What does the Oxford Ad Clerum mean?

Last week, the four bishops in the Diocese of Oxford circulated an Ad Clerum (‘to the clergy’) to all licensed ministers in the diocese; the text can be found on Steven Croft’s diocesan blog. There is no doubt that the letter includes comments with which everyone in the Church could and should agree. As Will Pearson-Gee, Rector of Buckingham, says in the (expanded) online edition of the Church Times report:

I welcome everything in the letter that helps our churches be more genuinely welcoming places for all people. I also welcome the way in which the bishops are careful to make the point that neither sexual orientation nor gender identity should inhibit anyone from playing a full part in the life of the church.

But I think there are some ambiguities, omissions and even contradictions in the letter which will raise some questions, and I suspect for some (within the diocese and outside it) wonder if it is giving an honest view of what is really intended.


The first term which was unclear was the offering of the reflections of the letter ‘with humility’. I am not sure what it means for bishops to write to their clergy and lay ministers  ‘with humility’ when those reading the letter hold the diocesan bishop’s license. Is this letter inviting discussion, debate or disagreement? To someone outside the diocese, I confess it didn’t read like a discussion document, not least because it sets out specific actions and principles which are to be acted on. And in what sense is humility expressed in echoing the Archbishops’ call for a ‘radical new Christian inclusion’? Was Jesus not ‘radically inclusive’ in his preaching of the kingdom of God? And Paul not ‘radically inclusive’ in seeing those ‘excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise’ now ‘reconciled’ with Jews ‘in one body by the cross’ (Eph 2.12, 16) so that there is now ‘neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3.28)? As David Baker helpfully commented last year:

You see, the thing is, I’ve always thought the gospel was radically inclusive already. I’ve always believed that ‘the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’ – as the famous hymn puts it. And when I look back on churches of which I have been a part, I recall them including paedophiles, an associate of the Kray twins, pornography addicts, adulterers – and others, including myself, whose middle class respectability masked sins which might have been less obvious but were equally heart-breaking to God. We, together, were vile offenders (in the eyes of God’s law if not of the world) who chose to repent and believe. And gloriously, all of us were welcomed and included! When you add in the mind-blowing mix of age, ethnicity and background as well, that seems pretty inclusive already.

If the Church has failed to reflect the inclusion of Jesus and Paul, don’t we need to return to this, rather than look for a ‘new’ inclusion? What kind of humility seeks to set this aside? And will the humility here extend to giving space in the diocese and the discussion for those who think the direction the bishops are leading is quite wrong?

The second interesting comment was that ‘remaining silent on these issues is not serving the Church well’. Of course, not all in the Diocese of Oxford have actually been keeping silent. But this comment is correct on one regard: the (often shrill) exchange of views on social media and in Synod debates has actually led to a silencing of helpful discussion in the Church at every level. Local church leaders often feel ill-equipped—afraid even—of speaking or teaching on the subject of sexuality, given the complexity of the issues, the rapidity of change in culture, and the ease with which many will take offence. I wonder if the four bishops have colluded in this silence—or whether they might have been expounding the way in which Christian teaching on sexuality offers liberating hope within a culture which is endlessly sexualised.

Have they been teaching about the inherent goodness of the body and sexuality when received as a gift from the creator God? About the impact of the fall and human sin in distorting this most powerful of human desires? About God’s gift of male-female marriage as the safe place for this desire’s fruitful exercise? About the importance of faithful marriage as the place to raise children and provide lifelong support? About the possibility of forgiveness, healing and restoration when things go wrong in this arena of life? About the fact that sex and marriage is not the ‘be all and end all’, and the possibility of living a full and rich life in singleness and celibacy? About the merely penultimate importance of sexuality, since we will in the age to come ‘be like the angels’? To be silent on this rich and culturally relevant stream of Christian teaching would indeed be a serious failure.


The letter then makes mention of the Pilling Report from 2013, and jumps on to the report of the House of Bishops which was not ‘taken note of’ by General Synod in February 2017. It oddly omits to mention the Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage of Feb 2014 which set out so clearly the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, consistently articulated all the way back to the BCP and reinforced in all subsequent statements.

It is interesting that the letter repeatedly uses the acronym ‘LGBTI+’ without commenting on some of the problems that might arise from the grouping together of some quite different concerns (gay atheist Matthew Parris doesn’t like it: ‘This community does not exist. The bolting together of dissimilar groups distorts understanding. LGBT isn’t a club I’m in.’) The letter is quite right to point out that ‘LGBTI+ Christians have always been, and remain, actively involved as clergy and laity in all areas of church life, and at all levels’, but this raises a further question. The best research suggests that around 1.5% to 2% of the population experienced settled attraction to those of the same sex, and the most recent statistics on same-sex marriage since the 2013 Equality in Marriage Act confirm this. But the proportion in the C of E appears to be much higher. Some have suggested that as many as 10% of Anglican clergy are gay; a friend told me that they reckoned the figure was 20% in the London area; in Southwark one clergyperson told me that in a deanery of 15, only 5 were not gay. (The C of E is in this regard in line with other institutions; the BBC recently reported that 12% of its senior management were LGBT+, as are just under 9% of MPs in Parliament.)

So why does the letter echo the Bishop of Lichfield’s call ‘to highlight the need for mission within the LGBTI+ community more broadly’. Why the need to set up specialist chaplaincies to support this? Of course, the Church’s current teaching is seen as offensive to those, within and outside the Church, lobbying for change. But the Church does not appear to have failed to draw those people into membership. With what other minority group has there been such numerical success? Where are the similar chaplaincies, the mission imperatives, for reaching BAME people, woefully under-represented? What about the national initiatives to engage with white working-class men?


Despite this, the letter makes repeated reference to ‘inclusion’, even though that term is either theologically empty or practically meaningless; every definition of what it means to be ‘inclusive’ will exclude those who do not accept the definition. This was seen in practice in the diocese recently, with the ‘Rainbow eucharist’ at Reading Minster. I am not alone in thinking that I could not receive Communion around a table draped with the symbol of Gay Pride, and we need to ask what is happening when the central symbol of Christian belief, the central place of Christian unity, becomes hitched to a particular sexual-political cause. It begs the question what the phrase ‘having a place at the table’ means. The Communion table is a place of radical hospitality, for any and all who ‘earnestly repent’ and seek to follow the way of Christ, but it is not a social club. Jesus did indeed accept any invitation to dinner, because he was invited by those who knew his message was not to the ‘well’, but to the sick, to call ‘sinners to repentance’ (Luke 5.32). (The only meal at which Jesus acted as host was the Last Supper, a meal to which that mixed and motley crowd of those who had responded to his invitation to ‘Come, follow me’ were welcomed.)

I wonder whether the ‘attitude of inclusion and respect for LGBTI+ people across the Diocese’ will mean giving a prominent seat at the table to people like Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s in Oxford, with a significant ministry to students and young people (whom the C of E is particularly keen to reach) and who is same-sex attracted and celibate in line with the Church’s teaching?


The Ad Clerum questions whether LGBTI+ can be ‘open[ly] and authentically themselves’, which begs a whole series of questions about what it means to be ‘authentic’ and ‘myself’. Again, along with the Bishop of Lichfield, the bishops here reject ‘intrusive questioning’. But what do they mean by this? Do they agree with Richard Peers when he implies that most gay clergy either are not able to stay faithful to the ‘assurance’ they have given that they are living within the Church’s teaching, or in fact never intended to in the first place? I agree with Richard that the current policy is untenable, and pastoral both unfair and unhelpful, and the Oxford bishops seems to agree—so will they do the only thing that is possible within the Church’s current teaching and not license those in Civil Partnerships? Or will they take one of the other options? If so, what does it mean when they say that they will continue to ‘work within existing Bishop’s Guidelines on human sexuality’ when those guidelines require the ‘intrusive questioning’ that they reject?

And does ‘being authentic’ mean that we should all act on our desires and impulses? Jayne Ozanne, a prominent campaigner on this issue who is a lay member of General Synod for the diocese, poured scorn in a Tweet on the notion of ‘practising’ and ‘non-practising’, as if it was possible not to act on the basis of one’s attractions. Do the bishops accept this? If so, this drives a cart and horses through some central ideas in Christian theological anthropology—issues of desire, sin, temptation, discipline, and the Pauline distinction between Spirit and flesh. In practice, it means acting on a whole range of desires, and it is not surprising that Jayne and Vicky Beeching both advocate sexual relationships well outside lifelong committed relationships in their recent books. Again, this is characteristic of their position; Mark Regnerus has shown that, taken as a whole, Christians who accept same-sex marriage are ethically indistinguishable from the culture around them on a range of other issues. Biblical scholar Dale Martin, who is often cited in debates about the meaning of the Pauline texts, talked in 2008 about his wide personal sexual experiences, and argued that a Christian sexual ethic is one in which you should have sex with people in the way that reflects your level of commitment to them. Nadia Bolz-Weber has recently argued for the Christian use of ethical porn, because it is an authentic expression of erotic feelings.


The bishops believe ‘It is important that these debates should be grounded in Scripture, reason and tradition’, but that isn’t the historical Anglican position, which sees Scripture as having supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct. Indeed, a previous Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, specifically rejected the popular notion of the ‘three-legged stool’ when introducing the debate to Synod of the excellent Some Issues in Human Sexuality; follower Hooker, he pointed out that Scripture is our authority, but we read it through the interpretative lenses of ‘reason’ and ‘tradition’.

Taken at its most positive, that is why we have been involved in the exhaustive/ing process of Shared Conversations, and have now embarked on the process known as ‘Living in Love and Faith’, including the setting up of the Pastoral Advisory Group. But it seems that the bishops in Oxford can no longer wait for that to happen. They might want to ‘clothe themselves in love’ but this version of love doesn’t include enough patience to wait for others to catch up with their views.

Depending on the timetable of the national group’s work, we may look to draw the fruits of our own conversations and reflections together in the short term for the benefit of this Diocese.

Andrew Lightbown welcomes this “highly incarnational, non dogmatic, method of doing theology…this method of ‘doing theology’ is unlikely to lead to a ‘single universal ethic.’” But the letter seems unaware of the problems facing such pragmatism, which would have been experienced had the Hereford motion been taken further, and I think has been dogging the Pastoral Advisory Group: if pastoral practice is to have any integrity, it must be connected to liturgical coherence and doctrine grounding. If you do not believe that same-sex sexual relationships are ‘a gift of God in creation, a holy way of living, which all should honour’ (and current C of E doctrine of marriage does not currently so believe) then you cannot ‘bless’ such things. The pastoral act of blessing demands that we change our doctrine of marriage. So to argue for a ‘non-dogmatic’ pastoral practice here means believing that there is no universal Christian doctrine of marriage.

The bishops appear here to be following the lead of The Episcopal Church in the United States, which others in the Anglican Communion believed tore the fabric of the Communion and damaged relations, since TEC effectively said ‘We are going to do what we are going to do, and not be hindered by the views of others’. I think the citing of the Church in Wales in the Ad Clerum is highly provocative in this regard, since the bishops there have decided to offer provision for blessing SSM even where their Synod held back. It seems that the bishops regards Christian unity, both within the diocese and between other dioceses and wider Church of England teaching as secondary to their desire to do something. Once more, it is hardly a position which reflects ‘humility’ or ‘some hesitation’.

The whole letter invites the question: ‘Do any of these bishops actually believe in the Church of England’s current teaching on marriage, teaching which, in their ordination vows, they committed not only to uphold, but to teach?’ It is difficult to offer any other answer than ‘No’, and this in turn invites the question of how they expect those who do believe this teaching to respond.


My final curiosity was the framing of the letter in the reading of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. A central theme in Colossians is that, though there are other forces at work in the cosmos, other spiritual powers and ‘elements’ (probably borrowing Stoic metaphysical language here), Christ is cosmically supreme. That means, in turn, that God’s people, those who follow Jesus, are to live out their identity as a holy people, socially engaged in, though ethical and theological distinct from, the world around them.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1.13–14)

That will involve being discerning, rejecting attractive but misleading arguments:

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine–sounding arguments…See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (2.4–8)

And Paul attaches such discernment directly to the person of Jesus and our discipleship following him. And, in typically Pauline fashion, he then sees the work of the Spirit in forming us in ethical living as a counterpoint to our previous lives, sinful desire and the world around us:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practice and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (3.5–14)

I confess that I searched the Ad Clerum in vain for any clue that any of this teaching of Paul had shaped any of the thinking that the bishops presented—and since Paul explicitly mentions sexual ethics here, you might have expected at least some reference to it. For Paul, the inclusive love of God, and our love for one another, are rooted in this transformation and call to holiness that we have met in the face of Christ. The unity of love flows out of this shared understanding of what God has done for us in Christ, and what we therefore have to offer the world.

The bishops don’t appear to set much store by unity; their agenda takes priority. Holiness doesn’t get a mention; what matters is being ‘authentic’. The wider view of Christians through history and around the world on this matter cannot hold back their sense of urgency to change. And the apostolic message we find in Paul does not constrain them or shape their thinking, at least as far as this letter demonstrates.

If they are signalling here that they are departing from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, why would anyone in the diocese who remains part of that church not now seek alternative episcopal oversight? Indeed, one might wonder whether the letter is not intended to provoke just that.


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513 thoughts on “What does the Oxford Ad Clerum mean?”

  1. “And Paul attaches such discernment directly to the person of Jesus and our discipleship following him.” That seems to be the main difference to both sides of this debate. One emphasises inclusion, the other emphasises inclusion leading to transformation or response. The latter for me seems closer to the Good News and I fear that this ad Clerum and positions like it are actually placing Jesus on mute or at least only listening to the first half his radical world changing message.

  2. Thank you, Ian, for exposing this for the capitulation and apostay that it is.
    I hope that evangelicals in Oxford will wake up. They have been asleep for far too long.
    They were warned what would happen if they did not act against false teaching in their senior leadership. Now they are utterly taken over.

    The Rev. James Paice
    Southwark Good Stewards Trust

    • James, I think you’ve highlighted the sombre reality of the situation.

      There have consistently been well argued and cogent responses by evangelicals to every twist and turn of the revisionist project – Ian’s piece here, for example, is a devastating analysis of the Oxford letter. But, however good these responses are, they are impotent unless they lead to action. And there has simply been no united, well coordinated and hard-hitting action. This would have required people ready and able to lead, but also the necessary humility and loyalty among the rest to follow the leadership and give both the leadership and their colleagues their protection in the event of them coming under fire. It’s a most basic human lesson that there’s strength in unity – are we Christians too special to apply that kind of common sense? Perhaps it is the latter (lack of humility and loyalty) which is the problem?

      As a layman with no inside knowledge I have this awful impression of an evangelical world which is riven by factions and simply unwilling to lay all that aside to save their own church from disaster. The notion that Justin Welby was going to be ‘our man’ was never true (so far as I could discern it), but anyway it’s past history now – so there can be no accusations of disloyalty.

      This clearly is a gloves-off fight now; but the end will probably be ignominious and messy, hard to define and characterised by some clergy hanging on till retirement, others departing one by one once they can find somewhere else to go or something else to do, and a proportion who will simply capitulate. Of course most lay people will be left to the mercies of an apostate C of E.

      Surely we can do better than this for our Lord and Master?

      • “But, however good these responses are, they are impotent unless they lead to action. And there has simply been no united, well coordinated and hard-hitting action.”

        True enough, Don. And as I wrote elsewhere, here are some examples of the self-defeating responses to proposals for concerted action:
        Proposal 1. “Let’s appoint X, Y and Z, as high-profile media-savvy evangelicals, who will debate our cause and front/spearhead our campaign to preserve marriage orthodoxy.”
        Objections: “We’ve already published position papers on this.”; “Well, he/she was good at Spring Harvest a few years ago, but has he/she really done anything noteworthy since then?”; “I don’t think that we should be so reliant on a few people to front this cause.”

        Proposal 2. “Let’s form an Alliance for Real Marriage.”
        Objections: “We have lots of existing organisations which support marriage orthodoxy, so why do we need another?”; “I’m not sure about the name. After all, aren’t we fighting for just marriage. The word, real, is superfluous.”

        Proposal 3. “Let’s ensure that our organisations work together to support/resource any candidates for General Synod 2020 who hold to marriage orthodoxy.”
        Objection: “Hmm, but how can we be sure that such candidates also hold to our other theological convictions, e.g. penal substitution (or substitutionary atonement)?”

        Proposal 5. “Let’s make clear that any change to marriage liturgy is a ‘red-line’ for us all”
        Objections: “Well, why is that such a ‘red-line’? I mean, there are parishes in SEC which haven’t left and remain faithful to orthodox teaching. And, why shouldn’t we accept the promise of the church hierarchy that its structures will facilitate our mutual flourishing with revisionists?”

        Proposal 6. “If the red-line is crossed, let’s withhold parish share.”
        Objections: “Despite such a change to the Church’s position, I don’t feel that I can support such a drastic move. It would unfairly impose our will on other parishes. Surely, you should consider far less confrontational alternatives, like writing a letter to the Church Times.”

        Proposal 7: “Let’s hold a peaceful candle-lit vigil at General Synod, but hold up placards in silent protest against this travesty.”
        Objection: “A vigil should be an act of prayer and worship. To hold up placards of any sort would politicise and desecrate an act of worship.”

        Proposal 8: “Okay, let’s do nothing more than we’ve been doing already and hope that it’s enough.”
        Objection: None./i>

    • Rev James Paice

      As an evangelical minister in Oxford, your comment is wrong:
      “we of Minas Tirith have been staunch through long years of trial”

        • I don’t know Will. This diocese has always been deeply divided – and this missive seem to have taken sides. We wait to see if that is so. I do know the only people celebrating in the Diocese are the revisionists whilst the traditionalists like me are saddened by it and wondering: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son?”

  3. Thanks, Ian – a powerful response to the bishops’ capitulation to the revisionist lobby.

    I hope you’ll forgive me pasting a link to my own response: https://faith-and-politics.com/2018/11/04/lgbt-inclusion-whats-wrong-with-the-oxford-bishops-letter/

    One question: Do you agree with Will Pearson-Gee that ‘gender identity should not inhibit anyone from playing a full part in the life of the church’? I’m really quite uncomfortable with the idea that men who believe they’re women (or people with another of the new assorted ‘gender identities’) should be playing a prominent role in church life, as though nothing is amiss about such behaviours. But I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    I’m also keen to hear what Simon thinks about receiving this communication from his bishops. Did we expect better from ‘evangelical’ Steven Croft?

    • Will, is it not the case that the Tony Blair electoral strategy has been adopted wholesale within the House of Bishops: label is one thing (Labour/evangelical), reality is another (spin-driven capitalism+opportunism/cultural conformism)?

      The idea is to reconfigure: it’s fine to be a champagne socialist or an evangelical in name only (because then people can face their conscience in the mirror while still being in the swing of things financially and/or socially. On the topic of cake – they are in favour of having it and also of eating it.).

      For non-evangelicals to adopt these secular ideas is just expected – the really effective thing, the killer, is for ‘evangelicals’ to adopt them. That is why Jayne Ozanne, Steve Chalke, Tony Campolo, Vicky Beeching and others own the label ‘evangelical’ at every opportunity – because that will alter perceptions of what is acceptable for an evangelical, and of what a ‘evangelical’ is. Crafty. As for Blair, it’s all about spin and perception – not a notably Christian approach – but certainly a devious one.

      Another one that came about 20 years ago was: it’s fine to be both a party animal and a brainbox – though that one seems more honest than the other 2.

      • Yes – and David Runcorn always insists here that he is “an evangelical” although he rejects the New Testament teaching on marriage and celibacy, thinks women’s ordination is incontestably true – and in every respect seems to favour an attitude ambiguity and mystery about faith and chides those he considers “too certain”. And many of us have replied that David may well have been nurtured in an evangelical world (as I definitely wasn’t) but is now very much a “post-evangelical”, like Dave Tomlinson. In other words, a theological liberal, like Justin Welby.
        But David Runcorn still insists on using that self-descriptor while denying what it means historically and dogmatically.
        You CANNOT advocate for ‘same-sex marriage’ and claim the name ‘evangelical’, any more than I could call myself a ‘Catholic’ (as I was brought up) and deny transubstantiation and veneration of the Virgin Mary. That is just a misuse of language, and it’s time David admitted he has ‘moved on’ to liberalism.
        The Church of England is moving rapidly to a division, but Welby is trying to play for time, while he knowingly appoints partnered gay bishops (one male, one female – and a graduate of the college where David worked) to create “facts on the ground”. But this game of deception doesn’t work in the internet world.

  4. Hi Ian
    I am sure that you expected me to pop up and write that I disagree with most of this!
    But my main contention – and I confess it surprises me that you have fallen into this way of thinking – is your view that all LGBT identity and behaviour both unrepentant and a capitulation to the zeitgeist. For example, your conclusion that those people gathering for an inclusive Eucharist are not repentant, that same-sex married people have not put away sexual immorality, lust and greed; that the desire for marriage makes its supporters ‘ethicallly indistinguishable’ from the society around them (what does that even mean?); and
    that the CoE does not support ministry like that of Vaughan Roberts – look who is on the LLF groups.
    You might be offended by Nadia Bolz Weber and Dale Martin. I think its time the church(es) had a grown up conversation about sex. Frankly, I am mightily offended by David Baker suggesting a moral equivalence between paedophilia, gang warfare, pornograpgy addiction and LGBTI people.

    • that the desire for marriage makes its supporters ‘ethicallly indistinguishable’ from the society around them (what does that even mean?);

      Surely it’s quite clear what that means? It means that on ethical questions — for example, whether pre-marital fornication is always immoral — they hold views that are the same as the views held by the general population, instead of the views held historically by Christians (for example, your own view that an unmarried soldier having a one-night stand would nto be doing anything wrong, which would be in line the view of the general present-day UK population, but would not be the view of historical Christian sexual morality — hence your views are are ethically indistinguishable from those of the general UK population).

      Oh, and you’re wrong to claim that the article says that ‘desire for marriage makes its supporters’ adopt the sexual ethic of wider society: the article points out correlation, not causation. In fact I would say it’s far more likely that the causation runs the other way: it’s adopting the sexual ethic of wider society that makes people into proponents of same-sex marriage.

      • ‘S’
        ‘it’s adopting the sexual ethic of wider society that makes people into proponents of same-sex marriage’…..is your belief.
        It’s not the view of many others who, like Adrian Thatcher, believe that same-sex couples should have access to the holiness of sacramental marriage.

        Marriage, whether controlled by State or Church, is hardly one of the most progressive institutions. Though it has become more equitable.

        • It’s not the view of many others who, like Adrian Thatcher, believe that same-sex couples should have access to the holiness of sacramental marriage

          And does Adrian Thatcher, like you, also believe that one-night stands can be moral?

          If he does then I think pretty clearly he has, like you, adopted the sexual ethic of the wider society. And that it’s this which has led him to propose that same-sex marriage is also acceptable.

          • ‘S’
            Cheap shot. We were discussing the theology of marriage, I thought, not casual sex.
            If you remember I argued that one-night stands could be morally neutral or good under certain circumstances. I have no idea whether Adrian agrees with me, but your suggestion that people move from a permissive position to a belief in same-sex marriage is risible and insulting.

          • Cheap shot. We were discussing the theology of marriage, I thought, not casual sex.

            Theology of marriage is indivisible from the theology of sex.

            If you remember I argued that one-night stands could be morally neutral or good under certain circumstances.

            So you think there are circumstances under which one-night stands are absolutely immoral? Can you give an example?

            I have no idea whether Adrian agrees with me, but your suggestion that people move from a permissive position to a belief in same-sex marriage is risible and insulting.

            And yet, the two do always seem to go together.

          • ‘S’
            There is very little that I would describe as absolutely immoral. Torture, genocide, some acts of terrorism, shooting people in a synagogue.
            I agree that the church needs to develop and articulate a theology of sex, gender and sexuality. It cannot do that if it remains squeamish about discussing certain topics. And if it hand picks those who are deemed worthy of being participants in the discussion.

          • There is very little that I would describe as absolutely immoral. Torture, genocide, some acts of terrorism, shooting people in a synagogue.

            So you’re saying that there is no sexual act (other than perhaps rape?) that you would say is immoral?

            In other words, anything (other than rape) goes?

            I agree that the church needs to develop and articulate a theology of sex, gender and sexuality.

            What about the one of those that it’s had for a few hundred years?

          • ‘S’
            The key word here is ‘absolutely’. Thus, theft and killing are not always immoral. Context matters

          • ‘S’
            The church has not had an unchanging doctrine of sexuality for hundreds of years.
            Firstly, because there was no concept of sexuality or gender identity.
            Second, because tradition changes: is marriage a sacrament; is celibacy a higher calling than marriage?

          • The key word here is ‘absolutely’. Thus, theft and killing are not always immoral. Context matters

            Well, indeed; that’s the whole point, context. Sex is not immoral within the context of marriage. In any other context, it is immoral.

            So in what contexts do you think that a one-night stand is immoral? Or do you think it’s moral in all contexts?

          • ‘S’
            You know perfectly well from our previous conversation on another blog post what kind of one-night stand I might consider moral. This prurient questioning is very tiresome.

          • You know perfectly well from our previous conversation on another blog post what kind of one-night stand I might consider moral

            Yes indeed. I am asking if there is any kind of one-night stand that you might consider immoral.

            Or do you in fact consider all one-night stands morally okay?

  5. ‘If you do not believe that same-sex sexual relationships are ‘a gift of God in creation, a holy way of living, which all should honour’ (and current C of E doctrine of marriage does not currently so believe) then you cannot ‘bless’ such things. The pastoral act of blessing demands that we change our doctrine of marriage.’

    ‘For Paul, the inclusive love of God, and our love for one another, are rooted in this transformation and call to holiness that we have met in the face of Christ.’

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was beginning to think I was the only person who held these views. One cannot bless something that God states in his word is displeasing to him. That is the road to unholiness, and rather than moving closer to God, one moves away from him.

    I have had the pleasure of having the friendship of a number of gay people over the years including those who have been members of my church. I am very fond of them and feel honoured that they would be friends with me.

    In terms of welcome, if I did not permit them to enter the church doors because I thought they were sinners, then I would be a hypocrite to enter myself, for I too am a sinner and God knows it. Jesus welcomed all to his table, because they were sinners too, but there were things he spoke against because they were sinful, and even if the sinner was still doing them this side of eternity there was always the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness. What he didn’t do was change his tack and say ‘That was what I told you, but it is no longer relevant to modern living’.

    No-one can argue against God’s holiness, because to do so sets us further apart from him rather than moving closer. Don’t believe me? Read what happened to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah when they had a go at it.

  6. Thank you… though it is as depressing as it is unsurprising.

    The Ad Clerum can’t possibly be understood as mere comment on “what is” – else it wouldn’t need saying. It’s a signal given that their train has left the station. It certainly doesn’t entertain discussion or uncertainty. It’s travelling along a pre-laid trackway. I feel for those living with this in Oxford.

    Is “authenticity” now the new shibboleth? “Inclusive” was bad enough. I see it as mere camoflage. One is not allowed to ask about what it hides or smuggles in. I suppose we should allow that the devil, in being true to himself, is being “authentic” and that (in the double speak of today) must please God.

    Is there the danger that we empty out any real meaning of “unity” as we have with “inclusive”? Better to separate and live than linger and die? Can Alternative Oversight manage the difference or is the growing gulf so wide that it would barely prove to be a sticking plaster?

    What a wide road is being laid…

    • Sure let’s split. So, those who aren’t happy with the church’s teaching will leave to start a new church with a new teaching that they are happy with, and leave the orthodox to worship in their orthodox church, right? That’s how this works, yes?

      I don’t see why those who are happy with the church’s unchanged teaching should have to leave instead of those who are unhappy with it and want to change it. Yet that seems to be an assumption in these debates – that it’s the orthodox who will leave.

      It certainly makes more sense for the Anglican Communion if it is the revisionists who leave to set up a new revisionist church (they do love to do new things after all) so that the Communion can maintain (and repair) its unity.

      • But that would be to consign the errant to outer darkness rather than pleading with them and reasoning with them.

        Is what you have in mind something like God’s OT strategy of temporary separation or short sharp shock or capitulation to a foreign power as a visual aid to help the errant understand the compromise they have been involved in?

        • Christopher…. Or is it shaking the dust off one’s shoes, moving on. It doesn’t stop the responsible prophetic proclamation of the gospel to “them” or anyone else.

          There’s a big world out there knowing nothing about Jesus.

          Just wondering… I’ve always advocated sticking with it and trying to influence it. I’m not sure what that approach is achieving currently.

          • It seems clear to me. If we shake dust we say 2 bad things:

            (1) I am now likely to see and speak with you less in future – so that is how much you don’t mean to me.

            (2) I am now likely to see and speak with you less in future – so that is how much I care about the power of logic and science and statistics and commonsense and debate and talking.

          • Jerusalem meant so much to Jesus as to prompt Him to tears. Yet, in relinquishing Jerusalem to its desolation, He promised: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:39)

            To follow Christ’s example of separation, especially when precipitated by having no truck with connivance at man’s defiant rejection of God’s beneficent ordering of nature, is not tantamount to saying: “that is how much you don’t mean to me”.

            I think that most here care deeply about “the power of logic and science and statistics and commonsense and debate and talking”. However, many also realise that we’re well past reasoned discussion with those who are covertly bypassing the due synodical process in order to establish their own ‘facts on the ground’ (which they hope to be irreversible) well ahead of any outcome of LLF.

          • But that is to typecast them as those who will continue to covertly bypass etc etc. Classified as beyond redemption before we have any evidence from the future to see whether or not that is true.

          • Moreover, the modus operandi of that party is often never to begin the reasoning and debating and familiarisation-with-research process in the first place, but rather to jump to the ‘conclusion’ they always wanted. We cannot banish them before page 1 of research and familiarisation has even begun.

          • “But that is to typecast them as those who will continue to covertly bypass.”

            Of course, not. If that was the case, you could similarly suggest that Christ’s relinquishment of Jerusalem to desolation (“you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you”) was tantamount to Him typecasting all of the city’s inhabitants as irredeemably malevolent towards God’s servants.

            Do you consider St. Paul to have censoriously classified certain church members “as beyond redemption before…any evidence from the future to see whether or not that is true” when he wrote to the Corinthian church:
            “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate (lit. “mix up together”) with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Cor. 5:11)

            Or when he wrote: “Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. (2 Thess. 3:14,15)

            Or when he wrote: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.” (2 Thess. 3:6)

            Withdrawing from concerted fellowship does not prevent engagement in ad hoc opportunities for admonition.

          • Yes. The trouble is that I see everything from a truth point of view. It is a given that there is already division truth-wise. There is therefore no need to create more. In fact, if we do create more, we limit the opportunities for education that are precisely what the secularist point of view most needs. That summarises my position.

          • Christopher
            I wish you would stop spreading this calumny that liberals and open evangelicals and affirming Christians have not ‘done the research’ and are capitulating to secular culture, You repeat this absurd claim in another comment below.
            It is an insult to numerous biblical scholars and theologians, not least some of those present here, such as Jonathan Tallon, David Runcorn, Savi Hensman and Andrew Godsall.
            Cheap caricatures of those whose ideas you oppose does your cause no favours, nor your own standing as a person of faith and intelligence.

          • It is a given that there is already division truth-wise. There is therefore no need to create more.

            But does there not come a point, if you are publically a member of a body which is proclaiming something you think is totally wrong, that you end up feeling a massive hypocrite?

            After all if you are publically a member of a given organisation that’s at least indicating you give tacit support to that organisation’s actions, isn’t it?

          • So Penelope, is it true or untrue that they always change the subject or plead a prior engagement when I cite that men who have sex with men are fully a thousand times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than others, even 35 years on, and having had so much expenditure on them by others to save them from the effects of their own pleasure quest – in many cases? Likewise, bowel cancer – syphilis – gonorrhea – the rates are far higher.

            If not, what is their position on that?

            This being the tip of the iceberg of conveniently-avoided topics I addressed in What Are They Teaching The Children?

            Do read ch12 of Anthony Esolen ‘Defending Marriage’ – it is great.

          • ‘Affirming’ was among the nonsensical labels I aimed to take apart there. It all depends what one is affirming, as we’d all agree.

          • Christopher

            People choose their own labels. They are often shorthand. Which is not a problem for anyone sensible.
            Yes, I and countless others, have read your references to research which shows (or purports to show) that gay men are more promiscuous, likely to contract HIV, bowel cancer etc.
            This has, as I have argued until I really despair, absolutely nothing to do with the theology of marriage. The church does not forbid straight people from marrying because they have STDs, or have been promiscuous, or are likely to commit adultery, or may divorce.

            This is a red herring. Marriage, not celibacy, is the scriptural remedy for lust. The churches should be welcoming same-sex couples with open arms.

          • Marriage, not celibacy, is the scriptural remedy for lust.

            What if the person you lust for is already married to someone else? Or is your sibling?

            I think you’ll find that celibacy is the only remedy then.

          • You don’t solve the problem that is the sexual revolution by the tools and presuppositions that belong to the sexual revolution itself.

            That is the mistake made by both (a) legislators who produce a progressively less mature population because they constantly have to liberalise further in order to cope with the immaturity that they themselves have created by normalising low expectations…

            …and (b) sex-educators who claim that they cannot see the lesson taught by the swift quintupling of births out of wedlock, teen abortions, and under 16 intercourse in 40 years since sex education in earnest began in earnest in 1967 (ideologically never mentioning the ubiquitous reality that was marriage, and presupposing premarital sex as the norm that it then wasn’t). They must be unintelligent or bad ”not to notice” a quintupling (400% rise) when people are noticing 1-2 % rises every day.

            As Esolen writes: Defending Marriage p13: ‘We cannot begin to rebuild…if we assume it is all right to wield the sledgehammers that brought the ruin in the first place’. Among those is homosexual sexual behaviour. Wherever it is found there is a disease and promiscuity increase, but this rises sharply when it is normalised. Wherever it is found, the take-up for SS’M’ is small, because more short-term pleasure is preferred; even within the ‘M’ half of the men have promiscuity arrangements. And those on your side are silent in talking about this elephant in the room when the topic does come up.

            A lot of reasons, then.

          • Christopher
            You still do not understand. Marriage is not a fruit of the sexual revolution and it matters not one whit what Esolen claims about ‘open marriage’ and infidelity. Straight couples have open marriages and are promiscuous and unfaithful as your remarks about the number of babies born out of ‘wedlock’ show. We do not, therefore, forbid straight people from marrying. We, State and Church, offer them marriage as a good, a discipline, a place of potential growth and fruitfulness.
            Your case that gay and bi people are too corrupt for marriage is thoroughly unscriptural and frankly insulting.

          • I don’t think St Paul was advocating marriage as a remedy for incest.

            Point is that marriage is only a remedy for lust if the person you lust for is someone you can legitimately marry.

            If it’s someone you can’t legitimately marry (eg someone who is already married, someone consanguineous with you) then marriage is not available to you as a remedy for your lust.

            In other words: the fact that marriage is available as a remedy for lust to some people, does not mean that it must be available as a remedy to all people.

          • And ‘S’ you can legitimately marry a person of the same sex

            I think that’s the whole question at issue, isn’t it: can you?

            (The laws of some countries say you can, the laws of other countries say you can’t, so you can’t appeal to mere human laws for the correct universal answer).

            But anyway: you accept the principle that marriage as a remedy for lust is not available to all, then? We’re just arguing the exact boundaries of who it is and isn’t available to.

          • I didn’t claim such a thing. Where did I claim anything about ‘gay and bi people’? Those are not even categories I recognise as existing as essences, however much they may be descriptions of present reality.

          • Christopher
            Homosexual behaviour where diseas and promiscuity increase were your words I think. So, lets stop them increasing by teaching the goods of marriage both to same-sex and to other-sex couples.

          • So, lets stop them increasing by teaching the goods of marriage both to same-sex and to other-sex couples.

            But don’t you think that there’s nothing morally wrong with one-night stands, AKA promiscuity?

            So why would you want to stop them increasing?

      • Hi Will… you’re defining the position (why should I leave?) I tend to take.

        But I wonder two things (it’s not settled in my mind):

        1. There isn’t the slightest sign that revisionists will leave, is there? Rather they will keep undermining what the orthdox stand for and totally muddy what the public understands Christianity to be.

        2. Are we in danger of confusing the “Church” with the “Anglican church”?

        I’m well aware of the dangers of a spitting and a further fragmenting church. But should this always be a trump card vetoing decisive action? When does (does it?) the established church become so adulterous that it ceases to be a vehicle for the Gospel? The thought of this absolutely does not warm my heart but might it become a “take up your cross” moment?

        I suppose I’m afraid that we might just keep drifting, refusing to see where this could be heading. I’m happy (ish!) to be a fool for Jesus’ sake …but maybe not a cliff-heading lemming. 🙂

        • I agree with Ian H that the church is already split in 2 different ways – denominationally and within single denominations. People are treating a single denomination formal split as far more important than these 2 – but it isn’t.

        • Hi Ian

          To walk away from the CofE is to walk away from:
          1) Our buildings, often prominent and well-located
          2) Our standing in the community and all its connections, including our schools
          3) The church’s substantial historic reserves
          4) Our history and, to some degree, our identity, which helps to maintain our unity

          Walking away would be an extremely grave decision, and the practicalities (and legalities) are very complex. I think it more likely that individuals will leave rather than whole churches, and on a large scale if the Church becomes formally heterodox on sexuality, to join AMiE or some such.

          • Hi Will,

            You may be right but is this (1-4 p) holding change back rather than the basic question of remaining faithful? Can God not provide?

            But I’m not (yet) advocating walking away. Is severing diocesan structural ties and regrouping the same as walking away? In that sense I suppose I’m saying let’s hold our ground. Don’t give up buildings, parish connections etc. Let’s have an advanced form of Alternative Oversight but with a fuller and regrouped structure….

            I may be talking rubbish as I’m thinking aloud as the situation increases in complexity. The simple solution to a complex problem can be simplistic and wrong. Sometimes the simple cuts the Gordian knot.

        • You will be familiar with the boiling frog analogy, that a frog put into boiling water will jump out, but one put in cold water which is gradually heated will at no point make a decision to jump out, and will be cooked.

          • Peter That is an analogy about necessary awareness and the managing of change. It offers no moral judgment on any particular situation. There is nothing wrong with boiling water!

      • Sure, let’s split, so that those who aren’t happy with the church’s teaching can leave and the Bishop of Exeter can continue to own slave plantations.

        • ‘not happy with the church’s teaching’???????

          Penelope, the traditionalists by definition ARE happy with the Church’s teaching as it has been held throughout the world and across the centuries. It is the revisionists who are not happy with the Church’s teaching and have fought to change it and bring it in line with secular cultural norms and forms. Isn’t that what we hear all the time “we must change our sexual ethics ‘cos the world doesnt like it” – they dont like a crucified God either? Is that the next thing to be whittled away?

          • Simon
            I don’t think you quite’get’ my reply to Will who suggested that the revisionists should leave because they are not happy with church teaching.
            I suggested that revisionists who wanted slaves freed could have left the CoE and left the Church to the orthodox traditionalists, like the Bishop of Exeter, who owned slave plantations.

        • Penny – ah, gotcha – I read your comment as a reply to an earlier post by Will saying why Traditionalists shouldn’t leave over the liberalising of this church’s teaching and thus read you saying as they should if they dont like it. sorry

          But leaving there will be – cos the wedge has been driven in deeper by this and divorce seems inevitable

          • Well, that seems very sad. We can differ fundamentally on what happens in the Eucharist and on the cross, but not on the redefinition of an institution which does not belong to the church and which has changed many times.

          • Penelope – Scripture presents a range of understandings of what happens in the eucharist and at the cross and we can never fathom its mystery depths. But I believe Scripture offers no comparable range of views on same-sex sexual relations and indeed is clear, consistent and unequivocal in its condemnation of them. It is not the redefinition of an institution that is the issue for me, it is the Church endeavouring to put God’s name and blessing to what I believe God forbids. You must see this Penelope – the evangelical traditionalists are facing increasing exigency to embrace what they believe from Scripture and tradition to be sinful and if we do that we compromise our faith, violate our conscience and are party to sin.

          • Simon
            Actually, I don’t see that at all. I see bishops affirming the ‘traditional’ teaching of the church and saying that it will not change in spite of the supposed openness of the process which will result in the Teaching Document, aka LLF.
            I do see, sadly, an Anglican fudge which will be too sweet for one ‘tribe’ and too bitter for another.
            I wish we could walk together, as we do over other differences, admittedly with difficulty. No-one will force you to marry a person of the same sex, in either sense of the word.

          • But Penelope
            we are on the identical trajectory as the Episcopalian and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches. And their clergy ended up facing the same options as I have laid out.

  7. I do think Mark Regnerus’s findings are telling. ‘Liberal Christians’ are to all intents and purposes culturally-conformist secularists by another name, according to the (ever fashionable) norms they adopt.

    There is an absolutely lovely 12-page piece that I would love everyone to read, which expresses this present cultural divide to a T. It is so beautifully written, by Professor of English and Dante expert Anthony Esolen. Chapter 12 of ‘Defending Marriage’ (Ignatius 2014). Read it and die happy.

    • “‘Liberal Christians’ are to all intents and purposes culturally-conformist secularists by another name.” This is nonsense Chris. Have you really not read any theological contributions from ‘including’ evangelicals, among others?

      • Have you really not read any theological contributions from ‘including’ evangelicals, among others?

        Could you give an example then of a sexual practice which a culturally conformant secularist would find perfectly moral but which a liberal Christian would condemn as immoral?

          • Well, you seemed to be implying that there was a practical distinction between ‘culturally-conformist secularists’ and ‘liberal Christians’.

            I’m asking for a practical example of this distinction.

            After all, if liberal Christians are not simply culturally-conformist secularists by another name then there must exist concrete examples of how the two groups differ, right?

            After all if there weren’t any differences then the two would be, to all intents and purposes, the same.

            So what’s an example of one of those differences?

          • S By ‘liberal’ in this context I assume you mean not holding to the conservative/traditionalist views on same-sex relationships? OK. But I am as conservative as others here in terms of my belief that the teaching of scripture is central. And that is most obvious distinction of course. No ‘cultural conforming secularists’ that I know would even think of basing their views on Christian theology and scripture.

          • . But I am as conservative as others here in terms of my belief that the teaching of scripture is central. And that is most obvious distinction of course. No ‘cultural conforming secularists’ that I know would even think of basing their views on Christian theology and scripture.

            But if you end up with exactly the same views as cultural conforming secularists, what’s the actual concrete practical difference between you and a cultural conforming secularist?

            What would you not do, that they would?

          • “if you end up with exactly the same views as cultural conforming secularists ….”. I haven’t and I don’t.
            But are you really saying that there is nothing we Christians ever agree on with folk who have come to their beliefs and values from very different places from us?

          • “if you end up with exactly the same views as cultural conforming secularists ….”. I haven’t and I don’t.

            Okay, so, could you give an example of there you and cultural conforming secularists have ended up with different views on sexual morality?

            Some sexual practice that they are perfectly okay with but you would say is immoral?

            But are you really saying that there is nothing we Christians ever agree on with folk who have come to their beliefs and values from very different places from us?

            Oh clearly we agree on some things. But if you agree on everything then what’s the difference?

            And if you don’t agree on everything, well, what’s an example of something you disagree on?

          • S Who are these ‘cultural conformant secularists’? Does anyone really answer to that name? And you are speaking as if this group all think and do the same thing. But let me have a go ….
            I may or may not differ from those who do not share my faith with varying degrees of significance on understandings of faithfulness, chastity, commitment, marriage, sacrifice, death, hallowing, the Kingdom, service, covenant, children, gender roles, celibacy, love, vocation, wholeness, the Bible, community, judgment, forgiveness, hope, conversion ….. and possibly veganism. How am I doing …. ?

          • Who are these ‘cultural conformant secularists’? Does anyone really answer to that name? And you are speaking as if this group all think and do the same thing. But let me have a go ….

            I think there’s a reasonable enough consensus, especially around sexual morality. Do you not?

            I may or may not differ from those who do not share my faith with varying degrees of significance on understandings of faithfulness, chastity, commitment, marriage, sacrifice, death, hallowing, the Kingdom, service, covenant, children, gender roles, celibacy, love, vocation, wholeness, the Bible, community, judgment, forgiveness, hope, conversion ….. and possibly veganism. How am I doing …. ?

            Well, you still haven’t given a single concrete example of a behaviour or practice which the general culture would consider mroal but oyu consider immoral so… not very well?

            Come on, just one concrete practical example of where you differ from the general secular culture on sexual morality. Something the general culture is fine with but that you think is wrong. Surely there must be something?

            You can be as specific as you like.

          • I mean, do you want a hint? Here’s something that seems to me quite an edge case. I think the general culture would agree that if a couple have an ‘open marriage’, such that each spouse has explicit permission from the other to have sex with other people, then it is not immoral for a husband, with the consent of his wife, to have sex with another woman.

            Do you think, contra the general culture, that that is in fact immoral, because fidelity within marriage is sacred in a way which cannot be negated even by the consent of the parties?

          • S I have idea why you are pursuing this line of conversation with me. I have made my position clear with regard to differences from the supposed secular groups you have in mind. You seem to want very specific answers from me to highly general questions.
            Your latest group is ‘General Culture’. General culture surely includes you and me? But once again you seem to assume this is one group with one view on issues that concern you.
            If it needs saying – that is if you really do think it possible this bible believing evangelical might possibly be thinking otherwise – no, I do not believe that open marriage is a Christian understanding of marriage. And for what it is worth none of my non-Christian friends out there in what you call ‘general culture’ support open marriage either – though they, like me, recognise it is a choice some couples make.
            I really don’t think I have an more to say on this S. D.

          • You seem to want very specific answers from me to highly general questions.

            I would say I want specific answers to specific questions, actually; you seem to only want to give general answers to any questions.

            Your latest group is ‘General Culture’.

            Only because I got fed up of typing ‘culturally conformant secularist’ over and over again. If you’d like, re-read substituting that for every occurance of ‘general culture’.

            And for what it is worth none of my non-Christian friends out there in what you call ‘general culture’ support open marriage either – though they, like me, recognise it is a choice some couples make.

            And you agree that those couples are immoral for doing so?

            Good. Glad to hear it. I withdraw any accusation that you are completely indistinguishable from a culturally conformant secularist.

          • Goodness! Is that what this was all about?

            So simple once you stop over-thinking and give a straight answer, isn’t it?

        • Hello again S.

          I’m late to this particular party, and the conversation may have run out of steam, but for what it’s worth: while I can’t speak for all liberal Christians – you’ll always find different views in any group – for myself, your challenge is an easy one. This liberal Christian thinks that the use of pornography is wrong, that sexual intercourse outside of a permanent, stable, faithful, monogamous covenant is wrong, and that abortion (not a sexual practice of course, but obviously related) is wrong in almost all circumstances. Enough to be getting on with?

          • This liberal Christian thinks that the use of pornography is wrong, that sexual intercourse outside of a permanent, stable, faithful, monogamous covenant is wrong, and that abortion (not a sexual practice of course, but obviously related) is wrong in almost all circumstances. Enough to be getting on with?

            And do you think that puts you in the majority or the minority of liberal Christians?

            Given there’s at least one liberal Christian who on this very page has said that ‘sexual intercourse outside of a permanent, stable, faithful, monogamous covenant’ is not wrong, in at least some circumstances.

        • Good question. I don’t really know whether such views would put me in the majority or minority of liberals – who are not a homogenous group anyway. On the question of porn, the vast majority of Christians I know would consider it sinful (regardless of where they are on same-sex issues). I’ve seen the link about ‘ethical porn’ but this would still be regarded in most liberal circles as unacceptable. Of course, people still struggle with porn and use porn – but they’d recognise that as sin needing repentance. Liberals do believe in those concepts, you know 🙂

          On casual sex, there’d be a spectrum. I would guess the majority of those Christians who affirm SSM (if that’s going to be our definition of liberal) would regard casual sex as wrong. The more and more committed a relationship becomes, the less condemnatory the attitude would become. The ideal, for most, would remain that sex belongs within the permanent, monogamous covenant.

          There are several complications in the casual sex one – for instance, we’d need to define what exactly was counting as sexual behaviour. Also there’s the paradox that even in the casual sexual encounter there could be something of grace – that is *not* to say that casual sex is not sinful, but to acknowledge that even in the midst of human sinfulness grace can find a way in. You can recognise that something was sinful, and still be profoundly grateful for receiving something good, beautiful, tender through it. I am not putting this well: what I mean is that though sex outside marriage is wrong, I cannot deny that sometimes (often) people receive genuine goodness through it.

          It’s on abortion that I fear the capitulation to the surrounding culture is probably most pronounced. My own view is that one of the tragedies of our time is that the fight on same-sex questions is obscuring this more important moral struggle.

          But actually, on all these things, aren’t many evangelicals in pretty much the same place?

      • That is the destination the train is on. And as Bonhoeffer said, you can’t stop a train by running down the corridor. The nature of theological liberalism – as Karl Barth made so clear in 1914 and again in the Barmen Declaration – is to take its directions from secular culture. Today that means privileging the ‘insights’ of humanist psychology and the political ramifications of the 1960s Sexual Revolution. Yes, these can be gussied up with a scripture here and there – usually about love and personal fulfilment etc – but this no more Christian than ‘Gott mit uns’ on a German soldier’s belt.
        David, you should follow the honesty of Luke Timothy Johnson instead of torturing the NT to make it say what you want it to.

        • And as Bonhoeffer said, you can’t stop a train by running down the corridor

          Well, you can if you’re running towards the cab and you have a gun. Or, in Bonhoeffer’s case, a bomb in a briefcase.

  8. Ian, bi sexual does not mean that you have some kind of floating sexual attraction. It means that you are capable of falling in love with either a man or a woman. You are neither more or less likely to be unfaithful to your spouse that a monosexual person. I, for instance, am a bisexual woman married to Sophie. You do not consider that a real marriage. You do not consider it a healthy relationship. I can accept that. What I do, however, ask you to accept as a simple fact is that we are as faithful to each other and as committed to each other as a straight couple or a lesbian couple. I am not seeking to argue with you. It is pointless. You are no more likely to change your mind on the morality of my choices, than I am likely to change my mind on that. But I do ask that you accept what my sexuality means. That I might have potentially have loved somebody else, but I am the sworn and faithful wife of one person, and the fact I could potentially have desired a man has no more effect on that that the fact that you would have potentially have desired a woman who is not your wife has on your fidelity to her.

    • Hi Rosemany

      Is it actually the case that average fidelity levels are exactly the same among the 3 groups you cite, or is that something you would like to be the case or ‘ought to’ be the case?

    • What I do, however, ask you to accept as a simple fact is that we are as faithful to each other and as committed to each other as a straight couple or a lesbian couple

      But it’s not just about being ‘faithful to each other’ while together: that opens the door to serial monogamy. It’s also about relationships being permanent, ie, having no other relationships before this one and, if this relationship ends, not having another relationship with anyone else.

      I obviously wouldn’t dream of asking you about your personal circumstances (and pelase don’t reveal them), but does being ‘bisexual’ not imply hypothetically that one either has had a relationship with someone of the other sex than one’s current partner in the past, or conceivably might do in the future?

      In which case the relationship is clearly not one of lifelong monogamy.

      fact I could potentially have desired a man has no more effect on that that the fact that you would have potentially have desired a woman who is not your wife has on your fidelity to her

      Does that matter, though? If someone is celebate, then surely whether they could potentially have desired a man or potentially desired a woman is irrelevant. The only important fact is that they are celebate.

      Similarly if someoen is in a lifelong monogamous relationship, what does it matter whether they could potentially have been in a relationship with another woman or another man? Potentialities and might-have-beens are irrelevant; what matters is that their relationship is lifelong and monogamous.

      • Traditionally, S, even the most ‘conservative’ within the church have, I believe, accepted that either partner in a lifelong marriage may conceivably have a sexual relationship with someone else in future, if the other dies first. Some widowed people of course stay single but it does not mean one is unfaithful if one enters another committed partnership.

        • Is the argument that because 2 different situations have in common the one dimension of non-lifetime-monogamy then that is their main dimension? Or the 2 situations deserve to be classified together? Or is not this one dimension the one that the bias of some want to emphasise when other dimensions are just as much present.

          Any 2 entities have at least *one* thing in common. But they may have 10 times as many things *not* in common.

          • Christopher, S asked, ‘does being “bisexual” not imply hypothetically that one either has had a relationship with someone of the other sex than one’s current partner in the past, or conceivably might do in the future?’, in which case ‘the relationship is clearly not one of lifelong monogamy.’ Of course it is possible to be attracted to people without having a sexual relationship. However I was trying to point out that ‘lifelong monogamy’, in the usual understanding, does not necessarily mean ruling out a future relationship.

            In the sad instance of, say, a couple who were married for fifty years, after which one died, the other might find love again, perhaps from another widowed person at the same older person’s day centre. If the surviving partner were heterosexual, this would almost certainly be with someone of the opposite sex; this might not be so for someone bisexual. This would not make them any less monogamous or committed.

      • ‘S’ most people have relationships before ‘this one’. And after. Even when they are not sexual, we fall in love. When they are sexual, there is divorce, and widowhood. For heterosexuals the falling in love will always be with people of the same gender. For
        bisexual people it could be a person of either gender.

          • ‘S’
            You may have noticed that I wrote ‘even when they are not sexual’. Do you find chaste romantic relationships objectionable?

          • You may have noticed that I wrote ‘even when they are not sexual’.

            If they’re not sexual then they’re not relvant to the point, are they?

            Bisexual — clue’s in the name. Not ‘biromantic’.

          • “But they shouldn’t, is the point.”
            Who says?

            “Bisexual — clue’s in the name”
            It’s a name about orientation, not practice.
            Being heterosexual does not imply someone is having sex.

          • ‘S’
            So, are you claiming that heterosexual people can have romantic chaste relationships before marriage, but that bisexual people can’t?

          • So, are you claiming that heterosexual people can have romantic chaste relationships before marriage, but that bisexual people can’t?

            I’m saying, why does it matter?

            Surely what matters is what one does, not what one is tempted to do or what one potentially might have done.

          • Being heterosexual does not imply someone is having sex

            If someone is celebate, what does it matter what sex the people they aren’t having sex with are?

          • Yes it does because
            A: you might have a romantic relationship
            B: most people aren’t called to celibacy

          • A: you might have a romantic relationship

            Not if you’re celibate! You can’t be ‘celibate until you meet somebody you fancy’, that’s like having immortality that wears off.

            B: most people aren’t called to celibacy

            I don’t know about ‘called’, that’s a bit wishy-washy for me. Point is, if someone is celibate, what does it matter what sex the people they are attracted to, but aren’t having sex with, are?

            Similarly if someone has a single lifelong monogamous sexual relationship, what does it matter what sex the other people they don’t</i have sexual relationships with are?

            Surely we are defined by what we do, not what we don’t do?

          • S – people have romantic relationships without having sex! So it obviously matters. They kiss. They talk. They hold hands in the street. They go to dinner parties together. So of course it matters what their inherent sexuality is.
            We may be defined by what we are, not by what we do. Hence the concept of ontology.

          • people have romantic relationships without having sex! So it obviously matters. They kiss. They talk. They hold hands in the street. They go to dinner parties together. So of course it matters what their inherent sexuality is.

            Yes, but I’m talking about people who are celibate, ie, who refrain from relationships.

            We may be defined by what we are, not by what we do. Hence the concept of ontology.

            So — we’re guilty of all the sins we are tempted to commmit, whether we resist them or not? Harsh!

          • Celibacy is abstinence from sex, not from romantic relationships.

            Ontology: I am a Priest because I was ordained one, not because I ‘do’ priestly things.

          • Celibacy is abstinence from sex, not from romantic relationships.

            Oh no I think you’ll find you’re wrong there. The OED definition of celibacy: ‘The state of living unmarried’.

            Of course if you follow a proper Christian sexual ethic of chastity where sex is only permitted within marriage, then celibacy necessarily implies living without sex; but celibacy is abtinence from marriage, not sex, and someone who is married but abstains from sex is not celibate.

            Ontology: I am a Priest because I was ordained one, not because I ‘do’ priestly things.

            Ah, well, See, this is one reason why I think the idea of Christian priests is blasphemy. We have only one priest who stands between us and God: Jesus. There is no ontological difference between the rest of us.

          • May kissing and holding hands and going to dinner parties only happen within marriage?

            The concept of ontology extends well beyond priesthood….

          • May kissing and holding hands and going to dinner parties only happen within marriage?

            Kissing (of the romantic / erotic kind) and holding hands (again, of the romantic / erotic kind, not the ‘friendship’ kind), certainly, are only proper between unmarried people if they are in a relationship which is intended to lead to marriage, aren’t they?

            The concept of ontology extends well beyond priesthood….

            Oh, sure: ontologically I am a human and not a cat. I am ontologically either a woman or a man. But am I ontologically someone who doesn’t like Marmite? I think you’d be hard-pressed to make a case that such preference-categories as which spreads I like and which people I am attracted to are in some way ontologically significant.

          • Umm..you are seriously saying that two 18 year olds, dating at University for example, may not hold hands unless they intend to marry?

          • you are seriously saying that two 18 year olds, dating at University for example, may not hold hands unless they intend to marry?

            I’m saying they shouldn’t be ‘dating’ unless they intend to marry (or at least think it’s a serious prospect).

          • So this 18 year old couple go to the cinema together, as a first ‘date’. And then perhaps go to the tea shop after. They walk back to their campus, holding hands, having enjoyed each others company. They can’t do any of this unless they intend to marry? This is seriously what you are saying S?

          • So this 18 year old couple go to the cinema together, as a first ‘date’. And then perhaps go to the tea shop after. They walk back to their campus, holding hands, having enjoyed each others company. They can’t do any of this unless they intend to marry?

            No, that all seems fine except the ‘holding hands’ part. They just shouldn’t be holding hands romantically the first time they’ve been out together, or indeed, any time until they are no longer just getting to know one another but have decided this is actually a serious relationship which might lead to marriage.

          • Where do we learn this harsh moral code? Where is it written?

            Does something so obvious need to be written down? I think everybody realises there are appropriate and inappropriate ways for people who aren’t married to each other to behave.

          • Or to go back to the point: the only person it is right to have a romantic relationship with is the person you marry. Yes?

            One can have many friends, but ought in life only to ever have one romantic partner. ‘Lifelong monogamy’ I think it’s called.

          • No S. I think even amongst quite conservative Christian communities what you are advocating would seem ridiculous. Young people are likely to, and indeed probably ought to, have several boyfriends/girlfriends before they find the one that they wish to settle sown and make a lifelong commitment to. Those relationships will inevitably involve hand holding and kissing. To suggest that you may not even hold hands with your ‘date’ is quite extraordinary.

          • Young people are likely to, and indeed probably ought to, have several boyfriends/girlfriends before they find the one that they wish to settle sown and make a lifelong commitment to. Those relationships will inevitably involve hand holding and kissing.

            I disagree. First, there’s nothing inevitable about it, and second, before it gets to the stage of being a boyfriend / girlfriend you should have got to know the person very well and be pretty sure that this is the person you want to marry.

            But for the sake of argument, and because I’d entirely lost track, I went back to work out how we’d got onto this weird tangent. And the point is:

            If you’re celibate, then you don’t have romantic relationships. Because the point of a romantic relqationship is to get married, and if you’re celibate, then you won’t get married. So if you’re celibate, then it is irrelevant whether you are attracted to men or women.

            Similarly, if you are married, then it is irrelevant whether you are attracted to anyone other than your spouse (of either sex) because you cannot act on that attraction.

            So if you’re married, then whether you are bi-sexual or mono-sexual is just simply not relevant. As you will never act on the attraction, whether you feel it or not is unimportant to who you are.

          • I am aware that communities like the Amish and Shakers follow/followed this kind of code S. Is it written down anywhere?

          • I am aware that communities like the Amish and Shakers follow/followed this kind of code S. Is it written down anywhere?

            Why would something so obvious need to be written down?

            Anyway that who discussion was a tangent. The point is the irrelevance of the concepts of bi-sexuality or mono-sexuality to people who are either celibate or married, as in neither case can they act on the attractions they may or may not feel and attractions you cannot act on might as well not exist. They certainly don’t define you.

          • It clearly isn’t at all obvious as most of the western world has not followed such a code for the last hundred years and more.

          • ‘S’
            You clearly have a belief that lifelong monogamy involves having only one romantic relationship.
            There are many problems with this view, amongst them:
            It’s not biblical nor that held by most mainstream church traditions
            Puirity culture, especially in the US, has been shown to be both mentally and physically harmful to vulnerable young people.
            It takes no account of divorce or widowhood.

          • And ‘S’ you don’t seem to understand that, theologically, celibacy is a calling, a charism, not simply the state of being unmarried so an unmarried young person would be single, rather than being a celibate. S/he may have several romantic relationships, probably with the desire to be married. This is true of Christianyoung people too. Some (most?) also live with their partners before marriage.
            The ‘ideal’ you describe is mandated neither by law nor by grace and has very rarely been part of Western Christian culture.

          • And ‘S’ you don’t seem to understand that, theologically, celibacy is a calling, a charism, not simply the state of being unmarried so an unmarried young person would be single, rather than being a celibate.

            Did you miss that I wrote:

            ‘Not if you’re celibate! You can’t be “celibate until you meet somebody you fancy”, that’s like having immortality that wears off. ‘

            The point of which is that when I say ‘celibate’ I don’t mean someone who just hasn’t got married yet, I mean someone who will never marry (for whatever reason; perhaps they have taken holy orders, perhaps they were going to marry but their fiancée was killed in the Blitz as happened to Sir Patrick Moore, perhaps something else).

            Some (most?) also live with their partners before marriage.

            Which is immoral, isn’t it?

          • “It’s not biblical nor that held by most mainstream church traditions”

            Thank you Penelope. Exactly so. It’s not even an ‘obvious’ tradition within churches S so where is it written down so that you and old alike might follow it? The idea that people don’t date or don’t hold hands unless they intend to marry is just extraordinary and definitely not obvious.

          • Andrew, it is equally likely that the highest rating date you have will be the first as that they will be the nth.

          • So, ‘S’, you mean (as I said) someone who is celibate as a calling. Which is quite different from being single before or after marriage.
            And, no, as you know very well, I do not think that all sexual intimacy before or outside marriage is immoral.

          • So, ‘S’, you mean (as I said) someone who is celibate as a calling.

            No, I mean someone who is celibate (ie, remains unmarried for life) for any reason. Someone who remains unmarried for life because they person they should have married died because they could be wed is celibate, but has no ‘calling’ (whatever that means).

            And, no, as you know very well, I do not think that all sexual intimacy before or outside marriage is immoral.

            But do you think any sexual intimacy before or outside marriage is immoral? Or is it all just fine? There is no sexual intimacy at all that you would consider immoral?

          • S maybe if you could explain why holding hands in a particular way unless you intend to marry the person whose hand you are holding is so obviously immoral your questions could be answered as well.

        • Penelope, you would actually go to the advanced stage of going out with someone or being an item with them and you still even by then had not realised that they were a frog all along?? Sounds like you were getting to that stage much too quickly.

          • Besides, if a man said they had kissed a lot of toads, that would doubtless be classified as either bullying or sexist or both.

      • Brian
        You might adopt, or use a surrogate or a sperm donor, as straight couples do. And before you start, I know that the last two are morally problematic.

  9. How frustrating.

    Something..something…Stalingrad…something..something..

    To be critical though, while I agree with the general trajectory here, I think you might be reading a bit too much into the ‘humility’ comment. When I read the letter over on Steven Croft’s blog I didn’t find that particularly objectionable, reading it as an attempt to bring continuity with the Collossians passage, rather than an explicit description of their motives for writing, or neat a dodge around issues of ecclesial authority.

    Perhaps I’m just being too generous. 😉

  10. Christopher Shell: is there reliable data on any one of those groups? Compiled without lies, evasion or aspirational answers? Does the data take account of belief systems? Age of respondents? I very much doubt that. But there is only one difference between monosexual and bisexual people. The capacity to love either gender or only one. I, and a great many bi people are faithful. A great many monosexual people are unfaithful. For better answers, I suggest you write to (eg) More or Less

    • There is certainly reams of reliable data that male homosexuals are far more promiscuous than average and also that lesbians get through one-to-one relationships at a quicker rate than average. Also that it is hard to define who counts as ‘bisexual’, given than self-styled lesbians have actually had on average twice as many male sleeping partners as have the ones they call ‘straight’. See my ch.11 of ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’. In an age when pansexuality is fashionable, more people than before will act bisexual (2013 UK National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles said that women reporting same-sex sexual partners had more than quadrupled in just 20 years – is it by coincidence that these were precisely the 20 years when this had been seen as fashionable? On my theory it is not coincidence – how about on your theory?). This is not entirely an essence matter. It is also very true that what people open themselves to, they become.

      In fact, you are more or less agreeing that you do not know whether the rates for the 3 groups you originally cited are the same, and are agreeing that they could potentially be very different – which scuppers your original point.

  11. A great many people are not people of any faith. A great many young people who are straight have a huge number of sexual partners. Few statistics are reliable. None of that alters the fact that because bisexual people can love either gender, they do not, in fact, need to love people of both genders. They fall in love. They marry. They stay married. Not always, but neither do straight people, not always. My point is that bi people are people with the potential to love someone on either sex. I know of no further statistics. I have made my point. I have no interest in clever arguments. Thank you for listening and bless you.

    • No ‘a great many young people’ don’t do that. They only do that *after* the culture has unnecessarily already adopted the sexual revolution, which so many cultures have not done (and why would any sane culture do that anyway?).

      The way you use ‘love’ is very far from the Christian way. Christians love their pets, their neighbours, their enemies – the list goes on.

      There are millions more frequencies than ‘always’ and ‘not always’. Both 0.1% and 99.9% fall into the category of ‘not always’, but there is literally the world of difference between them.

      How are we ever to be accurate without arguments that stand up (whether or not they are denigrated as ‘clever’ – is it better to bring forward non-clever ones?)? Or are we to prefer inaccuracy? If so, which particular inaccuracy?

  12. Thank you for a very well-thought out article. Reading the comments underlines once again though, the difference between submitting to the authority of God’s Word, the Bible, or accepting the changing standards of our day with their emphasis on personal autonomy. The two views seem totally unbridgeable, but surely it is better to trust God’s tried and tested unchanging revelation than the transient views of today’s culture, especially as at its heart are activists who are working for a sexual free-for-all which has proven disastrous for countries which have tried it in the past, like France and Russia.

  13. A necessary, coruscating piece that slices through the meniscus of the tepid and turgid, stagnant and polluted pond of infertile waters of rebellious dissolution .

  14. Numerous problems with this article. Going through:
    Quote: “If the Church has failed to reflect the inclusion of Jesus and Paul, don’t we need to return to this, rather than look for a ‘new’ inclusion? What kind of humility seeks to set this aside?”

    Is this a deliberately mischievous misreading? Everyone agrees that we want the same type of inclusion as Jesus. The issue is that we disagree about what that looks like. It’s a cheap shot to pretend that they are saying that they are setting aside the inclusion of Jesus and Paul.

    Quote: “To be silent on this rich and culturally relevant stream of Christian teaching would indeed be a serious failure.”

    But you clearly have no idea whether they have been silent or not. Another cheap shot.

    Quote: “I wonder whether the ‘attitude of inclusion and respect for LGBTI+ people across the Diocese’ will mean giving a prominent seat at the table to people like Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe’s in Oxford…”

    Well, the national attitude of inclusion has made sure that representatives from Living Out/True Freedom Trust will be part of the Living in Love and Faith process. So the answer appears to be yes.

    Quote: “But the proportion [of those of settled attraction to the same sex] in the C of E appears to be much higher.”

    How do you know? You recount a couple of anecdotes, based on clergy (who are not typical) in London (which is not typical). You also appear to confuse being part of the CofE with being clergy.

    Quote: “Where are the similar chaplaincies, the mission imperatives, for reaching BAME people, woefully under-represented? What about the national initiatives to engage with white working-class men?”

    A clear example of ‘whataboutery’. We can do more than one thing at a time.

    Quote: “…poured scorn in a Tweet on the notion of ‘practising’ and ‘non-practising’, as if it was possible not to act on the basis of one’s attractions.”

    No, that isn’t why she poured scorn on it. It’s poorly chosen language. Are you a practising or non-practising heterosexual? Do single people generally get called non-practising heterosexuals? You don’t stop being heterosexual whether or not you are in a relationship; the same is true of being homosexual. Find better language that doesn’t treat the minority group differently.

    Quote: “‘It is important that these debates should be grounded in Scripture, reason and tradition’, but that isn’t the historical Anglican position, which sees Scripture as having supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.”

    Nitpicking. They aren’t writing a thesis on how the CofE proceeds, but making a brief point that all three of scripture, reason and tradition should be involved.

    Quote: “The whole letter invites the question: ‘Do any of these bishops actually believe in the Church of England’s current teaching on marriage, teaching which, in their ordination vows, they committed not only to uphold, but to teach?’

    And now you attack the integrity of the bishops, accusing them of breaking their ordination vows. This is a low blow, and untrue. There is nothing in the ordination vows that says you have to argue for a particular view on issues arising from the experiences and lives of people who identify as LGBTI+. Trying to whip up this type of outrage against the bishops is low.

    Ironically, today is the anniversary of the archbishops of York and Canterbury issuing an order that women in the CofE no longer had to wear hats in church. No doubt you’d accuse them of breaking their ordination vows in allowing such an unbiblical, unnatural practice.

    Quote: “If they are signalling here that they are departing from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church…”

    But they aren’t. Really disappointed with this article.

    • I think the Oxford letter means what it says and I welcome and trust it – not least coming from a senior evangelical bishop who had previously not spoken in this way. I agree secrecy has not served us well on this issue. The letter has clearly flowed out of considerable consultation and is leading into more. That is good process. No one is excluded. The theological and pastoral issues that surround it will continue to be debated very fully elsewhere, as they should. So I am really not sure what this blog offers and, like Jonathan, find the tone more often tendentious than engaged.

  15. It would be helpful if those who emphasised the inclusiveness of the gospel commented more often on the meaning of these three verses from Acts, which are amongst the most inclusive in the New Testament: Acts 17:29-31.

  16. I think this shows a clear direction of travel at least for the Bishops in Oxford Diocese, sadly where does the cost of following Christ come in? I spent a Sabbatical at Holy Trinity Wall Street NY. My reflection from that experience was Although the Gospel is inclusive, Inclusiveness is not the Gospel. And that is my view of this AD Clerum, it’s making Inclusivenss as the key Gospel message, when it isn’t. It also buys into the Individual as the final arbiter of what is wrong or right, which is the logical conclusion of our highly individualistic culture. Maybe its a case of nor a Re-imagined Gospel but a Re-imagined Gnoticism.

    Vernon Ross
    Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness

    • Also they are redefining what Christian inclusivity is. Not by coincidence, they are remaking it in the image of the culture. So what is going on is obvious.

  17. Ian, I have read and re-read your blog, and I am still reading and reflecting. I have just re-read what you wrote about ‘inclusion’ , and especially what you wrote about the ‘Rainbow Eucharist’ in Reading. I have struggled to find words which describe why seeing the photo of the table draped in the Gay Pride flag jarred with me so much. At last I have found a few words which describe, to some extent, my aversion to it – it seems to me the presence of that flag on the table was not about *including*, but about *prioritising* Gay Pride.
    I have just re-read these words : ‘The body of Christ, broken for you.
    The blood of Christ, shed for you’ Amen.

    • Thank you Christine but I see it differently. Perhaps I can try and express how. There is nothing unusual in communion services having a particular focus. Some couples have a eucharist at their marriage. A requiem mass may be part of a funeral. Communion is often part of worship that is celebrating or commemorative particular people, organisations, events. Are they not also ‘prioritising’? For me the rainbow flag on the altar represents the full presence a community of Christians long marginalised and excluded – and often only at communion by keeping a core part of themselves secret. So I see it as celebrating, unashamed, a new visibility in Christ, before the world.
      And to that community, as to the rest of us, Jesus says, ‘this is my body, given for you’.
      I think we may still disagree but I want to try and express how I understand this.

      • There is nothing unusual in communion services having a particular focus

        Rarely do you get one explicitly to push a particular political cause, though. Which is what the Pride flag seems to be doing, doesn’t it? Pride is after all a (contentious) political cause.

        What would you think of an altar draped with a UKIP flag?

          • I don’t accept this was a ‘pushing a political event’.

            I didn’t write ‘event’, I wrote ’cause’. Pride is a political cause, isn’t it? It has pressure groups (eg Stonewall) and legislative and cultural changes it wants to lobby for (some of which, like same-sex marriage, it has achieved), which is pretty much the definition of a political cause.

            So wasn’t the communion in question pushing a particular political cause? Should communions be pushing particular political causes?

          • S ‘Event’ – my mis-type. But the service was an ‘event’ and you have called it political.
            I do not accept this service was ‘pushing particular political causes’. It was a Christian eucharist celebrating the life and faith of an emerging, long marginalised, part Christian community. I would have been proud to be there.
            S I have nothing further to say on this thanks …

          • I do not accept this service was ‘pushing particular political causes’. It was a Christian eucharist celebrating the life and faith of an emerging, long marginalised, part Christian community.

            It had a political symbol on the altar, though. How can that not be seen as celebrating a political cause?

          • “It was a Christian eucharist celebrating the life and faith of an emerging, long marginalised, part [of] Christian community.”

            As a comparison, the Gentiles were also an “emerging, long marginalised, part of Christian community.”

            Yet, as described in scripture. the Eucharist focuses on the collective experience of new life in Christ, which transcends earthly divisions and identities, as portrayed by the unifying emblems of His body and blood by which this was secured:
            ‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. ‘ (Eph. 2:14-16)

            “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:17)

            It’s a travesty of this Eucharistic unity to valorise and promote the life and faith of specific identities (however marginalised) . More so because those public collective identities have nothing to do with Christ, since they were primarily reified to forge a new gay political and legislative strategy when right to privacy (Due Process) litigation failed in the US Bowers vs. Hardwick: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowers_v._Hardwick.

          • David Shepherd ‘the Eucharist focuses on the collective experience of new life in Christ.
            Yup. That’s exactly what it did. And celebrated by a group of Christians who have more often been excluded by the majority church whose worship is still bound, as you put it, by ‘earthly divisions and identities’.

        • David R,

          ”And celebrated by a group of Christians who have more often been excluded by the majority church.

          You may have missed where I explained that about it is “a travesty of the Eucharist to valorise and promote the life and faith of specific identities (however marginalised) . More so because those public collective identities have nothing to do with Christ.

          Draping the Lord’s table with the Rainbow flag promotes “earthly divisions and identities” as much as it detracts from the unifying emblems of the Eucharist, which Christ Himself instituted.

          So indefensible was this partisanship at the Eucharist that the organisers of the Rainbow Eucharist at Wells Cathedral, who initially limited their invitation to “all members of the Cathedral community who wish to signal support”, thought better of it after they were criticised.

          • Well, thankfully, Erika Baker, who organised the Rainbow Eucharist at Wells Cathedral, did agree with me…and that’s why the invitation was revised.

            In fact, as I left the Cathedral, Erika told me that she was moved by the fact that, despite our fierce debates and differences regarding sexuality, we could transcend them (and tribal allegiances that they beget) to partake of the one bread and one cup.

            So, disagree all you want, but that’s the kind of practical impact of the Eucharistic unity for which Christ suffered death.

        • ‘S’
          Except this weekend. When flags will be draped all over churches. And people will be wearing political symbols. And ministers will be preaching about ‘sacrifice’. And churches will be politicised.
          (And before you get all het up, I didn’t say I disagreed with any of this.)

          • When flags will be draped all over churches. And people will be wearing political symbols. And ministers will be preaching about ‘sacrifice’. And churches will be politicised.

            The poppy is not a political symbol.

          • Penelope,

            The poppy is a sign of remembrance of all those who were willing to give up their lives so that people like you had the freedom to go to University. It is apparent from your missives that you hold their complete and utter sacrifice in total and absolute contempt.

            No, the poppy is not political whether you like it or not. Anyone else’s personal preferences make no viable claim on it being political. It is not political.

          • Clive
            The Royal British Legion poppy is a sign of remembrance only for the British men and women killed not only in the two world wars but also in later, more morally dubious conflicts. It does not remember those of other countries who fell, whether friend or foe. It is a political symbol. I have worn one nearly every year although I am getting a little tired of poppy fascism which traduced those who do not wear one, or choose to wear the white one of the Peace Pledge Union.
            These are the kind of freedoms for which my father and grandfathers fought, and I am extremely proud of them. I don’t know why my ‘missives’ lead you to infer that I hold their sacrifices in total and absolute contempt. But your extremely rude comment is sadly rather typical of the abuse I am subjected to on here, when I depart from the prevailing narrative.
            If you had an ounce of conscience, you would apologise for that slur.

          • Dear Penelope, I have far more than a mere ounce of conscience. It is you that have connected the words “poppy” with “fascism”, neither of which belong together, and display your misguided extremism instead.

          • Clive
            As I thought. Unrepentant for your slur on my love and loyalty to those who went to war for my freedom.
            For my freedom from poppy fascism, for example.
            My father wore a white poppy, because he fought for peace and freedom from oppression.

          • Dear Penelope

            you wrote:
            “It does not remember those of other countries who fell, whether friend or foe….”

            Which clearly implies that you mistakenly think the poppy came from the UK as a symbol – It didn’t, it came from the USA and Canada. So your claim about other countries isn’t even right. Your inadequate responses are sad really, very, very sad.

          • Clive
            Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with the aims and objectives of the Royal British Legion.
            Perhaps before you make daft comments about what is and is not ‘political’.
            Pax

      • Hi David, thank you for replying, and I am sorry for my late reply. I somehow managed to miss a few email notifications when I returned home from shopping!
        I have already replied to Penelope’s reply to my comment, so I will try to reply briefly here..
        The Gay Pride flag represents an organisation which does not represent all gay Christians any more than the NUT (for instance) represents all teachers! Nor does the Gay Pride organization represesent all heterosexual Christians who want faithful LGBT+ people to receive bread and wine at the Lord’s Table.
        So I stand by what I wrote earlier about that Gay Pride flag draped over the altar being *prioritizing*, not ‘*including*.

    • Christine
      My experience is very different. I don’t like flags on altars. But in a world where people are still being tortured and killed simply for being gay, I want to cry that Christ’s body I being broken, His blood shed for them too. That is what inclusive means to me. We are all the Body of Christ.

      • Hi Penelope,
        Yes, we are many, but we are all one body.
        As you know, the flag draped over the table at the Reading Eucharist was the Gay Pride flag, and the Gay Pride organisation does not represent all gay Christians any more than the NUT (for instance) represents all teachers! For the same reason, the Gay Pride flag does not represent all heterosexual Christians who want faithful LGBT+ people to recieve bread and wine at the Lord’s Table.
        So I stand by what I wrote about that Gay Pride flag draped over the altar table being *prioritizing*, not *including*.
        And of course torture and murder, for any reason, are wicked.

        • Christine
          That is true, which is one of the reasons I don’t like flags. And I do understand reservations about gay pride, although I do not share them because I think Stonewall should be remembered.
          I do, however, think that the privileged need no flags. It is the marginalised who need the specific invitation – the recognition that this Body is also broken for them. When white heterosexual privilege disappears, we will not need particular remembrances

  18. I write as a lay person who has no theological background. In the 20th century, senior clergy denounced newspapers, democracy, surgery, astronomy, jazz, ballroom dancing, ball gowns, miniskirts and rock music. In previous centuries they have denounced shops, printing presses, medicine and private bible study. There is no agreement between these church leaders who love their titles and status but who cannot agree on the most basic elements of the Christian faith. It seems that these pronouncements have less to do with doctrine and more to do with being seen as trendy and on this week’s bandwagon. I attach little importance to their utterances.

  19. 1. What is deeply significant in all this, is how those who have sought to contend with Ian Paul’s piece is basically twofold:
    1.1 There has been no reference at all to the scriptures cited by Ian Paul. At law, if something is not contested, it is is ,by default, admitted.
    1.2. There is (and throughout all the blog comments on the topic of sexuality, it is typical) a seeming deliberate avoidance of the question of holiness of God and Christian holiness, sanctification.
    2, For a counter to Vicky Beeching and Jayne Ozanne, there is a book by Jackie Hill Perry: “GAY GIRL, GOOD GOD -The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been”.
    3. The suggestion of apostasy, presuppose a life transforming conversion in the first place, rather than some metaphysical philosophical deism .
    4 I can recall teaching, years ago, from Rev Dr Bob Gordon on Collosians 2:8, (and in 2:20 NRSV) cited by Ian Paul that equated “elemental spirits” with the deceiving demonic and still belonging to the world in contrast with the life transforming gospel of being clothed in New Life in Christ, new self3:6). The judgment and wrath of God is coming on the disobedient (3:6)
    5 There seems to be no fear of engaging in false teaching, that is much and pointedly warned against in scripture. Warnings may raise raise an ironic eyebrow, and knowing winks in liberals circles, who expunge such passages, putting them down to scriptural “contradictions.” And, anyway, why engage scripture when it is picked apart by subservient to “research”?

    • Geoff
      Sorry, but I did contest Ian’s use of scripture. Rather pointedly.
      What has eschewing sexual immorality, greed, lust etc to do with faithful, stable marriage which hopes for the public acknowledgement of God’s blessing?

      • Penelope,

        That’s the fallacy of question-begging, i.e. you’ve resorted to a rhetorical question which asserts as a conclusion the self-same premise which is under scrutiny.

        • David S,
          And amounts to self-evident, sufficient, evidence, on the balance of probabilities, to prove the points being made.
          It is all a parody and inversion and replacement of sub -Christian MTD (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism) with twice-sub-Christian ITD (Immoral Therapeutic Deism).
          Again and again and again and again and again there is corroborative evidence of diversionary platitudes, feigning ignorance or espousing cleverness
          To misquote Kevin DeJong, there is a progressive(s) scuttling, putting a hole into Holiness.

        • Not rhetorical at all, David. I expected an answer on what the moral equivalence between paedophilia and same-sex marriage might be.

          • Well, your question probed the moral equivalence of faithful, stable marriage (is that of any kind, once consensual?) with sexual immorality, greed, lust.

            While lust, (epithumia) is mostly pejorative, in scripture, this negative connotation attaches to any earnest desire which is not consonant
            with the revealed will of God.

            As we’ve discussed before, Herodias’ marriage to Herod Antipas was faithful and stable. That fact did not magically become the basis for affirming their marriage as consonant with God’s will.

            And, even if you could prove that the purview of scripture does not encompass modern PSF same-sex relationships (which you haven’t), that would not make the case for the representative divine affirmation (through Christian marriage) of them as consonant with God’s will.

            In the latter, the onus of proof lies with those of the affirming camp.

          • David
            Epithymia is only sometimes translated as lust. It also means strong desire.
            I think we may have had this debate before, but it doesn’t matter (in biblical terms) how PFS Herodias’ relationship was, because
            a) it was incestuous
            b) it necessitated the divorce of Herod’s previous wife, who went back to Nabatea.
            It is possible to repent of sin, it is not possible to repent of being legally married, unless, like Herodias, you attained that status by infidelity.

          • Penelope,

            Herod Antipas and Herod Philip were half-brothers. So, if consanguinity made it wrong for the former to marry the latter’s wife, then Herodias’ arranged first marriage in her late teens to her half-uncle couldn’t have been on much safer moral ground.

            If, as you indicate, divorcing a faithful spouse renders any future, otherwise PSF relationship illicit, then that’s equally applicable to both Gene Robinson (previously married to Isabella ‘Boo’ Martin) and Jeremy Pemberton (previously married to Carrie).

            Presumably, they agree with you that, “It is possible to repent of sin, it is not possible to repent of being legally married.”

            In fact, John the Baptist’s denunciation was prompted by the fact that Antipas’ second marriage contravened the unrevoked revelation of God’s will (Lev. 18:16; Lev. 20:21)

            So, the analogy holds. The fact that Herodias’ marriage to Herod Antipas was PSF (even voluntarily following him into the exile to Gaul which Caligula imposed) did not magically infuse their marriage with a basis for affirming their marriage as consonant with God’s will.

            Invoking the PSF shibboleth does not magically confer same-sex couples with a Christian basis for affirming their relationships as consonant with God’s will.

          • David
            Well Gene Robinson hasn’t asked for his critics head on a plate, which suggests a moral difference.
            More seriously however, Herod put away his former wife in order to marry Herodias. That is quite different from marrying again after the breakdown of a former relationship. And I will not be drawn into comments about people who may read this blog.

          • Penelope,

            Well Gene Robinson hasn’t asked for his critics head on a plate, which suggests a moral difference.

            Hopefully, that was merely a throwaway comment, since the distinction of executing JTB relates to a consequence of Herod’s illicit marriage, rather than its nature.

            There is no scriptural basis for distinguishing the morality of a divorce on the basis of whether or not it was precipitated by intention to marry another as opposed to evidence of previous marital breakdown. Those categories are not mutually exclusive.

            Herod’s order for John the Baptist to be executed resulted from his careless public vow to Salome, but Antipas had already sought to curtail the prophet’s public speech by construing it as a criminal threat in order to silence moral opposition. LGBT activists resort to the same tactics against opponents today.

            Ultimately, PSF same-sex couples have more in common with Herod’s illicit relationship than they would care to admit.

            Such relationships do not escape divine disapproval on account of their ostensible mutuality, however much the CofE wants to see that virtue “maximised in society”.

          • Matthew 5.32?
            Presumably this is the scripture which caused the Church to offer a service of prayer to Charles and Camilla, rather than a remarriage in Church, cf. Harry and Meghan.
            And is the general rule for the remarriage of divorcees.

          • While, in Antiquities, Josephus shrewdly blamed on Herodias for the scandal of her divorce (while describing Herod’s decision as ‘bold’), JTB’s own charge focused on Antipas’ new marriage, which hypocritically contravened Lev. 18:16 and Lev. 20:21.

            In recent times, the Church’s stance concerning marriage has been predicated more on evolving scandalum jurisprudence than on actual scripture: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AssphAYLL1d4gaRqTvr6Qf2tNmEi9g

          • As I wrote before: ”if consanguinity made it wrong for the former to marry the latter’s wife, then Herodias’ arranged first marriage in her late teens to her half-uncle couldn’t have been on much safer moral ground.

          • No, they weren’t models of moral probity were they? Though I suppose her first marriage might have been arranged.
            How very unlike the home life of our own dear priests and bishops.

      • Hi Penelope,
        I have just looked for your comments on this post, and I cannot see any that address the scripture which Ian refers to. What is the date and time of the comment(s)? (No rush, I’m off to bed.)

        • Hi David
          Tenth comment down, 7th Nov, citing the David Baker quote and Ian’s use of the Colossians texts. Night night.

  20. This divergence of view over marriage and sexual ethics among Christians within the Church of England stems from the two different starting points whence they are travelling. The first (orthodox) group begins at the beginning, namely the Biblical account of marriage (with its essential explanation in Genesis 2) and notes how it applies and is endorsed throughout scripture along with exclusion of any other situation for sexual activity. They then apply this understanding to today’s real-life pastoral situations as they arise. Few would pretend that such application is currently a comfortable process – in today’s atmosphere it requires clear thinking and not a little personal confidence. You need to able to show that what may appear to be unnecessarily restrictive (punitive even) when your focus is limited to the narrow issue turns out to be liberating when you look at the whole picture (which is of course how God the Creator knows it to be).

    The other group looks at these individual real-life, pastoral situations and takes them as the starting point from which they try to formulate kind, just and realistic solutions. Being Christians they will obviously survey scripture for a steer on what may or may not be affirmed, but they don’t feel quite the same imperative to work from a fixed doctrine. In that sense they don’t accept that God’s intention in this area of human relationships is solely for heterosexual marriage. This group seems currently to be the better organised one from a political point of view; it has some very doughty warriors and the apparent, though somewhat furtive support of the church’s hierarchy.

    But a church which will not unite around its theology cannot stand. There may be hopes in bishops’ palaces that clever forms of words or ambiguous pastoral accommodations can effectively bypass the theology, but that kind of approach is the stuff of secular politics where taxpayers can be bribed with their own money to support a self serving establishment. Churches are voluntary organisations and those who support them do so on the basis of belief rather than personal gain. When the beliefs are rendered unimportant, so is the support: people can and will leave when they find out that nothing really matters any more.

    So we are engaged in this dodgy war where manipulation of appointments, staged events, ill-discipline, and issuing of aggressive documents dressed in passive clothing are acting as a ratchet, pulling us away from our doctrine without being honest enough to say so. And such debate as we do have gets sidetracked along every tangent under the sun. We go round and round in circles with not the slightest chance that anyone will be enlightened by the process. So long as this is the way things are going to be done, orthodox Christians who want their church’s doctrine to be retained and lived out rather than ignored will have no choice but to play a tough political game – that undoubtedly has to involve finance.

    But how much better it would be if we were to debate the issue honestly, openly and humbly, as a whole church, in terms of a stepwise progression through the relevant theology (starting at the beginning!) over however long a time it took. And there are no grounds for complaint in terms of the time it might take: the last 5 years at least have been a shocking waste of time and energy based entirely on the intention to avoid proper, honest process.

    • Don
      The ‘other group’ as you describe us, also starts with scripture. We are neither dupes of secular culture nor interested primarily in pastoral practice. We simply read the Genesis narratives and the meta narrative of scripture differently. This has been repeated many times on this blog.
      For example, we read Adam’s declaration that this is flesh of my flesh a recognition not of difference or of complementarity, but of sameness. I will go no further here. The arguments have been made at length elsewhere.
      I find it most odd that you call the Ad Clerum aggressive. It seems unexceptionable to me. The letter from the 11 evangelical bishops, on the other hand, was a small hand grenade thrown into the process.
      If you believe people will leave because the church is becoming more liberal, I fear you have little contact with ‘ordinary churchgoers’ perhaps beyond your own tribe.
      If threats of financial blackmail force the hierarchy to cling to ‘orthodoxy’, then God help them and God help His Church.

      • Very late to the comment party this time, but I wanted to say I thought you were right in principle about the bisexuality comments (far above), and add that one of the most significant barriers to meaningful debate is the semantic one: that traditionalists and revisionists use the same words but understand and define them differently. Case in point “Bisexual”.

        Similarly, I didn’t think the Ad Clerum was aggressive either, but I did find it rather pointed, and actively unhelpful. Then again, I’m not entirely au fait with CofE-speak, and the most aggressive form communication I encounter with the clergy is a weakly-made cup of tea, or god forbid, a herbal blend. I’d rather be punched in the face!

        On the final point, I understand the tension here but I think it isn’t liberal-ising that’s the issue driving people away, because the same can be said of churches that go the other way, and become increasingly dogmatic and/or ‘hardline’ on these sorts of questions.

        No, I think the theology that drives people away ca come from both extremes, and it’s theology shaped by a desire to make a political or cultural statement, rather than a desire to faithfully interpret and then do the will of God. That’s what I understand Don’s point to be, and I think he’s right.

        • Hi Mat
          I’m sorry but I don’t think anyone, Bishop or blogger, can take the term bisexual and infer that it means intrinsically orientated to infidelity.*
          It means being attracted to people whatever their sex/gender, so a bisexual person might be attracted to someone of the same sex or the other sex.
          Just that.
          *see Issues in Human Sexuality

      • Dear Penelope – I fully agree, you do study Scripture and argue respectfully and carefully from it. The question is whether your reading of Scripture is right or whether liberal culture or apriori convictions have indeed determined your reading of Scripture (and the same can be asked of us traditionalists) and of course we cant both be right. The ultimate question for me seems now crystal clear: what traditional christianity and conservative evangelicals deem to be transgression from God’s design and to which they call for holiness and self denial and carrying one’s cross, liberal revisionists call God’s good creation, seek to celebrate it, and seek God’s blessing on it. And that is a polarity with no possibility of moving closer. There is little unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Increasingly traditional evangelicals (who have most church members and who pay the most money yet are the least listened to) will be asked to affirm and bless what they believe to be at root against God’s will and Word, we are confronted with how we can actually continue in our ministries in this context. It is not a difference of opinion, nor a mere difference of tradition, it looks more and more like a difference of religion. For me, the recent move to the politicising of the altars in cathedrals or ministers makes this all too clear.

        • Simon – you are a bit too generous in what you say about Penelope’s approach to the Bible. She is quite clear there are parts she thinks are correct and parts she thinks are terribly wrong.
          She follows a straightforward liberal approach and s quite certain that parts of the NT’s sexual ethics are morally wrong. E.g., she thinks one night stands can be right in God’s eyes. That is NOT ‘arguing respectfully from scripture’, it is rejecting it. Penelope is not an evangelical, so she is not bound to respect the strictures of Scripture.
          David Runcorn’s position is slightly different. David still wants to call himself an ‘evangelical’ but claims to interpret it to allow homosexual relations. Frankly I think that is impossible exegesis – as reputable Catholic scholars also agree. David isn’t a NT scholar and he doesn’t have the courage of a Luke Timothy Johnson (for example), who says he agrees with same-sex relations but that the New Testament is just wrong on this – which is what Penelope also holds. David needs to stop calling himself an ‘evangelical’ and embrace his liberal identity – which isn’t based on the exegesis of inerrant Scripture but by giving priority to human reason and experience, including psychology. This is what David Gillett did as well, in rejecting evangelicalism.

          • Penelope does not (unlike Luke Timothy Johnson) say that the NT is wrong on this. She is a revisionist, but her revision is in our understanding of scripture, not in claiming that scripture is wrong (cf. the debate on slavery). Do your research before caricaturing other people’s opinions.

          • She is a revisionist, but her revision is in our understanding of scripture, not in claiming that scripture is wrong (cf. the debate on slavery).

            ‘Scripture isn’t wrong, it’s just that everybody has been reading it wrong until about twenty years ago, and now I know how to read it right’ seems to be a view which requires supreme confidence in one’s own, and one’s circle’s, abilities.

            Did you ever consider it might be you who’s reading it wrong?

          • Yes, ‘S’, like scripture was read wrongly for over 1800 years on slavery.
            Tradition is never univocal

          • Hi S. This is not specifically to you – just a general comment abour the reading of scripture. As we know, most people could not read the Scripturse at all until the advent of the printing press in 15th century (Gutenberg Bible) and a
            translations into English came later, and there is still translation work being done in some areas to enable people to read the Bible in their own language. So we can’t really argue that Christians read the scriptures wrongly for 2,000 year ( or for 1800 years) , can we? Before the publication of the Gutenburg Bible, I believe that only Catholic priests had access to the Bible ( the Vulgate) and ordinary believers knew about the Bible no more than their priests told them. As we know, when some people could read the Bible for themselves, they decided that they had some different ideas from the Catholic leaders – hence the Reformation.
            So isn’t it truer to say that the Cof E has not changed its views on Christian marriage since Henry V111 declared himself Head of the Church of England in 1534 , and decided that he had a Divine right to grant himself a divorce from Catherine of Aragon?

          • Brian – well, Penny and I disagree fundamentally on this issue of sexuality
            – at times I find her conclusions outrageous – but she is smart and has integrity and honesty and on some things compelling and is self aware and self declared as a Liberal and courageous and she seeks to argue from Scriptural grounds with exegetical tools. I respect her grit and conviction – even if I am shocked by her views at times and am not sure how long we can be in the same church.

          • So we can’t really argue that Christians read the scriptures wrongly for 2,000 year ( or for 1800 years) , can we?

            Why not? Plenty of Christians did read the scriptures and wrote about what they thought they meant: St Augustine, for example, Thomas Aquinas, John Chrysostom etc etc.

            It’s true that they were the minority of Christians, but it’s hardly reasonable to claim that the scriptures went unread until the invention of the printing press.

            As we know, when some people could read the Bible for themselves, they decided that they had some different ideas from the Catholic leaders – hence the Reformation.

            I don’t think any of the Reformation leaders — Luther, Zwingli, etc — were exactly uneducated peasants who only got access to the bible when it because widely available, were they? Luther was a monk, Zwingli a priest. The Reformation was a movement within the church form the kinds of people who had always read the Bible, not at all the result of people outside the church getting access to the Bible for the first time.

            So isn’t it truer to say that the Cof E has not changed its views on Christian marriage since Henry V111 declared himself Head of the Church of England in 1534 , and decided that he had a Divine right to grant himself a divorce from Catherine of Aragon?

            The reading that the scriptures outlawed same-sex behaviour, though, was wider than the Church of England and goes back not just to the sixteenth century but to before Christ.

            I don’t think you can find a single theologian arguing for the validity of same-sex relationships before the twentieth century. I may be wrong about that, but if I am it’s only to the level of one or two.

            It takes a heck of a lot of confidence in one’s judgement to say that they were all wrong and we, now, are the first to have got it right. It smacks indeed of chronological snobbery.

          • Hi S,
            thank you for your reply.

            Yes, the Reformation leaders were educated, but you can’t have leaders without followers, and as I mentioned in my earlier post, most ordinary Christians could not read the Bible at all before the advent of the printing press and translations into other languages. And the church then (as now) was mainly a body of ordinary people, and ‘sheep’ outnumbered ‘shepherds’.

            I didn’t mention same-sex marrige in my earlier comment…

          • THank you Simon!
            And don’t go. I’m not going anywhere. Let’s continue to find each other outrageous, but with integrity.

          • Yes ‘S’,
            And the vast majority of those theologians and Bishops who read scripture supported slavery as a God-given ordinance. Those who argued against it, also from scripture, were called revisionists.

          • Penelope slavery and homosexuality are not comparable because no one thought scripture said slavery was good and everyone thought it was only permissible in certain circumstances. Christian nations tended to limit it and even abolish it, as England did in 1102 by the Christian Normans. The comparison between the two issues breaks down at all but the most superficial level. It does not prove Christians couldn’t understand the Bible for centuries as you suggest.

          • Sorry, Will, special pleading. All the English bishops voted against the abolition of slavery.
            Lots of bishops and theologians thought slavery was divinely ordained and were quite comfortable about owning slave plantations.
            You’re such a revisionist!

          • Penelope the interpretation of scripture on matters permitted in previous times but forbidden when that becomes possible such as slavery and polygamy is as you know not a straightforward matter. To suggest it provides a method for authorising what has always been forbidden is exceptionally poor hermeneutics and theology. The English bishops were wrong then as on many things, but that does not mean the comparison with homosexuality is valid – many Christians in earlier times had a better grasp of God’s will on this as expressed in scripture than those bishops. Your analogy is false in so many ways; it is certainly not special pleading to point out all the ways the cases differ.

          • Sorry, Will, but that’s just special pleading. And chronological snobbery. And poor hermeneutics.

          • Those who argued against it, also from scripture, were called revisionists.

            Augustine was called a revisionist?!?!

            Huge if true

          • Penelope the only poor hermeneutics here is your failure to see the relevant differences between something from which God saves the Israelites in Egypt and which the NT is extremely ambivalent about and something which is univocally condemned and banned as contrary to divine and natural law throughout both testaments.

          • Will
            The exodus (which has been used by black slaves in the US as a metaphor for freedom) was God’s act to save a chosen people. Thousands were slaughtered in that act of ‘freeing’. It is not an unproblematic narrative.
            Elsewhere in the HB, the slavery of other peoples is mandated and Graeco-Roman slavery is taken as the norm in the NT. Few voices in the tradition were ever raised against the institution and Christians continued to own slaves, cf. the bishop of Exeter.
            Slaves were never regarded as men and women with any agency, or only very rarely. We therefore have no idea if Christian masters treated them with any compassion, or whether they continued to be used for sexual favours as they were, often, in pagan households

          • Hi Penelope, Just as a matter of interest, what is your understanding of the ‘…neither slave nor free…’ part of Galations 3:28 ? ( As for me, I am still reflecting on that entire verse, and have reached no hard-and-fast conclusions about it)

          • Hello Christine
            I hope this appears in the right place, these threads are getting rather long. And apologies for the delay in replying, I have been away on a course. I think in Galatians 3.28, which is one of my favourite verses, Paul was arguing that ontologically and eschatologically there was now no difference between jew and greek, slave and free, no longer male and female, for we are all one in Christ. Being in Christ dissolves the divisions and we are all saved. So, a slave is redeemed as much as their master.
            But, in the exigencies of daily life conventions must be observed, says Paul, so he teaches that women must have authority on their heads to prophesy and that slaves must obey their masters and not seek to be free.
            That’s my take, anyway.

          • Hello Penelope,
            Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, being in Christ is infinitely greater and deeper than our temporal conditions.
            I have been reflecting on Galatians 3:28 for many years and there is something that intrigues me : whereas both being born into a particular race and also being born male or female are determined by our genetic heritage, being born slave* or free is not. Being a slave or being free is culturally determined, and can be reversed , whereas being born into a particular race and being born male or female cannot be reversed*.
            Since May this year I have been painfully aware of my own Celtic genetic heritage because my younger sister tested positive for genetic haemochromatosis, and in July this year I also tested positive for it. It is estimated that 1 in 200 people have this condition and 1 in 10 are carriers, and as many of these people have a Celtic heritage, some people call this disorder ‘the Celtic curse’! (I wrote about this on another thread here on 10th November, in response to Andrew Godsall and Brian. As you mentioned elsewhere, there are many comments here, and it is difficult to keep track of everything, so you might easily have missed my 10th November comment. I refer to it now because I think you might be interested.)
            I would be interested in your thoughts on Paul’s pairings of Jew/Greek and male/female being different (in the way I described) from his pairing of slave/free.
            * slave – I am painfully aware of the cultural implications of slavery for black people, and the terrible racial discrimation they endured (and still endure) . I am also painfully aware of the terrible treatment of Jewish people by the Nazi regime
            ** I am aware of the attempts of some people to reverse male/female by artificial and legal means, but there can be no true reversal

          • Dear Christine

            Thank you. That’s a really interesting comment on the pairing. I have always reflected more on the neither jew nor greek, neither slave nor free, no longer male and female asymmetry of the pairings and wondering if the last means that Genesis is to be undone and that we will be androgynous in the resurrection life. Other texts seem to teach that being gendered is an intrinsic part of the creation life, but will this cease at the eschaton, or simply cease in that we shall be like the angels?
            Jew and Greek seem to be distinct boundaries. As are the Scythian and barbarian (I think) in Colossians. Can we cross them? Or is Paul saying that ethnic differences have ceased to matter?

            I am not so confident that gender is always so distinct and binary. There is intersex, for example, and evidence of non-binary people or binary transgression throughout history. perhaps Paul and his contemporaries believed that the division between slave and free was ontic, that people were born to be slave or master (God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate), so that this also was determined by nature. Sort of thinking aloud here.

          • Hi Penelope,
            I am stll thinking about your comment – I do tend to ponder on many things for a long, long time! Just for now, a thought about intersex people. Many years ago a colleague gave birth to an intersex child. At that time, neither of us had heard of the term ‘intersex’ – my colleague just told me that the doctors could not decide whether the baby was a boy or a girl, but that they thought the best option was for them to offer the baby reconstructive surgery that would make the baby a boy, as far as was possible. My colleague did not know what to do for the best at first, but she finally agreed to the surgery – I think it would have been a painful decision for her one way or the other. She was a devoted mother to her little one. I thought that the baby must have had a rare genetic disorder. I don’t think now that this suggests a gender spectrum. I do think it means that there is far more to a person than being male or female.

          • Good morning Christine

            I do know a little about intersex, because it is a subject on which my supervisor Susannah Cornwall has written, theologically and wisely. Intersex is more common than many people think (about the same percentage as those with red hair), and there are many forms.

            Surgery on infants used to be common, in order to ‘make’ them either boys or girls, though constructing girls was more usual because it is easier. This has been criticised by some intersex people (and medical professionals), first because it denies them any agency over their own bodies, and secondly, because they sometimes grow up knowing that they are a different gender from the one assigned. I should add that there is usually no medical need for such surgery.

            I think it shows that gender is much more complex and nuanced than humankind once thought (or, maybe, has recently thought; some cultures seem more attuned to nuanced genders). Some Christians believe intersex is a result of the Fall, which I find abhorrent.

          • Christine

            And thank you for your story about your genetic disorder. I had read your comments on it. Is this the one which means you can’t eat shellfish?

          • Hi Penelope,
            Yes, it does mean that I must not eat shellfish! That’s not a problem for me, because shellfish don’t agree with me anyway, so I haven’t bothered with them for years. I have also been told to cut down significantly on orange juice, which I will find difficult, because I used to have a glass of orange juice with every meal. Also heavy drinking and genetic haemochromatosis can be a lethal combination, but that’s also not a problem for me because, apart from a sip of wine in communion and when I join in toasts on special occasions, I don’t take alcholic drinks. I actually like the taste of many alcholic drinks, but they certainly don’t like me! So my natural intolerance of shellfish and alchohol has been a blessing to me. I will stop there on the subject of my recently-diagnosed condition. I have to collect my thoughts on so much information that I could talk the hind leg off a donkey about it all if I’m not careful 🙂 I will think about your previous comment and respond later.

          • Christine
            Thank you for this. I much prefer shellfish and wine to orange juice, but it does not sound an easy conditions to manage. Interesting that the ancient Israelites might have avoided shellfish on health grounds, I though that ancient taboos were more to do with not mixing ‘kinds’ (like fabrics) or not separating the sacred and the profane.
            Some scholars argue that this sort of thinking is behind the same-sex prohibitions in Leviticus.

          • Some Christians believe intersex is a result of the Fall, which I find abhorrent.

            Why? Aren’t all genetic / congenital disorders results of the Fall? In an unfallen world, surely there would be no spina bifida, no cyctic fibrosis, no cleft palates, and no sexual developmental discorders such as androgen insensitivity syndrome?

          • ‘S’ intersex is not a ‘disorder’, it is a natural part of a good creation. Atypical, but normal.
            I think quite a few theologians and people with the conditions you mention would find your inference that they are due to the Fall rather abhorrent, and uk theological.

            Besides your belief that these are the result of the Fall in such a mechanistic way is, if I may say so, a little simplistic. Disease and suffering and ‘abnormalities’ existed in creation long before the first humans made their appearance.

          • ‘S’ intersex is not a ‘disorder’, it is a natural part of a good creation. Atypical, but normal.

            No, it’s a disorder, caused when normal development is prevented by something like androgen insensitivity syndrome.

            I think quite a few theologians and people with the conditions you mention would find your inference that they are due to the Fall rather abhorrent, and uk theological.

            Maybe, but there are plenty more who agree with me, so I don’t think this will be solved by throwing numbers at the issue.

            Besides your belief that these are the result of the Fall in such a mechanistic way is, if I may say so, a little simplistic. Disease and suffering and ‘abnormalities’ existed in creation long before the first humans made their appearance.

            You do realise there wasn’t an actual garden of Eden and a historical moment of Fall, right? The consequences of the Fall transcend historical time and corrupt the whole universe, and the whole human race, past, present and future, and will never be undone until time ends and the universe is remade.

          • S
            Medically, intersex is a ‘disorder’, theologically and anthropologically it is quite a normal variation of chromosomal and/or hormonal development. Science can be ideological too, which is why so many babies were operated on unnecessarily to force them into the dominant narrative of there only being two ‘opposite’ sexes.
            If the Fall is caused by humankind’s sin why does disease and suffering predate the evolution of humanity. Did God know what was going to happen and so allow animals to suffer through no fault of their own? No, disease and suffering are a necessary part of evolution. Hence theodicy.

          • Medically, intersex is a ‘disorder’, theologically and anthropologically it is quite a normal variation of chromosomal and/or hormonal development.

            No, it’s not. It occurs when normal development is thwarted: that makes it a disoder (ie, no properly ordered) from any point of view, medically, theologically, anthropologically, whatever.

            It is an objective truth that it is an objective disorder. Development was meant to happen one way; it was stopped and sent down another way.

            It’s no more ‘quite a normal variation’ than cancer.

            Science can be ideological too, which is why so many babies were operated on unnecessarily to force them into the dominant narrative of there only being two ‘opposite’ sexes.

            Um no, they were operated on to fix the disorder. There being two sexes is not a ‘dominant narrative’, it’s an objective teleological fact.

            If the Fall is caused by humankind’s sin why does disease and suffering predate the evolution of humanity.

            Already answered:

            ‘The consequences of the Fall transcend historical time and corrupt the whole universe, and the whole human race, past, present and future, and will never be undone until time ends and the universe is remade.’

            Just as the resurrection transcends time and stretches back and forward through history, so does the Fall.

          • ‘S’
            Your ignorance about anthropology and medicine is rather breathtaking.
            There being two sexes is not an objective, teleological ‘fact’, since intersex people exist. There is (mostly) no medical reason to intervene surgically to ‘make’ intersex infants into boys or girls. It denies the individuals agency, often causes medical ‘disabilities’, and sometimes results in individuals growing up knowing that they are in the wrong gender.
            Some disabilities, like deafness, an be ameliorated by human intervention. Cancer can be treated or cured, otherwise it will, probably, kill its host.
            Intersex does not usually require medical interventions. There is no need to ‘cure’, and amelioration would probably be better served by a change in others’ attitudes towards intersex people. Better theology (of which there is some) would help.

          • There being two sexes is not an objective, teleological ‘fact’, since intersex people exist.

            You might as well say that humans are not meant to live as some people are born with conditions which mean they soon die. The mere fact that something exists in our corrupted, fallen world does not mean that it is the way things are meant to be. And in this case the way things are meant to be is clear and so are the obstacles which, due to the disordered nature of the world, get in the way of that.

            We can see that in the way that Jesus healed those who had disorders such as blindness, deafness or were lame or crippled, restoring them to what they should have been had they not bee infected by the pervasive corruption of the world.

            Perhaps Jesus also healed some intersex people; we know he did more miracles than are recorded. Perhaps those weren’t recorded because the people at the time lacked the medical knowledge to understand what was happening, though Jesus of course knew.

            Some disabilities, like deafness, an be ameliorated by human intervention.

            There are people who claim that deafness is not a disorder, just a normal part of human variation; I’m glad you realise that is wrong, at least.

          • ‘S’

            How do you know how people are meant to be? Life-limiting conditions are just that. They can cause morbidity and death. Intersex does not do that. It is a normal variation.

            Jesus would not have needed to ‘cure’ intersex people. since they don’t need ‘curing’. Though he was quite keen on eunuchs.

            And you might like to read the blind theologian John Hull’s work on Jesus’ healing miracles to discover that they are not entirely unproblematic.

          • How do you know how people are meant to be? Life-limiting conditions are just that. They can cause morbidity and death. Intersex does not do that. It is a normal variation.

            It certainly causes morbidity, which is the state of being diseased, ie, not being properly ordered.

            It generally (I don’t know if there are rare cases where it doesn’t but it generally) causes infertility, for example, which is certainly a mordibity.

            And you might like to read the blind theologian John Hull’s work on Jesus’ healing miracles to discover that they are not entirely unproblematic.

            I’ll have to look further but that at first glance sounds very dodgy — imagine having the self-confidence to set oneself in judgement on whether the actions of the Son of God were ‘problematic’!

      • I don’t start with scripture at all. I start with reality, to which scripture (like many other things) aims to bear witness, and does so particularly succesfully.

    • Don Thank you for your thoughtful post. For me the fault line in approaching scripture in this debate does not divide as you suggest. Let me explain. When 11 conservative bishops recently signed a letter urging no change to the Christian teaching on marriage they insisted, as you would expect, that Christian teaching must be based upon the Bible. Here is what they wrote.
      ‘The church must always be reformed according to the Word of God, and God has “more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”. But neither can we simply abandon what we have received in order to appear relevant and avoid feeling uncomfortable. As God’s people carefully re-read Scripture together, allowing it to teach us, we may be challenged where we are wrong and be led into deep learning, serious intellectual persuasion, and heart-felt repentance for past errors. Our longing is to be built up into the fullness of Jesus Christ our Lord whose way of living in love and faith we seek to follow.’ http://www.ceec.info/uploads/4/4/2/7/44274161/letter_to_llf_-_october_2018_new.pdf
      Notice that these senior evangelical leaders, who you would call ‘orthodox’, are teaching that scripture is not to be approached as a fixed revelation in the past. We still have more to learn from it. It is alive and dynamic and always has more to teach us. We must be open to re-read and be challenged and to face where our understanding has been incomplete or even in error. The result may be uncomfortable and disturbing, but we must be obedient.
      That is precisely my approach to scripture and it has led me to an including view of same sex relationships. I accept that others come to a different view. But when I and others offer this approach on threads like these we are called ‘liberals’ and ‘revisionists’. In fact, on the authority and understanding of scripture, we find ourselves self standing side by side with these unimpeachably orthodox, evangelical bishops.

      • How can you already have arrived at a new position before the said light has actually broken forth?

        If it may break forth, then it also may not do so.

        After all, it has been 2000 years. When then should the light be expected? How can we date its future emergence? Or be sure that it will happen? Or – if it happens, for which we have no evidence – are the chances that it will happen in our preferred direction (out of all the possible directions) not vanishingly small?

        Is this light going to break forth on all other doctrines as well? When? Will it involve them all changing? How do you know that in advance?

        It’s another unexamined cliche.

          • it broke forth over slavery about 200 years ago

            No, it didn’t: the church was never of the consensus that slavery was moral, and from its earliest days Christians worked to free slaves whenever possible.

          • The NT is very ambivalent about slavery, and as ever it depends how the word is defined. SSrelations are univocally strongly condemned in both testaments. The 2 cases are very different, surely you agree.

          • ‘S’
            Nonsense. As I have pointed out elsewhere. Otherwise, why did the English bishops vote against the abolition of slavery?

          • The bishops voted against abolition because they had vested interests in slaveholding and because they believed it was consonant with biblical teaching. However the point is that their view was not the only view then or in previous centuries. Christians had often suppressed or sometimes abolished slavery in former times and were at the forefront of C19 abolition. Many recognised that scripture more tolerated slavery, like polygamy, than truly endorsed it. You are still failing to acknowledge the significant differences hermeneutically, theologically and historically between the two issues, which for a scholar of the Bible is pretty poor show and smacks of bias.

          • Will
            I have also replied below to your comment about my ‘shop worn’ arguments.
            But just let me reiterate. Your position is ‘special pleading’ of the most obvious kind.
            Scripture did not simply ‘tolerate’ slavery as if it was an institution outside its remit, it mandated slavery which is why most Christians believed that slaves were naturally inferior and submissive beings whose bodies and minds deserved no agency. This ideology is apparent in the New Testament, even thought the slavery experienced in that context is that of the Graeco-Roman empire. It is taken so for granted that Paul uses it as a metaphor or analogue for his relationship with Christ. A metaphor that is not unproblematic in contemporary societies.

          • No Penelope – until you are prepared to show you recognise the relevant differences between the Biblical authors’ handling of slavery and homosexuality (being used as a short hand for sexual relationships between people of the same sex) then your arguments on this are well below any standard that warrant serious consideration, and certainly those one would expect of a biblical scholar.

          • Will

            Like many scholars, I don’t recognise that there are significant differences. That is your construction.

          • Slavery is something that biblical authors take for granted and never commend. (The type they commend is a metaphorical type.)

            Homosexual practice is something that biblical authors condemn and never commend or even treat neutrally.

            In the case of slavery, the idea is to ban something never commended. In the idea of homosexual practice, the idea is to embrace something never not condemned. The movement is far greater in the latter case, and only the latter case involves a volte face or 180 degree turn.

          • SLAVERY: To move from not commending to banning is a 2-stage move: not commend – disfavour – ban. However,Revelation 18 suggests that slavery was hated by some early Christians (it was certainly hated by those who experienced it in Egypt and Babylon).

            HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICE: To move from strong and universal condemnation to embracing is a 4-stage move and an about-turn. Strong/universal condemnation – weaker condemnation – ambivalence – acceptance – embracing.

      • No, David – you *are a liberal and a revisionist in the strict neutral sense of these words.
        Embrace your identity and stop pretending to be what you are not.
        You are no longer an evangelical any more than I am the Roman Catholic that I was at 12 or 13. You have moved on. Accept that you have placed your reason and your experience as the determining factors of what is acceptable to God.
        Penelope Coe Dowell openly says she accepts one-night stands as potentially moral and therefore holy and right.
        You think lesbian acts and sodomy are potentially holy and pleasing to God as well – despite the TOTAL absence of support for this idea in the Bible. That makes you a liberal Protestant, not an evangelical.
        Embrace your identity without shame.

  21. We have seen in The Episcopal Church in the USA exactly where this leads. There is a tipping point where Evangelicals leave. They go on to prosper despite losing the buildings they paid for over generations and suffering humiliation in the courts. The remaining revisionist church goes on to haemorrhage members, oversee a catastrophic decline in baptisms, weddings and ordinations, preside over church building closures in which some are sold as mosques, and trigger the collapse of unity in the worldwide Anglican Communion making inevitable the formation of a group representing the majority (but mostly African, therefore poor, therefore unimportant) of Anglicans worldwide.

    And the response in England is, “that went well, let’s do that here, shall we?”

  22. Penelope writes:
    “If you remember I argued that one-night stands could be morally neutral or good under certain circumstances. ”
    And that is why I cannot accept her as a serious conversation partner in CHRISTIAN ethics.
    Penelope, your position on this is NOT Christian. It is NOT pleasing to Christ. Think again (= metanoia).

    • Brian
      I did not ask you to be conversation partner. And I would not welcome it either if you aren’t prepared to ask the context for me views.

      • And I would not welcome it either if you aren’t prepared to ask the context for me views.

        Is there any possible context which would make your views of one-night stands congruent with traditional Christian sexual morality?

          • you know one context

            What context? I know a context in which you claim that a one-night stand would be moral (the case of the horny soldier), but under traditional Christian sexual morality, that one-night stand would be considered totally immoral.

            So under what context can your views of one-night stands be made congruent with traditional Christian sexual morality?

      • By posting on this blog and claiming that your support for one-night stands is Christian and correct, you are: 1. engaging in a conversation with Christians; 2. repudiating the claims of most of us here who think that behaviour is actually very sinful, not holy; 3. encouraging people to sin.
        That is why you need to think again (metanoia) with the mind of Christ. Our Lord warns very solemnly of the wrong involved in leading others to sin.
        As a priest in the Church of England, I take this warning very seriously.

        • Brian
          I realise that I am conversing with Christians, although this isn’t always evident from their behaviour.
          I don’t think, however, that Ian blocks comments from people who are not Christians.
          You still haven’t enquired in what context I might have judged a one-night stand to be moral. I have not said casual sex is either Christian or correct. That is your inference.
          I know of many priests who would, broadly, agree with my views on sexual morality.

          • You still haven’t enquired in what context I might have judged a one-night stand to be moral.

            There is no need to enquire; you have already given it.

            What you haven’t given is any example of when you might consider a one-night stand to be immoral.

            I have not said casual sex is either Christian or correct.

            You have said that casual sex between a soldier and a girl he never intends to see again is perfectly moral so, yes, I think you have said casual sex is correct.

          • No, ‘S’
            Believing that a one-night stand is occasionally moral is not the same thing as saying that casual sex is ‘correct’. Whatever that means. What is ‘correct’ sexual intimacy?
            You say this is not in the Christian tradition. But now, I am longing to know, where in the Christian tradition do we find the rule that a dating couple may not hold hands?

  23. For those interested in a different take on the Oxford letter, there is a rathe marvellous letter in today’s Church Times written by Andrew Lightbown.

  24. How much does the febrile LGBTIQ+ student body at Oxford Uni. influence the Bishops, a group who were instrumental in closing down, preventing an address by Jenni Murry (Women’s Hour) , as reported in national newspapers yesterday?
    To borrow from book by Lukianoff & Haidt (LH): “The Coddling of the American Mind (how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure”, this is just one outworking of coddling of minds the UK.

    It’s all part of what LH term “concept creep” and subjective emotional reasoning, to expand the meaning of hate speech and a “call-out culture (where) almost anything that is interpreted by anyone as having a negative impact on vulnerable members of the community-regardless of intent can be call hate speech.”

    LH show in this drift towards (or rather, where there is confluence of the waters of philosophical and identity politics breaking into foaming white -water- rapids over the last decade through the agencies of what LH term the iGen , internet generation) what has been described by Lord Jonathan Sacks as both a moral and pathological dualism and a categorisation of people into “good”v “bad/evil.”

    Supporting this twin dualism is a framework of “bureaucracy safetyism” and a new culture of expansive and expanding vulnerability, which exponentially generates victimisation, in turn, leading to a moral dependence on groups and individuals who have been “slighted” who come to rely on external authorities (such as pressure groups, organisations even the state) to resolve their problems. Ultimately this leads to a withering away, “atrophy,”of other forms of conflict management.

    Buttressing and underpinning the dualisms and the framework is the yearning or “quest” for justice. Here the authors focus on “Social justice(SJ)” – a moral philosophy for a fair and just society.
    SJ comprises “intuitive” notions of justice which relies on a combination of “distributive justice” (a perception that people get what they deserve) and “procedural justice”- a perception that the rules and processes are fair and trustworthy.

    It is important to note that the authors are not Christians. It can be seen how the emphasis on SJ is based on intuition and perception x 2), not on objectivity. But the idea of fairness contains a greater or lesser degree of objectivity. Although fairness is spoken in terms of “equity”, it practically amounts to, seeks, is reduced to equality of outcomes, even though, if there is a different outcome between people groups or individuals there is no correlation to the outcome to prove that there is evidence of bias, systematic, individual, or otherwise.

    A helpful list of “Distorted automatic thoughts” on which the feelings /intuitions are based is set out in the appendix, much of which can be seen in modern discourse, as a simple form of discourse analysis and self-analysis of our own contributions. The list derives from CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. In Christian terms, it is the renewal of the mind through the washing of the word.
    So we return, yet again, to the place of scripture in the life of Christians, in the life of the church.

  25. To Ian Paul and others on this discussion thread.
    I was not going to respond but I feel a line has been crossed here.
    As an including evangelical who contributes on conservative discussion threads I am well familiar with being called names – revisionist, liberal secularist, cultural appeaser, false teacher, post evangelical, obsessed with sex, post Christian – to name but a few. I have been told my theology is worthless, incoherent and biblically illiterate. I have been warned I am under God’s fiercest judgement. Well I can live with that. But I am grateful to those who, while strongly disagreeing with me, make plain they do not support that kind of behaviour.
    But just lately it has become fashionable for conservatives to liken themselves to the Confessing Church in 1930’s Nazi Germany. And on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, Brian, also makes the same comparison here and in the midst of a series of denunciations of me and others actually dismisses my faith and theology as ‘no more Christian than ‘Gott mit uns’ on a German soldier’s belt’.
    Brian also wrote, ‘as Bonhoeffer said, you can’t stop a train by running down the corridor’.
    To which ‘S’ responded, ‘you can if you’re running towards the cab and you have a gun. Or, in Bonhoeffer’s case, a bomb in a briefcase.’

    I find this kind of violent, threatening language completely unacceptable anywhere – least of all on a Christian discussion thread. Frankly if conservative voices wish to be listened to with respect in the present debates (as I, for one, want them to be) this kind of behaviour will only achieve the opposite.

    • I find this kind of violent, threatening language completely unacceptable anywhere

      Oh, come on. That was clearly a joke about Bonhoeffer’s involvement in the von Stauffenberg plot, not any kind of incitement to violence.

    • David, stop being so thin-skinned. And for goodness. sake, read carefully what I said.

      I cannot speak for others and so will not accept a broadbrush criticism. At no point have I attacked your character – only your theology and misappropriation of the word ‘evangelical’.
      What *I* have said is that you are post-evangelical – just as I am post-Roman Catholic, i.e. it was part of my past and formation but I don’t accept its distinctives now. No shame in that. I did NOT dismiss your faith as “worthless” – I said it is not evangelical in the classical Anglican sense of that word, describing the message taught by Stott, Green, Packer, Handley Moule, Charles Simeon and countless others, alive and dead.
      Your approach to theology, as I have read and heard you over the years (including hearing you speak in Bristol) has always seemed more mystical-catholic (stressing the mysteries and uncertainties of the spiritual life and the problems in interpreting Scripture) and personalist n focus (the kind of subjectivism that is common in ‘spiritual’ writing) than traditional evangelical spirituality, which you have seemed (rightly or wrongly) a bit impatient with.
      As for Bonhoeffer and ‘Gott mit uns’, what I said was: “And as Bonhoeffer said, you can’t stop a train by running down the corridor. The nature of theological liberalism – as Karl Barth made so clear in 1914 and again in the Barmen Declaration – is to take its directions from secular culture. Today that means privileging the ‘insights’ of humanist psychology and the political ramifications of the 1960s Sexual Revolution. Yes, these can be gussied up with a scripture here and there – usually about love and personal fulfilment etc – but this no more Christian than ‘Gott mit uns’ on a German soldier’s belt.”
      The meaning of this should be clear: that liberal theology, in all its guises, claims to “correct” Scriptures by the contemporary deliverances of human reason – including psychology in our day. This is what I see you doing: not exegeting scripture but relativising it.
      That’s what I mean by “post-evangelical”. Don’t act hurt and out of injured pride (whatever would you have thought of plainspoken Luther and Calvin?!!) – use theological robustness if you think you are right and not leading souls astray (as you evidently think I am).

      • No, I’m sorry Brian, but I think you and ‘S’ have both crossed lines. Barth was talking about the secular culture of the Nazis. This is not an apt analogy.
        Liberal theology (which I don’t think even begins to describe David’s theology) is not an attempt to ‘correct’ scripture but an attempt to read biblical texts intelligently and attentively. This might include insights from science, psychology and philosophy as it has always done. Do you think Aquinas and Luther (and Paul) were uninfluenced by the cultures of their day? It might mean being prepared to change your mind, as Augustine did, and Luther.

        Perhaps, and this is from my viewpoint, you might like to reflect on the difference between writing of me: Penelope Cowell Doe openly says she accepts one-night stands as potentially moral (I didn’t) and Simon’s comment about me having integrity even though he finds some of my conclusions outrageous.
        There are ways of disagreeing robustly without suggesting that one’s conversation partner is immoral and leading people into sin.

        • Actually Barth condemned liberal German theology in 1914 when the German churches supported the Kaiser – long before the Barmen declaration. And you are also mistaken about the nature of liberal theology. It is not about “reading biblical texts intelligently and attentively” – what are evangelicals trying to do? – it is affirming the priority of reason over biblical statements considered immoral or untrue. That has been the case since the beginning of liberal theology in the 17th century with Spinoza. As for your support under some circumstances for one night stands, this is beyond me to understand. But I know how secularists justify such things.

          • I quote ‘again in the Barmen declaration’.

            Don’t tell me what my theology is. It is, is trying to read biblical texts intelligently, attentively and with regard to their cultural contexts. Good evangelical theology uses the same methods. Unfortunately, some evangelical theology seems to me to be captive to the spirit of the age and incapable of understanding culture, context, tradition, receptivity, privilege and bias.

            You still haven’t asked me for my example of one-night stands which might be considered moral. So it is going to be beyond your understanding, if you don’t ask for explanation and context. You know how secularists justify such things. Apparently. You don’t seem interested in how a Christian might.

      • Brian
        You seem to reserve to yourself the right to turn up on these discussion threads and tell us all what we really think and believe. Even when it is not true. It would change the tone so much if you were to begin ‘in my opinion’ – because that is what it is here. And this is a discussion thread not a court room.
        In this context it seems to me there are two ways to cease to be an evangelical.
        One is to deliberately choose to move and make your home in a different theological tradition. People do that. I have not. Nor is it because I ‘lack courage’ – don’t tell me you are not personal in your comments.
        The other is when others decide you are not ‘one of us’ any more. Ah that wearyingly familiar tactic whenever evangelicals fall out with each other. Brian, it may that I am not Liberal. You are Conservative. It is all about where you choose to bang the fence posts in.
        But you are not the gate keeper. And nor am I.
        Why not put your hammer down and join in the discussions?

        • CEEC have drawn the line for evangelicals in the Church of England, as do diocesan DEFs. Evangelical Alliance has also drawn a line. These are about as authoritative as you can get for evangelical identity in the UK. People can’t just define evangelical as they wish or it becomes meaningless.

          • Which is what I’ve been saying. I am post-Roman Catholic because although I was brought up and educated that way (and I have a very good understanding of Catholic theology and a fairly good grasp of Catholic spirituality), I don’t accept Marianism, prayers to saints, purgatory, papalism or transubstantiation. It isn’t up to me to define what Roman Catholicism means. And the Bible cannot be made to mean the opposite of what its authors meant.

          • “And the Bible cannot be made to mean the opposite of what its authors meant.”
            So why do you eat shell fish and wear mixed fibres Brian? Why do you allow science and evolution any place on the school curriculum? Why do even allow women to speak in your church? (Just three examples and we could find many more).
            Answer: because the context and intent of the biblical authors have a bearing on what those texts mean thousands of years later. Why haven’t you cut off your hand or torn out your eye?

            Surely the bible gives us fundamental truths rather than literal ones? The authors were communicating something more fundamental about creation than observations about chronology. The writers of Leviticus were giving a code appropriate for a particular culture at a time in history. I’m not persuaded that anyone who claims to be conservative isn’t as picky about scripture as the liberals they denounce.

            And Will I really don’t care about your lines that draw some in and some out. So what? Do you want to suggest that barbed wire is a good thing, in the way that Donald Trump does? Do you think the truth is so fragile that it needs protecting?

            I think it is terrifying that ‘S’ believes that it’s sinful for a courting couple to hold hands unless they intend to marry. If I wanted to advocate virtually arranged marriages in that way, I’d convert to another faith. Human thought and human action does not need policing by extreme conservatism. We didn’t fight world wars for that kind of pseudo freedom.

          • Hi Andrew and Brian – please excuse me for chipping in here. I just want to offer some thoughts about Andrew’s comment about shellfish and mixing fabrics. I think these guidelines still have some relevance today, and here’s why: just five days ago I had an appointment with a haematologist who advised me not to eat shellfish. he explained that eating shellfish can have an adverse effect on the way the body metabolizes iron. I was referred to the haematologist because in July this year I tested postive for genetic haemochromatosis. I had never heard of this disorder until my younger sister tested positive for it in May this year – it was also the first time she had heard of it. We cannot avoid taking in iron because it is in so many foods, but we can avoid taking in food which has an adverse effect on the way our bodies process iron. I was born with the faulty genes which resulted in this condition, and lived for 74 years without knowing it! It is estimated that one in 200 people have this condition and about one in ten are carriers, so it seems that eating shellfish is not good for a large minority of people because of a condition they may not even know they have! The faulty genes were identified in 1996, but the condition has been around for centuries. So I believe that this often-ridiculed guideline in Leviticus is actually a little pearl of wisdom.
            On the subject of mixing wool and linen, I asked a Jewish friend about this, and she said that wool and linen are incompatible because they tend to wear each other out, so if we mix them we are not being good stewards of these resources. As far as I know, this incompatibiity between wool and linen still applies.
            I think there are likely to be other similar little pearls hidden in the scriptures and I don’t discount parts of the scriptures simple because they don’t make sense to my finite mind 🙂

          • I think it is terrifying that ‘S’ believes that it’s sinful for a courting couple to hold hands unless they intend to marry.

            Um, surely by definition if a couple have got tot he stage of ‘courting’ then they intend to marry? That’s what distinguishes ‘courting’ from ‘getting to know each other’.

            If I wanted to advocate virtually arranged marriages in that way

            How on earth did arranged marriages come into this?!?! Who’s ‘arranging’ a marriage of, say, two people who meet at university, get to know each other, get engaged, marry?

          • Absolutely not S. Courting couples are simply going out with each other. They may or may not get married depending how the courtship goes.
            Please explain why it is immoral for a couple to hold hands unless they intend to marry.

          • Absolutely not S. Courting couples are simply going out with each other. They may or may not get married depending how the courtship goes.

            Ah, I think then we just have a simple case of using different terminology. I would say the ‘going out with each other’ stage is when the couple get to know each other to decide whether they want to actually court marriage.

            After all, how would you know that you wanted to court someone unless you got to know them pretty well first?

          • Well, let’s make the question simple so that we can’t be confused about terminology. Please explain why hand holding is immoral unless you intend to marry.

          • Please explain why it’s inappropriate then

            Because it’s a level of intimacy that is only appropriate within a marriage.

            You really would ask someone who told her husband that it was inappropriate for him to be holding hands with another woman to justify why its inappropriate?

            Or do you actually at some level understand that it is in fact only appropriate to do something like that with the (at most) one person who is your lifelong monogamous spouse?

          • That’s not the scenario S. I’m talking, as you know, about a couple, neither of whom are narthex, but are dating. As people do. Why is it inappropriate for them to hold hands unless they intend to marry.

          • Why is it inappropriate for them to hold hands unless they intend to marry.

            As I just explained: because its a level of intimacy that is only appropriate to share with the person you marry, if any.

          • Hi S,
            I wasn’t going to join in this conversation, but I finally decided to because I think it is getting a bit ridiculous – please bear with me !
            Holding hands is a level of intimacy that belongs exclusively to marriage?
            Not in my experience – for instance I often held the hands of my children and grandchildren when we were crossing the road, for instance. Also, in recent years, family members and friends have taken my hand to guide me when my vision was badly compromised by my cataracts. Friends, both male and female, have held my hand while they prayed for me.
            I realise that just sitting together and holding hands is another matter, and that it may be regarded by some as significant in terms of a particular relationship – but I would not make any generalised value-judgment about holding hands 🙂

          • Holding hands is only appropriate if you are married? Where do I find this appropriateness code? All over town I see couples of all ages holding hands, walking, talking. Especially lots of university students. Are you saying that they are all either married or intend to marry? Or the majority of the population are acting inappropriately?
            This is a serious question by the way. Never in my sixty years have I heard such a thing. Please tell me where I can read this code?

          • Holding hands is a level of intimacy that belongs exclusively to marriage?

            This is specifically about holding hands with romantic/intimate intent. Obviously there are lots of other ways in which hands can be held: by children and parents, siblings, friends, to say nothing of functional hand-holding such as when leading someone or being led.

            But this is specifically about romantic/intimate hand-holding, as of romantic couples.

          • Or the majority of the population are acting inappropriately?

            These days, the majority of the population act inappropriately almost constantly, I think that much is obvious to anyone with eyes.

          • I am having trouble making comments work but let me try to ask again.
            S where can I read this appropriateness code? I have known evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Jewish, and those of no faith and I have not heard before that it is inappropriate for a couple who are simply dating to hold hands unless they intend to marry. Has anyone else who has contributed to this thread heard such a thing? Where can I learn about this code S?

          • (And I absolutely agree that drug use, as highlighted in the report you link to, is frightening, but I’m talking about holding hands when dating, not taking drugs)

          • ‘S’
            Sorry, I thought I was engaging with someone who was serious about sexual ethics.
            Now I see it’s all a rather prolonged spoof.
            Not holding hands unless you intend to marry. Priceless!
            Or it would be if it didn’t result in couples who are too guilty and frigid to enjoy fruitful and ‘normal’ sexual relationships.

          • What priceless here is the notion that you can pillory debating opponents by dismissing qualifications, like ‘intimate’.

            Concerning the shop-worn ‘shellfish and mixed fibres’ argument, Jesus clearly distinguished externalisms, which do not defile the heart, from sinful behaviour which does: “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

            Instead, what truly defiles is pondering upon to perpetrate evil, which, according to Christ, includes OT sexual prohibitions: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

            When questioned about marriage and divorce, Christ certainly had the opportunity to provide a ‘But I say unto’ pronouncement. He could also have declared that ‘the context and intent of the biblical authors have a bearing on what those texts mean thousands of years later.

            Instead, He declared that ‘it was not so from the beginning’

            In Romans 1, it’s ingratitude towards God’s beneficence in ordering nature from the beginning which is expressed through mankind’s overall defection from Him for alternate ‘spirituality’.

            In response to mankind exchanging God for the lie of alternate spirituality (born of human speculation vs. revelation), human society evidences its own relinquishment by God to exchange sexuality as ordered by God from the beginning for alternate sexuality which contradicts divine order, and is, therefore, against nature.

            Christ’s insistence that His contemporaries should hark back to the Genesis archetype of marriage which preceded Moses and all Levitical pronouncements helpfully distinguishes scriptural revelation which has permanent validity from provisional ordinances (like the shellfish and mixed fibres prohibitions), which were appropriate for a particular culture at a time in history.

            To think otherwise is merely a flimsy pretext.

          • The sad thing, David, is that as a biblical scholar Penelope surely knows all these important distinctions in how the Bible handles various issues. So why does she still peddle these crude arguments like a second rate liberal apologist? Why isn’t she more honest about the important differences between issues?

          • Hi Will,

            Yeah, they’re mostly warmed-over ‘knock-down’ retorts from almost a decade ago.

            I’d doubt that a serious revisionist theologian, like Prof. Loveday Alexander, could use them and maintain credibility.

          • Which is why. David shepherd and Will you can’t trot out shop worn phrases like “And the Bible cannot be made to mean the opposite of what its authors meant.” Obviously it can. Context is crucial. Form of literature is crucial.
            Are you with S in declaring that holding hands romantically is inappropriate unless the couple intend to marry?

          • Will
            Not content with calling my marriage morally defective, I find you commenting about me as if I am not here and calling my arguments ‘shop worn’, simply because you disagree with me about the Bible’s approach to slavery. Mine is not a lone voice in this argument. Some time ago, on two (I think) of Ian’s blogs there were comments from people who know far more than I about the attitudes to slavery in the tradition. One commenter was Jonathan Tallon. I cannot remember the names of the others.

            No, you cannot make the Bible mean what you want it to mean. The word homosexual first appeared in an English bible in 1946, but you want to argue that the tradition has been condemning something called ‘homosexuality’ for nigh on 200o years. Which makes you the revisionist and the modernist I think. As well as being rather rude.

          • Penelope I have not called ‘your’ marriage morally defective. I described a general class of marriage – intentionally childless ones – as morally deficient. Hardly a radical view. When you consider that the traditional view is that all intentionally non-procreative sexual acts are sinful, the view that intentionally non-procreative marriages are morally deficient is pretty mild. Do you take exception to Roman Catholics arguing that ‘your’ contraceptive intercourse is sinful? Presumably not – you can hardly function if you take offence at every moral view someone expresses that implies you’re doing something wrong. So why take offence at my much milder view? Why not choose not to be offended at the moral arguments people make? Heck – we conservatives have to choose not to be offended at half the stuff that comes out of liberal camps.

            I explained above I am using ‘homosexuality’ as short hand for sexual relationships or activity between people of the same sex.

            I also repeat here what I wrote there, that your treatment of the two issues and the relevant differences in how the biblical authors handle them – for instance, that slavery is something about which biblical authors are very ambivalent, with a complexity to how it is handled (certainly not captured by the misleading term ‘mandated’) – is well below what should be expected of a biblical scholar with a claim to be taken seriously in this debate. It’s not merely that I disagree with it, it’s that it shows no understanding of the relevant differences between the way the issues are handled, so that it is not creditable except as crude polemic.

          • Will
            You described all marriages which are entered into without the intention to procreate morally deficient. That describes my marriage. You are thus calling my marriage morally defective. I do not know whether this is a radical view. I do know that it is one which no other Christian I know well shares. And certainly not the priest who conducted the service of prayers and dedication following our civil marriage. Of course, I take exception to the RC view on contraception (it is one of the many reasons I am no longer an RC, although most Catholics pay no attention to the Church’s teaching on this matter), but I do not think your reflection is ‘milder’. Far from it. I think it is insulting. Interestingly, I think many ‘liberals’ may deride your views on sexual ethics, but do they attack your marriage and your sexual choices? That happens to LGBT Christians all the time. So do not pretend that your privilege makes you a victim.

            You may be using ‘homosexuality’ as a short hand for sexual activity between people of the same sex, but that is not how the term is understood or commonly used. As you say, people cannot simply define a word as they wish or it becomes meaningless. And you start importing a modern understanding of sexuality into ancient texts. Something which you are always accusing ‘liberals’ of doing.

            As for slavery being mandated, perhaps you should re-read Leviticus (and the extensive and enlightening discussions on previous posts). Nor have you commented upon the problematic nature of slavery in the NT, nor on its use as a metaphor, except to call my arguments ‘crude polemic’. Throwing stones is so much easier than intelligent engagement it seems.

          • “When you consider that the traditional view is that all intentionally non-procreative sexual acts are sinful”

            Which is not a view the Church of England holds now, even if it ever really did.
            Do you believe it’s a view the Church of England should re-iterate Will? And on what basis would you so regulate a couples private intimate relationship?

            And I agree with Penelope that your judgement is personally offensive.

          • Penelope, are you actually saying that when the word ‘homosexual’ was coined it was *not* referring to an already-existing reality? The very reason it was coined was that its coiners thought that fitted the existing reality better than the previously available alternative phrases.

            Therefore, whether or not a word yet exists, the reality the word refers to most certainly has long preexisted the word.

          • Honestly is this a spoof? You can’t conduct serious ethical discussion with people constantly complaining about being insulted or offended by perfectly ordinary, defensible, respectable moral positions just because they personally affect them.

            I wasn’t claiming to be a victim – that’s your territory! I was just pointing out that much of liberal theology and ethics is offensive from an orthodox biblical perspective, but we don’t try to disrupt intellectual debate by trying to silence our interlocutors by pointing this out.

            I have set out some of the differences between the issues below in a response to David Runcorn, link here https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-does-the-oxford-ad-clerum-mean/comment-page-1/#comment-356488

          • “Honestly is this a spoof?”
            I think the only spoof I’ve seen here is the suggestion that you can’t hold hands romantically with someone unless you intend to marry them……
            Or do you think that’s a morally defensible position to take as well Will?

          • Will

            Calling my marriage morally deficient and my arguments crude polemic and shop worn is not conducting serious ethical discussion, nor is your rhetoric perfectly ordinary, defensible or respectable. It is the rude, bullying language of the playground.

            You may find liberal theology ‘offensive’ but no-one here is attacking your marriage, morals, identity, sexual proclivity or, even your capacity to reason and argue. You are doing all those things. Hence, our exchanges are hardly ‘intellectual debate’ but (on your part) spiteful essays intent on undermining positions which you presumably find threatening.

            I have responded to your response to David R. citing two comments on slavery from a previous blog. I will be interested to see if you regard them as shop worn or as crude polemic.

          • Calling my marriage morally deficient and my arguments crude polemic and shop worn is not conducting serious ethical discussion

            What is not conducting serious ethical discussion is taking general prnciples personally. Conducting serious ethical discussion requires laying aside one’s personal life and engaging with the ideas and arguments put forward on an intellectual level.

            If we were to take your position then it would be impossible ever to suggest, say, that abortion was immoral, in case someone in the discussion had been involved with an abortion and then complained that their choices were being attacked.

          • On the matter of an intentionally childless marriage. That presupposes that the purpose of marriage in creation is for procreation. When I look in Gen 2 I read it is for companionship.

            The word flesh is used in the OT to mean a familial relationship as in ‘flesh and blood’. I do not see why it has taken on a different meaning.

            Of course in the context of a people who were told to ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ put a high priority on procreation, but that did not alter the purpose of marriage. What is more it is argued that we have now filled the earth and we are not proper stewards of it if we fill it any more, so maybe that command was only for a certain time. If I were to take the meaning of that passage for our present age then I would be setting it in terms of multiply the number of believers by evangelism!

          • On the matter of an intentionally childless marriage. That presupposes that the purpose of marriage in creation is for procreation

            It’s not so much about marriage as that the purpose of sexual intercourse is procreation. To deliberately thwart that purpose in order to enjoy the sensual pleasure of sex while ducking the responsibility of parenthood is immoral because its putting one’s own pleasure ahead of the telos of sex. It is the mortal sin of gluttony, in other words: the enjoyment of sensual pleasure as its own end.

            (And no, that doesn’t require a blanket prohibition of contraceptives as the Catholics rule: contraception can morally be used to help plan or space out children. But to use them to rule out the possibility of children entirely… well, one has to wonder at the motives of that).

          • Hi Penelope and S,
            Excuse me chipping in here – you have mentioned the telos of the clitoris on another thread, Penelope, and I have reflected on your comments on this. I think that the telos of the clitoris is the same as the greater telos of our Godgiven capacity to procreate – and procreation is good. The clitoris is not an independent entity, but an intrinsic part of our capacity to procreate, part of the essentially generational nature of human beings. Our taste buds are also not separate enitities, but are intrinsic parts of our appetites for food and liquids which are essential for our temporal survival. Thankfully, our taste buds also enable us to differentiate between good tastes and bad tastes, and in this respect have some survival value for us – though it is sometimes also true that some things which taste good to us may actually be bad for us, and vice versa. If we treat our taste-buds as separate entities, we can easily dissociate them from their part in our fundamental need to eat and drink in order to survive, and eating and drinking can become more motivated by a desire to titillate our taste-buds.

          • you have mentioned the telos of the clitoris on another thread, Penelope,

            She’s obsessed! Paging Dr Freud…

            If we treat our taste-buds as separate entities, we can easily dissociate them from their part in our fundamental need to eat and drink in order to survive, and eating and drinking can become more motivated by a desire to titillate our taste-buds.

            Which would be the mortal sin of gluttony: seeking sensual pleasure as an end in itself, rather than allowing ourselves to experience it as a secondary effect of some proper goal sought in the proper way in the proper context (in the case of food, obtaining nourishment and sustenance).

          • Hi Christine

            Not at all. I’m grateful for your thoughtful responses.
            I might as well include ‘S’ in this response (though I would question whether it is I who is obsessed!)

            The reason I asked this question is that there doesn’t seen to be any purpose for the clitoris beyond sexual pleasure. Since many (most?) women do not orgasm during PIV intercourse and since PIV intercourse is the usual means of procreation, then the clitoris doesn’t have an intrinsic role in procreation which some believe to be the sole, chief, first, or primary good of marriage and of sexual intercourse.
            I do not think the analogy with taste buds quite works since these are inevitably involved in the process of eating (unless we lose the sense of taste).
            Hence, my question. My answer would be that given in the Common Worship Marriage Service which speaks of the delight and tenderness of sexual union. I do not think that union has to be orientated towards procreation in order to be good. If it does, why did God create the clitoris?

          • My answer would be that given in the Common Worship Marriage Service which speaks of the delight and tenderness of sexual union

            Forgive me, I’m still getting the hang of the Church of England… I’m gathering that Anglicans hold that the Bible is generally not to be trusted, but Common Worship is absolutely infallible?

          • ‘S’
            No on both counts
            Anglicans do believe the bible is to be trusted (though not on cosmology).

            We do not believe that Common Worship is infallible. However, we do believe that our doctrine is expressed through our liturgy. Thus, what the Marriage Service says about marriage is true.

          • We do not believe that Common Worship is infallible

            Good, ’cause I hadn’t come across it before but from what I’m reading here it does seem to contain a lot of rubbish.

          • You think the Church of England Marriage Service is rubbish?

            Just the Common Worship one, from what I read here. I gather there are others; they may not be rubbish.

            But Anglicans don’t think it’s infallibile, so that’s okay, it could be rubbish.

          • No ‘S’, as I explained, Anglican Liturgy proclaims our doctrine, so if the liturgy were rubbish, the doctrine would be also. Thus, we believe that what the Marriage Service says of marriage is true.

          • No ‘S’, as I explained, Anglican Liturgy proclaims our doctrine, so if the liturgy were rubbish, the doctrine would be also. Thus, we believe that what the Marriage Service says of marriage is true.

            So Anglicans do think that Common Worship is infallible? I mean that’s what being sure it is totally true and without any error means.

            (It sounds pretty full of error to me, so I would say that if that reflects your doctrine then yes your doctrine is rubbish and you need to rethink it and get back to true doctrine).

          • ‘S’
            Perhaps you could explain why you think the Common Worship Marriage Service is erroneous (it’s online at the CoE website).
            Then, I am happy to respond.
            Thanks.

            (I think this may have posted in the wrong thread before)

          • Perhaps you could explain why you think the Common Worship Marriage Service is erroneous (it’s online at the CoE website).

            I haven’t read the whole thing; I’m basing this on your precis:

            ‘My answer would be that given in the Common Worship Marriage Service which speaks of the delight and tenderness of sexual union. I do not think that union has to be orientated towards procreation in order to be good.’

            If that’s inaccurate and the Common Worship doesn’t imply that sex not oriented towards procreation can be good then I withdraw the accusation of rubbishitude.

            But if it does imply that then, as I wrote, rubbish.

          • ‘S’

            “The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
            in the delight and tenderness of sexual union
            and joyful commitment to the end of their lives.
            It is given as the foundation of family life
            in which children are [born and] nurtured
            and in which each member of the family,
            in good times and in bad,
            may find strength, companionship and comfort,
            and grow to maturity in love.
            Marriage is a way of life made holy by God,
            and blessed by the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ
            with those celebrating a wedding at Cana in Galilee.
            Marriage is a sign of unity and loyalty
            which all should uphold and honour.
            It enriches society and strengthens community.
            No one should enter into it lightly or selfishly
            but reverently and responsibly in the sight of almighty God.”

            There you are. The CW Marriage Service. Generativity and nurture are, rightly, emphasised; biological offspring not.

            You’re welcome.

          • There you are. The CW Marriage Service. Generativity and nurture are, rightly, emphasised; biological offspring not.

            Right, so as I wrote, rubbish.

            Good thing Anglicans aren’t required to believe this stuff is infallible.

          • ‘S’

            You are, of course, quite free to believe that the Common Worship Marriage Service is ‘rubbish’, (I think that might be a lone opinion here!)but, if you believe that the only or main purpose of sexual intimacy between a married couple is procreation, we are still left with the big teleological question: why did God create the clitoris?

          • You are, of course, quite free to believe that the Common Worship Marriage Service is ‘rubbish’,

            Well, I’m not making any comment on, say, the aesthetics. Just the doctrine.

          • ‘S’

            Which still leaves us with the question: why did God create the clitoris?

            You seem very keen on asking questions, but not so ready to answer them.

          • Which still leaves us with the question: why did God create the clitoris?

            Not being as sex-obsessed as you, it’s not something to which I have given a great deal of thought. However, I think the person who said it was for the same reason He created taste buds was probably on the right track.

          • ‘S’

            Christine proposed the taste buds analogy. I responded that it didn’t quite work because taste buds have a utilitarian function, they tell us if something tastes sweet, sour or ‘off’. The clitoris doesn’t seem to have a function. Its telos is pleasure. So why did God create it if sex is for procreation?

          • The purpose of the clitoris is presumably to help make sexual intercourse pleasurable, given what it does and where it is.

            (Hopefully this will appear in the right place this time. )

          • Except it doesn’t, at least not for the majority of women in PIV intercourse (unlike men). So, what is it for?

          • The clitoris doesn’t seem to have a function.

            Neither, for a long time, did the appendix, although I gather recent research may be narrowing in on it. Perhaps we just don’t know what its function is yet.

        • David, for all your protestations, you are a theological liberal, even though you cannot see it, because there is a third way to leave evangelicalism which you haven’t noticed, which is incrementally, in tiny steps over the years. I remember a lecture you gave many years ago describing a private retreat you took (in Switzerland, I think) which was an insight into your take on spirituality. It was very interesting and imbued (it seemed to me ) with a kind of Catholic sacramentalism about nature. I was reminded of people like so-called charismatic Morton Kelsey who owed more to Jung than the NT – which is one of the reasons I am not a great fan of today’s new champion of Jung, Jordan Peterson. So often it is my impression that modern Christian writers who focus on subjective “spirituality” of personal growth use psychology as the lens for reading the Bible and theology. That is what I mean by incrementally moving away from and becoming a critic of evangelicalism. David Gillett did the same, focusing as well on Catholic spirituality, more than the tenets of the Reformation. Not a few have taken the same path as you have – I think of Steve Chalke and Dave Tomlinson, both very much post-evangelical and now very severe critics of their past theology. Of course, they are all strongly pro-homosexual in their sexual ethics and increasingly radical in their Christology. See where Rob Bell has ended up, as has Brian McLaren. I don’t think that is where you are – but that is the trajectory of your hermeneutics.

          • Brian
            ‘you are a theological liberal, even though you cannot see it’. ‘Once I could see but now I’m blind’ – is that it? Well thank you for telling me. But yes, Jesus warns repeatedly about blindness and sight – speaking to these who claim to see.
            It is why, at the beginning of my appendix in the Pilling report, I wrote:
            ‘My confidence is not in the certainty of being right, but rather on the grace and mercy of God, before whom I have sought truth as best I can.’ That is still my position. I assume it is yours?

            But gosh you take me back! I am honoured by your memory of me. In 1987, at a deeply broken time in my life, I indeed spent 2 months in solitude in an Alpine cabin. I wrote about it in ‘Space for God – silence and solitude in the Christian life’ (DLT). I owe my life to that time. You will find my discussion of creation and the presence of God described there in throughly biblical terms (but then the historic evangelical tradition has always had a mystical/sacramental/creation strand within it – read some of the communion hymns of John Newton. By contrast much present day evangelicalism tends to be largely non-sacramental offering. Each generation has its insights and blind spots). But 15 years on from that cabin, I was willingly signing an evangelical doctrinal basis of faith every year at Trinity College Bristol – as tutors were required to. The trajectory was gloriously back to faith not away from it, Brian. You really do not know me.
            What I struggle with in your overall analysis here is that the trends of thought and development you trace are only and wholly negative. Absent is any possibility that evangelical faith might have any growing, awakening, learning, re-thinking to do. But this is precisely what the 11 evangelical bishops affirmed in their recent letter when they wrote:
            ‘The church must always be reformed according to the Word of God, and God has “more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word”. As God’s people carefully re-read Scripture together, allowing it to teach us, we may be challenged where we are wrong and be led into deep learning, serious intellectual persuasion, and heart-felt repentance for past errors. Our longing is to be built up into the fullness of Jesus Christ our Lord whose way of living in love and faith we seek to follow.’
            And in fact evangelicals have been doing precisely this over the last 80 years on issues like creation and evolution, contraception, divorce and remarriage, men and women in society and church – to name just a few. All of them were set up as tests of ‘orthodoxy’ in their day (and some still are). I see the present debate on same-sex relationships as the most recent in a well established, positive trajectory of faith under the compelling of the Spirit.

          • David,
            Brian only says what is apparent to me and many others. You have clearly left the fold. In every article and lecture of yours which I have heard/read (maybe half a dozen), you glory in blowing smoke on the scriptures and revel in obfuscating what God has made clear. Now such methods of exegesis have an undeniably ancient pedigree – ‘Did God really say?’ – but clearly most evangelical bodies (CEEC, DEF, EA, etc.) do not accept it as a genuinely evangelical one.

          • David – ‘each generation has its blind spots’ – perhaps, but what you think is an evangelical blind spot over sexuality is not ‘generational’ nor ‘evangelical’ per se but the universal view of the church for almost 2 millennial. You surely recognise that radical liberals led the charge to challenge what has been the Church’s doctrine and practice for 2 millennia and the Judeo inheritance for at least 1300years prior to that? The position of traditional evangelicals today is hardly a generational blind spot

          • Simon I would be very frustrated if you really did not know how including theologians respond to the argument from history continuity.

          • David – what you expect us to believe is that for not only one generation, but for every generation of the church since the very inspiring of Scripture God’s people have had a blind spot over sexuality. And that now, in this past generation, and never previously, you now have special illumination and see that we all these millennia have been wrong, grieving the Spirit, misunderstanding Scripture and oppressing the SSA. mmmmmmmm Hardly a high view of Scripture, or inspiration, or the Church and the work of the Spirit. And funny that this inclusive view on sexuality should be identical to the thrust of ethics in late modernity’s society which has largely exorcised God from the arena. You protest when folk here suggest revisionist ethics come not from fresh revelation on Scripture by the Spirit of God but by the spirit of the age muddying Scripture and tradition – but if you are right, you have to come up with a doctrine of the Spirit that allows for him to be grieved by his people ever since Adam & Eve on matters of sexuality and only now finally has been liberated and listened to by Liberals in the Church.

          • Simon Well I know you don’t agree with folk like me, but I do expect a thoughtful biblical theologian like you to disagree on the basis of an informed understanding of the actual arguments being used. I try to do the same. But there is no sign of that here. I have never claimed ‘special illumination’. I am not a gnostic. And something much more nuanced is being explored than a simple ‘blind spot’. Do you really not know how the conservative view – ‘it has always been taught so it must always be right – is being challenged and on what grounds? So please don’t resort to generalised accusations about ‘going with secular culture’. You know those of us here share your high view of scripture and are seeking to be faithful to it. You offered Penelope that respectful affirmation on this thread. So please engage with what we actually arguing – as we seek to do with you all.

          • Come on David – why do you hit out at us traditionalists then complain when we defend ourselves and jab back? What is this strange method of debate? It was you who insulted traditionalists claiming we have generational blind spots then take offence when we question whether your novel ethic is indeed a culturally conditioned blind spot. You defined the parameters and hit out by saying each generation has a blind spot and implied the blind spot of conservatives is over what the Bible says on SS ethics, whilst claiming you revisionists now suddenly in this generation see something in Scripture that no christian or orthodox Jew saw for millennia in the sacred texts. I didn’t use the word gnostic, but I do think your revisionist sexual ethic is supra scriptural and must be based on ‘special reading’ or interpretation of the text and ‘now’ knowing what God’s thinks and now seeing what we have been blind to. Suddenly after all these years you now know what the Bible says and conclude it is the opposite of what all God’s people, everywhere, had understood for millennia until this generation. David can’t you see why we push back when you insult us for hold or have I been unfair to your position? You criticise us for holding the views the Great cloud of witnesses has always held.

          • Simon I am not hitting out at anyone. Nor are you hitting me. Nor do I feel jabbed because what you disagree with as arguments for including theology I disagree with too. The blind spots I refer to are common to all sides. I know you did not call me a gnostic – but you and others have assumed we includers are claiming some special illumination from God that other have evidently not received.

            But I have asked you question and you have yet to reply.
            Your most frequent argument against the including position is the argument from history and tradition – 2000 years unchanged teaching etc. I asked you if you knew what arguments including theologians like me would respond with when we explain why we do not find the argument from history compelling.
            I really would like to know how you understand my position at this point.
            Thanks in anticipation.

          • David
            hah, so rather than answer my straight question you respond with asking me a question – a debating tactic that evades the point. You ask us to believe the church got God’s revelation 180degrees wrong for millennia and mis-read the Scripture and mis-heard the Spirit. The breakdown in relations between traditional orthodox and contemporary inclusivists is not simply over technical exegetical matters but through the much larger doctrine of the capacity of the Spirit of God to have his way and the church to hear and follow. You surely see this David, your doctrine renders God almost impotent and the church ignorant for millennia.

            Yes, I have read enough to know the sort of answer you might give – and of course I’ve read your Appendix to Pilling and your article in ViaMedia and your contributions here – but I’m not here to explicate or rehearse your answers. I am happy to read them again here from you.

            But I would like to read how you manage this serious question of what you can only consider to be the Church’s failure to heed and the Spirit’s failure to lead the Church into all truth until the late C20th when the Liberals discovered the Bible didn’t say what God’s people had always taken it to say. Debates over subtle nuances of greek words or cultural analysis of Greco-Roman pederastic relationships miss the bigger and more serious theological question – how could the Church have been so wrong for so long? She often goes astray and so always needs Reforming – and I agree she can have blind spots (as with her medieval doctrine of Priesthood, women’s ministry, slavery, lost charisms etc) but surely something so fundamental as sex and sexuality you would think there would be some evidence in the church, some movements of Spirit’s renewal before the late C20th encouraging us to Inclusivism if indeed it is God’s way and found in his Word?

            David, not only do I believe that the inclusivists’ handling of the texts is wrong, I believe they make a more grave error in rendering the Spirit of God impotent or silent for 2 millennia and the Church wilfully ignorant of God’s desired ways.

          • Simon
            A little way back here you once again argued from history (your favourite argument and always a bit of a surprising one. Arguing from Tradition is not an approach usually associated with evangelical/ Reformation believers).
            I responded, in friendship:
            ‘Simon I would be very frustrated if you really did not know how including theologians respond to the argument from history continuity.’
            You see we have not been simply ducking at this point. We don’t find it compelling. I would welcome if you critically engaged with our position instead of just repeating yours now. And as a biblically conservative evangelical you will know there are limits to an argument from historic precedent.
            Indeed once you admit, ‘yes, the church has got it wrong in the past, needed to reform and change and has had blind spots’, it is not immediately convincing to insist – ‘but on this one issue it simply can’t possibly have got it wrong’. How do you know? Why not? Doesn’t your theology of sin and human finitude contradict – or at least caution you? Doesn’t the argument about men and women start at least as far back? And why do you assume the guidance of the Spirit would come in particular way? Or that we would even recognise it for what it is? Blindness and deafness is a repeated theme in the teaching of Jesus. Despite repeated dramatic spiritual waves the charismatic movement has been one of the slowest to include women at a serious leadership levels. Spiritual revival can and does just as easily lead to reinforced conservatism. (I remember how baffled we all were when Roman Catholics got filled with the Spirit and promptly got even more devoted to Mary and traditional beliefs about the mass?). But that is another topic perhaps! But your line of argument is of course the one that was/is used against women’s roles in the church for 2000 years.
            So I prefer not use the language of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in this context. It is much nuanced than that – like all human development. So I prefer to speak of an incomplete or developing understanding. And yes I know that has risks and limits too.

            And as to the idea that the Spirit is being rendered impotent by us? Thankfully I really don’t think God is that fragile.

            btw – and I don’t have any other way of contacting you – I would really like to meet and chat if you would ….? With the best of motives these threads get bruising. Grace and peace. The Kingdom is not under threat.

          • Lucas
            Yes, God did really say that the first humans would die on the day they ate that fruit. They didn’t. The serpent was right.

        • ‘S’

          Perhaps you could explain why you think the the Common Worship Marriage Service is erroneous (it’s online at the CoE website).
          Then, I am happy to respond.
          Thanks.

  26. Penelope, and David,
    You wrote this: “Unfortunately, some evangelical theology seems to me to be captive to the spirit of the age and incapable of understanding culture, context, tradition, receptivity, privilege and bias.”
    Is that some self analytical admission, a critique of the theological culture you inhabit, a critique of the identity and sexual culture tidal wave, which swamps the newspapers, airwaves and the internet and engulfs children and the church?
    It would be interesting to know how your espousal of Queer Theory has grown out of Christianity. Where is it’s Christian source, where are the Christian roots?
    For those who do not know you personally, who do not know where or when you have set out logically, in sequence, your theology, they are able to draw conclusions from what you have written in total on Ian Paul’s blog, and perhaps elsewhere . You may not like those conclusions, but it seems that, in general, they are like water off a duck’s back, unless your pride has been hurt, when you seek to defend yourself, but at the same time avoid giving answers (such as how a one night stand can be moral).
    While I do not know Simon, from everything you have written, I can understand how he can say he finds some of your scriptural/theological conclusions outrageous.
    Neither you nor David Runcorn has answered the points made about the Holiness of God, God’s judgement, Christian holiness and sanctification.
    Neither of you seem seem to have any concern over false teaching. Do you accept that there can be false teaching at all, by anyone, even if it is not by yourselves? Perhaps by other evangelicals?
    Gatekeeper: yes David you are not the gatekeeper, but Jesus is the gate, and the gate is narrow. The gatekeeper in the context of the gospel of John was likely to be John the Baptist).

    • Geoff Please don’t assume that what is not mentioned or actively engaged here is not believed or cared about. Everyone here is selective to a degree – out of sheer pressure of time if nothing else. But if it helps, I speak as a fool, here’s a taster. https://www.davidruncorn.com/articles-sermons-musings/holiness-extract.html
      I think Penelope’s point about captivity to the spirit of the age is a challenge to all theological traditions. In this context she is right to point out that we evangelicals face it no less than any others. But we do like to think we are somehow more enlightened.
      I have been a Christian teacher, preacher and pastor for 40 years. Of course I care about truth and error. That is also why I take time to engage here. If I didn’t care about false teaching, faithful discipleship, scripture and life consecrated to Christ I wouldn’t be bothered with these discussions.
      Geoff, would you be willing to say you actually believe me at this point – even if we have serious disagreements?

      • David,
        Thanks for the reply. I’ll take a look at your link. In the meantime, imagine communion where time is given to the “peace” and have a virtual hug from me, if you are huggable.

    • Geoff
      I am sorry for the delay in replying. I have been away on a course in Birmingham and thought your comment deserved more careful reflection than a quick response.
      I thought I should reply since I am the one who made the comment about some evangelical theology being captive to the spirit of the age. I agree that some liberal theology is also captive; I think we are all influenced by the cultures and contexts in which we live, I know that I am. But I think that some evangelicals believe that their Christianity is wholly counter-cultural, without an awareness that they too are prey to prevailing ideologies. The white evangelicals who support Trump – chief among them, Franklin Graham – are obvious exemplars of this, but it is also evident in the way many churches idolise marriage and procreation, as Ed Shaw has pointed out.
      Thank you for your very interesting question about queer theology. I am interested, partly because my area of research is the CofE and sexuality, but, of course, queer theory and theology goes beyond questions of sex. sexuality and gender. Theologically it grew, I think, like liberation theology, from a concern for those on the margins, the despised, the rejected, and those without agency. It seeks to disrupt cis, white, male, heteronormative narratives, arguing that these are not the narratives we hear in scripture – in either the Hebrew Bible or in the gospels. Some queer theology is shocking, but so are some parts of scripture. It is interesting that in the course I have just attended, which was about telling stories in church and community, and where I would not have mentioned academic theology (let alone queer theory), the number of times the stories we tell are of marginalised and rejected people, often people who had no agency over their own bodies.

      Post-colonial theology (about which I know very little), and feminist and womanist theologies have similar aims, those of disrupting the now normative narratives, rupturing our assumptions about these narratives and pointing a way to reading scripture in a less hierarchical, western, male, white, privileged way.

      I do get very hurt when commenters impugn my moral character from what they have read of my views, or even misrepresent entirely what I believe and what I have argued. There are a couple of examples of this in the comments above where commenters claim that I think scripture is wrong or that I discount it where I don’t agree with it. This is entirely untrue and traduces my arguments from scripture. Nor have I avoided giving an answer about my example of a moral one-night stand. ‘S’ brought it up and it was an answer of mine to a comment of his on another of Ian’s blogs. It was a parable of sorts. I can’t remember which blog it was, but I think could be found fairly easily. I don’t know if it illumines my theology (which I doubt I could set out in sequence since I am not a systematician) but then, nor do I think anyone here needs to know my system.

      I think David has answered far better than I could about God’s holiness and about sanctification. Let me just say this, I do not think that marriage (even Christian marriage) necessarily sanctifies a couple, but nor do I believe that same-sex couples may not be sanctified through holy matrimony.

      Lastly, I have a huge concern over false teaching. I see its effects everyday in the present US. Hatred of the migrant and the refugees, moral cowardice, bullying, lack of gun control, demonising Muslims and POC while mass murderers are always white men, Isaiah 58.6ff. If my beliefs about sexuality are false, I am prepared to stand before the judgement seat (with Desmond Tutu) and say that I drew the boundaries wide rather than narrowly.

      • Geoff
        Sorry a correction about my account of queer theology. I said it grew out of a concern ‘for’ those on the margins. I should have said a concern ‘from’ or ‘by’ those on the margins. It is not meant to be a top down system, policing people’s bodies and experiences.

      • Nor have I avoided giving an answer about my example of a moral one-night stand.

        You have however avoided giving an example of a one-night stand (or any sexual practice) they you would consider immoral.

        (You have written that you consider few acts universally immoral and it depends on the context… fine. Include in your example all the necessary context which makes the act immoral.)

        • ‘S’

          I’m just wondering who made me accountable to you for my theological and ethical beliefs?
          Anyway, I demur at describing my sexual ethics to someone who believes that it is inappropriate to hold hands unless you intend to marry. I fear you may be shocked.

          • I’m just wondering who made me accountable to you for my theological and ethical beliefs?

            No one made you engage in the discussion. That was your choice. You may retreat from it at any time, too.

            Anyway, I demur at describing my sexual ethics to someone who believes that it is inappropriate to hold hands unless you intend to marry. I fear you may be shocked.

            Oh, I already was shocked that you consider one-night stands moral.

            I’ll just point out one more inconsistency: you’ve implied (though never outright stated) that you consider casual sex immoral (eg, ‘I have not said casual sex is either Christian or correct’ — though you haven’t said it isn’t either).

            However, the example you gave of a moral one-night stand is two people who don’t know, much less love, each other, having no-stringsd-attached sex with no intention of ever seeing each other again: the very definition of the most casual of casual sex.

            So it seems — by your own words — you do think casual sex can be moral.

            I can’t force you to confirm explicitly that there are any sexual acts or context that you consider immoral. I can only leave people to draw conclusions from your failure to do so.

          • Yep, ‘S’, it’s supposed to be a ‘discussion’, that is a place where we exchange views and beliefs, not a space for interrogation.
            People may think what they like, but if they infer that I am immoral because I choose not to waste time listing or describing which particular sex acts I consider to be immoral and in which particular contexts, they are rather foolish.

          • Yep, ‘S’, it’s supposed to be a ‘discussion’, that is a place where we exchange views and beliefs, not a space for interrogation.

            The whole point of exchanging views and beliefs is for those views and beliefs to be interrogated (no one seems to have a problem with interrogating mine).

            People may think what they like, but if they infer that I am immoral because I choose not to waste time listing or describing which particular sex acts I consider to be immoral and in which particular contexts, they are rather foolish.

            One item is not a ‘list’!

          • “The whole point of exchanging views and beliefs is for those views and beliefs to be interrogated (no one seems to have a problem with interrogating mine)”
            But you do have a problem answering…..

  27. David,
    Having backtracked a little to read your exchange with Brian and read your link to a taster of your book on Holiness, was it written after your Alpine time as there seem to be some echoes?
    It is an interesting starting point to open discussions, as is the question of brokenness, of coming to the end of our own resources in dependence on God, not merely as an entry and union, into the life of Christ, but also throughout Christian life. If I may quote you, not to contradict, but for emphasis as somewhat central in this whole discussion, of the scripture, “be holy as I am holy.”
    “Christian holiness is the way of the cross and, thus, the way of glory. It involves the willingness to embrace, in Christ, all that is broken, incomplete and unholy in the world. It means fighting evil and refusing sin.”
    This presupposes a knowledge or understanding of the Holiness of God.
    You will probably be aware of Sinclair Ferguson’s book about sanctification, “Devoted to God”. He opens in a similar way, as do you: the words sanctification and holiness “can send a shiver down the spine…After all, most of us feel we have failed frequently and badly just here.” In
    277 pages with much scripture reference, he considers what holiness means and what hope is there to grow in holiness and make progress in sanctification.
    As for the meaning of sanctification he says that both Old and New Testaments uses language which includes the idea of being devoted to a “special purpose, withheld from ordinary use, treated with special care”. Reserved for use. “He marks us out for his personal possession and use. We belong to him – and to nobody else, not even ourselves. We become devoted to God.
    And God’s uncreated Holiness carries with it a bright shining, blinding, intensity of light creating a sense or awe and unapproachability , a Holy-Love which Isaiah said caused holy creature to “veil their faces” as they praised God for his holiness.(Isaiah 6:2-3).
    But in both the OT and NT “holiness and beauty belong together.” And the bible speaks about the “beauty of holiness”, an infinite beauty in God.
    As we belong to God, we are to reflect that beauty, which is a “work of God”…restoring our lives to the image we were created to reflect through separation (from the nature of sin) and transforming.
    This is done through, amongst other things, difficulties, brokenness.
    Ferguson grounds this in :
    “1 The purpose of god the Trinity
    2 The commandment of God to be holy
    3 Being an exile with a saviour
    4 The ministry of the Holy Spirit. (in the sanctification of the Spirit
    5 The function of trials; (1 Peter 1:6-7) grieved by various trials
    6 The glory to come (how we view the future and how firm a grip we have on the reality of the world to come and our destiny in it?”
    The underpinning principles in the process of sanctification are set out as:
    a) sanctification flows from the gospel
    b) it is expressed physically
    c) Renewal of the mind
    d) the effect: by testing we learn to discern and appreciate the will of God and see it is “good and acceptable and perfect”
    I’d recommend the book as scriptural, edifying, challenging and at the same time, dare I say it, devotional. I’d challenge you to read it without first pigeon holing it or Ferguson as “conservative!, if that is possible.
    Another of Ferguson’s books, which is a feast, is “The Whole Christ”. It also considers sanctification, based of a historical theological dispute in Scottish Borders.
    Your personal crisis, if I may put it that way, in the Alps, brought to mind the crisis in belief in Francis Schaeffer. A marvellous book, “True Spirituality” was enduring fruit from that time.
    And if you want to classify me, I’d say I am deeply persuaded the reformation, but charismatic, even if that may be a contradiction in terms to some. Surely, you can not gainsay the wonderful “spirituality” as shown by John Owen in his writings on “Communion with God” and the “Glory of Christ”, nor those of Richard Sibbes (not that you have given any indication that you do.

    • Geoff Peace to you too! Thank you so much for your careful engagement.
      And thank you for pointing me to Ferguson who I have not read. There are some fascinating ideas on what you quote.
      Well this discussion thread is nothing if not varied in tone. Offered a cyber peace and some rich theological reflection on the one hand while elsewhere someone called Lucas has just arrived to tell me he has read and heard me a number of times and ‘you glory in blowing smoke on the scriptures and revel in obfuscating what God has made clear’.

      • But, David, that may be what he honestly thinks to be an accurate assessment. To stop people being honest is a serious thing. Is your position that extreme assessments must automatically be inaccurate? If so, that is a non sequitur.

  28. Christine,
    Don’t know where to try to place this, as it will not come out in the correct sequence.
    Thank you for a marvellous comment. In a similar vein Christianity has much to glean from, for example, the practices at the Hebrew Festivals/Feasts such as Tabernacles/Booths any how they can be transposed’ transformed, figuratively in relation to Christ. Even Jesus invitation to take on his “yoke” has connotations of putting on the Kingdom of God. (See Jewish Encyclopedia: http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9328-kingdom-of-god
    and search “yoke”) for more.
    When set again this, we do indeed interpret the scriptures from a post modern western context of today.

  29. Dear Paul,
    thank you so much for your article highlighting the subtly oppressive and deceptive messages being communicated in this ad clerum. What continues to strike me is how even those who recently have appeared to be standing their ground (eg Andrew Proud) are now being swept along, or pressured, or bamboozled into being associated with the language, tactics and mindset of the revisionists. So many people who have come from bible believing backgrounds and have reached positions of influence, have either lost their trust in God’s Word and been deceived (“Did God really say?”) or are running scared of the spiritual forces at work here which in our current Western cultural paradigm appear all-powerful and merciless. I also sense very few of those who know the truth have the stomach for contending against this onslaught and am concerned therefore the ‘official’ CofE position will, sooner or later, become so precarious that it will be suddenly and quickly overturned. Only then will many faithful Gospel people wake up to find themselves a remnant within an apostate CofE or on one side of a formal separation. Oxford could be a significant battleground because despite the liberal drift of the bishops there are still a good number of faithful clergy. But if we fail to stand strong here, I can’t see many other dioceses doing better in staving off the forces which will lead to schism.

  30. Martin Greetings. I do not feel I have read you for a while but I have always had great respect for your ministry. I know you as someone who asks probing and radical questions of faith, what scripture teaches and how it is to be lived out – and has often challenged the church to change in the light of that. You have written challenging stuff about Christian ethics and discipleship in areas of social engagement and politics and local community as you have worked this out in your own ministry. It is a chance to say thank you for what you do.
    Martin, earlier on this thread a conservative voice felt the need to challenge me. ‘You can’t silence people from saying what they truly believe, nor can you police their honest beliefs.’ (I agree of course. Indeed I am not sure why they felt the need to assert this. And on these threads it is more often my own views that people would prefer silenced if any!).
    Now in your post you quote the serpent from the Genesis story – ‘Did God really say?’ And you more or less assert that folk like me, with an including theology, are complicit in demonic deception by our questioning of traditional understanding of God’s Word.

    In the light of that assertion I want to ask – where are people with genuine questions on this subject supposed to go to explore and test what they believe and to hear what God is saying? Are they really not allowed to ask? Is the one response allowed a passive, unquestioning obedience to a Traditional view?
    But you and I know faith does not grow without the honest questions. Bible faith is full of them. So I think that quoting the Genesis serpent in a context where genuine, often anguished questioning and searching for faith and meaning is going on on all sides is more than just unhelpful and intimidating (which it is) – it is even unbiblical. And it has the effect of shutting down thoughtful, committed discussion.
    Nothing in what you have written elsewhere suggests this is how you approach the challenges of faith and thinking before God actually. So why do you appearing to insist on it here?

    Martin I would be vey glad to be corrected if I have misread you here.

  31. Can anyone point me to the Bible texts that show how ‘ambivalent’ the Bible writers were about slavery? This has been claimed several times on this thread. Genuine request. Thanks.

    • They didn’t call for abolition, yet
      -saw slavery as something to be emulated in some ways (this is egalitarian but not towards greater autonomy but actually towards less: instead, towards more interpersonal responsibility and service)
      -saw and treated slaves as brothers/sisters
      -and therefore, through their new Christian social structures, pressed for more equal treatment for them
      -hated slavery (it is the bodies and souls of men – what a cargo: Rev. 18.13)
      -did not go anywhere near including such a class or role in their own church economies.
      -saw the grand narrative (Exodus, return from exile, deliverance from bondage to sin) to be a liberation narrative. A trajectory away from slavery.

      The ambivalence lies in the fact that, despite all of that, no Wilberforce arose. Not that the very earliest Christians had that sort of social and legal clout.

  32. Exodus 6:6 (and many other places) – slavery as something awful from which God delivers and redeems his people.
    Exodus 21:2, Leviticus 25:39-46, Jeremiah 34:8-22 – the ban on enslaving of Hebrews (and the requirement to free those injured from punishment).
    Proverbs 17:2 – the wise slave will become superior to the shameful child.
    1 Cor 7:23 – the imperative for Christians not to become slaves, for ‘you were bought with a price’.
    Colossians 3:11 – the basic equality of slave and free in Christ.
    1 Tim 1:10 – slave trading as sinful.
    Philemon 1:16 – the apostolic request to free a runaway slave and treat him as a brother.

    This ambivalence is why Christian teachers (such as Augustine) praised the freeing of slaves as virtuous, and one (Gregory of Nyssa) condemned slavery as inherently sinful. It’s also why Christian peoples have frequently suppressed slavery, especially of fellow Christians, and sometimes abolished it (as England did in 1102).

    The contrast with the treatment of homosexuality (sexual relationships and activity between people of the same sex) in the Bible (unequivocally and uniformly condemned as contrary to divine and natural law) and throughout Christian history is stark.

    Incidentally, the biblical witness on women’s ministry is mixed, with the frequent inclusion of female names in lists of notable persons (such as Junia), and the reference to women praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11:5. The proto-charismatic New Prophecy (Montanist) movement (supported by Tertullian) of the 2nd and 3rd centuries included women’s ministry. And female religious and abbesses played a prominent role throughout Christian history – albeit not on equal terms as they should have, though that perhaps was beyond the capacity of classical and medieval civilisation, and required an extended period of Christian acculturation to bring about. (This is not a crude progress thesis though – our treatment of the unborn and our attitudes to pornography, for instance, are certainly far worse today than they have been in the past.)

    • Will and Christopher

      Two quotes from Psephizo commenting on slavery. The first is David Shepherd, the second by Martin Sewell. Neither a liberal nor a revisionist.

      The reason that the Church didn’t split apart over slavery was than, apart from a few prominent clergy, it was very much wedded to the slave trade.
      So, the Clapham Sect was comprised of prominent, wealthy Anglican evangelicals, while Quakers made up the majority of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, who were first to petition Parliament.
      And back in 1783, the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was happy to receive Christopher Codrington’s bequest of his Barbados sugar plantations, blithely indifferent to the plight of the 350 slaves on that estate, who all had the word ‘society’ branded with a hot iron onto their chests.
      Sure, Wilberforce was Anglican and spearheaded the parliamentary campaign from 1787, but the increase ‘grass-roots’ support for the abolitionist movement iwas not down to the Church of England, but largely attributable to Protestant Dissenters.
      I’m 1835, the then Bishop of Exeter even accepted compensation of £12,700 for the loss of his 655 Jamaican slaves due to abolition.

      Martin Sewell
      July 24, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Reply
      I am not sure your assertion that Christianity approved slavery “in certain circumstances” holds water.
      The Institution was overwhelmingly accepted, absolutely, plain and simple, until fundamentally challenged in principle from outside. Whether you entered it by birth, as a captive of war, or indeed submitted to it as a conscious regretted but necessary decision, based upon abject penury, made no difference. You must not confuse advice upon its moral practice with any moral queasiness about the legal religious and societal acceptance of the institution itself. Slavery was viewed as right and proper and no more questioned than female subjection.
      I am no feminist icon, but we should remind ourselves that slavery and alpha-maleness sat comfortably together. The Patrarch/Paterfamilias excercised the societal, moral and legal power, property rights, authority, right of punishment and both drew on the same theological context. Why would the Church have evolved a challenging theology for the first Millenium and a half?
      You blithely assert ” Yet now we know slavery to be always and everywhere wrong and contrary to the will of God.”
      How do we know that?
      More interesting and specific, are we smarter, more faithful, more Godly than Luther Aquinas, Calvin etc? Do we have scripture unavailable to them? They were as well versed in scripture as we are, is there a clue anywhere to explain how they missed your point that it was wrong all along?
      Take a look at your cited texts.
      They don’t actually confirm the modernist view of slavery, in fact they rather fortify the view of the 18th Century anti-Abolitionists. They don’t tell you slavery is in all circumstances wrong and anathema to the followers of Jesus. They tell you it’s wrong to enslave “people like us”! The rest can shift for themselves.
      NB Revelation 18:13 refers to slaves as ” souls” – but look what they are aggregated with – the “property”. That to the modern mind is not progress – it’s the problem, from which all the other evils derive. Galatians 3: 28 looks to the world to come – until then the slave must know his place. His slavery can be moderated but only in the same way that the ox should not be muzzled as it is treading out the grain. Do not confuse amelioration with liberation.
      Even when slavery was not permitted within countries between its citizens the law was not so clear when those acquired as property overseas were imported. I previously referenced Cartwrights case in England and that of Saint Josephine Bukhita in 1870’s Italy.
      One should not underestimate the influence of Aristotle and his understanding of “slaves by nature”. His thought was conscripted into the Church understanding when the occasion arose.
      You misunderstand the concept of Natural Law philosophy if you think it is rooted in scripture. It was understood within a broader classical context and world knowledge. Natural Law philosophy saw that in all known societies certain laws and institutions were observable. This included the prohibitions on murder and incest, and the institutions of marriage, private property and – yup! – good old slavery!
      “Go to the ends of the earth (our forebears reasoned) and there awaiting you, you will find cultures that all follow the same practices, even though we are only now taking God’s word to the poor benighted heathens. So how do they already know these things? How is that possible ? – easy it is evidence of God’s Natural Law which predates even the scriptures themselves.”
      Natural Law philosophy does not derive from the scriptures but obviously the two come to interact.
      So where does this leave us with slavery and more modern controversies.
      The historic slavery controversy is of value because it tells us what does not simply and of itself get you to the right answer.
      What we clearly agree upon is that Church Tradition of and by itself would not have got you to an answer which we would recognise as satisfactory and Godly.
      More controversially, I would say that you have not satisfactorily demonstrated that scripture would have got you there unaided. Specifically, you have not sufficiently demonstrated which scriptural texts were so misunderstood by theological giants of the past as to explain that they could have come to the right conclusion if only they had been blessed with our intrasystemic insights.
      “Intrasystemic” is a key point. If scripture infallibly gets you there, you have to work strictly within the logic rules of that narrow perspective. You concede there is no “killer text” to end slavery. We enter upon the slippery slope of “the arc of meaning”. Fine – but don’t tell me that has the same resonance and certainty as ” Thou shall do no murder”.
      So often, in modern debate we hear people asserting that “the scripture is plain”. I have yet to hear proponents of such positions explain how the mistake of supporting slavery was made so prolifically and on so sustained a basis ( overlooked by Aquinas et al ). If scripture is always so plain – what went wrong? An answer is required.
      I think you and I will agree that if one were to get into a game of “scriptural ping pong” over slavery, the Abolitionists would have run out of ammunition earlier than the traditional “bible based” proponents of the traditional apologia for the grim business.
      On that basis, one is entitled to say as we embark on other debates that no one perspective carries the day.
      This is why our Archbishop’s have shown deep wisdom and sensitivity in the way they have framed the terms of the upcoming debates.
      Of course you reference Church Tradition, of course you study the Scriptures – but they also flag up that Reason and Modern Scientific understanding also have an important role which cannot be ignored.
      In the slavery debate it took the rationalist sceptics of the Enlightenment to overturn the Established order and in doing so got closer to the liberating Christ of the gospels than many a learned textually expert theologian.
      Similarly “science” in its broadest sense assisted abolition; when slaves were portrayed as sub- human savages akin to beasts of burden, the published history of the freed slave Equinao Olaudo
      (Aka Gustavus Vassar ) showed and demonstrated the sophistication of the “other” as did the black genius violinist Thomas Blacktower ( for whom Beethoven originally wrote the Kreutzer Sonata). “Knowing” more, broadened narrow horizons and casts light on the texts. It still does
      The Famous Josiah Wedgewood plate portrayed the kneeling slave lifting his chains and urged ” I too am a man”. It was not biblical but surely more Christ like – and thus Godly – than some texts we might mention.
      Science will similarly enlighten our modern understanding of sexuality. What we shall make of “Natural Law” as we ponder the previously unsuspected gender fluidity of dolphins and the same-sex penguins who bond for life and often ‘adopt” orphaned and abandoned chicks on the ice flow will be an intriguing discussion.

      Are Martin and David indulging in crude polemic?

      • Penelope I responded to Martin at the time.

        And for the record, again, I did not insult ‘your’ marriage, and your insistence on personalising this to try to shut it down is tiresome.

        • Will
          I am not trying to shut down debate. I am trying to ensure that it remains respectful. You don’t seem able to see the distinction. Which, given your comments, doesn’t surprise me.
          I know you answered Martin. Did you say his argument was ‘crude polemic’? Do you think David S’s comment on slavery was shop worn? If not, why not?

          So, you don’t think my marriage is morally deficient?

          Believe me, Will, this is beyond tiresome. This is abuse. I am sorry that Ian has not intervened.

          • I said that trying to draw a false parallel between slavery and homosexuality as a knock down argument was crude polemic.

            Martin’s argument was more sophisticated but still wrong for reasons I explained at the time, mainly his very tendentious handling of the scriptural and historical record.

            I did not call your argument shop worn.

            I will not personalise this discussion of moral principles and I do not find it helpful that you keep attempting to.

            It is also the height of poor form to claim abuse in the middle of an intellectual debate.

          • Will

            yes, you answered Martin Sewell and Jonathan Tallon and Peter Wilkinson and David Runcorn. But your arguments, especially about ‘natural law’ and biblical hermeneutics were most unconvincing.

            I wasn’t trying to construct a ‘knock down’ argument. I was using the slavery debate as an analogue. As others have done.

            What is really poor form, Will, is resorting to insult and arrogant rudeness to your conversation partner in ‘intellectual debate’.

          • Penelope – I apologise for any rudeness on my part. I wasn’t aiming to be rude though may inadvertently have been with my attempts to be provocative or in frustration at what seemed, to me, to be simplistic answers.

            I do appreciate you continuing to debate here with us benighted conservatives!

    • Christopher and Will.

      I do appreciate you both replying so promptly to my question. Thank you.
      One at a time if I may.

      Christopher
      -They didn’t call for abolition
      No they didn’t – nowhere. So why not? Isn’t the lack of a single clear text worrying for us evangelicals?
      -saw slavery as something to be emulated
      It’s a metaphor for service. Rather different than finding someone to buy you. And incidentally a metaphor borrowed from life in a slave owning economy. Not very ambivalent of them.
      -saw and treated slaves as brothers/sisters
      But still owned them as slaves.
      -Through their new Christian social structures, pressed for more equal treatment for them Agreed this is emerging – but no whiff of ambivalence or need for abolition
      -hated slavery Rev. 18.13
      Completely out of context!
      -did not go anywhere near including such a class or role in their own church economies.
      Don’t understand this point. But surely an argument from silence.
      -saw the grand narrative (Exodus, return from exile, deliverance from bondage to sin) to be a liberation narrative.
      The Exodus was specifically the liberation of the divinely chosen race from foreign captivity. Not the same as abolishing a local slave owning economy. Out of context.
      And no one in the Bible understands being an actual owned slave as ‘bondage to sin’.
      -A trajectory away from slavery.
      Interesting. Please see below.
      -No Wilberforce arose.
      Why not? Christians did resist the social norms of their day and suffered for it actually. But did not stop keeping slaves.

      Will
      – Exodus 6:6 (‘and many other places’ – where?) – slavery as something awful from which God delivers and redeems his people.
      Like Christopher you are confusing the divinely willed freeing of a race from foreign captivity to serve God, with a local slave owning economy that Christians were clearly a part of. Out of context and overstated.
      – Ex 21.2 ‘when you buy a Hebrew slave’ – er hardly a ban then. Simply regulating.
      – Jer 34 is a ban on Hebrews enslaving fellow Hebrews. Ditto. In context.
      – Proverbs 17:2 – the wise slave will become superior to the shameful child.
      Completely out of context – and still a slave!
      – 1 Cor 7:23 – the imperative for Christians not to become slaves, for ‘you were bought with a price’.
      This is metaphorical. You were ‘bought’ – the slave metaphor is thought acceptable then.
      – Colossians 3:11 – the basic equality of slave and free in Christ.
      This is a metaphor again. And read on – Col 3.22 ‘slaves obey your earthly masters in everything’.
      – 1 Tim 1:10 – slave trading as sinful.
      But not owning or keeping slaves! This seems to have been a particular kind of trade.
      – Philemon 1:16 – the apostolic request to free a runaway slave.
      This is a misreading. It does not mean ‘liberate him’. More like ‘you are getting back more – a slave and a fellow Christian!’ (see The Message). So Christian brothers now – but still owners and owned.

      So thank you for your responses but this is a scriptural dogs dinner. Metaphors read as literal. Foreign captivity equated with a local domestic slavery economy. Textual context ignored. Texts misread. Over-statement. Vague claims that ‘in many places’ the Bible thinks slavery is ‘awful’. It plainly does not. Though there are places it regulates it.
      Honestly you would shred an includer like me for using the bible like this – and rightly so.
      Christopher you suggest there is a ‘trajectory away from slavery’. That is the hermeneutic to explore here to my mind. There are no actual texts to sustain claims of ambivalence, still less actual hostility to slavery in the Bible. But here we are, much later in history, having somehow come to a conviction, that we claim to be biblical, that slavery is wholly, unambiguously evil.
      Well that is a very ‘including’ way of arguing. Welcome to revisionist scripture reading!
      Thanks again.

      • So scripture that is so opaque on homosexuality is suddenly crystal clear on being keen on slavery? Please, David. You read scripture as you want to to justify the view you have already arrived at.

      • David

        I realise I’m an amateur butting in amongst professionals here, but is it not the case that marriage and sexuality are embedded in the creation blueprint (obviously before the fall), whereas slavery is a post-fall economic activity of a less than perfect human situation? I don’t quite see how arguments about either one of these things can be used in the context of the other:

        While we may indeed disagree on how to interpret what the Bible says about marriage we surely all agree that there must be one truth which applies to it and that is why those of us who take what you would call the ‘conservative’ view are so much more concerned that we’re in line with God’s intention than we are about the pain of those for whom that intention is personally no small matter. You know – it’s Romans 8:18 – keeping our earthy struggles in perspective because eternity is a different magnitude of importance (much easier said than done, I will admit!). I realise that can make us ‘conservatives’ (I really don’t like that term) seem unyielding brutes, but that has a lot to do with our misfortune at being alive in these very socially liberal times.

        But when it comes to how well or badly Christians have behaved over the centuries on social issues such as slavery, surely we cannot take the view that we are (or ever will be) on a collectively upward trajectory? True, from a human point of view it would be wonderful if we were but that doesn’t square with the theology which we can’t avoid about human sin: it’s in our hearts and it’s a constant battle. It goes round and round. We get it wrong time after time, it goes up and down but it’s never conquered. So it’s pretty rich of any generation of Christians to criticise their predecessors because the guilt of something or other will be just as present as it ever was. None of which is to suggest we give up on love and justice and compassion; but let’s not get too convinced of our own superiority over attitudes from the past. I’m not sure, for instance, how we fare in the holiness stakes today.

        I have to say that I’m all for hard debate, hard words even, but I’m not so keen on personal attacks in public forums such as this – not least because they guarantee defensive responses which raise heat rather than light! However, I have to plead guilty to less than kind comments on occasion. I’d simply say that I firmly believe there is such a thing as absolute truth, but also judgement as to how one should behave in any particular circumstance; and the Holy Spirit guides us to the former and through the latter. I’ve found it not unusual that he uses people whom I wouldn’t choose as his agent to do that very thing!

        Very general comments as usual, David, but there you go.

        • Don I am sorry to be so slow responding to your thoughtful post.
          And I need to be brief.

          I think the difficulty of trying to put marriage ‘pre-fall’ and slavery ‘post fall’ is that nowhere does the bible divide up life that way. no here is owning salves or being enslaved described in terms of sin as a category. And do you mean to imply that all other human relationships are ‘post fall’. After all only marriage is mentioned pre-fall? In fact once past Gen 3 the OT does not tend to use pre and post fall language at all. That does not mean it is light on sin – quite the opposite – but it uses other ways to speak of it rather than the pre and after ‘Fall’ model.
          I think the language of the Fall in Gen is a theological reflection on the way life is and what was originally intended. I think it is misleading to try and position stuff either side of it in this way. And what is the point? All is incomplete, fallen and seeking wholeness – marriage as well as all other relationships.

  33. Will Nothing ‘suddenly about it’. There is no sustained narrative of ambivalence in the text. And I think this tortured attempt to establish a non existent view of the slavery in the bible is because you and others are concerned, at all costs, to keep daylight between this subject and homosexuality. Now I have said elsewhere I do not see a straight line between the late change of mind about slavery and a change towards homosexuality – ie ‘that has changed so this must’. But there are real parallels in how scriptures, long understood one way only, are now read with different eyes – and a conviction now holds, reversing one held for the greater part of history, the church and throughout scripture – a conviction that cannot base its case on any explicit scripture texts at all. You do not have to come to my own position to see that is surely so?
    But until you can accept this I think you and others here have a vested interest in trying to claim a particular view from scripture on one subject in order to avoid the hermeneutical challenges it may pose to another.
    But Martin Sewell’s piece says it so much better …

    • A change of one degree or 25 degrees is a change. A volte face of 180 degrees is a change. All that goes to show is that ‘change’ is an extremely vague word. So vague, in fact, that no-one can mention any event anywhere that did not involve some change. Panta rei.

      So if the best link that can be made between Christian attitudes to slavery and Christian attitudes to homosexual practice is that they both involve something called ‘change’, then that ‘point’ has zero weight and zero content.

      • Indeed Christopher – the idea of some kind of change is the only point of contact between these two otherwise very different issues with very different relationships to scripture and Christian history.

    • No David. You claim to find clear teaching in the Bible being only positive about slavery, despite clear evidence of ambivalence, and a long Christian history of being uncomfortable with it. How do Augustine praising freeing slaves, Gregory of Nyssa, and England abolishing slavery in 1102 fit into your neat Enlightenment revision narrative?

      Yet despite seeing clear enthusiasm for slavery without any ambivalence, you then find lots of ambiguity about same-sex relations. You see clarity where there is ambivalence and ambiguity where there is clarity. All of which neatly serves your narrative of creating a false parallel between two very different issues with very different profiles in scripture and Christian history.

      • I would like to point out that heroes of the Enlightenment do not seem to have qualms about the slavery connected with the slave trade! The founding fathers of the USA regarded slaves as having but 3/5ths of the value of a free man. It was not the case that slavery was regarded as OK until the rationalism of the Enlightenment saw the light. Rather, as Will has pointed out, rejection of slavery goes back deep into Christian thought.

        Perhaps part of the problem is that the Bible in a way says that we are always a slave to something or someone. As Bob Dylan put it, “you gotta serve someone”. For the Christian it is clear: we are slaves of Christ. This follows naturally from that briefest of Christian confessions, “Jesus is Lord”. I can understand that being a slave of Christ is a problem for those who worship at the altar of the autonomous individual, which is the worship which lies behind much of the issue in the Oxford letter.

    • There is no sustained narrative of ambivalence in the text

      But if the Bible is clearly pro-slavery, why are you a Christian?

      Surely if the Bible is so wrong on such an important ethical matter then it cannot possibly be the word of God.

  34. Will: if I have understood David correctly one of his points is that the few biblical texts concerning homosexuality don’t relate to what we know as contemporary same sex relationships. So it’s not that there is ambiguity: rather there is little on which to draw. And that allows for a careful reevaluation in the light of other information – (like science. Reason. And experience.)

    • Hi Andrew. Yes that is one of his points, and probably the strongest (in my view). I don’t think it holds though because 1) the Symposium shows that same sex love was not understood merely superficially in the ancient world of the Bible – as those who argue for the ‘Jesus was in a pederastic relationship with John’ thesis tacitly admit; 2) David and a few others might only endorse PSF same sex relationships but the inclusive movement more generally is about accepting a full diversity of human sexuality, with Susannah Cornwall, a leading theological adviser and authority for Inclusive Church, describing David’s view as pseudo-radical and also speaking warmly of polyamorous relationships. There is very little evidence of a purity ethic in the affirming movement, as JO and VB’s writings make plain. So the claim for radical difference in form of relationship doesn’t bear scrutiny.

      • “speaking warmly of polyamorous relationships.”
        I think as I said before to David Shepherd Will, that’s quite a distortion of the facts. As I understand it, Susannah, in a scholarly way, “asks questions about” and “holds that *aspects of* polyamorous constructions of relationship *may* be understood to mediate grace …..
        But you could read her work or contact her if you want clarity.
        Set this beside the ridiculous suggestion by ‘S’ that a couple can’t even hold hands romantically unless they intend to marry (which s/he won’t back up by reference to anything) . That won’t mediate anything other than weirdness……..

        • As I understand it, Susannah, in a scholarly way, “asks questions about” and “holds that *aspects of* polyamorous constructions of relationship *may* be understood to mediate grace

          That’s still a far cry from pointing out that they are immoral, isn’t it? I mean assuming the ‘aspects’ referred to are ‘shagging more than one person’, but then, if they’re not, I don’t see how they are specifically aspects of polyamorous relationships.

          It’s tantamount to claiming that they might in some instances be moral, unless I’m reading it wrong.

          • Maybe it just means holding hands romantically with more than one person before you decide to get married?

          • Maybe it just means holding hands romantically with more than one person before you decide to get married?

            And if it did it would merely be improper, not immoral, but somehow I don’t think it stops there.

          • “And if it did it would merely be improper….”
            As requested before ‘S’, please supply some evidence for this view, or are we to take it that this simply your (rather unique it seems) opinion?

          • As requested before ‘S’, please supply some evidence for this view,

            Sigh, I already have. It is improper to be intimate or romantic with someone other than your spouse. To the extent that hand-holding is intimate or romantic, then (so obviously not including all hand-holding, just the intimate/romantic kind) it is improper to do it with anyone other than your spouse.

            Does that stop you derailing this part of the conversational thread then? Are you going to defend the idea that polyamorous relationships might not always be immoral?

          • Sigh. As I have said before, it is not about anyone who is a spouse. It is about dating couples. You have not supplied any evidence for this view ‘S’. Please tell us where this code about romantic hand holding before marriage is written down.

          • As I have said before, it is not about anyone who is a spouse.

            But either they will have a spouse in the future, in which case it is improper for them to be intimate or romantic with anyone other than that person; or they won’t, in which case it is improper for them to be intimate with anyone.

            Are you going to get back to the point?

          • ‘S’

            I would agree that it would, probably, be inappropriate for someone to hold hands with someone who is not their spouse.

            I do not think, as you have suggested, that it is improper for boy and girlfriends to hold hands, whether they have marriage in mind or not.

            I think this ethic has no support in scripture or tradition.

          • Are you going to tell us where this appropriateness code is written down?

            It’s not written down anywhere. It doesn’t need to be.

            Are you going to get back to the point?

          • I do not think, as you have suggested, that it is improper for boy and girlfriends to hold hands, whether they have marriage in mind or not.

            Do you think it’s inapprpriate for them to have sex, whether they have marriage in mind or not?

          • Depends on what you mean by having sex.
            Kissing? Cuddling?

            What do you think would be inappropriate? Where would you draw the line? Or is there no line; anything goes?

          • “It’s not written down anywhere. It doesn’t need to be”
            Of course it needs to be! As Penelope has pointed out, it has no basis in scripture or tradition. So where has it come from?

          • Of course it needs to be! As Penelope has pointed out, it has no basis in scripture or tradition. So where has it come from?

            As I have explained, it is an obvious logical consequence of the fact that it is inappropriate to be intimate with anyone other that one’s spouse.

          • Except it’s strangely not obvious to anyone but you.
            Far from being obvious, it’s obviously weird.

            Fine, but could you stop claiming I haven’t answered the question? I have answered it. You find my logic unconvincing, as was entirely predictable given your attitude. But I have answered and answered fully.

            Now are you going to get back to the point?

          • No ‘S’ I asked the question. Your turn to answer.
            What constitutes a ‘sex act’?

            Are you really saying that the only thing that it is improper for boyfriends and girlfriends who have no intention of marrying to do are the sort of things you’d see in internet porn?

            Anything tamer than that, anything at all, and you reckon that’s totally okay for boyfriend and girlfriends to do?

          • I hope this comment ends up in the right place. This discussion about what it is proper for couples to do before marriage or before intent to marry really shows how are views reflect our culture.

            150 years ago what S has put forward would have been accepted as the ‘proper’ view at least in middle and upper class society. Today it seems quite ridiculous to most of us.

            Today our many in our society consider sexual intercourse a normal part of dating and that people with therefore end up having several sexual partners. I suspect that most people on here would accept that as consistent with Christian teaching.

            1500 years or so ago in some parts of these islands Christians accepted the concept of the trial marriage. It was in line with the culture of the time. Whether we like it or not this is once more a part of our culture.

            If we cannot look through the cultural lens we have and look at some eternal truth then how can we say what is moral in absolute terms. On the other hand if we were to go back 150 years and advocate something less that society accepted at that time it would have been a poor witness.

            In these matters we have to look to some eternal truth – and the only place I can think to look to that is in the Bible – but balance it with the culture of our time if that is more restrictive.

            Even in our own time cultures differ in different places in the world which produces tensions, particularly in the Islamic community.

            Because of these geographical and temporal changes in culture I do not think it is possible to argue on the basis of a ‘natural order’ on such issues as what time and place do bse this on. If we study animals we also see a vast difference in practice.

            When we look to the Bible for inspiration we must also remember the culture in which the particular passage was written.

            I see some certainties – particularly a prohibition on adultery – but holding hands before marriage – I really cannot find a basis for that in the Bible.

          • Today our many in our society consider sexual intercourse a normal part of dating and that people with therefore end up having several sexual partners. I suspect that most people on here would accept that as consistent with Christian teaching

            !

            ?

            !!

          • Apologies S an important ‘not’ was missing. It should of course have read:

            “Today our many in our society consider sexual intercourse a normal part of dating and that people with therefore end up having several sexual partners. I suspect that most people on here would NOT accept that as consistent with Christian teaching.”

          • Since I have never seen internet porn I cannot comment. Over to you.

            Sorry what is over to me?

            I asked what you thought were the limits on proper behaviour of boyfriends and girlfriends who do nto intend to marry. You then asked me to define sex acts.

            I fail to see the connection and I refuse to indulge your prurience.

            If you don’t answer the question of what you think the limits are then I and any observers will be forced to infer that you don’t think there are any limits, and think it is perfectly proper for a boyfriend and a girlfriend to have sex despite not intending to marry.

          • So, ‘S’, what is the telos of the clitoris?

            I repeat:

            I fail to see the connection and I refuse to indulge your prurience.

            If you don’t answer the question of what you think the limits are then I and any observers will be forced to infer that you don’t think there are any limits, and think it is perfectly proper for a boyfriend and a girlfriend to have sex despite not intending to marry.

          • “If you don’t answer the question of what you think the limits are then I and any observers will be forced to infer…..”

            You’ve tried this unpleasant bullying tactic before ‘S’ and it has no logic to it. Any intelligent person can simply infer that you prefer not to answer questions yourself and then seem to want to interrogate others.

            That bullying approach is presumably the reason you remain anonymous

          • Any intelligent person can simply infer that you prefer not to answer questions yourself and then seem to want to interrogate others

            Any intelligent person is of course free to draw any inferences they wish. I merely point out the obvious ones.

            Do you think there are any acts which it is improper for boyfriends and girlfriends to do without any intention to marry? Or are you on the ‘anything goes’ side of the fence as well?

          • Any intelligent person can simply infer that you prefer not to answer questions yourself and then seem to want to interrogate others.

            P.S. I answered your questions, didn’t I? Answered them twice, as I recall.

          • ‘S’
            what is over to you is to enlighten me on the relationship, or perhaps the slippery slope, between holding hands and internet porn. Since I have never seen any internet porn I feel unqualified to comment.

            My question about the telos of the clitoris which I have reflected on above in response to Christine is: if the purpose of sexual intercourse is procreation, why did God create the clitoris?

          • what is over to you is to enlighten me on the relationship, or perhaps the slippery slope, between holding hands and internet porn.

            But the issue isn’t about any slipperly slope. The slope might not be slippy at all. It might not even be a slope, but a series of discrete steps. None of that is relevant. The only issue is, is there anything that you think is improper for a boyfriend and girlfriend to do without intending to get married?

            Or do you — given you’ve already said that one-night stands and casual sex can be moral — actually think there is nothing that would be improper?

            I suspect the latter is true, I’m just slightly confused as to why you don’t simply admit it. Go on, have the courage of your convictions, come out and say in so many words that you think that there is nothing improper about a boyfriend and girlfriend having sex.

            I have said before, I will not indulge your prurience.

          • Or are you on the ‘anything goes’ side of the fence as well?

            I’m certainly not on the anything goes side. I’m on the side that says sex is a great deal more than a physical act. It is the most profound emotional experience and should be called ‘making love’ and not ‘having sex’. Making love is what it says – recreating something that is God given – as God is love. People seem to be obsessed with ‘having sex’ and have so little respect for their bodies.

            I think ‘making love’ is about more than making babies. Hence I think the Common worship marriage service teaches us correctly when it says: The gift of marriage brings husband and wife together
            in the delight and tenderness of sexual union and joyful commitment to the end of their lives. (Though I don’t much like the phrase sexual union as it’s very simplistic).

            I think it’s essential that a couple learn that making love is profound and life changing and simply leaving it to chance and hurrying to get married so that you can ‘have sex’ is a very foolish thing to do.

            Does this help ‘S’?

          • Does this help ‘S’?

            It does, actually, and I actually agree with quite a lot of it.

            Do you agree with me then that a boyfriend and girlfriend should neither have sex, not make love, before they are married? That to do so would be both improper and immoral?

          • ‘S’
            Well if it’s prurient to wonder how you know about internet porn ,I suppose I must be prurient.
            My attitude towards sexual intimacy is well described by Andrew below.
            As for intimacy ‘before’ marriage, I agree with Adrian Thatcher that marriages have fuzzy beginnings and that the wedding happens somewhere along the road that the spouses have already travelled.

          • I think it’s impossible to generalise about that S because of the profundity of the act. I know couples who are so incompatible in that area because they didn’t properly consider it before rushing to get married. I equally know couples who wish they had waited. I wish it were as simple as you suggest but experience of working with couples suggests otherwise.

          • Well if it’s prurient to wonder how you know about internet porn ,I suppose I must be prurient.

            You’re the one wanted to talk about details of sex acts. I am not going to either indulge in such talk or do any research. You may be happy in the gutter; I will not join you there.

            As for intimacy ‘before’ marriage, I agree with Adrian Thatcher that marriages have fuzzy beginnings and that the wedding happens somewhere along the road that the spouses have already travelled.

            But how, before the ceremony, does the couple know for sure that the marriage has happened?

            Otherwise how can they know that they won’t have sex and then break up — so they weren’t actually married in any sense and therefore the sex was immoral?

            (Thoguh of course we know you think that one-night stands and casual sex are not immoral, so perhaps you think it’s perfectly okay for couples to have sex whether they are married or not).

          • I think it’s impossible to generalise about that S because of the profundity of the act.

            Surely it’s the very profundity of the act which means that couples should not enter into it until they know each other very, very well and are absolutely sure that they are going to do their best to be together for the whole of their lives? That is — until they are married, and have promised before others and before God that they will stay together for the rest of their lives?

            Otherwise they may end up with having multiple sex partners over their lifetime as they have sex too soon and then discover they don’t want to marry the person, which I’m sure you would agree is wrong?

          • I just don’t think it’s that simple ‘S’. Because it is such a profound act, if you are not compatible in that part of your lives as a couple it is devastating. I know of evangelical churches who tell young people that they need to get married because they are considering having sex. The young couple then rush into marriage in order to simply have sex and find that they just don’t relate well and wish they hadn’t got married. But by then it’s too late. Very tragic.

            Rabbi Blue, when he was training, noticed that his senior Rabbi said one thing in the pulpit, but in the study gave quite different advice to people. So he asked his training Rabbi about it. The older Rabbi took a puff on his cigar and said: “Lionel, from the pulpit give general rules. Treat everyone who comes to see you privately as an exception”.
            That’s good pastoral advice when it comes to sex before marriage I think.

          • I know of evangelical churches who tell young people that they need to get married because they are considering having sex. The young couple then rush into marriage in order to simply have sex and find that they just don’t relate well and wish they hadn’t got married. But by then it’s too late. Very tragic.

            Tragic, indeed, but isn’t the problem there that they rushed into marriage, not that they waited to have sex? They could — and should — have waited for both marriage and sex until they were sure that they were the right people for each other.

            How can it possibly be better for them to have sex and then break up, thus ending up with (if they do go on to get married to other people) having had multiple sex partners? When there’s such a simple and easy solution: don’t have sex until you are married, and don’t rush into marriage because you want to have sex but wait until you are very, very sure.

            Rabbi Blue, when he was training, noticed that his senior Rabbi said one thing in the pulpit, but in the study gave quite different advice to people. So he asked his training Rabbi about it. The older Rabbi took a puff on his cigar and said: “Lionel, from the pulpit give general rules. Treat everyone who comes to see you privately as an exception”.
            That’s good pastoral advice when it comes to sex before marriage I think.

            Isn’t that blatant hypocrisy? Say one thing, do another?

          • So how do you suggest that a couple discover if they are compatible in that crucially important area of their (future) married lives?

          • So how do you suggest that a couple discover if they are compatible in that crucially important area of their (future) married lives?

            Well, they could talk about it. Presumably they will be doing lots of talking before they decide to get married. If not I would think there’s something amiss.

            Why, do you think every couple should have sex before marriage, just to check? And, presumably, you think they should break up if they decide they aren’t ‘compatible’?

          • See all the answers above. I just don’t think it’s simple.
            The blanket ‘thou shalt not’ answer is just cheap and too easy. There is a general rule, but I think every couple is an exception. And the church should not ask intrusive questions.

          • See all the answers above. I just don’t think it’s simple.

            So you do think every couple shoudl have sex before they get married, to check whether they are compatible?

            After all that seems the inexorable logic of your position: if being compatible is ‘crucial’, and there is no way to find out whether they are compatible simply by talking about it, then you must be saying that all couples should find out, before getting married, whether they are compatible in this crucial way. To not do so would be irresponsible, if it is as crucial as you suggest.

            So you are saying all couples should have sex before getting married to check their compatibility?

            Or… maybe they could find out without rushing ahead. After all, you can talk to your future spouse about how they handle money, but you can’t really know whether your approches to finance are compatible until you have a joint account. Yet strangely nobody ever says that theologically couples must set up joint accounts before they get married.

            Could that be because mortgage budgetting is not fun, while having sex is fun, and this isn’t really about deep theological issues but is just about finding a loophole so they can have fun outside the rules?

            The blanket ‘thou shalt not’ answer is just cheap and too easy.

            I thought the usual objection to the ‘thou shalt not’ rule was that it was too hard, not that it was too easy.

            There is a general rule, but I think every couple is an exception.

            That’s simply nonsense. If every couple is an exception then there can’t be a ‘general’ rule. A ‘general’ rule has to apply to either all or at least the vast majority of couples. A rule where every instance is an exception is not a rule at all.

            And the church should not ask intrusive questions.

            If the church doesn’t ask questions abotu morality then what on Earth is the church for?

          • What I said was that the church should not ask *intrusive* questions.

            As to what the Church is for? I think there are only two reasons.
            1. That people come to know and love God through his son Jesus Christ
            2. That people come to know and love each other.
            Anything else is just a sub set of one of those two things…..

          • What I said was that the church should not ask *intrusive* questions.

            Right, but you accept that the logic of your position is that every couple should have sex before they marry?

            That is, if you really think that discovering after marriage that they are incompatible in that area is so terrible that it’s unthinkable to allow it to happen; and that there is no other way of finding out than by actually having sex?

            So do you advise all couples who are thinking of getting married to have a trial run at sex first? Because by your own arguments, you really should, or otherwise you might by inaction let them end up in a situation which is apparently unbearable.

          • No. The logic of my position is that hard and fast rules don’t fit everybody and what is right for some is not right for all. And that a couple need to work out their own journey without intrusive questioning from the church, but, where they wish to, finding advice and counsel from the church.

          • No. The logic of my position is that hard and fast rules don’t fit everybody and what is right for some is not right for all.

            But your justification for why it wasn’t wrong for a couple to have sex before marriage was that otherwise they could end up married to someone with whom they were ‘incompatible’ (which seems unlikely to me, I am not even sure what it might mean — and no, no graphic detail, please, I am not Penelope) and that this was such a terrible fate that it order to avoid it it was okay to have sex before marriage.

            But that is only true if two things are true: (a) that it is such a terrible fate that it overrides normal moral considerations, and (b) there is no other way to find out (eg, they can’t find out by talking about it) than actually having sex.

            But if those are both true then surely all couples must have sex before marriage to check whether they are incompatible, because otherwise they could end up in a situation which is, according to you, so utterly terrible is is okay to suspend normal moral rules in order to avoid it.

            And if they are not both true, then your exampe of why its okay for a couple to have sex before they marry is not valid.

            And that a couple need to work out their own journey without intrusive questioning from the church, but, where they wish to, finding advice and counsel from the church.

            And it’s that advice and counsel we’re talking about, not questioning. Surely if a couple comes to a person in the church and says ‘we were thinking about having sex, although we are not married’ the advice and counsel should always be ‘that is immoral and against God’s plan; you should not do it’?

            No intrusive questioning is required to give that proper advice and counsel.

            I mean, what advice and counsel would you give to a couple, that you did not know beforehand, who asked you that question?

          • I think the questions you are asking are all too hypothetical S, and I wouldn’t discuss particular cases outside of the confidential room, and you wouldn’t expect me to.
            Why do you *not* think this is such an important area of a couples life? Are you married?
            And where do you find these hard and fast “normal moral rules”?

          • ‘S’
            I didn’t know that mention of the clitoris could be described as graphic detail – especially for someone who seems to know about internet porn 🙂

          • ‘S’

            I have no particular desire to discuss sexual activity, it was used you raised the ‘How Far Can You Go?’ question.
            But I’m not squeamish or prudish either. There is nothing inherently shameful about sexual intimacy.

            Marriage is the only ‘sacrament’ of which the couple are themselves the ministers; it does not have to be conducted by a priest or celebrated in a church to be valid. Therefore, marriage may be described more as a process than an event.

          • Andrew, surely you didn’t fall for the old ‘compatible’ line? (Some of your stances are so conformist to the narrow era and culture in which you happen to find yourself.) The people who thought these things up in the 1960s must be amazed at how many people their corny lines duped. So how does it go? Once you have found you are not ‘compatible’ you have by then messed things up because you then have an irrevocable soul tie and secondly so do they. Thirdly that affects both your families, and affects the people that both of you are, which then affects all your future interactions. The forgiveness of Christ can sort this, but that does not mean that people shoudl go out of their way to pile up things to be forgiven at some future date.

            You can easily see if you are compatible by interacting and dancing with people.

          • Marriage is the only ‘sacrament’ of which the couple are themselves the ministers; it does not have to be conducted by a priest or celebrated in a church to be valid

            How does that tie in with your apparent stance that the normative truth of marriage is as defined by the Common Worship service?

          • The people who thought these things up in the 1960s must be amazed at how many people their corny lines duped.

            Well, you know how they say ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!’

            I guess it is easy to make a man believe rubbish when his getting a shag depends upon him believing it.

          • I could talk about folk dancing until the cows come home. Doesn’t mean I’d enjoy it if I tried.

          • ‘S’

            I don’t see a contradiction in the doctrine of the marriage service and the couple being ministers of it.

          • It would be nice to live in a world where people could just be friendly and hold hands as family and children do (is not their progressive failure to do so as they grow older a kind of falling away?), a world where friendship was prioritised.

        • Hi Andrew. I’m not trying to misrepresent anyone, so thanks for raising this. Here’s a key quote:

          ‘As an example, in Chapter 3, I take the case of polyamory, and reflect on the extent to which the exclusive ‘twoness’ of marriage is an unbreachable theological barrier even where the sex and gender of the spouses is not. I hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do, and that reflection on what polyamory does best (including close attention to dynamics of consent and power, and disruption of the dyads which have become petrified in some mainstream theologies) may prompt useful self-critical reflection on the parts of apologists for ‘traditional’ marriage…

          ‘Ethically reflective polyamory seems to offer distinctive endorsements of phenomena such as communality, consent, honesty and a lack of jealousy perhaps more effectively and incisively than many justifications for monogamous marriage have succeeded in doing (and this where monogamous marriage has been self-critical enough to allow for such consideration in the first place) . Monogamy no more has a monopoly on ethical behaviour than Christianity does on marriage. And proponents of polyamory and open relationship are keen to remind their detractors that there is plenty about monogamy that has been violent, oppressive and harmful.’

          To me ‘speaking warmly’ is a fair summary of passages like this (I didn’t say endorse), especially the idea of aspects of polyamory mediating grace more effectively than monogamy. Others may disagree however. But I don’t think I can be charged with deliberate misrepresentation.

          But more generally do you dispute that the including movement has a diversity beyond only PSF sexual relationships in mind?

          • “But more generally do you dispute that the including movement has a diversity beyond only PSF sexual relationships in mind”

            I think the Inclusive Church aim is pretty clear and public Will:

            We believe in inclusive Church – church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, mental health, physical ability, race or sexuality. We believe in Church which welcomes and serves all people in the name of Jesus Christ; which is scripturally faithful; which seeks to proclaim the Gospel afresh for each generation; and which, in the power of the Holy Spirit, allows all people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.

          • I think the Inclusive Church aim is pretty clear

            It’s clear as mud! That paragraph is all vague waffling and platitudes.

            What does it mean in practice? If a polyamorous quartet were to turn up to an Inclusive Church, what would be the reaction? What ought to be the reaction if such an arrangment is discovered in a church?

          • That’s pretty clear to me – no limits – but what do you think? Yes or no – do you think the affirming movement (including OBOF and others not just IC) limits the scope of its affirmation to PSF sexual relationships, rejecting other kinds?

          • I think that PSF relationships are what they have in mind, yes.

            So what should happen if a polyamorous quartet turns up to an Inclusive Church?

          • S
            What part of not discriminating on grounds of gender, ability, economic status, sexuality……do you not understand?

          • I’ve no idea S. Ask the Bishop for direction

            The buck doesn’t even slow down here.

            What part of not discriminating on grounds of gender, ability, economic status, sexuality……do you not understand?

            I understand it. It’s just a meaningless platitude. Every single organisation and company puts something similar on its web page these days, including conservative non-same-sex-marriage-supporting churches that the Inclusive Church would think are utterly awful, which just proves that the words can mean anythign the user wants them to mean.

            What matters for working out what an organisation really believes is how the individual organisation responds in practice to concrete situations, not the meaningless platitudes it spouts that are exactly the same as the meaningless platitudes spouted by everybody else.

          • “What direction would you give, if you were the bishop”
            I’d get the Parish Priest to enquire whether any of them had held hands at all romantically before they got married.

          • I’d get the Parish Priest to enquire whether any of them had held hands at all romantically before they got married.

            Very nice, and your unfacetious answer is?

          • If that is the case, Andrew, and the entire including movement is indeed, in Cornwall’s term, ‘pseudo-radical’ then I think it needs to be clearly and publicly stated, as absent that there is plenty of reason to think that the full diversity of sexuality they say they embrace means otherwise.

            Tbh I’m not sure on what basis you think that is what they mean. If they meant that why wouldn’t they say so?

        • thank you Andrew, I found the original debate:

          David Shepherd
          September 28, 2018 at 11:25 pm
          Your own embrace of unrestrained hyperbole beggar belief. Susannah Cornwall is as free to describe PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals, and : “hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do” as you are to agree with her.
          Inclusive Church just needs to be more than the front organization with a mere semblance of a far more radical hidden agenda that the likes of Cornwall would want to supplant pseudo-radicalism (as Cornwall calls it), if the latter should gain ascendancy.

          David Shepherd
          September 28, 2018 at 11:26 pm
          Typo: “beggars belief”

          Penelope Cowell Doe
          September 29, 2018 at 1:19 pm
          David
          Where did I say that I agree with Dr Cornwall? I believe that, as a Christian theologian, she has the right – indeed it is her role- to interrogate normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition. Her reflection that those who argue for PSF relationships are pseudo radicals is hardly controversial; their stance is assimilationist, not revolutionary. That is an observation. It neither commends the pseudo radicals nor those who contend otherwise, it calls the Church to listen to the latter. As I suggested in my question about Lamech, do we avoid difficult texts and awkward questions?
          I have argued here before that same-sex marriage is the conservative option. Many gay people regard marriage as a patriarchal and compromised institution of which they want no part. So, it’s not unrestrained hyperbole, it’s theology.

          David Shepherd
          September 30, 2018 at 8:04 am
          Penelope,
          “Where did I say that I agree with Dr Cornwall?”
          Excuse me, but where did I say that you did agree with her? Saying that you’re free to do so is not the same thing.
          I believe that, as a Christian theologian, she has the right – indeed it is her role- to interrogate normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition.
          Er,…I think that concurs with me saying “Susannah Cornwall is…free to describe PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals”
          It neither commends the pseudo radicals nor those who contend otherwise, it calls the Church to listen to the latter.
          Cornwall wrote: “It might therefore be important to continue questioning and querying the ostensibly positive project of inclusivism, lest it be that inclusivism is simply a cipher for assimilationism.”
          So, Cornwall sees value in challenging what might only appear to be positively inclusive today, because non-monogamous, flamboyant, lesbian, gay and bisexual people remain excluded, while the inclusion of pseudo-radical PSF same-sex couples is mere assimilation.
          As with same-sex marriage, the questioning and querying about non-monogamy isn’t so much a “call to listen” as it is a call to capitulate.
          And you really can’t dress up Cornwall’s conclusion in favour of polyamory (“I hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do”) to look like an interrogation of normative hermeneutics and Christian tradition.
          Cornwall’s conclusion about polyamory is not an interrogation and, as Inclusive Church’s commissioned author of its book on sexuality, it proves that their agenda and the guidance they accept goes far beyond merely “assimilating” pseudo-radical PSF same-sex couples into Christian marriage.
          As I said, Inclusive Church is just a Trojan Horse.

          Penelope Cowell Doe
          September 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm
          David
          Yes, of course I’m free to agree or disagree with Dr Cornwall. As are you. That’s one of the benefits of a democracy.
          I have commented below, to Ian, that would really prefer not to engage in further discussion on this toxic thread. But no, Dr Cornwall wrote ‘might’ and ‘may’. However much these suggestions trouble your normative hermeneutic, they are tentative; to be discussed, explored, reflected upon. They are meant to disturb our traditions and our accepted narratives and assumptions. This is, in my opinion, what the Bishops’ Teaching Document should be asking. Not, the narrow and exclusive question of what is the place in the Church for same-sex love? But, what is sex, what is it for, how do we communicate through our sexuality, how do we express it, whether continent, committed or kinky, can we, as humans, faithfully reflect God’s purpose for us in our sexuality and generativity? Then we might have a theology of sexuality which reflects the living tradition of the Church.
          David Shepherd
          September 28, 2018 at 5:47 pm
          Yep, they’re free to invite him. But he should also be validly criticized for “intentionally referencing the Coroner’s hearing as a makeshift official declaration that the ‘conspiracy of silence’ is a publicly acknowledged safeguarding issue for LGBT youth, but also that it arises in parishes which maintain the orthodox stance on same-sex sexual relationships.”
          “‘to set aside Christian orthodoxy’ is your take on his intentions of course”…Um, no. He wouldn’t be campaigning for change if Christian orthodoxy already endorsed and approved of same-sex sexual relationships.
          In terms of the agenda of Inclusive Church which inivited him, we might also discuss the work of Susannah Cornwall, their theological adviser, who, aside from writing their Sexuality resource book, also wrote Unfamiliar Theology (2017).
          She clearly supports polyamory:
          “Elsewhere in the book, I ask questions about what kinds of iterations of family, marriage and parenting might be so unfamiliar that they lack all continuity with what has been understood as good and life-affirming in these institutions.”
          “As an example, in Chapter 3, I take the case of polyamory, and reflect on the extent to which the exclusive ‘twoness’ of marriage is an unbreachable theological barrier even where the sex and gender of the spouses is not. **I hold that aspects of polyamorous constructions of relationship may be understood to mediate grace as effectively – or even more so – than monogamous relationships do**, and that reflection on what polyamory does best (including close attention to dynamics of consent and power, and disruption of the dyads which have become petrified in some mainstream theologies) may prompt useful self-critical reflection on the parts of apologists for ‘traditional’ marriage.”
          “Ethically reflective polyamory seems to offer distinctive endorsements of phenomena such as communality, consent, honesty and a lack of jealousy perhaps more effectively and incisively than many justifications for monogamous marriage have succeeded in doing (and this where monogamous marriage has been self-critical enough to allow for such consideration in the first place) . Monogamy no more has a monopoly on ethical behaviour than Christianity does on marriage. And proponents of polyamory and open relationship are keen to remind their detractors that there is plenty about monogamy that has been violent, oppressive and harmful.”
          In her doctoral thesis, she even described PSF same-sex couples as pseudo-radicals:
          “Pseudo-radicals have no interest in non-monogamous, flamboyant, lesbian, gay and bisexual people” (Stuart 1997b: 187). It might therefore be important to continue questioning and querying the ostensibly positive project of inclusivism, lest it be that inclusivism is simply a cipher for assimilationism.”
          Now, that’s a hell of an agenda.

          David Runcorn
          September 28, 2018 at 5:57 pm
          David Shepherd There is no discussion possible when you are in this mode. I’m off to cook supper.

          David Shepherd
          September 28, 2018 at 7:08 pm
          Enjoy supper. Not sure how referring to my so-called ‘mood’ can explain away Inclusive Church commissioning as the author of its resource book on sexuality someone who has publicly endorsed polyamory.
          That speaks volumes about the ultimate ‘inclusive’ ethos and enterprise.


          Andrew Godsall
          September 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm
          “publicly endorsed polyamory.”
          That’s quite a distortion of the facts David Shepherd. Susannah, in a scholarly way, “asks questions about” and “hold that *aspects of* polyamorous constructions of relationship *may* be understood to mediate grace …..
          That’s quite different to publicly endorsing, but don’t let the facts get in the way of an angle

          I have tried to edit out the comments which are not pertinent to this debate

  35. Slavery and sexuality:

    I’d suggest that to equate homosexuality- any kind of sexuality for that matter- and slavery in the bible is substantial error of category.
    I think God’s view of slavery of his people is clear throughout the Old Testament as evidenced through the Exodus and times of exile.
    The following is from notes prepared by Peter J Williams, Principal Tyndale House:

    1 The problem formally laid out Intro: The contention is that just as the Bible got it wrong about slavery and Christians and the Bible are getting it wrong today about sex(uality) and gender.
    Atheist Sam Harris and many in the church use this argument to support cultural sexual and gender mores of today. Harris quotes Leviticus 26 from the RSV, which uses words, buy, property, slaves, possession. That is, he sets up the bible as against morality .
    • Bible translations talk of slaves • In the OT no objection is made to having slaves
    • In the NT Christians are not commanded to free their slaves and slaves are told to submit
    • Therefore biblical texts approve of slavery
    • We know that slavery is wrong
    • Therefore biblical texts approve of something that is wrong
    BUT The use of the word “slave” has increased in translations: KJV used x2 NKJV used x46 NIV used x130 German Luther Bibel used x 0; revised Luther Bibel 1984 used x70 Spanish 1909 used x4; 1960 used x25; 1995 used x65
    After World War 2 society became less hierarchical and terms Master and Servant became archaic so the word slave was substituted for servant: (Comment in my study of a law degree the law relating to employment was known as law of Master and Servant)
    The Hebrew word “eved” can be translated “servant” or “slave”. It is not inherently negative. It is related to work, subservient.
    Israelites are “servants of the King. Everyone is a servant of the King. There is no class of “free” people.
    IMPORTANT, all of this was before the North Atlantic Slave Trade.
    The OT culture: institutions based on debt servitude/slavery . Person B PLEDGED future work to person C for food now and food in the future , or SELL THEMSELVES , a future leasing of work.
    BUT this was a system of sub- ownership where EVERYTHING and EVERYONE BELONGED TO GOD. So the “Sub-Owner” was accountable to God and to were to treat as God would.
    JOB 31 (Pre – Mosaic LAW) appeals to unity of the human race UNDER GOD.
    In the OT patriarchal system:
    • work as herdsmen, domestic servants
    • However servants. could inherit (Genesis 15:3 – Eliezer of Damascus) children of Bilhah and Zilpah
    • Were trusted to travel with valuables (Genesis 24) and weapons Genesis 14:14
    • No approved “selling” of people
    duty to look after runaways (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)
    The LAW Given to Moses was because of the HARDNESS Of HEART of the people, to regulate (Matthew 19:8.)
    Some things were allowed but not approved.
    Have to go back to the beginning for the ideal . There was no servitude until Genesis 9.
    The Law of Moses is to be read in that light.
    The whole OT system is in contrast to all other empire systems throughout that period .
    2 New Testament does not endorse slavery • Christians could not change the legal systems • Slaves who rebelled would be executed under those systems • Under Rome there were limits emancipation of slaves and could rarely become a citizen • command to love others as Christ loved us • brotherhood, family of all believes. Kissing, holy kiss – you only kiss family, Jew and Gentile, master with servant and no hierarchy of believers (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1; Philemon15 • Jesus is LORD, Master, we are His servants slaves, with all gospel freedom and inheritance from Him. There IS only ONE worthy to own you.
    All of this is set against the backdrop, the underlying truth that GOD OWNS EVERYBODY,is Sovereign.
    There are 2 main classes of humanity 1 Those who gladly come under God’s ownership 2 Those who contest, rebel, ignore God’s ownership

  36. I cannot find any description of those who campaign for the legal and religious recognition of same-sex partnerships as ‘pseudo radicals’ in Susannah’s chapter on polyamory in Um/familiar theology. However, since the essentially conservative nature of the desire for same-sex marriage is on that I have made on Psephizo – perhaps especially to Christopher and David S – I will expand a little on what I think this terms means.

    Some queer theorists and some more radical gay and bi men and women (especially, perhaps, in the secular sphere) would critique the desire of LGB people to embrace marriage as a conservative, conforming, assimilationist move which seeks to ‘ape’ an institution which is compromised by being already patriarchal, conforming, bourgeois, exploitative etc. Indeed, some straight people have felt that, hence the campaign for civil partnerships to be extended to heterosexual couples.
    Queer theory often interrogates assimilationist tendencies in queer people, asking why they should want to join heteronormative institutions and narratives which have rejected and ‘othered’ them. Nevertheless, the legislation enabling same-sex marriages, and the call for these to be celebrated in churches and religious institutions, appears to show that many LGB people appear not to be radical at all, but choose to be assimilationist. They are not calling for the rupture of heteronormative narratives nor for something radically different to celebrate their own particular lives and loves, but for that conservative, compromised institution of marriage. Hence, ‘pseudo radical’.

    • Penelope
      On the thread “Is the Bishops’ Policy on Civil Partnerships Sustainable?” an exchange between us took place between November 6-9 2018, where I invited you to respond to my November 6 post about the results of the Fall of Man. I don’t think you have responded (sorry if I have missed it – where is it?). Sorry to weary you all with my oft-repeated comment: this whole disagreement needs a prior and more fundamental discussion (agreement or disagreement) on the Results of the Fall, including the physical results (if any – that’s a big part of the discussion/disagreement).
      Phil Almond

  37. Geoff. Greetings. Thank you for this post which I found helpful.

    You write: ‘to equate homosexuality – any kind of sexuality for that matter- and slavery in the bible is substantial error of category’. I agree with you – which is why I do not argue for that. I am not sure anyone else is here either?
    Peter Williams’ piece was very helpful. I was familiar with the issues but he gives more precise detail. Thank you. Could I trouble you for the full reference of where this article may be found? (I ASSUME the capitals are YOUR EMPHASIS?)

    You write: ‘I think God’s view of slavery of his people is clear throughout the Old Testament’.
    OK. I think you overstate actually. But you surely acknowledge that for a substantial part of history the church has believed and acted as if slavery was allowed and supported from scripture. How are we to explain this? And this belief was widely found among conservative bible believers – those most committed to closely obeying what scripture says. ‘Liberals’/revisionists were not the problem here.

    This offers two particular warnings about how we approach the bible for truth on any particular issue.
    i. That something has been taught for a very long time is not in itself a guarantee it is true. (it really is rather odd to find evangelicals arguing from Tradition in any case – we usually tell the Catholics off for doing that). The texts need examining and testing just as rigorously however long they have been taught. Indeed, possibly more so. A great deal tends to be invested in long held opinions.
    I note this is a popular argument with the regard to ss relationships.
    And it was also used to resist the full inclusion of women in the church of course.

    ii. Williams makes a point that is often missed. Most of us read the bible in our own language. But the work of translation can and does, over time, distort understandings of the original texts. Across languages (and therefore cultures), one word rarely completely ‘translates’ or matches another. In that sense every translation is a work of interpretation too. Williams shows, statistically, how the word ‘slavery’ became, over time, the single word progressively used to translate a variety of very different and often sophisticated understandings/terms describing forms of employment, leasing, service etc. In doing so we lost the distinctions the original texts were teaching and why they were important. The historical consequences have been appalling. And this happened precisely within the most biblically conservative traditions of the church – among people you expect to be most precise in their scriptural understanding. This is not the work of ‘liberals’.
    There is plenty of evidence that this is exactly what has happened with regard to the bible and same sex relationships. From only as recently as 1946 the word ‘homosexuality’ has increasingly been used to translate a variety of ancient texts and (often complex) terms. It has had the same flattening and misleading effect on the original texts as the blanket use of the word ‘slavery’ has in this context. I do not claim from that that a conservative view is not possible. Just that we are not reading scripture carefully enough.

    This the point of comparing slavery and same-sex relationships in relationships to scripture.
    Not that they are the same. They are not.
    But they both illustrate the same serious challenges we face in reading ancient texts and understanding their meaning for today. And they both warn how frighteningly easily it has been, for long periods of history, to get it horribly wrong and with terrible consequences.

    • David

      I really think that for your position on this not to be misleading you need to be more upfront about the complexity of biblical and historical Christian attitudes to slavery. Above I highlighted three things which, as a start, you should fit properly into your narrative, namely the teaching of Augustine (among others) that it is morally praiseworthy to free slaves, Gregory of Nyssa’s condemnation of slavery as sinful, and the abolition of slavery by (among others) England in 1102. These need to be set in the context of the freedom-from-slavery Exodus meta-narrative of the Bible, and the OT limitations on slavery reflecting that. I am not saying you need to accept the Bible is unambiguously an abolitionist document. But I do think that you need at the very least to nuance your currently very neat and frankly Whiggish narrative of secular Enlightenment correction of biblical error with something which takes proper cognisance of all the relevant facts about the Bible, Christianity and slavery.

      • Will I have no idea what is misleading about my recent post. You do not have to liberal to agree with the points I make. Nor do they point to a particular conclusion one side or the other
        But you have not engaged at all in fact.
        On this thread and on a previous very lengthy discussion thread in response to your article on this very subject your own position has been repeatedly challenged. The points you continue make here have all been responded to by me and by others with more historical background than me. So I do not find that you are entering the complexity enough. So I do not wish to go over the same ground again.

        • David

          Your concluding line, ‘And they both warn how frighteningly easily it has been, for long periods of history, to get it horribly wrong and with terrible consequences,’ suggests:
          1) Christians have got the Bible horribly wrong on same-sex relationships – so it is a very liberal/revisionist statement
          2) Christians have not had any insight into the problems with slavery for most of Christian history – which again repeats what I am saying is your misleading historical account.

          For my part I have been conscientious in giving a response to challenges made of my position.

          Anyway, you don’t have to answer this here, but I hope you will see some of the ways in which your historical arguments reflect a misleadingly simplistic account of Christian and biblical attitudes to slavery.

          • Will

            1) That is of course what I think. Call it what you like.
            2) The Christian church has been complicit in supporting, participating and profiting from slave trades for a large part of its history – including devout bible centred believers. Surely you are not denying that? What is simplistic or misleading about that statement?

          • The Christian church has been complicit in supporting, participating and profiting from slave trades for a large part of its history – including devout bible centred believers

            Yes; but the Christian church has also been outspoken against slavery for its entire history. That’s the important part. There has never been a point where the entire Church thought that slavery was totally fine.

          • 1) You claimed ‘You do not have to be liberal to agree with the points I make. Nor do they point to a particular conclusion one side or the other.’
            2) Your account of the relationship between Christianity and slavery is simplistic and misleading because it is one-sided and tendentious and omits numerous highly relevant facts which would nuance it considerably.

      • Will

        1) That’s true isn’t it?
        2) In what way one sided? My point is a general one about how we read scripture. I would have expected you to be keen on that. Unless you are disagreeing with Peter Williams too?

    • David,
      1 I realise that your main points are about interpretation (even translation, perhaps) and application and that you seek a correlation with slavery to make those points.
      2 The problem is set out in para 1 of Williams notes. Even if, you are not doing quite the same thing, many who do support SSM subscribe to similar methods.
      3 The notes were typed hand-outs from Williams series of lectures at the Keswick Convention last? year, with one or two of my comments (such as employment law being taught to me as Master and Servant) As I have minimum computer skills for emphasis the capitalisation is mine. Williams did say that the notes would be available on the Tyndale House site, but I’ve not been able to find them. If you are interested in finding out more and discussing it with him, perhaps you could contact him. I’ve seen a you-tube lecture of his on the question of slavery.
      4 In a non scholarly way I’d suggest, that as far as the North Atlantic slave trade is concerned, (which I’d say is the substantial point of reference, the main point for SSM advocates), money and greed and other un -christian motives were behind the use of scripture to support their ungodly lives. You state that this came from bible believing Christians, in effect conservatives of each era.
      5. I’d say that there is a big difference between slavery and SSM is this: arguments for “biblical””inclusion” of SSM are from biblical omission (no scripture mandate/reference).
      Arguments over slavery are from biblical inclusion , of the term (whether there is a biblical mandate/reference).
      There can not be a mistranslation or a misinterpretation of an omission.
      There is an unbridgeable gulf. And rather than continue a categorisation using po