marriage or whether it can and should simply assume it as present within the existing legal structure of civil partnerships and/or same-sex marriage. 

Option Six: Recognise a New Pattern of Non-Sexual Committed Relationship

The bishops might seek to square the circle by maintaining the traditional teaching but adding the commendation and recognition of a form of relationship which is both non-marital and non-sexual. This could be described as a form of covenantal partnership or covenant friendship. It is not a total novelty as it is currently the pattern of life expected of clergy in same-sex civil partnerships or non-formalised but committed and intimate same-sex relationships. 

Although this leaves the received teaching unchanged in relation to the nature of marriage and the various forms of chaste and holy patterns of life, it would represent a development of the tradition in giving special recognition to a pattern of committed relationship other than marriage. As such, several of the issues already raised arise in the same or similar forms including the biblical and historical precedents and theological justification for such a proposal. Here appeal might be made to examples such as David and Jonathan or the practice of the making of brothers (adelphopoiesis) in periods of church history. 

The rich theology of friendship, a project already begun in the recent FAOC document which is informing the bishops’ discernment process, could also be drawn upon. Teaching would also need to be developed and defended as to the structure of this form of relationship and consequent disciplines expected of those entering and living faithfully within it. For example:

  • Is it incompatible with the married life and so only open to those who are single? 
  • Is it permanent and lifelong in intention? 
  • Is it exclusive in structure or could it be entered by three or more friends together or by one person with a number of different people? 
  • Is it blind to the sex of those entering it? 
  • Should it be combined with an explicit vow of celibacy?  


Whichever of these paths—or any other—the bishops present to the Synod as the direction of travel they propose for the Church of England’s formal teaching it is vital that they:

  • offer a clear biblical and theological rationale for their choice (including why they have rejected other options);
  • acknowledge the implications for our relationships among ourselves, with fellow Anglicans, and ecumenically; and
  • allow the teaching rather than political expediency to shape the practical proposals they also make. 

You can read all three pieces together in this PDF document: LLF Discerning and Deciding Psephizo Articles

Revd Dr Andrew Goddard is Assistant Minister, St James the Less, Pimlico, Tutor in Christian Ethics, Westminster Theological Centre (WTC) and Tutor in Ethics at Ridley Hall, Cambridge.  He is a member of the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and was a member of the Co-Ordinating Group of LLF.

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160 thoughts on “What are the options after Living in Love and Faith?”

  1. Thank you for this excellent piece which highlights how fundamental these issues are for how we see ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our sex, our vows and covenants, our scriptures, our biblical story, or purpose and meaning. So much to pray for.

  2. Option 1: “Re-affirm current teaching.” Few Church leaders are suggesting that current church teaching may not remain ONE of the positions which church members hold and get to practise. But the suggestion that it will continue to be the only acceptable position, in a Church divided down the middle… is a TOTAL NON-STARTER.

    Option 2: “Recognise two or more different views.” CORRECT. It is unrealistic not to recognise this, as there are at least two different views already in the Church of England. Andrew writes: ‘whatever is added [would be] now officially viewed by the CofE as chaste and holy rather than, as previously, a form of sin and a sign of our falling short of God’s purposes.’ Again, CORRECT, but with accommodation for those who still hold to the old view. The division of views in the C of E is real and not going away. We are ALL Church, and we need to enshrine right of conscience, instead of dominating and imposing one conscience on the other half of the Church. That would be a fake uniformity. We need ‘Unity in Diversity’.

    Option 3: is effectively proposing ‘love without sex’ for gay and lesbian couples, or at least, ‘don’t ask what happens in bedrooms’ and that is furtive and demeaning to a gay couple. It inclines towards ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. Gay and lesbian people have nothing to be ashamed of, and the wonderful institute of marriage should be openly and publicly acclaimed. Abstinence from sex is an unnatural cruelty for couples who are sexually devoted. Even if marriage awaits a stage 2 within the C of E in the short term, the very least is that lesbian and gay civil marriages (which are completely legal in UK) should be blessed and affirmed by those church communities who recognise them as gift from God and gift to community.

    Option 4: explores the nature of marriage in a C of E that accommodated gay and lesbian marriage, and how amongst other things we could get past the old teaching that ‘marriage is a gift of God in creation’. That is ONE of the potential blessings of marriage, and would remain so for many, but it is not the only blessing of marriage. There are other deep reasons for marriage as a covenant, a devotion, a joy. The Church is divided on whether it should be ‘reserved’ for heterosexual people, and again… unity in diversity… the accommodation of two positions of conscience… can be justified theologically. Opinions can differ, without one group dominating the other. Toleration. Accommodation. The grace to co-exist, to love. The idea you can shunt gay sex into a siding of ‘sex outside marriage’ demeans, and that 4(1) option is a non-starter. It reeks of gay sexual relationships are ‘less’ than marriage. They are not, and the law makes that clear. They can be devoted in Marriage.

    Option 5: is basically what Option 4 was pointing to, and no, it’s a wholly insufficient proposal. Woah! Suddenly, to ‘protect’ Marriage for straight people only, the Church should affirm sex in Civil Partnerships? So the teaching on sex is provisional for conservatives, and ‘we’ll waive that if you give us heterosexual people marriage for us alone’? That’s dishonest. Option 5 is a NON-STARTER because you are either opposed to gay sex or you’re not. And if you (like half the C o E) are not, then the blessing of Marriage should be for gay and lesbian people, not just for straight people. Option 5 is a disingenuous attempt to salvage marriage by abandoning the condemnation of gay sex. It’s just unnecessary. Frankly it’s theological cowardice (I hope some of you conservative readers will agree). And it treats gay sexual devotion as second class, which half the C of E don’t believe.

    Option 6: is covenantal non-sexual friendship. For most sexually attracted and devoted couples of any orientation, this option is laughable. I’m inclines to say: ‘How dare you?’ When heterosexual partners are all asked to live covenantal non-sexual friendship, then maybe there’s be some (weird) grounds for requiring this of gay and lesbian people too. The whole heart of LLF is: what do we do when the Church has truly divided view on sex? To say to gay and lesbian people: ‘Well we affirm your friendships but never have sex’ is utterly unrealistic. It’s just Option 1 all over again, with ‘non-sexual friendship’ thrown in as a sop. Proposing this as a viable way forward suggests you are living in unreality.

    REALITY is that the ‘mind’ of the members of the Church of England remain deeply divided, with at least two positions of conscience and faith being held. Imposed uniformity on these matters is pastorally not going to work. Instead, as Justin insinuated at the Lambeth Conference, we need to recognise the REALITY of two different views both of which are theologically serious, and find ways to accommodate them both, rather than dominating conscience. Only Option 2 can achieve that.

    • There are quite a few assumptions here about the proportions of people inclined one way or another within the greater body of the CofE.

      Do we have any statistics backing up the claim that the split is somewhere around 50/50, down the middle, equal? My impression from the various surveys and things that get thrown around Twitter is that while the 50/50 claim may well be true for clergy (though this is, of course, contested) it is nothing like the case for the laity, who are overwhelmingly conservative-minded, to the tune of 80% or more..

      This is an otherwise excellent comment in response, predicting how any pronouncement might be received. I do not agree, but it needs to be said.

      • You are right Mat. If there was such a strong majority for change, then those appealing to the numbers wouldn’t need to fudge and dissemble as they do.

        Given there are around 20,000 licensed ministers in the C of E, the figure of 1,000 or so is very small. You would almost think that is was a small minority making a very loud noise…

    • Susannah, in yet another extremely long comment, you again simply assert your view as correct, telling anyone who disagrees with you that they are wrong, without for a moment engaging with the actual argument.

      Andrew very carefully sets out why option 2 is not a goer, and collapses into one of the other options—but you have already made your mind up that he is wrong! If you wish to continue commenting, please do so by listening carefully to other views and responding to them.

    • Option 2: “Recognise two or more different views.” CORRECT. It is unrealistic not to recognise this, as there are at least two different views already in the Church of England. […] That would be a fake uniformity.

      Surely the faker uniformity would be to pretend that people who believe completely opposing things can somehow still be ‘united’. What are they ‘united’ in, if they disagree with each other so fundamentally? They’re clearly not united in belief. They’re not united in faith. They’re not united in doctrine. They disagree with each other at an absolutely fundamental level about the entire nature of the universe, about God, about human nature, and about the Bible. What, exactly, would they be united in?

      To claim there is unity when actually there is none is duplicitous. It is deceitful. By calling for option 2 you are asking the Church of England to become founded on an institutional lie.

      But that’s not even the real problem. The fundamental problem with Option 2 is that it would see the Church of England abandoning entirely the idea that the Christian worldview is something objectively real, as opposed to just a collection of the subjective worldviews, opinions, and experiences of its members.

      Yes, there are at last two different views already in the Church of England. But as these views are incompatible, you must agree, mustn’t you, that all but at least one of those views is wrong? Is factually incorrect? Is untrue?

      And surely the whole point of a church is to seek the truth?

      So surely a church cannot abdicate its responsibility to seek the truth, to discover which of the opposing views is false and which is true— which is what option 2 would involve — and still remain worthy of being called a church.

      This takes us right down to the fundamental question of: what is Christianity? Is it a claim about the objective nature of reality; about the way things are? Or is it a mere construct of human beings trying to figure out their place in the universe over a period of centuries and pooling their subjective experiences? Adopting option 2 is explicitly saying that it is the latter. And if it is the latter, then it is worthless. It has no value.

      As the Professor said, ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.’ Option 2 is trying to make Christianity of moderate importance. It’s trying to say that it doesn’t matter whether what we believe is true or false, what matters is that we stick together. And you just can’t do that.

      You keep capitalising the the word ‘reality’. Well, the REALITY is that there are at least two groups and at most one of them is right, and (given that on the answer to this question rests the fate of the eternal soul of every single last one of us) figuring out, to the best of our ability, which one (if any) that is, is far more important than spurious ‘unity’.

  3. While I appreciate some of Susannah’s critiques, I am extremely grateful to Andrew for this lucid and helpful discussion. I do not see the way out.

    • I think you are right…and the two incompatible views have been created by a complete lack of teaching, example, and discipline by the bishops for the last 30 years. In this and the previous post, Andrew is asking for decent theological thinking to be done. This could have happened at any time over the last couple of decades, but instead we have wasted all this time, energy, and money on fruitless ‘conversations’.

          • What’s indecent theology?!

            She’s just trying to get a reaction, like a teenager shouting a rude word for attention. Don’t indulge her.

        • Do not be intimidated by bully posts on this thread.

          I have no idea what you mean by indecent theology and it’s not language I would use but you are perfectly entitled to express yourself in your own words

          • I have no idea what you mean by indecent theology

            She means this:

            “If we were to follow that dictum from the Reformation, that we know nothing about God except for what we know of Jesus, then we need to confront a Jesus/God whose theological identity has become a unique mess of being the One who fucked Mary and is yet her son at the same time (interesting if not very edifying material). That Jesus who had a preference for men disciples, beloved disciples and a Lazarus who was so close to him that the Gospel presents Jesus in his infantile denial of his death. So Jesus may be a faggot, or a transvestite, so little we know of him except what other people saw in him; sexual appearances are so deceiving. Or Jesus as a man who desired both men and women and met those men and women’s desires whoever they were.”

            As I say, a teenager shouting rude words for attention. Do not indulge.

  4. I agree Mat. l have noticed that Susannah makes sweeping assertions about the proportions of those in the CofE who are for/against SSM with little facts to back it up. Those that shout the loudest are not necessarily the majority.

    • Indeed, the inverse law of protests is that those who protest and claim to be the voice of the people… tend to (not always) lose subsequent elections. The loudest and most vocal view is very often the minority and that’s logical, because those who win by majority means don’t need to protest. Doesn’t make them right or wrong.

      Also, protest and organised opposition is a much better oiled machine on the liberal-left of politics than it is on the right, and there is a clear connection there with issues of sexuality of course, not a uniform or full correlation by any means, but a clear one still. That’s not to say it’s good or bad, but it helps us understand some of the tactics used due to the political tradition in which many theological liberal are based.

      I don’t mind people’s political traditions, whatever they are, and they will vary of course, but faith must come first. In the Church of England however, it can feel like entryism, as though a political and not a religious movement is trying to change the Church, esp as such little importance is placed on Scripture, tradition or reason, the Holy Spirit’s name invoked as a kind of badge to place on public opinion (‘the Spirit is speaking through society’). Now I don’t apply that to everyone on the liberal side by any means, but it certainly can appear like it’s a factor in play at times.

      As Ian says, if there was a solid majority for SSM etc, it would already be a done deal. So far, it feels more like claims based on wishful thinking, projecting something in the hope it makes people feel it’s true, and pressured to comply with it. That’s also a propaganda ploy, and it’s one as Christians we should not use.

      • it can feel like entryism

        […] As Ian says, if there was a solid majority for SSM etc, it would already be a done deal.

        Presumably one of the things that makes it so hard to gauge opinion within the Church of England, and that makes it so vulnerable to entryism, is that unlike other denominations it has very unclear boundaries; there’s no real sense of who is ‘in’ or ‘out’.

        Perhaps it is time for the Church of England to reassert some kind of entry requirement? Some kind of demonstration of genuine commitment before someone is allowed to have a say over governance, or doctrine?

        After all following Jesus Christ is not supposed to be cheap. It’s not supposed to be something you can dip into or out of when it suits you. The Church — like God Himself — isn’t supposed to be there for you when just you need it, and something you can ignore the rest of the time. Being a brother of Christ is supposed to cost dearly — to cost everything you have, in fact, and everything you are.

        The early Christians knew that; you certainly know who’s a real follower of Jesus and who isn’t when the cost of being one is a very real risk of an early and rather gruesome death. The same is still true in some countries around the world today, of course.

        Perhaps the Church of England has forgotten? Perhaps it needs to make an effort to remember what it is really supposed to mean to follow Jesus?

  5. It is to be hoped that the weight of Andrew Goddard’s analysis is given hefty dispassionate recognition; serving not personal vested interests, but the Body of Christ, universal, not only the back-yard CoE.

  6. No mention yet of the possibility of a ‘differentiation’ or a ‘parting of the ways’ or a ‘third province’ ?

    Phil Almond

  7. Goddard offers the bishops one more rabbit hole down which they can disappear for another five years of rumination.

    Those of us in the pews really have had enough of this sort of nonsense.

    Bishops need to rediscover their spinal columns and tell us what they believe about marriage. We will then have to work out the consequences but dealing with reality is always better than hiding from it

    • It does not matter what the Cof E Bishops believe about marriage. What matters is what scripture tells us.
      Tens of thousands of Evangelical Christians outside of the CofE have no trouble with this because they are not Bishop led but scripture led.

      • Yes. The article is structured around how to manage the Church of England. It should instead be structured around how those committed to what the church has taught for thousands of years – the church of God – should proceed – those people no longer being able to look to bishops or archbishops for ANY direction in respect of that. (There is no need to help those committed to being disobedient to find a way to do so in a manner which they consider satisfactory).

        If the article was centred around options consistent with obeying God’s word the only options (correct me if I am wrong) would be:

        Option 1 – separating from current bishops and archbishops and liberal church subgroups in the C of E (the subgroups might be anything from a C of e training institution through to various councils) while continuing to occupy one’s church building and remain in the C of E. I gather that for most churches this is not an option (there are I believe a few exceptions where the current minister of the church has power over the building – not the C of E) – if most churches refuse to submit – and are told to leave – they will have to leave.

        Option 2 – leaving the Church of England. If people leave en masse (such an event would be extraordinary since people have stayed put while the C of E has behaved unfaithfully for now decades – the water in the pot being heated up so slowly that apparently there is never a moment for the frog to jump out) there is no sense in offering a home outside the C of E for women vicars and bishops who believe that the bible condemns homosexuality (when if they. believe this it must be for no coherent THEOLOGICAL reason if men and women are in their view functionally the same). They have a home already – isn’t that the point?

        And finally there is no viable option in those wishing to be orthodox having an orthodox bishop who is answerable to a non-orthodox archbishop – because we know there are no orthodox bishops – not one has publicly stood up against the C of E’s direction.

        • My frog in the pot comment was not sufficiently clear – while the degradation has continued during the last twenty-five years the path towards acceptance of same sex marriage and practising homosexuality was set in the C when it appointed women to senior lead churches twenty-five years ago.

        • I think your theology is broadly sound but your analysis is very confused.

          Churches do not belong to bishops and they certainly do not belong to general synod.

          Nobody can be in ordered to vacate their church buildings. The bishops can visit years of litigation on their diocese but let’s not run off with the idea much promoted by revisionists that they can dictate what does and does not happen in 12500 parishes

          • Hi Peter,
            I wasn’t speaking about the theology of who owns church buildings. Since you raise it though let me state it – no person has a right before God to EVER evict the people of God from their church building. (They only however have a right to evict the church of man – those living in committed disobedience from a building belonging to the church of God).

            I mentioned the LEGALITIES of building ownership as part of listing the only options I could think of for those committed to obeying God.

  8. In her comments on option 2, Susannah Clark opines that we must “recognise two or more *different* views. At the end of this section, she postulates a “need for unity in *diversity*”. One must assume therefore that she sees the terms *different* and *diverse* as similies . I beg to differ! The two or more different views are much more than different; they are largely incompatible! Therefore a *need* for unity in this context is a non sequitur.

  9. The challenge is not just what ‘I’ believe or should believe, or what a ‘bishop’ believes, or bishops believe, but whether what I believe, or what the bishop believes, should be the boundary markers for our ecclesiology, and if so how that will be effected. Traditionally the Church of England has mostly deferred to its bishops, but in recent years the allegiance to bishops has weakened, and the allegiance to a geographical bishop even more so. We have alternative episcopal oversight of two very different kinds, and even alternative Networks and Anglican Missions which are not in full communion. [The Church in South Africa has had this for 150 years by the way.] Through Acts of Toleration, the C of E accepted it was one denomination among several, but only begrudgingly. It has often used “power” to impose or claim.

    The Winchester Synod threatened a vote of no confidence in its diocesan – might that become more common?

    The more recent debates about robes in church, about individual cups for communion are also examples of the actual weakness of episcopal authority, and again there are examples from the 19th century around church practice; in practice bishops struggle to impose or get uniformity. With parish church buildings becoming often more of a liability than an asset, and with so many independent churches to choose from, I suspect loyalty to the C of E is weaker still especially in towns and cities. Loyalty to my parish is different also from loyalty to the C of E or even the diocese.

    If the bishop is to be a symbol of unity, then they will have to ask whether unity is found / maintained / understood through imposing a view – whichever view – or whether this is actually THE test of leadership today, to enable unity despite uncomfortable diversity.

    I know there is a range of views among the congregations in the parishes where I am. A diocesan bishop has a far harder task of holding a teaching role and being a symbol of unity. Over the years the Church in this country has changed its view on usury, slavery, capital punishment, divorce and remarriage, women as leaders, children taking communion etc. In all of these it has wrestled with the same Scriptures as its forebears, albeit coming up with different answers, but not always to everyone’s agreement.

    Do the people of God all agree? No! So what then?

    • ‘Do the people of God all agree’ on Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, and his death as an ransom for our sins? No, they do not. So what then?

      I have no idea where the notion that a bishop is there just to hold everyone together comes from. I have just read the Ordinal again, and I cannot find it. What I do find is this:

      ‘Bishops are ordained to be shepherds of Christ’s flock5 and guardians of the faith of the apostles,6 proclaiming the gospel of God’s kingdom and leading his people in mission.’

      ‘Will you teach the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it, will you refute error,17 and will you hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to you?
      Ordinand By the help of God, I will.’

      If there is to be unity, the ordinal itself says that it is unity found around the proclamation of the truth of the gospel. Where has that proclamation been on the question of marriage and sexuality, in the face of withering cultural pressure, these last 20 years?

      That, it seems to me, is the root of the problem.

  10. Christians at all levels have lost the plot, both spiritually and geopolitically.

    Spiritually, because those who have the Spirit of God are called to ‘put to death the deeds of the body, … that which is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness’ (Rom 8:13, Col 3:5). Not just sexual sin. The call is to take up our cross every day, to continually die to sin. In place of the old man that was put to death on the cross, we put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We don’t substitute a compromise theology which tries to meld the two natures. Is this the spirituality commended in churches?

    Geopolitically, because the role of the Church is to prepare for the kingdom of God. We have not grasped what that kingdom is: the fulfillment and resurrection of the Davidic kingdom which was aborted in 586 BC but remained to be fulfilled when the Messianic Son of David came to occupy Israel’s throne. The kingdom will come at the last trumpet, when Jesus raises those who are saved and, after the wrath of God brings civilisation to a violent end, he returns to take up his reign in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, the city of the Great King. Salvation is salvation from judgement by works and entitlement to be part of that kingdom. The entitlement is restricted to those who believe in Jesus and are faithful. If those in authority usurp the Lord’s authority and say, “No: forgiveness of sins does not entail giving up the old life,” they deceive others and bring condemnation on themselves.

    Are churches focused on inviting people into the kingdom on these terms? Free forgiveness, but putting to death the old man? LLF is a distraction and a deviation.

    More on this in When the Towers Fall: A Prophecy of What Must Happen Soon.

  11. And while Philip Almond asks what has happened to original sin, what has happened to the very idea, theology of any and at all, all sin, in the CoE? Expunged from the theological and scriptural and cultural lexicon of the CoE?
    The inclusive nature of sin has been de facto revised and excused, it’s power not executed on the Cross of Christ.

  12. 1 Corinthians 8:9
    A very well known verse about looking after the weaker members of the church. Shouldn’t a Liberal, progressive Christian who thinks he has a greater understanding forbear with the anxious traditionalist and stop pushing for change? Shouldn’t bishops be exemplars in this fruit of the Spirit? This should be the starting point and anything beyond it is not in the remit of any teacher of the faith.

    • I am not at all sure that ! Corinthians 8 advocates continuing to throw queer Chrisitans under the bus in order to pacify the consciences of ‘anxious traditionalists’.

      • Say for example a lady wants to wear a head covering or eat unleavened bread in church? We should accept this and allow it; not blather them with corrective doctrinal therapy.
        Progressive Christian theology, if it’s any good, will win out in the end. Why keep trying to explain to a simple yokel (me) how to be modern?
        I saw the future recently. A boy of 4 said to his vegetarian mother, “Mummy, I don’t like hummus anymore. I like bacon.” The next generation may want to dump everything this generation has so carefully lobbied for.

        • I don’t quite understand. There is no reason why a person should cover nor uncover their head in church, nor why they should not have unleavned bread – isn’t that the tradition?

          Nor do I believe that affirming theology is progressive – it is embedded in tradition and scripture and aims to recover what has been lost in the church as it has become a neoliberal institution in pursuit of growth, success and progress and aiming to attract compliant and resilient members.

          For me, the ‘weaker brethren’ are those whose lives and loves are considered an ‘issue’ ripe for forensic discussion into what might be licit and acceptable. The ‘anxious traditionalists’ are the strong ones: they have always been the unmarked category, the arbiters of the canonical, the gatekeepers. It might be seemly if they put aside their anxiety for the sake of their siblings consigned, presently, to an ecclesial precariat.

          • I was just reversing the roles for a thought experiment. How far does it go before the roles are flipped, both in society and the church.

          • Sorry, Steve, I still don’t understand. What roles? And why shouldn’t some roles by flipped – the first shall be last etc.?

  13. LLF asked many questions but never tackled the core issue, which can be put as a binary question in very few words: Is homosexuality part of God’s design plan or a consequence of the Fall? Once you ask this question, the next question is where you might find answers.

    • Yes, that is the problem: I am not aware of the bishops having yet done the actual theological work on that question. In that sense, we are still at the starting gate.

      • that is the problem.

        No, it isn’t.

        Homosexuality is not the relevant thing here.

        You’re still putting the cart before the horse, assuming agreement on premises where there is none.

        The question that must be answered first is, ‘is human nature fallen leaving all in need of salvation, or all human beings perfect and destined for divinity just as they are’?

        The question the Church of England needs to confront isn’t anything to do with sexuality; it’s Universalism.

        • Hi S,
          Your comment is really helpful – however I point out in case you do not see the link that the issue you raise and the issue of man and woman are the one issue.

          Man and woman – whether single or married – are defined in part by Genesis 2 – and then in whole in Ephesians 5 and Revelation revealing marriage to be Christ and the church. Man and woman therefore ARE the gospel. The erasure of man and woman is the erasure of the gospel – the erasing of the created order (1 Corinthians 11:3) – universalism (of a kind – not all people being saved in Christ – but all people not needing to be saved).

          • Amento that. Revelation is all about the duality . Jesus is the male . The church is the female. Revelation 2&3 allude to Esther. She is the Female undergoing a year of preparation under the directi9n of 7 maids before coming to the throne.

          • the issue you raise and the issue of man and woman are the one issue.

            No, they’re not the one issue. they are connected, in that one is the premise for the other — if you accept the Universalist view (this is a particular kind of Universalism, others exist, but it seems to be a view common in the Church of England) that all human beings are fundamentally pure carriers of the divine image, and that any flaws are inherently superficial and don’t reach the core of one’s self and one’s desires, then the question ‘Is homosexuality part of God’s design plan or a consequence of the Fall?’ make no sense, and in that world-view all genuine human desires are part of God’s design and none are a consequence of the Fall. So even asking the question of which category homosexuality comes into — ‘part of God’s design’ or ‘a consequence of the Fall’ — requires explicitly rejecting that kind of Universalism.

            To help you recognise that kind of Universalism, it’s often marked by phrases like, ‘God doesn’t make mistakes’ (true, of course, but not in the way they mean); ‘If you have desires, God must have given them to you, and so they must be holy’; ‘I am fearfully and wonderfully made’; etc etc.

            It’s basically a retread of the old gnostic heresy of human beings as pure, uncorrupted spirit trapped in sinful, corrupted physical bodies [which might explain why it sits so easily with modern concepts of the physical body as a plastic set of ‘clothes’ which can and should be reshaped according to the will of its ‘owner’?] and the solution is to reaffirm the doctrine of total depravity, properly understood.

            And so until the Church of England explicitly rejects that kind of Universalism, there’s no point in even trying to engage on the question of whether homosexuality is a part of the imago dei or a result of the Fall, because half the people you’re trying to talk to simply don’t have a category of ‘aspects of human nature that are the result of the Fall’ in their world-view, that they can discuss whether homosexuality fits into or not. In their world-view, all aspects of human nature are divine, and therefore if something is an aspect of human nature, it must be celebrated and affirmed.

            So to even ask the question posed above is impossible for people with that world-view. So you have to get them out of the Church of England before you can even start on the road to answering it.

          • S, I accept that the RESULT of the choices of the C of E leadership is their being heretics. What I don’t accept is that the way in which they came to be heretics was that they were ignorant of some doctrine of sin – or some historical heresy – they didn’t make a decision to violate a particular doctrine. Doctrine doesn’t float in mid air – or if it does it ought not be so! – it is God’s character and plans written (or false doctrine). Sin is always directly in respect of God – always and ONLY a violation of his character and therefore plans.

            Let me explain why this is critical. The cross must be the foundation for all Christian belief – if not one would be saying that some confidence in the flesh to understand particular doctrine was part of the foundation. There are no doctrines which must first be understood to receive the cross (or there are – but none of them involves having to place confidence in the flesh in order to understand them – God ensures through the work of his Spirit and creation that we are taught them BEFORE we hear the gospel preached – that there is a standard – the standard being God – that we fall short of the standard – and that despite our failure God we experience God’s mercy in creation. The fear of God then IS the beginning of wisdom. To fear God then IS to receive Jesus at the cross – not to discern particular biblical ‘truths’ which when rightly understood allow us to understand what it means to receive Jesus. This was the error of Tom Wright whose reasoning suggested that the only way in which to rightly understand the cross was by surveying the whole landscape of the bible. He had things reversed – we can only understand the landscape of the bible through the lens of the cross. With that in mind finally consider that the cross IS marriage – it is Christ and the church (his dying for the world in order that any who submit to him are the church) – receiving Jesus IS receiving marriage.

            The reason I go the trouble of laying this out is that it is important that nothing give the impression that man and woman – marriage – isn’t itself the gospel – primary truth. Primary doctrinal failure may appear to be rejection of only one particular truth (for example if someone believed that Jesus was divine but not human) but it is in heart ALWAYS rejection of all of the gospel in its earliest form (eventually revealed as that).

          • What I don’t accept is that the way in which they came to be heretics was that they were ignorant of some doctrine of sin – or some historical heresy – they didn’t make a decision to violate a particular doctrine.

            In that case you seem to be arguing, at some length, against something I never claimed nor even implied, so I don’t know how to respond other than to leave it here and suggest you re-read what I wrote above.

      • I suspect that for many (including some bishops) it is simply not a starting gate to which they will line up. There is enough evidence from contributions to this blog site on these issues to suggest that the questions posed above (valid as they are) will get short shrift , not least because the second question will test their willingness to commit to a definitive source of authority (Scripture). The egalitarian deities rule the roost.

        • Yes they do. But St. Paul would say “I don’t even judge myself” . He ignored the drivel and got on with his work. Surely its best to disengage with dialogue that’s not going anywhere and move on. Ref.. Jesus and the rich young ruler.

  14. I suspect that for many (including some bishops) it is simply not a starting gate to which they will line up. There is enough evidence from contributions to this blog site on these issues to suggest that the questions posed above (valid as they are) will get short shrift , not least because the second question will test their willingness to commit to a definitive source of authority (Scripture). The egalitarian deities rule the roost.

  15. The claim that Bishops have not even really begun to think theologically about all this is not only wildly improbable in the circumstances, it is, in my own experience of working on LLF and more widely in recent years, simply not true. Not everyone seems to understand that the CofE of has been undertaking a quite unique, devolved approach to theological consultation and study across the whole church. Bishops have been part of that. We are now at the stage when, quite rightly, they are the ones who are charged with bringing this together in the form of proposals that we pray may lead us forward. To that end they meet in residential this coming week and several times more in the coming months, to continue precisely the theological and pastoral work that is part of their ministry. And I am grateful that is so.

    • I think we should draw a distinction between ‘theological reflection’, which I think Ian would agree, is something that has been and is going on at all levels for some time, and “theological thinking”, which is (if I’m reading it right from the context Ian Paul has used it) the more systematic and thorough outworking of a formal statement or position. That’s what I think Andrew’s getting at too.

      Because on the one hand I think you’re right, it is decidedly unfair to accuse the Bishops (or anyone involved in this debate for that matter) of not having done any substantial consideration of these issues or the effect they have. They plainly have. But reflection is a process, a cycle that informs future practice rather than a well-formulated and justified…… whats the word I’m looking for… ‘confessional statement’? Such doctrinal work is nessecary because it gives anchors to the reflection, and the anchor is the thing that’s been debated, so to torture the analogy, everyone’s adrift.

      I appreciate typing this in response to you, having read some of your stuff that this is rather like teaching Grandma to suck eggs, but we’re confusing two things here.

      What your describing is valuable is good, but it needs to lead to the thing Ian is describing…

      Am I making sense?

      • I am slightly not agreeing with you here. The word anchor should have a capital letter should it not? Otherwise you have two sets of doctrine based on truth but Truth plays no part. Sorry, I can’t explain myself. I can see I’ll be ignored as irrelevant. It just seems to me that we can make a fantastic edifice of pure doctrine then end up worshiping it. Win every argument yet still find God inhabits the lowly, simpleminded leaving the intellectually capable alone in the imagination of their hearts.
        By the time all the bishops agree to align the church doctrine with modern life the zeitgeist will have moved on leaving us all behind.

    • David, more than one bishop I have spoken to has not read a single book on this subject. Just pause to get your head around that.

      LLF itself does not do any systematic theological work. It juxtaposes various bits of thinking, but never really joins them up. The course was a miss-mash which resolved nothing; one member of our church, at the end, said, ‘Well, it it didn’t even begin to address the question, did it?’ It has been criticised from many quarters for that.

      Andrew has listed a whole range of theological issues that need consideration and work; to my knowledge, none of that has been being done. The HoB could have decided to start doing that work ten years ago. I am not aware, prior to next week, of a single meeting of the House or College which has been given over to this kind of systematic theological reflection on these issues, even though we have known this was a powder keg for 20 years or more.

      • LLF sets out to be comprehensive. But that is laughable. FIrstly, the research already existed. Secondly it was done by accredited experts rather than by church members. And thirdly LLF has so little to say on numerous especially central realities:
        -correlation between claims to homosexual orientation and broken homes
        -correlation with lesbian parenting
        -correlation with teen age, when everything is still in the melting pot
        -correlation with cultures that already foreground it
        -correlation with peer pressure
        -correlation with university milieu (for women) or urban milieu (for men)
        -correlation with early sexual experience, and also with imposed ESE
        -correlation for men with STIs
        -correlation for men with unhealthy sexual practices
        -correlation for men with promiscuity
        -correlation for men with above average violence
        -correlation for men with above average depression
        -correlation with above average drug use
        -what the physical realities that produce said STIs actually are.

        • You have deep vision Christopher. This list really does show how much of a venture intended to have a particular outcome LLF is. I hope I never have to be in an argument with you – as I also hope that your understanding will always be accompanied by the fullness of God’s grace towards people (or otherwise be destructive).

        • Ian and Andrew are recommending theological engegement on sexuality, not pursuing the – sometimes contested – claims of social science which tell us nothing about the theology or ethics of sexualities or their places in Christian life.

          • Penelope – I think that Christopher is trying to say that there is a strong correlation between the number of gay bishops on the one hand and global warming and quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere on the other. There may be a causal effect here, so if we could turn the temperature down and remove some of the CO2 then the number of gay bishops might reduce correspondingly.

          • Sometimes contested? I have spoken only of those topics where the statistical disparities are typically found to be extremely stark between homosexual/bisexual (generally men) and others.

          • As for global warming, it was not on the list above.
            And secondly it is of all topics the least appropriate to make jokes about.

      • Eh! Surely the Bishops who have not engage in this will recuse themselves. Or to do so would be giving a free pass. (In any event how could they substantially
        significantly engage?)
        Maybe not, as it seems that according to Lambeth only the revisionists persist prayerfully are led by the Spirit of God who is Holy.
        These cohorts of Bishops, are not one and the same perhaps.

      • “David, more than one bishop I have spoken to has not read a single book on this subject. Just pause to get your head around that.”

        That is both surprising, and extremely disappointing.

      • Ian, disappointed to hear your comment re bishops who had “not read a single book on this subject” and would hope that they have now all read the LLF book at least. On your final point, there were repeated engagements with the College throughout the LLF process with several days devoted to different aspects, specialist papers presented for discussion, draft chapters discussed, group work, feedback submitted subsequently by bishops etc. There were also, as you know, similar events for those in the House through General Synod. So unless “this kind of systematic theological reflection” is defined in a specific and narrow way (eg focussed attention to the specific questions I raise) I think your final comment is not accurate or at least misleading in terms of episcopal engagement.

        • Andrew. Please, can we just ask the bishops to tell us whist they believe. Your article is deeply disappointing. Are we to have another five years teasing apart the various grotesque options you set out in fine detail ?

          We have had enough

        • Andrew, thank you for the correction: you are right that the bishops have been doing some work as part of LLF. But before that? Were there similar meetings during the Shared Conversations, which *ended* more than five years ago?

          But my anecdotes about some not having read anything is true. And it is indicative of the very shallow engagement in some places. In the Synod tea-room a diocesan bishop said to me ‘Well of course, Jesus said nothing on this, so we have freedom’ as if that was a serious comment!

          Where has been any will to respond to changes in culture, to teach the doctrine of marriage, and to help and encourage us to see the good gift this is to our world?

          In the meantime, we have had ill-conceived decisions; you point to the lack of coherence of the response to CPS; there was the vote against ‘conversion therapy’ without a single challenging question being asked by the bishops; and the absurd ‘liturgy’ for welcoming trans people using a baptism liturgy. In the follow-up meeting, I asked one of the bishops involved: ‘So, if someone legally transitions, are they still married, and is this a same-sex marriage.’ ‘Oh, that’s a tricky question isn’t it?’ came the response!

        • Andrew Goddard, my impression on reading the LLF material is that it appears to present a largely anecdotal account of the two positions but does not attempt to do any real theological or factual analysis particularly of the kind you have presented in your lucid and well written articles.

          You talk about specialist papers presented for discussion, group work, feedback and so on. Are you able to tell us if any of this recorded and written down so we can see what the Bishop’s deliberations are or is it all done behind closed doors?

          In recent discussions on this and on other blogs then one wonders at the depth of theological literacy the average Bishop actually has. It would appear that many have evolved into corporate managers rather than upholders of the faith received from the Apostles and defending the church from error.

          I hope I am wrong in this assessment.

    • David, you also comment: ‘Not everyone seems to understand that the CofE of has been undertaking a quite unique, devolved approach to theological consultation and study across the whole church.’

      Do you know how low the take-up of LLF has been? For a start, only 6,000 offered any responses…out of 850,000 regular attenders.

  16. The collective summations of Peter Steve and Colin draw together the reality, it seems. Theology, scripture, here, seems to be little more than a magic roundabout for
    getting on and stepping off points for vested personal interest and presuppositions, rather than the eternal weight of Glory and damnation. There is no agreed starting gate, as the comments on this site evidence, let alone finishing flag, not even rules of the course.

  17. As has been stated countless times over the last decade or two, and reiterated again in these comments, the issue around which the mess spins always required first and foremost that the theology be done, solidly, honestly, openly and faithfully. Personally, I don’t see that the theology around this issue ranks amongst the more tricky subjects which confront theologians; it has to be assumed that the small amount of biblical content which touches on the subject of homosexuality suggests it was never an issue over which there was doubt. Such content as we find is negative – never affirming.

    I suspect that’s why those who have agitated for change have skirted the unhelpful area of theology (and its corroborating witnesses of biology, human health and social outcomes) and steered the debate into the fog of human psychology and the ever evolving world of social justice. It’s a fog where a stultifying assembly of opaque and often meaningless phrases and sentences swirls, confuses and deceives. To anyone who prefers to think and talk in terms of facts, comprehension, and (for the Christian) obedience, this whole thing has been a major turn off. It has sucked people in and left them exhausted, confused and disillusioned. The Church of England shows every sign of being seriously damaged as a result – possibly never to recover. The diversion from its real calling of being a clear and confident Christian witness to the surrounding world suggests a disruptive force has been at work against which a faithful, well led church should have kept its guard.

    There’s one point which a few of us have constantly pointed out. For straightforward legal reasons in England there can be no ‘good disagreement’ on this issue. If latitude is given to clergy which effectively changes the church’s doctrine on same sex marriage, the quadruple lock under which clergy who refuse to conduct same sex affirmations or marriages are legally protected is unlikely to survive legal challenge for long. Either the church stands four square against the concept or it doesn’t. ‘Good disagreement’ might sound impressive within the church; for a legal judgement it would be untenable. Clergy who were not prepared to accommodate the new latitude would have little choice but to resign.

    • ‘If latitude is given to clergy which effectively changes the church’s doctrine on same sex marriage, the quadruple lock under which clergy who refuse to conduct same sex affirmations or marriages are legally protected is unlikely to survive legal challenge for long.’

      Yes, this is key, and sets us apart from disestablished churches. There really is no middle way.

  18. The reason this issue never goes away is that, although the Church of England has so far kept to the scriptural line as espoused for 3000 years, it is not prepared to expel those who deny the biblical definition of sin (it even promotes them), and consequently they keep pressing.

  19. The claim that 6400 is hopelessly small number t base any opinion on is often repeated in this context. But it is based on a mistaken understanding. Responding to recent Church Society criticism of the LLF summary the independent researchers, Brendan Research, commissioned by LLF to collate and summarise the responses, described the number as ‘unprecedented’. Another commentator I have spoken to, with academic research experience, was clear ‘that 6400 responded through the questionnaire, is actually a very strong result. Polling companies normally use a base of 1000 people to accurately represent the views of thousands or millions, moving up to 2500 when they want to increase their accuracy even more.’ The LLF consultation is not a poll, but by those professionally involved in opinion research this number would be regarded as a very reliable representation.
    The response to Church Society offers a helpful commentary on the process the method and process being used here and addresses questions that are around. https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/LLF-Response-to-Church-Society-Analysis.pdf

    • But David, it wasn’t a poll. This wasn’t some mere questionnaire, responding to a person with a badge in the street. This was something on which the future of the Church might hinge. Campaigners for change tell us the welfare of gay people is in the balance! In light of that, this is a very poor response indeed. And both the Church Society critique and the response make it clear: the views here are in no way representative of anything, since they are entirely self-selecting.

      It is a bit like the claim that 1000 ministers would conduct same-sex marriages *if* they were legal. Out of 20,000 licensed clergy, that is a remarkably small number.

      But going back to your original claim: ‘the CofE of has been undertaking a quite unique, devolved approach to theological consultation.’ If you did that on the person of Jesus, you would end up in the C of E deciding that he was just a good man, and on his death, that it was an example of self-sacrifice but nothing more. Why on earth would you take this approach to any theological issue?

      It is the bishops’ job to teach the faith and rebuke error. Why are they delegating that?

      • 1. ‘But David, it wasn’t a poll’. Agreed. I had already said exactly the same above – ‘The LLF consultation is not a poll’.
        2. I have no idea why you think that Christians in the Church of England cannot think theologically for themselves without apparently ending up denying the divinity of Christ. You have lost me there. I thought we evangelicals would welcome any initiative that increased the number of people studying their bibles and thinking about their faith in more theological depth? Why do you assume the outcome can only be hopelessly liberal?

        • David ‘I have no idea why you think that Christians in the Church of England cannot think theologically for themselves without apparently ending up denying the divinity of Christ.’ Because that is exactly what the evidence says.


          Astley and Christie found that: ‘The interview work presented here indicates that atonement theology in particular is often a stumbling block for many. Indeed, the majority (those with soteriological difficulties, the exemplarists plus some of the traditionalists) have bypassed the traditional theology of the cross, judging it irrelevant to their religious needs. Their dominant theological position may be said to be ‘Christianity without atonement.’’

          The same was true of ordinary views of Jesus: he was primarily ‘just a good man’. The primary exception to this was a minority of their sample, those who identified as ‘evangelical’.

          Their proposed solution? That right doctrine drives people away from churches, so we should just let everyone believe what they want.

      • The contention that the Bishops haven’t been thinking theologically about these ‘issues’ and need to begin now is nonsense. Bishops have been thinking theologically on (homo)sexuality since 1974 – if not before. That is for nearly fifty years. That some have found their theological thinking sometimes inept or banal is, perhaps, a reflection on the quality of the theology or on the ways in which authority and orivilege have been costructed in the church, but the work is there for all to read.

        The Shared Conversations and LLF have been open to criticisms from all sides, and I share some of those reservations – once again about what is deemed normative and authoritative and who is ‘invited’ to reflect – but the consultation has allowed, for the first time, the opportunity for people to be co-authors and to hear from ‘first-person knowers’ rather than merely to have these views mediated through the ecclesial authorities who form working parties and invite responses very much on their terms.

        I do agree that many bishops are not (systematic) theologians, but I am certainly getting the sense that they are now being briefed against because there is a fear, in certain circles, that they may cone up with the ‘wrong’ solution. The House of Bishops and General Synod voted against conversion therapy because they had listened and found it be an abhorrent practice. They didn’t need evidence from apologists for the practice – although they already had that – they concluded that it was both ineffective and harmful.

        Whatever the Bishops decide will not please everyone (or anyone), so as both Susannah and Andrew Godsall suggest, we had better learn to live without the ‘defensive dramatization of difference as existential dangers’.

        • The House of Bishops and General Synod voted against conversion therapy because they had listened and found it be an abhorrent practice.

          But isn’t the issue that the Bill was badly worded to the extent that as well as banning abhorrent practices, it would also ban some decidedly non-abhorrent and indeed laudable practices, like praying with someone was struggling with temptation?

          What is the point of having bishops in the upper chamber — the whole function of which is to revise badly-drafted legislation — if they didn’t raise this point and suggest ways to improve the wording of the Bill so that it didn’t accidentally make into criminals people who were doing nothing morally wrong?

        • Penny, I am trying to work out the difference between doing ‘theological thinking’ which is inept and banal, and not really doing any.

          The issue around quality and coherence of the outcomes should be assessed on the evidence. Andrew points out the incoherence of the response to the introduction of CPs (which he wrote about at the time in a Grove booklet), and I have noted that even the most basic questions (about sex and marriage) had not been considered prior to the issuing of the ‘trans baptism’ guidance.

          The briefing paper on ‘conversion therapy’ was so poor, the term was not even defined, and no-one was able to answer the question ‘What is being banned that is not already illegal’.

          So I think the evidence is out there.

          I reamin unclear why we should learn to live with incoherence and contradiction in our doctrine. There is no similar precedent for it, and it is likely unsustainable in law anyhow.

          • Ian

            My point is that, although some of the theological thinking coming from fifty years of Bishops’ repoerts, was thin and banal, no one can claim that it has not been happening. I think, perhaps, despite some of the reservations about the LLF process it has attempted to mine a richer seam and model thinking theologically in different ways. Again, perhaps it is too soon to judge if it has succeeded on its own terms.

            Conversion therapy is clearly still legal since it is still being practised. The CoE was, once again, ahead of the government.

            I agree that the thinking on CPs is incoherent, but I don’t really understand why anyone would need to consider questions about marriage and sex before commending a gender welcoming ceremony. There is no connection.

            As for difference, it has always struck me (as you know) that , if it weren’t for the difficulties mafe or felt by some conservative evangelicals, the church could live with ‘benign variation’ as it does in other areas (which are, arguably, more grave).

          • Sorry, I realise that conversion therapy still being practised doesn’t mean that it is legal, but it still is in the UK.

          • Conversion therapy is clearly still legal since it is still being practised.

            You presumably have concrete examples or evidence to back up this claim? Because I think it is false.

          • Conversion therapy is not a thing. It is a carefully crafted umbrella term that sprang from nowhere (like, for example, creationism) which prejudges what the topic is that we are required to be talking about. The reason it is not a thing is because the term is far too broad to have a meaning. It is very much a Trojan horse, and (as I said) deliberately so. The idea is to include under its broad umbrella both shocking-and-already-illegal things and essential things that good people would typically do but which are unwelcome to those who want to live life their old way, as the old Adam always wants. They get people to agree that the former are bad (as who wouldn’t?) and proceed to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

            The increasing use of the term ‘Trojan horse’ in public discourse shows that people are wise to this cynical trick.

          • Sorry, I realise that conversion therapy still being practised doesn’t mean that it is legal, but it still is in the UK.

            It still is what, legal or being practiced?

            And whichever it us, could you please give a concrete example?

          • Penny, I too would be very interested to hear from you of any examples of ‘conversion therapy’ practice which are still happening and which are not already illegal.

          • Ian

            I think I have more to say on ‘decent’ theology, but I’m in the middle of soemthing at present.

            However, in answer to your Q about reparative therapy: the Core Issues Trust and Professor Glynn Harrison (about whom I’m currently reading).

          • No, Penny, I wasn’t interested in people you want to accuse.

            I would like to hear of what, specifically, is happening that is legal now and that you think should become illegal.

          • Hang on, Ian, I’m not ‘accusing’ anyone, unless you think conversion therapy is illegal.
            Glynn Harrison (and Andrew Goddard) have written in support of reparative therapy. I am not aware that they have changed their minds on this.
            The Core Issues Trust is still giving examples on its website for all to access.
            Social media is full of links to articles on conversion therapies, and, no I haven’t bookmarked any.

          • Glynn Harrison (and Andrew Goddard) have written in support of reparative therapy. I am not aware that they have changed their minds on this.

            But you wrote:

            ‘Conversion therapy is […] still being practised. ’

            So presumably you have a concrete example of conversion theory being practiced, done, not just being written about.

            Like, a specific action which was done on a specific person.

            We can accept that some people are writing in sort of conversion theory. I accept that is happening. But no one is proposing making writing in support of conversion theory illegal.

            What is proposing is making practicing conversion theory (not just writing in support of it) illegal.

            You claim that conversion theory is being practiced , not just written about, in the UK.

            So could you give just one exact concrete example please?

    • A couple of observations: firstly, I see the survey as a means of representing a cross-section of views and opinions. If, as Ian says, it was not a poll – I agree because I don’t think that was its purpose – then the bishops can focus on the opinions themselves, and reflect on them.

      Secondly, the fact that so few clergy responded, and most lay church members, could also be interpreted to mean that, for most people in the middle, they just want to get on with parish life serving their communities and – like the mass of the UK public – they no longer see the whole ‘gay sex’ issue as being the big issue it once was. The fact so many people did not respond (including clergy) could suggest the topic is not of primary importance to many of them! Parishioners are part of the UK public, and most people in the UK are now okay with gay and lesbian sex.

      By any measure, 6400 responses does at least give those who want to the opportunity to express their views. That can only be helpful.

      It’s time for the bishops to make carefully- considered decisions. God bless them.

      • It was twenty-five years ago. It was more than sixty years ago when young vicars encouraged to separate from liberalism by Martyn Lloyd Jones were encouraged by John Stott to stay – to ‘win them over’. During this entire time the duty of bishops wasn’t to manage the church – to run God’s church for him – to ensure that ANY unrepentant person felt safe in the church (there being all kinds) – it was to do the job they pledged to do – to guard the truth – which is immutable – which alters itself for no-one.

      • Susannah ‘I see the survey as a means of representing a cross-section of views’. But of course it was not at all representative.

        Yes, perhaps people do just want to get on with life. And the fact that only 5% of licensed clergy said they would conduct same-sex marriages points to people wanting to move on, not that they want change.

        • Leave it to the bishops to take the final decision? (Canon C.14.3)

          Do we trust our bishops or not? They certainly deserve our prayer and support.

          They should decide, and we should get on with our parish life, because Christian life is by no means all about sex.

          I believe they will decide for change. They are on retreat this week, I believe, and for the rest of us in the Church of England, we should lift them up in prayer.

          • Do we trust our bishops or not? […]They should decide […]
            I believe they will decide for change.

            So if you trust them to decide, does that mean that if they decide against change you will accept their decision and give up campaigning for change?

          • Susannah,
            Is that because you seem to have the ear of some Bishops, a following by Some of them, or because you believe you already know the mind of Bishop.
            There is no hope to be found in Bishops, and human trust is evidence based. So far I’d see no reason to trust their theological convictions and deliberations.

      • The absence of evidence is never a basis for reaching a conclusion – it only provides a limit on the conclusion you can draw.

        The notion that the reason people have not engaged with LLF is because they support change does not bear any level of examination

    • The claim that 6500 tells you what the opinion is across the whole population is entirely false.

      The constraint on extrapolation of a survey is always complexity. If 6500 people tell you they prefer skimmed milk to full fat then that can be extrapolated

      If 6500 people tell you they think life is not worth living and they want assisted suicidal made legal you cannot extend to mean most people think life is not worth living.

      LLF and the revisionist agenda generally depends on a dismal level of shallow-minded thought

      • The claim that 6500 tells you what the opinion is across the whole population is entirely false.

        No, it isn’t. If those 6,500 are randomly selected such that they are representative of the population, then you can absolutely draw conclusions from them about the opinion across the whole population.

        But you cannot do that if the 6,500 selected themselves into the survey, or if there are other sources of bias in the sample (for example, if the 6,500 includes a greater proportion who live in urban areas than the population as a whole, or a greater population who are young, or who are middle class).

        • You simply ignore my point. The issue is complexity. If you randomly select 6500 people and ask them to answer questions on Quantum Mechanics the answers will be meaningless.

          • Peter, this discussion is all based on a misunderstanding of what this consultation is. It is not a national opinion survey. It is not random. It is the collation of feedback from those who used the LLF material – people from all sides of the debate. The confusion here reminds me of the objections raised by the Church Society and which were thoroughly responded to in this link. May I commend it to you if you have not seen it? https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/LLF-Response-to-Church-Society-Analysis.pdf

          • If you randomly select 6500 people and ask them to answer questions on Quantum Mechanics the answers will be meaningless.

            Yes, but that’s not what you wrote. You wrote:

            ‘The claim that 6500 tells you what the opinion is across the whole population is entirely false.’

            Note emphasis.

            If you asked 6,500 randomly selected people what their opinions were on quantum mechanics, then you absolutely could extrapolate form that out to what the opinions of the whole population are on quantum mechanics.

            That opinion may or may not bear any relationship with what the correct answers to the questions about quantum mechanics are. Probably it wouldn’t. But that’s not what you wrote. You wrote about the opinion across the whole population, and the opinions of 6,500 properly randomly selected people absolutely can allow you to draw conclusions about the opinion over the entire population.

          • To David.

            It not quite fair to say people do not understand what the findings claim to be.

            Are you claiming nobody expects the findings to be relied upon as evidence of the mind of the church ?

            The people who have conducted the work have responded to criticism. Fair enough.

            You cannot have your cake and eat it. If you say everybody is confused about the terms of reference etc then you cannot also expect it to be relied upon as evidence

          • S. You are straining on a gnat to convince yourself you are right.

            If you think a survey of 6500 people randomly selected on the topic of quantum mechanics would tell you anything you know nothing about quantum mechanics

            Your attempt to conjure something from the word opinion entirely misses the point.

            Junk questionnaires get junk answers

          • S. You are straining on a gnat to convince yourself you are right.

            If you’re going to be rude I’m going to be rude back.

            If you think a survey of 6500 people randomly selected on the topic of quantum mechanics would tell you anything you know nothing about quantum mechanics

            You clearly have totally misunderstood the question, and the point of surveys.

            If I surveyed a properly weighted random sample of 6,500 people on the question: which is the true interpretation of quantum mechanics? and 30% said the Copenhagen interpretation and 50% the many-worlds interpretation, then I absolutely could extrapolate those figures out to the wider population and say that 30% of the wider population think that the Copenhagen interpretation is correct, and 50% think that the many-worlds interpretation is correct.

            Obviously that would tell me nothing about which interpretation is actually correct.

            But I would know — and know to within a fairly small margin of error — the proportions of people in the population who think each interpretation is correct.

            Get that into your skull: the question ‘which is the correct interpretation?’ and ‘what proportion of the population think each interpretation is correct?’ are totally different questions. and a survey of 6,500 (if properly random and weighted) is way more than enough to answer the latter question, though it tells you absolutely nothign about the answer to the former.


          • I will delete as I please. And I have asked you more than once to use an actual name and email address. If not, I will delete more. Please follow the Comments guidance at the bottom of the article.

        • 30% of a randomly selected population would not have the knowledge to distinguish between the different models of quantum mechanics. That is why the answer would be junk.

          The answer would not be junk. The answer would accurately tell you, within a very small margin of error, what the view of the general population would be, when asked a question about which they have little background knowledge.

          Your extrapolation point is also false. If people have no idea what they are taking about they are not consistent across the population with their answers.

          Wrong. If people have no idea what they are talking about then the distribution of their answers is consistent across the population, so a properly balanced random sample will allow you to draw conclusions about the views of the population as a whole.

          Your general tone rather proves my point about your motivation

          And your general tone proves you are a rude idiot with comprehension issues, so I’ll take that.

        • Your explanation makes no sense at all. If you ask people a question to which they do not know the answer any emergent pattern can only be a secondary correlation

          The obvious correlation would be level of education. The distribution across the population will have no actual association with the original issue because nobody had the means to engage with the original issue. Any consistent emergent pattern is therefore attached to a different factor

        • If you ask people a question to which they do not know the answer any emergent pattern can only be a secondary correlation

          Hallelujah, he’s almost got it! Let’s see if we can get him there in just a few more steps.

          Yes the emergent pattern is a secondary correlation. And a sample of 6,500 (properly randomised and weighted) will be easily enough to spot that correlation.

          Do you understand now?

          The distribution across the population will have no actual association with the original issue because nobody had the means to engage with the original issue. Any consistent emergent pattern is therefore attached to a different factor

          Yes. Exactly. That’s literally what I have been trying to drill through your thick, thick skull.

          A sample of 6,500, properly randomised and weighted, will allow you, to within a very small margin of error, to extrapolate to the pattern within the population as a whole.

          If the population of a whole has no idea about the real answer to the question (as is likely to be the case with questions about quantum mechanics) then that pattern will be due to some other factor. Who knows what that might be?

          But the sample of 6,500 is way, way more than enoguh for you to be able to see the pattern.






















          • Sorry – for one reason this appeared way out of order on a busy thread. It was a response to your earlier statement: ‘The claim that 6500 tells you what the opinion is across the whole population is entirely false.’ No one has made that claim to my knowledge. It is one of the points of confusion in the Church Society critique that the researchers clarify.
            I do not understand why you think I may be saying no one expects this survey to hep us understand the mind of the church. I think precisely the opposite! I wrote: ‘It is the collation of feedback from those who used the LLF material – people from all sides of the debate.’ I did not say ‘everyone’ was confused either. But, as you note, the LLF researchers have been responding to comments and criticisms based, in part, on misunderstandings of what this process is about and how it works. I suggested some of that confusion is evident on this thread. Anxieties and concerns are high on all sides. It is not surprising if things are misunderstood and need clarifying. But there is no lack of clarity on what LLF and the Bishops have laid out can to where this process has got too and what is needed next. They have my prayers and I hope they have yours. Thanks for engaging.

          • David thank you for your thorough answer. I take your points.

            The difficulty is that people on both sides of the division will make of the findings exactly what they want.

            It’s not really credible to argue everybody needs to listen carefully to one explanation of the findings and accept that meaning.

            It’s not a mathematical equation in which there really is just one way to make sense of it

          • David Sorry. Pressed the button accidentally.

            In reality the debate about methodology is a storm in a tea cup. The real issue is that 6500 is a very very small number of responses.

            Conservatives are never going to accept the claim – however elaborate it may be – that the level of response supports radical redefinitions. It just does not.

  20. Here’s the problem.
    Justin Welby has appointed two suffragan bishops who are in same-sex relationships. Archdeacons as well.
    Justin Welby was on the appointment committee that appointed the new Dean of Canterbury, a man in a civil partnership. Welby kept this secret until Lambeth was over and disingenuously suggested it was nothi g to do with him
    The Global South Fellowship of the Anglican Communion don’t believe him. They feel he has betrayed their trust. Certainly his intervention at the Conference was completely incoherent as a piece of moral theology,
    The growth of the Anglican Network in Europe is entirely over Welby’s failure of leadership.
    Ian Paul is correct in his comment above: the task of a bishop is not to be “a focus of unity ” (like some council chairman) but a teacher of Gospel truth.

    • If that is so, doesn’t it encapsulate the problem?Either Welby approved the appointments or has little influence over secular Crown appointments, with an imposition of secular, cultural mores and in opposition to extant CoE doctrine.

  21. I was simply answering James’s point Geoff that Welby had deliberately kept the appointment secret until after Lambeth. He had no other option given the protocol regarding the announcement of senior church appointments. Welby has no influence over secular Crown appointments ( was that a slip of the pen) only ecclesiastical C of E ones. Since the soon to be Dean ,although civilly partnered, is living within the current guidelines his appointment doesnt contravene the present C of E discipline. There are other civilly partnered Deans and Archdeacons and a good number of civilly partnered clergy. You may think this situation and the current discipline is wrong or doesn’t make sense. But as you are not in the C of E it doesn’t directly affect you. No doubt your church would take a very different line.

    • Does being confirmed into the CoE, by a Bishop, as a late mid- age adult 25 years ago, count as a having a continuing vested interest, in perpetuity, or a mere conditional, contingent interest?

      • It means I suppose that at a particular time you were confirmed in the C of E and presumably you were a communicant Anglican. I rather assumed you had left the C of E for a more evangelical church. If you are still active in the C of E I apologize. But my point was about the current discipline with regard to civil partnerships and the clergy. Re David Monteith: here in Canterbury we are looking forward to his installation in early December.

        • It was an evangelical Anglican Church and I am a member of a thriving and growing generationally young families, though quite well spread in age, evangelical Anglican church , which subscribes to the 39 Articles and Creeds. On the right side of history, methinks.
          As I said above, to Susannah, trust is evidence based.
          Even granting that the ABoC was constrained in the timing of the announcement of appointments, it somewhat beggars belief that his knowledge played no signifcant part in emphasis he placed in his Lambeth addresses and underlying contributions, direction of travel and the engineered avoidances of issues, In the circumstances of the appointments it could hardly have been otherwise. As always, I stand to be corrected.

  22. Perry: Welby was on the committee that apointed Monteith. It is impossible to believe that Monteith was appointed AGAINST the wishes of Welby. Similarly the appointments of the Bishops of Grantham and Sherborne and the Archdeaacon of the Isle of Wight.

    The interview for Canterbury was held in May. The decision was deliberately kept secret until Lambeth was over. To say Welby has no say in this is absurd evasion. The Global South Primates are angry at the deception.
    It is now reported on Anglican Unscripted epusode 768 that Monteith’s frequent addresses and commentary on same-sex marriage (and his oen status) has been scrubbed from the internet.
    For the record, nobody, bar nobofy, believes that persons in civil partnerships are not sexually active with each other.
    This is the dishonesty and prevarication that the Global South Fellowship of the Anglican Communion has condemned in Justin Welby.

    • I didn’t say Welby didn’t know if the appointment simple he couldn’t pre-empt the announcement. I do not know how many were on the appointment committee. I have heard three people were interviewed, two men and one woman. Whether Welby could have vetoed the appointment I know not. Though I think it would have been unwise to do so if Monteith was the person everyone wanted. The appointment has gone down well at the cathedral. He comes with a good record esp in areas ( to my mind) which need addressing despite the very good ministry of Robert Willis. As to whether clergy in civil partners are celibate are not is something nether I nor you can possibly know

      • Perry: you know as well as I do that Welby has been promoting the appointment of clergy in same-sex partnerships, including the Bishops of Shetborne and Gtsntham and the Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight and the previous Dean of St Alban’s. He has also advanced Jayne Ozanne as much as he can, while losing the confidence of evangelicals.
        You also know that Monteith’s previous comments advocating same-sex marriage have all been mysteriously scrubbed from the internet.
        As a member of Canterbury Cathedral you may well be in a position to say Monteith’s appointment “has been well received”. But Canterbury Cathedral is hardly a typical parish church: it has an enormous endowment going back centuries and a staff bigger than some dioceses. It works on an entirely different personnel, eclectic congregational and financial model from normal parish churches.
        I am told that most Anglican parishes in the Canterbury deanery are struggling, elderly congregations with about 50 or 60 attending, with the exception of one large evangelical parish. I understand people there are quite disturbed by this appointment.
        Do you seriously believe that two men sexually attracted to each other and civilly partnered could share a home without being sexually tempted? That utterly beggars belief. Do you think a man and his girlfriend living the same way would not be tempted to fornicate? Of course not. The whole thing is dishonest and Welby has facilitated it.

        • You obviously know a lot about what I know James. Odd since I haven’t the foggiest who you are, where you are etc. apart from your contributions on here. Adieu!

    • I would like to see some archbishops and senior bishops in the worldwide Anglican communion write an open letter to Justin Welby to the effect, “In view of your open espousement of unrepentant LGBT within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion (supporting evidence attached) we regard you as a schismatic and we will now proclaim this openly. We also have no intention of going anywhere. What will you do?”

      • He wouldn’t need to do anything. Some churches in the Communion already proclaim this. They are welcome to their views and welcome to start schisms such as Gafcon and AMiE. So, they don’t have to go anywhere and nor does Welby and his successors.

        If you feel like joining the schismatics that’t up to you.

        • If you feel like joining the schismatics that’t up to you.

          Why do I get the impression you’d have been down in Broad Street, cheerfully lighting the blue touchpaper under those notorious schismatics Hugh and Nick?

  23. It means I suppose that at a particular time you were confirmed in the C of E and presumably you were a communicant Anglican. I rather assumed you had left the C of E for a more evangelical church. If you are still active in the C of E I apologize. But my point was about the current discipline with regard to civil partnerships and the clergy. Re David Monteith: here in Canterbury we are looking forward to his installation in early December.

    • I have heard from a couple of sources that the college of Bishop’s may well seek a similar outcome to the Methodists, where clergy and churches can make a choice and where clergy can opt out of conducting same sex marriages. There may be an option of a third province. All in all it feels that whatever happens will be a divisive mess. I feel that we are being driven by what culture believes to be right and have demoted scripture to a book of useful guidelines. I think that Andrew’s article was thoughtborivoking in all the right ways. But given the politics of the C.of.E I cannot see the current stance on sex, sexuality and marriage surviving unless it’s just one option. So much like Common Worship Liturgy where there a number of prescribed options the C.of. E will talk of many truths rather than one.

      • It is difficult to see how that will be possible in the C of E. It is described in Option 2 above and, as Andrew explains, could not work, and so must collapse into one of the other options.

        Unlike the Methodists, the C of E must have a clearly stated doctrine of marriage, since that forms part of canon law which is law of the land.

  24. Methodism: how is that going in the UK and USA?
    In the UK we have seen some drift to our church and I know of local preachers who have left. The Methodist would not survive without their reliance on lay Local Preachers.
    Even half a dozen years ago half of local(ish) chapel walked out of service led by SS promoting minister, and started their own independent church.
    Not only that, one liturgical communion service addresses Mother God. Again, a local chapel church Council ruled that the Superintendent Minister could not use it.
    That is just one snapshot.

    And what is happening to Methodism in the USA?

  25. I have to say some of the comments made by S are the wrong side of any reasonable red line.

    If people are polite to me I will be scrupulously polite back. I think my record bears this out.

    If people are insufferably rude to me I reserve the right to be rude back, and will take the consequences.

  26. I was told “get this into your skull” and “you are a rude idiot”.

    And if you hadn’t been rude to me first you wouldn’t have been.

    • Your post of 9.03 pm is an absolute disgrace.

      The post to which it was a response contains not a single word that a balanced person would regard with concern

  27. Perry Butler,
    If I have said anything factually wrong about David Monteith and the scrubbing from the internet of his previous comments on same-sex marriage, please correct them.
    If I gave said anything factually wrong about Canterbury Cathedral and the parishes in the deanery of Canterbury, please correct these as well. One of the churchwardens in a Canterbury parish is in a same-sex marriage. So is a Reader in anothet parish.
    If you seriously believe that two men sexually attracted to each other, in a civil partnership and sharjng a home the Dean’s house in Canterbury are not going to strongly tempted to have sex with each other then please say so clearly. You taught ordinands for a while so your views on ministers and sexual temptation are of interest. But if you think it is absurd please say so.

    • I feel it is a bit indiscreet to name an individual on a public forum, and pry/speculate on whether they are having sex with their partner. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think it’s kind. I’m not pointing my post at you personally, James, because I don’t really know you or your good intentions. I just think everyone should leave off. What must his partner, who isn’t even involved, feel about his private life being talked about?

      • I feel it is a bit indiscreet to name an individual on a public forum, and pry/speculate on whether they are having sex with their partner.

        If someone makes a public commitment to live in a particular way, then whether they are sticking to that is clearly a legitimate question of public interest.

        However, you are correct on mere speculation without evidence being inappropriate here.

        So, while the question of whether a particular person is living up in private to their public commitments most not be off-limits just because those commitments involve sex (for example, whether someone is living up to their marriage vows or committing adultery) is of legitimate public interest, we should assume that people are doing so unless we have evidence to the contrary, not just mere speculation about what one thinks must be happening. That is inappropriate.

      • If I announced to the world that I was “living with my girlfriend” and I was in a position of senior church leadership, what do you imagine my bishop would say?
        “That’s your business” or “No, that is a cause of scandal”?
        I think the answer is obvious.
        Canterbury Cathedral publicly announced David Monteith is coming to that city witb his civil partner so it is hardly a private matter, so take up your concern with Canterbury Cathedral.
        Allowing clergy to have civil partners was a terrible decision that should be revoked. The church should never condone sophistry. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything more is from the devil. Now who said that?

        • If I announced to the world that I was “living with my girlfriend” and I was in a position of senior church leadership, what do you imagine my bishop would say?
          “That’s your business” or “No, that is a cause of scandal”?
          I think the answer is obvious.

          Do you not think the answer would be different if you had made a public statement that you and your girlfriend, though living under the same roof, would not have sexual relations unless and until you were married?

          If you had made that public commitment, explicitly, then I think that we would be honour-bound to assume that you would be keeping to your word, wouldn’t we?

          After all we do this in other circumstances: imagine a married man working closely with an attractive woman. This man is in exactly the same situation: he has made a public commitment that he will not have sexual relations with any woman other than his wife, and I think we have to assume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that he is sticking to his publicly-stated promise.

          Of course if ever any evidence emerges to the contrary — if one of the couple is overheard saying, ‘well of course we aren’t sticking to that stupid old rule, don’t be silly’, for example — then feel free to come down on them like a tonne of bricks.

          But without evidence (and unless the person has form as an oath-breaker) I think we should assume people are keeping their public promises until there is evidence, rather than mere speculation about what ‘must’ be happening.

    • Your post is broadly correct James except for a few details. I have no wish to comment on the issue of sexual temptation among civil partners who have presumably satisfied their bishop that they are living within the current guidelines. I am puzzled you are. I have no particular desire to speculate about people’s sex life or their temptations. Frankly it strikes me as prurient. I taught ordinands ( mostly with London University Extra Mural students Church History. I did not reach ethics nor concern myself with counseling or spiritual direction. I think we have both said enough. Adieu.

  28. The fact that people can hire the local branch of sainsburys and get married in the fresh fruit department dressed in Halloween costumes is grievous on so many levels but it does hugely undermine the claim that a national injustice is being perpetrated those who want a SSM in a church.

    If a church was the only place you can marry then I think we would be in trouble. In reality weddings has been so vulgarised and trivialised that the claim the government should right a terrible wrong and make churches conduct such services cannot possibly have crowds taking to the streets in protest

    • In reality weddings has been so vulgarised and trivialised that the claim the government should right a terrible wrong and make churches conduct such services cannot possibly have crowds taking to the streets in protest

      Surely what this inevitably leads onto then is that the legal and the religious aspects of marriage have now become so detached that they barely have anything to do with each other any more, so that it makes no sense at all for them to be connected in any way whatsoever; so the Church of England needs to get out of the business of legally marrying people entirely, and do what is done in other countries, and what other denominations do in the UK: have couples (or, in future, thruples, or whatever complicated multi-party arrangements the state decides to recognise) become legally married when they sign the secular legal documents, and then the church is free to impose whatever conditions it wishes on who it marry (subject to basic anti-discrimination legislation, which as per the Asher’s case does not compel speech, so couldn’t be used to force a church to celebrate something that it was morally opposed to) without the possibility of legal challenge in the basis that it is depriving people of something to which they are legally entitled.

      How about it? Seems the best solution all round to me. Then the secular world can continue dragging what it calls ‘marriage’ into the gutter, without that dragging actual Christian marriage down with it.

      • As recommended by CS Lewis, Mere Christianity – two type marriage system, sacred and secular. I don’t agree though. Secular one sells everyone short.

  29. Since option 2 in the OP mentions the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC), I (as someone who was part of SEC for 31 years) think it would be useful to show briefly how the acceptance of same-sex marriages being conducted in SEC churches was accepted by its synod. Up until 2017 SEC Canon 31.1 (“the marriage canon”) read as follows:

    “The Doctrine of the Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.”

    This of course ties in to the theological language of the 1662 English BCP and the 1929 SCottish BCP – both had historical authority in SEC. However, it should be noted that at some time in the last 50 years or so, both BCPs (English and Scottish) lost their governing position for doctrine in SEC – this is crucial.

    In 2017 the SEC General Synod resolved (with bishops voting 4 to 1 in favour) to delete the sentence quoted above from the marriage canon and to supply the following text instead:

    “In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. Any marriage which is to be conducted by a cleric shall be solemnised strictly in accordance with the civil law of Scotland for the time being in force and provided said cleric is satisfied, after appropriate enquiries, that the parties have complied with the necessary preliminaries as set forth in the civil law.”

    I would note that this revised canon now has no theological content whatsoever, commits SEC to believing nothing in particular, and leaves the definition of marriage entirely to Scottish civil law. I would also note that since 2017 SEC has produced no theological rationale whatsoever for its decision to revise this canon. And prior to 2017, the one official SEC document that did exist had nowhere near the academic calibre of those from Andrew Goddard and Ian Paul being posted here.

    For those of you in the CoE or elsewhere in the Anglican world, I can only say that this SEC revision remains a case study on how NOT to proceed whilst maintaining theological integrity.

  30. It is very significant that the LLF material completely ignored the 2005 decision by the English House of Bishops to demand an explicit declaration of celibacy from all unmarried clergy. The removal of this unjust and cruel requirement would not require a doctrinal change because this decision is a matter of discipline not theology. The Anglican churches of Ireland and Wales maintain the traditional view that Christian marriage can only be between a man and a woman but do not require an explicit declaration of celibacy from unmarried priests. The Bishop of Monmouth confirms that this makes a huge difference to the daily lives of Lesbian and Gay priests. Theology is not the same as its implementation. The Church of England teaches many things that are actually ignored in some parishes. For example the 39 Articles explicitly denies transubstantiation but as we know, many Catholic parishes teach it.
    The 2005 decision puts a Lesbian or Gay priest in an impossible position. Either they have to lie to their Bishop or they have to choose between their God given vocation and their God given sexual love for a lifelong partner.
    I believe we should press for the removal of the 2005 requirement exactly because it does not require a long winded examination of the nature of Christian Marriage. Our Lesbian and Gay priests have suffered for nearly 20 years from this cruel, unnecessary and unjust decision from the English House of Bishops and it time for it to go.


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