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What do supporters of same-sex marriage believe and why?

SurveyAndrew Goddard offers his analysis of the recent survey:

Despite all our Shared Conversations, it remains largely a mystery as to what people in the Church of England really believe about same-sex marriage. Jayne Ozanne has just published a survey which claims to shed new light on this by identifying Anglicans in England and finding more of them believe same-sex marriage is right than believe it is wrong.

It is of course important that any such findings are simply descriptive not prescriptive. Christians do not believe the voice of the people, even church people, is the voice of God. Scripture is full of examples where God was at work through his apostles and prophets and indeed his Messiah to correct the majority viewpoint among his people. But good description is also immensely valuable in Christian discernment.

The primary challenge here is identifying “Anglicans in England” and the survey offers two answers – a larger one and a subset of that. There are major questions about each group.


In relation to the larger group on which almost all the published data focuses, there are questions about inclusion and exclusion. Although we are not told the exact question asked, past You Gov polling suggests it was something like – “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion, and if so, to which of these do you belong?”. In answering this people either distance themselves totally – “No, I do not regard myself as belonging to any particular religion” – or (unless they “prefer not to say”) need to align with one in a list (or opt for “other”). The group whose views Jayne Ozanne’s survey reports amount to 29.2% of English adults saying “Yes, I regard myself as religious and as belonging to CofE/Anglican/Episcopal”. Given that less than 2% attend a CofE church most weeks and just over 4% at Christmas this is a very high figure. It is worth thinking how big a fringe would need to be included in your local parish church for it to encompass nearly 30% of the parish population.

Despite this emphasis on inclusion there is also an interesting exclusion. As far as I can see almost all past You Gov surveys have a maximum of 8 Christian denominations and 5 other religions people can identify with. This survey adds 3 more Christian sub-categories: Orthodox Christian, Pentecostal and Evangelical. This, also found in a December 2015 survey for Lancaster University, further complicates matters. While the other options are simply denominations, all 3 of these – particularly “Orthodox Christian” and “Evangelical” – are also common non-denominational labels. Someone calling themselves a “Baptist Methodist” is slightly odd whereas “Evangelical Anglican” is a common designation. Faced with the usual list I could only be “Anglican” but if I could choose “Orthodox Christian” or “Evangelical” might well opt for one of those. If I did then I – an ordained Anglican – would not be in this sample.


If this new survey asked wider questions about belief or behaviour they have not been published. However, previous YouGov polls in 2013 identified a similar proportion of self-identified Anglicans and so this group is likely to be similar in outlook. When asked what they rely on most for guidance in life these Anglicans are little different from those who say they have no religion. For example, the 2013 survey Jayne Ozanne highlights shows

  • Over half rely most on their own reason, intuition or feelings.
  • Just 4% chose “God or ‘higher power”, 3% said “The tradition and teachings of my religion” and only 1% said “A Scripture or holy book eg Bible” as what they most relied on for guidance.

It is therefore perhaps not surprising that among this body of Anglicans another 2013 survey found

  • a third were not at all guilty about using pornography
  • two-thirds not at all guilty about sex before marriage or civil partnership and
  • a quarter not at all guilty (rising to over 1/3 when including those “not very guilty”) if they had sex outside marriage or civil partnership ie committed adultery.

In the light of these wider features of self-identified Anglicans, it is less shocking that the bishops are out of step with this constituency on same-sex marriage and perhaps the biggest surprise is having over a third (37%) in the new survey believe same-sex marriage is wrong and less than half (only 45%) thinking it right.


Turning to where these Anglicans belong, we are able to identify the survey’s second narrower group of Anglicans whose view it reports as also (even more marginally) in favour of same-sex marriage. A third of this original group of Anglicans say they are not involved with any religious group or gathering. About 5% are affiliated with other Christian groups and about 2.5% actually belong to non-Christian faiths. Thus the original group of Anglicans has been reduced by almost 40%. No objective measure is offered of what counts as being involved and so it is not a surprise that this is still a high figure – about 18% of English adults.

It is also important to recognise that this remains a sub-group of the larger group and so excludes all those who had other original identifications but then said that “Anglican/CofE” best described the group they were involved with or whose services they attended. All those (many of them committed) CofE worshippers who say “But I’m really Catholic/Baptist/Evangelical” are therefore not included. In short, even this smaller group includes an overwhelming majority (roughly 3:1) whose commitment does not extend to attending a CofE service every Christmas while excluding a number (perhaps a significant number) of people who are actively involved and regularly attend services in their CofE parish but do not identify as Anglican.


So what can we learn from the survey? It is clear that great caution is needed but, set alongside other surveys, the following appear to be true:

  1. Over 50% of British society probably approve of same-sex marriage and this is particularly strong among those who reject any identification with religion.
  2. In contrast, there is not an absolute majority in favour of same-sex marriage among those who identify, even very loosely, as Christians (in almost every denomination) or with most other major faiths.
  3. Even in this survey with the very large group being identified as Anglican (on either method), more “CofE” believe same-sex marriage is wrong or don’t know than believe it is right. The reported lead of “pro-same-sex marriage” over “same-sex marriage is wrong” although new compared to similar past studies is still small.
  4. Every Christian denomination has a significant grouping, often a simple majority, of those who identify with it in some sense and who believe same-sex marriage is right.
  5. It would appear that over the last 2-3 years the general movement in religious groups, as among non-believers, is towards more of those identifying with them believing that same-sex marriage is right.
  6. In wider society, and probably in most faith groups, support for same-sex marriage is higher among women and among younger people.
  7. The claim that bishops take a different view could therefore be due, as Jayne Ozanne claims, to the fact they tend to be men over 55. However, given similarly self-identified Anglicans look to their own reason, intuition and feelings rather than to God, Scripture or tradition in making decisions it is not unreasonable that bishops should be different in methodology and perhaps therefore reach different conclusions on justifiable grounds.
  8. While there remains a lack of clarity about the 3 new categories included in this survey (Orthodox Christian, Pentecostal, Evangelical) the results are particularly stark in relation to same-sex marriage with much smaller numbers thinking same-sex marriage is right and over three times more “evangelicals” believing it is wrong than believing it is right. This raises interesting questions for those such as Accepting Evangelicals who argue for same-sex marriage to be accepted as an orthodox, evangelical belief.

Goddard andrew(3)The poll, despite its limits and weaknesses, was lapped up by the media who also told the narrative attached to it by Jayne Ozanne. As on other occasions recently, no bishops were heard offering an alternative perspective. And yet the poll shows many Christians – even with very weak allegiance – believe same-sex marriage is wrong or are unsure. The question is whether Christian leaders will – in their churches and in the public square – take this real opportunity to explain why Christians and most human cultures down through the ages have been right to identify and privilege as unique the way of life which unites a man and a woman in an exclusive sexual union intended to be lifelong. If they do they will help those whose instincts remain cautious about this new definition of marriage to understand and remain committed to a Christian vision. They may also persuade those who have changed their views that there remain good reasons which should be respected to believe same-sex marriage is wrong. If they don’t it is possible that the current support for marriage will be eroded and those who hold it ridiculed and treated as discriminatory or even extremist by society as a whole.


A more detailed analysis of the poll can be found with a copy of this article on the Fulcrum website. It is worth noting that American social scientist Mark Regnerus found an almost identical correlation amongst US supporters of SSM.

There is some irony that today sees the launch of LGBTI Mission in part on the back of this survey. They are pressing for unilateral changes to the Church’s teaching and practice, disregarding all the current processes of discussion and consultation, and without any reference to theological concerns. An early comment on the press release noted:

Critics of the poll argue that it does not qualify affiliation, for example, by asking how often respondents attend church. The 2013 polling explored this last question and found that support [for same-sex marriage] was lowest among those who attended most often.

So it appears that they are pressing the Church to adopt a position that represents the view of those who don’t attend—and no evidence has been offered to contradict this assessment.


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56 Responses to What do supporters of same-sex marriage believe and why?

  1. LincsLGBT February 4, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    It may be a feature of reading the blog on a mobile but who is the gentleman pictured, what relevance is this to the article please?

    • Ian Paul February 4, 2016 at 8:34 am #

      It is a picture of the author.

  2. James Byron February 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

    How can bishops persuade people to oppose equal marriage?

    Sure, they can appeal to God’s intended pattern for human relationships being male and female, but on its own merits, that doesn’t persuade. People aren’t grabbed by abstracts, but by experience, and as more and more gay people come out, the harder it is to condemn their relationships. People need compelling justification to ask so much of their family and friends. Why does God demand this?

    If the bishops can’t persuade on the merits, authority’s all they’ve got. Either a majority become evangelicals, and bind themselves to biblical authority, or marriage equality’s inevitable. The CoE can continue to oppose it, but by choosing that path, it shifts from a broad church to a confessional one. It’d probably survive in some form, but its days as a state church would be severely numbered.

    • Clive February 4, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

      Because “equal marriage” certainly isn’t equal at all.

    • David Shepherd February 5, 2016 at 12:23 am #

      James,

      I don’t think that the Bishops need to persuade people to oppose same-sex marriage. Now that same-sex couples can get married, it’s no longer a ‘hot button’ issue for that ubiquitous model of fair-minded reasoning: ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus.’

      While a significant proportion of the YouGov poll respondents might have supported same-sex marriage, the Church’s official position on this will no more prompt them to write to their MPs in favour of disestablishment than many of them being at odds with the Church’s condemnation of pornography.

      The fact is that, since March 2014, same-sex couples have enjoyed the wider society’s affirmation of their relationship through civil marriage. Genuine cases of sexual orientation discrimination are now handled firmly and fairly, and while the odd lawsuit against the Church might garner a few headlines here and there, most people know that peaceful religious dissent from majority public opinion is lawful.

      If same-sex couples prefer to get married in a religious setting, they know that there are other faiths, like the Quakers, which are perfectly happy to perform the ceremony.

      Yet, for all the focus on the recent YouGov poll, it’s the ONS figures which are truly telling. Since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005, the total number of civil partnerships formed in England and Wales up to the end of 2014 was 62,621. On average, there were between 1200 to 1400 CP registrations per quarter.

      Despite marriage being proclaimed as conferring a level of social dignity that civil partnerships couldn’t, only 7,732 civil partnerships were converted to marriages between December 2014 (when it became legally permissible) and June 2015.

      There has also been no dramatic upturn in the numbers of same-sex couples getting married. If anything, the take-up hasn’t been staggering (I mean, 2513 for H1 2015).

      So, that’s hardly the sort of burgeoning demand among same-sex couples (far less among those who are churchgoing) which, if Church doesn’t capitulate on same-sex marriage, would likely trigger a national campaign for its disestablishment, is it?

  3. Liz Sherciff February 4, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    Unfortunately, the question “What do supporters of same sex marriage believe and why?” has been answered by somebody of the opposite persuasion, and therefore somewhat misrepresented. The implicit (and not so implicit) assertion is that Christians who accept same sex marriage are either not Christians at all or are bowing to the spirit of the time rather than reading Scripture. I do not think that this is accurate.

    Firstly, Scripture says very little about same sex relationships anyway, and so the basis of those claiming biblical high ground seems a little shaky.

    More important is the issue of marriage, and what it means. From the cosy perspective of Western Christianity, rose tinted by Hollywood lenses, marriage is an idealised state existing between one man and one woman who somehow reflect the image of God. This is my real problem. Such a stance does not only deny the blissful state of marriage to those who are homosexual, it also condemns single people, divorced people, widowed people to living lives that cannot image God to their fellow human beings in the same way that marrieds can. Much damage has been done by the church to such people over generations, even before same sex marriage became an issue – the fear and rejection instilled in the heart of many by titles such as “family service”, “mother’s day” and other exclusive language can only be imagined by those on the inside of such labels.

    From my experience of working with women within the church I am also certain that this insidious doctrine of marriage is behind so many (male) ministers advising abused women to stay with their husbands for the sake of the Gospel.

    Finally, I wonder what history Andrew Goddard has been reading to be able to claim: “most human cultures down through the ages have been right to identify and privilege as unique the way of life which unites a man and a woman in an exclusive sexual union intended to be lifelong”. Certainly for most of human history and in most cultures women have been expected to have just one partner, but the same is not true of men, who through the ages and across cultures have usually been expected to have more than one wife, and several concubines as well. Marriage through most of history has been a means of keeping women subject to men, dependent economically and unable to fulfil their potential.

    I am not anti-marriage at all, but please might we acknowledge that it already needed redefining before same sex marriage became an issue?

    • David Shepherd February 4, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

      Liz,

      I’d love for you to quote where traditional marriage supporters, like Andrew Goddard or Ian Paul, have cited the conjugal relationship to be divinely appointed to reflect the image of God, thereby excluding the unmarried, widowed, etc.

      I have little confidence in your success, though. Instead, yours in just another ‘straw man’ argument, unrelated to the beliefs of this post’s author, but which nonetheless attempts to cast in an unfavourable light those who oppose same-sex marriage.

      Of course, what will escape your critical scrutiny is Ozanne’s illogical leap by which she claims that those who self-identify as Anglican and are either involved in an Anglican church or attend Anglican services (with no indication of regularity) equates to those who believe ‘that they are practicing and involved in a church’?

      https://www.premierchristianradio.com/News/UK/Campaigner-stands-by-same-sex-marriage-poll-despite-wave-of-criticism

      You might want to aim your distorted rhetoric at Ozanne, instead of scaremongering over what you call ‘the insidious [sic] doctrine of marriage’!

      • Jonathan Tallon February 5, 2016 at 9:58 am #

        Hi David,

        The following comes from the evangelical, British, popular, ‘Living Out’ website:

        ‘The difference between women and men is the way humanity reflects or represents God’. (http://www.livingout.org/what-does-the-bible-say-about-sex)

        It’s not a gigantic leap (given that Genesis is being referred to) to suppose that the image of God is found properly only when you have male and female. (This is a little ironic, because of course Living Out is all about promoting and aiding celibacy).

        I know that Ian (and probably Andrew) doesn’t subscribe to this particular viewpoint, but it is becoming common in conservative evangelical circles. Liz is not ‘scaremongering’ – I have personally sat through sermons preaching this within the last year. And it is tied closely to a hierarchical view of marriage.

        • David Shepherd February 5, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

          Hi Jonathan,

          We could trade disturbing views from both sides of this debate. We could also choose to distance ourselves from them.

          For instance, look at this excerpt from Changing Attitudes’ Sexual Ethics – A Report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Working Group page
          ‘There is often an implicit assumption in using the words ‘faithfulness’ and ‘commitment’ in this discussion that we are always talking about sexual relationships persisting over a long period of time. And of course time provides the vital conditions for development, change and growth. To be committed is to take things seriously. It is to say ‘Tomorrow I will be here as well as today, which means that we have time. Time for facing up to the
          reality of each other. I am not going to run away (from you or myself).’

          However, the biblical theme is primarily about the overwhelming demand to remain faithful to our covenantal relationship with God through the Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional family obligations)

          We consider that the evident difficulty of the religious ‘right’ (both catholic and protestant) in accepting that LGBT sexualities are God-given must be to remain faithful to our covenantal relationship with God through the
          Spirit (which, as the gospels warn, may challenge conventional family obligations)

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

          Changing Attitudes has never distanced itself from this permissive view of ‘special circumstances’ casual sex. So, is it any wonder that traditional marriage proponents here view with suspicion the aims and objectives of those who support this kind of licence as part of the LGBTI agenda?

    • Tricia February 4, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

      Liz,
      No we cannot agree that marriage needs redefining. The relationship between one man and one woman who become one flesh is the only natural reproduction of the human species. Christian marriage which is about a life long commitment of fidelity between the two is the very best place for children to be reared (this is shown to be the case in study after study). Christian marriage has proved to be a stable building block in society. Women in the western world have flourished under this system as opposed to mutiple marriages in other cultures.
      It is nonsense to say that Scripture says very little about same sex relationships. Scripture says much about how we are made male and female in God’s image. We are equal and complementary. Over 2000 years of church teaching sexual relations are to be within marriage only. St Paul was dealing with Greek and Roman culture and he has plenty to say. Jesus was dealing with Jewish culture and the Old Testament certainly had things to say.
      The culture of self which is overwhelming the western world means that self must be realised and made comfortable. The message of the Gospel is that we are all sinners and in need of redemption. God does not call us to be who we are – he calls us to be what he longs for us to be. To deny self and pick up your cross and follow.

      • David Shepherd February 5, 2016 at 12:46 am #

        Tricia,

        Well done for your courage in being unequivocal. I’m reminded of how St. Paul contrasted the dismissive rejection of the apostolicwitness with consequent honour of divine recognition: ‘as unknown, yet being well known’ (2 Cor. 6:9)

      • Clive February 5, 2016 at 6:49 am #

        Very well said Tricia

    • Ian Paul February 4, 2016 at 11:43 pm #

      Liz, thanks for your comments. Will reply tomorrow when I have a little more time! I think you make some really important points…but I think there are constructive answers to them.

    • JAMES February 6, 2016 at 6:23 am #

      So let’s follow the logic of what you are saying here Liz

      If the church recognises homo marriages surely it should also recognise poly marrages. The very sort that you despise.

      There is no logic with limiting this broadening. After all it is just free choice and love that should be the determining factor for the church in all of this?

      Am I right?

    • Ian Paul February 6, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      Liz, thanks for your comments. I would like to take them seriously and offer some reflections in response.

      First, the answer to ‘what these people believe’ has not been answered ‘by someone of the opposite persuasion’. As Andrew points out, the answer was supplied by the people themselves in response to the supplementary questions in the 2013 poll. These appear to have been passed over by many people, but the answers are there, and Andrew is drawing out the implications of what the people themselves have said. They themselves have said that they mostly do not refer to a ‘higher power’ or so a ‘sacred text’. That is not to say that all people who support SSM are in this position. Clearly a (very) small minority of people do support SSM and do refer to both God and Scripture.

      But the supporters of the poll are not making that claim. They are explicitly claiming that this whole group are ‘members’ of the church and that the bishops need to change their view in order to more closely align with this group. So it is worth asking what else they believe and why. I think that is a fair and sensible question.

      Second, Scripture says relatively little on same-sex sex primarily because it is so clearly and consistently so far beyond what is acceptable in a biblical sexual ethic. The text rarely (never?) argue for this prohibition; it is assumed to be self-evident, usually on the basis of the Genesis creation accounts.

      Third, I would agree with much that you say about the blissful Hollywood version of marriage, and I too cringe at the misappropriation of this. The notion of women staying with abusive husbands is an especially damaging example. But that is not in fact the teaching of either Bible or church—which I think you know! The best response to wrong use is not no use but right use. Do you believe that Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching about marriage is actually liberating? I do.

      Fourthly, I agree with you that many cultures have supported polygamy—but notice that in e.g. East Africa, where twice as many women as men reached adulthood, this was the only practical response to providing economic security for women. In any pre-modern society, the biological reality is that women are significantly committed to child-bearing and child-rearing, and it is completely anachronistic to impose our own post-industrial expectations on that.

      But what is fascinating is the way that, at many points, biblical sexual ethics have reformed societies. It is the (later) creation accounts which appears to have reformed polygamy in Israel so that marriage was (as far as we can tell) monogamous in Jesus’ day. And it was the counter-cultural symmetry between men and women in New Testament sexual ethics in the first three centuries which transformed both child-rearing and the security of women in the Roman Empire.

      So I don’t think marriage needs redefining. I think the biblical understanding of marriage needs rediscovering.

      • Jonathan Tallon February 6, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

        Hi Ian,
        I actually think the question about moral guidance is a rather poor one. Any orthodox Roman Catholic would rely on their conscience – “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
        I suspect many people who aren’t RC would take a similar view. One’s conscience may be informed by scripture, reason and tradition.

        Second, I would disagree with your view on the importance of the Genesis creation account. But that is for another day and another thread.

        Third, I entirely agree that Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching about marriage is liberating – I may just interpret their teaching differently from you.

        Fourth, you appear to be saying that cultural circumstances can mean deviations from heterosexual monogamy are acceptable. Are you sure you want to be arguing this?

        Lastly, polygamy was still practised in Judaism at least a century after Jesus and Paul, and I believe was only formally denounced in Judaism in the tenth Century (though I am away from my sources at the moment to check this). It is more likely that the Roman virtue of monogamy influenced Judaism on this point. It is extremely unlikely that New Testament sexual ethics transformed child rearing and the security of women in the Roman Empire in the first three centuries because Christians were such a small minority for most of this time. The fourth century is where you need to look if you are talking about changes affecting the whole empire.

        • David Shepherd February 7, 2016 at 6:56 am #

          Hi Jonathan,

          This comment is fascinating. Just two points.

          Can you clarify why the Roman virtue of monogamy authorised Herodias to divorce Herod Philip and marry his brother, Herod Antipater? Would that then be the Roman virtue of serial monogamy?

          While you might be right about the early church’s limited influence on the Roman world, Ian doesn’t limit himself to this era in his comment. Particularly, Constantine enacted legislation after his conversion outlawing infantivide, which was a fairly commonplace practice among Romans.

          As one writer explains: ‘Yet so long as Christianity was an illegal religion, persecuted by the same culture that murdered their own babies, it had little chance of enacting policies against infanticide. Finally, however, with the Edict of Milan–which legalized the practice of Christianity–Christian leaders began to exert their influence on the Roman emperors regarding infanticide.

          Immediately after his conversion, Constantine–the first Christian Emperor–enacted two measures targeting the problem of infanticide: 1) Constantine provided funds out of the imperial treasury for parents over burdened with children; and 2) Constantine gave all the rights of property of exposed infants to those who saved and supported them. But more generally, Constantine broadened the scope of imperial charity and provided assistance for the poor and needy. “He also acknowledged the new ideal of charity

          • David Shepherd February 7, 2016 at 7:07 am #

            In other words, point that Ian appears to be making is that Chritian doctrine and practice in the first three centuries was discernibly counter-cultural and set the tone for the transformation that occurred in the 4th century.

          • Jonathan Tallon February 8, 2016 at 10:20 am #

            David, I’ve tried fairly detailed replies to this twice now, and each time something went wrong when I pressed ‘submit comment’. In short, lifelong monogamy was a Roman ideal for centuries before Christianity. In practice, this was often serial monogamy (owing to divorce or being widowed). It is far more likely that Roman practice influenced Judaism on this than vice versa.

            On other issues, Christianity did change the empire, but only from the fourth century. Ian’s comment specified the first three centuries and could be read as meaning that Christianity changed the empire earlier than Constantine. It didn’t, because there weren’t enough Christians for anyone to care much what they thought.

  4. Clive February 4, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    Imagine the negative effects of banishing Fathers’ day (which is already happening and HFEA has cited the SSM regulations as the reason that children no longer have parents in their eyes).
    Or equally banishing Mothers’day?
    If you want to read about marriage being between one man and one woman just try reading the gospels and Jesus’ words.

  5. Penelope February 5, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Dear Ian, your article is as always interesting, but the title is very confusing. Surely it implies that you are going to address what supporters of same-sex marriage believe about marriage, the Bible, sex, etc, but you are actually talking about whether recent polls can legitimately define these supporters as being committed Anglicans. Presumably this ambiguity is a deliberate tease?

    • Ian Paul February 6, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

      No it’s not; it is a reflection of what the poll says and how we should respond to it.

      The publicity around the poll has been presented as ‘these people are members of the C of E, and they support SSM. If the bishops don’t change their position, they are seriously and increasingly out of step with their members.’

      Although the first part of this analysis does some thinking about who they are, the second part does not depend on this. It simply uses the information from the earlier, similar poll on what else this group of people believe, and why they come to this set of beliefs. Given that their belief on SSM is by those who commissioned the poll being used as an argument for a change in the Church’s teaching, it is reasonable—actually essential—to explore these two other questions.

      Two further questions then arise. First, if the findings of the polls are an argument for accepting SSM, why are they not an argument for accepting the legitimate use of pornography, sex outside marriage, and adultery? In fact, as David Sheppard points out elsewhere, Changing Attitude do in fact advocate the ‘sacredness’ of sexual unions in non-committed relationships, so on at least one of these there is consistency.

      Second, it then raises the question of why this position has been arrived at. For the vast majority of the group that those who commissioned these polls appealed to as their model for Church teaching, God and Scripture plays no part whatsoever.

      It might be worth exploring what those who do value the notion of God and Scripture believe about SSM—but they are in a small minority in these poll findings, and it is the large group, not this minority, that those using this poll as evidence are appealing to.

  6. Dave February 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    My understanding of the science is this:
    1) NO gay/lesbian genes have been found.
    2) Collections of genes have been found which predispose to actions which current society interprets as Gay. Similar to genes which predispose to alcohol addiction, but do not have to result in alcoholism.

    Therefor, against PC rhetoric, Gay behaviour is in fact a life choice, in some cases a predisposed life choice.

    Pastoral thoughts:
    People brought up in the current environments may have (2) above and really believe they are Gay, enter such a relationship and innocently choose Gay marriage. They’ll experience pleasure in sex (I presume) and all the powerful emotions that come with close relationships. (I’m told most LGBT relationships are promiscuous, but I’m not thinking of those)

    For any group/organisation/church to instruct them to ‘divorce’ whether they have adopted children or not would be damaging, I think.

    If a truly welcoming church accepts them, but does only teach whole life heterosexual marriage, they might feel OK (like say a secret adulterous pairing) but it’s unlikely as they are ‘out’.

    I can’t presume to speak for God! But it’s self evident that He uses selfish material people in certain areas. Perhaps they might not yet think they are selfish or greedy (or might not be!) if they keep £1,000,000,000 to themselves and are giving £500,000,000 away. Or, say, others like me who will frequently watch TV or films hours a week – when there are lonely people. Maybe He can accept and work through Gay folk despite not agreeing with their Gay choices? It’s clear He loves all sinners!

    But I’d still not have the church redefine marriage!

    • Richard Ashby February 6, 2016 at 9:19 am #

      ‘Genes which predispose to alcohol addiction …do not have to result in alcoholism’. ‘Gay behaviour is a lifestyle choice’.

      Perhaps you would like to tell me at what point in my life I ‘chose’ to become a homosexual? You can’t, because there was no such point. What I did choose was to accept who I am and who God made me and to live and love exactly as he desires.

      Of course that’s wrong because having made me gay God desires nothing more than that I should be celibate, single, deprived of sexual and social companionship of a loved one, and moreover ostracised by his ‘church’, condemned by self appointed arbiters of both ‘Christian’ and public morality, discussed as if I am some scientific specimen and pontificated about by people who know nothing of common humanity but regard people like me as a ‘problem’. If your tidy biblical world has no place for me, that’s just fine.

      • Dave February 6, 2016 at 9:50 am #

        Dear Richard
        Heck no, I’d not want to talk like that to you at all – at least not without actually really having you as a friend!

        I had hoped that my post showed that I am against nasty or even inadvertent nasty actions or teaching against Gay people – from my paragraphs following the ‘Pastoral’ heading. When in a different part of the country, I have had friends who are Gay and BiSexual (they were secret about it in church, but trusted me) Some were celibate some not. So, although they feared ‘ostracisation’ from ‘the church’ – they didn’t experience that from me, a member of the same church.

        So my world is far from tidy.

        If you look carefully at my post again, you’ll see I haven’t referred to a biblical stance at all, though you could infer it from my closing remark! I haven’t actually come to any *firmly held* views except that:
        1) God loves all sinners whatever their sin is. That’s in my experience of having seen individual and corporate greed do more damage than the few Gay folk I’ve known. I’ve seen heterosexual affairs do more damage than the few Gay folk I’ve known. The list could go on. Please note that in this I am not saying that all monogamous same sex relationships are sinful. People are a mixture of good and bad and all sin. I’ve also seen LGBT behaviour which has badly damaged people I’ve known.

        2) I am actually referring to the Science as I have seen it from studies which go into far more detail than just the limited label of LGBTi (sorry I can’t give you them, I gave them away to somebody!)

        3) I know I’m not sinless but have also had the widely had experience that I presume all others have had, that despite probably having sins that I actually don’t recognise as sins (e.g. not caring for the lonely several evenings a week, which some may see as sinful) God still meets me somehow, in ways that sometimes help others.

        So in my current understanding, I’d not want the church to redefine marriage and I recognise that causes you pain. I’d also not instruct a married same sex couple to divorce!

        Life is always more complex than theory.

    • Peter Gamston February 8, 2016 at 12:19 am #

      Then it is very clear that your understanding of the science is derived entirely from the polemic of those with a particular religious agenda. Do you imagine that the 1500+ non-human species of animals in which homo-sexual behaviour is commonly observed, having been brought up in their current environments, now believe they are Gay as some kind of cultural phenomenon?

      I know people who think like you are reluctant to buy books from non-Christian book shops but if you really want to understand the science I’m afraid you will have to – or go to the your public library. If you want to balance the polemic you have already imbibed with the opposite Dawkins is your obvious choice but I would strongly recommend you avoid polemic by avoiding any interest in religion – I don’t want to advertise any in particular but ‘the Genome’ by Matt Ridley is a very readable general introduction for non-specialists, but there are many others.

      • Clive February 8, 2016 at 6:19 am #

        Dear Peter,

        You said:
        “Do you imagine that the 1500+ non-human species of animals in which homo-sexual behaviour is commonly observed, having been brought up in their current environments, now believe they are Gay as some kind of cultural phenomenon?”

        The argument that homosexuality appears in nature and is therefore “natural” is your appeal to science. However, so does cannibalism, but human beings don’t go around eating each other just because it is “natural” and hence your appeal to alleged science just doesn’t work at all.

        • Peter Gamston February 8, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

          I don’t recall making an argument ‘ …and is therefore “natural”…’ (although it obviously is – that is what the word means – that is not the issue here). My counter-argument was simply that your argument that it is primarily a “cultural phenomenon” is flawed even leaving aside your knowledge and understating of genetics (and presumably all of the other pre-natal and perinatal factors involved).

          I wasn’t making an appeal to science, I was making an appeal to you to learn your science from sources written without a religious agenda. It is nonsense phrases like “NO gay/lesbian genes…” that are grist to the atheist agenda mill and making Richard Dawkins the best selling author he is.

      • Dave February 10, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

        Hi Peter.
        Maybe. Humans seem to have strong agendas however they describe behaviour of other species with respect to human behaviour.
        I’ve looked a few different takes briefly. This seems to be balanced (though simplified). what do you reckon? http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20150206-are-there-any-homosexual-animals

        Although there are some exceptions, very few across the species, single mate, life long only homosexual pairing is very rare. Some birds are quoted, with evolutionary reasons amongst other reasons as the exception, but even those are not exclusively homosexual. Primate behaviour also has a variety of laudable reasons – but again, not the same as human LGBT.

        Again, none of this short reply is homophobic, see an earlier reply.

        • Peter Gamston February 12, 2016 at 12:13 pm #

          I Dave,

          Thanks for this, I certainly would not accuse you of anything homophobic.I’m not really qualified to comment, what I know about zoology could be writ large on the back of a stamp. I certainly didn’t know about domestic sheep but I’m not sure it is relevant; I’m not aware of any research suggesting hypothalamus size is a factor in human sexual orientation.
          I stand by my assertion that sexual orientation is not ‘culturally conditioned’ while conceding the prevalence of homosexual behaviour in animals was perhaps not the best argument for that assertion. There is anyway a vital difference between pairing in animals and humans; in animals, however much we may want to sentimentalise, it is instinctive, in humans, while the initial attraction may be so, one would hope the commitment is reflective. I believe such commitment, wherever it is sincere, is always something to celebrate and thank God for.

  7. Jonathan Tallon February 5, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    It should be noted that LGBTI Mission clearly is concerned about theology, as one of its current objectives is to ‘establish a theological resource group to develop a clear statement on the full spectrum of human sexuality and gender variance, and the precious gift of sex and marriage in Christian understanding’ (p.5 of the leaflet pdf).

    It also clearly sees this as a part of the process of Shared Conversations.

    Ian, LGBTI Mission has nine main objectives. What are the ones that you could wholeheartedly support yourself, what are the ones that you don’t have a strong opinion on, and which would you try wholeheartedly to resist?

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 7:33 am #

      Jonathan,

      I read this from the LGBTI Mission web-site:

      This is an alliance of the various church-based LGBTI campaign organisations that work within the Church of England, including:

      Changing Attitude England
      Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM)
      Inclusive Church
      Accepting Evangelicals

      Let me be clear on the theology of LGBTI Mission, that until Changing Attitude (a founding member organisation) completely recants on considering ‘brief and loving sexual encounters’ in special circumstances as ‘occasions of grace’ (see my comment at 4:49pm yesterday), LGBTI Mission should be seen by the entire CofE as a Trojan Horse, harbouring connivance at promiscuity under the guise of challenging church homophobia.

      Perhaps , a spokesman for Changing Attitude will expound here the basis of the theology of grace imparted through ‘special circumstances’ casual sex.

      • Richard Ashby February 6, 2016 at 9:24 am #

        I have no doubt that within the various doctrinal and social statements of membership of the evangelical alliance there are items which I would find ioffensive. The penal substitutionary theory of the atonement is a good place to start. Or what about those who, looking at the Levitical prohibitions, would like death penalty to be implemented for their infringement?

        • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 10:03 am #

          Richard,

          Your own moral cancellation theory (that moral qualms over the theological errors of CA are cancelled out by equal and opposite theological errors of a conservative church organisation of your choice) is fairly suspect too!

          The difference is that I’ve not advanced the merits of the Evangelical Alliance, whereas Jonathan is endorsing the work of the LGBTI Mission.

          I’m even happy to distance myself thoroughly from EA.

          So, what’s your own position on casual sex? Is CA right? Are there ever ‘special circumstances’ that can make such brief encounters ‘loving’ and ‘an occasion of grace’?

    • Ian Paul February 6, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

      Jonathan, I don’t think that there is any sense in which the theology developed here will be part of the process of discussion for the Church e.g. within the Shared Conversations.

      They appear to be committed to developing liturgy without any references to the C of E debates about this; as someone has said elsewhere, the approach is simply to drive a cart and horses through any commitment to shared conversation or good disagreement.

      I am aware that some evangelical groups are flaky on their commitment to the process. But I am not aware of any conservative group who is unilaterally committed to publishing and making use of liturgy which contravenes canon law and invites clergy to break their vows of canonical obedience on this rather key area.

      Do please correct me if I am wrong here.

      • Jonathan Tallon February 6, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

        A slightly facetious answer, Ian, but you know as well as I do how many evangelical churches already, week in week out, use liturgy (or fail to use liturgy) and so break canon law, at the same time as breaking canon law over vestments (hence the synod debates to try to regularise an existing flouting of canon law). I am relatively relaxed about these continual infractions (I have worshipped regularly in a variety of churches which committed them). But let’s not pretend they don’t exist and then castigate others over liturgy.

        A more serious answer – I am not part of this group, and do not speak for them. But, from their own publicity:
        Objective 4 (around devotional prayers) – seeks authorisation from the CofE or commendation of them. That doesn’t sound like ignoring process.
        Objective 5 (prayers after marriage/transition) – seeks authorisation or commendation from the House of Bishops (again, seeking official recognition).

        Whether you consider this as a helpful contribution to the Shared Conversations (as the Bishop of Liverpool took them) or not is always going to be a matter of opinion.

  8. Jonathan Tallon February 6, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    Now who is scaremongering?

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 10:10 am #

      Jonathan,

      If my comment was a tenuous inference, I’d understand your response.

      How is it scaremongering to cite CA’s unrevoked explicit consensus on ‘special circumstances’ casual sex being an ‘occasion of grace’?

      Why is it that in such circumstances, grace is not ‘teaching us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lust’, as the apostle Paul declared?

  9. Savi Hensman February 6, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    What LGBTI Mission is seeking to achieve with regard to marriage of same-sex couples is set out in the statement: we believe ‘that life-long, faithful, stable same-sex relationships, and the relationships of those who undergo gender transition, should be celebrated by the Church of England.’ The views of some members of some member groups of the Anglican Coalition which gave rise to the LGBTI Mission are a red herring. I think it is remarkable that so many LGBT Christians, despite having been brought up to believe that we are incapable of self-giving monogamous lifelong partnerships, nevertheless aspire to and sometimes achieve this. Many congregations now do try to support such relationships but the church’s official position is profoundly unhelpful.

    Numerous committed churchgoers now believe that it can be right for same-sex couples to marry, as other surveys have shown, LGBTI MIssion is not calling for ‘unilateral changes to the Church’s teaching and practice, disregarding all the current processes of discussion and consultation’: the Church of England is a community with many active members and there are procedures to follow if changes are being considered. The statement, being relatively short, does not go into great depth about the theological rationale for seeking greater space to be made for theological diversity on recognition of same-sex partnerships and inclusion of LGBTI Christians but hopefully it does clarify what is being sought by those most active in calling for greater acceptance.

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 11:54 am #

      Savi,

      Thanks for your response. Nevertheless, whatever LGBTI may state now, why would you spin the Report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Working Group, as merely ‘the views of some members of some member groups of the Anglican Coalition which gave rise to the LGBTI Mission?

      That’s like calling the Report of the Bishop of Rochester’s Working Party merely ‘the views on women bishops of some members of some member groups comprising General Synod’!

      A far more theologically resilient response would be expected from LGBTI Mission than hoping against hope that labelling my comment with the ‘red herring’ pejorative might limit any PR damage to your nascent organisation.

      • Savi Hensman February 6, 2016 at 2:07 pm #

        The Bishop of Rochester’s Working Party was an official working party of the Church of England, David. The clergy consultation working group has an entirely different status with regard to LGBTI Mission. If Churches Together in Britain and Ireland were to set up a new initiative, its theology would not be reliant on what a Lutheran or Baptist working party came up with several years ago.

        The LGBTI Mission has committed itself to:

        – Establish a Theological Resource Group to develop a clear statement on the full
        spectrum of human sexuality and gender variance, and the precious gift of sex
        and marriage in Christian understanding
        – Publish the statement and encourage clergy and laity to share their diverse views on human sexuality and gender variance.

        When this has been published, I look forward to hearing what you agree and disagree with in the statement.

        • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

          Savi,

          But I have highlighted as comparable the status of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Group with respect to LGBTI Mission, but with respect to Changing Attitude.

          The common factor is that both organisations commissioned their respective working parties.

          So, Changing Attitude and LGBTI Mission remain uncritical of the Lesbian and Gay Consultation Group’s Report affirming ‘special circumstances’ casual sex as an ‘occasion of grace.

          Instead, LGBTI Mission’s establishment of a Theological Resource Group is akin to politicians setting up a commission of enquiry.

          If LGBTI Mission cannot reject the moral laxity of CA regarding casual sex, its ‘commitment’ is a licence to defer until politically convenient (a bit like Chilcott).

          In this case, it allows your organisation to connive indefinitely at CA’s lax view of casual sex.

  10. Martin Reynolds February 6, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    I have read and re-read this work and the commentary here and I am still scratching my head wondering just what relevance it has and what I am meant to draw from it. Particularly as I have no real information on a the thinking of those who oppose gay marriage where, we must all agree, one finds some particularly unsavoury bedfellows who would make the ethics of that position look scarily dubious.
    All the more so, having a accepted my friend Peter’ reasonable doubts at just what we can draw from it.
    Perhaps someone can tell me just what I am supposed to understand from Andrew’s work and how seriously Imshould take it.
    My mother is in her 93 year and in rare moments of clarity recalls with unalloyed joy a brief relationship that lasted till his sudden death in 1940 … In contrast the marriage she contracted with my father who was the airman sent to tell her of that sudden death, was a 24 year torment. She never mentions it.
    Mind you! I still haven’t got over Sentamu comparing the liaison between prince William and Kate at “tasting the milk from the cow before you buy” ……… Must be something cultural….

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

      Martin,

      The point is that the Church leadership is being challenged to take seriously Jayne Ozanne’s inferences from the commissioned YouGov poll.

      She has claimed that the survey was evidence of rapidly growing support for same-sex marriage among Anglican membership. On this basis, she contrasted that Church of England leadership was seriously out of step with its membership.

      All that Andrew Goddard has done is to scan the survey to discover what other similarly grounded inferences can be made from it.

      You might well argue that the survey is irrelevant to the kind of ‘lived experiences’ of mutual support and comfort that a person might find with just one person, regardless of gender.

      It would suggest that such surveys are irrelevant. So, why not tell Ozanne to stop harping on about what the CofE membership is supposed to believe!

  11. Neal Terry February 6, 2016 at 2:43 pm #

    “they are pressing the Church to adopt a position that represents the view of those who don’t attend.”
    A bit like trying to press those who don’t believe into believing… odd that.

  12. Martin Reynolds February 6, 2016 at 3:23 pm #

    oh goodness!
    everybody accepts that the numbers are increasing and likely to remain on an upward trajectory for … well. probably for ever …
    Ian says this is because nobody is defending the position which would seem to imply we are all geting ready for a shift of some sort in policy.
    The evidence is clear and people like me might regret things like divorce etc …. well we just have to accept the boat has sailed …
    it’s just a bitch, then!

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

      Your exasperation aside, divorce is a poor analogy.

      The way the divorce ‘ship sailed’ was to affirm ‘exceptional circumstances’ in which a divorced person would be permitted to marry in church.

      As far as I’m aware, there is no marriage liturgy for divorcees. Those seeking re-marriage are expected to accept that divorce is a breach of God’s will for marriage. I doubt that a similar pastoral accommodation would sit well with LGBT couples.

      Doubtless, there are clergy who turn a blind eye to official statements, but that doesn’t make the case for official connivance.

    • Clive February 6, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

      No. Nobody really accepts that numbers are increasing and likely to continue to increase at all. The responses to the previous thread showed that people are being pressurised.

      Indeed it wont be long before legal cases are reported and show that “equal marriage” is very unequal indeed.

      The real problem is that media is being used extensively to distort the “shared conversations” by those in favour of SSM whereas those who believe in Jesus’ words and in Scripture are being silent, behaving decently, and hoping that we can all participate in the shared conversations with simple mutual respect.

      • Martin Reynolds February 6, 2016 at 11:49 pm #

        I don’t understand what you are saying.
        Are you claiming that equal marriage is loosing support in the Christian communities here?
        Are you saying that there has not been a steady increase in Christian people accepting equal marriage within the British Iles?
        What’s this about legal cases and mutual respect with conversations?
        Ian himself accepts there has been an increase and gives reasons why he thinks this has happened?

      • Jonathan Tallon February 6, 2016 at 11:50 pm #

        Clive, about the only thing that everyone can agree on about the poll is that it shows a change on this issue in those who self-identify as Anglican from 2013 to 2016, and that the number within this group in favour of same-sex marriages has increased.

        • David Shepherd February 7, 2016 at 6:07 am #

          Jonathan,

          The issue here has always been about whether those merely self-identifying as Anglican equate to the CofE membership, given the other views that the same poll shows to be espoused by the former.

          I don’t see PCCs across the country joining the Inclusive Church campaign en masse. Neither are parish congregations signing petitions in the sort of numbers that indicate significant pressure for change.

          So where is the evidence that would indicate, as Ozanne insists, that, on this issue, ‘the Church of England leadership is seriously out of touch with its membership ‘

  13. Martin Reynolds February 6, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

    But I thought this thread was about the ethical positions of those who supported equal marriage, in which case lets not cast my exasperation aside nor discount my views on divorce because another person wholly unrelated to me thinks they are in some way a poor analogy.

    • David Shepherd February 6, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

      Ian Paul’s blog is one web-site where anyone commenting here will have to put up with other people (wholly unrelated to them) challenging the validity of weak analogies.

      However exasperated or affective they may be, those posting comments here have to stand to reason. ‘It’s just a bitch’, isn’t it?

      • Martin Reynolds February 6, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

        But I wasn’t offering this as an analogy.
        Just an example of a change that was not welcome for me but with which I must live.

        So, yes, this is yet another blog where you can distort people’s views to suit your arguments.
        Please …. No more.

        • David Shepherd February 7, 2016 at 6:28 am #

          Martin,

          I echo your ‘please…no more’ sentiment. Ian’s blog welcomes all, but Thinking Anglicans is another option, where Simon Sarmiento et al. will provide a forum of the like-minded where your opinions will be completely uncontested.

          …You know, like your example of the Church’s accommodation of divorce being unwelcome change for you, but not being analogous to what you see as the Church’s future policy on SSM.

  14. Don Benson February 6, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    Despite all the argument, the assertions and the accusations, the commissioning of polls, this issue is surprisingly straightforward for orthodox Christians (although the ramifications are endless!).

    Marriage is, de facto, a heterosexual arrangement; the word marriage has always simply described that which is, and societies confer no status or superior merit for those involved, they simply recognise the value of something which works, something which lies neatly with the grain of nature. Although legislators have seen fit to ‘redefine’ the word so that it includes another type of relationship, they haven’t thereby changed the reality of what marriage has always been and will continue to be; they have messed about with language, and to do that is almost always to sow confusion; and that is exactly what we have with ‘equal marriage’ legislation. And it has real consequences for people’s lives, particularly the rights of children some of whom are now forced by state legislation to be brought up in motherless or fatherless households. It obviously is having considerable consequences for the Anglican Communion and us in the Cof E in particular right now.

    Apart from (but in addition to) what you might call secular reasoning, orthodox Anglicans cannot accept that SSM is within the will of God because the Bible teaches otherwise, and thus they are not able to support changes to liturgy or teaching which would confer God’s blessing for SSM. Thus the CofE’s position that marriage is between a man and a woman holds firm, not out of malice but in obedience to God whose design of the human body and prescription for how we should live are for our flourishing rather than our misery. The complementary view in scripture of the nature and role of men and women is seen as beneficial for both sexes rather than giving advantage to one at the expense of the other.

    Homosexual activity is not a pre-eminent issue for orthodox Anglicans any more than any other behaviour which challenges the Bible’s view of what is acceptable to God – and that is why LGB people should not be singled out in churches for any mistreatment. But the near absence of comment on homosexuality in the Bible cannot be taken to imply tacit approval or indifference (as some try to argue), rather that it is so clearly fails to meet God’s approval that it doesn’t merit further discussion. So where homosexual people will receive a knock-back in orthodox churches is if they try to promote a view of homosexuality which affirms it as within the will of God for Christians when the Bible clearly doesn’t teach that.

    All of which raises difficult questions within the church about exactly how God expects LGB Christian people to deal with their sexual energy and their natural human longing for intimacy. And this is where wisdom, calm consideration and pastoral concern are needed so that truth is not set in opposition to justice. Surely this is what needs the attention of orthodox (indeed all) Anglicans as they consider the SSM issue rather than a long period of sterile conversations which imply the hope of a compromise to which they will not be in a position to agree. And of course opinion poles cannot be game changers here – however relevant they might be to church politics they don’t shed any light on the theological argument.

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