What does ‘full inclusion’ mean?

200499102-001Andrew Goddard writes: At the heart of much discussion about sexuality is the subject of inclusion. A number of developments in the last few weeks have helpfully highlighted the problems and limits of this language.

Full inclusion as full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church

Last weekend the recently appointed Bishop of Grantham made public that he is gay and in a long-term but non-sexual relationship. Although the situation is not as novel as the media claimed, this degree of openness about one’s sexuality within the episcopacy does represent a significant development in the life of the Church of England. It coincided with a number of same-sex married Anglicans writing an open letter to the House of Bishops which appeared in the Sunday Times, apparently the paper whose enquiries led the bishop to speak about his situation to a different newspaper. This letter included the regular appeal for “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church”.

But what is meant by “full inclusion”? A 2007 General Synod motion stated that “Homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church”. This is perhaps the only aspect of the church’s formal teaching and discipline which has near universal support across our deep differences. It is also the most natural understanding of “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church”. Until this weekend it could be claimed that the lack of an openly gay person among the bishops cast doubt as to whether the church was genuinely fully inclusive in practice. It is now clear – especially as Bishop Nicholas at no point hid his sexuality or his long-term relationship – that the church truly is committed, not just in theory, to implementing its vision of inclusion set out in 2007.

There are now openly gay people among not just the baptised and communicant laity, deacons and priests but also among serving bishops. At every level there is still work to be done in the face of areas of resistance and exclusion to people simply on the grounds of their sexual orientation or attraction. Nevertheless, the church has at last clearly embraced “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church” in its proper and only logical sense: “full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church” without regard to sexual orientation. It has of course always done this but never as openly. It has now done so in a manner which is obvious and should not be reversed and which will, one hopes, enable LGBTI people to feel they can, if they wish, be more open about their sexuality and help the church to welcome them as Christ welcomes them.

Flawed appeals to full inclusion

The letter writers are, however, unlikely to accept this conclusion. Their call for full inclusion asked for much more. They want the bishops to “enable those parishes that wish to do so to celebrate the love that we have found in our wives and husbands”. But this is to address a separate question from that of inclusion. It is a question not of including people but of deciding which of the many patterns of life found among LGBTI people the church can faithfully celebrate. Even their own proposal would not be fully inclusive of all LGBTI people once inclusion is to be understood beyond “full participation in ministry”. It would still exclude from the church’s liturgical celebrations those who, for whatever reason, do not choose to marry their same-sex partner but to structure their relationships in other ways.

Despite this, the appeal to inclusion continues in order to persuade people to go further and commend same-sex unions. But this is a quite distinct matter involving inclusion and approval of certain ways of life as morally acceptable rather than inclusion of people. The reason for this continued appeal to inclusion was caught by Justin Welby speaking at Greenbelt where he said:

We cannot pretend that – so I’m putting one case then I’m going to put the other – we cannot pretend or I can’t pretend myself that inclusion from the point of view of someone in a same sex relationship just to take a simple…that inclusion of someone in a same sex relationship that falls short of the blessing of the Church is going to feel like inclusion – it’s not going to be perceived as inclusion. I think we’re conning ourselves if we say that there is some clever solution out there that means you can do less than that and it will feel like inclusion.

Here – voicing the views of many – he has developed the language of inclusion in two important but flawed respects. It refers to a subjective experience – something must “feel like inclusion”– and then to inclusion in a specific form as being necessary if it is “to be perceived as inclusion” and meet that subjective test: the “blessing of the Church” on “a same sex relationship”. These two moves are what then lead to a number of problems. The most obvious in relation to the first is evident in what the Archbishop then said:

But when you do that, if you do that, it will feel like exclusion to a bunch of other people, betrayal, subversion, even stronger words than that.

If inclusion is understood subjectively then that must apply across the board. But what feels like inclusion to some feels like non-inclusion or exclusion to others. So as he went on to say, leading to dreadful reports on the need to “hug a homophobe”:

We have to find a way in which we love and embrace everybody who loves Jesus Christ, without exception and without hesitation. [Applause]. But – there’s a but coming – but that includes those who feel that same sex relationships are deeply, deeply wrong, or who live in societies where they feel they are deeply, deeply wrong and they feel deeply compromised by other Christians around the world.

And so any approach which tests a proposal simply on the grounds of whether everyone will feel included leads to an impasse, a dead-end and a paralysis:

Do I know when there’ll be a point where…a blessing will happen – no, I don’t know the answer to that and I can’t see the roadmap ahead.

This is because “inclusion” so defined proves impossible whenever there is deep moral disagreement. We will therefore never find a way forward on the issues which divide us if we reduce the discussion to “inclusion” or even make “inclusion” the primary category of our thinking. The problem is even greater if we then define inclusion in terms of “what feels like inclusion” and/or tie that to a particular moral stance which is highly contentious. If we treat inclusion in that way then we are saying that there cannot be truly full inclusion until there is full agreement. Alternatively, inclusion comes only at the price of moral incoherence. The moral judgment of every person in the church about what constitutes a holy life has to be given some form of validation by the church so that those who hold it and live by it can feel genuinely included. But if the church does the latter and meets the moral demands of certain people who say they do not currently feel included then, as the Archbishop pointed out, others will thereby feel excluded. We are hamstrung in the face of disagreement if we view inclusion in this way because for the church to take a particular moral position inevitably means it will fail in its call to be inclusive when there is moral disagreement.

How do we move forward? Going beyond “inclusion”

Instead of getting stuck in this cul-de-sac we need to say that inclusion properly understood is now more firmly established as a public reality than ever before thanks to the Bishop of Grantham. We need to welcome and consolidate that but we also need to be clear that inclusion does not and cannot give us the answers to the primary question we now must address. This is the question of how those who are included should live. Inclusion cannot answer what forms of life the church must welcome, include and bless and what forms it must not celebrate and should maybe even warn against as sin. Such warnings will almost inevitably make it difficult for those who are living that way from “feeling included”.

As we move from conversations to seek a way forward we therefore need to do two things. First, we need to continue to work to ensure that we are fully inclusive in the only proper sense: that “homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church”.

Second, we need to stop pretending that appeals to inclusion can reasonably justify any more than this. The latest open letter from General Synod members is interesting on this count in that it makes no specific requests other than that “the College of Bishops is unequivocal in its acknowledgement that all, including those who identify as LGBTI, are essential to the health and future of our church and mission to the wider world” which is perhaps best understood as a rewording of the 2007 motion just quoted. However, it then says the signatories are “fully committed to the process of encouraging greater inclusion across the Church of England for all”. This, though limiting itself to “greater” not “full” inclusion, appears to be a veiled request for the sort of developments explicitly sought in the Sunday Times open letter. We need to recognise that if so then “inclusion” is simply a rhetorical device which lacks substance or persuasive power and seeks to portray opponents as opposed to inclusion.

Andrew Goddard

The decision as to whether to include certain ways of life within the leadership and liturgical celebration of the church – in any area of life, not just sexuality – cannot be made on the basis of an appeal to inclusion. It requires us instead to appeal to God’s revelation as to his good and perfect will for our lives and to a moral vision of what enables human flourishing consistent with that revelation. It is to these matters, and not to a poorly-defined shibboleth of “inclusion”, that the bishops and the wider church now need to focus their attention.

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77 thoughts on “What does ‘full inclusion’ mean?”

  1. When are we going to learn that living the Christian life is not about what we want (having to feel included), but about what God wants as revealed through scripture?

    Let us take up our cross and follow Jesus

  2. Hi Ian, well, no. Your definition of inclusion is one limited to the one you like, so the rest is a circular argument. Inclusion means, for me, a two people have the same opportunities as each other within the same community. To be ordained -if it is discerned as God’s call, to be married, and anything else. Where we are now is nowhere near that. Justin at Greenbelt was more accurate than he’s been given credit for. And “feeling included” is vital to the reality of inclusion. After all, your own arguments are just an expression of your feelings, although you try very hard to justify them with intellectual argument. Which is all any of us ever do, not least me. None of us dispassionately end up holding an opinion without the influence of our feelings. In the end I don’t believe we should. But then I’m a fan of Polanyi. We know more than we can tell. And I know we’re not inclusive, even though I can’t quite tell it. Spiritual truth is always just out of our grasp, intellectually. The trick is to recognize our feelings and positively include them in our decision making processes. Evangelicalism has always been ambivalent about feelings, commending “feeling at peace” but warning against ebullience. That was my experience of it, anyway 40 years ago! The fact that evangelicalism fractures so much into fiefdoms and tribes (far more than other traditions) is a consequence of this(among other things, of course). Sadly,what you’ve written will be “felt” by LGBTI folk as a polite (or not) request to “shut up, because you’ve got all you’re getting”.

    • Wyn, your version of inclusion doesn’t mention that if you get “ordained” as you say then you must believe in Scripture as Jesus Christ did. In the Gospels Jesus tells us that he believes in what to us is the Old Testament and he even quotes it.

      To be a Church one has to believe in both Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and believe in the Bible. Yet understanding Scripture in the holistic way Jesus describes is hard, very hard. Nonetheless Jesus describes marriage in the Gospels (hence Marriage is the only canon that refers to marriage as our Lord commands). To re-write / disbelieve fully either of these is to cease to be a Church. Thus you cannot be ordained in a Church and then stop the Church from being a Church.

      • Hi Clive.. you suggest “you must believe in Scripture as Jesus Christ did”. Great, I think I try to…I Jesus read the Scriptures with a critical eye. In Luke’s account he began his ministry by quoting Isaiah 61(full of inclusion if anything ever was) which is clearly and obviously a polemic against Ezra and Nehemiah who were exclusivists of the first degree. Always deeply scriptural, me! I’m not sure I understand the last bit of your comment about stopping the Church from being the Church. I’d love to stop the Church being like Ezra and Nehemiah, whinging away, full of their own righteousness, and make it like Isaiah’s open hearted vision. Wouldn’t you? You can’t be both.

        • Wye,

          If you’re talking about Christ’s sermon in Luke 4, then you’re clearly aware that the open-hearted vision of Isaiah was qualified by Christ’s comparison of Nazareth’s rejection for unbelief to Israel’s chastisement for apostasy during the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha:

          ‘I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

          Of course, you might well cite this as a perfect example of God sending away empty-handed those who feel arrogantly entitled, while graciously blessing those deemed outsiders with inclusion…except that John the Baptist, whom Christ described as a ‘burning and shining light’ had the ‘spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17)

          He preached repentance and Herodias’ tragic previous arranged marriage to her half-uncle, Herod Philip, didn’t prevent him from fearlessly declaring Herod Antipas’ marriage to his half-brother’s ex-wife to be contrary to God’s will.

          I wonder out loud whether Herod ever countered that Levitical kinship laws were inapplicable because first-century marriage had significantly evolved since the time of Moses!

          And such was the continuity of the prophetic voice that Herod thought Christ to be JTB raised from the dead.

  3. Andrew writes of ‘full inclusion’ that homosexual orientation being no bar ‘is also the most natural understanding of “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church”.’

    No it isn’t. We can argue over exactly what ‘full inclusion’ might mean, but that ‘full inclusion’ excludes those in same-sex marriages is not the most natural meaning. Similarly with ‘fully inclusive in the only proper sense’.

    This is a similar pattern to arguments over ‘welcome’. Those against same-sex marriage wish to define their churches as welcoming, and now also as inclusive, despite the majority of those who are LGBTi not feeling welcomed or included in such churches.

    Andrew is right that ‘inclusion’ in itself needs to be better defined for each particular case. But to pretend that ‘full inclusion’ has already been achieved by the CofE would be treated with scorn by the general public.

    • Jonathan, the problem is that in “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church” is used to mean something other than full inclusion of *LGBTI people* in the Church.

      It is used to mean something like “the approval and equal treatment by the church of *same-sex sexual relationships* and *people’s own sexuality and gender identities.*

      The counter arguments from our Scriptures are, of course, God made humankind male and female, that Jesus described marriage as a man leaving his mother and father and being joined to a wife, and that Jesus condemned sex in all other relational circumstances: adultery, fornication(s) and even lust (which means we probably all sin sexually at some time or other).

  4. ‘A 2007 General Synod motion stated that “Homosexual orientation in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church”.’
    If Ian Paul does not mind me repeating myself I would like to explain again in what sense and with what provisos I agree with this General Synod motion.

    I start with some assumptions.

    First assumption: Article 9 of the 39 Articles suffers from the defect that it does not mention the imputation of Adam’s sin as the reason, or at least part of the reason, why we are all faced from birth onwards with God’s holy wrath and just condemnation. Nevertheless the Article is in agreement with the Bible when it says that we are all born with a nature which is inclined to sin and that this inclination remains in Christians after they become Christians.

    Second assumption: That to identify which of our inclinations are inclinations to sin we must ‘…..appeal to God’s revelation as to his good and perfect will for our lives and to a moral vision of what enables human flourishing consistent with that revelation’ (to quote Andrew’s litmus test for deciding about ‘leadership and liturgical celebration of the church’).

    Third assumption: That the Bible exhorts all Christians to put to death the inclinations to sin which we have and to resist the temptations to obey those inclinations. Those inclinations to sin might be to pride, to selfishness, to jealousy, to heterosexual desire outside of marriage, to unrighteous anger etc. And there is no guarantee that such a struggle will end in final victory before we are glorified and our salvation is completed and final victory is certain.

    The assumption I make is that Andrew Goddard, Ian Paul and myself (and, of course, many others) all agree that that these assumptions are true. If we don’t all agree than we really must have that debate before we say anything else about same-sex attraction because such a disagreement affects, quite apart from the same-sex issue, what we believe and say and do about evangelism, salvation and sanctification.

    I agree that “Selfishness (or jealousy, or heterosexual desire outside of marriage, or unrighteous anger etc.) in itself is no bar to a faithful Christian life or to full participation in lay and ordained ministry in the Church”, provided that all those seeking to lead a faithful Christian life and/or fully participate in lay and ordained ministry in the Church:

    1 acknowledge and teach that these inclinations are sinful
    2 seek by the Spirit to put them to death and resist the temptation to obey them
    3 if in the ongoing struggle they sometimes ‘depart from grace given’ and fall into sin they repent and ‘by the grace of God arise again and amend their lives’ (Article 16), accept (or self-impose?) the discipline of the Church, and with an earnest Spirit-dependent determination and by the use of all the means of grace seek not to fall into sin again.

    Replace ‘Selfishness’ by ‘Homosexual orientation’ with the same provisos and I agree with the Synod motion.

    So the key question is, and always has been: is sexual attraction to a member of the same sex an inclination to sin? For one reason stated elsewhere (there are probably others), I believe it is. If I am understanding Ian Paul aright he is saying that it isn’t, although he is also saying that to follow that inclination is a sin. Others (Blair on ‘crossing a line’) have commented that this seems illogical. It is also difficult to see how anyone who 100% embraces the provisos 1-3 above could be in a celibate same-sex relationship.

    Phil Almond

  5. Phil: I think you have to get over the fact that the 39 Articles are not things that the vast majority in the Church of England take any real notice of whatsoever. To do so is simply to go to some legalistic, pharisaical place that discredits the whole of religion, and about which our Lord had a good deal to say.

    The 39 articles are ‘historic formularies’. They emerged as part of the whole English Reformation settlement and whilst it’s interesting to see them in that historical context, we’ve rather moved on in the last 400 years. The Articles are not taught in theological colleges, (except perhaps in very conservative evangelical ones, and then rather selectively), clergy are not required to have detailed knowledge of them and are not examined in them.

    The articles tell us where things were at a certain point in the turmoil of the aftermath of a period of religious history that does very little credit to anyone. It just makes no sense to get hung up on them in the way you seem to be doing.

    • Andrew, the 39 articles are the basis and foundation of the Church of England. If you choose to remove them (as opposed to keeping them but reducing their significance) then it cease to be the Church of England.

      When I form a limited company their are the articles for the company – So it is with the CofE – it has articles for what it means to be the CofE.

      • The Church of England existed before the 39 articles, and if it removed them, it would still exist (note – I am not arguing that they should be removed). The Church of England created the 39 articles, not the other way around.

      • Clive, where do you get the idea that the 39 articles have quite that significance? When I start a new ministry I simply acknowledge they bear witness to the inheritance of faith. (Preface Canon 15). The Church of England is based on a lot more things than the 39 articles, which are historically interesting but do not have any irreplaceable significance, as they tacitly admit themselves. They are a snapshot in time. What about Hooker, or the Lambeth Chicago Quadrelateral. They all have their part to play too. Anglicanism the a rolling schedule. Actually, the Church of England can be anything it wants to be. You and I might not want to stay in it, but it can become congregational or presbyterian if it wants. But it won’t Anglican then, of course!

        • Wyn

          ‘When I start a new ministry I simply acknowledge they bear witness to the inheritance of faith. (Preface Canon 15)’.

          The wording is:

          15 Of the Declaration of Assent

          1(1) The Declaration of Assent to be made under this Canon shall be in the form set out below:

          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.

          This is a good deal stronger than ‘acknowledge’.

          And what about Canon A5?

          A 5 Of the doctrine of the Church of England

          The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.
          In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

          Phil Almond

          • So Phil please explain why hardly anyone of the laity in the C of E would know where to find these articles, let alone know what they were, and why it is that they are simply not taught at schools, colleges etc and why clergy aren’t examined in them?

          • “So Phil please explain why hardly anyone of the laity in the C of E would know where to find these articles, let alone know what they were, and why it is that they are simply not taught at schools, colleges etc and why clergy aren’t examined in them?”

            Because the CofE is in a complete mess and has spent decades, largely due to the success of the Oxford movement, sweeping its problems under the carpet.

            A colleague of mine, in my deanery, at a chapter meeting recently revealed she had never read the 39 articles. You’re right that people’s ignorance of CofE doctrine is commonplace. But doctrine is still doctrine, even if it is ignored or sidelined.

            I was taught the 39 articles and BCP at my (conservative evangelical) theological college. Not selectively. As Philip A says, they are still in canon law and there is nothing else we have.

            The church historically has not determined doctrine by majority vote. Bishops should teach sound doctrine and correct error. This has not happened, I think it’s largely a failure of the bishops to act in discipline where necessary.

            Still, we are in the situation we’re in, and the church is at a crossroads: whether to continue to uphold the good deposit of faith it has been entrusted with, or whether to change it to suit the changing whims of the times. We’ll see what happens.

        • Wyn, the 39 articles are called “articles” for a reason. It is not some meaningless name. They show what it means to be the CofE.

          The vast majority of those articles of association are still fully valid today and the one or two that had a particular meaning at the time they were written should not be used to discredit the rest.

          Around the world all other Anglican churches have the 39 articles, so it is the common bond. It is odd churches like TEC in the USA that have rewritten them that are also the shrinking churches.

          • TEC revised the articles originally in 1801. The Scottish Episcopal Church didn’t adopt them until 1804. The 39 articles are not an official common bond in the Anglican Communoin (unlike, say, the Nicene Creed or the Apostles’ Creed).

      • Any society or Church has rules. The 39 articles are common to all Anglican churches around the world because they define what it means to be an Anglican church.

        For inclusion to mean being included any member of the society has to abide by the rules. Here the people discussed in Andrew Goddard’so article want to change the very society / Church in which they want to be included on their terms. They are included in full already but not on their terms.

        • It is simply not true that all Anglican churches around the world have adopted the 39 Articles. The Scottish Episcopal Church for one does not. It’s origins and history are very different from that of the CofE since the Reformation took a different form in Scotland. The Articles were imposed on the SEC at the end of the 18th century as the price for proscription being lifted and the final clauses of the act which imposed them were not repealed until 1977. As soon as possible thereafter, the SEC rejected the Articles in 1979.

          It inescapable that the 39 Articles are a political document. That does not mean that they are unimportant or not worthy of consideration and debate. I have found Doug Chaplin’s current discussion of them on his blog very helpful. It can be found here Doug Chaplin.uk

          • Daniel, I do not accept your claim for you are actually crea ting a scenario in which there is nothing common between any of the churches in the Anglican communion and my own experience shows me that you are wrong. Even the Church in Wales has the 39 articles, the same one as others in the Anglican communion. To select a couple of odd examples such as SEC and TEC doesn’t work.

          • Daniel,

            You wrote: ‘It [sic] inescapable that the 39 Articles are a political document’

            Yet, the same could be said of any part of the Church’s written tradition, including the canon of scripture.

            To paraphrase Andrew Godsall: The [insert bible, creed, or any long-standing Christian tradition committed to written record here] tell us where things were at a certain point in the turmoil of the aftermath of a period of religious history that does very little credit to anyone. It just makes no sense to get hung up on them in the way you seem to be doing.

            For instance, the prophetic tradition is particularly characterised by politically tinged polemics against corrupt ruling classes and Israel’s hostile, but ascendant heathen neighbours, etc.

            So, why wouldn’t your reservations about the enduring validity of the 39 Articles be equally applicable to Holy Writ?

            Johnathan Tallon has commented on the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds as having comparatively greater relevance. Yet, creeds are again ‘historic formularies’. The Council decisions were intensely political in resolving the disputes of different factions which comprised the Church.

            And given the woefully poor biblical literacy among the laity, in most parishes, creeds serve as little more than shibboleths, which only provide evidence of liturgical conformity: becoming the solitary uninspiring lowest common denominator of Anglican churchmanship.

            Of course, nature abhors a vacuum. Liberals vaunt the experience of a minority over a few decades as a definite ‘move of the Holy Spirit’, treating anything contrary voice from in scripture, tradition and reason as legalism. Such a dismissive approach reminds me of Sadducean rationalism.

            It reduces the gospel to nothing more than a bunch of warmed-over slogans about justice and freedom, which are vague enough to be pressed into service by just about any political or religious persuasion and which can be so easily hacked and hijacked by ‘single-issue’ political activists who decide that ‘doing God’ will further their cause.

            As Christ explained of those called by God who lose the distinctiveness of a genuinely God-given cause and purpose (and as the stormclouds of Jerusalem’s impending retribution through Rome gathered): ‘If the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good. for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.’ (Matt. 5:13)

          • Once we can agree what makes a Church Anglican then we can be clearer about ‘to what or into what someone is seeking inclusion’.

        • Clive, I am not making a claim, I am stating a simple fact. If even two churches within the Communion do not subscribe to the 39 Articles, you cannot state,as you do, that they are common to ALL Anglican churches. I do not know what you mean about two examples not working. Nor am I creating a scenario of any kind. Like you, I have wide experience of worshipping in different branches of the Anglican Communion and increasingly I see that the bonds are being loosened, whether one likes it or not. My experience may well be different from yours but it is my experience nevertheless. You are just as free to reject what I say as I am free to say it.

          David, If one took a very broad definition of the word ‘political’, the prophets are indeed political..One could well argue, given James the First’s instructions to the translators, that the King James Version is a political document.To ask whether my reservations about the enduring validity of the 39 Articles are equally applicable to Holy Writ is to make a category error. The Bible and the Thirty Nine Articles are quite different kinds of document. The rest of your post seems to be directed at Jonathan Tallon so I will make no futher comment though I regret the way you characterize ‘Liberals’ in the way you do as rejecting scripture, tradition and reason. There are good number of people, of whom I am one, who abide by those three strands, and yet I would not reject the label ‘liberal’.. It is an unfortuate tendency of this blog that terms such as ‘liberal; and ‘revisionist’ are often used to demonise people with different views.

          • Hi Daniel,

            Even if, only in the broadest possible terms, you concede that scripture, credal formulas and articles of religion are political documents in the sense that, as Andrew explained: ‘they tell us where things were at a point in the turmoil of the aftermath of a period of religious history’, then that is the basis upon which they are compared.

            It’s somewhat facile to indicate that my comparison of the 39 Articles with scripture is a category error without pointing to some reason why the canon of scripture doesn’t just tell us ‘where things were at a point in religious history’, but, instead has enduring validity.

            The political and historical context shaped the wording of the 39 articles, creeds and the writings of the prophets and apostles.

            The bible doesn’t just magically transcend its context all by itself to become foundational to the Church for all time.

            Finally, your lament of liberal labelling which leads to demonisation would be valid if none who self-identified as liberal on this blog or in Shared Conversations vaunted ‘lived experience’ above scripture, tradition and reason.

            There’s ample evidence in these comment threads and on other blogs that they marshal arguments in the same vein as yours to nullify any scripture which doesn’t affirm their persuasions.

          • David, Pray tell me where in any post that I have made here that I have marshalled arguments to nullify any scripture which doesn’t affirm my persuasions. I am not aware of having nullified any scripture.

          • Daniel,

            Pray tell me where I specifically accused you of nullifying scripture which doesn’t affirm you persuasions.

            What I did state was that those who do nullify scripture in this way marshal arguments in the same vein as you’ve used in respect of the 39 Articles.

            And, of course, they also assert that it doesn’t mean that, for them, scripture is ‘unimportant or not worthy of consideration and debate’.

            That phrasing echoes an all too familiar refrain.

          • David: I’m left wondering, if you think the 39 Articles are of such significance, how does the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church manage without them?

          • Daniel, you are allowed to contest my view, and I certainly didn’t say or suggest you couldn’t. I am equally allowed to be bemused by your example of TEC and SEC when these are “churches” leading the collapse of Anglicanism.

            I am also allowed to be concerned at the relegation of the 39 articles as ancient history only when Ministers, myself included, affirm their beliefs in them.

            The obvious question for such people is “What makes a Church Anglican? “

          • Andrew,

            I’m not sure why you surmise that I consider the 39 Articles to be of ‘such significance’. All I’ve indicated is that the self-same rationale by which they are described as a ‘political document’ and, in your own words, as ‘simply to go to a legalistic, pharasaical place that discredits the whole of religion’ can be and is equally invoked wherever scripture explicitly condemns the same-sex sexual behaviour which you affirm.

            Pretty much any written document which captures Christian tradition, including the Bible, could ‘tell us where things were at a certain point in the turmoil in the aftermath of a period of religious history’…which makes way for the vaunting of ‘lived experience’ above all else.

          • “The obvious question for such people is “What makes a Church Anglican? “ ”
            Clive: the obvious answer is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral: The scriptures, the catholic Creeds, the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, and the historic episcopate, locally adapted. Nothing about the 39 articles in there.

            David: I surmised that you considered the 39 Articles to be of ‘such significance’ because you kept trying to defend them and give them some status equivalent to Scripture. So I’m glad to discover that you don’t think they are all that important.

          • Andrew,

            And your faulty attempt to summarise my position (I also didn’t say the 39 Articles weren’t all that important) sidesteps why the creeds and canon of scripture are any less ‘political documents’ or don’t just tell us ‘where things were at a point in the turmoil of the aftermath of a period of religious history’.

            Perhaps, you can distinguish whether and why creeds and the canon of scripture transcend this limitation to have enduring validity.

          • “Perhaps, you can distinguish whether and why creeds and the canon of scripture transcend this limitation to have enduring validity.”

            Simple answer: they have a ‘catholicity’ about them that the 39 articles don’t have.

            Maybe you could answer my question, which comes at the issue from the other way round?
            How do the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches manage without the 39 articles?

          • Andrew,

            ‘Simple answer: they have a ‘catholicity’ about them that the 39 articles don’t have.’

            You mean, as long as you gloss over the Filioque in the Nicene Creed, which several Lambeth Conferences (1888, 1978, 1988) recommended to be dropped by churches belonging to the Anglican Communion.

            Or how about the dispute between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic over the canonicity of certain apocryphal books which are in the Septuagint, but not the Masoretic text?

            Your notion of catholicity romanticizes and belies Church history.

          • Er, they manage by not being Anglican. I find that a really odd question. No-one is suggesting the articles constitute ‘the church’ just that they constitute the C of E.

            I have never been asked for my assent to the Lambeth Quadrilateral (about which I have some reservations); I have been asked to assent to the faith as the C of E has received it, which includes the Articles.

          • Ian: that really rather shows that the 39 Articles aren’t very necessary to be a follower of Christ then doesn’t it? And I want to be that more than I want to be an Anglican.

            But if you ask the question, what does it mean to be Anglican, (as Clive did), then clearly the answer is not about the Articles, but does seem to be, historically speaking, about the Scriptures, the Creeds, the two dominical sacraments, the Episcopacy, and, of course, being in Communion with Canterbury.

          • Andrew, indeed, the Articles are not necessary to be a follower of Christ, and if I didn’t agree with them I would leave and go to another church. (I have already made the move once).

            So, do go and join the Catholics or the Orthodox if you do not feel at home in a Reformed denomination.

            And do let us know how you get on with them in your approach to sexuality. We will be fascinated to know!

          • Ian: I think no one here has made the case for the Articles giving us anything definitely Anglican.
            You will have been asked countless times about scripture, the creeds, the sacraments and your allegiance to the episcopate so to say you have never been asked about the C-L Quadrilateral is hardly true…..

          • Andrew,

            You’ve neither yet made the case for the catholicity of the Nicene Creed, nor the canon of scripture.

            The distinctive importance given to scriptures is that disputes over the canonicity of specific books does not impair the sufficiency of its teachings through the Law and the Prophets and the witness of the apostles in respect of all things necessary for salvation.

            Nevertheless, while salvation for all must be consonant with the teachings of scripture, doers of the word (including the unwitting Matt. 25:34-40) are justified before God, rather than hearers.

            Consistent with the parable of the Good Samaritan, Paul explains in Romans 2:14: (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)

            In contrast, although both creeds and articles of religion remain important in summarising Christian doctrine and order, they cannot be said to provide the same doctrinal sufficiency as scripture. Creeds and articles do not provide teaching that covers ‘all things necessary for salvation’.

          • “You’ve neither yet made the case for the catholicity of the Nicene Creed, nor the canon of scripture.”

            Thanks David. I don’t feel the need, or called, to make the case here. It has been made countless times in history. Angels on a pin head type debates about the Filioque clause notwithstanding, it is not for nothing that they are known as the ‘catholic ‘creeds’, but of course the same has never been said of the 39 Articles of Religion, which was my point. The creeds are part of the C-L Quadrilateral, the Articles are not.

            I think we are in agreement that the scriptures have a much higher place than either creeds or articles. Where we might differ is in our view of what scripture is. My understanding is that it is a record of God’s dealings with God’s people, and therefore is a record of what you call ‘lived experience’.

          • Philip,

            To be fair, when Paul states: ‘(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.), nothing of this implies that he had justification in mind.

            The proof of this is that Paul explained: ‘And where there is no law there is no transgression. (Rom. 4:15) and defined the purpose of the law:
            And we know we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. (Rom. 3:19)

            The work of the law of which Paul speaks is clear: ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

            All that Paul is indicating is that, for the Gentiles, the work of the law (which is not righteousness, but godly sorrow producing repentance) was being accomplished through their own consciences, that they might be justified by faith.

            The Gentile ‘doers of the law’ are simply brought to repentance and faith in Christ by means of conscience. In ironic contrast, hardness of heart prevented the Jewish opponents of the faith from reaching that self-same point of guilt through the law leading to reliance upon Christ. They were just ‘hearers of the law’

            The work of the law isn’t obedience and justification: it’s overwhelming guilt and a desire for reconciliation to God through Christ, knowing it cannot be achieved by self-effort.

          • David Shepherd
            I now gather from your September 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm post that you also hold the ‘hypothetical’ view of Romans 2. Am I right? I thought when you posted ‘doers of the word (including the unwitting Matt. 25:34-40) are justified before God, rather than hearers’ you were saying that they were justified on the basis of what they did. Sorry if I misunderstood.

            Andrew Godson
            ‘Where we might differ is in our view of what scripture is’. That is indeed the key question. My view is that Scripture is wholly reliable. This includes the truth that God and Christ did say and do, are saying and doing, will say and do all that Scripture declares, including the terrible things that they said, are saying, will say and did, are doing, and will do.

            Phil Almond

          • Andrew,

            Good. Neither do I feel the need to make the case for the significance of the 39 Articles to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations.

            Especially, given that we are discussing their relevance to Anglicanism.

    • Andrew

      If the Articles are widely ignored (and I fear that you are right in that) it is very sad. Because Articles 9-18, what I would call the ‘Articles of Salvation’ are a true summary of what the Bible says. I have made the case for this assertion of mine over many years on Fulcrum and will continue to make it wherever I can.
      Phil Almond

      • Andrew
        Because, apart from a minority, (I don’t know how big or small this minority is, and I cannot prove it is a minority, and I would be glad and humbled if it was shown not to be a minority) those in the Church of England who have teaching and preaching responsibilities do not believe that Articles 9-18 (and 31) are true; especially the doctrines of Original Sin (with its recognised (by me) defects in its wording, the Wrath and condemnation of God, Predestination to Life, the need of the Holy Spirit to enable us to turn to Christ, Christ’s death as a propitiation and satisfaction which turns away the wrath of God from those who repent and submit to Christ. So if most of the teachers don’t believe, how can the taught know?

        But important as the question of the doctrine of the Articles is, perhaps we should get back to the theme of this thread.

        Phil Almond

        • “So if most of the teachers don’t believe, how can the taught know?”

          If most of the teachers don’t believe, there is a good reason for it and it is simply as I say: the articles give us a snap shot of the pretty awful state of things post the English Reformation. If anyone really thinks that had a lot to do with Christianity, then that’s the great pity. It was all about power and politics and destroying the ‘enemy’ that was thought to be Catholicism. That is why it is so sad to see Phill blaming the Oxford movement. It rather seems as if the co belligerency of Conservative Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics could not stop the ordination of women, and so now the Con Evos are going to turn on what is left of the Conservafive Catholics. How really sad and troubling.

          • Andrew
            As I said in an earlier post, the Articles of Salvation are a summary of what the Bible says. I expect Ian Paul would not want us to debate that here but I am willing to debate it elsewhere if you want to.
            Phil Almond

          • Thanks Phil. I really can’t debate that because I think the Articles are simply a snapshot of a difficult historical period and I think we’ve moved way beyond that now, thankfully. I’m very happy to acknowledge them as our historic formularies, and no less important for that, but until the majority of the laity have any knowledge of them at all, I will leave it there,

          • As Daniel Lamont comments earlier here, it is inescapable that the 39 Articles are a political document.

            Doug Chaplin’s discussion of them on his blog is indeed very helpful.

          • What really matters is what the Bible says about predestination, original sin, the wrath of God, propitiation, salvation, sanctification. Ian – surely these things are important to you and Andrew Goddard. Are you OK if we debate them here, or not? If we did would you join in?
            Phil Almond

        • Hi Phillip,

          While most of what you say represents orthodox theology, I’m curious about your phrasing ‘Christ’s death as a propitiation and satisfaction which turns away the wrath of God from those who repent’.

          It may not have been intended, but it almost sounds like Jesus’ sacrifice and the demonstration of heartfelt repentance changed the Father’s mind towards the penitent, whereas the purpose of redemption is part of the eternal counsel of God.

          The decision of God to forego His wrath was made ‘before all worlds’ on the basis of which some are elected to grace and with God’s foreknowledge of any and every situation or character flaw, which might otherwise thwart His purpose of redemption.

          For instance, despite telling Peter beforehand that ‘Satan has desired to sift you as wheat’, Jesus promises ‘but I have prayed that thy faith fail not’. This prayer is the assurance that the redeemed will persevere with invincible faith despite our very human susceptibilities.

          ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him’.

          • David

            This is a vital and controversial subject (e.g. Tom Wright’s views) and it is easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood. But we are well off-thread so I will just quote two bits from Chapter 11 of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

            ‘Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction of his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.
            God did, from all eternity, decree to justify the elect; and Christ did, in the fullness of time, die for their sins and rise again for their justification; nevertheless they are not justified until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them’.

            This is what I was trying to say. I am willing to try to make good this view from the Bible. I am sorry if my wording did not convey this. As I see it, because of Adam’s sin we are all faced from birth onwards with the wrath and condemnation of God. This continues throughout our lives and into eternity unless God in his grace love and mercy delivers us from wrath and condemnation by the death and resurrection of Christ and until (as the WCF says) the ‘Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them’.

            ‘The [one] believing in the Son has life eternal; but the [one] disobeying the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ John 3:36.

            Phil Almond

  6. There is as you say a consensus that orientation is no bar to a faithful Christian life. I’m a dissenter here because:

    (1) None of us lives a faithful Christian life.

    (2) The word ‘orientation’ can’t be used at all without further qualification, since it is the source of some of the main confusion (see below).

    (3) Innate homosexual orientation (which would be rare if it were a coherent concept) is a very odd concept since it forces us to think of babies as sexually-oriented in some way, and/or of people experiencing sexual attraction in the period before the age of 7/8.

    (4) It also encourages us to ignore the very extreme (majority!) instability of homosexual ‘orientation’ even at an age as late as 16-17 and onwards.

    (5) Of course, *present* orientation exists (as it does with all our behaviours! – addictions included) but that fact says nothing at all about whether the thing we are oriented towards is helpful or harmful.

    (6) Nor does it say how far the societal ethos has contributed towards a tendency being hard to resist. That is a societal matter which is inaccurately being treated as a personal matter.

    (7) Finally (and this matter is part-personal, part-societal) there is the old Billy Graham story of the two dogs – the one who wins the fight is the one we feed. At the least there will be *instances* of temptation and/or orientation escalating because it has been ‘fed’ by e.g. fantasising.

  7. I’m unsure (and making a habit of being unsure it seems..), but I can see where people are coming from.

    To me the phrase “full inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church”, as quoted above, does carry the implicit follow on of “..at all levels” and also “with no ‘church-controlled/defined’ conditions”. To be inclusive is therefore at odds with being selective on any basis at all. I would agree with Jonathan here on both counts: firstly about this being the most natural meaning of the phrase as it is used today, and second therefore, that it is foolish to pretend we’ve reached that point.

    The question you seem to be asking here is weather this definition is accurate and needs to be changed. You’re probably right, but to be blunt I think you’re wasting your time. So far as I am concerned refining the definition of inclusion to mean what you describe above is a battle already lost. The church will not be seen as inclusive by the majority in society unless it conforms to society’s standards. I personally don’t think it will, so the church should stop bother trying to define itself on those terms.

    Ultimately I think the language of inclusion is unhelpful anyway. The bible never describes the paradigm of the church/societal split in these terms (you wrote a blog article a while ago I think called “should the church be inclusive, or similar and I’m pretty sure I objected similarly then) and I don’t think there is any biblical approximate for “inclusive” either…

    The church is called to welcome and accept everyone into the family, as broken sinners redeemed by Jesus and equally loved and valuable in his sight. We all fell short, there are no special cases.

    However, as followers of Jesus we are also called to be transformed, to follow the pattern set by Jesus and revealed by God and the Spirit, to cast out impurity from the body and to remain a holy people: a sacrificial task with a high emotional cost.

    To be inclusive and faithful to the bible requires finding the balance between these two things. Wordy inclusion recognizes neither, and the further we can distance ourselves from the term, the better.

  8. Andrew Goddard’s piece here is a perfectly logical and reasonable mini tour around the inadequacy of using a term like ‘inclusion’ in the expectation that it can give a guaranteed character of treatment to a 1 or 2% self-defined minority within the Church of England. Perhaps one might add, particularly not at the behest of those following a socio-political agenda which has roots far removed from the soil of Biblical teaching.

    A universal welcome to all sinners has always been a part of the DNA of the Church because it is our gracious God who first made that welcome clear through scripture. And an early priority of that welcome is to share the good news that God, having provided for our spiritual and eternal salvation, has not left us on our own to work out how we should live for this mortal life, individually and in community. He lives alongside and within us and his intentions for how we should live have a history and development and coherence in the Bible to which we all constantly need to turn. And the church’s welcome should and must show genuine concern and give every support to all who face real personal difficulty in living the way God calls them to do – we all share in that struggle even if some of us are better at polishing our own shiny veneer than others.

    I think everyone in the CofE, bishops most urgently at this time, need to stop trying to manipulate the small print in an effort to make two parallel lines converge; they can’t and they won’t. There is no alternative but to make a choice. A pragmatic approach would be to say ‘do we really want to lose that proportion of our church which most certainly provides for a lot of its mission, its growth (and its finance)’. Some will say that without ‘equality’ that mission is doomed to fail anyway in today’s western culture; others will fundamentally disagree with that.

    A far better approach, the true Christian approach, would be to say ‘what is the truth about this issue which has united and convinced the whole church of Christ for most of its existence; where is it to be found and what is the new evidence that means we must depart from the plain teaching of the Bible on this issue? And until we are 100% united on that departure let us in all humility stay our hand.’

  9. Individual A is a Church of England member holding to a traditional view of marriage and sexuality. He is concerned that his own church is taking steps towards further inclusion of people in same-sex relationships.
    Individual B is committed to a same-sex marriage and would describe himself as agnostic. He does not attend a church due to a belief that Christianity teaches that same-sex relationships are sinful and that his marriage would be viewed as a non-marriage.
    A feels increasingly excluded from his church congregation, and this feeling of exclusion has led to some prolonged and prayerful consideration of the way forward.
    B has always felt excluded from any church congregation and so this is nothing new. B does not and cannot imagine a parallel universe in which he joins a church congregation, comes to faith in Jesus, and commits to an ongoing commitment to and deepening of Christian discipleship. He cannot imagine a life in which he experiences the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, leading to a profound difference in his everyday life (a longstanding quarrelsome relationship with a sibling is resolved, a prickly relationship with a neighbour is renewed, an ongoing tendency to overspend is curbed, a fiery temper softens, a pessimistic outlook on life now begins to see God’s bigger and more hopeful picture).
    A’s sense of exclusion leads to action – he leaves his Church of England congregation and joins another church fellowship from a different denomination, but one which supports his viewpoint. This church is based a mile further away but he still keeps in touch with friends from his original church – indeed some soon join him at his new church – and he enjoys fellowship and worship with the new congregation.
    B’s sense of exclusion leads to inaction – he retains an antipathy to anything Christian. B never comes to faith, never experiences salvation, and never knows God’s presence, provision and guidance. He never inherits eternal life (and if there is a hell, he risks being sent there).
    We might ask why the ‘costs’ of feeling excluded are different for B than for A. We may argue that this situation may (or may not) seem unjust and even unsustainable. However, if it is true that the Holy Spirit works tirelessly to remove obstacles to faith, we have confidence that he will be at work too in this situation to bring resolution.

    • This debate brings together a number of otherwise distinct issues – one reason perhaps why it so intractable. Primarily it seeks to ascertain whether same-sex attraction and/or same-sex activity is, in and of itself, a sin. At the same time we are also trying to understand what is meant by marriage. Intertwined amongst all of this is a tussle of what is meant by authority – some of which is complicated by the history that lies barely below the surface of historical empire influence and autocracy.

      We cannot do much about the latter, save for admitting it and seeking to do better in the future – there is not quite so much theological as political about it.

      My primary interest has been (as in my thesis) in seeking a theology of marriage that responds to the ever-changing understanding of relationships as well as the practice in the society that surrounds us.

      For me it is important to begin with the admission that the concept has never remained static and that it has been understood quite fundamentally differently at various times in church history and before. The church has survived quite substantial shifts and will no doubt do so in the future. The sad bit is that the church’s understanding has almost always been driven forward by a secular rather than faith agenda.

      The CoE is particularly hamstrung by its very special role in relation to the state – in this case not quite because of the Establishment but because of the continuing effects of the 1753 Hardwick Act. This made the church an agent of the state, particularly in terms of maintaining records that could be used unambiguously in secular courts (initially to determine whether a marriage existed or not). Even then, and the divide has ever widened, the state’s notion of marriage was different from that of the church. This distinction has – and it gets ever worse – led the church to focus on being the state’s agent rather than God’s.

      Attempts to divest ourselves of the secular role (which amongst other things gives residents a right to the use of the church for a wedding regardless of what we might think of them!) have hinged on a fear of the loss of influence and, perhaps more, a loss of income. At the same there has been a growing recognition that maintaining this role is ever-more problematic.

      Since our income from fees, especially weddings, is in sharp decline, despite the excellent work of the weddings project, it is high time that GS re-visited this matter (and there is a Private Motion almost to this effect on the table). This would allow us to set to one side the contractual concept of the state’s marriage and allow us to pursue our covenant concept and with it the ability to promote higher ideals of how married couples relate together, not least getting away from the ‘what does it do for me’ test that has invaded much of society.

      It is entirely possible that in so doing we are able to accommodate greater flexibility in how individual churches (in the international sense) and local congregations (in the CoE context) can operate without the burden of having to have one eye on the same legalities (I don’t for one moment wish to suggest that the church is exempt from the state’s legitimate legislation on human rights – unless perhaps it is to diminish them!)

      Whilst I can find a very modest amount of NT teaching about relationships, especially those of the married kind, nowhere does it even suggest the necessity for a highly homogeneous definition enshrined in law. We are, however, called to ‘call out’ those whose practice falls below the standards that God sets for us regardless of whether it is considered legitimate or not by the state.

      But what is also clear is that our understanding of what God expects of us (collectively as well as personally) is something that will continue to evolve as our finite knowledge seeks to capture something of the infinite God. It would be much better if were were to be able to recognise and endorse the uncertainty that inevitably exists – in a way that parallels the developments in the understanding of the physical universe around the start of the 20C.

      I would rather find ways of living with those with whom I disagree than to have to live without them. In other matters the CoE has been quite at doing this – why not in these matters? Humility regarding our insight into God’s world rather than certainty would serve us better.

      • Mike, are you not assuming that the wisdom of the ages has to adapt to changing historical circumstances, when logically it could just as easily be the other way round?

        There will obviously be times when changing historical circumstances will be harmful rather than beneficial. A critical approach will automatically ascribe authority neither to the wisdom of the ages nor to contemporary trends, but test both according to whether they have beneficial fruits.

        • A sightly more extended version of my version of Evidential theology: (1) God is infinite and there is an infinity of knowledge to be gained about what God wants for the world, including humanity (2) We can only know what God wants through the evidence around us, assuming we discard the idea of ideas somehow popping into our heads having lived hitherto in a total vacuum (3) that corpus of knowledge continues to expand as our experience and understanding of the world expands. (4) We should test our hypotheses about God against the evidence that surrounds us – as with Popper, that evidence can never ‘prove’ any specific theological precept but it can be used to disprove it.* Of course, the impact is both ways although in the specific context my complaint is that by shackling ourselves both to a ‘fixed’ historical position eg 1753, and a secular one, we are less able to evolve our collective wisdom in the light of continuing growth of knowledge/understanding. We are, ironically, at the same time less able to speak to the abuse of the contractual form of marriage and less able to respond to what the social/world context tells us about what God expects and where our moral compass ought to be pointing.

          * an example is that some theological arguments are based on a supposed knowledge of how Nature behaves (what is ‘Natural’). This is an abuse of the scientific understanding of :Laws of Nature and a single counter example can be used to demolish a theory whilst only an infinite number of observations can prove it beyond doubt. Doubt is a key element in any advancement of understanding – and I do not mean by that necessarily one which persistently seeks to demolish the past but which builds on it. At times the steps forward are tiny but just occasionally (eg with the abolition of the slave trade) the tectonic plates shift more abruptly with the short term feeling of cataclysm.

          • Mike
            ‘assuming we discard the idea of ideas somehow popping into our heads having lived hitherto in a total vacuum’
            And, I presume you would say, discard the idea that God has revealed to us in the Bible truths about himself, the world, and ourselves?
            Phil Almond

          • (Not sure if I am using the blog’s reply mechanism correctly to link this below Philip Almond’s comment)

            Not at all. The Bible is part of the physical world. But we do also have to remember that it is God’s word mediated through human hands, another part of the physical world.

            But you can assume that I do not believe that the words were literally dictated by God and that the authors simply acted as a physical recorder with no input from themselves by way of their culture, learning, language, experience etc etc. There is a big difference between written by God and inspired by a belief in God.

          • (Just a note of explanation: the reply function will only nest three deep, and after that all replied become replies to the last nested comment. This prevents debates moving ever further to the right [physically, not ideologically].)

          • Mike
            Thanks for your reply. Sadly, we may part company at this point because I believe that God and Christ did say and do all that the Bible declares. Obviously there are multiple cases in the Old Testament where it says things like ‘God said’, ‘said the LORD’, and in the New Testament where Jesus is represented as saying things. These are the most momentous claims that the Bible makes. If God and Christ did not say these things then these claims are simply untrue.
            Phil Almond

          • I agree with all points. But I often disagree with the idea of accommodating our theories to the present age. The present age has often forgotten much of the wisdom of previous ages and has in certain respects gone backwards. There is no intrinsic virtue in accommodating to it.

      • Mike,

        1. The choice between contractual and covenantal concepts of marriage is a false dichotomy.

        Long before 1753, and as explained by Blackstone, the enduring concept of marriage is that it is ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’ (as upheld by ECtHR in Schalk & Kopf v. Austria)

        Sir William Blackstone KC SL explained how Marriage and Parental Responsibility were related:

        ‘The duty of parents to provide for the maintenance of their children is a principle of natural law’, he said, ‘an obligation …laid on them not only by nature herself, but by their own appropriate act, in bringing them into the world’.

        Blackstone went on further to explain how the State attaches parental rights to those who are presumed by marriage to be responsible for the child’s conception:
        ‘The main goal and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong.’

        ‘This goal is undoubtedly better accomplished by legally recognising all offspring born *after* marriage, than by legally recognising all offspring of the same individuals, even those born before marriage (so that marriage takes place afterwards)

        1. Because of the very great uncertainty there will generally be, in the proof that the offspring were actually conceived through the same man; whereas, by confining the proof to the birth, and not to the conception, our law has made it completely certain, which child is legally recognised, and who is to take care of the child.’

        So, marriage provides certainty of parental recognition. If a child is born of a married woman, her husband gains automatic legal recognition as the second parent, without any intrusion upon their family privacy.

        Marriage facilitates this by presuming spouses to be co-parents of any child born into the marriage. This is marital presumption of paternity.

        In the US, Netherlands, Canada and part of Australia, this has been reframed as the marital presumption of parenthood: a right of marriage, which is being blindly demanded by same-sex couples to the detriment of natural fathers.

        The International Lesbian and Gay Association proposed as an amendment to Article 12 of the European Convention on Family Status : ‘A person who is the spouse or registered partner of a child’s parent at the time of that child’s birth shall also be considered as a parent, regardless of genetic connection.

        Yes, we’re out of Europe, but this demonstrates the ultimate goal of same-sex marriage, which automates same-sex co-parenthood as a legal right of marriage.

        Here’s an example of what happens when same-sex marriage becomes the vehicle for a lesbian spouse to be legally granted primary parenthood, despite being unrelated to the child and at the expense of the child’s natural father:

        In re: M.C.: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/09/6197/

  10. There are, a wide range of views here on what it is to be an Anglican, yet alone a gay Anglican or even a gay partnered Anflican bishop.
    There are more than two Churches in the Anglican Communion that do not share the 39 Articles, might I recommend Norman Doe’s work on common Canon Law within the Communion.
    It is true that the Articles and 1662 BCP are considered foundational documents by the Church in Wales and it also true that hardly anybody in the Church would know either. I believe that neither are printed by the CinW or appear in any of their Current Prayer Books..
    I did not know about the 39 Articles existence before I presented mself at St Johns College Nottingham as a potential student. On arrival I was given a questionnaire to complete before the then Principal Michael Green would see me, one of the questions was about my views on 1662 and Articles, back then I confessed to being ignorant of both and Green thought it more likely that Salisbury would offer me a better home.
    What is plain is that while they may claim some historical authority they are ignored in equal measure by Evangelicals and Catholics in the performance of liturgy, teaching and devotion..
    What is also plain is that there is no accepted norm that gay people are OK as countless celebrate gay folk find to their spiritual detriment in congregations that share Christopher Shells view and there are many Anglican Churches in the world who would see it as good to see those Gay Christians brothers and sisters imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and even murdered. So there seems little Anglican consensus here too.

    • Martin

      ‘What is plain is that while they may claim some historical authority they are ignored in equal measure by Evangelicals and Catholics in the performance of liturgy, teaching and devotion..’

      What is your evidence for this statement with respect to Evangelicals? Also, the wording of the Declaration of Assent and its Preface can only be honestly understood as declaring that the Articles are true.

      Phil Almond

      • Phil
        I suppose I look at the BCP and Articles and indeed Canon Law as integral.
        My experience of worship in a large number of parishes is that they ignore the BCP and it’s authorised revisions completely and operate as an independent congregational community of faith as far as Anglican worship is concerned. Equally the mode of dress didn’t identify them as Anglican and while recent revisions have given that a new legitimacy it does not help an “orthodox” approach to say that persistent disobedience finally results in permission.
        So that is my reasoning.

    • Martin, I am not sure you are clear about what my view is. I never have a ‘view’ anyway, since I try to ensure that my view is one and the same as the evidence (statistical, scientific, etc.) and if that changes, so therefore does my ‘view’. Are you sure you are not confusing ‘view’ with ‘ideology’?Ideologies should never receive a millisecond of anyone’s attention.

      I was jolly startled to see myself in the same para as gay Christian brothers and sisters being imprisoned, tortured, mutilated and even murdered!!! Do you think I want a millionth part of that to happen? All I have done is to do what we should all be doing: try and see what the science says. It is the first I heard that that was a bad thing to do. The only alternatives are to lie and to avoid the debate (i.e. to stonewall and to hope awkward realities will go away). Which of those would you prefer that I did? Thanks.

      • Christopher, I am sorry about the phrasing.
        I follow your arguments closely and know you are a million miles from that, but my view is that sensible and thoughtful Christians who do not share my views do far too little to speak out against this evil so often perpetrated proudly in the name of Evangelical Christianity.
        I know you share the view It is a monstrous calumny.


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