What is amazing about ‘Amazing Love’?

51A3FhTW8tLAmazing Love: Theology for Understanding Discipleship, Sexuality and Mission. Ed. by Andrew Davison. Darton, Longman & Todd: London, 2016. 144pp. £8.99

I know Andrew Davison, and had enjoyed theological conversation with him in the past. I was planning to post a review of his short book (which was sent to all members of General Synod prior to the session which included Shared Conversations) next week. But I was sent this review by Peter Sanlon, which I think is fair and interesting, and post it here with permission.

This aim of this book can be given in the authors’ own words: ‘This short book explains why we think it’s good for Christians to embrace their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and to celebrate their relationships … We think that the Church should be willing—delighted even—to hallow and strengthen such commitments.’ (75) The authors believe such a course is virtuous: ‘We are convinced that gay and lesbian relationships can be very good for people, and that they can be all about people living in the ways Christian theology has long marked out as excellent (or ‘virtuous’).’ (12) So questions are posed in a way that presupposes the Church must embrace same sex relationships:

What would happen if the question posed was not, ‘same-sex relationships: right or wrong?’—which is a limiting, brittle question—but rather something like ‘What is the significance and purpose of sexuality and marriage in Christianity? What does sexuality and marriage look like in the way of Jesus Christ?, with consideration of same-sex relationships as part of that?’ (56)

The context of this book’s origin is noted as being the Shared Conversations in the Church of England. However it is observed that those are but ‘one example of the listening process … we hope that it will be of use further afield too. (2)

This review will firstly summarise and comment on the argument of the book, as structured by the six chapters. It is helpful that each chapter has a thesis and the work as a whole does therefore make a coherent argument. In a follow-up to this review, I will offer some reflections on both the rhetorical and theological significance of the book insofar as it pertains to its original context—the Church of England. It will be seen that the book explicitly aims to achieve something far more audacious than even the celebration of same sex relationships.

There are six chapters to the book. The chapter titles are followed by a summary of the chapter thesis, along with critique.

1 Being Followers of Jesus: A crucial aspect of being a disciple of Jesus involves accepting the world as it is. In the words of the authors we must focus on ‘attending to what things are really like’. (8) We must do the ‘hard work of paying attention to how things really are.’ (10) This attention to the way things really are is given theological justification on the basis of Augustine’s vision for science (10) and it is argued for on the grounds that God’s Word in the Bible cannot contradict his Word in creation: ‘What God has spoken in the Bible relates to the world that God also spoke into being. No divine word of moral instruction is at cross-purposes with God’s creative Word.’ (9) As Christians work to understand the world as it truly is, they are warned that the Church has in the past been egregiously wrong on matters such as Just War (4) and slavery (5). Those wrongs are presented as equivalent to thinking that same sex relationships are sinful. While others are to doubt their understandings the authors have reached a place of assured certainty as regards the way Anglicans should view homosexuality.

The plain fact of the matter is that it is possible to take a very positive view of love between gay people and believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Similarly, you can be glad when a lesbian friend finds someone to commit herself to—giving her whole self, including her body—and believe exactly what the Thirty-Nine Articles say about God. (6)

2 Being Human: This chapter is about science and argues that the scientific ‘evidence is conclusive’ (13) on three matters. Firstly there is diversity and complexity in sexual desires. Secondly, homosexual desires are not chosen by the individual. Thirdly, same sex desires are not easily changed. None of these claims are technically incorrect in and of themselves, however their abstraction, presentation and rhetorical deployment means the claims of the chapter are in the end misleading to the uninformed reader.

The chapter has an embarrassingly simplistic view of ‘science’. The following terms are used as if their meaning is straightforward and obvious: biology, psychology and science. So we read of ‘psychological facts’ (20), ‘psychiatric conditions’ (17), conclusive evidence (13) biological cause (24) and more varied matters such as population studies (25). The nature of evidence and conclusion in these fields is necessarily complex and certainly not the same in each one or simple. Yet the authors claim their conclusions are conclusive and based on ‘clear evidence’ (24). They inform us that ‘scientists agree almost universally that there is a biological basis to same-sex attraction.’ (29) When any of the claims made in this chapter are approached by a moderately informed reader they fall apart. So for example the informed reader will be aware that claiming biological evidence for human sexual desire is ‘clear’ when the basis for that is same sex activity in animals is dubious on many levels (24). The claims that it is difficult and rare for a person to change their sexual disposition is technically true on the basis of certain studies—but that discounts the more expensive and significant longitudinal population studies that show considerable fluidity in sexual desire.

On numerous points matters of major relevant significance are ignored. So for example the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ was a pivotal step for the homosexualist movement. This is described by our authors as if it were merely a purely rational decision taken on the basis of ‘the psychological facts’ (20) and in light of ‘psychological reality.’ (21) Failure to include information about what actually occurred in the APA is disingenuous. In reality the organisation was subject to exactly the same kind of manipulation, bullying and pressure that homosexual activists now use against any institution that refuses to celebrate their lifestyles. The details of this are given at length by Dr. Ronald Bayer (a pro-homosexual psychiatrist) in the book, Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnoses (1981). That historical narrative is only one of many areas that are so partially covered in this book as to present a misleading whitewash of history. Readers are not told that the studies of Alfred Kinsey of which much is made (23) were not done upon representative samples of the population, but rather on convicts and horrifically on babies and children who were sexually abused in the process. To present conclusions from Kinsey without mentioning this is grotesque. The disgraceful matters involved are widely documented, summarised in reports such as this: http://icolf.org/fact/ecosoc-the-kinsey-institute-and-child-sexual-abuse/

The second major problem with the chapter is the assumption throughout that the ‘certain’ conclusions summarised within it are actually clear. Clarity of the simplistic science presented in this chapter is central to the thesis. So for example, ‘That a proportion of the population is attracted more or less exclusively to people of the same sex, and that this attraction cannot be changed, is clear.’ (25) The import of this claim of clarity for the overall argument is seen in light of the subsequent chapter.

3 Being Biblical: This chapter ostensibly argues that the Bible does not teach clearly on the topic of homosexuality as to whether it is good or sinful. If we wish to be Biblical we must accept the Bible is not clear:

What we should be willing to contest is the sense that there is only one, settled, and unquestionable human understanding of precisely what the Bible says on a given issue, including this one. (38)

The argument given most space to demonstrate the Bible’s lack of clarity on homosexuality, is that some in the past thought the Bible justified slavery, and that view turned out to be wrong (39-42). If the Church can be wrong on that point, then the Bible must be unclear and we could be wrong if we think the Bible teaches homosexuality is sinful. Incidentally the slavery argument occurs so frequently throughout this book that at one point it is even acknowledged that ‘Slavery [has been] mentioned in this book a number of times.’ (71)

Further arguments for lack of clarity on this topic include the idea that many texts traditionally thought relevant are not (43). The Old Testament Laws are dismissed since we do not keep all the food laws (45). Sodom is about gang rape, not monogamous same-sex relationships (43). Paul’s teaching is set aside due to the assumptions of his day which colour his words (51). The condemnations in Rom. 1 are contextualised within the wider narrative of Romans to suggest that they mean the opposite of what they seem to say due to the ‘overarching argument of Romans that God, in God’s goodness, acted against nature, to include, unexpectedly, those who had been outside the covenant.’ (52) Incidentally this is an excellent example of handling the Bible in a manner which contradicts Article 20 which tells us the Church may not ‘so expound one place of scripture that it be repugnant to another.’ The lack of academic credibility in the chapter is evident in the fact that not one of the arguments has not been more than adequately handled in standard academic treatments such as those by Robert Gagnon. No alternative views or counter-arguments are mentioned or noted at any point.

So on the face of it this chapter states that its thesis is that (in contrast to the plain simple science of the previous chapter), the Bible is unclear on whether homosexuality is sinful. When the actual argument is traced through it can be seen that the thesis is something more bold. The authors do not think the Bible is unclear on homosexuality—they think it is clear that it can be blessed by God. Those conservatives who think otherwise are caricatured as guilty of what C. S. Lewis called ‘chronological snobbery.’ (55) They hold a ‘one-dimensional’ (55) view. A theological basis for the claim that scripture means the opposite of what it appears to say is that we must interpret scripture in light of God’s voice elsewhere:

Much less can we imagine that the God who inspired these texts, and inspires the church today, can be contained in our limited understanding of Scripture. We must be open to the continuing movement of God, within the Church and out, to bring us into truth. (42)

So the true thesis of the chapter is that God is clear in communicating to us about the potential goodness of homosexual relationships. It is recommended that we should stop asking whether same sex attraction is right or wrong, and instead ask ‘What does sexuality and marriage look like in the way of Christ?, with consideration of same-sex relationships as part of that?’ (56) In other words the Church should stop asking if homosexual relationships are wrong and just accept that they are to be celebrated. Academic and spiritual engagement is shut down under the guise of ongoing academic and spiritual engagement.

There are, then, two arguments within this chapter. On the one hand scripture is unclear whether homosexual relationships are sinful. On the other hand it is clear that they can be virtuous. This rhetorical strategy shall be commented on further below.

4 Being Part of the Story: This chapter presents a vision of how believers can embrace homosexual relationships as being in line with a new definition of the Church’s tradition.

We are told that ‘The Christian tradition is dynamic, not static.’ (57) It is argued that ‘We can understand Christian tradition, in part, as the readings of Scripture that each generation makes afresh.’ (58) Examples are given of areas where the church has changed its mind. These are thought to support the dynamic view of tradition, and include contraception, clerical celibacy, slavery (again!) and female roles. Setting aside the complexities of the examples given, it must be said that the understanding of tradition given by the authors is not one that any Church Father, Medieval Schoolman, Reformer or Anglican divine would have recognised. Given the idea of tradition being something that is handed on through generations, this is problematic. From earliest days the tradition of the church was to do with a central apostolic message comprised of loci that were recognised as the Rule of Faith. The emphasis was not on it changing as one generation died and another arose – quite the opposite. As Irenaeus wrote,

The Church having received this preaching, this Faith, though scattered through the whole world yet carefully preserves it. She believes these points of doctrine as if she had but one soul and one heart. She proclaims them, teaches them and hands them down with perfect harmony.

The tradition of the church concerns a message that must be stable if it is to be tradition, and if the church which hands it on is to remain recognisably a church. When it comes to the actual topic of homosexual practice, even though it is not properly speaking a matter of the Rule of Faith, it is still the case that the Church has universally and consistently through time insisted that scripture teaches same sex relationships are sinful. This is demonstrated in some detail in Fortson & Grams. Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition. B&H (2016).

The chapter concludes by asking how a believer can be a part of the ongoing dynamic story that is the Christian tradition. The answer given is that we must discern the ‘revolutionary message of the Bible’ and distinguish that from what ‘simply reflects the common assumptions of the time.’ (72) This would, one might imagine, be a massively complex and convoluted task—perhaps comparable to relating Q to the priority of the Gospels. Not at all. The authors are able to explain breezily how ‘we think the principle applies to discernments about same-sex relationships.’ (73) The timeless unchanging revolutionary core of scripture (i.e. what the Church has traditionally called Tradition) is that ‘we are most truly ourselves when we live for others.’ (73) As regards the topic in hand: ‘We learn that this living-for-others underlies the truest meaning of sexuality.’ (73) And so it is argued that a same sex relationship which is engaged in for the good of the other, is in the final analysis an embodiment of scripture’s revolutionary call to live for the other. Anything that the Bible appears to say which contradicts this can be dismissed as merely being the assumptions of people in the past, who were out of step with both the revolutionary message within the Bible and what God is currently saying through the culture and church. The inconsistencies and difficulties with this vision of how God speaks are legion.

5 Being in Love: This three page chapter argues that ‘love is love’ (76) wherever it is found and in whatever form it is experienced. Since it is the role of the church to welcome love wherever it is found,

This book explains why we think it’s good for Christians to embrace their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and to celebrate their relationships … We think that the Church should be willing—delighted even—to hallow and strengthen such commitments. (75)

The argument that love must be celebrated wherever it is found is stated with a striking boldness and naiveté.

We can rejoice in love between two women, or two men, simply because it’s love. We can take this love—these relationships, these people—into the heart of the Church because that’s what we do with love, with relationships, and with people. (77)

The difficulty with this completely unqualified vision of welcoming love is that it fails to recognise that some loves are sinful because they are love for sinful things. The love of somebody married to another is but one obvious instance. The possibility and location of sin is something our authors struggle to articulate. While in Chapter 5 there is no room for sin in loving desires, in Chapter 1 sin is granted a potential but undefined role. So we are told, ‘Sex isn’t sinful in itself, nor is desire sinful in itself, but we can sin in this part of life.’ (6) The obvious way to bring clarity to this is to say that desires can themselves be tainted by sin – most obviously if they are desires for something that is straightforwardly forbidden by scripture, or (more subtle) if we are seeking something that is in itself good (e.g. sense of belonging) too much or in a place God says we ought not look for it. Furthermore the Christian doctrine of sin is not restricted to consideration of that which is fully conscious, chosen or volitional.

Insofar as the specific example of love between two same sex attracted persons is concerned—on what basis would the authors say that such love ought not be extended to include a third or fourth willing partner? Most fundamentally this vision of unqualified acceptance fails to account for the fundamental nature of Christ’s welcome. The point is that all are welcome into the Church but all are commanded and empowered by the Spirit to be changed by his ongoing welcome. Whatever the world assumes is love and sees as an unqualified good is not necessarily so viewed by Jesus. One of the most loving gifts Jesus gives us is the daily work of repentance and mortification of sin.

6 Being Missional: The final chapter argues that the Church is viewed as a ‘toxic brand’ (82) due to its refusal to celebrate same sex relationships. Changing this is essential to reverse decline in the Church of England (79). Needless to say the fact that every denomination that has embraced same sex marriage has seen catastrophic and in most cases near terminal decline is not mentioned. No explanation as to why the outcome for the Church of England would be different is given, since the arguments used to justify the innovation elsewhere are identical.

It is claimed that a vision of mission which embraces the culture’s acceptance of homosexuality will be Biblical since it follows the Pauline example.

Paul’s mission did not impose alien values from afar. He became all things to all people … This is how Christianity spread in all cultures, taking everyone seriously as the people they were. (83)

It is difficult to see how this is a faithful summary of the message which demanded that all hearers repent and which was accused by observers as having ‘turned the world upside down.’

The chapter concludes by focusing not on the mission to the watching world, but on the real mission which this book is concerned with—that of forcing the Church of England to submit to the homosexualist agenda. More must be said about the rhetoric and theology which underlies this mission to the Church, but for now we can note that Chapter 6 quotes a letter written to a Bishop by a lay person. The letter complains about a vicar who has sought to uphold the traditional view of homosexuality. What is astonishing about the letter is that it is reproduced in an academic book without any qualification or clarification, and within it associates a conservative Anglican group with the desire to execute homosexuals. I shall quote the relevant paragraph in full (The three usages of ‘…’ are original to the book):

‘I am 48, happily married, one son, but do have gay friends and family and I don’t view them as sinners who need to be put to death … Our vicar … posted on the church website that ‘we’ were proud to support Anglican Mainstream … Obviously this was not the view of the PCC.’ (90-91)

It is not possible to tell from the excerpt published whether the original letter accused Anglican Mainstream of supporting the execution of gays, but as reproduced in the book that is the implication. Furthermore, the letter concludes by accusing the vicar’s sermon on Romans 1 of extreme prejudice and possible criminality:

How can a simple layman like me prevent this type of extreme prejudice (and possibly criminal offence) from happening again. Should one just walk away and find a Church, or vicar, who is, quite frankly, more Christian? (92)

The way this letter is reproduced without any critique or clarifications is a long way from responsible journalism, never mind academic writing! The highly emotive and irresponsible conclusion to this book demonstrates that the authors’ mission is to change the Church of England—and the methods utilised will be not balanced reasoned academic argument, but a form of deceptive and manipulative rhetoric that ought to have no place in the Church. I shall say more about the rhetorical strategy and theological significance of this book as a whole in the follow up.

What in summary is the argument of this book for the Church celebrating same sex relationships? Taken at face value it is as follows:

Disciples of Jesus must learn what the world is really like. We do so from a simplistic caricature of science. That which in the Bible appears to condemn homosexuality is unclear or not really about homosexuality or reflects prejudices of people in a primitive culture. There is a clear revolutionary message of welcome to the outsider in the Bible which means the Church should celebrate same sex relationships. The tradition the Church has which offers an ethical vision that does not accept homosexuality is not really the Church’s tradition. The tradition is whatever each generation finds when it brings its experiences into conversation with scripture. God continues to speak through the culture and Church as it engages in this process. Love is love and is good without any qualification. We believe that same sex love is therefore something the Church is obliged to celebrate as the Church should celebrate love. Celebrating same sex relationships is essential if the Church is to engage in a mission that faithfully reflects that seen in the Bible, and that is effective in today’s culture.

ImageIn a follow-up, I will explore the significance of this approach for the Church’s conversation about sexuality and sexual ethics.

Rev’d Dr Peter Sanlon is Vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Tunbridge Wells. He read theology at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He has published books such as Simply God (IVP) and Augustine’s Theology of Preaching (Fortress). He enjoys the creative chaos of normal parish life.

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102 thoughts on “What is amazing about ‘Amazing Love’?”

  1. A useful summary of Andrew Davison’s book which I was unaware of but have now ordered. I guess the problem is that non-Mainstream types will agree wholeheartedly with the views presented in the main penultimate paragraph and will think that Peter has not given any convincing counterargument to that approach. That’s certainly my view. The views on both ‘sides’ are largely set and I doubt many minds will be changed either way. To stay together we are going to end up agreeing to differ.

    • Drew, that is an interesting comment. So can I take that it is not a problem for you that:

      1. The text ignores the actual scientific evidence in order to support its case?

      2. It ignores the actual debates about the biblical text?

      3. It fails to think carefully about questions of love and desire, and offers a naive and unqualified assertion about the goodness of sex?

      4. It flies in the face of all the research about church growth and the relationship with culture?

      It appears that the only way of reaching the final paragraph is to make all these moves and more.

      • Ian, those are precisely the points that I would say are not proven. Peter simply repeats the points made by opposers of equal marriage that I simply don’t agree with.

        • So Drew, you believe that the authors are correct to assert that ‘scientists agree almost universally that there is a biological basis to same-sex attraction’?

          This is in spite of the Danish research from 2006 demonstrating a statistically significant connection between being in SSM and a. having an older father b. sibling order and c. being brought up in a city? Do you have references to a paper which refutes this conclusion?

          And do you reject the range of research demonstrating fluidity in patterns of sexual attraction, especially amongst women? So Lisa Diamond, the lesbian gay campaigner and academic in the States, is wrong when she thinks that identity should be abandoned in gay campaigning because gay identity is not stable?

          Again, could you point to the research which refutes this well established point?

          • I think that as a statement it IS widely agreed amongst scientists that “there is a (some) biological basis to same-sex attraction.” Whether it is true or not I am not qualified to judge. It seems that the jury is still out on the question of why some people are gay and that probably it is a complex question. Certainly most people experience their sexuality as some sort of ‘given’ whether that is through biology or environment. I’ve already indicated that I understand sexuality is more of a spectrum than bi-polar and that it may, in some people be more fluid. I don’t see that alters my basic approach – in fact I suspect I’m more comfortable with that truth than many traditionalists.

            I’m sure I could find some reference to supporting research but no doubt you would do the opposite back. The scientists don’t agree with each other any more than the theologians.

          • Excuse me, Drew: the book does NOT say ‘there is a (some) biological basis to same-sex attraction’; it omits the word ‘some’, and that makes all the difference.

            Of course there is ‘some’ biological element; I don’t know any thinking commentator who doesn’t believe that. But the book goes a lot further, and it does so by:

            1. obscuring the discussion
            2. omitting research which supports exactly the contradictory position (that environment is really key)
            3. And, most shocking of all, relying on the largely discredited research of Simon LeVay.

            I took an interest in LeVay’s research when it hit the news in the late 90s, since we had attended the same school. Wikipedia makes a modest comment (which will certainly have been appealed and edited by supporters of LeVay):

            LeVay’s finding was widely reported in the media.[3] LeVay openly related his research to his own homosexuality and to his mourning over his lover’s death from AIDS.[4] LeVay cautioned against misinterpreting his findings in a 1994 interview: “It’s important to stress what I didn’t find. I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic, or find a genetic cause for being gay. I didn’t show that gay men are born that way, the most common mistake people make in interpreting my work. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain. The INAH3 is less likely to be the sole gay nucleus of the brain than a part of a chain of nuclei engaged in men and women’s sexual behavior.”[5] Some critics of LeVay questioned the accuracy and appropriateness of his measurements, observing that the structures are difficult to see in tissue slices and that he measured in volume rather than cell count.[6] Nancy Ordover writes that LeVay has been criticized for “his small sample size and for compiling inadequate sexual histories.”[7]

            Basically, LeVay picked a small sample of homosexuals he knew to prove his point.

            And this highlights the biggest problem with your comment. You claim ‘The scientists don’t agree with each other any more than the theologians.’ This makes the mistake of thinking that even soft science is as subjective as much theological debate.

            In fact, the two pieces of research I mentioned above are not, to my knowledge, at all contested, and in fact are used by pro-gay campaigners.

            AND YET this uncontested research does not even get a mention—because it does not suit the argument of the book. It is highly irresponsible—but is absolutely typical of the debate in the C of E right now.

          • Well in my book (though I admit I have not read that book yet as I only ordered it today so can’t comment on what you say it asserts) saying ‘a’ biological basis doesn’t have to mean that it’s the only one, so ‘some’ covers it as well. ‘A’ biological basis may accept that other non-biological bases exist – which so far as I know almost everyone, including the author of this book (me2 and you), admits, so I’m not sure what your point really is.

            Statistics, as per your reference, merely show there is a correlation – not necessarily causal. Do you have a reference to show it is?

            As to sexual ‘identity’ this must apply to both gay and straight, male and female, surely? I’m happy with sexuality being potentially fluid and unstable. Good natural theology that ethics must come to terms with? I’ve never suggested otherwise.

            By the way, I’m not ‘pro-Gay’ I’m just pro-human beings.

          • Drew_Mac,

            That’s just semantic sophistry. Basis is defined as principal constituent; fundamental ingredient

            Given the research, to claim that the biological factor is ‘aprincipal constituent’ of same-sex attraction is patently false, being unsupported by the evidence.

            If, as you say, ‘statistics merely show that there is a correlation – not necessarily causal’, how are the authors of ‘Amazing Love’ arguing from ‘mere correlation’ to assert that biology is a basis, i.e. a principal constituent, fundamental ingredient of same-sex attraction?

            It is also irresponsible for the authors to omit the most significant known factor which research has identified, namely, environment. This is presumably because mentioning it would undermine the authors’ notion that the conservative position blindly ignores the supposed biological cause of same-sex attraction; something that you claim the statistics can’t show!

            The authors also fail to distinguish sexual orientation per se from the sexual orientation identity, the latter being described by the American Psychological Association as exhibiting fluidity.

            In the summary of current research Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, the APA notes:

            Same-sex sexual attractions and behavior occur in the context of a variety of sexual orientations and sexual orientation identities, and for some, sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) is fluid or has an indefinite outcome.

            In support of this position, It states:
            ‘Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (i.e., telic congruence).’

            ‘Although affirmative approaches have historically been conceptualized around helping sexual minorities accept and adopt a gay or lesbian identity (e.g., Browning et al., 1991; Shannon & Woods, 1991), the recent research on sexual orientation identity diversity illustrates that sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation identity are labeled and expressed in many different ways, some of which are fluid (e.g., Diamond, 2006, 2008; Firestein, 2007; Fox, 2004; Patterson, 2008; Savin-Williams, 2005; R. L. Worthington & Reynolds, 2009).

            We define an affirmative approach as supportive of clients’ identity development without a priori treatment goals for how clients identify or express their sexual orientations. Thus, a multiculturally competent affirmative approach aspires to understand the diverse personal and cultural in uences on clients and enables clients to determine (a) the ultimate goals for their identity process; (b) the behavioral expression of their sexual orientation; (c) their public and private social roles; (d) their gender roles, identities, and expression; (e) the sex and gender of their partner; and (f) the forms of their relationships.

          • The comment about ‘a biological basis to same-sex attraction’ come at the end of a discussion which points out that heritability has been estimated to be about 50-60% for women and 30% for men. It also comes after this statement: ‘All this means that it’s very difficult to distinguish the consequences of our genetic inheritance from the effects of social and environmental factors. Often the best we can do is talk about varying degrees of biological ‘influence’ or ‘predisposition’. (p.27)

            To assert that the author is denying that environmental factors are also relevant is misleading.

          • Jonathan,

            The authors actually refer to the Bailey, Dunne & Martin study in stating:

            Nevertheless, one of the most rigorous twin studies, based on 4,901 participants, estimated a heritability factor of 50 – 60% for women and 30% for men,’

            The study defines heritability as the proportion of variance in expression of the trait due to all genetic influence(s) combined. Heritability is measure of “genetic influence”, which tells us what proportion of the study sample’s variation in a trait correlates to variation in genetic influences.

            Notably, heritability does not tell us what parts of a trait can be ascribed to its heredity and to its environment.

            In terms of twin concordances (which the Amazing Love authors should have examined) combining the results from six studies between 2000-2011, researchers found that if one identical twin has same-sex attractions, the chances that their co-twin also has same-sex attractions, are only about 11% for men and 14% for women.

            Maybe the authors should explain this, instead of asserting that ‘often the best we can do is talk about varying degrees of biological ‘influence’ or ‘predisposition’

      • I think it only fair that I get a chance to actually read the book to see what it actually claims. However it is not semantics to point out that claiming ‘a biological cause’ is not the same as claiming that biology is ‘THE’ cause.

        Personally I try to point people struggling with this question to balanced sites like Justin Lee’s Gay Christian Network and the Born Gay? pages of ProCon.org where they can get an unemotional presentation of views and evidence on both sides – and in the case of GCN be welcomed whether they end up deciding for celibacy or same-sex marriage.

        • Drew-mac,

          So, in one comment, you assert that: ‘statistics merely show that there is s correlation – not causality’

          Now your latest comment distinguishes and defends the attribution of a measure of causality to biology: However it is not semantics to point out that claiming ‘a biological cause’ is not the same as claiming that biology is ‘THE’ cause’

          However, if, as you say, statistics can’t show causality, the distinction in the latter comment is meaningless.

          A key argument from the authors of ‘Amazing Love’ references to scientific evidence was for them to insist on p. 31: Today, indeed, even the use of counselling in an attempt to change someone’s sexual orientation is widely discredited, and receives no support from the relevant professional bodies’

          However, as quoted from the American Psychological Association’s study above, it is a ‘straw man’ to decry sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) when it is sexual orientation identity which is the focus of the professional organisation’s recommendations for therapeutic intervention.

          This is because it not only exhibits fluidity, but also has the greater influence on actual behaviour.

          What is entirely irresponsible is for the authors’ to conclude on page 34: while the biological basis is known in any great detail, all the evidence points to some genetic predisposition’

          Guess what? It doesn’t!

          And guess what else? I’m sure that, as you’ve done here, revisionists will moving the goalposts of debate when a particular line of supposed incontrovertible evidence proves fruitless!

          I don’t know why revisionists even bother to invoke scientific evidence or scriptural exegesis when the repeated change of tack practically bins the evidence to assert, ‘Well anyway, setting aside our last few abortive arguments about para phusin and evidence of a genetic basis for same-sex attraction, which foundered badly, poor arguments are no proof that we’ve got this wrong. We just have to sound plausible and informed!’

    • ‘To stay together we are going to end up agreeing to differ.’

      Sure, as long as the church doesn’t change its teaching and practice or expand the already generous pastoral accommodation, then we can agree to differ and stay together. If you think we could change church teaching and practice in a revisionist direction and stay together – as though that is not just ceding the debate to the revisionists – then I’m afraid you’re going to be very disappointed. Or maybe you won’t be disappointed to see conservatives leave in large numbers. But either way it will be very damaging to the church.

      The only way to stay together (if that is what you are most concerned about) is to stick with the current and traditional teaching. That way, very few will leave – even without same-sex blessings the Church of England is surely liberal enough to satisfy most liberals. Many conservatives on the other hand really will feel the time has come if the church makes such a decisive break with the mainstream Christian tradition and the clear teaching of scripture.

      My advice if you want to keep the church together: desist from divisive agitation and accept, however grudgingly, the teaching of the church and the accommodation already offered.

      • I agree in the sense that I doubt the Church of England can stay together on this one without a mixed economy on same-sex marriage.

        I think when it came to it the Church would probably split rather like the country spit on Brexit. It’s hard to say who would have the 52% and who the 48% until the actual vote but I suspect the majority are now on the side of allowing change without requiring it of individual parishes or clergy.

        • I don’t think you do agree with me at all. The point of my comment is that a mixed economy requires the church to change its teaching and practice (i.e. authorise SSM blessings, and hence its teaching on sex and marriage) and hence is no compromise but revisionism pure and simple (with some provision for the orthodox conscience). And my further point is that this approach is much less likely to hold the church together than simply drawing a line and sticking with the current position (which is already a big compromise on the clear teaching of scripture). Whatever the split in opinion, the fact is that very few will leave the church if we stay put because very few feel strongly enough about it, but a great many will leave if we persist in making further changes because they recognise this (rightly) to be a crucial issue for the church’s fidelity to scripture. As I said: if you want to hold the church together, you need to stop pressing for deeply divisive changes (which is what your mixed economy is) and leave things be.

          • That won’t happen as it doesn’t face up to the changes already in place in belief, teaching and practice. The division and ‘mixed economy’ is already here in church and society and we need to be honest about it. The practice in some other churches on this issue is deeply dishonest and unChristian – people publically accept all sorts of ‘traditional’ teachings whilst making large personal derogations on all sorts of beliefs and practices.

          • It is not just about being honest, it’s about making radical, unbiblical and divisive changes in church teaching and practice. It is one thing for people to do these things anyway (with blind eyes turned perhaps) quite another to actually change the teaching of the church away from the scriptural witness. If you think the mixed economy is already present then just be content with that and stop pressing for divisive changes. If you want the church to be honest then if the church decides not to make the changes you’re seeking will you be pressing for it to be more honest and stop accommodating things it thinks is wrong? Besides, I was talking about what will hold the church together. If you decide that actually you prefer ‘honesty’ to that then you can make that argument, but be under no illusions of the price with which your ‘honesty’ comes.

      • “My advice if you want to keep the church together: desist from divisive agitation and accept, however grudgingly, the teaching of the church and the accommodation already offered.”

        Hmm…apparently it was Bonhoeffer who reflected that for every great ethical problem there was an answer that was clear and simple and completely wrong. That, I suspect, is the case with your answer to this problem Will. It just won’t ever be that straightforward with this issue.

        • Tell you what. Let’s test it. Let’s reiterate that we’re drawing a line where we already are and see what happens. I confidently predict that if the church stands firm in its teaching very little will change and very few will leave. Why so confident? Because that’s what the Catholic Church did, and it hasn’t split or seen massive decline. If you don’t change anything very few people leave – just a few unhappy activists – because the church is the same one they joined. But if you make radical and fundamental changes then you trigger schisms and mass exoduses. Too simple? Sometimes things really are as simple as they seem and those who want change just don’t want to accept it. Besides – I would hardly call our current arrangements, with carefully worked out pastoral accommodation of something which under church teaching is sinful, simple.

          • Will, similarly, if you change (let us say at the prompting of the Holy Spirit) as happened with women’s orders, a few unhappy activists left – some to join the RCs – and some drifted back quietly. The centre held. It’s the Gamaliel principle, isn’t it?

          • I don’t think you quite understand the difference in sense and feeling between that issue – something on which the biblical witness permits of two (or more) plausible readings – and this, where those committed to the church’s current teaching are quite clear that the biblical witness is unequivocal. You aren’t just asking to change a point of church order here, you’re asking to sanction and celebrate sin. Don’t be under any illusions of the gravity of what you are proposing.

          • No, the Catholic Church hasn’t split, but that doesn’t mean that all regularly practising Catholics are in agreement with its official line on this subject. I’m not in a position to give any percentages, but I do know from my own experience that a great many are not. I don’t know how big a decline has to be to be described as massive. All that I can say is that the decline in the UK over the last couple of decades has been very marked. I have observed a similar decline in Italy.

          • All churches have declined over the last couple of decades. Far greater decline can be seen in churches which have changed their teaching in this area. As the review says: ‘Needless to say the fact that every denomination that has embraced same sex marriage has seen catastrophic and in most cases near terminal decline is not mentioned. No explanation as to why the outcome for the Church of England would be different is given, since the arguments used to justify the innovation elsewhere are identical.’

          • Penelope, you wrote: “Will, similarly, if you change (let us say at the prompting of the Holy Spirit) as happened with women’s orders, a few unhappy activists left …”

            There is no record of the Holy Spirit going against Scripture so your first suggestion doesn’t work. Women’s orders are not against Scripture as such. You only have to read Elizabeth Schuessler-Fiorenza’s book (“In Memory of her”) to see that and so your second suggestion doesn’t work either.

            P.S. In most of Germany, Austria and Switzerland an e is used combined with the vowel where North German uses an umlaut.

          • BTW, the backdrop to Gamaliel’s advice was:
            1. The healing power which gave divine accreditation to Peter and John’s message:
            And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
            2. The miraculous escape of the apostles from prison to return to preach Christ in the temple.
            3. The Sanhedrin’s plot to kill the apostles.

            Gamaliel’s description of the demise of other movements was in sharp contrast with the miraculous interventions which attended the apostles’ mission.

            When he said, ‘Let them alone’, he was addressing the council’s escalation from warning the apostles to desist from preaching Christ to their conspiracy to murder the apostles.

            He was certainly not advocating a ‘Two integrities’ capitulation to their teachings.

          • Actually, Clive there is a very important record of the HS going against (a previous understanding of) scripture. Read Galations and Acts 15

          • The biblical witness supports several plausible readings on this as well. Of course people committed to what they call the church’s current teaching are clear. They are not the church though; there are other voices

          • Penelope, that is an extraordinary reading of Acts 15. The three reasons why the decision was made at the Council were:

            1. It was recognised that this possibility *was* already in scripture

            2. This was in fact connected with God’s explicit eschatological purpose, which went beyond Israel to all people.

            3. Because of the meeting of Scripture with experience, the recognition was universal amongst the believers.

            That is a rather striking contrast to the situation we are facing here on all three points…!!

          • Penelope the Bible really doesn’t admit of a plausible pro-gay reading. Women leaders are mentioned frequently in the NT. Gay couples are not, and same-sex relations are prohibited. It would struggle to be clearer. Pro-gay readings lean far too heavily on an argument from silence that says the Bible does not address the particular type of same-sex relationships in question – as though its plain prohibition on same-sex relations does not apply to same-sex relationships of a certain kind.

            And what’s all this ‘what they call’ the church’s current teaching? Are you suggesting this isn’t clear either? Perhaps the church’s teaching is also open to a plausible pro-gay interpretation… At what point will you admit that you are reading your views into the text and not allowing it to speak for itself?

          • I agree Ian, Acts 15 demonstrates a revisionist reading of scripture; Paul is more forthright than the eirenic Luke.
            I would argue that your points 2 & 3 apply to SSM.
            2. This was in fact connected with God’s explicit eschatological purpose

            3. Because of the meeting of Scripture with experience, the recognition was universal amongst the believers.

          • Will, so many things besides same-sex relationships aren’t mentioned in the Bible (in-vitro fertilisation, stem-cell research). How do we make ethical judgements about them?

          • Immediately Penelope you have twisted it by saying “Actually, Clive there is a very important record of the HS going against (a previous understanding of) scripture. Read Galations and Acts 15” because you have not referred to Holy Scripture but instead to “a previous understanding of…” so the Holy Spirit hasn’t gone against Scripture nor did it in the case of women’s ordination. By contrast Jesus’ words on marriage are clear and it is with good reason that marriage appears in Canon Law as being “According to our Lord’s teaching…”. It is the only Canon that does so.

  2. “A Theology for understanding Discipleship, Sexuality and Mission

    A concerning failure on all 4 counts then. Was there nothing at all positive in this book, surely there is something of worth?

    • I think that in matters such as this it is absolutely fine to publish and not seek a reply or response from authors; and it is also fine to seek a response.
      Either approach is fine. (I have been on the receiving end of both approaches!)

      When people publish material in public realm they are inviting public responses. To which they are free to make responses as they wish; and to which they may or may not be invited!

      Im perfectly happy for Ian to do as he wishes with his moderation and replies etc. And I am grateful to him for hosting this conversation.

      We are all grown ups…

  3. I’m sorry, but this is a poor review.

    A few examples.

    The criticisms about the science are bizarre if you actually read the book (particularly since the reviewer admits that the book is not technically incorrect). Why on earth would such a book go into questionable practices at the Kinsey Institute in the 1940s, when the work on sexuality being a spectrum was only cited as being the basis of later studies? Why include a detailed history on how the APA made its decision, when the APA isn’t even mentioned specifically, only a reference to ‘many national and international psychological bodies’? And scientists do agree almost universally that there is a biological basis to same-sex attraction.

    In the Being Biblical part of the review, the reviewer fails to mention that the authors explain:
    ‘In the limited space of this chapter, we can only gesture towards interpretations of the most debated passages, and commend to readers the very fine and detailed work that others have done on these texts elsewhere.’ (p.42).
    Of particular note is that accompanying this statement is an endnote which points to more detailed treatments, including those of Robert Gagnon (note 40, p.108), who the reviewer accuses the authors of ignoring.

    The reviewer then thinks that the authors are accusing conservatives of ‘chronological snobbery’ (p.55). The reviewer here is wrong – the authors are accusing some inclusivists of chronological snobbery, in a passage which is actually warning all sides not to be one-dimensional.

    I don’t recognise the book from this review.

  4. Hi Jonathan,

    People are obviously free to read the book for themselves to form a judgement of accuracy of my summaries. On three of your points:

    1. The grotesque experiments Kinsey performed are used and given nothing but positive credit on p.23. The question one ought to ask is why no mention is made of the child abuse and the flawed samples taken from prisoners? Does it not concern you this pertinent fact is omitted?

    2. Removal of homosexuality from the ‘list’ by ‘national and international psychological bodies’ is the terminology used on p21. Elsewhere the UK bodies are mentioned. I point out the lack of relevant detail regarding one of the most significant international bodies, which calls into question the neat account given by the authors.

    3. You are correct – I see that Robert Gagnon is footnoted on p108 Footnote 40. I do apologise – thank you for pointing that out. I missed that.

    Thanks for engaging.

    • Hi Peter,

      Thanks for responding, particularly given the negative comments I made about your review. Brace yourself…

      1. The ‘grotesque experiments’ weren’t experiments. Kinsey was recording data from the diary and recollections of a paedophile. As far as I know, they play no part in the Kinsey Scale. The prisoner data was removed from the results; it made no practical difference. In any case the book does not rely directly on Kinsey’s research, but on later research based on Kinsey’s principle of using a scale to describe people’s orientation. In a small, popular book it would be bizarre to go into this sort of controversy, unrelated to the point being made in the book. I don’t normally offer Wikipedia as a model, but as an example, the article on the Kinsey Scale (which of course covers far more than a brief line in a book) doesn’t see that dispute as relevant, as it’s not mentioned. Hence I find your criticism unjustified.

      2. Again, in a small, popular book for a British audience why would the author go into the specific history of how the American body took its decisions over forty years ago? The point being made was that at one point homosexuality was seen as a psychiatric disorder; that has changed. Again, I find your criticism for not including irrelevant detail unjustified.

      3. Thank you for acknowledging this.

    • Hi Peter,

      On the basis of your review, the book seems to have a quasi- or post-Thomist methodology. A highly debatable position on science/nature is then used as a hermeneutical grid to turn the reading of Scripture adopted by the Christian tradition of 2000 years, East & West, Protestant & Catholic, upside down.

  5. I’d hope that there’s scope to reach a limited consensus on the voluntariness of homosexuality.

    Whatever the biological or psychological cause, can we at least agree that a minority of the population are sexually attracted to their own gender; and, regardless of their desire to change those feelings, most are unable to do so?

    If that can be agreed, the science tangent can be set aside, and focus switched to dealing with this reality.

    • Can we then also agree that the above observation in no way militates against the Gospel call to sacrificial and costly obedience to the Bible’s teaching as taught in the formularies of the C of E and Lambeth 1.10 etc?

      • In and of itself, it makes no theological claim: if can be argued that “sacrificial and costly obedience” is necessary; but the burden of the demand would at least be acknowledged.

    • Except we must attend not only to those who currently find themselves in this situation, but also to the factors which tend to increase or decrease the prevalence of the phenomenon in society. The problem with simply accepting the givenness of same-sex attraction in the way you suggest is that it turns us away from considering the issue from a longer term socio-cultural perspective. Sexual attraction may be all-but-fixed in individuals, but the same cannot be said for society.

      • The factors which tend to increase or decrease the prevalence of the phenomenon of homosexuality in society are largely a matter of speculation – as much so, in fact, as are those which tend to increase or decrease the prevalence of the phenomenon of heterosexuality.

        No doubt considering the issue of same-sex attraction from a longer term socio-cultural perspective might form an interesting and absorbing pursuit for some, but since it is of no more urgency, for any practical purpose, than considering the issue of opposite-sex attraction from a similar perspective, I see absolutely no problem about our simply accepting the “givenness” of the former in the same way as we simply accept that of the latter.

    • James, sadly we cannot, for three reasons.

      1. The claimed biological givenness of ‘sexual identity’ is pretty central in most revisionist arguments for the theological ‘honour’ of SSM. Remove that and quite a bit of the non-negotiable (so it is thought) argument disappears. At a popular level people say ‘God made him gay; I should accept this’. If it becomes ‘His parents and environment made him gay…’ then it all gets rather less clear.

      2. It isn’t the case that orientation is a given; the EA booklet by Goddard and Harrison explores this though I don’t think get a mention in the book.

      3. If environment is important, then this raises big questions about our own culture. Even the short Wikipedia page on ‘Courses of sexual orientation’ notes that SSA is a feature of competitive societies, but not of collaborative societies. This means that, as a nation and culture, we have a big hand in this phenomenon that we keep claiming is biologically determined.

      I had an exchange with someone in a SSM about this in the comments on my review of Journeys into Grace and Truth. I could repost it here if that would help.

      • Yes, it’d be interesting. 🙂

        If this is pursued, to gain traction in society, it’ll have to be translated into secular terms: namely, explaining to an indifferent and affirming majority why they should want the biological causes of homosexuality to be investigated to any serious extent.

      • But Ian, as you know, some of us don’t base our arguments on that. Even if sexual orientation or identity was chosen (and no reputable studies, to my knowledge, say that) it can’t be a sinful choice if we view faithful, stable SS relationships as capable of exhibiting the same virtues as other-sex ones.

        • I don’t understand the logic of that argument. Can other forms of relationship not also exhibit ‘virtues’? Does that imply that we accept and affirm as holy those other forms of relationship?

          If not, why so in this case, but not in others?

          • Ian, perhaps I should have said same-sex marriages may exhibit the same conjugal virtues as other-sex marriages. I was not referring to other kinds of relationship – parent/child, siblings, friends – which may exhibit virtue, but not conjugal virtue.

      • Well there are many scientists still arguing very firmly, and on the basis of recent studies, that at least in men homsexuality is innate. Perhaps they have not read the EA booklet either?

        • Being ‘innate’ is not the same as being ‘biological’. Early years development is very difficult to undo, as anyone adopting a child from a difficult background knows very well.

          • Indeed, though I think that may be a rather semantic point in this context. I used the word without precision but it is still very much on the nature (non-social) side of the debate rather than nurture (social) side. The conclusion of many scientists studying sexuality is still that (at least in men) homosexuality is to some degree:

            natural, biological, genetic, inherited, heritable, innate, inborn, congenital

            rather than:

            environmental, learned, chosen, acquired, socialized or socially constructed.

            I’m fully aware that some scientists and psychologists disagree – but the opposite case is far from proven and, I think the weight of the evidence is on the side of sexuality being nature not nurture (at least in men).

          • Drew_mac,

            The issue here is that your appeal to scientific authority doesn’t work.

            Until you can establish a preponderance of scientific evidence supporting your claims, it’s useless for you merely to make bold assertions about ‘the conclusion of many scientists’ and ‘the weight of evidence’.

          • Thanks for the link Drew. Just to pick out the conclusion on twin studies, this helpful article concludes that section:

            “In conclusion, the evidence supporting a genetic influence on sexual orientation is consistent, although sampling biases remain a concern even for the best available studies. Our best estimate of the magnitude of genetic effects is moderate—certainly not overwhelming. In contrast, the evidence for environmental influence is unequivocal, given that MZ twin concordances tend to be far less than 100%,23 assuming that the MZ twin pairs are truly discordant.”

            In other words, the claims of the book, which are purported to be on a good academic basis, by academic experts, are completely misleading—and this is disguised from the ordinary reader.

            In other words, Peter Sanlon is completed right in his accusations both about the content of this book and of its method.

          • This is actually a very good paper (which you would expect when Lisa Diamond is involved). Take for example the way they handle same-sex parenting. I love this section.

            samples are recruited nonsystematically, through techniques including advertisements and snowball sampling (i.e., having participants refer other potential participants they know). Participants recruited in such ways are likely to be unusual in some respects—having high motivation and curiosity, for example. Consequently, outcome differences between children of heterosexual and homosexual parents recruited nonsystematically may also be biased. Because most studies using convenience samples have been small, statistical power to detect small, or even
            moderate, differences has typically been low. Finally, by their very nature, convenience samples are not amenable to the kind of sophisticated quantitative analyses necessary to disentangle environmental from genetic parental effects. (That goal would require data from informative pairs of relatives, such as twins or adoptive siblings.)”

            What they’ve done there (and they know that they’re doing it) is pretty much kick into touch 95% of “studies” that claim to show that same-sex parenting produces no discernible outcomes for children. As for the remaining probability sample studies, they rightly raise the correct criticisms of the work of Regnerus (I made the same criticisms myself) whilst also hinting that he may be on to something “other factors unrelated to
            stigma may cause the fragility. These could include, for example, characteristics of nonheterosexual people or characteristics of nonheterosexual relationships”.

            Note that the same principle around convenience samples can also be applied to pretty well every study that claims that forms of conversion therapy cause harm. The authors don’t actually link to any research evidence that supports such a contention – they merely cite opinions.

            This is an honest study, we just need to report it honestly.

          • Drew_mac,

            Thanks for this. I’ll read it carefully. The paper does distinguish sexual orientation from sexual orientation identity:
            It is, of course, possible to change one’s public sexual-orientation identity, and one can certainly make choices about whether one will or will not engage in same-sex or opposite-sex sexual behavior or become celibate. These sorts of choices likely explain claims by ex-gays and ex-lesbians that they are no longer leading
            a “homosexual lifestyle” (see Beckstead, 2001, pp. 92–109, for examples). There is no good evidence, however,that sexual orientation can be changed with therapy, and we strongly doubt it can be. Even many therapists sympathetic to the desire of some homosexual people to live heterosexual lives have shifted their efforts from changing
            sexual orientation to helping homosexual people live as they prefer under the unchangeable constraint of homosexual orientation (Schwartz, 2011; Throckmorton
            & Yarhouse, 2006).

            This concurs with the APA’s Therapeutic Responses paper, which states:
            Although affirmative approaches have historically been conceptualized around helping sexual minorities accept and adopt a gay or lesbian identity (e.g., Browning et al., 1991; Shannon & Woods, 1991), the recent research on sexual orientation identity diversity illustrates that sexual behavior, sexual attraction, and sexual orientation identity are labeled and expressed in many different ways, some of which are fluid (e.g., Diamond, 2006, 2008; Firestein, 2007; Fox, 2004; Patterson, 2008; Savin-Williams, 2005; R. L. Worthington & Reynolds, 2009)’

            So, what I’d like to see is some engagement with the APA’s recommendations, especially where it explains:
            Conflicts among disparate elements of identity play a major role in the conflicts and mental health concerns of those seeking SOCE. Identity exploration is an active process of exploring and assessing one’s identity and establishing a commitment to an
            integrated identity that addresses the identity conflicts without an a priori treatment goal for how clients identify or live out their sexual orientation. The process may include a developmental process that includes periods of crisis, mourning, reevaluation, identity deconstruction, and growth.

            Licensed Mental Health Professionals address specific issues for religious clients by
            integrating aspects of the psychology of religion into their work, including obtaining a thorough assessment of clients’ spiritual and religious beliefs, religious
            identity and motivations, and spiritual functioning; improving positive religious coping; and exploring the intersection of religious and sexual orientation
            identities. This framework is consistent with modern multi-culturally competent approaches and evidence-based psychotherapy practices and can be integrated
            into a variety of theoretical systems.’

  6. It is genuinely surprising how outdated and well refuted so many of the arguments in that book were. I really expected something more impressive. If that is the best argument the homosexualist lobby can produce when they want to influence General Synod …. well it makes me wonder if perhaps it might be obvious to a lot of people that their view is incorrect and it would be a serious error for the C of E to implement further accommodations towards their goal of ‘celebrating’ homosexual unions…

    • I am not a fan of the term “Homosexualist” and had not seen it used before.

      First, does does it not assume that all homosexuals are of one mind? Can there be heterosexual homosexualists, I’m sure we would agree that there can be and there are a great many of them?

      Second, perhaps this is semantics, but does the term “Homosexualist”, as opposed to “Heterosexualist” not imply and associate strong division between two polar opposites, an ‘us-and-them’ mentality? There is often debate on this blog about the potential pejorative meanings of traditionalist/revisionist, and I am not sure this term is any better.


      • Thank you Mat. Using the term ‘homosexualist’ is offensive, is designed to be offensive, and discredits everything that Peter Sanlon has said. It is astonishing and I hope it might yet be withdrawn.

        • I wouldn’t go that far.

          I don’t think it’s designed to be offensive and it’s unfair of you to assume Peter meant it that way. I also wouldn’t agree it discredits and undermines what he says; he doesn’t use it in the article, only in the comments, and not in any pejorative sense.

        • There are no perfect terms in this debate. I don’t especially like the term gay but people use it!
          The term you mention is helpful because it can be used to describe people who campaign for acceptance of homosexuality but makes no assumption as to whether or not they do so due to being homosexual themselves. That can be a helpful point to make. In general I don’t think.it worth getting into debates about words. I’ve been called a heterosexist before and I think while its not a great term its best to overlook.

          • Being kind I hadn’t thought anyone was campaigning for the non-acceptance of homosexuality, even those not in favour of same-sex marriage. I have, however, read the occasional thing by people who attempt to deny that there is such a thing as homosexuality at all.

          • Peter: perhaps then, as you can accept that it’s not a great term to call you, you will refrain from calling others homosexualist?

          • I also said it is helpful. I’ll continue to use it unless I can find one which better serves to describe the movement which campaigns for the celebration of homosexuality.

          • The fact that you continue to want to use a term that others find abusive says rather a lot.

        • Andrew if the term “homsexualist” is defined as ” someone agreeing with the proposition that same/homo sex unions are a beneficial” then I can’t see how it can be offensive generally. It can only be offensive if someone calls another person “homosexualist” when in fact that other person believes that same/homo unions are immoral.

        • Actually it’s a sign of maturity to not take offence at terms so much and instead engage with the substance of issues. Eg what do you think of the fact this book repeatedly asks questions designed to manipulate readers into agreeing with arguments that omit relevant evidence? That is much more important.

      • And your objecting to terms rather than engaging in the substance of the debate suggests something also. I’m the years I have spent debating these issues back and forth I have observed that people who begin to object to terms tend to not test satisfied till their interlocutor either gives up our agrees with them. That’s why I don’t engage in arguments over words beyond a brief observation on point.

        • For my part I agree with you Peter. I questioned the use of the term simply because that was my first reading of it, having never encountered it before, and it struck me as potentially unhelpful: something Andrew is demonstrating for me.

          • Thanks. Appreciate it. Thus debate is littered with remarkable words. Redefining terms and inventing them and being offended by then is the currency of debate. Sadly.

          • Umm..no. It’s simply common courtesy and a sign of maturity if someone says ‘please don’t use is term, it is offensive’, then we respect that. The term ‘homophobic’ is one that some find unhelpful, and so is best not used.
            This was something we discovered during the shared conversations and it helps dialogue.

          • ‘Homophobic’ is unhelpful, because it falsely labels a considered position as ‘an irrational fear or hatred.’ So it misrepresents the position in question.

          • I think you are wrong there, unfortunately. There IS a fear around the acceptance of those who are in homosexual marriages and relationships within the church. It is demonstrated on this blog time and time again. But I recognise that conservatives don’t like the term homophobic so don’t use it. It’s all about helping dialogue and if people prefer terms not to be used, I think that needs understanding and respect.

          • Andrew – does that make you orthophobic because you fear the orthodox teaching of the faith and those who hold to it and advocate for it? Or perhaps is that the wrong way to characterise a considered, principled disagreement? Accusing your opponents of fearing you and your position hardly seems constructive or respectful – and not just if they object to it.

  7. As one who takes a reformed view (certainly not revisionist or homosexualist) on these matters it does seem that the debate, on both sides, is going downhill and people are easily getting tetchy or even deliberately offensive. Back to bunkers and hand grenades will help noone.

    The most amazing, and difficult, thing about ‘Amazing Love’ is that we are supposed to demonstrate it to one another.

    • And I think that includes transparency and honesty about what the issue are, and where they do and don’t lead us. That is Peter Sanlon’s complaint here.

      • At the end of the day this is a pro-reform book being reviewed by a pro-status quo advocate. I’d expect them to differ about both science and scripture in this debate. We can read the research and the theology that convinces us either way and indeed I read both sincerely and yet come to some different conclusions than both yourself and Peter Sanlon. I don’t believe that either of you is being dishonest or disingenuous just because we differ. I see no evidence that Andrew Davison is either.

    • By ‘reformed view’ do you mean you’re seeking to change the church’s position on this? Because if so that’s very confusing terminology, far too easily confused with a Reformed view, which would be something quite different. Reformist, perhaps, would be better, though I don’t believe that’s a common term in connection this issue.

      • That’s why I used a small ‘r’. Seems a better term than pejorative terms others throw around so I’ll stick with it.

        • Er, ‘reform’ in the context of theological has a well-established historical meaning, which is to review church teaching by a fresh return to biblical theology.

          If you are going to try and claim that term, then we really have gone down the rabbit-hole into a Humpty Dumpty world of language.

  8. Well I’m using the word in the accepted meaning of the action or process of reforming an institution or practice through the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, unjust, inequitable, unsatisfactory, etc.

    That it may annoy Reform members (or Reformed theologians) is a shame but given the pejorative terms they sometimes bandy about…..

  9. I am posting this reply partly to see what the site calls me, as I am not the Penelope who has commented above. But also to point out that we don’t only worry about people leaving the church – we also want people to join it. Gay and lesbian Christians and their friends need to go somewhere.

    • Penelope, I will try to expand my identity when I appear on Ian’s blog, so that people won’t confuse us! I agree entirely with your comment above, but you may not agree with everything I post 🙂

      • Thanks Ian I am now expanded! It still says your comment is awaiting moderation but I assume that since I can see it, others can too?

  10. This is a fantastic review. I often find that so much of the liberal approach is lacking in any academic rigour. They tend to trot out the same old arguments which have long since been discredited, but no doubt their aim is to keep on repeating these in the hope that less informed readers will fall for them. Fortson & Grams have shown how so many liberal arguments in recent times which don’t actually stand up to scrutiny are cited by authors from one generation to the next without question. The slavery argument is one that has become something of a ‘broken record’. Some years ago at Wycliffe I wrote a short thesis on this pointing out that the NT is without question moving in a direction which could only result in the eventual demise of the institution of slavery in the first Christian civilisations. No credible NT scholar could argue that the Gospel did not give rise to a radical reassessment of slavery and master-slave relationships in the early Church. Indeed, one of the reasons I gave for writing the piece back then was to demonstrate that slavery could not be used as an argument in favour of same-sex sexual practices. The other thing is, I was wondering whether the authors attempted to give any clear definition of ‘love’. It is, after all, very appropriate for love between men and between women in the agape or philia sense, as opposed to eros – though no doubt the ambiguity suits the authors’ rhetorical purposes. I look forward to part 2 of the review.


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