What is an ‘inclusive evangelical’?

There was a small social media storm last week when the newish group ‘Inclusive Evangelicals’ issued a letter, with 600 signatories, supporting progress in authorising prayers of blessing for same-sex couples, rooted in the conviction that ‘prayerful reading of scripture has led us to an inclusive position on same-sex relationships.’ I infer from this that members of the group believe that the Church’s current doctrine of marriage, expressed in Canon B30, is wrong and should be changed:

The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

However, this is not stated explicitly, the preferred language being ‘affirming the dignity and relationships of LGBTQIA+ Christians before God and in the full life of the Church of England.’

The group has clearly been very important for those who have joined, creating a sense of belonging with others of similar views, and providing an emotional release valve for people who have felt unable to express their views honestly and openly in their current contexts. This is highlighted by the (minority) of signatories who have not felt able to sign openly but anonymously:

Affirming that we are evangelicals who are part of the Church of England we therefore sign this letter, acknowledging that sadly for some of us that has to be anonymously in the positions we find ourselves.

It is important to recognise the pain felt here—but also worth asking a question. What could cause this difficulty? If people here were members of churches or other organisations where it was expected to support the historical evangelical and Anglican approach to this issue, and they were not able to, is there a question of integrity about continuing in such positions?

This touches on the heart of this question, and the complex intertwining of questions around meaning and identity. I have frequently asked members and conveners of the group how they understand the term ‘evangelical’, and what aspect of the historic understanding of the term they reject. This has led to some helpful discussion, but it has often been mixed with hostility and anger that I am challenging people’s identity—if that is how they describe themselves, who am I to judge? The interface here is between whether words have meaning, and whether groups have boundaries. The difficulty is that, if there are no boundaries around the meaning of a word, then that word actually loses any sense of real content. It is sometimes claimed that words mean what people use them to mean—but if that is the case, communication becomes impossible, because communication relies on a shared sense of understanding of words between the transmitter of a message and the receiver of it. But any challenge to the meaning of this word, ‘evangelical’, is felt to be a challenge to the identity of members of this group, and the journey that they have been on in rethinking key aspects of their own faith.

This sensitivity might be related to the size and nature of the group. The Facebook group has grown quickly, and has clearly been a source of encouragement. With any online group, there is a question of how you prevent it becoming an echo chamber, and the strange thing is that I could happily join, since I too am open to continued exploration of the question of marriage and sexuality. When I attended the corresponding Synod group, ‘Evangelical Forum’, I was told that the group was not for those who had closed minds—and that I was there to listen, not to say anything. The idea that those who are confident in the doctrine of marriage ‘according to the teaching of our Lord’ only do so because they have ‘closed minds’ is curious. Can we not be confident in what Scripture teaches, and still have an open mind to explore or be corrected? I hope this whole blog is an exercise in disciplined exploration, open to any new insights from scripture, offered by anyone.

The group of those who signed is comparatively small—600 across the whole Church of England, compared with, for example, the 3,200 who signed the letter raising concerns about the bishops comments on their transgender guidance in 2018. And of the 600, 26 are members of General Synod, compared with the 150 or so who are members of the Evangelical Group of General Synod—though I think fewer than half of those were ever involved with EGGS, and the 26 include some whom most people would have understood to be liberal catholic in their outlook. Do numbers matter? If not, then why make much of the number 600 in the press release?

The question then arises ‘What is an evangelical?’ and the related question ‘Why do we need to define our terms?’ The primary reason, historically, has been to clarify the central claims that scripture makes, and use them as a guide for the continual reformation and renewal of the Church. In other words, at its best, it has not been about defining a party, but about pointing us all to what Scripture affirms. Mark Vasey-Saunders, in his IE article ‘Who is an “evangelical”? claims that:

The fact that definitions of evangelicalism (in the form of doctrinal bases of faith) are explicitly used as means of imposing certain forms of unity on a diverse constituency means that any attempt to define what evangelicalism is becomes highly political.

But I think that is a pejorative construal of what has happened. Agreeing boundaries around belief is not the same as ‘imposing unity’, and Mark’s later argument about diversity amongst evangelicals (who until recently have almost all been happy to affirm these boundaries) actually undermines his claim. The creeds, it seems to me, have functioned in a similar way to define boundaries without imposing uniformity.

The question that has then arisen for me in conversation is: at what points does this group disagree with historic evangelical understanding? In the Evangelical Forum, there was discussion about the name. Is there a better title for them as a group? Are there other issues on which they take a different stand—or is this a single issue group?

If this is the single issue on which there is disagreement, then why not adopt the CEEC/EGGS basis of faith, and simply omit the additional declaration on sexuality? Or even the UCCF basis of faith? There are terms here that I would want to discuss and debate, but for anyone who ‘identifies’ as evangelical, what is there to disagree with here? (Note there is no specification of one particular model of the atonement, which is a question that often comes up.) Daniel Heaton, a self-confessed Anglo-Catholic, makes a fascinating observation on Twitter:

Some of the conveners have pointed me to David Bebbington’s famous ‘quadrilateral’ that has characterised evangelicalism—the supremacy of Scripture, the centrality of the cross, the vital importance of personal conversion, and a commitment to activism—saying that ‘most members probably go along with this.’ Well, if so, what would have been the problem with making use of this to clarify what ‘identifying as an evangelical’ means?

I wonder if the difficulty here concerns some fairly central questions around salvation. I know from personal conversation that some who have signed the letter are universalists—believing that all people will ultimately be saved and enter the presence of God, whether or not they have turned to God in Christ. That belief is hard to square with Bebbington’s system, particular on the question of ‘conversionism’.

I am not convinced that Bebbington can actually be used as a theology guide to understanding evangelical identity as it stands. For one thing, it is more of a description of the phenomenon of evangelicalism when Bebbington wrote, rather than a theological reflection. For another, I don’t think that we can talk of the supremacy of Scripture as one characteristics amongst several. It is the defining characteristic, and from it all the others flow. This aligns with the historical use of the term, which first occurs much earlier than people realise. As I comment in my Grove booklet on The Practice of Evangelical Spirituality:

It is no accident that the term ‘evangelical’ was first used in relation to a commitment to Scripture. John Wycliffe in the fourteenth century was described by his Bohemian Hussite followers as Doctor Evangelicus super omnes evangelistas; William Tyndale and his fellow exiles in the sixteenth century were described by Thomas More as ‘evangelycall Englisshe heretykes’. Although the Reformers and evangelicals down the ages have been concerned about the role of the Bible in correcting doctrine, this has always been accompanied by a belief that in Scripture we encounter God—as we read or hear Scripture, we hear God speak to us, and not just to our minds but to our heart and will, to the whole of our being. 

This then leads to a richer understanding of what it means to be evangelical. We focus on the cross—and the resurrection. We believe in conversion—and on community; fellowship and worship has always been an evangelical priority. We are active in evangelism—but also in social concerns, even if at times that has been forgotten temporarily. And personal disciplines of prayer and fasting have consistently marked evangelicals, giving us not four but seven distinctive commitments, the other six flowing from the commitment to Scripture.

The other question worth asking about this group is whether it is truly ‘inclusive’. When the IE blog first started, I offer comments as a way of seeking to engage fruitfully. Quite quickly, the comments were deleted and commenting turned off. A key member of this group, David Runcorn, reads my blog and occasionally comments—and I welcome his contribution. But he has blocked me on Facebook, as have some other conveners. It feels as the the ‘inclusion’ is strictly limited, as expressed on the Facebook group: ‘it isn’t a place for debate with those opposed to same sex relationships. it will be tightly moderated.’

The central question in all this is how we read texts. Does scripture mean something, is it clear, and does it shape our own understanding? Does it reveal God’s will and intention for us? The letter of the 600 does not inspire confidence, including as it does this claim:

We also believe that pastoral guidance should be issued by the House of Bishops, as a matter of urgency, which will permit clergy to enter same-sex civil marriage, in accordance with Article 32, which states that clergy may marry at their own discretion.

The claim that the 39 Articles might support same-sex marriage was one I first encountered in debate with Jeremy Pemberton, who entered a same-sex marriage and then was refused a licence in this diocese to take up a job as a hospital chaplain. He is no evangelical!

Appealing to this Article depends on ignoring the only possible meaning of the word ‘marriage’ in context here, which was of one man with one woman (as the BCP liturgy makes clear). It also ignores the historical context, in which this was very clearly an argument against clerical celibacy, and not an argument for same-sex marriage—or any other kind of marriage, come to that. This approach seems to treat language as a code which can be manipulated, and words as containers into which we pour our own meaning.

This is a very long way from any recognisable evangelical hermeneutic or way of reading scripture, a hermeneutic which is not something constructed and imposed from the outside, but which arises from scripture itself. The historical particularity of Scripture is evident from the text, but rooted in the fact that God has spoken to his people in the past in their specific contexts. This particularity finds its ultimate expression in the ‘offence’ of the incarnation, that Jesus, God’s final word to us, spoke in a particular context. But this particular does not mean that Scripture (or its authors) are trapped in their culture, since God the Father is sovereign, and God the Spirit is at work today, speaking to us through Scripture as we read it with this historically disciplined imagination. What we believe about Scripture cannot be separated from what we believe about God, which is why it is very hard to ‘agreed to disagree’ on things on which Scripture speaks clearly.

And this gets to the nub of the issue: what does scripture say about marriage and same-sex relationships? In debate on Twitter, Jonathan Tallon wanted to point me to the article by Luke Timothy Johnson as a justification for what ‘inclusive evangelicals’ believe. But Johnson is a liberal Catholic! And he is quite explicit: he believes Scripture is clear—and wrong!

The task demands intellectual honesty. I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself…

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience

(Jonathan claims that scripture tells us that sometimes our experience is more authoritative than scripture—so this is a scriptural position! I don’t think that argument makes any sense—and it is certainly not evangelical!)

There is a similar misreading of past texts when Mark Vasey-Saunders claims:

John Stott tended to downplay any sense of evangelical distinctiveness whatsoever, making the bold claim that evangelicalism is essentially New Testament apostolic Christianity, an argument made largely for ecumenical reasons – highlighting that other Christian traditions share many of the same emphases, and that evangelicalism contains no truths as its own exclusive possession.

I remember John talking about this. His concern was not (as MVS appears to be claiming) that, in some sense, all Christian are evangelical—quite the opposite. He was arguing that evangelical distinctives actually represented normative Christian living, and thus has a claim for all, and that evangelicals are not some marginal ‘sect’. And when he spoke at university Christian Unions, and the leaders there made him sign the UCCF basis of faith before speaking (John Stott of all people!) he commended them because, in his view, it showed how important clarity on these issues is.

All this leaves me with a lot of questions. What do ‘inclusive evangelicals’ actually belief? Are they a one-issue group, or do they question other key aspects of historical evangelical belief? And if they do, in what sense do they claim to be ‘evangelical’ in any meaningful sense? And are they as ‘inclusive’ as they claim?

Without answering these things seriously, I think they will continue to have a credibility issue in the claims they are making.

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395 thoughts on “What is an ‘inclusive evangelical’?”

  1. I think it’s a little harsh to suggest that “members” of a church with predominantly traditional views, or at any rate leadership, are acting in bad faith if they don’t sign their names to a non-traditional comment. I might agree about paid employees. And of course anonymous comments are always of less value than signed ones. But part of the problem may be people who don’t quite know how to say, “Maybe I’m not an evangelical after all,” which is now probably my position.

    • Being traditional is utterly neutral.
      Traditional (like non traditional) is further subdivided:
      There are four possibilities:

      -Traditional and positive
      -Traditional and harmful
      -Nontraditional and positive
      -Nontraditional and harmful.
      But there are so many issues anyway. One would have to have a tickbox list, and there will be various churches where they would tick ‘traditional’ for some and ‘nontraditional’ for others.
      And then different church members would tick different things. But a church is its members.

      Altogether unclear.

    • I form my identity with Jesus, not with my sexual proclivities. I’ve been married for 59 years to a woman but there are some occasions where I am attracted to the same gender.

      • In this mortal life, no one is ever 100% free from temptation to sin. The issue is not whether we are tempted but whether we give in to temptation. The Christian life is all about strengthening the resolve to live in a godly way. It is very easy to be weak, once we stop trying.

      • I see the whole discussion of identity as a red herring.

        We all have plenty of adjectives to describe us which we use in different scenarios. It sounds like “bisexual” would apply to you, but you say “hello I’m Ron”, not ” hello I’m bisexual” or “hello I’m Jesus”

        I’m white English immigrant middle income middle aged parent law-abiding 9wing1 gay progressive hufflepuff doctor Christian

    • Ian’s comments unpack the ‘evangelical’ side of the definition, and there’s an equal question of what’s meant by ‘inclusive’. I first came across the term in the Pilling Report, where it constituted one of the three responses. (Keith Sinclair’s mnority report alone being left to defend the ‘conservative’ position.) I suspect I.E. means “I’d like to think of myself as an evangelical, but I couldn’t refuse to attend my gay son’s same-sex wedding.”

  2. Thanks Ian – this is very helpful. I’ve noticed a trend that you are resisting here, which is the tendency in some circles (and I think more prevalent in the CofE than outside, but not exclusively) to use ‘evangelical’ in what we might call – stealing educational language – a ‘norm’ referenced not ‘criteria’ referenced way. In other words, often in the the CofE people use ‘evangelical’ as a party label not as a description of a set of shared theological convictions. I’m evangelical, that is I’m not Anglo-Catholic, Latitudinarian, Liberal, Broad, Central etc.. But for those (of us) evangelicals outside the CofE such norm referencing makes no sense and highlights the problem of (unchallengeable!) self-description you highlight. Those who see ‘evangelicalism’ as so flexible that it can embrace views to which no Biblical text can be called upon to give serious justification tend to prefer sociological categories to theological ones and you are right to challenge this.

    I’m also giggled at the idea that an Anglo-Catholic agreeing with the UCCF doctrinal basis. It’s not a stupid idea. After all many of the statements are just modern formulations of creedal statements. But Scripture’s ‘Infallibility’ is straight out of the Westminster Confession and is a specific, deliberate and carefully worded denial of the authority of the church to decide matters of doctrine ‘and behaviour’ contrary to Scripture. That’s a denial of the authority of creeds, conferences, councils, bishops and synods (add here your own preferred body or event) to determine doctrine or ethics at variance with the Word of God. Similarly UCCF’s doctrine of the church specifically denies that it is a sacramental union by asserting that it is the union of the faithful of all generations. I have no doubt that a conservative Anglo-Catholic could agree on much in evangelical doctrine and ethics (including sexuality) but it is usually on the basis of both Scripture and Tradition which the UCCF DB specifically denies.

    The issue for evangelicals has never been the use of Scripture (for most churches claim a basis in their views and as we all all know the devil knows how to quote it) but the exclusive and central authority given to Scripture which relegates tradition, reason and experience (which Wesley, perhaps the first advocate of the theological value of experience understood in an pneumological way, not as an appeal to human experience in general) together with creeds councils and bishops to the role of only supplementary guides.

    Thanks again, As ever.

    • Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason – for I do not trust in the Pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves – I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted, and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen – Martin Luther, Wurms 1521.

      • @ Anton

        Didn’t Luther want to add a word to Scripture to change its meaning to be in line with his own interpretation and conscience? He wanted to remove one of the epistles for the same reason. Not to mention him dropping the seven deuterocanonical books, accepted as canonical from the fourth century, and included in his first German translation, found in the first King James Version and in the Gutenberg Bible.

        • Jack,

          You say “he wanted to remove one of the epistles” by which you clearly mean James, yet it appears in his German translation. He disliked what he thought it said (I believe he misunderstood it) but he accepted its authority.

          You are also suggesting that he added the word “alone” into his translation of Romans 3:28 about justification by faith. Had he advocated adding it to the original Greek then that would be a serious sin, but interpretative additions of that sort are a routine part of translation, which is an art rather than a science.

          As for the Apocrypha, you need to read Roger Beckwith’s book The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church. When I recommended it to you in this connection elsewhere you dismissed it on ad hominem grounds without having read it. There is no reason to take your dismissal seriously.

          If that isn’t enough, do you believe that God would put in his scriptures this advice about bringing up children: “He who loves his son will whip him often… If you play with your child, he will grieve you; do not laugh with him, or you will have sorrow with him… give him no freedom in his youth… make his yoke heavy” (Sirach 30)? Is that consistent with the loving discipline in Ephesians 6:4 or Proverbs, or Jesus’ tender talk of children (Matt 18)? You suggested previously that this was an inaccurate English translation. But I have checked, and it isn’t. Also: “a man’s wickedness is better than a woman’s goodness” (Sirach 42:14).

          Leave it out, Jack.

          • @ Anton

            ..[D]o you believe that God put in his scriptures this advice about bringing up children: “He who loves his son will whip him often… If you play with your child, he will grieve you; do not laugh with him, or you will have sorrow with him… give him no freedom in his youth… make his yoke heavy” (Sirach 30)? Is that consistent with the loving discipline in Ephesians 6:4 or Proverbs, or Jesus’ tender talk of children (Matt 18)?

            Come on, surely you can do better than that. You need to read those verses in the cultural and religious context within which they were written. Besides, your ‘editing’ misses the point of the sayings. Read the full chapter.

            Have you read the theological history of man in the Old Testament concerning God’s dealings with pagan tribes and with the Jewish people. There’s some pretty “dark passages” if one doesn’t read them wisely.

            Then there’s the Levitical law: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard. Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.” (22Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

            What message is this giving about parenting? Why would all Israel be afraid?

            “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”,/i> (Proverbs 13:24)

            “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction.” (Proverbs 19:18)

            “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

            “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)

            “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17)

            Are they so different from Sirach and St Paul?

            Sirach gives advice concerning duties toward God and duties toward parents. It has lessons about humility, sincerity, justice, moderation, the training of children, attainment of wisdom, giving of alms, choice of friends, and use of wealth.

            Consider these verses:

            “Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” (Sirach:28:2) This sounds sounds oddly familiar …

            “Do not fail those who weep, but mourn with those who mourn.” (Sirach: 7:34) Again, echoes in Romans 12:15

          • Anton,
            Jack believes that ordinary human judgments about the meaning of Scripture inevitably end up in disagreement, so we need an authoritative voice to tell us what the Scripture really means; and this we have in the Papacy ….
            … except when the Papacy begins to contradict what it is has always taught ….

          • If you can’t tell that the flavour of Sirach 30 is different from that of the quotes from scripture you give, then… well, I’m glad I wasn’t brought up in a Catholic home that took Sirach 30 seriously.

            What about “a man’s wickedness is better than a woman’s goodness”? How can cultural context excuse that in God’s holy scriptures? Then there is the pagan trash about burning a fish’s liver in Tobit 6.

          • Michael J Kruger is excellent on the canon of the NT, and this talk gives good reasoning for limiting it to the current canonical books:
            https: //michaeljkruger. com/how-did-we-get-the-bible-2/

          • “do you believe that God would put in his scriptures this advice”

            That’s the argument you’re using? That Sirach can be ripped out of the Bible and ignored because you don’t like what it says. Really?

          • I see, so Martin Luther was allowed to tear it out of the Bible because he didn’t like it. Great man of history that he was, he wasn’t Christ, or an Apostle, or an Ecumenical Council. What gives him the special right to edit scripture in that way? Or is it not a special right, and all Church leaders are allowed to visit the question of the canon?

        • I should add that Melito of Sardis travelled to the Holy Land in the 2nd century seeking to settle the question of the early church’s OT canon, and reached an essentially similar conclusion.

          • Not really. Melito of Sardis excluded Lamentations and Esther, and included Wisdom.

            Besides this question of the canon was resolved at the Council of Rome in 382. The canon wasn’t disputed again until Luther came along in the 16th century.

        • On the deutocanonical books, Article 6 of the 39 states:

          And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following: The Third Book of Esdras The Fourth Book of Esdras The Book of Tobias The Book of Judith The rest of the Book of Esther The Book of Wisdom Jesus the Son of Sirach Baruch the Prophet The Song of the Three Children The Story of Susanna Of Bel and the Dragon The Prayer of Manasses The First Book of Maccabees The Second Book of Maccabees

          ‘Heirome’ is, I think, Jerome. So the attitude of the CofE back then reflects the attitude of that great Catholic translator: good to read but not to establish doctrine.

  3. Thank you. Ian, for tackling this issue head-on. Re: the private Facebook page for ‘those who are “leading churches towards inclusion and/or managing strongly different viewpoints within their fellowships” ‘ I think this tactic might be a bit counter-productive. Part of me is torn on the issues around marriage, due to the experiences of relatives, but the more there are tiny little, almost imperceptible, LGBT asides from the pulpit – about twice a month – the more I dig my heels in. For me, the Reformation (re-)discoveries of salvation by faith, and guidelines on how to read, understand and apply the Bible are life-giving and non-negotiable and I’m not about to give them up.

  4. (1) These dishonest people are treating as intransitive words which they know very well to be transitive.

    (2) They compound this by being suspiciously coy about stating the grammatical object implied. (Well, actually, simply not stating it at all.)
    I wonder whether this could be because the actually stating the grammatical object would be a game changer, which is why it is withheld? This looks to be the case in my final example below.

    (3) And compound it even more by being so narrow as to have only one possible grammatical object in their purview, as though the whole world were about gayness or about aborting children.

    -affirming (affirming what? It is obvious that the word is morally neutral unless any object is stated, after which it could become either morally positive or morally negative);
    -inclusive (inclusive of what?);
    -progressive (travelling in which direction? You assert without evidence that it is progress, but in a lordly fashion you certainly do not permit discussion on the point);
    -abortion (who or what is being ”terminated”? organic or non organic?).

    So – don’t be shy. Out with it.

    • In the way they conceptualise ‘inclusive’ they are trying to force everyone to act as though there were an ontological fixed category ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or ‘bisexual’. None of these is either ontological or fixed. So – sleight of hand.

      • Christopher

        I’ve been exclusively attracted to the same sex my whole life, so.has my husband and many of our friends. There are millions of people like this in the UK. It doesn’t grow the church to continue to deny our existence. It just makes the church less and less relevant

          • Tim Chesterton – I’d say that the answer is as clear as a bell. Two men can live together in a *celibate* relationship. They could even do everybody a favour by adopting children from the local orphanage, who would probably prefer to be with a same sex couple than stuck in an orphanage.

            Looking through the comments, it is as clear as a bell that the main objection is gay sex – and there are very good reasons for this – one comment from a person who worked in a hospital and saw the injuries that can happen from gay sex gone wrong, for example.

            Looking through the comments, it seems to me that the sexual activity aspect of ssm is the problem here.

          • Jock

            It’s a problem for you. And for James, Christopher and others. I won’t speculate why that is.
            But it certainly isn’t a problem for the rest of us and it isn’t a problem for faithful gay couples.

          • Jock

            There have been attempts to have this sort of arrangement promoted by churches and even a big conference in the states a few years ago.

            The problem with it is most conservatives won’t accept such arrangements for a number of reasons – they wont believe that the relationships are genuinely celibate or they oppose acknowledging that gay people exist and are a distinct category of person or they think a person is sinning just by admitting to being gay.

          • Peter – well, don’t count me as one of the ‘conservatives’ against such arrangements. If it’s celibate, then from my point of view it’s OK.

          • After this week it’s no longer clear that the main objection is gay sex. The Prayers of Love and Faith are not for marriages and do not endorse sexual relationships by the couples who are blessed. That didn’t change the opposition to them in Synod one iota.

          • AJ

            Certainly the impact is far wider than just stopping gay people from having sex, but I do think many of them struggle to see a difference between a gay person and a sex act, which makes wider opposition.

            Here in the States conservative evangelicals have launched a petition to have LGBT.people banned from performing in the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade – not having a float for LGBT people, just ordinary performers who happen to be LGBT.

    • Christopher: once, on another forum (I think it was ‘Anglican Down Under), Ron Smith’s old watering hole), when I stated objectively in ordinary language what homosexual genital acts are, I was met from ‘the other side’ with a shocked chorus of horror accusing me of prurience and an unhealthy interest in ‘other people’s private lives’.
      This surprised and amused me: first, because I have always believed in Confucius’s first principle, giving things their proper name; and second, I couldn’t understand why they were upset because I was describing what they actually declared to be a Good Thing.
      I could have added that for the Christian living ‘coram Deo’, there is no such thing as ‘a private life’, since we will all stand before the judgment seat of God, and nothing is hidden from the Father.
      To some extent, all ages use euphemisms, but writers in the Middle Ages and earlier who were not squeamish had little difficulty in describing anal sex and why it was wrong: the anus is for excretion, not generation, and the act is physically harmful, unhygienic and spreads disease. In a word, it is degrading – whether it is male-male or male-female. Further, same-sex erotic desire is based on the confusion of the sexes and the failure to achieve proper masculinity or femininity, resiling instead to a parody of the opposite sex – as the current (unprecedented and social media-driven) craze of gender dysphoria demonstrates. Talk of taking the ‘male’ and ‘female’ role in homosexual acts is revealing of the confusion.
      So, to answer your questions to ‘Affirming/Inclusive Evangelicals’:
      – the euphemism ‘Affirming’ really means ‘I think anal sex is God’s will for those who are attracted to it. The Bible verses that condemn this behaviour are false.’
      – ‘Inclusive’ means being male or female is irrelevant to any person’s given identity, it can be changed or discarded, and has nothing to do with creation (contra Genesis 1.26).’
      – ‘Progressive’ means ‘moving toward a more perfect expression of God’s will’, which isn’t found in the New Testament but is ‘somewhere out there’ – probably post-Christian, by definition.
      – ‘Abortion’ is now being “celebrated” – not a cause or shame or regret and definitely not a sin but a Right to be trumpeted with pride.

      • I have done this rehearsal of the realities many times, and have received exactly the same illogical response.
        In fact, I can accurately predict the response; I always point out how illogical that response was; and the next time, they just ignore that or fail to understand it, and make the same stock response.
        In speaking with liberals one is in the world of stock conversations. ‘There are not many women in this list of authors or speakers.’ ‘Everyone is led by their ideology.’ ‘There are two ideologies called conservative and liberal.’ ‘We all agree with the text but interpret it differently.’ And the other old chestnuts. What a boring life they must lead, with all these recurring culs de sac, deconstructing and chipping away parasitically, yet not a single positive contribution to knowledge.

        The stating of the nature of homosexual acts (though of course these could be of many natures) is the main no.1 point – it is what the debate is all about, since unless you know what you are talking about you can neither approve nor disapprove it.

        I have stated the many sides of this awful picture several times, including in What Are They Teaching The Children?

        At Gene Robinson’s consecration, a priest did the same. The Presiding Bishop Griswold grimaced (just as people grimace at abortion pictures, but are fine with the actual 3D real time reality of it, without which there would be no pictures). But he (pretended? that he) could not make the connection between the awful description he was being given and the acts to which he was giving a green light. It is not even a connection: it is an identity – they are one and the same.

      • As someone one who worked as an NHS Senior Health Promotion Officer for some years I am very aware of the physical and psychological effects of some gay, bisexual and non-monogamous lifestyles. These include physical damage including adult incontinence, multiple different infections (some incurable) and a variety of cancers. I find it extremely hard to believe that Inclusive Evangelicals have any real idea of what they are subscribing to and advocating.

        • That is right. But people cannot claim the information is not in the public domain. Satinover, Gagnon, Whitehead, Grossman, ML Brown and many others have put it there. I very rarely meet people who have done even the most basic research here. I have not seen much intellectual clout among IE, so they are going to have their work cut out given than many other organisations DO have intellectual clout.

        • I’m struggling to find a relation between IE’s campaign for equal marriage and the blessing of faithful gay relationships and the deleterious physical effects of promiscuity – straight or gay.
          I think you will find that IE are not advocating promiscuous lifestyles. It might be rather egregious to suggest that they are.

          • What they are advocating is something that is never found to appear in any quantity or with any public approval in any other context than a promiscuity-supportive one.

          • Penelope, I am sure you know that the male homosexual world is actually very promiscuous and there is nothing accidental about this. Marriage (male-female, the only kind) seeks to control and tame male libido. The sexually active male homosexual world is focused on hedonism as the meaning of life, since there is no risk of pregnancy and sex isn’t associated with emotional exclusivity, unlike heterosexual relationships. There is no intrinsic reason why a homosexual relationship should be exclusive since there is no risk of pregnancy. Many gays reject the idea thst their relationshipshould be modelled on marriage.

          • Christopher

            Evidence please?


            Of course lots of gay people want to be promiscuous and disparage marriage. So do lots of straight people. I don’t think IE is targeting them in its pastoral approach. Though I am sure it would be willing to have a conversation with anyone who wanted to move from an incontinent lifestyle to a continent one. Wouldn’t you?
            The idea that marriage exists to control male libido is profoundly unchristian. It is also potentially abusive – women do not exist as an outlet for male desire. Nor for that matter do men exist as an outlet for female desire – since it is not only males who have a greater libido. (Ask Germaine Greer’s victims)

          • James

            Your description of the male homosexual world could equally apply to the male heterosexual world.

            It seems a nonsense to me to tell a group of people that they aren’t allowed to be in a committed monogamous marriage because other people who share their personal characteristic are promiscuous…and actually its grossly hypocritical

        • Meri

          Do you know I worry every time I have to go to the doctor that the medical staff will use my case to tell others how diseased gay people are.

          How many of those STDs and injuries come from monogamous marriages?

          You’re comparing gay people with the most hedonistic lifestyles to straight people with monogamous marriages to deny monogamy to gay people. You’re being grossly unfair

        • Penelope, I don’t know who you are replying to here but it’s obvious that those who want to sanctity anal sex as holy behaviour commended by God (despite what the Bible says) are the ones who are obsessed with it. Isn’t this what you want to do?
          How did you arrive at the idea that anal sex is holy and good when it causes physical harm and blood infections? Reason and medicine are against it, as well as Scripture. That’s what we mean by Natural Law.

          • You and Meri. And Christopher – though for once he hasn’t mentioned it!
            As Pete says many gay men don’t enjoy anal sex. No lesbians do. Some straight couples do. I don’t want to sanctify it. As I have said before, I don’t really care what couples do sexually, so long as it is consensual and doesn’t involve children or animals.
            Some sexual acts are risky. Especially those which end in pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth are still risky, even in the Global North.
            As for male or female roles in gay relationships, try asking a chopstick whether it is the knife or the fork!

          • Anal sex is neither the only homosexual act nor an exclusively homosexual act. A homosexual orientation, just like a heterosexual orientation, is first and foremost about attraction to PEOPLE, not just to particular sexual acts. Even if no-one practised anal sex ever again, a small minority of men would still be gay, and many would quite rightly form sexual relationships congruent with their natural sexuality.

      • “I stated objectively in ordinary language what homosexual genital acts are”

        Sounds like you said something schoolboyish and grossly offensive (which would be why you daren’t repeat it).

        “I have always believed in Confucius’s first principle”

        Funny. If Penny, or Peter, or me said something like that (approving of a Chinese mystic like Confucius) there would be a clamouring of shrieks from the usual suspects that this was evidence that we weren’t really Christians. That doesn’t seem to apply to you for some reason.

        “Talk of taking the ‘male’ and ‘female’ role in homosexual acts is revealing of the confusion.”

        Gay people don’t talk of taking male or female roles. Some straight people do, but like you say, they’re very confused about things.

        “the euphemism ‘Affirming’ really means ‘I think anal sex is God’s will for those who are attracted to it. The Bible verses that condemn this behaviour are false.’”

        This is quite the shift in your position James. If it was all about anal sex you should have said so earlier. Does this mean gay relationships are alright as long as the couple doesn’t practice anal sex? Is a heterosexual marriage falling into sin if they do engage in anal sex? What about other sexual practices? Oral sex? Mutual masturbation? Foreplay?

        • No change in my position, Adam.
          Anal sex or sodomy is bad, whoever does it. Women find it degrading, and rightly so.
          I didn’t say anything “schoolboyish or grossly offensive”, I was objectively medical. Nothing you couldn’t read in wikipedia. I would be happy to repeat it here but you can read it for yourself in wikipedia.
          And gay subculture DOES talk about twinks, bears, butch etc.
          If anal sex is uncommon among homosexual men, as Peter Jermey claims, then I am glad to hear this, because it is unhealthy and physically harmful behaviour. But I find this claim hard to square with the huge figues for Aids and monkeypox and other STDs among gay men. The subculture of casual sex with strangers – a male fantasy come horribly true – leads to these epidemics.
          I don’t think Confucius was a “mystic”. But why should you be surprised that a non-Christian Chinese could say something true? Rationality is God’s gift to the whole human race (though some do not use that gift well). I find lots of profound and true observations in Aristotle as well. No conflict at all.
          One of the things Aristotle said in his Nicomachean Ethics is that our character is etched out – inscribed – by habitual actions. We learn virtue (‘the good’) by rationally choosing good ends and repeating them. The Christian who believes in the power of the Holy Spirit earmly endoses this God-given insight into what it means to be human as God intended.

          • Women find it degrading. What is your evidence for this?

            Again, you seem to be confusing promiscuous sexuality with the desire for and existence of faithful monogamous relationships. None of my married or civilly partnered friends has health issues because of their sexuality. Though some women do have health issues because of childbirth – which is ‘natural’.
            Nor do I believe that sexual fetishises in mutual, consensual relationships of fidelity is any of your business. You seem to be somewhat obsessed with what you call the ‘gay subculture’. Perhaps you have misunderstood the nature of the arguments for the PLF?

          • I can read all sorts of things on wikipedia, James. But in this case I have no idea what you’re talking about, and your unwillingness to actually repeat it is making me suspicious.

            “And gay subculture DOES talk about twinks, bears, butch etc.”

            None of which has any relation to male or female roles.

            “But why should you be surprised that a non-Christian Chinese could say something true?”

            Sure – people made in the image of God, living in God’s creation, will pick up something true. I’m just remarking that only some of us are really allowed to make that observation.

          • James

            You can catch monkey pox just by kissing someone or perhaps even from using cutlery after them. You don’t have to have anal sex with them! The number of new AIDs cases is in decline and is high amongst other minority groups as well as gay men.

            Its beyond frustrating that you are opposing monogamous matrimony based on your distaste for promiscuity!

            Before I married I shared homes with 40+ unmarried straight people (not at the same time) and lots of them were very promiscuous. If some gay men are promiscuous were a reason to deny marriage to all gay people then why shouldn’t some straight men are promiscuous be a reason to deny marriage to all straight people?!

  5. The fact that this group excludes evangelicals that disagree with them makes their name an oxymoron. It is sheer arrogance to assume that those who don’t agree all have closed minds. They have opened their minds and found the assertions made by IE wanting and explained the reasons why.

    The statement by Johnson is very refreshing, honest and clear as to where they are coming from. If IE were to explicity highlight this on all their communications, then it would avoid confusion and at least we would all know where we stood.
    Experience triumphs scripture… Hmm.

      • Can you think of an alternative name?

        As HJ recalls, the Rev. Ogbuchukwu Lotanna, an Anglican cleric in the African Diocese of Nnewi, claimed he had a Divine mandate to start a movement encouraging polygamy with a view to reducing sexual sins in society. He proposed to call his flock “Gideonites” and their place of worship “Gideonites Temple.”

      • “Ian, do you allow this sort of slander to go unchallenged on your blog?”

        Tim it’s absolutely the norm here I’m afraid.
        The good thing about this blog is that a variety of views are tolerated – though of course by no means endorsed. But slander/libel are standard fare. And you will not be considered Christian here by any means….

      • Tim: and I don’t think you ever will be.
        But I keep coming back to the instructive example of the Rt Rev Richard Holloway, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
        He started out in his youth as a conventional Anglo-Catholic and then came to question traditional Christian teaching on sex and sexuality, started to attack this teaching, then went on critique soteriology and the doctrine of God, and ended up an atheist.
        He was consistent in his approach to Scripture.
        Or do you think he made a wrong turning somewhere?
        How do you avoid following his trajectory?

      • Tim, no, not at all. I allow it to be challenged, because I have an open comments policy, though with clear boundaries.

        So why doesn’t the IE blog allow comments, and why did it delete mine?

        And I wonder what we would see if the IE Facebook page comments were visible? How would I feel about what people there have written about me? Do you allow those comments to go unchallenged?

        • ‘So why doesn’t the IE blog allow comments, and why did it delete mine?’

          I feel like we have explained this many times, but here we go again.

          When we set up the IE website we used a blog platform because it is easy to use. but we did not intend it to function like a blog. We intended to put up articles there that might be useful to people who fit into the inclusive evangelical category.

          One reason we did not intend it to be a blog is that none of us have the time to get involved in long discussions in response to articles. Some people seem to have that time, but none of us felt we did. We chose to put the little time we had into moderating the private Facebook group, and believe me, that takes a lot of time, because it is tightly moderated.

          So when we launched the website, we accidentally left the comment function enabled. This was unintentional. When we noticed that people were leaving comments, we immediately disabled the comment function, and all the comments that had been left, including yours, Ian, were removed. You were not targeted and it is misleading to imply that you were.

          This is the whole story of the comment history at the IE website. There’s nothing more in it than that.

          NB: I use the word ‘we’ because I am one of the convenors at IE. I should add, though, that as a non-Brit I am not a central part of that team; I was invited onto it in a sort-of consulting role, because of my experience in a diocese where same-sex marriages have been celebrated for some years now.

  6. Thank you for this.

    Many moons ago I was a member of “Ecletics” and attended its final residential at Swanwick. I don’t think I killed it by being present….

    Anything could be proposed, suggested, raised, whatever… as long as it could be biblically supported. The authority of scripture was clear and defining. That was properly “inclusive” or “open” . Open minds not being empty ones…

    Where scripture and its authority is not foundational then “evangelical” simply does not fit. It’s as deficient as “happy clappy”. 50 years ago we (evangelicals) were ridiculed and dismissed by many in the leadership of the CofE, accused of “fundamentalism”; quote “the noise in the shallow end”. I still see this ignorance of evangelicals weaponised elsewhere on the Web.

    It’s true that evangelical (as a name or a style of worship) influence has increased dramatically but I wonder about its content sometimes.

  7. I do think that the claim that scripture claims that we ought to value experience over scripture and therefore we should be obedient to it does make logical sense. (I don’t think it is true.)

    I have a similar view on tradition. Since the Church Fathers grounded themselves in scripture rather than the Church Fathers we should do likewise.

    But I wouldn’t call myself an Anglo-Catholic. And people who do think that the scriptures promote a lower view of the scriptures shouldn’t call themselves Evangelicals.

    • What that suggests is that Scripture does not claim to be the God-breathed word to us, and that it does not have authority, but is advisory.

      That goes against what Scripture claims for itself, what the church has believed about it—and of course is well outside any historical evangelical understanding.

      • It certainly goes against Church tradition. But not about what Scripture claims for itself. Scripture never claims inerrancy or univocality and ‘God-breathed’ is somewhat tenuous, since a) it applies to some of the HB writings (not necessarily all canonical), and b) would probably be better translated as ‘life giving’.
        The Bible only has a plain, consistent meaning when we read it through tradition. Tradition precedes ‘meaning’.

        • I’ve studied koine and classical Greek for nearly 40 years. ‘Life-giving’ is not what ‘theopneustos’ means.
          It means ‘breathed out by God’.

          • The words which make up theopneustos are god and breath. As I am sure you are aware, if you have studied koine for decades, etymology (or, rather, the make up of a word)does not define nor prescribe meaning. The term was used in contemporary contexts where it meant something like life giving.

          • That is an odd answer, Penny.
            First, you could bring in some of these contemporary contexts for analysis.
            But in the meantime (second) in a world where it is assumed that all life is divinely given, then the ‘God’ element remains in the meaning.
            And, third, whereas etymology and meaning are far from being the same thing, they are the same thing at first…
            (4) …and there is a limit to how many words can change their meaning all that much.
            (5) because if they do so, then the components of the word will confuse users, whereas the components’ meaning what they say is always going to be preferable and more economical alternative.
            (6) And in those many cases where meaning shifts it is unlikely to shift all that much, since that would require more than a single shift.
            (7) Which with compound words and rare words there is not the time or opportunity for, since they are on average less-used.
            (8) Compound words e.g. theopneustos are a special category, since there is enormous pressure on them to refer to the intersection of the two concepts, without which they would never have needed to exist. That was the need which called them into existence, and it is unlikely that some different need would not only hijack the word but also simultaneously replace the previous need.
            (9) Paul and Luke and Polycarp were God-centred writers, so naturally when they say ‘God’ they absolutely mean ‘God’.
            (10) ‘God’ is a prominent concept in the Pastorals, and has recently been the topic of a PhD.

        • Moreover, no document can meaningfully claim anything about itself.

          I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful, but fundamentally I believe that because of church history and the Holy Spirit’s witness, not because 2 Tim 3:16 says so.

          Sola/Prima Scriptura in any of its forms is a choice that some Christians make, it isn’t the gospel.

  8. I am concerned at the statement at the beginning where this ‘evangelical’ group say that ‘prayerful reading of scripture has led us to an inclusive position on same-sex relationships.’ Does this mean that Christians who disagree never pray before reading the Bible? When we read the Bible the Holy Spirit helps us understand what God has said in his Word. In this case has the Holy Spirit decided to disagree with some parts of the Bible?

    • Andy Ostins – in this context, it means that the word ‘evangelical’ has been used to mean ‘happy clappy’ and that ‘prayer’ means sitting around and ‘feeling the vibes’. It means that whatever Spirit is governing these vibes is not the Holy Spirit.

      ‘Happy Clappy’ tends to be a form of mysticism, which necessarily means ‘sinking in on divine ground’ (or something like that) whereby they (believe that they) achieve communion with their God through meditative hocus pocus – in a way that bypasses Christ as Mediator.

      No surprises therefore that they are gratifying ‘sensual desires’ which is what the LGBT+alphabet soup is all about.

      • I am not quite sure what your problem is with sex and sexuality. But I can assure you that many straight people enjoy gratifying their sensual desires. Sometimes through music, sport or food. Sometimes through sexual intimacy.

      • Jock clearly you have some quite serious issues with sensuality and sex more generally. As Penny says above, I’m not quite sure what the problem is but your approach is certainly not a traditional Christian one.

        • Andrew, Penny: Firstly, I’m a Christian but I never claimed to be a ‘traditional Christian’. I take the line that seems correct to me – I don’t allow myself to be pressured into taking any line that doesn’t seem right. Secondly, my serious issue is with the ‘happy clappy’ side of so-called evangelical, which I had long before the LGBT+alphabet soup phenomenon came on the go. My main criticism of them remains: it’s all about their ‘sinking in on divine ground’, their ‘feeling the vibes’ touchy feely way of prayer, which basically amounts to some sort of seance (when they do their singing, their strummy guitar music helps them here), where they reach some sort of communion with their god, in a way that completely bypasses Christ as Mediator (while, at the same time, claiming otherwise).

          In the previous thread, I gave an example of this, ‘Bernie’ the Pentecostalist, who hoped to gratify his sensual desires by marrying a woman who had had a hysterectomy (so that getting his ‘martial rights’ from her wouldn’t have unfortunate consequences). This shows a disgusting abuse of Scripture – twisting verses so that he could bully his wife into having sex with him.

          I’m very surprised that Penny doesn’t see the problem here – and isn’t up in arms against this sort of coercion.

          I see so-called ‘evangelicals’ advocating the inclusion of LGBT+alphabet soup as some sort of logical extension to this. I don’t think that all Gay and Lesbian people identify with LGBT+ and I get the impression that LGBT+alphabet soup is for those who are looking for sexual activity. I also agree with your remarks on the previous thread about Jeffrey John (I remember hearing about it on the radio when they were quite clear that he was in a *celibate* relationship – which from my point of view should have been OK).

          • Jock
            I am genuinely perplexed. I cannot see a connection between attempted marital rape (which is both a sin and a crime) and consensual sexual relationships
            which most couples desire, whether they are gay or straight. Queer folk don’t crave sex any more than do straights. And, indeed, one could argue that gay couples seeking marriage are looking for the same mutuality, fidelity and discipline as their straight peers.

          • Hi Jock, if my ‘happy clappy’ you mean charismatic churches, I dont think youre right. The impression I get is that many such churches are actually more likely to reject same sex relations than others. The Vineyard, for example, continues to hold that position. I would imagine most pentecostal churches are the same. Your example of Bernie seems pretty extreme!

          • PC1 – yes, you’re right that ‘Bernie’ was extreme, but I should probably add a footnote. A couple of years later after he explained to me all his difficulties-of-life, after having been very serious about his Pentecostalism – to the extent that he gave one tenth of his income to the church, did all the actions while singing the songs – and dutifully did all the other things that Pentecostal people do, he ‘quit the band’ completely – and decided that Christianity was a load of rubbish. Having quit the band, he was in a better position to express his sexuality, which was probably more in line with the philosophy found in Frank Zappa’s ‘Joe’s Garage’.

        • Penny – I think you’re putting things into boxes that are too clear-cut and too well defined. In some situations – yes – it may be completely clear that a serious violation has occurred and very good that there are laws in place. In others, consent may be more of an ‘oh all right’, just for a quiet life, to stop getting nagged at. In the current culture (look at the columns of The Guardian) there seems to be an awful lot of pressure from all sides to have lots of non-procreational sex – the ‘general wisdom’ seems to be that one is not in a proper emotionally stable relationship if this isn’t happening.

          I think that before ‘the pill’ came along, there were natural checks and balances that prevented this sort of coercion (you didn’t have national newspapers telling you that your relationship was bad if you weren’t having-it-off all the time).

          But I think that this is a different topic from the ‘inclusive evangelicals’ discussion. I do see ‘evangelical’ in the touchy-feely Pentecostalist sense attracting people who are looking for some sort of ecstatic experience. Hence it isn’t a huge surprise to me that one finds there serial fornicators like Jimmy Swaggart. If a person is actively looking for a sensual experience in one department, it isn’t surprising to discover that the same person is looking for it in another department. I see LGBT+alphabet soup as an extension of this (people who take the view that they are defined by their sexuality and demanding their right to express it).

          I believe that where Scripture has something that is termed a ‘clobber verse’, it is putting a prohibition on something that is genuinely harmful to all the parties involved.

      • Jock

        Its really quite offensive to say that other peoples marriages are about “gratifying sensual desires”. I doubt you’d say that about my marriage if you came over to dinner.

        • Peter – in the example I gave, it most certainly was. In that example offensive – yes, but absolutely true, yes.

          In general, I would like to believe you. But open the newspaper (I tend to get my UK news from The Guardian, since it is the only one not behind a paywall) and you discover that for modern society *the whole of life* is all about non-procreative sexual gratification – so it would be amazing if this did not also apply to marriage (although I concede that the columns of ‘The Guardian’ would also seem to suggest that people don’t actually bother too much with marriage these days).

          • Jock I’m not sure why you don’t go the whole way with your Puritanism and try to get theatres closed., prevent cinemas showing anything but the Sound of music, and certainly not that on Sundays. Maybe even that film is too much, what with all that music in it. And of course ban Shakespeare.
            Nobody should find joy in this life. The only pleasure to be found is in obeying a god who will beat you with a rod of iron when you get home.

          • Hello Andrew – I basically don’t go along with banning things. We’re living for Christ in a pagan world. Banning things is counterproductive – rather, we witness by not participating. I’d rather not indicate to you just how puritanical I am and how far this goes – since it might make your hair stand on end, it might be more Puritanical than you ever imagined and – generally – the information might spoil your day. So best if I keep quiet about it.

            I’d say, though, that I’ve recently become a great fan of the ‘Sound of Music’ movie, while only a few months ago I would have avoided it and rated it as something that needed a sick bag.

            The reason is that I have discovered that it is a movie that the whole family can watch – and there don’t seem to be so many of these.

            It happened in the following way. My son (aged 7) is taking a basic ear training / rhythmics course. The teacher used the do-re-mi song as illustration. She handed out single xylophone keys to every child in the class. She played the song on the piano – and they had to strike their key when their note came up. The children absolutely loved this (so if there are any music teachers involved with teaching young children reading here – take note).

            We got hold of piano arrangements aimed at beginners of the Sound of Music songs (to supplement his ‘Teaching Little Fingers to Play’ book) and also a DVD of the movie – which he enjoyed.

            So – please don’t knock ‘The Sound of Music’. In it’s proper place it’s OK – I can assure you. Its proper place is as a family movie.

          • Peter – well, glad to hear it – but judging from the comments of some of those on your side here, it very much looks as if they really *are* defending non-procreational sex – as if it really is important for a relationship.

          • Jock: the CofE marriage service puts it like this –

            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.

            Now the fact that you don’t find it delightful and tender doesn’t mean you have to deprive others of the delight and tenderness.

          • Jock

            I think there are very few married couples in the UK who have never had non-procreational sex. There’s a vast spectrum between believing it to be OK to have sex that isnt procreational and thinking people are only getting married in order to have sex.

          • Peter – I think we agree on that – however, there is something clearly wrong with a (heterosexual) married couple when the basic idea is *only* to have non-procreational sex. I’d also suggest that there is something wrong when it is considered vitally important, for the emotional health of a relationship, to engage in lots of non-procreational sex.

            But just one glance at the so-called ‘lifestyle’ columns of the Guardian will tell you that currently, the way-of-the-world considers this to be of extreme importance.

          • Jock

            I completely disagree.

            The pairing of Adam and Eve in Genesis isn’t only to make babies. “It is not good for man to be alone”

        • Peter – yes, well of course we do. As I understand it, the LGBT+(alphabet soup) position is that sexuality is in some sense absolutely defining and that non-procreational sex is somehow essential for the emotional stability of a healthy relationship.

          I disagree with this. While non-procreational sex may be enjoyable for a married couple, I think it should not in any way be an essential component.

          As you’ve probably surmised from the discussion, from my point of view, a large proportion of heterosexual marriages have serious problems and are based on wrong principles (if ‘The Guardian’ Lifestyle columns are anything to go by).

          I get the strong impression that acceptance of celibate same-sex unions wouldn’t be satisfactory for same-sex couples, or their supporters here (look at the comments on this thread).

          • Jock

            Actually the vast majority of people who support same sex marriage have no problem with people who choose to be in a celibate relationship. When these relationships have been encouraged or discussed in the past it is conservatives (not all, but most) who have torn them apart.

    • I can imagine what Jim Royle would say to the claim that ‘prayerful reading of scripture has led us into an inclusive position on same-sex relationships.’

      And I can think of someone else who would say ‘They would say that, wouldn’t they?’.

    • Both ‘sides’ claim the same thing which makes such a statement meaningless, because if there is one thing we can be sure of, the Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. I find such a statement patronising.

      I think many of those who have decided that same sex sexual relationships are good in God’s eyes and part of his will have in reality ignored the Spirit’s voice, not listened to it. I know, from a 3rd party who was in attendance, of a clergyman who was going round different churches as a speaker on same sex relations and the church, teaching the sort of standard arguments many will be aware of. Apparently he came across as rather convincing. But from what my friend relayed, I have no doubt that if any of those who listened to him had read any of, for example, Preston Sprinkle’s books, they could have easily contradicted every point he made. But, sadly, it seems many such folk havent read such books.

    • It means, contrary to what some allege, that they have not reached their conclusions by deciding to ignore scripture. Rather, they have engaged with it, interrogated it, considered its meaning, and what God is saying to us through it, and reached a different conclusion to that of CEEC, the Church Society etc..

        • I dont see why, he’s clearly done his research unlike quite a few others. And he is certainly sympathetic to the whole issue even if he comes down on the ‘conservative’ side.

          Dont shun those whom God is speaking through.

          • PC1

            I’ve heard a few interviews with him and my opinion is that he makes a big pretense of being compassionate, but actually I don’t think he’s really interested in talking to gay people. He’s trying to sell his books and he knows there’s a big market for Christians who attend churches and are in circles that require them to oppose same sex relationships, but they feel conflicted about it. Sprinkle helps them feel better about going against their own sense of morality

  9. I’m afraid Ian has misrepresented me in two separate ways.

    First: ‘In debate on Twitter, Jonathan Tallon wanted to point me to the article by Luke Timothy Johnson as a justification for what ‘inclusive evangelicals’ believe. But Johnson is a liberal Catholic!’
    No, I did not do this. Ian was using Johnson to back up his point (in a similar way to him quoting him here). I was pointing out that he was misrepresenting Johnson’s actual position, which was that taking the whole of the NT into account, he was arguing that an affirming position was congruent with the New Testament: ‘I believe there is the deepest source of congruence between such an approach to God’s revelation and the witness of the New Testament’.

    I am well aware that Johnson is Catholic, and would never suggest (and did not suggest) that he is representative of inclusive evangelicals.

    ‘Jonathan claims that scripture tells us that sometimes our experience is more authoritative than scripture—so this is a scriptural position! I don’t think that argument makes any sense—and it is certainly not evangelical!’.
    Actually, this was not my point, but again Johnson’s. But again, it misrepresents him, which is that scripture tells us that sometimes specific texts may be superseded by revelation which is itself consonant with other texts/other streams within scripture.

    There are extremely strong parallels here with what happened in the debates over slavery, where there are specific texts in scripture which at the least allow for slavery. It is also precisely what happened with the early church debates over circumcision.

    For the record, I disagree with Luke Timothy Johnson about his interpretation of the specific texts. My view is that the texts in the New Testament refer to contexts of pederasty (1 Cor. 6:9) and pagan fertility goddess worship (Romans 1:26-28). I am not therefore arguing that any specific Biblical text is contradicted by being affirming of faithful, committed, same-sex relationships. My interpretation is solidly within the evangelical tradition and methodologies.

      • Quote: ‘As it appears to us too clear to admit of either denial or doubt, that the scriptures do sanction slaveholding; that under the old dispensation it was expressly permitted by divine command, and under the New Testament is no where forbidden or denounced, but on the contrary acknowledged to be consistent with the Christian character and profession (that is, consistent with justice, mercy, holiness, love to God and love to man), to declare it to be a heinous crime, is a direct impeachment of the word of God.’
        Charles Hodge 1836.
        You would have been scorned if you had produced that as your biblical argument to a whole bunch of american evangelicals in the early nineteenth century. No doubt they would have called you an atheist.

        • Charles Hodge says it, so it must be true?
          And no societal reason for him saying that?
          ‘The Scriptures’? We are talking of a 66 book library, and nowhere in the NT does it say that slavery (xpt slavery under Christ) is a good thing, merely an existing thing.
          It does however say that it is a bad thing. Rev 18.13. What is your response to that?
          It is also, secondly, clear from Paul’s attitude to Onesimus, among other things, that the Christian movement created a new sort of society where slaves were on a level with everyone else.
          ‘There is neither slave nor free.’
          The NT? Or Charles Hodge?

          • Asking a friend to free one of his slaves is not a universal prescription in favour of equality. I am surprised that you think that one emotional plea based on experience should be generally applied. What happened to objectivity?

          • But I had not even thought of that passage. I was thinking of his calling Onesimus a brother. And secondly, more generally, of the ways that the early communities treated all classes equally. Thirdly, of course, the way that that attitude was bound to increase effortlessly if Christianity increased (as indeed it did, and as they were confident that it would).

          • Yes, he called one slave a brother. That isn’t a universal injunction to free slaves.
            We do not know how slaves were generally treated in the early church. 1 Corinthians suggests not always well.

        • Slavery rose in North America in conjunction with a decline in evangelical belief. I would be willing to debate slavery on the basis of the golden rule with them. It would not be hard to win (do you disagree?), although logic cannot alter the decision of a hard heart.

          • Anton

            The largest evangelical denomination in the US is the Southern Baptists. The “Southern” part is because they believed the Bible endorsed slavery.

            I found this as a quotation from one of their leaders
            “the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example.”

            They formally renounced slavery in 1995, but continue to have issues with race

        • Asking a friend to free one of his slaves is not a universal prescription in favour of equality. I am surprised that you think that one emotional plea based on experience should be generally applied. What happened to objectivity?

          • It isn’t. You can’t take fellow Hebrews as slaves. You can and are commanded to enslave other nations.

          • Nope. Quite the opposite. People believed there was an obstacle to enslaving people, but there was no obligation to free slaves. Hence the transatlantic slave trade worked by purchasing Africans who had been enslaved already, and then transporting them to the Americas.

            And European society instituted things that got close to slavery but weren’t – in the Mediterranean prisoners could be sentenced to the galleys but only for a number of years (although the experience would probably kill them), and poor Europeans could be put into indentured servitude but again for a set number of years rather than for life.

          • Having to reply to myself.

            The black slave trade involved kidnapping, was permanent, often involved injury by ‘masters’ and runaway slaves had to be returned. All of this is outlawed in OT laws given to Israel.

    • Jonathan, when you quoted Turban et al and Blosnich et al in Church Times Letters 14.4.23, you were knowingly quoting for *lifetime* suicidality, etc.. However the lesson you were drawing from these studies seemed by contrast to be on the assumption, undocumented, that the suicidality largely *postdated* the SOCE.

      Given that they were candidates for SOCE in the first place, might this not have been precisely because of existing suicidality?

      But whether or not it was, how can a ‘lifetime’ statistic be assumed to cluster at either the earlier (pre-SOCE) or the later (post-SOCE) part of their lives without further evidence?

      I shall be very interested in your answer. Many thanks.

      (For the benefit of readers, this is, I believe, the fifth time I have asked Jonathan this question, and I am not sure of the reason why he has not yet responded.)

    • If the one letter refers to pederasty and the other to pagan fertility goddess worship, that is very strange. 1 Corinthians and Romans were written within 2 years of each other, and overlap e.g. on spiritual gifts. Why was not the pagan fertility goddess worship referred to at all as any one of the former (1 Cor 6) vice list when it suddenly becomes suitable to play the role of the paradigmatic gentile sin in Rom 1, 2 years later? The idea that Paul is speaking more generally of same-sex ‘intercourse’ on both occasions would therefore seem more logical as well as of course more economical.

      But it doesn’t matter where you place these 2 references, it matters where the main NT experts on this specialist topic place them.

    • “There are extremely strong parallels here with what happened in the debates over slavery, where there are specific texts in scripture which at the least allow for slavery…”

      Except that the parallel is very weak because there are no biblical texts which in any way endorse same-sex relationship of a sexual nature…

    • Jonathan, you are mistaken in your understanding of 1 Cor 6.9 and Romans 1.26-28. You need to consult first-level historical commentaries on these (such as Cranfield, Moo and Fee), as well as historians of the first century Greco-Roman world.
      1 Cor 6.9 is NOT about pederasty, Rom 1.26-28 is NOT about fertility goddess worship. That is far too limiting an understanding of what the Apostle is saying.
      You are not within “the evangelical tradition and methodologies” but have accepted some debunked apologetics from the 1980s (Boswell et al).

      • Hi James. Thank you for your concern. I have read Moo, Cranfield & Fee. I have also read Brookes, Miller, Ziesler, Thiselton, Hultgren, Loader, Martin, Oakes, Ruden, Wright (D & NT) & a host of other NT scholars, because I teach Pauline studies at postgraduate level. I have also read Boswell (who doesn’t refer to fertility goddess worship), Countryman & many others. When it comes to the social background of the early church, this was a major feature of my own research, and I teach this generally in another area (so I have, for example, read Williams on Roman homosexuality, and Harper).

        I have spent much of my adult life within evangelicalism, including an evangelical theological college (the one where Ian used to teach, though I was there before him). My methodology lies firmly within the evangelical tradition, as exemplified by Calvin onwards.

        • You may have read these works – but have you refuted them?
          Have you refuted Robert Gagnon?
          You are mistaken if you think fertility cults and pederasty are the only concerns in Romans and 1 Corinthians. You didn’t mention Luke T. Johnson in your list of reading. He is clear that Paul is not just talking about pederasty. Johnson states that the NT condemns same-sex desire but the NT is wrong.
          Do you agree with Luke Johnson?
          Your conclusions are not evangelical and are exegetically mistaken.

          • Hi James, if you a fuller response I have a website, YouTube channel and book available. Yes, I have read and disagree with Gagnon. Yes, I have read Johnson & disagree about the specific texts. I also maintain an annotated bibliography on my website where you can find a range of other authors. You claim that my conclusions are not evangelical without even having checked any of this – I find this disappointing.

          • Jonathan, I will reply to your reply below, thank you. Your conclusions are not evangrlical (or catholic) because you have mised the big picture of Scripture as well as exegeting some texts wrongly. I will summarise below. You also fail to interact with John Nolland.

          • On Nolland: his 2000 article does not address fertility cults as the context for understanding Romans 1:26-27, and additionally does not consider that Paul may not have been addressing female-female same-sex activity.

            I do have in mind a big picture of scripture, but it may not be identical with yours (though I suspect there is much overlap).

            I find your repeated claims that my conclusions are not evangelical tiresome. You may or may not consider them wrong, but they are based on seeking to understand the Bible in its context, taking it seriously, and doing so firmly within the evangelical tradition of biblical approaches.

          • ‘The text itself identifies the people as some form of idol worshippers.’

            Yes indeed. They are worshipping the idol of their sexual desires and disregarding the true God by rejecting his creation in the bodily form of male and female. That is precisely Paul’s argument.

          • Ian

            That’s not what the text says or what Paul’s argument is. The text says they are worshipping statues. Its very very clear.

            Paul’s argument is that the Christians in Rome are just as bad as these people and all people need salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

        • Hi Ian,
          Very briefly, because it fits Romans 1 best. Why women first? Priestesses in charge of the cult. Why exchanging natural usage for usage against nature? Because in frenzied orgies (reputedly) they used phalluses on the male priests (galli). Why males in males? Because galli penetrated each other as well during the orgies. Why received the due reward? Because the galli self-castrated during frenzied worship (grabbed a sword from the stack in the temple, castrated themselves, then ran through the streets. Why here? Because from Romans 1:18 on it’s about idolatry. Worship is central to idolatry (similar to Wisdom 14). Why in Romans? Cybele, fertility goddess with this style of worship, was highly honoured in Rome (official religious calendar; Livia, Augustus’ wife, official patron.
          Any evidence it was understood this way in early church? Yes. Eg Hippolytus, Philosophumena 5:2. Athanasius, Contra Gentes. Also Pelagius.
          In other words, in a passage about idolatry, it fits for Paul to be talking directly about idolatry, and in the early church people made that link naturally.

      • I have. He’s surprisingly radical in his reinterpretation of some parts of scripture. For example, if you follow his argument about 1 Corinthians 7, it’s not obvious to me why we’re seeing some many heterosexual Christians getting married at all. Lots more of you ought to be committed to lifelong celibacy.

  10. I read these blogs and comments about LLF issues not because I particularly agree with them but rather to try and gain a deeper understanding of where people ‘are coming from’. But, O dear, so many words!
    A question I ask myself: if a same sex couple went to Jesus and asked for his blessing on their relationship, what would he do?

    • The multiplicity of words came first in LLF, a huge document claiming deceitfully to be neutral. I agree with you that the scriptural arguments settling the matter can be put on a single sheet of A4 paper.

      On the conservative evangelical front we have had a series of well-informed, painstaking and lengthy articles on this blog by Andrew Goddard. He has the expertise to take on the liberal bishops using Church of England procedure. Although the detail made my eyes glaze over at times, somebody had to do it, and a valuable service it has been. I wish only that Rev’d Goddard had added actions that the biblical party could at each stage take via the CoE’s procedures, rather than waiting for the deceitful bishops’ next step and then analysing that.

      • Martin Davie has also offered very clearly written analyses on his blog. If there has ever been an attempt by those who disagree with this point of view, to grasp the nettle and respond directly to what he says, it has escaped my notice.

    • Why is it that ‘relationship’ is left undefined?
      Everyone knows it is not a clear word.
      So we need to start again and define it.
      If the ‘relationship’ is sexual or quasi-sexual, he would disapprove it. If the ‘relationship’ is friendship, he would approve it.
      Jesus is a particular human individual in a particular cultural context. And some cultural contexts are, obviously, healthier than others.

    • Q. What would Jesus say?
      Jesus: I refer you to my earlier conversations.

      Your q, whilst very reasonable assumes silence on the issue. The “so many words” is indicative of that and the wrestling with them. It also leaves “relationship” totally undefined, which is rather key to the issue surely?

      I’m not suggesting it as an answer but he was heard to say “Go and sin no more”… Assuming love always gives us what we desire is not love.

    • I came to faith in my 30’s following divorce. I had modern ideas about life and considered that I would not marry again, but would co-habit and be “free”. The Holy Spirit was very clear to me in my early Christian life. ‘He walked with me and talked with me every day”. It was made very clear to me that my thoughts were not acceptable to God and that I should trust Him. I have now been married for 34 years to a Christian man. So I would answer your question by saying that Jesus is clear on this point. God does not change Sodom and Gomorrah is a warning. Marriage is between one man and one woman, forsaking all others for life. It has to be worked at and there are difficult times. The love is love mantra does not wash with God. The Roman Empire was sexually liberal and the early Christian church was the antithesis. I now consider our society to be comparable to Ancient Rome. A visit to the ruins of Pompei was enlightening about the sexual emphasis – there was a phallic symbol on every street corner and the brothel wall paintings were interesting!

      • Good observations about Pompeii and how public sexual displays were in the Greco-Roman world – and how class- and slavery-based it was. Female slaves were property to be used by their masters. Modern people are usually unaware of this.

          • Penelope: quite so, although Romans of an older or Stoic outlook looked down on homosexuality as a degrading misuse of the body and a humiliation of the passive partner. There are plenty of stories of attempted or actual homosexual rape in the Greek literature of the time, such as Longus’s ‘Daphnis and Chloe’. My study of Catullus has suggested to me that homosexuality became more common among the younger urban elite in the first century BC as Greek culture was more greatly valorised among them, perhaps as a consequence of more young Romans completing their education in Athens. Classical Greek life was generally positive about pederasty and ephebophilia, and elements of this creep into the poems of Catullus and Horace.
            Jews were of course horrified by these Gentile vices, as they were by two other practices which were very widespread in the Greco-Roman world and not at all under criminal sanction: abortion and child exposure. There is a famous letter from Cicero (‘the noblest Roman’) instructing his wife to expose her newborn if it’s a female. There was never any attempt to outlaw these barbarisms until the Roman empire was (notionally) Christianised, but abortion and child exposure were also reasons why many Jews considered the Gentiles unclean. To become a ‘godfearer’ meant making a break with your pagan culture.

          • Can’t quite see what rape of slaves has to do with same-sex behaviour in ancient Western Asia. Except, of course, sex was probably rarely consensual.
            Jews were horrified by the dirty, dirty gentiles, whilst still raping their own slaves.
            Not forgetting the demand to sacrifice the first born. Soon turned into redemption. But why the need to be redeemed without the original command?

        • James
          Young men were also the object-of desire of the hierarchy, but you also had women because procreation was a symbol of virility.
          The work of Alfred Kinsey in the 1960s pushes the idea that children are born sexual beings and you are depriving them of their rights. Utterly twisted thinking and he was found to be a paedophile – even babies could not escape. This is the stuff the UN is promoting for kindergarten and primary schools. A huge March was held in Canada by Muslim and Christian parents with placards and shouts “Leave our kids alone”.

          • Tricia

            I’m probably one of the few people commenting who actually has kids still in school. The schools are a *lot* more tolerant of LGBT parents and students than when I was at school, but they are not being taught what you think they are. I do wonder how many people at these protests even have kids.

            In our local elections a few years back a conservative lady tried to tell me that the school was providing litter trays for children who identified as cats, but keeping it secret from the parents. Its just all made up nonsense! Turns out she had kids, but they went to private school

          • To Peter Jeremy
            If you are speaking of England at the moment and sex Ed, well it is not as bad yet as Wales. Wales has fully adopted the UN ideas and parents are trying to fight back.
            Worcestershire tried to implement a scheme which received enormous push back.
            Anyone not believing me should look at the UN documentation.
            I do not believe that babies should be m*st*bated in nurseries or that there should be rooms set aside for toddlers to be naked and “interact” with one another.
            We are also forcing acceptance from school age children to accept that a person claiming to be the opposite sex is what they claim. This is forcing compliance with a lie. Like the Soviet era – when I visited Bratislava the guide pointed out an office building as being the previous headquarters of Pravda, the news outlet. And then she stated that “Pravda means truth – but there was not a lot of that”. God is truth.

          • Peter Jermey – I take this from “WHO Sexual Education Standards” –

            ‘children under 4 are encouraged to masturbate with joy and pleasure in touching their own body (page 38); children aged 4-6 are to accept all sexual preferences (p. 41). Children aged 6-9 are persuaded to accept intercourse and sex and accept same-sex love (page 42).’

            There is ‘always water where the turkey drowns’ as they say – the conservative lady you met had very good grounds for concern.

            My information comes from the Baptist Union of Poland web page – their response when where they were quite rightly concerned when Rafał Trzaskowski, in his capacity as mayor of Warsaw signed an LGBT+ declaration indicating that he was in favour of this.

          • Tricia

            Children are not being masturbated in nurseries even in Wales.

            Sexual assault of children like that is still a huge problem in the church, which the leadership continues to drag its feet on. They don’t want to talk about sex or sexuality because it means being honest about these failures to protect children.

          • Jock

            Are you sure that’s actually from the actual WHO standards? I’ve just downloaded the document and I can’t find anything like that…and their education standards don’t even start until age 5.

            The page number you cite is all about learning about family relationships…nothing to do with sex.

            Do you perhaps have a section and subsection number?

          • Jock

            Possibly its been badly translated, but a lot of Christian political groups have no problem stretching the truth or outright lying to achieve their agenda

          • Peter – thanks for the warning. The translation isn’t brilliant and they clearly didn’t take advice from a native English speaker, but nevertheless it gets the meaning across. But if they really have distorted these WHO guidelines, then they’re guilty of exchanging the truth for a lie – and we can draw appropriate conclusions about their Christian credentials.

          • Jock

            Yes. These political groups rely on well meaning people trusting that they will tell the truth because they claim to be Christian. True Christians might not lie, but any organization can lie about being Christian

  11. Ian, I think lots of evangelicals who are against ssm would be willing to bless the marriage of a couple who have decided that they will not have any children. But the possibility of procreation seems to be part of the pattern and purpose for marriage throughout scripture and for most of church history (eg Belousek). Would such a blessing be a reasonable accomodation, or does it in your view take them outside evangelicalism? Do your evangelical convictions allow you to bless such a marriage?

    I’m also confident that the vast majority of evangelicals who are against ssm would be even more strongly against the marriage of a child to an adult and would want that to remain a criminal offense. I do too! But I can’t find that prohibition spelled out in scripture. How is their opposition consistent with an evangelical approach, as you understand it, to defining the boundaries of marriage?

    • Thanks Richard.

      On the first, I would not. The doctrine of marriage in the C of E assumes childrearing as an integral part. A baptist minister friend of mine was in just that situation; I explained I would not have married him.

      On the second, it is an obvious outworking of the symmetry of authority and power we see between husband and wife in 1 Cor 7.

      • That’s an interesting situation. I trust you would conduct the wedding of a man and a post-menopausal woman, but never until the late 20th century has a couple that believed itself fertile had the option of sexual intercourse without conception. Genesis 2 states that woman was created as an intimate companion for man. So I suggest that capability of sexual intercourse is actually the correct criterion for whether or not to conduct the wedding of a couple, not whether they intend to try to conceive. I’d be intrigued to hear more of how you reached your view that a fertile man and woman should either not mary or intend to have children.

        • Anton
          I believe the Catholic Church refer to this as “open to life” which is a better description since the 1960’s introduction of the Pill. It is really the reason we are in the societal difficulty we now find ourselves in, as sex has been detached from procreation to mainly recreation. I was surprised to be told by a nurse recently that a woman is classed by the NHS as fertile until aged 60.

          • The problem that contraception has facilitated is sex outside marriage – something that was condemned in the Bible long before reliable contraception. If people kept to a biblical morality then there is nothing wrong with contraception, ie within marriage. The problem is in the human heart – as ever.

        • Anton

          Methods of birth control are thousands of years old. They are a lot better now of course, but it didn’t drop from the sky in 1963

          • What was new – and a huge change – was unilateral contraception for women, who were thereby enabled to behave as badly as men had always done.

          • Anton
            Yes there have always been methods of birth control, but not very reliable. The Pill was definitely female emancipation. I like reading gravestones and it is so touching when you read headstones where a family of 11 children have been decimated by sickness.
            For a mother to have gone through child bearing which was tough and then lose so many!

          • Tricia

            Partly that’s due to industrialization which brought unseen (relative) wealth to ordinary people for the first time. Now, largely because of the greed of the wealthy/ruling class, living standards are in decline and people are having fewer babies as a result.

      • Thanks for your clear and honest answer about your own convictions Ian. You didn’t comment on whether you think another minister who would be willing to accomodate the marriage of a couple who have decided not to have children (for example I guess your Baptist friend), should not call themselves evangelical?

      • How being a priest in the established Church of England, obliged to marry every Parishioner who wants a wedding unless given a specific conscience opt out by Synod, were you able to refuse the marriage of a heterosexual, non divorced couples who simply did not want children? What grounds did Synod give you to make such a refusal?

  12. Ian, I’m curious: what would you see as the main point(s) of difference between the sixteenth century Reformation and the eighteenth century evangelical revival? (which, by the way, is wonderfully set out in all its cultural context in Bruce Hindmarsh’s 2017 book ‘The Spirit of Early Evangelicalism: True Religion in a Modern World.)

  13. Interesting comment on the appeal to Article 32,

    “Appealing to this Article depends on ignoring the only possible meaning of the word ‘marriage’ in context here, which was of one man with one woman (as the BCP liturgy makes clear). It also ignores the historical context, in which this was very clearly an argument against clerical celibacy, and not an argument for same-sex marriage—or any other kind of marriage, come to that.”

    I am finding a current tendency in my own Wesleyan context to make an appeal to “whosoever”, which ignores the context of the phrase (“whosoever will may be saved”) and its specific historical context as an argument against Calvinist election….

  14. The biblical doctrine (there’s a powerful phrase and too easily used) of marriage, if taken from the whole of Scripture, is of a man taking a woman (sometimes more than one), to impregnate her so he can beget a son, and then remaining faithful to her. [Sadly some women prove to be infertile or barren, so the seed does not grow.] If the woman gave birth to a daughter she was unclean for twice as long as if she had given birth to a son (Lev 12:2-5).
    History tells us that the woman was probably barely past puberty. We would term this forced marriage and child abuse. The man takes, the woman is taken in marriage. her father or whoever transacts the agreement.
    If her husband died, the OT teaches that his brother should take the widow as his wife, again with the aim of producing offspring for the man’s family. The man’s family heritage is really important (look at the genealogies full of male ancestors!).
    Yes there is a shift to monogamy – though the patriarchs and King David are not challenged for their many wives. Yes husbands are told to love their wives, but the predominant teaching continues to be that the woman is subservient, even secondary, because she is a woman.
    However we interpret Jesus on divorce, he was clearly against easy divorce by a man of a woman. Jesus is recorded as saying that there will be no marrying nor being given in marriage (note the continued idea a woman is given in marriage) (Matt 22:30).
    I do not think this is a coherent doctrine; I see variety and development; some acceptance of surrounding practice and culture, and some challenge. It is undergirded by a view of man and woman in which the man is superior, the seed carrier, and in which family history is primarily remembered by who begets who. The Torah is written, shaped, primarily with men as the audience; the sign of the covenant is for men only (circumcision), and the idea that the Son is the true likeness of the Father borrows from the view that the man’s seed ideally would produce a male heir. So profound theology can come from a world-view we may no longer accept!
    Through the ages and across cultures, marriage has been understood differently and the ceremony conducted differently. Attitudes to those not-married, to the divorced, to extra-marital or pre-marital sexual relations have varied. We cannot ignore men’s attitudes to women, nor legal and social systems which denied women rights or a full education. Marriage always sits within a bigger framework of rights, duties and dominant systems, and most were / are patriarchal.
    Ours is a generation where many couples no longer want to have children, while other couples or individuals want a child, even if that means using another human being for the purpose. Ours is a generation where many live far longer than their ancestors did, with all the social implications. Volumes are written on the social meaning and importance of marriage, whether more generally or in particular societies.
    The Church of England has shifted its position on many aspects – the equality of women in marriage, its view on contraception and birth-control, on divorce and remarriage, and tacitly on pre-marital sex. Where the patriarchal model allowed for, even included, physical chastisement of children, now the church prioritises the well-being of the vulnerable and its abhorrence of domestic abuse. The man is no longer lord of his hearth. Much of this has changed only in the last 70 years, sometimes the church leading society, sometimes being dragged and / or resisting. It has divided churches and the Church. Other cultures have not made the same shifts. There may be a common agreement that spiritually men and women, slaves and free are one in Christ, but there is distinct difference in how that is interpreted and promoted.
    I suspect most of the readers of this blog do not uphold the “biblical” understanding of man and woman and how each contributes to the conception of the next generation; I suspect all are delighted that baptism is a sign of the New Covenant equally open to both sexes, but some will be puzzled why the previous Covenant was signed only in the male. Did John the Baptist baptise women?
    As we seek to promote a Christian understanding and value of marriage, some will readily include a committed loving couple (same-sex), while others claim it is to deny the doctrine of marriage. It is certainly to expand the C17th summary of marriage, but if that is limited by a view of man and woman we no longer accept, then it is good that it is updated. If we do accept that it is based on a correct view of man and woman, then the church should be undoing a lot of what it has put in place and speaking out for the primacy of the seed-bearing man, even though scientists and medics have known and shown that conception is a delightfully shared event between man and woman. Is that where the evangelical tradition sits?
    To treat the Scriptures as the God-breathed Word is to wrestle with their location in their particular cultures, particularly when advances in knowledge have shown that elements of those world-views were incorrect, or are no longer accepted / acceptable: – seven day Creation, a flat earth built on the waters, an acceptance of conquest and the destruction of enemy peoples, a tacit acceptance of slavery within society, usury and banking, pacifism, a view of man and woman, and the uncleanness of discharge and blood etc. And wrestling with the “then”, we seek to apply in the “now”. In such complexity, there will be disagreement. I don’t self-use the term evangelical, but evangelicals could model better discussion, rather than entrenchment. The issues are deeper than the trenches.

    • Hi Peter,
      You might see the NT teaching is a ‘development’ of the OT teaching. But I see no change to OT teaching except for the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 requirement for the divorce certificate that was dropped in 1 Corinthians 7. I think you are confusing church tradition with NT teaching. As these blogs re same sex marriage always do,


      • The developments that I see are in the pastoral language to husbands which I don’t think are part of the OT.
        I think Jesus and the early church gave women a greater role in the ecclesia, and the shift to baptise the women was a significant shift.
        I am in agreement with you that Jesus teaching on divorce is him commenting on the OT, and making his case.
        I also know that church tradition from quite early rowed back on the place of women in the ecclesia and reaffirmed the headship of the man in the family. Culture triumphed over counter-culture!
        Regarding same-sex marriage, or same-sex relations, I think the texts that speak of them do condemn such relationships or activity as abomination or unnatural, two powerful words, but very different in their roots. Both however I take to be rooted in a view of a man who should use his seed to beget children (Onan is significant in this respect), a culture where the roles of men and women were clearly demarcated, where surrounding cultures had temple prostitutes etc (and in the NT the Greek acceptance [short-hand] of pederasty). I take the texts seriously but I do not think Paul was right to call same sex relations unnatural, as we would understand unnatural (though they were as he understood the natural order), nor do I accept they are abominable, because in both cases I disagree with the underlying view of man / woman, and I suspect most people do, even if they uphold the traditional teaching. That is why I say the issues are deeper than the trenches.

        • So you think Paul was teaching error. Clear enough – you are a liberal who decides which texts are true and which are false.
          I thought that was your approach and it is good that you have confirmed this.

        • Jesus was very clear on marriage.
          Marriage is between one man and one woman and the only cause for divorce is adultery. Therefore showing the importance of sexual fidelity between the pairing.

          • To Peter Jeremy
            Matt 19v4,5,6
            Jesus is very clear. This is a creation issue – God created them male and female. The two become one flesh (hence the consummation issue in law). They become one flesh, no longer two.
            Even the Same Sex Marriage Act had to find a way round this and states that a heterosexual couple must consummate or the marriage is null, but a same sex couple do not.

          • Tricia

            Where in that passage does Jesus say heterosexual couples only?

            He’s talking about divorce, not gay people

          • Tricia

            Unconsumated marriages are not null, but it was a legal reason to be granted an annulment before divorce became an option for most couples.

            The MPs didn’t want to talk about the details of sex, which is why it was left out of the same sex marriage act. It had nothing to do with scripture.

          • You say the issue is very clear, but it’s not so. Even Ian would, I think, disagree with you that the exception for divorce is strictly limited to adultery only. He argues that this passage in Matthew is about the dispute between the Shammai and Hillel schools, with Jesus siding with Shammai and using adultery as an example of the sort of serious transgression that would permit a divorce.

          • Peter Jeremy

            Jesus was answering a question about divorce, so he went to the heart of the discussion as there is no divorce without marriage taking place. He then states that God created them male and female, the two become one flesh which begets procreation. Make and female are God’s design for the continuation of the species in the whole of nature.

          • If all men are designed to partner with women then why do some men only experience attraction to the same sex and some women only experience attraction to the opposite sex. Do you accept that this section of Genesis is probably written from a hetero-normative viewpoint (ie not considering gay people?)

      • I thought Jesus effectively revoked divorce certs except for adultery. He made it clear that that was a case of God accommodating to man’s ‘hard’ hearts for a temporary period, but Jesus was now insisting God’s will from the start should be maintained.

        • PC1 – yes – Jesus made it absolutely clear that the ‘certificate of divorce’ was, in principle, absolutely not for Christians. In the case of adultery, it is God who has severed the bond (so if someone continues to remain ‘married’ to someone who has committed adultery, they are living in sin).

          At the same time, though, nowhere in the ministry of Jesus did he claim to be dictating what the law of the land should be. Christians are living for Christ in a pagan world. He is telling us how to live our Christian lives in the situation in which we find ourselves.

  15. But there it is again. The CEEC basis of faith is “Standing in the Reformation tradition”. We cannot claim to be evangelical (in the sense believing in Scripture’s gospel) and Sola Scriptura when neither is fundamentally true of the Anglican Church. Which we all love – but is actually the bastard child of RC tradition and the Reformation. If Thomas Cranmer and Edward VI had lived another 15 years any concept of church tradition having authority would, I believe, have been rejected and thus given us clearer mandate to challenge the same sex marriage agenda.

    • I don’t think i am arguing from tradition; in fact I am challenging the tradition and asking that the biblical texts are read carefully with a proper understanding of their social context, and that tradition is understood to have particular roots too. The canons were written in their time. I am applying reason to my interpretation and I am challenging the view that there is a clear understanding on this matter that transcends cultures. We have changed our understanding on what it means to be human, and we need to acknowledge that.
      On that basis some will write my views off immediately but I suggest there are actually many areas where we have updated our interpretation, teaching and practice in the light of what we have subsequently learnt and how we construct human rights and social rights.

      • Peter,

        My comment above if you notice the timeline was not a reply to your comment. But your comment “but I do not think Paul was right to call same sex relations unnatural, as we would understand unnatural” places you outside the traditional understanding of evangelical, which is surely a belief in the inspiration of the text of scripture. So as Ian in his article suggests it makes the conversation impossible. It is either Peter Reiss or Paul the apostle and I am with Paul because that is my chosen epistemology.

        • I suspect most evangelicals do not think Paul was correct when he says nature teaches us that a man with long hair is degraded but a woman’s long hair is her glory (1 Cor 11:14). In what way does nature teach this? Nature shows that men (some) can grow long hair! What Paul claims is a cultural view. “Nature” (phusis) is a complex word. Paul uses the phrases ‘according to nature’ and ‘contrary to nature’ / ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’, twice in Romans, first in chapter 1 and then again ch 11. In chapter 11 the grafted branch may be contrary to nature but it is not condemned for such, but we are amazed.
          We can only begin to understand what Paul may mean in Romans 1 and his use of “unnatural” with a much fuller study of the phrase as used by thinkers and philosophers of his day, and its Aristotelian roots. 1 Cor 11:14 may also give some clues that his understanding does not straightforwardly translate into our thinking.
          Many today would say it is natural for some people to be attracted to others of the same sex ( though sexual activity might be deemed unnatural, if by natural we mean procreative or potentially procreative).
          Our concept of natural is not the same as Aristotle’s.
          We can all seek to understand what Paul was and is saying; we know that even traditional evangelicals dispute some texts, and hold differing views; many read some texts, not least on women, against the plain meaning in front of them (not least as the plain reading seems to go against what Paul writes in other places). Some wriggle to try and make a case that there is no dissonance, but it leaves the sound of much wriggling! We may also decide that our situation is different from his so ..
          We may hear his frustration in the letter to Titus, but I doubt we agree that Cretans are always liars etc (Titus 1:12). Let us be more careful in how we read Paul the apostle.
          I think a careful unpacking of Paul’s use of phusis is necessary, as well as a wider attempt to understand quite how he viewed man and woman and headship (another area where evangelicals disagree).

          • Yes. Of course Scripture uses the language of accommodation. And “all” in Scripture just as in colloquial English hardly ever means literally all. Evangelicals are able or discern these things. But to suggest Scripture is using such nuances when it speaks of sexual relationships which are core to creation and the world view of Scripture does not, I believe, stack up.

          • A male presenting as a female is certainly a disgrace, and that includes males adopting female hairstyles. Sexual distinction by appearance is certainly something that nature teaches because we instinctively recognise sexual confusion and ambiguity as wrong. That’s why the Bible condemns transvestism and the related ills of ‘transgenderism’. The fact that all cultures have different hairstyles and clothing for men and women recognises this fact of nature.
            The Pauline ussge of ‘kata phusin’ in Romans 1 is in fact quite close to the Stoic sense. I encourage you to read J. Budzsizweski, “Written on the Heart” for a good introduction to how Natural Law and the Bible cohere (see Romans 2.12) – it is much closer than you imagine.
            As for the New Testament and women in ecclesial leadership, you are a lot closer to the mark than you may realise. Much of modern Protestantism made a significant error in appointing women into ordained leadership and we are seeing the consequences of this now in the rapidly disintegrating churches in the west. The majority of ordinands in the Church of England are now female, there are many female bishops – nearly all liberal – and the Church of England has never been weaker and more divided. It is rapidly becoming like the Church of Sweden: decorous and irrelevant. Other denominations that went down this road, like the Methodists and the URC, wil be extinct in 20 years.

          • Peter R

            I think what’s vital about Romans 1 is that its Romans ONE. This is a lead in to Paul arguing that nobody, not even Neros entourage, is beyond salvation. Yet in the last few decades its been mostly widely used as justification for discrimination, exclusion and even abuse of gay people.

            I think the second most vital thing to point out is that Paul isn’t talking about gay people. He’s talking about straight PAGANs. In the text the same sex sex is a punishment for paganism. The crime is not homosexuality or same sex marriage. We know they are straight (or at least in heterosexual relationships) because the text says so.

            On this passage we don’t even have to go into what Paul did or did not understand of gay people, because the text itself says they were not gay. We know who the people are – they are obviously the Roman elite who were oppressing Christianity at the time – and Paul continues in TWO to say that the Christians are no better than them and THREE onwards to say salvation is open to all (not just straight people who wear the right clothes, went to the right schools and have the right friends)

          • James

            We have had several states here in the US ban performers from wearing clothing that doesn’t reflect their sex at birth. Strangely none of the women wearing pants to lead worship in church have been arrested.

            What constitutes women’s clothing or mens clothing has a very short time span.

            I also think we need to be honest that not everyone is 100% male or 100% female – a small minority have situations where they have mentally, physically or both, aspects of both sexes. They are not abhorrent for existing. The person who pops into my mind is Alan Carr – that’s his natural voice – and he’s talked about problems growing up the son of a footballer but without sufficient “male” traits to fill the expectations.

          • The Church of England still has more members than any other denomination in England and the Church of Sweden still has more members than any other denomination in Sweden too. Ban female priests from the C of E and refuse to even bless homosexual couples and you will just alienate the majority of the population even more from Christianity than they already are.

            In any case if you really oppose women priests and bishops and homosexual couples being blessed then there are plenty of conservative Pentecostal or Baptist churches you can go to as well as Roman Catholic churches that have neither. Even in the C of E there are also some churches with alternative episcopal oversight which still only have male priests and have an opt out from homosexual blessings, especially those associated with Forward in Faith or the most conservative evangelical churches

          • James

            What on earth are “female” hairstyles? If we let nature take its course we’d all have long unkempt hair. What we consider appropriate attire is a result of social and cultural constructs. There is no ‘disgrace’ in adopting the supposed norms of the other gender. I have very short hair and am currently wearing jeans and a t shirt. I don’t think anyone would mistake me for a man though!
            I don’t think that would concern you, however. I have a suspicion that, like a lot of men (cf. Leviticus), your disgust is about men being emasculated and, thus, degraded in the social and religious hierarchy. Gender has always been a spectrum and men losing male status has always provoked anxiety. That’s why you disapprove.

      • In other words, your belief is mainstrean modern post-Christian liberalism: the belief that modern western thinking trumps Christian tradition.
        It is called the progressive loss of faith and is very common in the western world today. Politicians and other public figures who would havd called themselves, however vaguely, Christians 60 years ago now disavow any religious label. This seems to be your trajectory, Peter.
        This is the path ghat Richard Holloway took.

        • Penelope, I believe (but am not entirely sure) that 1 Corinthians 11.14 is about men mimicking women in their appearance, which is certainly insulting to women and a failure of masculinity. Effeminacy among some young men, especially cinaedi, was certainly well known in Greek cities and then in Rome in the first centuries BC and AD, as the poetry and writings of Catullus and Martial indicate; and I imagine Paul may have this partly in mind. Corinth, like most ports, had a huge sex trade.
          That women should be concerned with the attractiveness (and lustre) of their hair and skin isn’t simply ‘the result of social and cultural constructs’ but is a universal of human cultures as far back as we can investigate. Makeup and adornment of hair among women is pretty universal (long may it be!). I am sure it is part of human nature as God intended it.

          • Yes, there have always been effeminate men. Most sensible women do not find this insulting. Indeed, in some societies (18th C Europe) it was very much the norm amongst the elite. And, thankfully, male grooming is once again popular. All social constructs.
            As I observed before, it is men (cishet men) who are often deeply troubled by ‘failures of masculinity’.

  16. Happy Jack found the reasons given by this Evangelical for not joining the Catholic Church odd. Lamenting the general drift of the Anglican church away from biblical orthodoxy, he asked: Why not the Catholic Church?

    So, where was the stumbling block? If we had such respect for Catholic tradition and practice, why didn’t we take the road to Rome?

    For me, it was the place of scripture in the preaching and teaching at most Catholic churches … the routines of worship and devotion are far less focussed on scripture for most Catholics than for many Anglicans, particularly those who come from an evangelical tradition … this relative absence of Bible study among Catholics presents as a missed opportunity for joy. The most profound moments of joy in my life have come from realising the truth of the Good News – either when it was being preached to me or when I was being helped to understand it in scripture …

    It is the thought of minimising this source of joy that is my greatest barrier to becoming a Catholic … Neglecting it denies Catholics opportunities to grow in their faith – and presents a major hurdle for converts. Until this barrier is removed, I and many like me would find it impossible to become Catholic.


    Well, HJ finds a joyful encounter with the beauty of the Lord in Catholic worship and a deep experience of Christian life. He enjoys a good homily and scriptural teaching – but at the cost of expressing his beliefs in worship, no thank you!

    The maxim Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi (“the law of what is prayed [is] what is believed [is] the law of what is lived”), is a Christian tradition meaning that prayer and belief are integral to each other and that liturgy is not distinct from theology. Worship reveals what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God and to one another This understanding has always shaped the Church’s approach to the liturgy.

    So who’s really missing out?

  17. The letter from Inclusive Anglican says
    ‘We believe the outcomes of LLF as supported at the February General Synod reflect the mind of the majority in the church, particularly that:
    1. The majority want to see affirmation of same-sex relationships through the prayers for God’s blessing of same-sex couples…’

    How on earth have they come to that conclusion? Where is their data set? The churches I lead could not be described as ‘evangelical’ – just ordinary rural – but I have no reason to suppose the majority want to abandon the church’s clear teaching on marriage and sexual ethics.

    Apparently only 6000 responded to the LLF course – just 0.6% of one million membership.

    • I read much of the LLF book and took the course, but I never responded to the online questions. I’d had enough of being manipulated by then.

      • Anton: yes, I read the book too but didn’t follow the course. I could see how the whole exercise was geared at producing the current farrago. Martin Davie wrote an excellent critique of the “process” and hoe it was controlled – just like recent Lambeth conferences.

        • And James,
          I’m sure you’ll be aware of Martin Davie’s review, critique, of Mark V-S’s book, Defusing The Sexual Debate: the Evangelical Cultural War, 2023.
          The link to Davie is here:
          It seems to me that far from a lack of understanding of the respective positions on ssm/ssb, the chasm is due to a clear understanding but mutual renunciation and a lopsided, onesided, false narratives propounded by activist seekers of revision, multifacetted though they may be, but which can be reduced to scripture, what it is, and its place in the life of the church and individual church members, living and active as scripture is- God-speaking- today.
          2 Timothy 3:16-17.
          But, of course, you know all this.
          Christians do not live in a closed, material-world-view universe
          As a retired dentist friend said; scripture is either all revelation from God, or it’s nothing.
          The Holy Bible is uncorrectable and it is not a CoE *curate’s egg.”

          • Geoff – no, hadn’t seen this but thanks for the heads-up.
            It really isn’t enough to say ‘We honour the Bible, too, we just read it differently.’ Some interpretations are just wrong – and to believe A means you think B is wrong. This is simply a product of meaning and language. Any student of Shakespeare, say, who interpreted one of his plays to mean something wholly strange and novel would be rightly failed for not giving good reasons for his or her interpretation. The same with the Bible.

      • I have friends who are gay.. even friends who have been in gay marriages. I do not believe the church needs to liberalise. WHy would one follow the other?

        • As the Church of England is the established church, supposed to represent everyone who lives in its Parishes (which does not apply to other denominations) and as homosexual marriage is now legal in England. Hence Synod has correctly voted for Prayers of Blessing for homosexual couples married in English civil law

          • A parish church may have a pastoral duty to its parishioners. That is very different to the idea of the church representing everyone who lives in the parish – a notion that is wrong because it is meaningless.

            The Church is certainty not bound to bless anything just because parliament has changed the law. The proposition is obviously false.

          • It is supposed to represent everyone who lives in its parishes, right?
            It seems to be falling short in representing the Buddhists, the Jedi, and the secularists. They are granted no equality whatever by this organisation.

          • False, technically Buddhists, Jedis and secularists are entitled to get married and buried in the church of the Church of England Parish where they live even if they never normally go to its services, as it is the established church

          • In other words, they can get something, but not everything they want. Not by a long chalk. So if they can get buried there, so too can the people who are minded to marry someone of their own sex get buried there – and there we have equality. Whereas if one lot could get married there in a congenial ceremony and the other lot could not, that would be inequality.

          • Heterosexuals can get married in C of E churches, whether divorced or first time marriage, homosexuals at present in the Parish cannot even get a blessing

        • Thomas

          It does in most cases. Granted not all. I have members of my wider family who opposed my marriage. But if you know a gay person then you are far more likely to support gay equality than if you do not. Far more gay people feel safe to be open and honest about it now and I would think nearly everyone knows at least one gay person well!

      • T1,
        So what? That has more than a taint of desperation.
        A self identifying fallacy – and a fallacy of so called, (or more correctly, corralled to serve a purpose of your own) appeal to”popularity”, ad populum.
        “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” GK Chesterton. Unerasably relevant.

        • Ultimately the Church of England has to recognise the views of the majority of its members.

          Those who still disagree even with an opt out can become Pentecostal, 66% of UK Pentecostals opposing blessings or marriage of same sex couples in church. 81% of independent evangelicals, 58% of Orthodox and a plurality of Muslims and Baptists also take that view.

          Most UK Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Hindus, URC members and Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs and non religous agree with most Anglicans however that the C of E should marry or offer blessings to same sex couples in its churches

          • TI
            We are specifically instructed to obey God and not Man. At the heart of man is Sin. God alone is omnipotent and holy.

            Man has got so many things wrong over the centuries, and people have paid the price in communism, wars etc.

            Repent and believe is the instruction to give strength to follow God and his commandments.

      • Yes, and 90% of self-described Anglicans are not churchgoers. C of E churchgoers are 1.2% of the population and self described Anglicans 12%.

        And as Regnerus and others have universally confirmed, a non churchgoing Anglican is closer in beliefs to a non Christian than to a churchgoing Christian.

        No wonder Simon was trying to use the category ‘self-described Anglican’ rather than ‘churchgoer’.

        • So what? The Church of England is the established church and as established church is supposed to represent every person in England who lives in its Parishes and has rights to be automatically married in their Church of England Parish church even if they have never been to church in their life. So clearly a majority of them back blessings at least or even marriage for homosexual Parishioners, as indeed do even a clear majority of those who self describe themselves as Anglicans.

          Unfortunately too many evangelicals like you fail to realise the responsibilities the Church of England has as established church to every person living in its Parish, not just those who go to its churches regularly or even those who only describe themselves as Anglican. The Church of England as established church is NOT able therefore only to take note of its churchgoers like independent evangelical or Pentecostal or Baptist churches for example. If you fail to realise that then you should leave the established church and join one of those churches instead!

          • Self selected identified?
            You have failed to address the fallacies.
            Let alone the any qualitative and quantitative analysis of methodologies. A travesty.

          • As established church the Church of England is supposed to represent 100% of their Parishioners, whether regular church goers, self selected Anglicans or even if they never go to church at all. After all, even if you are not baptised or confirmed in the Church of England and have never been to church in your life you are still entitled to be married and buried in your local Church of England Parish church where you live, as it is the established church

          • And being a parishioner (liek, everyone is) also entitles you to all the things that *some* parishioners want, like Buddhist ceremonies and raves, and even black masses.

          • You can do those in your own time yes as long as not against UK law. It is unlikely of course most Buddhists or atheists would want a Christian wedding but if they are marrying a Christian they are entitled to one in their local Parish Church. They can also be buried in their local C of E church too if it is a pretty historic village church even a few atheists might be attracted by that

          • No, they want a Buddhist or Jedi wedding, and the C of E is discriminating against some parishioners as sof some they will offer the sort of wedding they want and for others they won’t. You know that.

            As to this being the law, it is indeed. And the law falls from the sky perfect and unchangeable, precisely the same in every time and place.

          • So what? So everything.
            ‘Self-described Anglican’ is a meaningless term. People who are not on the electoral roll of the parish church cannot dictate to it.
            You have to be instructed before you can be baptised.
            Similarly with marriage.
            There isn’t even a ‘right’ to be married *inside the building.
            A priest could offer instead to conduct a ceremony on the doorstep and that would be legal.
            Folk memories don’t make Christians.
            You have a very confused Erastian understanding of Church law.
            But you keep repeating it, as if a falsehood becomes true by dint of repetition.

          • People on the electoral roll of their church however elect representatives who voted for delegates to Synod and Synod has in turn already voted by majority for LLF and prayers of blessing for homosexual couples.

            You can receive instruction before marriage in an Anglican church but you don’t even need to be baptised in the Church of England to be married in your local Church of England Parish church.

  18. Ian, you’ve quoted me twice, and I think misunderstood me both times.

    In the first quotation you quote my comments about the fact that discussion of definitions of evangelicalism is inherently political because they are used as a way of judging whether particular individuals and groups are bona fide evangelicals or not. This is a historically well-documented aspect of evangelicalism, as I point out in the article. My point is simply that evangelicalism is particularly prone to this kind of politicisation of definitions, and that therefore it’s very difficult to abstract discussion of definitions of evangelicalism from internal evangelical politics. However, you seem to be reading me as saying that any attempt to define Christian identity by reference to a statement of doctrine is misguided and rightly point to creeds as a central example of this. I am very happy to use creeds as a statement of Christian identity and am in no way suggesting that this is impossible or unhelpful. My point is very specifically about the way in which definitions of evangelical identity function within evangelicalism.

    In the second quotation I’m saying pretty much what you think I *should* be saying if I was understanding Stott correctly. I don’t think (nor do I say this) that Stott was arguing all Christians are evangelical. I think he was saying all evangelicals are Christian. And that this is so because evangelicalism at its heart is simply basic Christian belief, nothing more, nothing less. Which as far as I can tell is what you think Stott meant too.

    On reflection, I think I’d want to make two more points in responding to your post. The first is that I’m not sure you’ve really understood Bebbington (who is not describing evangelicalism at the time he wrote, as you suggest, so much as offering an analysis of evangelicalism over its entire history). Bebbington’s approach is to see evangelicalism as beginning with Wesley, Whitfield and Edwards in the Great Awakening (this is widely accepted by historians of evangelicalism – eg the IVP multi-volume History of Evangelicalism begins at this point). Your suggestion that evangelicalism is best understood through Wycliffe and Tyndale essentially confuses evangelicalism with protestantism as a whole.

    The second is the one I make in the first quote you use from my article, which is that evangelicals tend to use definitions of evangelicalism politically as a way of excluding individuals or groups, and that this makes it very difficult to have conversations about this in contexts where there are political disagreements between evangelicals. You suggest that historically the primary answer to the question ‘why do we need to define our terms?’ (the terms here being our definitions of evangelicalism) is that we need to clarify the claims of scripture in order to further the reform and renewal of the church. I’d humbly suggest that in fact the primary reason evangelicals have sought to define what it means to be evangelical has generally been because other people calling themselves evangelicals have argued for things they don’t think are compatible with evangelicalism. And so they have tended to define evangelicalism in such a way as to prove this (and show that these other people are not evangelicals at all and maybe not even real Christians so we shouldn’t listen to them.) And there is good reason to think that is in fact what is happening at the moment. In which case ‘what is an evangelical’ becomes a very loaded question. And this might be a key dynamic to acknowledge at a time when we are trying as a church to have a careful and respectful conversation around sexuality, in which we pay particular attention to the voices of those we disagree with.

    • You speak of disagreements, but it is not like the academic debates you will have. More than half the time the reason for the parish disagreements will be
      (a) different levels of knowledge,
      (b) different levels of imagination of how far a culture could or should be different from our own,
      (c) the mistaken belief that a wish or ideology has anywhere near as much weight as a researched conclusion.

      Whereas academic disagreements are genuine examples of wrestling with the data.
      Having to pretend that each of us, whatever our level of knowledge and whatever our level of critical distance from culture, somehow has an equal amount to contribute to the debate – this untruth is what destroys the process before it ever starts. It is a bit like saying I have an equal amount to contribute to an astrophysics debate, compared to a professor of astrophysics.

      If we deny this, it makes the whole thing a waste of time.

    • I don’t use the term evangelical to describe myself, it is how others may describe me.
      Stott’s book Basic Christianity, first edition, may give a reasonable pointer to what he considered Christian to be.
      But there are those who comment who evince little to no understanding of what or who the evangel is; little to no evidence of conversion to Christ, of a new, changed, life of repentance, of conversion, of justification and sanctification and an in- dwelling of and by God, of being born of God, again, from above.

      • I agree with you Geoff. The word evangelical is not one I use for myself even though I came to faith through an evangelical church. The E wing of the church has become tainted.

  19. LABLES
    Have always been a bug bear in the Church, witness the debacle in Corinth
    “I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ [!]
    If I had to rely on churches for my Salvation I would have given up years ago. Finding, that if I did not adopt their particular label I was marginalized in the extreme, most of the time.
    God however who is rich in mercy led me through those particular minefields into a land flowing with milk and honey through His Word.
    “Should we keep fighting to redeem the term “evangelical”? Or is it time to put it on the shelf as an unfortunate casualty of Religious Right politics”. Thomas S. Kidd,@
    What Happened to ‘Evangelicals’? How Politics Seized a Precious Word @
    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-happened-to-evangelicals gives another good histery of the term Evangelical and it’s demise.
    Thank you Mark Vasey-Saunders
    November 11, 2023 at 9:52 am for your valuable insights on this matter.

  20. I suspect that if everyone who disagreed with an aspect of cofe teaching left the church, you’d have hardly anyone left and zero bishops!

  21. Ian said, ‘For another, I don’t think that we can talk of the supremacy of Scripture as one characteristics amongst several. It is the defining characteristic, and from it all the others flow.’

    I would dispute this. I do not believe that the supremacy of scripture is the defining characteristic of evangelicalism.

    It seems to me that the two defining characteristics of the Reformation are (1) justification by grace through faith, and (2) the supremacy of scripture. In the 16th C the Church of England shared these two characteristics with all the mainstream reformers.

    Evangelicalism, however, did not really get going until a couple of centuries later. It assumed the two defining characteristics above, but added a third: conversionism. The early evangelicals liked to talk of it as ‘true religion’ or ‘the religion of the heart’. They weren’t content with formal membership of a state church which gave intellectual assent to the principles of the reformation. They wanted everyone to experience personal faith in Christ through conversion and a lived relationship with God.

    This, I would submit, is the true defining characteristic of evangelicalism: a shared experience of the grace of God in Christ.

    • This is putting the cart before the horse. Do you think Jesus would understand the question ‘What is an Evangelical?’ It is a circular question: It is what you define it as being. But that is irrelevant when we have not yet established that an Evangelical is what one should be. People just sought out the best ways to be Christians, some came up with that model, so people called them that. Their priority, in other words, was to be the best sort of Christian they could be. Quite right too. How does that compare with playing with definitions?

      • You are acting like a game player, which is not being straight. I clearly do not support that organisation at all – it seems only political and ideological rather than nuanced and academically credible. There are always Venn diagram overlaps between most things, but a person concerned for accuracy would not confuse these with equivalence.

        • My point is that the IE group has been challenged by Ian and others to define the word evangelical. Definitions were not our idea, they were Ian’s. We are quite happy to believe people when they tell us they are evangelical. Ian is the one calling for a tighter definition, not us.

          • So if a person says they are an antelope, you are quite happy to believe that.
            No-one ever lies.
            No-one is ever sincerely mistaken.
            No-one who thinks that inhabits the real world.
            One can scarcely imagine fewer checks and balances, nor a less well thought out policy.

          • Of course it is not a political organisation. But it resembles one in that evidence is sidelined:
            (1) You just believe every label you hear;
            (2) It is all to do with stating preemptive conclusions, whereas the nature of a conclusion is that it comes at the end;
            (3) What is the label they claim? Something they merely like or are attracted to or prefer or want, on the one hand, or something they can defend in argument on the other? Because if it is not the latter, how can they be said actually to believe it?
            It is quite obvious that in a world and culture where ”inclusivity” (a nonsense word, ill-defined) is on the rise and evangelicalism is by far the kind of Christianity which is most full of energy and going places, then plenty of people will regard both as normative, and will therefore want to retain both. That is merely to do with what they understand (from their life experience) to be normal, not to do with their having assessed these options against competing options.

          • Christopher Shell said, ‘It is quite obvious that in a world and culture where ”inclusivity” (a nonsense word, ill-defined) is on the rise and evangelicalism is by far the kind of Christianity which is most full of energy and going places, then plenty of people will regard both as normative, and will therefore want to retain both. That is merely to do with what they understand (from their life experience) to be normal, not to do with their having assessed these options against competing options.’

            I love it when people who don’t know me from a hole in the wall assume they have enough inside information to tell me what my own motivations are.

    • Tim: not sure I agree with your experimental take. Evangelicalism – looking back to the Reformation and the teaching of the Reformers – is much more interested in CONVERTEDNESS than CONVERSIONISM (understood as a personal psychological experience of enlightenment), however useful such experiences have been. There are plenty of stories of people responding to ‘altar calls’ who may be no different a few weeks or months later – Thomas Hardy no doubt saw lots of this and gave us Alex D’Urberville as his fictional parade example.
      And I knew people from theological college days who could recount moving ‘conversion stories’ who later lost their faith and left the ministry.
      The sub-culture of revivalism puts a lot of store by such events, but evangelicalism is far more concerned with the reality of being repentant, believing in the sufficiency of Christ for salvation and the necessity of growth in grace. A focus on an intimate ‘soul relationship’ with Christ is the mark of pietism which arguably was not centre-ground in the Reformers’ piety.

      • ‘A focus on an intimate ‘soul relationship’ with Christ is the mark of pietism which arguably was not centre-ground in the Reformers’ piety.’

        Agreed. But Evangelicalism is not the same as the Reformation. It came two centuries later. Have you read the sermons of Wesley, Whitfield, etc.?

        • Tim, I have read only the ocassional sermon by Wesley and Whitfield. You will know that the word “evangelical” was very common in the 16th century and “evangelisch” was equivalent to Protestant. Reformers readily described tbemselves as ‘evangelical’. Of course theological liberalism did not exist in the 16th century, other than in Socinianism which was rejected as heretical. Wesley himself traced his “heart warming” to hearing Luther’s Preface to Romans, but his own theology was both more high church than the Reformers, as well as containing his erroneous doctrine of potential moral perfectionism in this life. Evangelicals today don’t think Wesley was true to the New Testament here.
          American Methodism is now splitting in two over homosexuality while in the UK Methodism is in terminal decline. I wonder how you evaluate those facts.

          • ‘Evangelicals today don’t think Wesley was true to the New Testament here.’

            I don’t think so either, but I don’t think you’re right in saying that evangelicals today don’t think he was correct. In my own short lifetime i have heard evangelical sermons defending Wesley’s doctrine (granted, they refined it to mean ‘perfection in love’), and the whole ‘second blessing’ strand of evangelicalism, which predated and prefigured the Pentecostal interpretation of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, certainly accepted it.

            Anyway – ‘evangelicalism’ in the C of E certainly traces its origins to the eighteenth century reinterpretation of the Reformation. Yes, of course Wesley’s experience came from hearing Luther on Romans – but Wesley’s understanding of conversion was different from Luther’s. Luther believed in baptismal regeneration – and Lutheranism today is very strong on this – and did not stress adult conversion as a paradigm of Christian experience. If I remember correctly, early in Wesley’s ministry, when he was still a high churchman, he declined to minister to a man condemned to hang, because he felt the man would not have enough time for a genuine repentance. The later Wesley would never have acted in this way, because he had come to believe in instantaneous conversion.

            Not being a Methodist in the denominational sense, I have no informed comment to make on Methodism today, either in the US or the UK.

    • Tim Chesterton – reading between the lines, the ingredient that you claim is missing appears to come dangerously close to what Brunner describes as ‘sinking in on divine ground’ (The Mediator). Searching for ‘the experience’ comes dangerously close to the sort of mysticism that Brunner describes in his discussion of approaches to religion which attempt to attain communion with God in ways that bypass the need of Christ as Mediator (while at the same time they claim that they haven’t bypassed The Mediator).

      This chimes in very well with the comments that James made in reply to you – although on previous threads I seem to recall that James wasn’t a great fan of Brunner. (Note to James – on the whole I probably agree with you about Brunner – if I have remembered correctly – but I think you’d like The Mediator – especially on this point – which seems to hit the target like a tracer missile).

      • Jock:

        My understanding of evangelical experience is based on the sermons and writings of John Wesley and the other eighteenth century evangelical luminaries. The best collection I know of those writings is David Lyle Jeffrey’s ‘English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley’, which is out of print but easy to find in a second hand edition (see https://amzn.eu/d/3qlNUD7).

  22. Here in the states we have a powerful political grouping called “white evangelicals”. Way back it used to mean roughly what it means to UK Christians, except on the issues of guns and violence.

    Now it seems to mean socially conservative people who consider themselves Christian, but rarely or never attend church and want social and religious conformity. In my experience most of them prefer Trump to Jesus.

    Evangelical is a difficult word because its not clearly defined. In the core there are a lot of people who consider themselves evangelical, but also feel they are being talked for by a group of people with views on sex, marriage and gender that they don’t agree with. I think it would be better to have a totally different name, but I expect they are calling themselves “evangelical” to point out that the CEEC doesn’t speak for everyone who isn’t an Anglo catholic.

    • Even if people argue over the definition, evangelicals are a distinct, and homogenous, social group in the UK. It is far more difficult for anyone who wasn’t raised in an evangelical family to feel “at home” in an evangelical setting than it is for an inclusive evangelical to feel welcome in a conservative church.

          • Joe S

            I think its a real area of difficulty to evangelicals with the issue of welcoming LGBT people, not just because their political and religious beliefs are increasingly hostile to LGBT people, but also because if they are seen to be too welcoming then they themselves could face ostracism by the wider community.

            Most seem to have settled on the phrase “welcome to attend”

          • Peter,

            I currently live in what is an ultimate rural backwater part of the UK and I don’t see the LGBTQ+ having much problem with being accepted in church. The old homophobia is completely gone and, if anything, churches are under immense social pressure to explain why they aren’t inclusive.

            The remaining conversation is a pure power play between those who want the “terms and conditions” of Christianity to be changed and those who don’t. If LGBT exclusion still exists it is on a tribal basis – as in “our people” don’t do/believe this – and not a society level general prejudice.

          • Joe

            Im really not surprised that homophobia is mostly gone from rural areas. We live in a semi rural area (in the US) and our neighbors (well apart from “The Grumpy Man”) have been really nice to us. I think in rural areas people tend to help one another out in a much more practical sense than in urban and semi urban areas. Yes cities tend to be more “liberal”, but they are also more “conservative”. More people tend to have a problem with more people there.

          • Joe

            I would also say that the only anti LGBT sentiments I have found here are from the County Republican Party who seem convinced we are all pedophiles. Thats more tribalism isnt it?! I think you are absolutely right.

    • Evangelicals in the USA.
      For the position in the USA, the link provided to Thomas Kidd, by Alan Kempson, @3:15 pm is a studied, fuller and far more reliable as a movement from source history, to the present. It seems as though it has not been read, and only a ready made personal opinion matters and overrides an abstract of learning.

      • Geoff

        My point is that its a very elastic term, especially since it has gotten intertwined with far right politics. I know all about Billy Graham and Liberty University etc, but that’s irrelevant to my point.

        For example my husband saw some “white evangelicals” being interviewed. They were Methodists and he was surprised because he didn’t think Methodists counted as evangelicals.

        • Is the evangel elastic without knowing what it is? Or can it be fixed in unbelief and/or ignorance, outside the person of Jesus, within the Trinity?

    • Peter, in the UK ‘evangelical’ is pretty clearly defined. The use of the word in the US really has very little relation.

      Think about the different meanings of the phrase ‘I am going to put suspenders on my pants’.

  23. Martin Davie carefully reviews Vasey-Saunders’ book on evangelicals and sexuality, assesses its strengths, and points out numerous errors of history and fact that Vasey-Saunders made – some of them quite egregious and showing surprising lacunae of knowledge both about the history of the Church of England and the history of Christian doctrine.
    I’m not a historian but even I knew some of Vasey-Saunders’ assertions are just historically wrong. Read and judge for yourselves.

  24. My point was made about the question posited. I remarked on Mark Vasey’s comment.
    Having read through James November 11, 2023 at 5:31 pm recommended reading of Davie’s review of Vasey – Saunders work: In which Davie pointed to some strengths but major weaknesses of his position and questionings. [I broadly with Davie’s conclusions] My point was really that the broad term of Evangelicalism ain’t what it used to be.
    Stott in the 1960’s argued against Martin Lloyd Jones ‘s position that Holiness was the central plank of Christianity which Stott as chairman of the debate against precedent interjected along the lines that holiness was a bit exclusive and love was more inclusive.
    Hence the love of God is the defining characteristic of God and hence not Holiness as Jones was positing.
    This resulted in no mean discomfort, Jones called for Evangelicals to come out of the C of E[which some did.] I have little doubt that Stott was a superlative teacher and author but I fear also sowed the seeds now bearing fruit. That is to say inclusivity is argued against the Holiness of God.
    On the Anglo Catholic side; the spirit of Laudiansm still lingers;
    In the 1630s, Laud declared that “the altar is the greatest place of God’s residence upon earth, greater than the pulpit for there it is Hoc est corpus meum, This is my body; but in the other it is at most but Hoc est verbum meum, This is my word.”
    This eventually led to the Civil war that followed and is not yet concluded though many may perish. Observation of rituals and not the word of God is considered the way of Salvation.
    Again I ask the question Why does God hate sin so vehemently?
    Why the order to drive out the Canaanites? because the wickedness of them was now full.
    The men of Sodom [Canaanites] wanted sex with the men visiting Lot [they did not KNOW that they were angels !] they were offered Lot’s daughter who they shamefully used.
    For a comprehensive paper on the depravity of the Canaanites I recommend
    from Philosophia Christi.

    • In one service during Thomas Laud’s tenure of Canterbury, Psalm 24:9 was sung (“Lift up your heads, ye gates, and lift up yourselves, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in”) and the church doors were thrown open and Laud entered. That is somewhat asking for it…

    • Something of the civil war still lingers in the Church of England, most evangelicals would have been roundheads in the Civil War, most Anglo Catholics and Liberal Catholics would have been cavaliers

      • The English civil war had two causes: freedom of protestant worship, and tax policies to be agreed by parliament and not imposed unilaterally by the sovereign.

        Parliament and king both gradually escalated in response to the other, and neither side was willing to back down. SThe Puritans seeking religious freedom and agreed taxes had no thought in 1642 of executing the king or running the country themselves as a Commonwealth (i.e., a republic), but that is what it came to.

        Even after losing the first stage of the English civil war in 1647, parliament was willing to treat with King Charles. But he called down an invasion of England from the other country of which he was sovereign, Scotland, which England’s parliament rightly viewed as treason.

        Charles was in flagrant breach of his Coronation oath, and saw himself as not bound by his own word (i.e., he was a fluent liar).

        A few years ago the first biography was published of John Cooke, the man who led the prosecution of King Charles (written by Geoffrey Robertson). Cooke went bravely to his death in 1660 (hung, drawn and quartered). A movie will now be made about him, to be called The Thorn in the Crown.

        • And of course once Cromwell’s republic came into force the Church of England effectively became a Presbyterian evangelical not an Anglican church, with the Book of Commons Prayer outlawed, Bishops abolished and the King no longer Supreme Governor of the Church of England or even English head of state. Only the Restoration and Charles II becoming King restored it as the established church

          • Which is OK by me. What wasn’t OK was the Clarendon Code enacted against nonconformists, in particular the Five Mile Act.

          • Of course, because you are not a non Anglican evangelical by doctrine.
            Given the fact we higher church Anglicans weren’t even allowed a church for the period of Oliver Cromwell’s rule it was hardly surprising when Charles II was restored as monarch and Supreme Governor of the C of E, along with Bishops and the 1662 BCP.

            Given some nonconformists refused to then take oath to use the rites and ceremonies of the new 1662 book they only had themselves to blame when they were expelled from the Church of England and faced restrictions on where they could go and what offices they could hold under the Clarendon codes

          • Of course, because you are a non Anglican evangelical by doctrine.
            Given the fact we higher church Anglicans weren’t even allowed a church for the period of Oliver Cromwell’s rule it was hardly surprising when Charles II was restored as monarch and Supreme Governor of the C of E, along with Bishops and the 1662 BCP.

            Given some nonconformists refused to then take oath to use the rites and ceremonies of the new 1662 book they only had themselves to blame when they were expelled from the Church of England and faced restrictions on where they could go and what offices they could hold under the Clarendon codes

          • Given the fact we higher church Anglicans weren’t even allowed a church for the period of Oliver Cromwell’s rule…

            Wrong again, T1. There was freedom of protestant worship under Cromwell in the 1650s. You could be as high as you liked provided that (1) you weren’t a politicised church and simply met for worship and to promote personal piety; (2) in particular, you weren’t Catholic; (3) you paid for it yourself.

            Given some nonconformists refused to then take oath to use the rites and ceremonies of the new 1662 book they only had themselves to blame when they were expelled from the Church of England and faced restrictions on where they could go and what offices they could hold under the Clarendon codes

            The Church of England had every right to govern itself as it wished and throw out its best men. It had no right, however, to persuade the authorities to prevent them holding independent services outside itself. We see your true colours now: against Christian freedom.

            If your lobby wins the battle for the CoE then we shall continue to meet, outside it, and to criticise it whether you like it or not.

          • So as you say Cromwell removed Bishops, high altars, incense, the Book of Common Prayer, stained glass from our churches if you were high church Anglican and Roman Catholics weren’t able to even openly practice their faith at all.

            It was that that therefore produced the high church backlash against the low church nonconformists at the Restoration as high church worshippers had been so restricted in their worship under Cromwell’s Republic.

            You can meet where you want, just as long as we ensure you don’t try and do a second Oliver Cromwell and we high church Anglicans retain a strong presence in our Church of England

          • Cromwell did not ban bishops and incense. He removed them from the Church of England. You could have them if you set up your own and paid them yourself provided that they were protestant and did not preach sedition. This is a freedom which they denied to low-churchmen following the Restoration – which restored among other things the Church of England’s ungodly ecclesiastical monopoly.

            I am happy to share the CoE with Anglo-Catholics. I will do battle against attempts to change the biblical definition of sin, however.

        • ‘You are a non Anglican evangelical by doctrine.’??? Simon, you must know that people above a certain intelligence are not going to sign on a dotted line but can think for themselves. And, secondly, that what they believe (to bt true) is highly unlikely to correspond in all aspects to one single group or denomination. And, third, that no-one can help what they believe anyway. It is evidence that constrains them, and there is no way of preventing that.

      • And, of course, as Sellar and Yateman observed, the Cavaliers were “Wrong but Wromantic”, and the Roundheads were “Right but Revolting.”

  25. Some scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – 2 Tim 3:16, Inclusive Evangelical Bible.

  26. WAR !
    Luke 21:9 But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
    We are in War, it is all around us and within even in the Church
    There is military, political, religious, gender, racial, Philosophical, theological and civil war et al. all around us.
    The world will end in a cosmic war.
    Of the religious wars, especially within the Church, there is religious polarization; Many standing under their chosen religious banner. They are ancient wars and alliances [as in the O T.]
    When the Gospel of the Kingdom is not preached and thus not understood we find refuge in religion governed by religious leaders and theologians [many just speaking to other theologians and linguists]
    The kingdom of God is not a religion it is a Life, Eternal God Life.
    Jesus did not come to start another religion. He was at war with the religion of his day
    John 8:47
    He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
    Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. John 8:55
    John16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
    “I am … the life” (John 14:6). And “You have not this life in you”
    Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

  27. Hardly, inclusive Christian spirituality in this sermon of John Wesley: Almost A Christian.
    Trigger warning: it will offend. Just as Wesley was met with hostility then, so too today.
    In my neck of the woods, in Methodism, Wesley, was derided. And nationally, Methodist Cliff College, was not in the image of Wesley’s evangelism, following his meeting with the Moravians.
    Strong meat.

    • The main objection to Wesley wthin the CoE was that he cut across the parish system. Yet he never encouraged anybody to quit the congregation they were in.

  28. Geoff
    November 12, 2023 at 4:35 pm
    Ah, yes Geoff, your reference to Wesley’s “Almost Christian” sermon makes my point better. As with the evangalicals,methodism ain’t what it used to be.
    Although the People of the Way and the Kingdom of God are within the the churches,even in these days of declension: In Our Lord’s estimation of the churches in Revelation, emphasis is placed on the individual Overcomer, the churches are admonished to listen what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
    It appears to me that churches are not listening much to the word of God, of
    which Jesus always did, John 8:55.Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
    Jesus[and Wesley[?] is often mentioned but his teachings are rarly mention these days. However I think Wesley’s The Kingdom of God might still be in print.
    John 14:24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.
    Luke 11:28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
    Luke 8:18 Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.

  29. Part of the problem is that evangelicals may have their own view of what makes them distinct from other Christians, but non-evangelicals also have a view on what marks out evangelicals, and it’s not the same.

    Speaking as someone who grew up in an evangelical CofE church (but is not an evangelical now, although I have some evangelical sensibilities) the story evangelicals like to tell themselves is that they have a unique reverence for scripture over and above that found elsewhere in the church. In the past that has meant evangelicals doing a lot of scriptural study, careful research, and engaging in a lot of debate about scripture. That has regrettably degenerated today into a knee jerk reaction that anyone questioning the conservative leaderships views must be disregarding scripture and are no longer evangelicals.

    Of course the idea that other parts of the Church don’t revere scripture is bogus. Just look on here whenever anyone suggests a bit of Roman Catholic teaching has no Biblical basis. Happy Jack is quickly along to give literal chapter and verse. Nor is it obvious that evangelical teaching is strictly and simply scripture based – see Catholic and Orthodox critiques of “faith alone” using James, looking at tradition using 2 Thessalonians etc. etc.. Cluntless times in my own (more Catholic CofE) Church I’ve met evangelicals or ex-evangelicals who’ve been shocked at how much scripture there is in our service, and how focussed the sermons are on exploring and explaining it.

    So whilst being rooted in scripture is absolutely important to evangelicals, it is not straightforward nor unique. What I think does set them apart is attaching a particular emphasis to the importance of the conversion experience, as an emotional and personal encounter with God, and salvation therefore that is expressed in the past tense (“I have been saved”). This contrasts with the historic Protestants who would put more emphasis on adopting a correct theology and prayer, Catholics who place an emphasis on encounter with God in the sacrament, and Orthodox who view salvation as an ongoing and future life with. Hence, within Anglicanism the evangelical tradition is associated with a stripped back approach to worship, less ceremonial, and inward reverence of the spirit rather than outward actions.

    Is it then surprising or outrageous that some evangelicals, keeping a stress on their conversion experience and personal relationship with God, and studying the scripture closely have come to a different conclusion on homosexuality? Not really. Given that evangelical thought has shifted anyway over the last 50 years – we’ve seen a sharp departure from homophobia in the West, and a switch in the Biblical argument away from Sodom and Leviticus, and towards Genesis 2 and Matthew 19 – I’d have been shocked if we hadn’t seen this development.

      • What is distinctly odd is that goal posts are moved whenever an own goal is scored.
        Wesley is cited in favour of the new self description, but when actual evidence is provided mouths are stopped.
        Also odd, but not really as this is a political movement for revision, is that no one on the revision side so far as I can ascertain, has even attempted to set out their stall on what the *Evangel* is, comprises.
        It is also odd, but again not really, that those seeking revision are adopting a name, of a group they oppose and undermine with varying degrees of disdain and hostility at seeming every opportunity.
        They are nasty, but we are nice, the new true evangelical party.

    • Adam, it seems odd to me that you characterise what evangelicals do as ‘knee jerk’. It is very hard to describe eg a 7,000-word article by Andrew Goddard as ‘knee jerk’. Or Belousek’s theological approach. Or indeed much of the serious scholarship coming from evangelicals in the US and the UK.

      I wonder if you know about it?

      • It is fascinating to recall that Andrew Goddard, along with Elaine Storkey and Elisabeth Goddard were all required to leave Wycliffe Hall as teachers because they were not the right type of evangelicals. The term evangelical is clearly not quite as simple and innocent as some would have us believe.

          • Andrew,
            What do you mean by ‘deeply homophobic’? Reasoned and considered opposition to SSM and SSR and the sexual behaviours associated by it based on scripture (even if you don’t agree with it), is not homophobia.

            Irrational fear of homosexuals is.

            Are you saying that in Wycliffe, it was the latter?

          • Chris, I was quoting from reports at the time. My reading was that one of the reasons for staff unhappiness was the homophobia displayed by the new management. That, as you say, is different from not approving of same sex relationships.
            But that isn’t really my point. My point was that the three who were dismissed were considered too inclusive to be real evangelicals.

      • It’s always interesting to see which one line in a post is the one that will be picked on.

        You may not think of Andrew’s posts about legal procedure as kneejerk, but the CEEC “Beautiful Story” video (for example) had some pretty kneejerk characteristics as I described and I don’t think a book by a Mennonite professor in Ohio is a better representation of contemporary conservative evangelicals in the UK.

    • the idea that other parts of the Church don’t revere scripture is bogus.

      Many words, AJB, but you avoid what the scripture says on the subject at issue.

      Just look on here whenever anyone suggests a bit of Roman Catholic teaching has no Biblical basis. Happy Jack is quickly along to give literal chapter and verse.

      We await the scriptural basis for the immmaculate conception, sinless life, perpetual virginity and direct assumption of Mary the mother of Jesus.

      Nor is it obvious that evangelical teaching is strictly and simply scripture based – see Catholic and Orthodox critiques of “faith alone” using James, looking at tradition using 2 Thessalonians

      The question is how to reconcile Paul’s statement in Romans that justification is by faith with James’ statement that it is by faith and works. The evangelical view is that justification is by faith alone and the works to which James refers are motivated by faith. The counter-view is that Paul spoke part of the truth and James gave the full truth. By all means let us discuss this. We could start with the thief on the other cross.

      2 Thessalonians 2:15 reads “stand firm and cling to the traditions we taught you, whether by speech or by letter”. Paul was writing to the Thessalonians before the four gospels had been written down and these would be the Christian traditions to which Paul refers.

      You really don’t know much about evangelicals if you aren’t familiar with these things.

      Evangelicals take their view of scripture direct from the Jewish view of the Old Testament at the time of Jesus – a very high view, as Jesus himself makes clear.

        • AJB,
          Sates he was part of, raised in, an evangelical church.
          1 what distinguished it, and theologically, scripturally, defined it as such?
          2 what has been jettisioned in his new revised category of inclusive? What differs?
          3. Please let us all in to the secret of the new evangel, What it is, what it includes, what it excludes for salvation, sanctification, holiness of God and believers?
          Anything about sin and repentance?
          It is your opportunity to be the first to to so.

          • Oh Geoff,

            I’d have thought it was obvious from what I’d written. The marks of evangelicalism as I see them as the importance of being rooted in Scripture, and having an emphasis on the personal conversion experience (with the latter being more particular to them). Others add the centrality of the cross, although it’s interesting that Ian extends that to the resurrection. Nothing’s been jettisoned by the inclusive evangelicals as far as I can tell. They’re still evangelicals.

            What new evangel? Has the evangel really changed since Jesus spoke to Nicodemus? People understood it better after the resurrection, but fundamentally it’s still set out in John 3.

          • AJB,
            Thank you for taking the time to respond. Some substantial detail is missing, but within the confines of a comments section that is not to be criticised.
            But, key questions asked have not been answered. Born again would involve repentance, a new reordered, redirected, , reorientation, seeking sanctification, holiness. A new First Love.
            This is a generalisation, but this seems to be more visible, at times in those converted in adulthood, not raised in church.
            Rosarria Butterfield is a prominent, example. But I’m not just thinking about sexuality, it could be any idol of our hearts and minds, including marriage and/or singleness, career, money, children, etc

          • Sorry Geoff, are you suggesting at truly saved and born again person would simply have their sexual orientation changed?

          • AJB,
            You are not a careful reader and have avoided my points as you well know with an X-like response. Poor. It does neither you nor your cause any credit, especially as the main topic the article was the new category of inclusive evangelicals.
            You continued to offer no substantive answers to the points made. And as such they are deemed to be conceded.

          • I was asking for clarification on what I think would be a hugely important point (if it’s what you were saying). You’ve decided to descend into childish games. That’s a shame, but I suppose panto season is upon us.

          • As I say tedious. I’ve laid out my view of what scripture says on the issue at hand several times on this blog in comment threads on different articles. Ian doesn’t like us repeating ourselves so I’m not minded to dig it out again. Nor as far as I recall did you engage with the argument last time anyway.

            My point was not that there are no arguments about issues like “faith alone” and James, but that those arguments are not simple and straightforward – e.g. here’s what the Bible says, that’s very clear, job done. When you assert that “traditions” in 2 Thessalonians must be referring to the 4 gospels and that’s it, that’s not a plain reading of the text, or an immediately obvious conclusion. You’re engaged in a lot more than a simple plain reading, so it’s a bit rich to demand of others what you do not do yourself.

          • I don’t believe you can answer them. Do try, and if Ian thinks you are repeating yourself improperly I am sure he will say so.

          • Sigh.

            Some of us look to the Scriptures and make a few observations:
            – far from embracing celibacy as a rule, Scripture cautions against seeing it in that light at all. Therefore suggesting it as a rule for some of the faithful (e.g. gay people) rather than part of calling (e.g. for Bishops or priests or nuns) looks misguided at best.
            – marriage is shown as a natural consequence of, and channel for, sexual desire. The attempt to cast it primarily as a cosmic metaphor is out of step with most discussion of marriage, and needless to say out of character with how God gives instruction to his people.
            – the Biblical expectations of marriage in the New Testament in particular places emphasis on equality and mutual respect (Paul’s discussion of both spouses having authority over each other’s body is quite revolutionary). Women are not to be used by men for social or religious convenience.
            – if you accept that gay people exist (that is to say there are people who are gay and cannot become straight) then you end up either arguing for a celibacy rule when Scripture warns against that, pushing gay people into straight marriages no matter how incongruous that is with the vision of respect in marriage we see in Scripture, or arguing that gay marriage is the appropriate way to channel same-sex sexual desire just like straight marriage is the way to channel opposite-sex sexual desire.

            Celibacy can be a good thing, but we are warned not to prize it too highly:
            1 Corinthians 7 – better to marry than burn with passion
            Matthew 19 – sexual desire is normal so don’t avoid marriage
            1 Timothy 5 – young should marry to stop the Church being reviled

            Beware legalism and placing heavy restrictions on each other.
            Matthew 12 – Christ desires mercy not sacrifice
            Matthew 23 – beware those who tie up heavy burdens on others, but will not move them with their finger
            1 Peter 2 – live as people who are free

            It is not about what is permitted. It is about what we should do. This is why Jesus fulfills the law, and this is why he so often turns around the Pharisees’ questions about whether something is permitted.
            Mark 2 – Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath
            Romans 13 – love does no wrong to a neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law
            1 Corinthians 6 – all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful

            Marriage is a concession for us to channel our sexual desire, and to find companionship
            Genesis 2 – it is not good for man to be alone
            Ecclesiastes 4 – two are better than one
            1 Corinthians 7 – marriage is a concession, not a command
            Hebrews 13 – sexual immorality is what defiles the marriage bed

            So, given gay people are not able to change their sexuality, what are they to do if not called to celibacy? Scripture says that if you not called to celibacy, you should be able to marry. Is an opposite sex marriage a healthy concession for channelling sexual desire and avoiding burning with passion and temptation if you’re gay? Would we therefore concede that same-sex marriage is the way to go? Scripture seems to be pretty clearly against commanding celibacy, treats celibacy rather than marriage as the calling, and says if you struggle with celibacy you should be permitted to marry.

          • What, AJ Bell, makes you think that if the State, or even if some churches, conduct gay marriages and hand out certificates thereof, then God will recognise those certificates?

          • Read your Bible more closely – Matthew 22: “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.””

          • Adam, and to you: read more carefully.

            In the first creation, male-female marriage leading to fruitful procreation, producing biological children, is the norm. In the new creation, kinship through Christ and fruitful faith-sharing, producing spiritual children born by water and the Spirit is the norm.

            These are held together by male-female marriage pointing towards the union of God with his people.

            Thus Christians have both exalted marriage but also exalted celibate singleness = virginity. And both have been counter cultural at different times.

          • In the first creation Adam’s alone. Eve and marriage only come along later, when God sees that it is not good for man to be alone.

            It’s nice that you want to exalt celibate singleness. The problem is it’s not what’s happening, and it’s not argued for, and it’s not believed. The Roman Catholics (and Orthodox) have an argument that they do, via Holy Orders, but from the protestant and evangelical side is striking how absent the choice of lifelong celibacy is. You see a command for gay people, you see some straight people ending up single, but the active choice is vanishingly rare even amongst the leadership. When LLF suggests wanting to do work on celibacy and singleness, the silence from the conservative side of the house is deafening. When PLF are produced that include options of celibate but covenanted friendships, there isn’t even a serious attempt to critique the idea, it’s just ignored in favour of pondering how to get alternative episcopal oversight and complaining about the choices of legal procedure. So forgive me for observing that the exaltation of celibate singleness seems to be something that exists as rhetorical device to score points in a debate rather than something real in the life of the Church or the faithful.

          • ‘In the first creation Adam’s alone. ‘ Huh?? In the first creation humanity is made male and female together. The second account assumes we know the first.

            Evangelicals have long thought seriously about singleness. John Stott was an important example. Many evangelical men wait before they get married.

            You don’t *appear* to know this constituency very well.

            What I posted above comes from the teaching I offer on a biblical theology of sexuality, which I talk about quite often.

          • So we’ve jumped away from Genesis 2 (and by extension Jesus’ teaching which draws on it in Matthew 19) to Genesis 1. That’s a little unusual. It poses some problems though. You give a creational intent of marriage, but then Jesus breaks it by simply ignoring it. Does that work? It also doesn’t explain what is going on in Genesis 2 – how come Adam’s alone? Why does Eve need to be made if male and female are already running around? An alternative reading is that marriage is created in Genesis 2, not Genesis 1 (which is about situating mankind, although in the image of God, as animals in creation – we’re not the only ones who are fruitful and multiply), and that begins with Adam alone, and marriage as the way that’s resolved without any mention of children. It’s not a creational intent, but an accommodation, and one which Jesus did not need himself.

            The suggestion that men (and presumably women) who are dating, forming romantic relationships, getting engaged, and simply waiting until after they’re married to have sex, is an example of taking celibacy seriously (let alone choosing lifelong celibacy or exalting it) is genuinely stunning. I think we’ve been down this path before, and maybe after 300+ comments this thread is coming to an end, but this seems to betray that you’re not really grasping what choosing lifelong celibacy really entails or the enormity of what is staring you down the barrel when at 16 you realise that’s what’s on offer to you.

          • It isn’t all about you, though. It is all about God. His view of same-sex relations in scripture is sufficiently clear that secular gays have no problem understanding it.

            Go your way rather than God’s if you wish, but in that case don’t call yourself a follower of Him.

          • Oh look, you’re back Anton. And you’re still sidestepping rather than engaging with the argument, despite your previous protestations. That’s rather pathetic.

    • Geoff

      The evangel is surely that all may be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. If you proclaim with your voice that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead then you will be saved.

      Id argue this is more troubling a concept for those who oppose full inclusion of LGBT people because it creates more obstacles of which to do theological gymnastics around. Even if you go for the lightest band of that position, where you fully accept LGBT people who are not sexually active with the same sex, you are then giving them a chronic debilitating disease for which there is an easy cure in the secular world, but Gods “good news” is that He won’t allow them to be cured and retain their salvation for reasons best known to him.

      If you choose a deeper band, perhaps even you fully accept people who experience exclusive attraction to the same sex as long as they don’t identify as LGBT then you are simply not following the plain word of scripture and must come up with an understanding why this group of people are especially excluded from salvation

  30. As I said, AJB Evangelicanism ain’t what it used to be and the sectarian war does not abate.
    God it seems will not Judge sects of anglo catholics or evangelicals or churches
    2 Cor 5: 10 + 1 Cor 3:13
    Of HJ, I am not sure if he is a Catholic Protestant or a Protestant Catholic.

  31. ‘A small storm’ does not really capture the stories behind those 600 signatures or the stories behind the 1500 members of the group. So many amazing journeys that brought us to a place we can consider ourselves ‘Evangelical’ and ‘Inclusive’ but at the end of the day…at the end of all our days …who will give a stuff about our labels. We did not choose go through these storms but we are seeing new roads in the desert and hope for the marginalised.

    • Well I suppose for me the context was people being killed in Israel and the rise of antisemitism in the UK.

      I am inclined to agree with you about ‘labels’; I am much more interested in what people believe and why. It seems to be that adopting this label and campaigning politically could be seen as a way of avoiding the discussions of substance.

      What did Jesus teach? What is the consistent view of Scripture on marriage? Why is there such a strong consensus on these things in scholarship?

  32. I fear that the “new paths in the wilderness” are but the old ancient paths that led to elimination in the wilderness, better to join the people of The Way.
    That there are well meaning religious folks who want to support the community perhaps through temporary crisis and be a voice for the marginalised and speak truth to power, to which we all should aspire too, and too which many secular organizations aspire; is only to “cleans the outside of the cup”. The inside of the cup is the much neglected aspect which if addressed
    would turn the community up side down.
    Ian is attempting to question us about what the kingdom of God is in fact like
    and to consider the weightier matters of the law.
    Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

  33. Jonathan Tallon, who contributes to this debate above, has written an accessible, popular-level book arguing that the Bible actually says nothing about committed same-sex relationships as exist today, and that the meaning of marriage and sexuality should be expanded to include same-sex genital partnerships and the transgender belief that people can change their sex and that Christians should affirm this. Jonathan claims that his conclusions are fully in line with the approach to the Bible and theology that evangelicals claim to follow from Luther and Calvin.
    There are a number of significant errors of exegesis, as well as inferences from the text that lead Jonathan to a wrong conclusion, including a failure to understand contextual silences and the normative nature of particular texts.
    1. Jonathan is mistaken in arguing that the NT writers knew nothing of loving same-sex relationships in the Greco-Roman world and their polemic was against pederasty or heterosexual men acting homosexual. The G-R world was as sexually varied as today and Paul and the Gospel writers inhabited it. Paul certainly knew the work of some Greek poets and philosophers and you cannot read far in that world without coming across homoerotic themes.
    2. Jonathan fails to grasp that the unified creation narrative in Genesis 1-2 is not simply ‘descriptive of how it is for most people’ but actually normative of how the OT understands sexuality and our complementary natures as males and females. Our Lord affirms this in Matthew 19 in his pronouncement on marriage.
    3. Jonathan thinks that the prohibitions of Lev 18, 20 are to do with married men having recourse to male shrine prostitutes in temples to pagan goddesses, but this is mistaken. Elsewhere the Books of Kings condemn Canaanite qadoshim, but the context of Leviticus is of a general nature, prohibiting homosexual acts as well as other consensual, extra-marital heterosexual acts.

    • On 1. – whether NT writers knew of loving same-sex relationships. Hubbard put together a source-book of 447 primary sources. Most involved pederasty (by men who would also have wives, sleep with female prostitutes etc). A few indicated knowledge of some men who seemed to prefer just boys (but without a particular term for this). There are six references to a same-sex marriage. Of these six, two are pederastic (including one case where the boy was first castrated). One is mentioned as part of a long list of behaviours holding a particular person up to ridicule. One is a deception where the man is passed off as a bride. One involves imaginary marriages on the moon (a tale in which a traveller goes to the moon, finding only men, who marry each other and then give birth through their thighs). One is a lesbian relationship, but it is clearly not monogamous. In other words, if you are talking about same-sex activity in the ancient world, it is overwhelmingly likely that you would be talking about (and be understood to be talking about) pederasty.
      2. I don’t fail to grasp Genesis 1-2, I just don’t think it makes any sense to make it prescriptive and narrow as you seem to want to. Using your logic both celibacy and being childless (intentionally or otherwise) are both bad. Matthew 19 is about divorce.
      3. I suggest this as a possible context. You provide no evidence at all as to why I am mistaken. I also point out alternatives (p.128). My argument in any case does not depend on this.

      • Jonathan, a brief reply (but you know full answers to and refutations of your views are found in Gagnon, Nolland , Johnson et al):
        1. You have just conceded my point that first century homosexuality wasn’t just older homosexuals seducing boys. Men were expected to marry in the G-R world to produce heirs. There are many stories in Greco-Roman literature of married homosexual men having it off with slaves. Nero conducted a ‘same-sex marriage’ with a lover, according to Suetonius. Greek mythology, very popular in first century Rome (Ovid etc) has many homoerotic stories (Apollo and Hyacinth, Jupiter and Ganymede etc).
        2. You are mistaken in your take on Genesis 1-2 and how it relates to Matthew 19.5, 11-12, where Jesus describes the nature of marriage, basing this on Gen. 1-2. It *is prescriptive, despite your special pleading.
        3. You are mistaken in your suggestion about Lev 18-20 because these chapters regulate the sexual laws for the Chosen people and say nothing about cult prostitution.

        • On 1. – You utterly mis-state the situation. It was not older homosexual men seducing boys, it was mainly heterosexual men raping boys. Nero’s ‘spouse’ was a castrated enslaved boy.
          2. You say Genesis is presriptive. I say that is wrong, poisonous from a pastoral viewpoint and turns Christianity into a fertility cult.
          3. Given that cultic prostitution was all around the Israelites, and given that Lev. 18 is in the context of ‘you shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you’ (Lev. 18:3), I have no idea how you can be so sure that it is nothing to do with cult prostitution. I note in passing Gagnon, whom you often reference, does think the context is cult prostitution.

  34. Continued…
    All the laws in Lev 18, 20 deal with offenses against the created order established by Israel’s God in Genesis 1-2.
    4. Jonathan thinks that the offense in Genesis 19 is attempted gang rape but there is rather more to the story than simply gross abuse of strangers, as other references to Sodom (esp. Jude 7) show. Robert Gagnon’s ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ explores this question in detail.
    5. The fact that Jesus does not specifically and individually address homosexual acts as such does not mean he was indifferent or “affirming”. There were other issues that Jesus never addressed, such as the evils of idolatry or child exposure, both of which were very common in the G-R world but which simply weren’t issues for his Jewish audience. The subjects didn’t feature in his teaching or debates because he and his listeners shared the same view on these matters. If Jesus had taught differently on sex, you can bet your bottom dollar that he would have been condemned in his trial as a corrupter of the Law of Moses. Jesus’ silence implies that he agreed with the Jewish sexual ethic.
    6. Jonathan thinks that Jesus’ condemnation of ‘porneia’ in Mark 7.21 doesn’t refer to the behaviour condemned in Lev 18-20, but this is unlikely. John Nolland states: ‘To speak of porneia without further specification in the world of the Gospels would be to refer collectively to all those kinds of illicit activity.”

    • 4. It was attempted gang rape (at least understood that way by Lot). It is difficult to see how you can describe it in any other terms. You have additionally misread Jude 7, in which the offence is humans having (or trying to have) intercourse with angels rather than males with males (the links to Enoch make this clearer). Check out p.79-82.
      5. Jesus’ silence does NOT imply that he agreed with the Jewish sexual ethic. All it means is that we don’t have any of his sayings on this issue. You are simply arguing without any evidence. He didn’t explicitly affirm it; he didn’t explicitly condemn it.
      6. You don’t give any evidence for why you think porneia in Mark 7 refers to Lev. 18-20. I find the suggestion that it does unconvincing, and give my reasons in the book. Porneia was not used by Rabbis in conjunction with Lev. 18-20, and the passages mainly outline behaviours that were uncommon in society, whether gentile or Jewish. It would be a weird thing to bring up.

      • 4. I didn’t deny that Gen 19 concerned attempted gang rape. But the homosexual element in it probably aggravated the offense, committing ‘toevah’ in the eyes of the OT writers (Isa 1, Ezek 16, 18; Jude 7) and later Jewish commentators (Gagnon pp. 71-97 needs to be read carefully) – remember that Lot was prepared to surrender his virgin daughters to prevent this ‘toevah’! (19.7-8) The sin of Sodom was violence toward strangers compounded by sexual perversion (as Jewish tradition in Targum Onqelos and Jubilees 16.5-6 further understands).
        On Jude 7: The men of Sodom didn’t know Lot’s visitors were angels. The meaning of this verse is that in their lust for sex with other men, the men of Sodom unknowingly found themselves pursuing sexual intercourse with angels (in other words, a compounding of an original evil intent, like Hamas murdering babies on the kibbutzim).
        5. Sorry, Jonathan, you are simply mistaken here. If Jesus had thought that homosexuality was OK, the omnisicient Son of God would have “corrected” the false consensus of his contemporaries (a consensus that would have made some people unhappy then as it does today. Why do you think Jesus didn’t condemn idolatry? Because there was NO ARGUMENT about it among first century Jews. You don’t understand how consensus works in public debates. Your special pleading doesn’t work.
        6. On the meaning of porneia as a general term for the sexual conduct proscribed in Lev 18-20, see the essays by Nolland. Again, you are engaging in special pleading.

          • Quite. To use “OTHER flesh” (sarkos heteras) to indicate that one was referring specifically to flesh of the SAME sex would be an absurdity.

        • 4. In the west today we have communities that are known for having a high proportion of gay people – Brighton, Manchester, San Francisco, Provincetown. But even these are still majority heterosexual so any interpretation of Sodom that relies on the towns men folk being all gay just seems totally ludicrous to me. Sorry to use such a strong word.

        • 4. I am glad we both agree that it was gang rape. You claim homosexuality was an aggravating factor, but the text does not support this, especially given the similarities to Judges 19. In any case, I fail to see what gang rape has to do with faithful same-sex marriages. On Jude 7 you are ignoring the clear Enoch parallels and trying to claim a meaning that isn’t in the text.
          5. You keep on saying that the silence of Jesus can support your case. I note that those in favour of slavery made exactly the same arguments in the 18th & 19th century debates. They were wrong then and you are wrong now.
          6. Porneia was a general term in common usage. It has extremely strong connotations of prostitution. In the time of the NT, brothels were ubiquitous and there was no shame for a man to use prostitutes (and it did not count as adultery). In contrast, incest (the main focus of much of 18-20) was extremely rare and frowned on by gentiles and Jews. Lev. 18-20 has nothing to say about whether sleeping with prostitutes is good or bad. So it makes little to no sense to think that NT references to porneia particularly had in mind Lev. 18-20. Additionally, if you really do think it does, then sleeping with a woman while she has her period is porneia. I don’t hear this preached much.

  35. Continued …
    6. Jonathan thinks that Romans 1.26-28 is best understood as referring to the frenzied cult of Cybele and to pederasty; but this doesn’t fit in with what Romans 1 is actually saying. The Cybele cult also involved transvestism and self-castration of the Galli, but there is no reference to this in the text. The fact that Paul condemns female homosexuality as well shows that pederasty isn’t in view here.
    7. The reference in 1 Corinthians to ‘malakoi’ denotes what the Romans called ‘cinaedi’, while ‘arsenokoites’ is evidently from the LXX of Lev 18.22.
    8. Jonathan makes an unfortunate attempt to support the current ‘transgender moment’ by arguing that our bodily sex is different from our ‘gender’ – but the Bible is clearly against this.

    I could say a lot more, but it is enough here to note that a series or weak or mistaken arguments do not add up to one strong one. Every claim has to stand on its own grounds, and each of Jonathan’s claims (which have all been made before) does not stand up to the critique that Gagnon, Nolland and Luke T. Johnson have made, among many others.

    • Weaker than any of these weak points from Jonathan is the (hitherto) elephant in the room – his unwillingness to dialogue with the points made.

      Romans 1 has received an immense amount of scholarship. It has many backgrounds, among which we get not a hint of Cybele worship.
      -The letter is written neither to nor from Ephesus where that was rife.
      -It is scarcely homosexuality, since the devotion is to the mother of all mothers, the ultra fertile woman.
      -Neither with this goddess nor with anyone of either gender was indulgence possible for the dedicated devotees of Cybele since they were castrated men (and priests).

      • Christopher,
        Does not the publication of the book reveal the motives for no engagement?
        The publication serves JT’s pre-determined activist purpose, it seems and little wonder the elephant was ignored.
        It is doubtful that an addendum would be issued dealing with substantial critiques from you, James and no doubt others.

    • 6. On the contrary, the cult of Cybele fits Romans 1 extremely well, and accounts for all the features of the verses. I repeat here how I replied to Ian earlier:
      Why women first? Priestesses were in charge of the cult. Why exchanging natural usage for usage against nature? Because in frenzied orgies (reputedly) they used phalluses on the male priests (galli). Why males in males? Because galli penetrated each other as well during the orgies. Why received the due reward? Because the galli self-castrated during frenzied worship (grabbed a sword from the stack in the temple, castrated themselves, then ran through the streets). Why here? Because from Romans 1:18 on it’s about idolatry. Worship is central to idolatry (similar to Wisdom 14). Why in Romans? Cybele, fertility goddess with this style of worship, was highly honoured in Rome (official religious calendar; Livia, Augustus’ wife, was the official patron).
      Any evidence it was understood this way in early church? Yes. Eg Hippolytus, Philosophumena 5:2. Athanasius, Contra Gentes. Also Pelagius.
      In other words, in a passage about idolatry, it fits for Paul to be talking directly about idolatry, and in the early church people made that link naturally.
      I do not think Paul was talking about female homosexuality, and find the suggestion that he was much less historically likely (see Miller’s article on this).
      7. You are making a massive assumption about what malakoi means. You don’t have any particular evidence that this was what Paul meant over and against any of the other possibilities.
      8. Again, you just make an unsubstantiated assertion that the Bible is against transgender people (you put transgender movement in speech marks – for clarity, you are not quoting me here).

      If people want to judge for themselves, the book is called ‘Affirmative’, and is available through all the usual booksellers either in paperback or ebook.

      • 6. The Cybele cult is far too narrow a context for understanding Romans 1.26-27. Idolatrous polytheism was everywhere in the Greco-Roman world, although thoughtful pagans were trying to separate from it. Homoeroticism was far more widespread than in the Cybele cult, and was frequently celebrated in art, ceramics and silverware (cf. the first century Warren Cup). See also the homosexual couple in the ‘Satyricon’, and the praise of homosexual love and devotion in book 9 of the Aeneid (Nisus and Euryalus). Rom 1.18-32 is a diatribe against the sinfulness in general of the Gentiles.
        7. ‘malakoi’ is the equivalent of ‘molles’ in Latin literature, which is the equivalent of cinaedi – plenty of references in 1st c. BC/1st c. AD Latin literature (common in Catullus). Look also at the Greek poetry of the time.
        8. I said ‘transgender MOMENT’ not ‘movement’ because I am referring to a socio-cultural in our post-Christian world which has suddenly appeared. Very disappointing that you have not pastorally challenged this new cultural confusion, which is largely driven by social media.

        • I don’t know if anyone has traced the history of the reinterpretation and revision of biblical sexual precepts from and through the generations that brought in and voraciously promoted the cultural sexual licentiousness, in the media, within living memory in the West, post WW2, say the 1960s onwards.
          It is beyond doubt that Christians were not the instigators, but the drivers came from atheistic and philosophical cultural sea of faith, as per Cupitt.

        • James, I’d concurr with your point no.6 in that JT’s culturally corralled illustration is far too narrow, but, both in scope and time as to be correct.
          In Romans 1, God in his wrath-judgement is giving them over to their ungodly, idolatrous desires. Then as now. It is God’s continuous , present day giving- over to sinful darkened desires of the heart to sexual impurity, as, and in, judgement. And that would rule out JT’s narrow and particular, culturally singular expression, his (somewhat extreme?) cultural hermeneutic.
          And it is so far from the righteous from God and from the righteous living by faith.
          Romans 1:16-17
          The contrast is stark.

        • 6. You’re right. It’s not just the Cybele cult, it is also Aphrodite, Ceres, Isis, Artemis/Diana and others. And they shared many common themes/practices. However, the Cybele cult was prominent in Rome (where Paul is writing to). I have no idea why you say it is far too narrow a context. Paul is literally writing about idolatry, and I suggest that he may be referring to idolatrous practices. All you have done is said I am wrong without saying why it is wrong.
          I am aware that what you call homoeroticism was widespread, but let’s be more precise: it was practically always pederasty depicting men with boys. Romans 1:18-32 is a diatribe against the gentiles; it begins with idolatry and at the end moves more generally. Romans 1:26-27 is still talking about idolatry.
          7. Malakoi can mean cinaedi, but it can also mean a host of other things. And in a list without context, we are left to guess. It can mean those who can’t control their sex-drives; it can mean those who are womanisers; it can mean the idle rich. It has a wide range of referents, hence the diversity in how it has been translated over the years. Hence my suggestion that the best way of translating it is as the morally lax. I assume you have read Martin on this?
          8. Movement or moment, I do not believe that the Bible is against transgender people.

    • 6. Actually Paul condemns idolatry and says homosexuality was the punishment, not the crime. Romans 1 just doesn’t fit the modern category of gay. The only common factor is same sex sex and its clear from the passage that this isn’t the norm for the individuals involved, but a diversion from their normal lives. It fits the Roman elite very well indeed and that would also explain why Paul had singled them out as the ultimate bad guys and gals because they were persecuting the church. Its like if you wanted to create an archetype villain in a letter to Ukraine now then you’d probably make them Russian.


    It is feared that JT’s construct of Athanasius’s exposition of what idolatry is, is erroneous….

    In *Against the Gentiles* Athanasius traces the origins of idolatry.

    1 Male and female made in the image of God…
    “having no obstacle to the knowledge of the Divine continuously contemplates by his purity
    the image of his Father, the GOD WORD after whose image he was made; he is awestruck when he grasps the providence, through the Word extends to the universe, being raised above the sensual and every bodily appearance, cleaving instead, by the power of the mind, to the divine and intelligible realities in heaven…..and being renewed by its desire for him.”

    2. Anthanasius considered that this was the condition God created the human race was the condition in which he wished them *to remain*, *to abide*. However, human beings chose otherwise, and so now *remain* caught in corruption and death, until the salvific work of Christ, they are enabled *to remain* in immortality.

    3. (Gen 3)
    “In this way then, as has been said, did the Creator fashion the human race, and such did he wish it to remain.
    “But human beings, contemptuous the Better things and shrinking from their apprehension, sought rather what was closer to them –
    –and Closer to them was the Body and its sensations.

    “So they turned their minds away from intelligible reality and began to consider themselves.
    –and holding to the body and other senses, they Fell into Desire for Themselves, preferring their own things to the contemplation of divine things.

    “Spending their time in these things, and being unwilling to turn away from things close to hand, they Imprisoned In Bodily Pleasures their souls which had Become Disordered and Mixed Up with all kinds of Desires, while they Forgot the power they received from God in the beginning….”

    ” But when, by the counsel of the serpent, he abandoned his thinking of God and began to consider himself, then they Fell into the desires of the Body…
    “For abandoning the consideration of and desire for the one and the real, I mean God, from then on they gave themselves up to various and separate desires of the body.”

    4 Rather than occupying themselves with the Word of God, the body can even be said to be the locus of selfness of being human. in this way, humans fell into the chaos of the fleshly desires of the body, forgetting what they had received from God.

    5. With their souls directed towards the body, in, by, and for itself, the body is now the very point of human separation from God, not because of its materiality, BUT BECAUSE IT HAS BECOME AN IDOL”.

    Abstracted from, On the Incarnation, Saint Athanasius. Popular Patristic Series, (No44b) St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, translation and introduction by John Behr

    NB. On the Incarnation is set against and follows on from the structure of Against the Gentiles.

    • You have misunderstood what I said. I said that Athanasius understood Romans 1 as referring to idolatrous worship practices. He does this in Contra Gentes 26, where he takes aim first at women temple prostitutes, then at the men of the temple who castrate themselves. He then explicitly quotes Romans 1:26-27.

      To put it plainly, Athanasius associated Romans 1:26-27 and idolatrous worship practices, and could expect his audience to make the same connection without explanation.

      • JT,
        I’ve not misunderstood, thanks.And you have not addressed what I ‘ve written both in
        1 Athanasius’s exposition of what idolatry IS and where it is grounded
        2 my comment @ 6:42 about Romans 1 and the contrast between righteousness and the manifestation of God’s wrath-judgement being given over to ungodly, impure sexual darkened desires of the heart.

        You seek a misplaced cultural hermeneutic- lens through which to read scripture but resist and oppose a Scripture-context- hermeneutic.

  37. JT,
    And if Athanasius is addressing what he sees as gentile idolatry, that presupposes it is sexual desires and behaviour that both he and Paul as being outside Hebrew, God’s righteousness, law and righteous of faith, and righteous practice/behaviour. That is, it is knowingly not permitted but prohibited. which brings God’s wrathful, exclusionary judgement. And that is the comparison and stark contrast that both Athanasius and Paul are making.
    So yes, indeed, Paul, let alone Athanasius, could expect his hearers, readers, to know what he was referring to without explanation in this matter.
    In the first 11 chapters Paul goes on to develop the Gospel indicatives before the remaining chapter of imperatives.

    • Geoff

      The exact definition of idolatry is somewhat irrelevant because Paul says explicitly in the passage that these were people who exchanged God for images of humans and animals. (Not homosexuals. Indeed he implies these are explicitly heterosexuals since the women belong to the men). It doesn’t modern homosexuals. It does fit the ancient Roman elite who were persecuting the church

      • Wrong. Keep -on fooling yourself. It is unrepented sin.
        Why did Jesus? What is the evangel?
        It take it you didn’t take part in an annual covenant service in the Methodist church and meant it.
        Long my imprisoned soul…
        “And can it be that I should gain…’ (C.Wesley.)
        In our sin we all spit on our Saviour’s face on the cross In prideful self justifying mockery.
        We don’t know how much it cost to see our sin upon the cross. (M Redman).


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