Andrew Goddard writes: Whatever is decided in relation to the teaching of the Church of England and the options considered in the previous article, the bishops also need to consider a number of practical questions as they propose the direction for the Church of England going forward. Here there are at least four broad areas to consider:
- How the church views civil partnerships, marriage, and gender recognition in society and law;
- How the church’s teaching might take shape in relation to pastoral guidance and church discipline especially in relation to liturgy and the pattern of life of leaders;
- How any changes in teaching or practice are to be introduced; and
- The implications of decisions for the unity and ordering of the church.
Civil partnerships, civil marriage and gender recognition
Until the advent of same-sex civil partnerships the church simply had to have a view on whether civil marriages should be viewed as marriage in the light of the church’s teaching. Various legal changes in relation to the bonds of affinity (eg the Deceased Wife’s Sister Marriage Act of 1907) and then in relation to divorce, often opposed by the church, created challenges and difficulties given traditional church teaching. The basic assumption though remained that civil marriages were to be viewed as marriage even if some of them would not be able to be entered into according to the marriage rites of the Church of England.
In 2004 two acts were passed that raised new questions. Under the Gender Recognition Act a person could be recognised in their preferred gender and their birth certificate amended so that a biological male could legally be recognised as female and vice versa. A 2003 memorandum from the House of Bishops had acknowledged two views could properly be held on what it called “transsexualism”. As the Church of England continued to marry men and women as defined in law it therefore in practice now recognised marriages between two people of the same biological sex where one had a gender recognition certificate. It also permitted such marriages within church but with a conscience clause so clergy were not required to officiate at them.
The same year saw the introduction of civil partnerships and the bishops concluded these were not marriages because they were for same-sex couples and that could be distinguished from civil marriage because there were a few technical distinctions in legal definition. They also decided that clergy could enter them but as they were not marriages and “the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics remains unchanged” they should not be sexual relationships or blessed by the church as “for Christians, marriage – that is the lifelong union between a man and a woman – remains the proper context for sexual activity”. It is noteworthy that in 2007 General Synod refused to commend this approach due to a coalition between those wishing a more affirming response and those wishing a more critical one.
Since then there have been two further significant legal changes. When same-sex marriage legislation was passed in 2013 the bishops continued to insist in February 2014 that a same-sex union could not be marriage and so should not be sexual and also said that clergy should not enter a same-sex marriage given church teaching on the nature of marriage. The advent of opposite-sex civil partnerships in 2019 led to guidance which proved controversial but simply followed the same logic as earlier statements: these are non-marital unions and so should not be sexual. Clergy should marry rather than enter opposite-sex civil partnerships and should still not bless civil partnerships. A complication that remains unaddressed is that legally same-sex civil partnerships are now able to be made into marriages simply by applying for this and paying a fee and so the stance that they are a legally distinct category from marriage, always a contested claim, is now on even more shaky ground.
There is a strong case that, whatever they decide on church teaching, the bishops now need to review their various initial ad hoc assessments in the light of where we now are socially and legally. They need to provide a clearer and fuller explanation and perhaps some revision of them in order for their approach to be seen as theologically justified and legally coherent and one which offers plausible accounts of these realities and how the church should respond to them.
If current teaching is maintained, most of the current applications to these patterns of life would remain justifiable although there are questions as to why if a civil partnership can be entered by clergy under certain conditions it cannot be given a form of liturgical recognition under the same conditions. The legal advice appended to GS 2055 (discussed here) also pointed out (para 13) that the bishops might decide to clarify that civil same-sex marriages were not holy matrimony and this may then enable them to be viewed in a similar way to civil partnerships despite being legally viewed as marriage.
If church teaching changes then the bishops will need to decide how to define any new patterns of chaste relationship they recognise in relation to these three new legal forms now in existence. They might also consider whether the relationship pattern they now commend should take a form defined by the church entered into by means of a liturgical celebration distinct from the legalities of civil partnerships or civil marriage.
Consideration also needs to be given as to whether, following the common practice elsewhere, the church would be best to separate itself from legally registering any form of marriage or civil partnership. Instead it would then develop its own patterns of recognising forms of chaste life for those who wish to enter them, distinct from the legalities of civil partnership and marriage in society as a whole.
Pastoral guidance and church discipline
Previous pastoral statements from the bishops have been generated as responses to the various legal changes outlined above. As such they have been reactive and seen by many as restrictive and reactionary. There is now the opportunity, in the light of LLF, and based on the Pastoral Principles and many important areas of agreement noted in the previous article, to provide a more positive theological and pastoral vision of how the church should offer welcome and support to all people and be a place where all can learn about and grow in obedience and conformity to God’s good purposes for us.
The details of this will, however, remain contested as a result of the disagreements over what the church should teach. It can though hopefully be agreed across our differences that only what is recognised as a chaste pattern of life can be liturgically celebrated or blessed by the church and that church leaders need to be committed to living such a chaste pattern of life in accordance with church teaching.
This means that, once agreement is reached on what the teaching on a chaste life should be, the outworkings of it in these areas should flow more clearly from it. It also means that changes in relation to liturgical recognition and expectations of authorised ministers will, in effect, signal changes in teaching unless they are clearly shown to be an alternative way of being consistent with current teaching. It is therefore vital that theological clarity is first agreed before any proposals for liturgy are suggested.
The language of “authorised ministers” signals another important question. Since Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 the distinction that has generally been drawn is that between clergy and laity with the former being required to conform their lives to church teaching but greater freedom of conscience given to the latter. Three questions often arise in relation to this and need to be addressed.
First, it is far from clear why clergy/laity should be where differentiation occurs. Being licensed by the bishop for authorised public ministry, particularly when such authorisation involves commitment to live a godly life (as with licensed lay ministers under Canons E5 and E6), would appear a much more theologically defensible distinction if one is to be drawn. At present, however, as highlighted recently, there are a range of diocesan policies concerning whether or not to extend the expectations on clergy to licensed lay ministers.
Secondly, there are also questions as to whether local congregations can apply church teaching more rigorously to lay leaders such as home group leaders or other forms of spiritual leadership within the local church. The LLF film of Andrew and Gerhard, for example, used in session 4 of the LLF course, refers to Andrew being dismissed from such a role in their local church when they married and similar policies have caused controversy in London diocese and doubtless elsewhere.
Thirdly, there are questions as to whether the church has now abandoned (in relation to sexual behaviour but also more widely) any effective form of church and sacramental discipline applied to those not in authorised ministry.
In relation to prayers and liturgical celebrations, the current guidance helpfully distinguishes between public services and private prayers and pastoral counsel. A fuller account and defence of this might be helpful and more guidance might also be given as to how to pray for and support those whose pattern of life cannot be formally celebrated and blessed publicly as it represents a rejection of church teaching (however that is defined).
It is sometimes argued that all that is currently forbidden is a service of blessing and so other forms of service are permissible. This seems to be based on a narrow and literalistic reading of Lambeth 1.10 which refers to blessing. It is, however, difficult to justify theologically or in terms of canon law and fails to recognise that the objections of many in the Communion are not only restricted to liturgical developments that describe themselves as blessings as I.10 makes clear by referring to “the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”.
Related to this, there is clearly a desire by many to embrace the approach developed in relation to remarriage after divorce and introduce a service of prayer and dedication after a civil ceremony. As I’ve previously set out more fully, this claimed precedent in relation to remarriage after divorce and appeals to pastoral accommodation (though advocated by some) are not able (certainly within current teaching) to be extended legitimately to same-sex unions. The heart of the problem here is that the existing service relates to a form of life recognised as marriage (which the couple have to affirm is their understanding within the service) but as noted above civil partnerships and same-sex marriages are not seen as marriage in church teaching and there is currently no teaching as to why they are a chaste form of life the church should commend. Such a direction of travel therefore requires some degree of development in current teaching (options 2-6 in the previous article). This has been clearly confirmed by legal advice, including that summarised at the end of GS2055.
Implementing decisions and changes
There is currently little clarity as to how whatever the bishops discern will then be taken through a process of reception and, in particular, how any changes they recommend will be approved and implemented.
One central issue here is the respective roles of bishops and General Synod. The pattern in the past has been that the bishops have addressed these matters by providing pastoral guidance and statements based on existing teaching and not have neither needed nor sought synodical approval for these. Following the Pastoral Conversations, however, the bishops’ proposals (GS2055) were subject to synodical scrutiny and Synod failed to “take note” of their proposed way forward.
One of the significant developments with the LLF book was that on its opening page in their invitation to the church, the bishops explicitly acknowledged not only that “there is disagreement within the people of God” but also “including among us, the Bishops of the Church of England”. It might well be that this disagreement remains the case and becomes much more public, whatever the outcome of the discernment process.
In relation to church teaching and expectations of clergy, it might be that the bishops will view this as to be determined by them because of their episcopal office without reference to Synod. They might also seek, without getting synodical approval, to commend a new liturgy or offer guidance for clergy wishing to develop a service to mark a same-sex union. Given their contentiousness and the desire through LLF to involve the church more widely in discernment it would, however, seem wise to seek synodical assent to any proposals for change they would wish to make.
A further key question is whether changes in doctrine or practice, whether decided by the House of Bishops alone or within all 3 synodical houses, would require more than a simple majority. It looks unlikely that there would be ⅔ majority for change in all 3 Houses (the process used, for example, in the Church in Wales) and even a simple majority might not be achievable given the more conservative stance of this Synod.
Another crucial area is how, whatever is decided but particularly if there are changes, individual consciences which dissent can be respected. This is particularly challenging at the episcopal level. It can be considered in terms of what the consequences of any collegial decision would be for individual bishops who dissent from it. Were, for example, a new definition of chaste relationships to be accepted at the end of this process, what would be the situation of those bishops who remain convinced of “the doctrine of Christ as the Church of England has received it” which they agreed to teach and to uphold? Will they now be required to accept under their jurisdiction in their dioceses services which celebrate relationships they believe to be wrong and clergy living in such relationships? Or will they—and will new bishops in the future—still be able to continue exercising their episcopal ministries in line with their consciences and the current teaching of the church? If they are so permitted then there will inevitably be complaints of a “postcode lottery” (as there are currently in relation to licensed lay ministers) but if they are not then the change in teaching would seem to entail likely episcopal resignations (as has happened in other provinces of the Communion) and the future exclusion from the episcopate of any who would wish to uphold the current teaching in episcopal ministry. The heart of the problem is that mono-episcopal jurisdiction over geographically defined areas cannot easily continue unchanged in the face of such widely, deeply, and passionately held but mutually incompatible beliefs, especially if these then lead to changes in received teaching.
These questions highlight why, finally, the bishops cannot separate off, and delay for later consideration, questions about the structure of the church and how it may need to adapt and evolve given our deep disagreements.
Church order and unity
The final session of the LLF course, drawing on discussions in the LLF book (especially, pp. 230-234 and pp. 406-12) and earlier work of the Faith and Order Commission, maps out three levels of disagreement. It notes how in the first and most serious of these some fellow Christians are viewed as “contradicting the good news of Jesus or the Bible’s teaching” while even the second level makes “living and working together as one church difficult, perhaps impossible”.
A large number of people view our disagreements in these areas as in one of these two categories. They have regrettably reached the conclusion that there exist incompatible conscientious beliefs as to how we view and read the Scriptures, what God teaches us through them concerning the pattern of holiness, and where the Spirit is leading us as a church. Furthermore, these disagreements are so serious as to “undermine our ability to live and work together as one church”, making it “hard to worship together, to share sacraments, to have a single structure of ministry, oversight and governance” (LLF book, 231). This means serious consideration has to be given to the consequences of any changes in teaching and practice.
In relation to women priests and bishops it was thought important that changes being made did not make it impossible for those holding traditional views to remain, in good conscience and good standing, within the Church of England. The question then arises as to what sort of provision would need to be made for those unhappy with any changes arising out of this period of discernment and decision-making. Though we must learn from experience in relation to the ordained ministry of women, we must also recognise the quite different nature of questions relating to marriage and sexual ethics.
The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) has done much work on this, setting out a theological rationale in “Gospel, Church and Marriage: Apostolic Faith and Life” and commissioning work, published as “Visibly Different”, to map out what sort of solutions might be necessary in terms of alternative delegated episcopal oversight or a provincial solution. These (with a new introduction and updating addendum) have recently been submitted to the Next Steps Group.
The central argument here is that, were the church to change its teaching, then for those who hold to existing teaching to be able to flourish with integrity would require, while maintaining as high a degree of communion as possible, new canonical and episcopal structures. These would ensure that witness to the current teaching could flourish within the Church of England through a visibly differentiated structure, able to be recognised by the majority of the Anglican Communion and to be maintained faithfully over time. Essential features of it would likely include maintaining and ensuring:
- Freedom for serving bishops to continue exercising their episcopal ministry and ordering the clergy and churches under their episcopal care and authority in accordance with current teaching and discipline;
- Assured processes of continuing selection, training, and appointment of clergy and bishops committed to this current teaching and pattern of church discipline in their ministries;
- A permanent episcopal and canonical structure within which bishops, and clergy and congregations under their episcopal care and authority, can securely order their life in accordance with current teaching;
- All clergy and congregations who wish to order their life together in this way being able to receive episcopal ministry from, and be under the episcopal authority of, bishops who continue to be similarly committed to upholding current teaching and discipline in their ministries.
The corresponding question arises as to whether similar forms of provision might need to be provided for those who object to current church teaching should it be reaffirmed by the bishops. There is a widespread desire across all perspectives to find some settlement as a result of the LLF process which will avoid ongoing, protracted disputes concerning the direction of the church on these matters. Many committed to current teaching do not wish to prevent those who reject it from living within an ecclesial structure that enables them to flourish by following their conscientious beliefs.
Consideration might therefore need to be given in this situation as to new canonical and episcopal structures for those bishops, clergy and congregations who wish, while maintaining as high a degree of communion as possible, to develop and express some form of alternative teaching and discipline in relation to marriage, sexuality, identity and relationships. One suggestion has been some arrangement with Anglican provinces such as Scotland, Wales or The Episcopal Church Europe that permit same-sex blessings or marriage.
In their concluding appeal in the LLF book (p. 422) the bishops noted “the depth of disagreement between Christians on exactly how we are called to be distinctive in our ways of life in obedience to Christ, and about what it means to be those who, according to Jesus’ prayer, have received his ‘word’ and have been ‘[sanctified] in truth’ (John 17.14, 17, 18)”.
They also frankly acknowledged that “those disagreements are to be found among us as bishops” and that “most pressing among our differences are questions around same-sex relationships” where “decisions in several interconnected areas need to be made with some urgency”.
In addition to the differences concerning what the church should teach about marriage and a chaste life discussed in the previous article, there are a number of complex, connected, and contested practical questions which will affect the lives of many both inside and outside the Church of England. The bishops will need either to reaffirm and in places clarify current practices, or to propose developments to them in relation to civil partnerships and civil marriage and the church’s own practices regarding pastoral care, liturgical celebrations, and expectations on ministers. It is vital that they do so in a manner that:
- shows the church how what they propose is shaped by Scripture and by whatever teaching they decide to commend;
- considers what now needs to be said and done for the many in the church (seemingly whatever they decide) who, unable to agree with their conclusions, will likely be grieved, alienated and angered by the outcome;
- is honest about the implications of their decisions for the wider Anglican Communion and ecumenical relationships and for how the church is viewed in wider English society.
As those “called to serve and care for the flock of Christ” the bishops need our prayers. Over these coming days and months they have to make many difficult decisions as, “mindful of the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep”, they are faithful to the commitments made at their ordination and highlighted at the end (p 424) of the LLF book to:
Love and pray for those committed to their charge, ‘knowing our people and being known by them’ in the love of Christ, ‘to serve and care for the flock of Christ’ in the faith of Christ and ‘to promote peace and reconciliation in the church’ in the hope of Christ.
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.
234 thoughts on “What are the practical implications following Living in Love and Faith?”
Andrew G, you have written:
The legal advice appended to GS 2055 (discussed here) also pointed out (para 13) that the bishops might decide to clarify that civil same-sex marriages were not holy matrimony and this may then enable them to be viewed in a similar way to civil partnerships despite being legally viewed as marriage.
Yet you have written this in an environment in which those who believe in the Bible and in what Jesus Christ has said in the Bible are treated with absolute contempt and so any Bible-believing Christians are treated badly, very badly. I don’t know what Bible believing Christians have ever done to justify such bad treatment from the Church.
So this not a comment to you personally but about how bad this textual environment has become.
In Matthew 22: verses 15 to 21, Jesus is asked by Pharisees about paying tax.
Does Jesus tell anyone what tax is? NO – Jesus gets a coin and asks whose head is on it? According to the reading it is Caesar’s head and Jesus says give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.
What matters here is that Jesus is asked about something which he doesn’t directly answer but instead adjusts the question to its godly context and answers that instead.
In Matthew 19 The Pharisees ask Jesus about divorce. Does Jesus tell anyone what divorce is? NO – Jesus tells all of us what marriage is. This last bit is unpopular, so unpopular, that attempts to justify all sorts of modern political correctness are so tortuous that we are treating Bible believing Christians with contempt all because those who should know better don’t want to see the common approach in what Jesus says to such “trick” questions.
This is compounded by the Greek-English dictionary of the NT, that is very widely used by those understanding koine-greek. Using english letters in place of the koine greek letters we can trans-literate the word in the Bible to be “Koinonia”.
The starting problem here is that the Bible has always had different words for friendship, fellowship and for marriage. In modern politically correct language the words “friendship” and “fellowship” have come to have effectively the same meaning and yet they are really quite different, and have always been different.
So you can have intimate fellowship, but that is not the same as marriage, hence the legal advice appended to GS 2055 indicated that the bishops might decide to clarify that civil same-sex marriages were not holy matrimony and that has some merit.
Here is Christians trying to be positive but expecting to be abused and hated for trying to stay within what the Bible tells us that Jesus says to us and Christians being positive, but speaking to a community that does not want to hear what Jesus says.
Now you ring news that Bihops may choose to act on “Living in Love and faith” and, thereby force SSM in and abuse Bible believing Christians.
Sorry about the last sentences missing letters. It was intended to say:
Now you bring news that Bishops may choose to act on “Living in Love and faith” and, thereby force SSM in and abuse Bible believing Christians.
Ordinary orthodox believers who read this article will be left with a sense of total despair.
Bishops have spent five years not answering the question on the grounds it needs further extensive theological and pastoral reflection to discern the mind of the church and to engage with the widest possible number of people in the church and wider society with an acute and pastorally driven focus on those suffering oppression and victimhood.
Or to put it in plain English, keep the discussion going for as long as possible and hope something helpful happens along the way
Enough endless descriptions on complexity. If you are a bishop, tell us what you believe and do so now
To be fair on the bishops, they took a collective decision NOT to ‘take sides’ during the journey of LLF, so as not to appear partial to one group or the other. I think that was principled.
However, I fully agree with your last paragraph, Peter. We’ve had 50 or 60 years to look into the whole subject, and we’ve done it to death, and we’re still deeply divided in the Church of England.
It’s time for the bishops to take decisions, and as you say, those decisions need to be as near to ‘now’ as possible. I respect your fair and balanced outlook, Peter. I think you’re absolutely right in your view that people could keep on reading complexities into this debate for another ten years – which if people fear outcomes may well suit them – but it’s enough!
Let us pray for our bishops, on retreat this week, that they discern the best workable way forward. Is the Church of England willing to accommodate belief in gay sexual devotion as blessed and a gift, or not?
The question of * accommodation* is an inversion at the horizontal human level , rather than submission under God, under the authority of God’s self revelation in scripture, his word, his Word made flesh.
In short it is looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
As a vignette, from Andrew Atherstone’s earlier article on the Hull ordinations, the placing the Bible on heads was hugely symbolic of coming under the authority of scripture.
That is a whole world away from *accommodation;* where scripture comes under the authority of humanity, unless
humanly deigned to be acceptable; where scripture and God, conforms to us, where we deny and decline conformity to God, through scripture and the Holy Spirit, through our Triune God, who is altogether Holy.
So well written.
A very strong post.
Congregations are being scattered. Lives are being damaged. This is happening now.
Obviously we all accept the humanity of bishops. If the strain is too much they need resign and would go with our best wishes.
If they stay they are accountable for the enormous harm that is being done now.
Nobody has to become a bishop or stay as a bishop. If you hold the office you must do the job
Ian I am posting on this thread because I want to be sure of reaching you
I have just been the target of an absolutely disgraceful post from somebody called s on the thread previous thread. Dated 30th October 2022. At 9.03 pm
I have previously had a high regard for this site and referenced it to others.
If the kind of aggressive and disgaceful behaviour which s is displaying is the actual standard on this site you will appreciate that changes matters entirely
Look, you accused me not only of being wrong (that’s fine) but of knowing I was wrong and dishonestly trying to use sophistry to cover up my error.
Any rudeness I delivered to you was after that, in response to it, and none of it even reached close to the insult you delivered me. I called you an idiot, impugning your intellectual capacity. You, on the other hand, impugned my intellectual honestly, a far weightier matter.
If you dish it out you have to be prepared to take it.
For the record the statement I made to s was “you are straining on a gnat to convince yourself you are right”
“This means serious consideration has to be given to the consequences of any changes in teaching and practice”.
If any such official changes in sexuality/marriage doctrine are agreed and the Synod (and, don’t forget, the British Establishment) agree that a “visibly different” structure be allowed, the following issue arises in my view:
As Andrew points out the case for a visibly different structure depends on the Synod agreeing a change to the Church’s sexuality/marriage doctrine. Those Bishops, Clergy and Lay who wish to “join” the visibly different structure presumably believe that the Church’s present sexuality is right and should not be changed.
The Church of England as a whole, with many exceptions of course, is failing to preach the terrible warnings, some from Christ’s own lips, alongside the wonderful promises and sincere invitations to all to repent and submit to Christ in his atoning death and life-giving resurrection. That failure includes a failure to believe, teach and preach that we all face God’s condemnation from birth onwards and we are all born with a nature inclined to evil because of Adam’s sin (as Article 39 says, summarising Romans 5:12-21 and other passages) as well as because of our personal sins.
This failure is more fundamental and important than the LLF disagreement, important though that is.
As far as I know there are no moves afoot to officially change the Church’s doctrine of the Fall and Original Sin as expressed in Article 9. I admire Ian Paul’s website; he posts views with which he disagrees and I agree with much that he says, including his staunch opposition to revisionist views on marriage and sex. But Ian has made it clear that he does not agree with my view on the meaning of Article 9. He has posted
“October 11, 2022 at 10:08 am
I agree with you that judgement matters, as Justin Welby mentioned in his sermon at the Queen’s funeral.
But your reading here is a strong form of Augustinian original sin, and respectable, biblical evangelicals don’t all agree with your reading”.
If Ian Paul and other evangelicals who agree with him on Original Sin and sexuality/marriage doctrine join the visibly different structure we will have a situation where such evangelicals are right about sexuality/marriage but, in my view, wrong about the more important doctrine of original sin.
That cannot be a satisfactory situation.
If, on the other hand, the Synod reaffirms the present Church sexuality/marriage doctrine and those who want to change it are allowed to set up a visibly different structure, that outcome is also unsatisfactory because some evangelicals (and no doubt some non-evangelicals) do not believe that we all face from birth the condemnation of God and are born with a nature inclined to evil.
Phil, In your understanding of Augustinian original sin, is it your view that infants who die before coming to Christ are eternally damned? If not, can you show from scripture that they are saved?
My view is that God in his mercy can apply the fruits of Christ’s redemption to infants. I am not saying that he does that to all infants, though I believe some Reformed theologians did believe He does. I cannot give you a proof text for my view. Possibly the question of children within the Covenant is important.
I am no expert on the question of what various groups believe in respect of original sin.
I only wish to point out that our doctrine of how we first come to sin must include the fact that God does not consider children capable of knowing right from wrong up to a certain age – see Deut 1:39. There is ‘an age of responsibility’.
But might an act which is prior to that age still be sin because all that is required is the act – not the state of mind/heart?
No – we don’t see Jesus reacting to all sin in the same way in scripture – yet he should do so if the only necessary element is the act – not the state of heart. God only views acts which are the result of ignorance as sin when the ignorance is the result of a prior act of evil – free, knowing, and wilful sin (this not being the case with the child). This is the case with all of our adult sin of ignorance. We each – like Adam and Eve – make a free, knowing, and wilful choice to rebel against God (tempted as Adam and Eve were by the presence of sin in the world – this sin having a cumulative effect which leads everyone to sin – Romans 5:12) – which God judges by allowing us to become subject to two other kinds of sin – sin which is the result of being inclined towards sin – and sin which is the result of darkened understanding (Romans 1:17-32).
If one takes the view that God hates all sin and that sin can be sin only because of the act then a child is subject to God’s wrath for any of the three kinds of sin above. However the only thing I see established in scripture is that God hates EVIL – evil being free, knowing, and wilful sin – and evil doers – Psalm 5:5-6). If evil and sin were the same thing it would mean that a holy God would continue to hate the sin of believers which is not free, knowing, and wilful – even though his justice has been satisfied in respect of such sin. So they must be different. Don’t misunderstand me – God does feel anger in the case of sin which is the result of inclination towards sin and sin which is the result of ignorance – but that anger is directed back at the original act of evil that saw these kinds of sin come into existence.
I therefore conclude that a young child’s actions which are prior to reaching an age of responsibility (due to either insufficient knowledge – or due to the inability to control oneself – or due to the inability to understand sufficiently deeply the nature of right and wrong ) aren’t enough to make the child an object of wrath (Eph 2:3). And when a child does reach the age of responsibility it follows that they are at the very moment they rebel against God also capable of being repentant (in Christ).
So then we see why the bible says that the wages of sin is physical death (Romans 6:23 – the word translated death in that verse most often refers to physical death) – instead of the wages of sin being hell. This statement is the only thing that can be said about ALL kinds of sin (the three kinds I have mentioned above). But the wages of any FINAL act of evil is hell (to be final we must either rebel against God’s love in creation in a manner which reveals that we would not respond to the gospel if offered it – or refuse God’s love revealed in the gospel – the two being listed in 2 Thess 1:9).
I won’t be entering into a back and forth on original sin (or the beliefs I present here) as we have strayed from the subject matter of the article.
Apologies – the sentence should have said:
“If evil and sin were the same thing it would mean that a holy God would continue to consider believers objects of wrath for sin which was not free, knowing, and wilful – even if his justice had been satisfied in respect of such sin”.
Chris, you may be interested in this:
The Gospels have examples of Jesus *dealings* with children, *coming* to him, being raised. Ultimately, children who die, *come to Jesus*. Such a wonderous encounter.
Yes, I agree with you -but under Augustinian original sin, Phil has stated that he does not think that God’s mercy would extend to all infants. Augustine thought that all all infants needed to be baptised to ensure that they weren’t damned which is why he advocated it.
I might have missed it, but I don’t think Phil Almond has specified a need for infant baptism as a means of salvation. Your creedal baptism position seems to be getting in the way and perhaps attributing to Phil something he doesn’t subscribe to.
That said, I don’t know the CoE doctrine of infant batism: more particularly, what it effects, achieves.
No l don’t think he did but it is part and parcel of the Augustinian concept of original sin.
You are here questioning Augustine. There is nothing so far as I can see that shows Phil follows Augustine. He is seeking to follow and apply the CoE doctrine. Whether that follows Augustine I know not.
Or you may be seeking to probe inconsistencies in CoE reformed doctrine.
Setting aside Augustine if you so wish there is sufficient whole Bible, both longitudinal and systematic warrant to establish the doctrine of the Fall,notwithstanding some strenuous, sometimes strident, voices in comments on this site in opposition.
Maybe the Prince of Preachers, Surgeon, is now an embarrassment to Baptists, as much as John Wesley is to some in Methodism.
As you know the Atonement Controversy in Wales was viciously and acidically fought out in public, covered in a book of that name, recommended
as important reading by Dr MLJ.
I am questioning an inconsistency in the *application* of the Augustinian concept of original sin. What I wished to know is under the Augustine doctrine of original sin, are all infants damned? Augustine was of the view that they were unless they were baptized.
Phil stated previously that ” My view is that God in his mercy can apply the fruits of Christ’s redemption to infants. I am not saying that he does that to *all* infants, ”
So in Phil’s view, some infants may not get the fruits of Christ redemption and are damned. You disagree and think they all do. I think Phil is being more consistent with Augustine here.
And no, I don’ t know what the CoE view is on this either although I have heard accounts of vicars telling the mother that their unbaptized dead child has gone to hell although I would imagine this is not a widely held view in the CofE.
And I am not sure what Spurgeon thought about this although he did smoke cigars which might be an embarrassment to some.
Chris, Spurgeon certainly created an odour, cigars or no. Sweet to some, offensive to others. The Gospel perhaps?
There are parts of the CoE communion service that look suspiciously like transubstantiation. No doubt there will be a technical differentiation, but I don’t know, really.
Could a believer, who was baptised as an infant, become an elder in your church? Or even a member?
Would they be excluded from fellowship of your church if they had not been baptized as an adult believer?
Could a Presbyterian be a church member, as they would be living opposition, by their very presence, to your church doctrine?
But we do like to wander off the path of the article, don’t we, just?
Quick reply to your 3rd para.
We have members with all sorts of different backgrounds in our church (quite a few are refugees from the CofE).
But- yes this is wandering of the topic of this article.
For another day.
Chris and Geoff – wondering off topic, but actually – to my mind – in a very interesting direction.
Geoff – many thanks for the link to the Mat Perman piece. I didn’t like it at the beginning, because it seemed to be far too deferential to the Phil Almonds of this world. Why did he have to do that? But he reached his punch-line, quoting John Piper (that God does not think that infants who die are absolutely horrid – and he does not cast them into the lake of fire) – so it was worth reading – thanks for pointing it out.
Chris – yep – sounds like the sort of thing I would hope for from a church. The important thing is getting saved – hearing the gospel message and being conquered by it, understanding that one is a forgiven sinner – and acknowledging that one is in fellowship with other forgiven sinners though Him. The whole business about baptism (by which I mean the ceremony with water) is very much a secondary issue.
I like the Salvation Army view of baptism – basically they don’t bother with it, but they’re quite happy to accept that there are other people who do bother with it – and they don’t withhold fellowship for that reason.
I’m not a great fan of Augustine – in my humble opinion, ‘original sin’ is a load of rubbish – and, even though I am in Him, if I get to heaven and discover that God really does cast infants into the lake of fire because He has imputed the sin of Adam to them, I’d probably prefer to ‘return the ticket’. The fact that getting dunked with magic water somehow makes it all right actually makes it even worse for me – but really, it’s the whole business of `original sin’ and its corollaries that seem dead wrong to me.
Augustine really was one of these who considered that his faith came at tremendous cost (going back to a previous discussion about cost of discipleship), where he asked God to make him Holy but not quite yet – so that he could indulge his carnal desires for just a little bit longer. And then (of course) his repentance came across as completely self-indulgent (his confessions come across something like Jimmy Swaggart with a microphone in his hand, repenting of his sins in front of a huge congregation). I can’t believe that people who consider the cost of discipleship in this way really are saved – and it just goes to show that the most brilliant theological mind, that has tremendous depth of theological thought and understanding, is not necessarily in the number of the Saviour’s family.
It is interesting, but is far too important to knock about in a comments section, with opportunities aplenty to fall into fallacies and cartoon characterizations. An example would be holding Jimmy Swaggert out as exemplar of any doctrine or it’s application, in this connection.
This is not the forum, even though it continues to unsettle and rattle many, even if not many in the CoE it seems.
I was the one who linked Piper, merely as a nod to a prima facie response to Chris.
It is all of a piece with God’s sovereignty. Books to read have been suggested in the past comments sections, but some comments have batted on regardless.
Disciples of Pelagius, there are aplenty
Geoff – well, I (for one) am certainly not a Pelagian – but you don’t need to be a Pelagian to find Augustine’s original sin abhorrent (especially when infants who die before they have reached an age where they could possibly understand the issues get thrown into the lake of fire – unless, of course, they have had some magic water dunked on their heads by one of the Spiritual A-team). I think we should treat Augustine with extreme caution. I remember Barth writing (in his `No!’) something along the lines of `ultimately, Augustine was a Catholic; that’s what makes him so dangerous’. (Not that Catholics are dangerous as such; just that Luther and Calvin both endorsed Augustine – and Barth took the view that such an endorsement can go too far – resulting in us unwittingly accepting bad things into our theological base).
One can reject the basic tenets of Pelagius without assenting to Augustinian ‘Original Sin’ – I’m absolutely not Pelagian.
By the way – I wasn’t referring to any doctrines of Jimmy Swaggart – just the appeal to the emotions when he was confessing his sins – and made a great show of it (just as Augustine ramps up the pathos, for example describing his remorse at stealing an apple when he was a youth).
Incidentally – I read in one of the obits of Jerry Lee Lewis that he was a cousin of Jimmy Swaggart. Jerry Lee Lewis seems to have been a violent adulterer, he shot someone and – all in all – he really was a rotten egg. Also, he got kicked out of bible college. Do you think he got kicked out for his sexual promiscuity? No, absolutely not! He got kicked out of the bible school for doing a boogie-woogie version of `My God is Real’.
With relevance to this thread therefore, perhaps we shouldn’t expect the C. of E. to disapprove of the sexually immoral, but you might find church discipline coming down like a ton of bricks on people who play the wrong music.
“And I am not sure what Spurgeon thought about this…”
Hi Chris, if you are interested:
“Among the gross falsehoods which have been uttered against the Calvinists proper, is the wicked calumny that we hold the damnation of little infants. A baser lie was never uttered. There may have existed somewhere, in some corner of the earth, a miscreant who would dare to say that there were infants in hell, but I have never met with him, nor have I met with a man who ever saw such a person. We say, with regard to infants, Scripture saith but little, and, therefore, where Scripture is confessedly scant, it is for no man to determine dogmatically. But I think I speak for the entire body, or certainly with exceedingly few exceptions, and those unknown to me, when I say, we hold that all infants are elect of God and are therefore saved, and we look to this as being the means by which Christ shall see of the travail of his soul to a great degree, and we do sometimes hope that thus the multitude of the saved shall be made to exceed the multitude of the lost. Whatever views our friends may hold upon the point, they are not necessarily connected with Calvinistic doctrine. I believe that the Lord Jesus, who said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” doth daily and constantly receive into his loving arms those tender ones who are only shown, and then snatched away to heaven.”
That is an interesting comment from Spurgeon l was unaware of Sam- thanks.
Andrew G writes,” shaped by scripture”.
1 what is the CoE official doctrine of scripture?
2 Based on Psalm 119: 1-8 here is a full transcription of Biblical exprapolation of what scriptur is, with a closing prayer :
” THE WORD: WHAT IS IT. Psalm 1 said the key to knowing God is delight in God’s Word. What is it?
As his law, decrees, and commands his Word is absolutely authoritative and must be obeyed (verses 1 and 5-6).
As his statutes it is permanently relevant for every time and place and must be trusted (verse 2).
As his precepts it is consumate wisdom such as what he requires perfectly fits our needs and nature (verse 4).
As his *ways* it is not a set of abstract rules but an expression of God’s own character and nature (verse 3).
So knowing the Bible is no end in itself. We know it in order to * seek him with all our heart*- to know fellowship with God (verse2).
Prayer: Lord, for years I thought that you could be active in my life through the Spirit and that the Bible was just a book of rules and inspirational stories. Thank you for showing me that the Bible*is* the way that through the Spirit, you are active in my life. Let me know you through your Word. Amen.”
From today’s, Oct 31, reading, My Rock My Refuge: A Year of Daily Devotions In The Psalms. Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller.
I hope this is a reasonably contructive contribution to the discussion.
Every ordained person and every Reader or Lay Minister must make the Declaration of Assent when consecrated/ordained/admitted (taken from the CofE website):
The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?
Declaration of Assent
I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.
Leaving aside the question concerning the extent to which those who have made this declaration are living up to it in the their teaching and lives, I think two practical issues arise.
Firstly, it provides a clear basis that those who make this declaration can be required to have a manner of life which accords with the faith to which they assent. So, this includes Readers/LLMs as well as clergy.
Secondly, there would be a profound change in the Declaration should SSM be accepted. Basically, the Book of Common Prayer would be regarded as no longer a ‘witness to Christian Truth’.
It always puzzles me in this why it is assumed that those who wish to retain a CofE defined by the above declaration should be the ones who might leave, while those who wish to have a church defined on a different basis remain. Why not the other way round?
David . You may be interested to know that the C of E’s Faith and Order Commission recently published “To Proclaim Afresh”.an analysis and commentary on the Declaration of Assent and the Oaths that clergy and others make
Is it like the small print in legal document with exceptions and conditions? We know what Andrew Godsall has written on this site in the past about the Declaration is Assent.
I couldn’t agree more David!
David, exactly so.
David, why not the other way around? I suspect because in general, those wishing to retain the Declaration have little interest in the world of Cathedrals, Church Commissioners, Appointments announced from Number 10 and State Funerals, Weddings and Coronations. Those wishing to retain the Declaration prefer a slimmed-down church with fewer trappings, a bit more like AMiE though not going quite so far. They’d actually feel more comfortable leaving.
Of course I can’t prove this. But I suspect.
There we have the CoE doctrine in a nutshell. Not sure if you’ve read any of Andrew Goddard’s articles. Does lying and truth telling bear any part in the Declaration, akin to perjury in Court? Disastrous.
There, we have no reason to trust anything the Declarants say, or do, or teach.
Dear Jamie -You are probably right when you say you can’t prove it. And you probably are a suspect, but we’ll keep it under wraps!
I am a Reader and took the declaration.
I hold to the orthodoxy of the Church of England.
I’m not going anywhere. Why should I ?
Unless you and others fight now, you will be forced out by a future Archbishop telling the government that the exemption on clergy conducting gay marriage is no longer needed, following which a provocateur couple will come forward in every parish. The problem is that persons holding your views are not organised, you will have to speak plainly and tell other ordained persons and bishops that they are schismatics and heretics, and you will have to be ready from the first moment of such a campaign for extreme vituperation and dirty tricks.
No archbishop, bishop, synod or any other authority can recast the foundations of the Church of England.
They can create a “gospel” that is not a gospel. They can create a “church” that is not a church. They can create chaos. That is already happening and is sure to get much worse.
Your are entirely wrong in your analysis of the position of orthodox authorised ministers. We are going nowhere. Nobody is showing us the exit. We are not cowards nor are we amiable useful idiots.
The numbers who want change are minuscule. We are being told to flee from shadows in the dark.
It’s not going to happen
Peter: I’d be glad to be wrong. But the enemy has seized hold of most persons who hold the worldly power in the Church of England, ie the house of bishops. He’s not done that without a purpose. We have seen open schism where this has happened in the Anglican churches in North America and elsewhere; why do you believe the Church of England is invulnerable? The only reason it hasn’t happened in England yet, as in the USA, is that both sides are more frightened of losing, because the stakes are higher – the title deeds to the Established church, and its buildings and property/landholdings.
You need to recognise, urgently, that you are in a fight to the death with liberals for the CoE. At present only one side is fighting – them. I’ve even suggested a plausible way in which they could win. Faith can always win, but you need to fight. At present you are merely engaged in a rearguard action.
Peter: The numbers who want change are minuscule.
Are you sure about that? Lots of evangelical churches are now downplaying their views on same-sex relationships and marriage. They no longer want to draw attention to themselves by having that conversation. The outspoken conservatives are ageing and will be gone in a generation. What happens when church leaders discover that the younger members of their congregation are actually far more ‘inclusive’ than they are currently letting on?
If a church is built on compliance and control rather than genuine conviction it can appear strong when in fact it might actually be brittle and prone to collapse. Any Christian under 40 has only participated in a civic culture that is gay-friendly. They know all too well that conservative Christian values on sexuality are now viewed as bigoted and abhorrent by the rest of society.
They are not viewed as abhorrent. An extremely inaccurate caricature of them is viewed as abhorrent. As I proved by my year+ long challenge in CEN to find even one person under a certain age who had even got as far as knowing what the counter arguments were.
Said ‘conservative Christian values’ are succeeding values, and what we have now are failing ones. The difference in outcome between the two is to the tune of thousands of percent, often – never less than 400.
None of the objectors seem to know or care to know any of these realities. So why pander to their ignorance? They are only supporting a stance because it suits their short term animal needs. That is not a serious point of view.
Your reply to me describes the position very accurate it some respects. I obviously fall into “older and outspoken” category and departure to glory will silence me sooner enough
The church I served in fits your description precisely. A nominally orthodox vicar who was clearly embarrassed by me and could not disguise his relief at my departure. His tactic was to avoid doctrine and talk about the pastoral needs of orthodox people struggling with same sex attraction
That has all taken a sledge hammer to my ministry but that is with respect not the point. 5% of clergy have confirmed they would conduct SSM. Less than 1% of the church attendees have responded to LLF – after years of effort and a huge LLF nationwide programme.
People want to big up the numbers but it just will not wash.
The only numerical argument that can be made is that society at large wants SSM and even that far less compelling than people claim. Is the government going to take on the catholics ? And then the Muslims ?? All so 500 couples a year or some equally tiny number can have a SSM church wedding.
We are, as I said, being told the flee from shadows. We should do no such thing
Peter – by ‘Reader’ I presume you mean that, from time to time, you are called to give a sermon (or homily or whatever they call it in the C. of E.)?
If so, then it is crystal clear that you should remain at your post and preach saving faith until they kick you out.
We understand from Holy Scripture that much about the church is intrinsically evil: John 11:49-53 tells us that Caiaphas, the High Priest for that year, was the motive force in having Jesus crucified.
At the same time, the church is ordained by God and the vehicle by which the Word of Life is proclaimed.
In the context of John 11:49-53, the current debacles within the C. of E. look like small potatoes – and it is up to the Christians within the C. of E. to proclaim the Word of Life within a framework which, however disappointing, isn’t as bad as the church of 30 AD.
A Reader takes services and is not just a preacher. We do not take communion (Eucharistic services), but we do take non-Eucharistic services, including funerals.
Clive – thanks for the clarification. All the more reason to stick with it and keep doing the Lord’s work. All the best to you (and Peter and everybody else on this thread who is involved in this way).
Absolutely !! At the moment my congregation is my family and friends but that is plenty enough opportunity.
I am a Reader (currently without a licence which I returned to a bishop who teaches a false gospel) so can only engage in public ministry if and when a vicar asks me to
If that happens under the right circumstances I will be delighted to return to public ministry
Jock. Should have said my reply just above is to you. I’m still getting the hang of the reply mode
This thread is about the practical implications of LLF, not about Original Sin, so I will say no more here on that subject. if Ian would have a thread devoted to Original Sin I would say more.
Say more?! You say rather a lot about this all the time!
If you don’t want to set up a separate thread you could give me permission to set out my detailed exegetical case on this or another existing thread. Or do you think I have done that already?
If you don’t want to set up a separate thread you could give me permission to set out my detailed exegetical case on this or another existing thread.
It seems to me that what you really want is your own web page, on which you can set out your exegetical case in as much detail and at as much length as it takes to make your heart content.
Detail and length are of the essence. Who would favour less thought over more?
Who would favour less thought over more?
More thought usually leads to greater brevity, though.
I will try to explain why I think Romans 5:12-21 and other passages persuade me that we all face the condemnation of God from birth onwards and are born with a nature inclined to evil. Anyone who disagrees, including yourself and other respectable biblical evangelicals would have the chance to refute my case. But first you need to set up a thread dedicated to this vital subject!
(1)For many years it appeared to me that Romans 9-11 was “forbidden territory”. Am I now being led to believe that Romans 5: 12 -21 is the complete picture?
(2)Geoff – You pontificate: ” We have no reason to trust anything the *Declarants* say or do or teach.” You have declared that “the bible is the way that through the Spirit you are active in my life”. Except that this is a quote from a third party (Tim Keller)! In other words you are giving your *assent” to another source. Why then should I trust your judgement as you also are a “Declarant”?
(3) I have enough practical experience of the “coming out” mentality to stay where I am; not least because of the reasons Joe S has given above!
I’m on phone, and have missed Joe S’s comment.
If liberals are prepared to play fast and loose with the Declaration of Assent, , presumably a once and for all declaration, how is anyone to discern between truth and error in teaching in beliefs, convictions.
It is interesting that you make no mention my analogy to perjury.
Sure I cited Keller, as I see him as a reliable guide in many areas.
But to say I am a Declarant on the same level, or in the same position of church authors. and influence as those who make the CoE Declaration of Assent, to put them into a ” leadership* position, to preach/ teach is a false equivalence.
Sure I declare, declare the Creeds, to which I hold. I declare, Christ crucified, ultimately, but not always and inconsistently, boast in him alone.
I have no idea what you mean by coming out, coming out of what, the CoE?
From your comments here over time, while I’d not agree with everything, I’d trust your integrity, and would come under your authority in church. I’d not do that with some Bishops. Christians are to come under authority.
My personal view is that the FICE is the way forward. I may be wrong here, but my understanding is that to remain part of it, each year Church leaders have to reaffirm their continued acceptance of the Statement if Faith. Of course that is still no guarantee, without integrity.
I think Anton’s assessment is correct. A long strategy has been played out and the shorter term operational plans are coming to a head, being played out. Someone who had a long sighted view was Melvin Tinker, tracing roots in his book, Hideous Strength.
BTW, do I take it that you don’t agree with Keller’s teaching above?
Yours in Christ, Geoff
No Geoff! You have missed the point completely. I disagree with your dogmatically overarching assertion “we have no reason to trust anything that the “Declarants” say or do or teach”. Those who make such sweeping assertions without providing any evidence almost invariably are prone to exhibit the same failings as those they deride! There are still many leaders within the Anglican fold who do have integtrity. And there are still those who through years of experience have seen (as Joe has indicated) that within the wider contemporary evangelical world , behind the facade of doctrinal and spiritual loyalty to the latest guru, there are signs of an incipient conformity to secular values; not least an eerie silence in many quarters on relationships in general and sexuality in particular.
Trust is evidence based.
I beg to differ. You don’t seem to have picked up on my courtroom analogy. If the oath were so water-down, with so many caveats, exceptions, exclusions, conditions to render it meaningless there would be no prima facie reason to believe or trust, rely on anything they may say. It would be disastrous to the whole system.
I do take on board the point Joe S made or you seek to make with a broadbrush stroke -evangelical, but it maybe falls into the “no true Scotsman Fallacy”. It also has some significant roots in his own personal experience. We all need to be discerning and vigilant.
And it doesn’t describe the church I’m part of. I trust the mid aged minister, the younger assistant minister, subscribers to the creeds and 39 Arts. It is a young family based church of many nationalities and professions and factory workers, taxi-drivers, mid-east, elderly, widows/widowers CAP, school ministry, church sent and supported oversees ministries.
I don’t see Keller as a guru. He is only one of many who have helped in study of scripture, especially longitudinal
Bilblical theology (which to me is a deeper application of the reformed hermeneutic that scripture interprets scripture) and Christian walk, including charismatics, reformed, Baptists, independents, Presbyterian, Methodists.
Come on Colin, in the context of Andrew G’s article, and his point about being “shaped by scripture”, does it not have some relevance?
Yours in Christ, Geoff
Over to you.
Anton. You make some good points. You say I need to realise urgently we are in a fight.
I moved home to bear a church to which we were a committed and where I was eventually licensed as a Reader. The new local bishop is a false teacher.
My wife and I have left that church. My live miles from our adult children. We cannot now move again. The costs are prohibitive. We live miles from a church we can attend. We are in our sixties. We will not recover the loss and damage that has happened across all aspects of our life
Believe me Anton, I am more than familiar with the fact we are in a fight. It makes no difference.
I am a loyal and orthodox Anglican and as I have said, nobody gets to show me the exit
You have paid a heavy price. And a heavier price could be paid by those in stipendiary ministry. A price already paid, as Anton related in N America.
In reality, have you not already resigned from your Reader’s office: in effect withdrawn from CoE ministry. And if I can use an employment law analogy, have been * constructively dismissed* from your position, cancelled.
It is an illustration, is it not, of rot, subsidence in the foundations of the CoE structures; a living gut -wrenching illustration of systemic, systematic, and CoE cultural, apostacy, is it not? And the Bishop remains …in authority?
I doubt, however uncomfortable your presence may make incumbents feel, reduced to a congregational member, that you would be barred/ excommunicated, disciplined for your orthodoxy.
Thanks for speaking up about this.
Yours in Christ, Geoff
I have returned the licence to a heretical bishop but retain the office of Reader. If an orthodox bishop is ever available near my home and would ask to be re licensed
A clergy friend of mine reminded me that Latimer and Ridley held office as bishops in the Church of England on the day the they were martyred.
I think he was meaning to be encouraging !!
Did you tell the bishop that you considered him a heretic, and publicise the reason why? That is part of what I mean by fighting. I’ll post a longer reply above.
I told him to his face he was wrong on SSM. I did not call him a heretic to his face. I did not go public because it would have caused trouble the vicar.
I am broadly in agreement with you that conservatives need to get up off their knees (unless they are in prayer) and show some backbone.
I have done what I could, which is not much. If I was ordained would I do more – I hope so.
Hello Peter, you wrote, “I told him to his face he was wrong on SSM.” Was it said as part of the LLF “conversations” process? Were any others present?
I wonder what your orthodox minister’s silence will be recorded as, which feedback box will be ticked, for, against, don’t know, silent unimportant, acquiescence.
If so, I wonder if it will form any part of the feedback.
Peter thank you for speaking out for the Readers. I share some of your experiences and bruises but with a slightly happier outcome thanks to a supportive local bishop.
I hope it is helpful to add for the benefit of other respondents that Reader Ministry is not a paid ministry and we are prohibited from taking any fees for occasional services such as funerals. Nor are we permitted to claim service fees during an interregnum. The majority of my close colleagues do not claim permitted expenses and we regard that as part of our giving. Thus, we should be quite an asset to an increasing number of parishes where mergers bring together a collection of churches.
But we are not welcomed everywhere as you have explained and, in the context of these three excellent articles, that may well mean that our future is limited – where there is disagreement between Incumbent and Reader, it is the Reader who walks. The casualty list is not limited to us as a group.
I quit the CoE in 2002 after a decade in my local parish church as an adult convert to Christ. On the PCC my proposals for what we could do ourselves during an inter-regnum were rejected by liberals, and too many bishops were publicly questioning the fundamentals of the faith. I have since become sceptical of priestly ordination and the episcopal system (I am not seeking discussion about those), but the best congregation within driving distance of me is Church of England, and I have been worshipping in it since lockdowns ended; its fine vicar pushed as hard as he could to hold services as soon as was legally possible.
An obvious problem is that evangelicals prefer to get on with building the kingdom while liberals prefer to climb the greasy pole.
To prevent what happened in North America from happening here, you need to fight the good fight pro-actively. Most evangelicals find it difficult to declare spiritual war on others within the same church system when there is a hostile world outside, but they must shed themselves of illusions: the world has got into the church. Certainly evangelicals must act before too many of the evangelical vicars who lead large and faithful congregations retire, and are replaced with liberals by their liberal bishops. A motion of No Confidence in their bishop at Diocesan synod would make the point sharply, or refusal to pass a diocesan budget. Or evangelicals might take up the Church of England’s structures to discipline ultra-liberal bishops – as unimaginative as secular administrators, scarcely distinguishable from secular social workers, and also moral cowards and bullies – for heresy. This attempt would fail, but a rallying standard would have been put in place for people to gather around, much as Luther did. Repeated demonstrations could be arranged outside bishops’ residences with placards asking “Does this bishop believe in God?” Slips of paper could be handed out explaining in brief and simple language the incompatibility of liberal theology with the Christian faith. Included would be the bishop’s salary, quotes from his (her?) liberal writings and speeches set against scripture, pointed questions about hypocrisy, and statistics for the number of administrators in the diocese and the number of regular Communicants during recent decades. (A website could maintain this information for every diocese.) Similar demonstrations could be held before services outside every church at which these (arch)bishops give a sermon, and at their other public engagements; local media could be alerted. Letters with multiple signatories could be sent to bishops from evangelicals in evangelical parishes in their diocese, stating that these evangelicals would henceforth be donating to their own congregation via means not divertible to the diocese, and why. Also, ask your bishop if he has ever received a letter requesting support from a Christian in his diocese suffering persecution by militant Muslims or for publicly expressing statements of biblical morality, and asking how the bishop responded. Make sure a copy falls into the hands of sympathetic local media. Always remember that light and darkness can have no fellowship, and always remain courteous.
Evangelicals build the kingdom and liberals climb the greasy pole. Or: liberals are focused on this world system and evangelicals on eternity.
What utter nonsense you do write Christopher. Without a shred of evidence as usual despite your spurious claims to ‘scientific’ methodology. It’s just warmed up spite and bigotry.
And I’m sorry if that trangresses your rules Ian, but when people are endeavouring to have a courteous discourse, this silliness is just … unhelpful.
And, of course, not only Christopher. Anton has hardly modelled courtesy here.
How courteous was Jesus to the Pharisees? I am merely advocating the courteous public airing of truths that embarrass hypocrites.
How courteous was Jesus to the Pharisees?
A lot more than he was to the Sadducees.
Not sure if I can draw any analogies from that, but still, I like to point it out.
No, there is plenty of evidence. Sometimes people telescope and summarise data.
(1) The powers that be reluctantly deigned to give conservative evangelicals one bishop out of over 100. These are actual numbers. However, so many of the largest individual congregations are conservative evangelical. And this body are trained in preaching and pastoring, which they view as a high calling.
(2) Under Robert Runcie, promotions among Cuddesdon alumni were very disproportionately high. However, liberal colleges (Salisbury and Wells; St Deiniol’s Hawarden) proved the least sustainable.
(3) Actual belief in heaven and hell is higher among evangelicals.
The more something is believed in, the more the believer will live in the light of it and taking account of it. Same applies not just to heaven and hell but to the Christian message/gospel itself and confidence in that message.
(4) The present age which has involved management of decline in a few quarters (all of them liberal – secularisation was something that John Robinson, with a lack of faith and logic, presented as inevitable) has seen a rise in bishops together with a fall in bodies on seats.
Put 1-4 together, and you get my point.
Your proposal sounds like harrassment, Anton. I’m sure you take a different view, and I don’t know you and all your good intent. So I wish you well. But demonstrations outside people’s homes, and outside churches where people go to pray and worship God… I don’t think that bodes well. Along with some other LGBT people, I disagree with some of Ian’s views, but I would be appalled if anyone demonstrated outside his home. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do at all. Same with the bishops.
Susannah, your proposal is pure pluralism.
Evidence counts for nothing.
The real world is the one discovered by science and investigation, where evidence counts not for nothing but for everything.
I agree Susannah. ‘… always remain courteous’ is quite bizarre sign off after that list of recommended behaviours.
Ar you not aware that a lawyer is infinitely courteous to somebody he or she is cross-examining? I mean the same. As for presence on the cathedral green just outside a bishops’s palace, this is necessary because liberal bishops assiduously avoid public forums in which they might be cross-examined and asked embarrassing questions by evangelicals.
Demonstrating on a large green outside a bishop’s palace is not quite the same as demonstrating outside somebody’s suburban house. I advocate a peaceable and courteous presence and am confident that it would be such. Beyond that I stand by what I have written. And demonstrating outside churches (without making a noise that would disrupt the service) is perfectly acceptable. It is demonstrating inside them that isn’t.
Most bishops live in suburban houses actually.
Demonstrating on a large green outside a bishop’s palace is not quite the same as demonstrating outside somebody’s suburban house. I advocate a peaceable and courteous presence and am confident that it would be such. […] And demonstrating outside churches (without making a noise that would disrupt the service) is perfectly acceptable.
I don’t think it would be particularly helpful, though. I always think demonstrations — obviously the kind which hold up traffic, which end up with members of the public quite reasonably taking matters into their own hands to clear the King’s highway, but even other, less disruptive events like marches and rallies — tend to discredit those who take part in them, in the eyes of observers. I think it’s to do with their kind of inherent tendency to look rather self-involved, and like participants are trying to reassure themselves of the righteousness of their stance by finding comfort in numbers. They give off an air of desperate attention-seeking and a faint whiff of insecurity.
I think your suggestions that involve putting people on the spot, and forcing them into the spotlight, are a far better idea. Asking questions in public, direct questions where a failure to answer looks even worse than a bad answer, especially. Look how much damage it does to a politician’s credibility when they can’t answer a question like ‘What is a woman?’ but are reduced to stuttering out vague platitudes that don’t address the issue. That’s what you want to do. Stand up and ask the bishop directly, ‘Do you believe that all human beings are doomed by sin unless they accept the salvation offered by God’s grace through Jesus’ death and resurrection?’, and don’t let them waffle: say you want a yes or a no. Because it puts the spotlight on them and their inability to answer straight questions.
And if you can’t do that, letters and pamphlets (I suppose web pages would be the modern equivalent) using the bishops’ own words (there is an exemption to copyright law for fair dealing in regards to criticism) to point out the incompatibility of their stance with the Christian faith would be the next best thing. Again, the focus should be on the fact that the bishops have questions to answer about whether they can reconcile their public statements with the Christian faith.
The problem is that they’ve learnt from what happened to David Jenkins; they’re just as heretic as he was, but having seen what happened to him, they are much better at keeping it quiet, and using equivocation, constructive ambiguity, and assigning their own idiosyncratic meanings to words to make it seem like they are Christians (for example, saying that ‘I believe in the creeds’ but defining ‘believe’ in a way that doesn’t mean ‘think are actually true’).
Your job will be to flush them out, ask questions that cannot be avoided or equivocated around (‘You say you believe in the creeds. Does that mean you think that Jesus actually, physically ate with and touched His disciples after His death on the cross?’) — because while they won’t answer them, unless they are prepared to outright lie (and, generally, their self-image won’t allow them to do that) their silence or evasion will condemn them far better than your words ever could.
A demonstration in their absence, on the other hand, looks like you’re trying to grab the spotlight yourself. It would hinder rather than help your cause. Don’t do it, I would say.
It seems to me that the Church of England suffers from a kind of polite omerta where discussion of belief is seen as at best gauche or immature, and at worst actively offensive.
(And to be fair this isn’t a problem confined to the Church of England; I have experienced a free church too where people would talk about anything and everything except politics, or what they believed.)
The idea seems to be that you are allowed to believe whatever you like, and you should never ask someone else what they believe, because it might be embarrassing for them, and the avoidance of embarrassment is the most important activity at all times. And fortunately we Brits know, if we know nothing else, how to avoid embarrassment. It’s a robust policy, a firm policy. It’s called, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
Thus descends a cloud of silence and the members of the church busy themselves with everything except the reason they are there.
And this silence of course has many terrible consequences. Of course, one is that it allows unbelief to flourish, because if someone doesn’t actually believe in any of ‘the God stuff’ but just wants to come out of some vague sense of social connection, they can sit in the pews for years and never be found out. They might even become bishops, several probably have.
Another is that it makes it hard for actual believers to organise, because they don’t know who they can trust. That nice old gent who sits at the end of the pew might be just as appalled as you about the stuff that the new bishop is spouting; but to know, you’d have to start a conversation with him about what you believe, and invite him to share what he believes. And if it turns out he is actually perfectly happy with the new bishop because he’s always thought that the church is a good social institution but that metaphysical stuff is mainly a comforting fairy-story for children, you’ve committed a terrible social faux pas.
It’s a bit like living in Portmeirion. Confess to the wrong person that you actually do think Jesus didn’t have a human father and next time you step through the lychgate you’ll spot, out of the corner of your eye, a wobbly white balloon lurking behind a gravestone, shadowing your every move.
Another problem is that because the people in the church aren’t allowed to talk about the reason they are there, they have to find something else to fill the gap, and that’s why the church becomes centered around something else. I knew a church that operated a fair trade café, staffed by volunteers with learning difficulties. All very laudable and worthwhile, except that gradually, at least for some people, it because less a church with a café in it during the week, and more like a café with a vestigial church attached. The prospect of the charity which it was run in partnership pulling out was greeted with horror. Any and very decision that came before the church was seen through the prism of, ‘how will this affect the café?’. Of course people told themselves that the café was ‘a great witness’, but what it was mostly witnessing to was having a café.
But to my mind (and maybe, if you’re one of the two people who have made it this far, yours too) the worst of it is that it buys into the idea that Christian belief is somehow embarrassing. For it’s not that heretics and disbelievers started this omerta, oh no. It’s the people who really do belief, but who think that in a modern, scientific age, that maybe they shouldn’t say that out loud in case they sound like backwards medieval peasants. The ones who don’t buy into Bultmann’s heresies, but who are a bit ashamed that they don’t and want to keep quiet about it.
And keeping quiet about it in the very place where you’re supposed to be able to talk about it, the very place where everyone there is supposed to be there because they do believe, means that the Bultmanns and the Jenkinses and the Marcus Borgs and the others of that despicable ilk have won. The shame becomes self-reinforcing.
Do you think that the early Christians, furtively meeting in each others’ houses or in catacombs, knowing that discovery would mean certain social stigma, likely ostracism, and quite possibly death, thought they better not be too open about what they believed, better not ask anyone else what they believed? No, obviously not! They would have told each other what they believed all the time, discussed it, held onto it for dear life. For it was, after all, the reason they were there, risking everything: because they had found something more valuable than anything else in the whole world. How could they be embarrassed to discuss it amongst themselves?
The Church of England — and, indeed, as I say, to be fair, other churches too — needs to recapture some of that. Fortunately, it looks like the days of gathering together to share our beliefs, to give each other strength against a hostile world, might not be entirely gone.
‘liberal bishops assiduously avoid public forums in which they might be cross-examined and asked embarrassing questions by evangelicals.’ This is a complete caricature. I thought you did not even belong to the CofE so how can you possibly know? Let me encourage you otherwise. I know for a fact of a number of bishops (evangelical and more liberal) who have been deliberately seeking out folk on their patch with more conservative convictions to have extended discussions together on this issue.
I know for a fact of a number of bishops (evangelical and more liberal) who have been deliberately seeking out folk on their patch with more conservative convictions to have extended discussions together on this issue.
In public, preferably recorded and made available, so that onlookers can judge for themselves whether the bishops answers are satisfactory? Or only in private or semi-private conversations?
I’m genuinely curious; if there are available recordings of such public sessions, I would be intrigued to see them. If they don’t exist, then I can’t see how you can claim Anton is wrong. So could you point to them?
I would be intrigued to see them
Or hear them, if they were on radio / one of these internet pod things they have nowadays.
Dear David Runcorn: Please specify a *public* forum in which bishops make themselves available to be questioned by laypersons of their diocese without advance censorship of the questions.
Hang on. The accusation liberal bishops all hide away (in those places of your imagination) and do not engage is all yours. It is for you to show your evidence for this. I have nothing to defend here and nor do they.
The accusation liberal bishops all hide away (in those places of your imagination) and do not engage is all yours. It is for you to show your evidence for this. I have nothing to defend here and nor do they.
You’re asking Anton to prove a negative. Surely you know that’s impossible? If you claim that the bishops do make themselves available for public questioning, then all you have to do is provide one single example of this happening.
If it happens — and, as you claim, happens frequently — then it shouldn’t be hard for you to provide one single example.
If you can’t provide one single example of something that you claim happens frequently, then I think we all know what conclusion to draw.
Dear David Runcorn: Would you answer my question, please? Can you specify a *public* forum in which bishops make themselves available to be questioned by laypersons of their diocese without advance censorship of the questions?
The bodies that have proven liberals shy away from debate (after all, debate involves inconvenient things like facts and data and having to do your research) are many – Abort67 and William Lane Craig spring to mind. Plus of course the numerous university debates that have been shut down and speakers gagged.
To be honest, if I was a bishop, I’d avoid ‘public forum’ questioning by any random crazies who came along with their hostility and accusations of heresy, evil, etc. I’d seek productive dialogue and conversation, after correspondence to filter out said crazies. Small group conversation, and one-on-one conversation is more likely to be productive, rather than the inevitable slanging matches in the public forum.
I have myself have had really productive dialogue with some bishops and some priests of a ‘conservative’ persuasion, which has benefited both sides, but first there needs to be some degree of trust (which needs to be built and worked on over time). It absolutely IS possible to have constructive dialogue and discussion, but not with just anyone. That way will lead to fanatics, anger, aggression. You know, all those sadly familiar mindsets which unfortunately seem to plague Christian discourse.
David wrote: “I know for a fact of a number of bishops (evangelical and more liberal) who have been deliberately seeking out folk on their patch with more conservative convictions to have extended discussions together on this issue.”
That’s what he said. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think he needs the Spanish Inquisition on that. It makes perfect sense, and he’s simply countering the endless negative insults against bishops which I’ve read here under this article and others.
if I was a bishop, I’d avoid ‘public forum’ questioning by any random crazies who came along…
Then, Susannah, you’d avoid any public forum, because you can’t control who turns up.
To be honest, if I was a bishop, I’d avoid ‘public forum’ questioning by any random crazies who came along with their hostility and accusations of heresy, evil, etc.
It’s not about crazies and hostility, though, it’s about being afraid to answer hard questions because it would expose the fact that either you don’t know what you are talking about, or you are deliberately dissembling about your true position on intentions.
It’s the same reason politicians run scared from Andrew Neal interviews: when there’s nowhere to hide and you’re up against someone who really knows their stuff, your deficiencies will be exposed.
Yes well, S, when I was reflecting on this thread my mind did cast back to the very brief Liz Truss press conference which was hardly a ‘conference’ at all. So I get the point you make.
I’d still avoid public forums though, because if they’re open to everyone, I just don’t thinks usually end well.
That said, I’ve argued for a long time that there should be an online platform for General Synod questions, because the present Q&A’s at General Synod often involve a lot of obfuscation.
I’d favour the limited time of the present convention being exchanged for online questions from Synod members, with follow up expectations, and possibly limited lay questions by non-Synod C of E members on electoral roles, based on most popular questions with some ‘uptick’ system.
Then it would need to be agreed that responses were obligatory with the option of at least 2 follow up questions by the original question setter, and a comments section for Synod Members only, under each question thread.
Use technology for greater transparency. But throwing bishops to the lions (any random fanatics in a crowd at a public meeting)… no I don’t support that concept.
It’s not if I was; it’s if I were. The hypothetical conditional takes the subjunctive.
Thank you Susannah. You say it for me. Nasty, uninformed, unsubstantiated allegations. Relentlessly negative, judgmental tone towards those you disagree with. Struggling to find the gospel here.
The hypothetical conditional takes the subjunctive.
Aren’t you rather making an assumption that it’s a pure hypothetical?
Thank you Susannah. You say it for me.
There’s several points to be made about this but in the interests of brevity the one I’d like to draw to peoples attention is that David Runcorn’s position has now flipped through a full one hundred and eighty degrees; where his initial response to the claim that bishops do not make themselves available for public questioning was to say that they do (although he couldn’t point to a single example of it ever happening), now he’s saying not only that of course they don’t, but that its good they don’t and they would be mad to do so.
Frankly if the bishops would have as much trouble keeping their story straight as Mr Runcorn it’s no wonder they are too terrified to take questions!
& if you find people pointing out that you’ve contradicted yourself rude, have you considered trying not contradicting yourself? It’s really not that difficult; most of us manage it most of the time.
But throwing bishops to the lions (any random fanatics in a crowd at a public meeting)… no I don’t support that concept.
Is that a deliberate joke? Because it strike me that anyone who gets a fit of the giddy vapours at the thought of confronting a few unruly members of the public is certainly temperamentally totally unsuitable to occupy the position of bishop.
We are talking, after all, of an office held by Aftenie and Frentiu and Suciu, Latimer and Ridley, Becket, Polycarp and, when it comes to it, Saint Peter. I don’t know about you but if I were considering a vocation where the number of my predecessors who had left it due to being crucified upside-down was greater than, say, zero, then I might think that the faint of heart should maybe consider giving it a miss and going doing something less demanding of moral courage instead.
So yes. Given that literal bishops have literally been thrown to literal lions, a public meeting really should hold no terrors, and if it does, that’s a strong indication that you have ended up in the wrong line of work.
Anton. I am sorry but I think you go too far here in terms of standing for the faith.
I will never be bullied out the the Church of England but I am not going to target individuals who I think are adversaries
Then your party will lose. They, the liberals, have *already* broken fellowship – do remember that. I wish you well whatever course you choose.
Anton’s ideas for protest are not being put forward in a climate where bishops have yet to go through a process – where people have yet to express objection to their actions privately. It’s long past that. It is so long past that that the C of E’s very survival as a national denomination is now the issue.
I therefore say Anton – stay strong while not giving those committed to doing wrong any free hits) – don’t let people henpeck your Christian love until it has become British politeness. I am AMAZED that objection to the C of E’s direction has not resulted in some form of public protest beyond social media. I have been doing so now for years online – and I also on three or four occasions outside both HTB church and Hillsong London – speaking to individual members of the congregation – standing on public land near the church. On one occasion I even stood up in the middle of a Hillsong London service (the person on stage had just talked about giving God ten percent and I stood up and began to say that this was never a substitute for in heart giving God everything) and was rapidly dragged to the exit. They overdid it – they realised they had – they appointed a very personable pastor to talk to me who was visibly shaken by the time I had finished making my points to him. On each occasion where I protested outside and near the church in question (on public land) they called the police – who learned some Christian doctrine for good measure! Some of the people from the congregations I spoke to received my words as a sign from God that they should be finding somewhere else to go to church (they were already seeking him on the matter).
I have done so at Synod on about 3 occasions. An account of my treatment (frogmarching from the Yard where I for 5 years attended the Choir School, on the orders of someone who then proved they were not remotely acquainted with the literature or the issue) in Feb 2016 can be found in What Are They Teaching The Children?
It’s not really my fight, as my heart is no longer in the CoE – but I strongly support those CoE evangelicals who push back against the liberals, and I am glad to offer some tactics.
False teacher. Heretic. Can I ask what exactly are you referring to?
Do you really not know David? Or is the there no such person?
Maybe it started with the German school of Higher Critics and their disciples and cross pollinated with post modernism.
Do you really not know David? Or is the there no such person?
Maybe there’s so many he just doesn’t know which one is meant.
David’s question is a fair question and needs to be taken seriously
…. except that in the context of this thread, it was already completely clear what was meant by ‘false teacher’ and ‘heretic’.
As per usual, David Runcorn doesn’t engage and doesn’t attempt to present any sort of theological argument as to why the teaching isn’t false and why the person engaged in such teaching is not a heretic.
Jock. If you are interested you could read my book on exactly this subject. Or a variety of published articles and shorter pieces which you will find on my website.
David – well, you never link to your website here, you never present any summaries of your arguments here, this is the first time I have seen that you have referenced a book that you wrote here (and again simply stating that the book exists without indicating anything at all about its contents).
It is a pity, because there is a reasonable argument to be made (which you haven’t attempted to make below the line on Ian Paul’s site). While Emil Brunner in his Divine Imperative doesn’t deal *directly* with the gay issue, he does present arguments in the context of other issues which could carry over to the subject matter of this thread. The point is that I haven’t seen any of this coming from you.
Jock you seem unaware I have been a regular engager on this site for some years now. So for me it is easy to assume folk know what I think and to feel this is just repeating stuff again. I have referenced my writing here too though it is not good form to do so too often on other people’s websites! But people come and go here so I understand how you mag have missed stuff. Fair enough. But why not give me the benefit of the doubt?
Thank you Peter – not least for rescuing me from the seat of mockers. I certainly was not asking for a name – only to be clear what exactly you were calling ‘false teaching’/’heresy’. So thank you for clarifying. Not that it is good news – that’s me for the flames too I guess! But Peter, my own experience is that not all conservatives would follow you in using that language of others in the context of strongly held differences of belief and interpretation.
not all conservatives would follow you in using that language of others in the context of strongly held differences of belief and interpretation.
What has being ‘strongly held’ got to do with it? The strength with which a belief is held has no correlation at all with whether or not it is false. Many many people strongly believe that the moon landings were faked, or that the World Trade Center was destroyed by secret demolition charges and not burning jet fuel.
You are right. I know the terms false teacher and heretic are generally to be avoided. I would not dream of making their use a measure of orthodoxy. Also I would not use them in conversation with the people concerned. The offence caused would end a conversation
I do think they can be used as a technical shorthand. Also they are biblical terms.
6.26 pm post below is to David
For the record, David, I was not mocking – they were genuine questions.
But now it is you who mocks, flippantly: “Not that it is good news- that’s me for the flames too, I guess!” But what and who is it really that you mock?
Geoff. We are not tribal.
We should actually make an extra effort and go the extra mile to converse well with those with whom we are in disagreement on issues of principle.
David should be made to feel welcome and respected on this site
As though ‘strongly held’ or ‘deeply held’ had anything whatever to do with truth.
This is not tribal. It has been going on years with David’s comments here. It seemed to be only after prolonged discourse that he made his position clear. We robustly disagree. The arguments are well rehearsed, not new. While his book has been out for a good while, having read a review I’m far from minded to read it.
What David has completely avoided here, is answering questions about the Holiness of God and how that works out in holiness of Christian lives, including bodily.
And while the cry of revisionists is that God is love, it is only ever be Holy Love, as he is Holy and what he considers to be (un)holy is set out in scripture. It is not what we decide. All sin is unholy, not of God, not emanating from him,
Therefore, to press that in a slightly different direction, what is sin?
And while you have disagreed with S, he? has made a marvellous contribution in comments, following through to a perspicacious conclusion of “universalism” thriving in the CoE in its avoidance of the very idea of sin.
I hope our host has not deleted it. It would be beneficial if S’s comments on that matter could be drawn together as a whole. To me, it carries much weight.
Every conversation has to be a new beginning. If somebody asks a question all it needs is an answer.
Geoff. I have never hidden my views here. What would be the point of that anyway! As it happens it was in this month in 2013 that I had an extended article published as part of the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality in which I outlined the including evangelical approach to scripture and same-sex relationships. It caused a stir at the time. Ian Paul reviewed the whole report on this site. Look it up. No hiding then – or since. And once again you claim I don’t do ‘holiness’. We have discussed this before and I remember trying to persuade you that I cared enough about holiness in the Christian life to have published a Grove Booklet on the subject. Do you remember? We revisionists do holiness actually. But we do disagree on what may or may not be holy living. That is different.
S, […] has made a marvellous contribution in comments, following through to a perspicacious conclusion of “universalism” thriving in the CoE in its avoidance of the very idea of sin.
You do me too much credit; I haven’t come up with a single original conclusion, merely repeated the astute observations of others.
If I recall correctly, and I do stand to be corrected, it was after lengthy interchanges in the comments section that your views became more clearly defined, overt, to the surprise of others including Simon? And Simon ,if you are in the room, please correct me here if you are so minded. And apologies for possibly drawing me into this.
I know nothing of the Pilling Report, so nothing of your contribution.
You say we disagree about Holiness of God, of Christian living, but you’ve not said, even briefly, what you say it is, or scripture does, on this site so far as I recall. Maybe you could help me out with something you’ve written here.
And it is at this point we move onto the whole question of the very idea of sin, unholiness, in scripture and CoE teaching.
Yours in Christ,
That may be so, but you pulled it together, succinctly, coherently, cogently, without recourse to authority referencing, evidencing deep learning. Hope that is not patronising. And there was no rejoinder, to any of it. It would therefore carry the day at law. Thanks. (It would be a shame if it were overshadowed by the kerfuffle with Peter).
Your point about being concise as an indicator of learning and thinking seems to be rarely applied, too.
Hope that is not patronising.
You flatter me but I thank you for the compliment. It is nice to know that someone read it, so the time spent writing was not entirely wasted.
Geoff. To recap. I asked Peter a simple question of clarification which he answered. But before he could do so several of you turned up to warn him that this is typical of my behaviour. I never explain my beliefs. I am evasive. ‘Questions asked and not answered to the point of tedium’. Well these are often long discussion threads. It is not surprising if contributions get missed, forgotten or even mis-remembered. I have pointed out that I regularly engaged here for 10 years or more. And have written and published quite widely elsewhere.
So I do not intend to offer more or repeat myself. I do not need to. I am not on trial here. No need to appeal for witnesses. I understand Peter sounding rather baffled by responses to my question to him and thank him again for his courtesy.
These discussion threads do not work for everyone. There are some here I choose not to engage with anymore – and have told them why. No criticism. We just aren’t good or helpful for each other. I am inclined to say the same of the two of us. So I gladly commend you to the grace of Christ and trust you do the same for me.
So I do not intend to offer more or repeat myself. I do not need to. I am not on trial here.
See, the problem is that this looks a lot like you are trying to reverse the burden of proof.
You wade in, you make assertions — like that bishops have been willing to engage in public debate — and then when asked to back up your assertions you respond, ‘well, I’m not on trial here’ as if that means you get to claim whatever you want and then it’s up to others to disprove your claims, rather than up to you to back them up.
Even when, as I’m sure you realise, that would mean the other person in the debate would have to prove a negative, like proving that something has never happened.
It’s a shrewd move but I don’t think it will work once people get wise to it.
There are some here I choose not to engage with anymore – and have told them why. No criticism. We just aren’t good or helpful for each other. I am inclined to say the same of the two of us.
(And the fact that if anyone doesn’t accept your little conversational ju-jitsu you just declare them not worth engaging with doesn’t really help with the impression that what you want is to be able to make imperious pronouncements, but then object to anyone who has the temerity to question you about them.)
The points have been made and questions asked and repeated and not answered to a point of deep tedium and I’m older than you. He is not for turning. But no matter, I’m not of his fold. Over to you, Peter. Maybe you could tell it to his face and short circuit it all as you did to the Bishop,
David, can always have a hug from me.
All David did was ask a short clarification question !!
Anyway, enough said. I wish you well
If you mean will I name the bishop, no I will not.
I am disappointed at the way the vicar avoided the issue entirely but he is orthodox and I am not going to publically identify his church and cause him trouble. The fact he let me down does not justify that level of response.
If you mean what do I mean by false teacher/heretic I mean he is a champion of same sex marriage
David, I appreciate you will not accept my definition of false teacher. The fact is conservatives do see such behaviour as false teaching.
Sorry just to absolutely clear. The vicar in question is orthodox. The bishop is not
Apologies as I’ve got lost off in the cascade of comments.
If I’m correct in this you are/were a teacher in the CoE, contributed in the roll- out of LLF, attended Lambeth, this year with your wife, who is a Bishop, where there were seminars on the topic?? What were the Bishops taught and who by? And you ask Peter those questions? For what purpose?
And yet again and again do not answer the Holiness question. What is wrong here? It is no mere lacuna. Is there a hole in your holiness position, scripturally unsupportable without substantial editorial input, insertions, sin avoidances.
I am concluding what has been a very brief involvement with this site.
Truth without grace and generosity of heart is never the work of the Holy Spirit.
Ian. Forgive me I should have said the comments thread. Your site is a blessing to the church
Peter – well, the tone does seem somewhat hard-boiled, but one has to take into account that, currently, a coach-and-horses is being driven straight through teaching and beliefs which were assumed to be absolutely fundamental to the faith and which were considered to be absolutely standard for almost 2000 years. Under such circumstances, it is difficult for people to retain their equanimity.
Nevertheless, one should try – and I like the comment guidelines over at Wings (wingsoverscotland) with
1: write as if an undecided voter is reading.
There are several other points there, for example:
6. Scotland has a world-renowned education system – so there’s really no excuse for putting spaces before full stops …. or not at least knowing that sentences start with a capital letter.
(By the way – I’m not a Scottish nationalist -but Wings has been extremely informative – much more so than any Main Stream Media news source about what is going at Holyrood )
To this I’d add that there is no excuse for not knowing that the hypothetical conditional takes the subjunctive.
On the topic of this blog, I’d say those who want change (and acceptance of SSM) may be right or wrong, but they are the ones who are trying to change something that has not only stood, but has been regarded as absolutely fundamental for many years – and its not surprising that those supporting the traditional line want to let off a bit of steam.
I’d agree with Jock.
It has been a rather odd week in the ‘basement’ of Psephizo. The discussions rather circular and the comments sometimes acerbic; even I have avoided this one, primarily because there is little constructive to add.
The author of the article is right. That is sad, and frustrating, but some people need the catharsis of shouting impotently into the void.
I completely get that for those holding the traditional view on ss relationships this all feels very anxious making. Though when a church has been spent the last sixty years exploring this subject with endless reports and debates and without getting near a way forward ‘coach and horses’ is a rather excitable metaphor for describing the pace of things. The only comment I would add is that if you go onto websites where those with open and including theology are found you will hear the same levels of anxiety, anger and frustration but in the other direction. There, the fear is that Conservatives are in control of a great deal the processes and will succeed in blocking progress. Nothing will change.
Yes, my comment was not a partisan dig at a particular side or specific people, least of all yourself. And catharsis is not itself an unwelcome thing
I do comment on more openly-affirming forums, and you’re right that the same is quite true there. It crosses denominational boundaries too,a s you likely suspect or know.
Thanks Mat. I didn’t read you as partisan. I always appreciate your tone.
There, the fear is that Conservatives are in control of a great deal the processes and will succeed in blocking progress. Nothing will change.
Serious question: why not leave? There are now several denominations which have adopted various flavours of change of doctrine. If you are that ‘anxious’ about the outcome of the process, why not simply change churches to one whose doctrine aligns better with your beliefs?
After all we know this has happened the other way, with people leaving those denominations which have changed doctrine for those which haven’t — so why not flow back and let things naturally find their own level?
For those interested – ‘Church Times’ report on this week’s meeting of bishops, as they seek the way forward:
From the article: “it is understood that the bishops acknowledge that simply to restate the existing ban on same-sex blessings or marriage in church is not an option.”
“it is said to have been clear that many bishops recognise that a change of policy is needed — whether a national shift or some form of pastoral accommodation is not yet clear.”
“the bishops are aware of a groundswell of opinion in parishes that the Church’s ban on same-sex marriage needs to be lifted — as they are aware of a minority of conservative Evangelical churches that consider such a move unacceptable.”
It’s important to note this is not the final position of the bishops, who meet again in December. Just a report of what is claimed sources have disclosed. We have to wait.
It’s also important to note that there is not unanimity among the bishops either.
Morning Susannah. I think they have edited that original quote, or you have misquoted it.
Your quote has:
“it is understood that the bishops acknowledge that simply to restate the existing ban on same-sex blessings or marriage in church is not an option.”
The current version has:
“it is said to have been clear that many bishops recognise that a change of policy is needed — whether a national shift or some form of pastoral accommodation is not yet clear.”
There is a world of difference between the two. The first implies an overall consensus that change is inevitable, the latter that ‘many’ believe the change needed, but that this is neither inevitable, nor overwhelming.
An odd display error on the Church Times site causes the image to overlap the top two short paragraphs, so I am wrong, and both those quotes are there in plain sight!
No worries Mat! And just to add, you are one of the ‘voices’ that I enjoy engaging with here or elsewhere, because whatever differences of view, you always seem to speak with grace and courtesy, so thank you!
As to the bishops, few of us really know in detail how the meetings this week went. Perhaps one or two do, but honestly, it’s a matter of waiting to see what emerges, and a matter of prayer.
As to the bishops, few of us really know in detail how the meetings this week went.
You mean your friends in the episcopate haven’t leaked you some hints? I’m surprised.
By the way, I don’t think you ever answered the question that, if you think people should trust the bishops, you agree to accept whatever they decide and, if that is for no change to doctrine, you will accept that and stop agitating for change?
(Or if the decision is for change but not as much change as you would like, do you agree to accept that and not ever try to push for further change?)
Just because if you don’t agree to accept the decision of the bishops, even if it goes against your position, you can’t really ask that of the other side, can you?
“As to the bishops, few of us really know in detail how the meetings this week went.”
Quite. Would you agree that it is bold of the CT to make such assumptions then? More faithful reporting in the absence of anything official would stringently avoid making claims about the implied outcome. If there are sources willing to speak to CT about their perception of the talks, then they should be named.
S asks a good question though. What would a strong re-affirmation of the current teaching actually change from your perspective? What/where, for you, is the balance between a decision of conscience to keep advocating for a change you believe nessecary and submission to the official teaching?
My position is consistent, S.
I ask that we accept each other in the Church.
If all parties do that, with grace, patience, and love, then I shall be happy and give thanks. I want all parties included, and their views.
I’m hopeful that the bishops will take a similar position.
It’s the position I hold at this stage. It may not be as detailed answer as you would like, and any detail about how I would feel or act *if* they kept things the same is not yet worked out because it’s entirely hypothetical and unlikely to happen. Ask me again, if it happens!
Meanwhile, my last comment in response, btw. Wait. And listen to what the bishops have to say. The heart of the matter is do we ‘dominate’ each other, or do we ‘accommodate’ one another? Those who insist their position should be imposed on everyone else, even contrary to their consciences… well, I don’t think they will fit the pattern and direction of the future Church of England.
I think we are heading to ‘accommodation’. And I expect all parties to accept that, because it’s not one side or the other. It’s simply the reality of the C of E on the ground. I’m willing to accept the old status quo still being preached by those who wish. But I don’t think I am the problem in that. The question is: will that approach be reciprocated? Co-existence. Live and let live. That’s what I believe in, in the Broad Church of England.
I think we are heading to ‘accommodation’. And I expect all parties to accept that
So just to be absolutely clear, here you are saying that if the decision goes your way (ie, for ‘accommodation’) then you expect the other side to accept that.
But you yourself will not commit to accept the result if it goes the other way (ie, against ‘accommodation’).
Don’t you see how that is massively hypocritical?
Your position seems to be analogous to the Scottish National Party’s policy on referendums, ie, if the result is the one they like then it is to be accepted by all as binding, but if it’s not the one they like then it’s merely provisional and subject to having another go in a couple of years.
Or the attitude of a toddler who appeals the possession of a toy to its parents, expecting the sibling to accept a ruling in its favour, but intending to throw a tantrum if it doesn’t.
Or like a little girl who wears a top with the legend ‘be kind’ and, when it’s pointed out that this sentiment is not really compatible with the way she treats her little brother, replies, ‘it means be kind to me’
‘My way or the highway’ is not a look that really fits with your attempts to portray yourself as the nice, kind side in the dispute, but at least you’re now honest.
Those who insist their position should be imposed on everyone else, even contrary to their consciences
Also, this seems to have missed the Acts of Toleration. Church of England doctrine is no longer ‘imposed’ on anyone. No one has to be a member of the Church of England if they want to, say, go to university, any more. So this argument that positions are being ‘imposed’ is just wacky. If you don’t like the sexual doctrine of the Church of England nowadays you can just go and join the Methodists or the United Reformed Church (neither united, nor reformed, nor …).
If there were Test Acts still in force then your argument about positions being ‘imposed’ would have some force. But now? No.
S – I think that with ‘sexual doctrine’ it is those who agree with the apostle Paul who are out of step with the C. of E..
The current earthly head of the C. of E. is King Charles III, who is quoted as having said (while he was the Prince of Wales and desiring to have it off with Camilla while married to another woman whose name I forget) that if he didn’t have a mistress, he would be the only Prince of Wales ever to not have had a mistress.
I reckon that the SSM thingy is only one very small piece in a much larger problem, which is that the C. of E. (being a national church) is a dedicated follower of fashion – and fashion always means the way of the world (and satisfying the sinful desires of the flesh). It probably always has been – and if we think otherwise, we’re looking at Church history through rose tinted glasses.
Of course, there have been fine Christians within the C. of E., who have used their position there to proclaim the gospel message and bring people to faith – but that is one small piece of the C. of E. – and not representative.
I reckon that the SSM thingy is only one very small piece in a much larger problem, which is that the C. of E. (being a national church) is a dedicated follower of fashion
Concur. The wrong path was taken in 1662 and its been being walked ever since.
The current earthly head of the C. of E. is King Charles III, who is quoted as having said (while he was the Prince of Wales and desiring to have it off with Camilla while married to another woman whose name I forget) that if he didn’t have a mistress, he would be the only Prince of Wales ever to not have had a mistress.
You know, I was thinking of saying that the Royal family were in fact the last people in the world who actually did have Church of England doctrine imposed on them.
But then I realised that they didn’t — as the Duke of Windsor demonstrated, they, like any other person who disagreed with the doctrine, were perfectly able to simply walk away and marry whomsoever they pleased, regardless of Church of England doctrine.
So once again, the claim that some people are ‘imposing’ their views on others is simply false. Membership of the Church of England is not compulsory, either de jure or de facto; it is optional; you can join if you agree with what the Church of England believes, you can leave if you don’t; so nothing is being imposed on anyone.
And more news today:
Bishop of Oxford supports same-sex marriage.
Bishop of Oxford supports same-sex marriage.
Is he one of your cosy little coterie of bishop friends, then? Have you co-ordinated this little publicity stunt? Are there more to come, dribbled out at intervals to give your mates in the media something feed the news cycle?
If you cannot find a way of making your points without being snide and sarcastic, please make them elsewhere.
Are there more to come
Seems there are.
“Up until now we have been asked, as bishops of the Church of England, to hold the LLF process of reflection, learning and discernment, rather than express our own views. That is exactly what we have tried to do, listening rather than talking. Now, though, in the interest of transparency, we think it right for us to make our own beliefs and hopes plain.
“In short, we believe that the time has come for the Church to celebrate and honour same sex relations. People do not choose their sexuality and all should be able to express it within loving committed relationships. Our preferred option would be for same sex couples to be able to be married in Church. We hope and pray that this will be the outcome of the LLF process. There isn’t space to set out our reasons in this letter, but either of us would be happy to talk them through. Suffice it to say that we believe our conclusion to be consonant with the Biblical witness. We could do no better in expounding our views than the Bishop of Oxford has done in his booklet Together in Love and Faith: Personal Reflections and Next Steps for the Church, which has great theological rigour. You can find a link to this on the Diocese of Oxford website.
“We recognise that others feel very differently from us and we believe that the right of every Christian to act and minister according to his or her own conscience on this matter must be protected. If the outcome of the LLF process is what we hope it will be, those who hold to a traditional view should be honoured and they certainly will be in this diocese as long as we remain your bishops.”
I know other bishops who share these views, but they will choose their own time to express their positions.
Meanwhile the LLF process continues.
Note what these two bishops say:
*the right of every Christian to act and minister according to his or her own conscience on this matter must be protected.*
This is key.
Protection of conscience matters, and works both ways. That is an underlying principle of ‘Unity in Diversity’ and the ‘accommodation’ of differing theological views on this vexed subject.
We need to show grace towards one another.
I know other bishops who share these views, but they will choose their own time to express their positions.
Of course they won’t ‘choose their own time’. They, like all the ones you’re promoting here, will make their moves as ordered by whoever is coordinating this media strategy (as will you; posting these notices here is clearly part of the job you have been given in the operation).
Let nobody be fooled into thinking anything about this is spontaneous. They have a media grid; the next few days and, probably, weeks, are already planned out in detail.
(Also it might be instructive to go back and re-read Susannah Clark’s contributions over the past couple of weeks, especially the bits about damaging the other side accept the bishops decision, now we know that they were all about laying the groundwork for this pre-planned campaign that, clearly, Susannah knew was coming.)
damaging the other side
The college is barely 48 hours over, and the Bishop of Oxford is guns blazing in the Church Times (again) demanding the church conform to culture.
As I responded on Twitter, the idea that “a radical dislocation between the Church of England and the culture and society we are attempting to serve” can be seen as a wholly bad thing tells me a lot about just how different our visions of the church are.
You can be radically distinctive without being irrelevant, and you can be compassionate with compromising.
Does he want to be?
“You can be radically distinctive without being irrelevant, and you can be compassionate with compromising.
Does he want to be?”
He is proposing priests can adopt and practice either the ‘traditional’ view (marriage for some) or the emerging theology of marriage for all.
He is proposing priests can adopt and practice either the ‘traditional’ view (marriage for some) or the emerging theology of marriage for all.
That’s hardly ‘without compromising’, then. That is precisely to compromise with the world — something that as Christians I thought we weren’t spouses to do. Romans 12 and all that.
Mat – well, Andrew Goddard started his article by pointing to the ‘Deceased Wife’s Sister’ act of 1907 – and the only reason people remember this is because the problem got a mention in Iolanthe (from 1882). In the libretto
He shall prick that annual blister.
Marriage with deceased wife’s sister.
I’m fully expecting a resolution to the current dilemma within the C. of E. of a similar nature to the resolution at the end of Iolanthe – where a brilliant legal mind suggests inserting a single word ‘not’ to change the law and make it mean precisely the opposite of what it meant before.
They all finish by singing a rousing finale of love making the world go round.
The gay issue is also dealt with in that opera – Tollollor and Mountararat are clearly more interested in each other than they are in Phyllis.
So if we’re linking to newly-published articles with a bearing on the debate, this one’s a corker:
It lays out why the progressive side of the debate is incapable of making a logical case and contradicts itself at every turn; and why they are prone to hypocritically demanding the other side commit to making concessions that they themselves refuse to even countenance (‘it’s not inconsistency, it’s hierarchy’).
It’s because their guiding principle, their ultimate aim, is not truth: it’s the destruction of all constraints on desire. Especially sexual desire.
Read it. It lays out masterfully exactly what we are fighting and just why it is vital that we win.
Bishop Steven Croft’s booklet, ‘Together in Love and faith’- published today – is a very significant contribution at this point in the discussions in the CofE. As the initial response to its publication makes clear, it will become a central resource in the continuing discussions. This senior Bishop and a theological teacher tells his own story of a slow change of mind on what scripture teaches. He helpfully traces the history of the discussions over recent decades in the CofE. He briefly outlines his approach to scripture on matters of human sexuality, marriage and those who are LGBTQ+ in the church. Most significantly, he offers proposals for a way ahead. He has also been in regular discussion with those holding traditional views as he has worked on this. I know the majority here will not agree but I commend this short booklet for the clear summary it offers of an evangelical, including view of same sex relationships and marriage based on scripture. I anticipate that Ian Paul and others will offer their own critique of what Bishop Seven has written. The debates will continue. But may I urge people to read it? You can find out more here and order a copy here – https://oxford.anglican.org/news/same-sex-marriage-in-cofe.php
Yes, David, you are right—it is significant.
It is significant that, after lots of discussion, there is a due process, which is that the HoB are planning to bring a proposal to Synod. Yet here we have a ‘senior bishop’ driving a coach and horses through that process and completely trampling on it.
And it is significant in that this booklet is full of errors, ignorance, and poor theology, and appears to be out of touch with major parts of the wider discussion.
Is this really the best he can do?
Blog post coming later today.
Yet here we have a ‘senior bishop’ driving a coach and horses through that process and completely trampling on it.
I am presuming that the timing of this publication and the Bishop of Oxford’s remarks, and the similarity in their narrative, are not coincidental; and what we are seeing is a coordinated campaign based around the message ‘I used to think X, like you; then I went through a Process, and now I think Y [not-so-sub-text: you should too]’.
On the one hand that they think such a media blitz is necessary is a good sign because it shows they know it isn’t a done deal.
Anyway, this is clearly the first phase of the operation, the Good Cops. I’m guessing that phase two will bring out the Bad Cops to say (in a tone of ‘more in sorrow that in anger’, of course) ‘if you don’t get on board with Y, then you will be left behind and Bad Things will happen to you / your local church / the Church of England’
But take heart and stay strong! Their aim is to convince you that the battle is already lost and further resistance is self-harming and quixotic; but the very fact that they are trying to convince you of that shows that the battle is very much not yet lost!
It’s not the first time a “senior Bishop” has tried to bump the discussion of this issue….
Then, apparently, we have to buy his opinion. He could have just offered his leadership by just publishing his work on the Web. It cannot be beyond making a straightforward pdf.
The Church Times does not exactly seem neutral on the issue either with accompanying articles… Extract… “The bishops are aware of a groundswell of opinion in parishes that the Church’s ban on same-sex marriage needs to be lifted”.
The bishops are aware of a groundswell of opinion in parishes that the Church’s ban on same-sex marriage needs to be lifted
I understand the Yanks call this sort of thing by the wonderfully evocative term ‘astroturfing’. They have such a way with language.
Evidently his salary is not enough. We may be glad that fewer people will read how he reaches conclusions contrary to the organisation that pays him.
We may be glad that fewer people will read how he reaches conclusions contrary to the organisation that pays him.
Oh my sweet, naïve summer child. This isn’t about getting people to read the book. They don’t care if people read the book. They don’t want people to read the book. If people read the book they’d see how facile the reasoning is.
No, the point is just to push into the media the idea that such a book exists . It’s all about giving people intellectual cover to reverse their positions.
Normally people have a strong resistance to believing things that they don’t believe are true — as the very paradox of that sentence illustrates. But there are ways to make it easier. You can, for example, tell them that other people used to believe what they believe, but they thought about it, and realised there were good reasons to reverse their position. They don’t need to understand these reasons; they don’t even need to know the reasons. Just thinking that such reasons exist will help them get over the metal resistance, especially when there is strong social pressure to reverse position (which is why another arm of this strategy is to try to make people who hold the traditional view think they are isolated and alone).
(This is why it’s vital to get the truth out quickly, so that I’m every congregation throughout the land on Sunday there at least one person equipped to say, ‘Yes, I heard about that book, and I saw a convincing review that proved all the arguments were wrong; and don’t you think it’s suspicious how all these people have suddenly appeared ask over the media and in the press and on websites, saying exactly the same thing? Almost like they’re being directed? Why do you think that is? I think maybe we shouldn’t necessarily believe them when they say this is a done deal or that nearly everyone agrees with them.’)
(Actually ‘being directed’ might sound a bit to conspiracy-theoryish; ‘all working together’ might be a better way to put it.)
“It is significant that, after lots of discussion, there is a due process, which is that the HoB are planning to bring a proposal to Synod. Yet here we have a ‘senior bishop’ driving a coach and horses through that process and completely trampling on it.”
The issue is much less about what he’s said (though I hear there are issues with that too), but the chosen timing of it. This is what I put to the CT on twitter and got a little support for.
As S says, and I think I said above, it’s because he thinks he’s won.
As S says, and I think I said above, it’s because he thinks he’s won.
Actually I said the opposite: this coordinated media strategy is because they know they haven’t won, yet, among the rank and file; and they know that the rank and file could still cause trouble; in extremis by mass-quitting the Church of England, if it came to that, but also it seems to me they may not be totally sure that their desired changes will get through the Synod?
Hence the concerned attempt to try to convince the rank and file that they (the r.&f.) have already lost, that if they do hold the traditional view they are in a small minority.
The aim is to make people who hold the traditional vote feel isolated; alone; that resistance, to to coin a phrase, is futile, and that their assimilation is only a matter of time and that it will go better for them if they don’t fight it.
Plus, you can see they’ve been reading their Sun Tzu: when you have your enemy surrounded but not defeated, offer them a ‘golden bridge’ to allow them to retreat with dignity. In this case that is the concerted effort we see to promote the ‘I used to think like you but I changed, and you can too’ narratives.
The point of this is to give people intellectual cover to help them convince themselves to accept something they know to be false, by helping them to quash the cognitive dissonance that trying to make yourself believe an obvious lie would usually cause by telling themselves that at least they’re not alone, that the other people who’ve made the journey seem to have thought about it.
All of which is designed to make it easier, mentally, to people to give in to the social pressure to conform which is the main point of the campaign.
But as I wrote above, if they really thought they had already won, they wouldn’t go to all this effort to divide, demoralise, and so defeat those on the right side. They’d just celebrate their victory. We know that the progressives can’t resist blatant triumphalism when they think they have won, we’ve seen it many times — sometimes prematurely, and clearly they have learnt from those times that they celebrated only to find their victory was not as certain as it seemed. So they’re not celebrating not because they know it’s not over yet.
Which means all is still to play for.
Apologies for misreading you, I read in haste and on mobile.
Blog post coming later today.
Might I suggest that this, or another above-the-fold article, points out the media strategy being used here, that it was obviously planned in advance, and that its aims are to make people so hold the traditional view feel isolated and alone and that their cause is already lost, while offering them intellectual cover to submit to the progressive view; reassures them that none of this is true, and encourages them to see through the strategy, reminds them that they are the majority among actual active members, and points out that if they stand firm and are not fooled into thinking they have already lost that they the Church of England might yet be saved.
After all not everyone reads deep into the comments and this is an important message to get out there right now.
Simply pointing out the strategies being cynically used her to attempt to manipulate people would go a long way toward inoculating them against being manipulated.
S, I’ve told you before, I recognise your intelligence. But I calmly put it to you that some of your comments today verge on paranoia. You seem to imply that some comments here are part of an orchestrated strategy. They are not.
I have had no involvement in the release of these bishops’ statements (I expect there will be more to follow, but those won’t involve me either) and when I post here, it’s about me expressing my views as an individual. The bishops are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.
I do not believe there is an orchestrated plan to trickle out bishops’ views. They are just pastorally-minded Christians coming to their own conclusions. I am simply a retired nurse. As a lesbian Christian I obviously have an interest in church doctrine which vilifies my caring and devoted relationship. I also care about LGBT people getting hurt by current doctrine.
However, believe it or not, I also care about ‘conservative’ Christians, and defend the authenticity and integrity of their coherent theological position, and the right of conscience to preach and hold those views. As the Bishop of Oxford recognises, those views in the Church of England merit protection, but what is not alright is to impose them on so many other people who are perfectly okay with devoted gay sex.
Divided as we are in the Church of England, yet we are *all* Church – Christ’s body – and we need to work out how to live out that reality. It’s not about leaving the Church, it’s about living in love and faith within it, even with our differences. We can do that if we choose to. We can do it with love and grace for each other. Forbearance. Tolerance. Respect for conscience. I have been flagging up the likely direction of the Church of England – and ‘Unity in Diversity’ – for ages here and elsewhere. It’s true I’ve had a lot of correspondence with about 55 bishops, so certain announcements this week have not come as a surprise… from that perspective I saw where some of them were heading. But I have no involvement with their decision-making programme. I am far too marginal and insignificant for that!
We need to work out how we frame and structure any changes in the Church of England’s position(s) on human sexuality.
That is the next phase of the programme.
(Or to put it another way: Mandy Rice-Davies.)
Susannah Clark has consistently and repeatedly spoken in defence of the integrity and humanity of conservative evangelicals. The tone and content of the language being directed at her is absolutely reprehensible.
Susannah Clark has consistently and repeatedly spoken in defence of the integrity and humanity of conservative evangelicals.
Only as long as they give in to her demands for accommodation. Susannah’s defence is conditional on them going utterly against their consciences; in other words, as long as they abandon their integrity.
I don’t know about you but I don’t think ‘I will defend your integrity as long as you give it up’ is much of a defence at all. It seems to me more of an attack couched in nice terms.
I rather be attacked openly than have someone pretend they care for me while plotting to force me to remove all my integrity and dignity of conscience.
Peter, you say that Susannah has spoken in defence of the integrity and humanity of conservative evangelicals.
(1) As to integrity, conservative evangelicals are not an amorphous mass. They should be allowed to have individuality.
(2)As to humanity, the only response is ‘That’s big of you – you kindly grant that they can belong to the human race.’ They do anyway.
(3) I think Susannah is proceeding with a false binary. There is her lot and then the conservatives who like to be faithful to the scriptures. That completely leaves out people like me who base things on science and statistics, and think that it is obvious that anything true stated in scripture was already true before being written, and consequently being in scripture can never possibly make anything true.
You seem to imply that some comments here are part of an orchestrated strategy.
I don’t imply it; I outright state it.
They are not.
So you claim. But is it really plausible that so many would independently, yet at the same time, push such similar messages?
Clearly if this were happening, and someone spotted it, the obvious response would be to try to discredit them by pointing out that the claim sounds paranoid.
Which it does, incidentally.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true.
After all, we know that this sort of coordinated media strategy is used all the time; by political parties, by lobby groups, by companies launching new brands. So its hardly implausible that it might be used by a lobby group trying to persuade an organisation of the need to change.
So I just invite people to observe what is going on.
What a coincidence. What a mockery of the process. Clearly pre-judged, well planned to attempt to short circuit a it all, to get early first edition headline news.
And really are we to trust the Bishops?
Indeed it merely confirm what many suspected and said; LLF was a forgone conclusion in its conception, inception and follow through.
And that Lambeth was but a Rally, a rallying call.
And treating, patronisingly – dismissively, all opposition, including onlooking laity, as inconsequential fools.
Which is why I made the call I did above: Unless evangelicals fight now, they will be forced out by a future Archbishop telling the government that the exemption on clergy conducting gay marriage is no longer needed, following which a provocateur couple will come forward in every parish.
It will be necessary to speak plainly and tell certain other ordained persons and bishops that they are schismatics and heretics, but it is the liberals who are already breaking fellowship. Embarrassment based on exposure of hypocrisy is a powerful weapon, and I detail in some comments above how to go about it. Evangelicals will also have to be ready from the first moment of such a campaign for extreme vituperation and dirty tricks.
Is it normal for Bishops to sell opinion pieces like this? Don’t they earn enough already?
“Consider the fruits of faithful and permanent same-sex relationships,” argues Steven Croft in the Church Times:
He’s only expressing what so many of us in the country and in church communities already know: that devoted gay and lesbian relationships, sexually and tenderly expressed, are decent, ennobling, sacrificial, caring, and a gift to those around them.
It was conservative bishops and leaders who publically asserted their own viewpoint – talk of alternative provinces, strong dismissal of other viewpoints, on polished video productions just as LLF process was actually being launched a while back. But now, when one including bishop lays out his beliefs, its suddenly all a ‘mockery’, ‘coach and horses’, ‘breaking fellowship’ …
Er, they were publicly asserting their belief in the doctrine of the C of E, the Christian faith as the C of E has received it. They were noting that this was not suspended and was not simply up in the air.
Steven is part of a process of discussion by the bishops *right now*, this week—and he had chosen to completely pre-empt that. He has also now said in public he does not believe the teaching of the C of E which he vowed to uphold and teach. Don’t you think that creates a problem?
You miss my point. LLF was a collective commitment by the bishops offered to whole church and a across range of viewpoints. Only, just before it is launched, conservative bishops (and other voices hitherto part of planning LLF) produce a video effectively distancing themselves from the process and closed to discussion before it starts.
They didn’t ‘distance themselves’ from the process; all those involved continued to be involved.
What they did say was that LLF could not start from the assumption that sexuality was one of the adiaphora, nor that the church’s doctrine was in any way suspended during the discussions.
It seems that was needed, since I am aware of at least two bishops who appear to think it was.
Today I heard on Premier Radio, as a result of Croft’s 58 page *essay*, Croft, followed by Ian Paul.
Croft points were
1 He’s been double listening.
But significantly his order of priority was to
a) LGBTI community and hurt
b) society/ culture
c) scritpure (with its paucity on the matter)
d) comparison with church change on divorce.
I was driving at the time but the points were clear, in the order he set out.
I’ll leave it to Ian for his extended response.
Judging a thoughtful 58 page personal study of a complex issue on the basis of a brief interview over a car radio. I hope you are going to actually read it?
It is worth reading—but it is hard to keep up with the number of extraordinary, unfounded, and ill-informed claims Steven makes here.
My response: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-is-the-bishop-of-oxford-thinking/
They were the key points, that he chose to emphasise. He’s been looking into it long enough to be able to do so, even within the confines of a radio interview.
Christopher. To reply to you of 3.36 today.
You need to read the language directed at Susannah. I happen to fundamentally disagree with her theology but I’m not prepared to walk past whilst she is verbally assaulted – despite having said I wonder no longer engage with this site
Ian Paul does a really important job on this site for orthodoxy but entering the comments threads is like entering another universe.
The way people address others is often awful and its combined with a total rejection of any form of admonition.
Peter – I may be inclined to agree, but it actually goes deeper than simply a problem with tone and language. As they say in Sweden, ‘det är inte farten som dödar, det är smällan’, which translates into English along the lines of ‘it’s not the fart that kills, it’s the smell’. I’m probably ‘conservative evangelical’ box myself, but I’d say (from what I have seen in churches) that it is often combined with a Pharisaical approach – they might disagree with Jesus about stoning the woman caught in adultery.
is often combined with a Pharisaical approach – they might disagree with Jesus about stoning the woman caught in adultery.
Okay you do realise that the Pharisees weren’t actually going to stone the woman, right? Because only the Romans has the authority to order capital punishment (rather an important plot point at the end of the gospels, that).
They brought the woman to Jesus and asked Him if she should be stoned because they thought that they’d come up with a clever question that would damn Him whichever way He answered: if He said yes, they would report Him to the Romans as a rebel and they’d get rid of Him; if He said no, then they’d tell all the people that Jesus wasn’t upholding the law of Moses and his popularity would dissolve.
Jesus, of course, managed to outsmart them by coming up with a way to say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Honestly, sometimes one gets the impression that people really do think that the Pharisees were actually about to stone the woman when Jesus happened by and saved her by telling them to ignore the Law. But you could only think that if you haven’t actually read the story. The Life of Brian has a lot to answer for.
S my friend – loosen up a little – it’s Friday evening – have a beer (or several).
Indeed. Susannah brings garce and generous orthodoxy to these discsussions. She is often disparaged and treated with contempt. It’s unconscionable.
Toxic masculinity is a terrible thing and worse still amongst men who claim the name of our Lord.
Be assured they bring judgement on their own heads
What’s the difference between that and just masculinity?
Peter – what makes you think that S is male? He/she has said nothing to indicate his/her gender either way.
He/she has said nothing to indicate his/her gender either way.
S does not have a ‘gender’.
S has not said anything to indicate S’s sex.
Jock. I am absolutely certain Penelope and Susannah have experienced toxic masculinity from men who claim to be Christian. I am entitled to the offer them the comfort that such men bring judgement on their own heads.
As for S, it is for others to reach their own conclusions about that person and their motivations with regard to Susannah
As for S, it is for others to reach their own conclusions about that person and their motivations with regard to Susannah
You should look up some of my discussions with Andrew Godsall
To be clear toxic masculinity includes passivity. Men should not stand in silence whilst a woman is harassed. For the avoidance of doubt Ian Paul could not have made himself clearer. It must stop
What on earth is the matter with the rest of you. Would you stand by whilst your wife or daughter was harrassed.
To be clear toxic masculinity includes passivity
You never answered the question of what the difference is between that and just ‘masculinity’.
Indeed, Peter. And there is a great deal of it on this site.
Maybe one of the reasons why not many women comment.
Another might be that women are not as keen on the adversarial nature of debate which always results in stalemate.
S. I am replying to you only because you have addressed a question to me twice.
Reference has already been made to evidence of paranoia in your posts. You have also been advised to calm down. You have also been told to post elsewhere.
You need to talk directly to another person who has themselves are stable and reliable about your perspective on people.
Others on this site are letting you down as well as letting Susannah down by not facing the reality of a situation that has got completely out of hand.
I am replying to you only because you have addressed a question to me twice.
But, strangely, not answering the question.
Susannah brings [grace] and generous orthodoxy to these [discussions]
It is neither gracious, nor generous, to declare that you expect your opponents to accept the decision if it goes against them while refusing to commit to do the same if it goes against you.
That’s hypocrisy, and double-standards.
S. If you want to talk we can talk. But it has to be as if we were talking face as friends who want the best for each other
If you want to talk we can talk
I do not wish to talk. I wish to engage with ideas in robust debate, questions and answers, claims backed up with logical arguments and refutations that address the substance of the issue, in order to bring the truth to light.
What so wrong with talking ?
What so wrong with talking ?
Oh, nothing. I like talking at lot. I am informed that the difficulty is in getting me to shut up.
But there’s a time and a place for talking, and an inter-net page isn’t it.
Quite. I’m not suggesting we are sitting in a pub. The point is the fully develop a conversation about an issue can be a subtle job. People say something but don’t quite get the meaning right. That sort of thing. I reckon most of us need say what we mean three of four times before we know ourselves what we mean – never mind working out how to explain it to another person
People say something but don’t quite get the meaning right. That sort of thing.
Well indeed. Hence the need to ask probing questions to elicit clarifications, and the responsibility to answer questions (and ask them in return) without evasion or equivocation, all while applying the principle of charity.
I imagine you would make a good barrister. People do tend to wilt under cross examination which does complicate things.
I imagine you would make a good barrister
Perhaps I am one.
Peter – I don’t think it’s my task to get involved in a cat fight between S and Susannah, particularly when Susannah is defending well and doesn’t need additional help. I rather think that if your wife or daughter were Penelope or Susannah, you’d probably expect them to come to your rescue rather than the other way around.
Besides, the last time I got involved in a cat fight, between S and Andrew Godsall, the discussion turned to Schrodinger’s cat – and S dismissed the De Broglie – Bohm interpretation of Quantum Mechanics as ‘psycho woo woo’, so he has already dismissed me as a head case and isn’t likely to listen to me anyway.
(That discussion reminded me of David Bohm’s book `Quantum Physics’ which I have on my shelf, but which I hadn’t read for 30 years. I took it on my next holiday and re-read the whole thing from cover to cover. Absolutely delightful! – so note to S – as far as I’m concerned, the Bohmian interpretation is the only one that makes sense)
We are Christians. We are supposed to rebuke one another. Admonish one another. Discipline one another.
Obviously its always distasteful for everybody involved. That does not mean we should not do it.
Susannah Clark is made in the image of God. Her ability to defend her self is not the issue.
Peter – well, you did it – and my respect to you – you did the right thing.
My own experience is that the admonishing, rebuking, disciplining often doesn’t end well – so am reluctant to involve myself with it.
Thank you. I appreciate your comment.
I wish you well
as far as I’m concerned, the Bohmian interpretation is the only one that makes sense
Sadly to engage further (and I do have questions about whether my objection is wholly valid, or based on a unjustified damning by association) would be to remove even this an even greater distance from the topic.