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What miracle(s) does the Church need on sexuality?

There was a brief report in the Daily Mail online that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, believes ‘that the Church of England will need a miracle from the Holy Spirit to solve its long-running row over gay rights.’

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the divisions cannot be healed by human hands but only by divine intervention. His remarks indicate deepening desperation among Anglican leaders over the irreconcilable gap between liberals who demand gay equality within the Church and conservative evangelicals who say that gay sex is sinful.

I was interested that it was this one sentence that an eagle-eyed reported picked out from the fairly brief paper explaining the process of creating the promised teaching document on sexuality; perhaps it is still surprising that church leaders expect God to be involved in their processes? The paragraph quoted is worth reading in full:

We do not expect the teaching document, or the process of writing it, to achieve reconciliation of all views across the Church of England. Such reconciliation, were it to happen, would be the work of the Holy Spirit, not of human hands or brains. But we need our internal debates to be grounded in the best available scholarship, across many disciplines and to draw in the perspectives of people in all their difference. And we need the whole process to happen prayerfully, and with the supportive prayers of our fellow Christians across the world. If the teaching document can express clearly the ground on which we are agreed – and be very clear about where we disagree, and why – it will have done its work well.

It is interesting to note the phrase ‘were it to happen’, indicating some doubt that the disagreement will ever end. And I think quite a few people in Synod will be curious about the last sentence; this reads like a mapping exercise, not a teaching document. ‘Teaching’ involves discerning the truth, and expressing that in a way which can be passed on. It’s not clear that mapping alone will achieve what is needed. And will there be boundaries to the issues on which we disagree? Are there grounds for that? After all, there are clergy who don’t even agree that God exists in any meaningful sense; is that the kind of disagreement that we might include?

I would certainly agree that we need a miracle—in fact, it seems to me that we need three miracles, in three distinct areas.


The first is in relation to what I think can only be called the furious assault on the Church’s current teaching on sex and marriage. It is currently taking the form of two motions in the July session of General Synod, one from Chris Newlands and Blackburn diocese on liturgies for transgender people undergoing transition, and the other from Jayne Ozanne on what she calls ‘conversion therapies’. I previously commented on Chris Newlands’ motion, including the Radio 4 discussion I had with him. But following that, I wrote to him and suggested we talk about a ‘friendly’ amendment, where we could agree on the important pastoral issue, but where we might remove the request for liturgy since there is no agreement on this, and such a debate would simply be divisive. In reply, he was not willing to consider this, since he was clear that liturgy was what was needed—and that there could be no negotiation.

Jayne Ozanne’s Private Member’s Motion on ‘conversion therapy’ has been criticised by Dermot O’Callaghan, a former member of the Synod of the Church of Ireland, for lacking supportive evidence.

In 2013 I corresponded with the Bishop of Buckingham, who had been vocal on the matter.  I said, “I hope you will not feel it unreasonable that I should ask you for the name of just one reputable study to represent the ‘overwhelming evidence’ that such therapies are harmful.  My conviction on this is such that if you can do this, I shall donate £100 to a charity of your choice.”  The bishop declined my offer.

I would make the same offer to you, Jayne – £100 to a charity of your choice.  And if, as I anticipate, your researches don’t yield even one study that follows participants through therapy and finds that on average they were harmed more than helped (using a scientifically recognised measure of distress), I would appeal to your integrity not to support the unscientific 16thJanuary statement. 

The whole question of change of sexual orientation is a controversial one—though one strange thing about the discussion is that, outside the church, promoters of gay rights are very happy to agree that sexuality and sexual orientation is fluid. But the two things that are concerning here are the lack of scientific evidence involved, even on the part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (whom O’Callaghan believes has misled the Church of England in evidence they have provided) and the lack of engagement. O’Callaghan reports that:

Jayne responded to me with a strongly worded letter characterising my request as amounting to bullying and bribery, and refusing to work alongside me to try to find an agreed position regarding the claim that such therapy is ‘harmful and not supported by evidence’, and therefore unethical.   I shall leave it to you to decide whether the charges of bullying and bribery are justified.

The third current part of this assault is Jayne Ozanne’s attempt to have ‘spiritual abuse’ recognised as an additional, separate category of abuse alongside physical, sexual, domestic and emotional abuse. In her paper arguing for this (which received national press coverage and was discussed on Radio 4’s Sunday programme last week), she specifically names HTB and Alpha, New Wine, Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, True Freedom Trust, and the Evangelical Alliance as organisations in which spiritual abuse takes place because of ‘their attitude to the Holy Spirit’. She goes on to argue that the Church’s current teaching position, that sexual intimacy properly belongs in male-female marriage, is inherently abusive to LGBTI Christians.

I am reluctant to use the term ‘evil’ to describe this relentless attack on church teaching, since it does not help to demonise individuals—and I have valued the engagement on this blog with people with whom I disagree yet from whom I continue to learn. Yet these moves appear to be of a different order. They lack a willingness to discuss, and they are often undertaken in close partnership with individuals and organisations who have, in the past, been seriously antipathetic to the Church and to Christian faith. I don’t see any obvious prospect of such campaigns abating the near future.


The second area we need a miracle is in handling the legacy of historic abuse. Last week, Dame Moira Gibbs released her report ‘An Abuse of Faith’ on the way the Church of England handled former bishop Peter Ball’s abuse of teenagers.

The review found that “Ball’s conduct has caused serious and enduring damage to the lives of many men… Peter Ball betrayed his Church and abused individual followers of that Church” and “The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others.”

Stephen Kuhrt comments on the radical change that is still needed in church culture:

The most tragic aspect for me, as a Church of England Vicar, is my total lack of surprise at these findings. I’m a fervent believer in the Church of England and its mission to share God’s love with as many people within this country as possible. But none of this will count for anything until the Church of England reaches a proper clarity over safeguarding.

The review acknowledges that safeguarding procedure has improved within the Church of England over the last few years. But this is not enough. The only thing that will prevent such cases and institutional collusion with them reoccurring, will be a change of culture within the Church of England.

But there remains the fundamental difficulty of how to deal with spurious accusations. It is not a little ironic that George Carey’s son, Mark, was recently cleared of a charge which looked from the beginning to be entirely implausible—but had to endure an agonising five months from October last year to April this before the decision was made that the accusation was groundless. The needed change in culture which focusses on individuals rather than defending the institution cannot work without a comparable review of how to filter out spurious claims.


The third area where we need a miracle is in the area of Christian leaders articulating confidence in orthodox teaching on sexuality. For the Church of England, I cannot recall any public statement by any bishops expressing such confidence. I am not interested in criticising my bishops; I don’t think it is helpful, and their job is already difficult and complex enough as it is. I am also acutely aware that no individual wants to be known as ‘the anti-gay bishop’ or ‘the one obsessed with sex’. But it seems odd to me that those who question the Church’s current teaching position (and, it has to be said, the pretty clear teaching of the New Testament) feel no such reticence. Neither do the leaders of other denominations; Catholic leaders don’t equivocate on their church’s position, and see this example of Andrew Wilson addressing the question of transgender. It is not just bishops are are reluctant, it is also others who exercise episcopal ministry in other ways. The leaders of one of the networks mentioned in Jayne Ozone’s paper on spiritual abuse have been conspicuous by their silence—and it is creating a vacuum of confidence for members of the network on the ground.

It is not just the external situation which I think makes bishops nervous, but the internal one of disagreement. Since bishops are supposed to be a ‘focus of unity’, they are rightly nervous of alienating clergy and churches with other views. But surely this ‘focus of unity’ is supposed to be around the Church’s teaching, and not simply a holding it all together by not offending anyone. At the heart of this is the phrase ‘radical new Christian Inclusion, … founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology and the Christian faith as the Church of England has received it’ used by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their rapid response to the February synod debate. If it is ‘new and radical’ how can it be ‘founded in scripture’ etc? What does the phrase mean? As David Baker asks:

As you have written publicly calling for ‘a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church’ after last week’s General Synod I wanted to write and ask the question which many are now asking: what exactly is that?

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

We need not one but three miracles: that the assaults on the Church will abate; that we will see a change in culture about abuse without leaving church leaders vulnerable to spurious claims; and that we will hear some clear, confident teaching on sexuality. It feels like quite a lot to ask—but we need them soon.


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224 Responses to What miracle(s) does the Church need on sexuality?

  1. Steve Walton June 26, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    Excellent and thoughtful, as always, Ian. One typo (in a couple of places): Ozone.

  2. Will Jones June 26, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    It comes to something when the General Synod is going to debate motions which affirm transitioning from male to female but condemn the attempt to transition from homosexual to heterosexual. This is ideology, not science.

    Jayne Ozanne sounds like she has become unhinged. Her allegations against the Church and all (non-‘inclusive’) evangelical organisations (including an LGB one) are surely libellous, especially as she refuses to engage in rational discussion about evidence. Activists like her are just becoming shrill and ridiculous. You wonder if it’s because they know somewhere deep down that their claims just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

    • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

      Will, I don’t thnk we should use the word ‘shrill’. There is no connection between tone of voice and how accurate someone’s words are.

      Some people are shrill and accurate.

      Others are shrill and inaccurate.

      Others are suave and accurate.

      Others are suave and inaccurate.

    • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      “Will Jones sounds like he has become unhinged. His allegations against those affirming equal marriage are surely libellous. Activists like him are just becoming shrill and ridiculous. You wonder if it’s because he knows somewhere deep down that his claims just don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

      Or we could avoid name-calling and engage with the substance.

      • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

        It was the refusal to engage with the substance, and instead to accuse of bullying and bribery, which was the occasion of my comment.

        • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

          Without knowing the whole context of communication between Mr O’Callaghan and Jayne Ozanne (and others), I don’t think we are in a position to judge.

          There are some people with whom I am very happy to engage, and others less so. Refusal to engage with one individual is not refusing to engage generally.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

            I accept that it probably wasn’t the most helpful comment…

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

            Jayne Ozanne also refused to engage with the intelligent people she banned from her website.

            Dermot O’Callaghan often makes public the wording of his letters, and that could be checked out. He is only asking the bare minimum: evidence.

      • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 4:41 am #

        Hi Jonathan,

        I have engaged below with the substance of GS2070A, specifically regarding Jayne Ozanne’s inferences from the APA Task Force Report.

        I’d be happy to engage with you on the points I’ve made.

        • Jonathan Tallon June 29, 2017 at 11:19 pm #

          Sorry David, people don’t engage for all sorts of reasons- in this case I don’t currently have the time to respond properly & am only dipping occasionally into the thread.

          • David Shepherd June 30, 2017 at 1:41 am #

            No worries. Perhaps, another time.

  3. David Ould June 26, 2017 at 10:12 am #

    The third requirement is fairly simple to achieve. Welby could make an unashamed statement even today. He could then also all his bishops to affirm it clearly and unequivocally.
    He could then even go further and withhold communion from those who refused to unfeignedly support the Biblical position.
    None of those actions would be anything other than a clear orthodox action. None would require any canonical hurdle to first be jumped.

    • James Byron June 26, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

      Practically, Canterbury ordering priests to withhold communion wouldn’t just be unenforceable, it’d leave to a rapid and grisly schism.

      Theologically, what possible justification would there be for such a cruel act, especially in a broad church?

      • David Ould June 27, 2017 at 12:18 am #

        a “cruel act”? It’s the act prescribed by the BCP for those who refuse to repent of their sin in order to encourage them to repentance and the subsequent reconciliation and forgiveness that should flow from it.

        There are far too many clergy around who refuse to uphold orthodoxy and nothing is done about it. A clear “no” at the communion rail would send a clear message to everyone.

        • James Byron June 27, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

          Has Canterbury denied communion to anyone else, David? If not, it’s an implicit statement that merely supporting gay rights is a worse sin than all others.

          As you surely know, there’s zero chance that those who conscientiously support gay rights will be swayed by this, so the effect’s to permanently exclude them from sacraments (even if only from Welby’s hand). It’s not reconciliation, it’s punishment, and arbitrary and excessive punishment at that.

          • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

            As I’ve explained on another thread, the purpose of exclusion is neither to enforce discipline, nor to inspire reform (the latter being the role of preaching, exemplary behaviour and pastoral care). Instead, it is to ensure that there is no connivance at the behaviour of an ‘open and notorious and evil liver’ who might scandalise the congregation (Canon B16).

            This refers to an ostensibly objectionable course of life, the observation of which requires neither intrusion upon anyone’s private life, nor acting upon isolated occurrences, nor mere suspicions, nor hearsay.

            Paul’s greater emphasis was sound teaching and self-scrutiny: ‘So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.’ (1 Cor. 11:27-30)

            So, as long as they have ample warning, let the adamant eat and drink a judgment from God upon their souls, which is neither arbitrary, nor excessive.

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

          If sin is not recognised as or treated as sin, what motivation has anyone to avoid it? Such an attitude is extremely pastorally uncaring.

      • David Ould June 27, 2017 at 12:19 am #

        FWIW I had less in mind Canterbury “ordering priests to withhold communion” and more him simply withholding communion himself from dissident bishops.

    • John Darch June 27, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      David Ould’s comments may play well in the rarefied atmospheres of Sydney Anglicanism and GAFCON but may appear divisive and even threatening to a wider and more nuanced audience.
      Two issues:
      First, David seems to use the phrase ‘the biblical position’ as a synonym for ‘my interpretation of Scripture’ thus deliberately sidelining or even ignoring interpretations that are not to his theological taste.
      Second, I have recently finished reviewing Mark Vasey-Saunders’ The Scandal of Evangelicals and Homosexuality (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) in which the ultra-conservatives’ methodology is clearly laid bare. They have sought to make a second-order issue (about which Jesus had nothing to say and where the very few biblical texts are open to wide interpretation) into a divisive or, more accurately, a dividing issue so that friend and foe can be clearly identified.
      They are, of course, perfectly at liberty to take this view and adopt this modus operandi. But to park their tanks on Justin Welby’s lawn (didn’t Andy Lines used to drive a tank?!) with threats of impaired fellowship and communion is, in my view, the real scandal and will confirm the view of many (particularly younger) people of goodwill that the church is well past its sell-by date and irrelevant or even toxic to living life in the 21st Century. We will thus continue to do mission with one hand tied behind our back.

      • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

        John, a few points in response:
        1) Scripture is unequivocal in condemnation of homosexual activity and in the male-female nature of humankind and of marriage. You can’t interpret it away.
        2) Same-sex marriage impinges on crucial areas of doctrine based on the clear teaching of scripture (namely the doctrine of marriage and the creation of humankind as male and female). It is not a ‘second order’ issue. It is heterodox teaching and incompatible with historic Christian orthodoxy.
        3) There is no evidence of any denomination seeing missional benefits from changing doctrine to allow same-sex marriage. The opposite in fact: denominations such as the US Episcopal Church have seen accelerated decline (and not only because of splits and exoduses with orthodox believers). The mission argument for changing teaching and practice in this area is a demonstrable myth.

        • James Byron June 27, 2017 at 6:23 pm #

          Megachurches like Willow Creek in Chicago, and HTB in London, England, either downplay sexuality, or adopt DADT, ’cause they know full and well that the traditional line doesn’t play well with millennials.

          Mainline decline has far more to do with its archaic, inaccessible style, not its substance.

          • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

            James,

            Where’s your evidence that HTB downplays sexuality, or adopts a DADT approach?

          • James Byron June 27, 2017 at 10:11 pm #

            Anecdotal reports, such as that in the comments here, in addition to an HTB plant endorsing a pride march in Brighton, England. Also see Gumbel squirm in any interview where it comes up, and hotly insist that people are welcome at HTB regardless of sexual orientation.

            Given their tap-dancing over sexuality, how eager d’you think HTB would be to endorse withholding communion?

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 8:40 am #

            “Instead, it is to ensure that there is no connivance at the behaviour of an ‘open and notorious and evil liver’ who might scandalise the congregation (Canon B16).”

            David: two points to bear in mind. Firstly, the C of E has been clear on a number of occasions that those who choose to order their lives differently to the so called ‘traditional’ way in matters of human sexuality are not to be excluded from the Church’s fellowship. That is not going to change.

            Secondly, as James observes, this just is not an issue for millennials. Younger people are far more impressed that Nile Rodgers arrives in England and goes to volunteer at Grenfell tower than they are by the threat of excommunication. The sexual revolution has happened. Threats and scaremongering from the likes of Christopher Shell won’t turn back the tide.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 9:39 am #

            The argument from the inevitable. The final recourse of the one who has lost every rational argument about what is right and good.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 9:52 am #

            No will. The argument from what the Church of England has already agreed.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 9:54 am #

            No Will. An argument from what the Church of England has already declared.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 10:09 am #

            Even if the Church of England had foolishly agreed and declared that the advance of the sexual revolution is inevitable and its tide cannot be turned, that would not make it true. It would just make the Church wrong.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 10:53 am #

            Will: you are avoiding and fudging a very specific point in relation to what David says above. So let me remind you what the C of E has said:

            Access to the sacraments and pastoral care for people in same sex marriages

            15. In Issues in Human Sexuality the House affirmed that, while the same standards of conduct applied to all, the Church of England should not exclude from its fellowship those lay peope of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and who, instead, chose to enter into a faithful, committed sexually active relationship.

            16. Consistent with that, we said in our 2005 pastoral statement that lay people who had registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and holy communion, or being welcomed into the life of the local worshipping community more generally.

            It could not be clearer.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 11:35 am #

            Yes, this is very clear. The teaching has not changed, they are in breach of the same standards of conduct that apply to all. But their conscientious dissent is to be accommodated.

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

            Andrew,

            So, to be clear, and as I said on the previous thread, there is no basis in law for excluding same-sex couples from Communion.

            In the case of Banister vs. Thompson, Mr Banister was a widowed parishioner of Canon Thompson, who married his deceased wife’s sister in Canada, because such a marriage was illegal in England.

            Shortly afterwards, English law was changed to permit such marriages and retrospectively to legalise those already contracted.

            After their marriage was legalised, Canon Thompson refused to admit Mr Banister and his new wife to holy communion and Mr Banister complained to the ecclesiastical court.

            Canon Thompson’s defence was that he had a lawful cause of refusal, because Mr Banister’s marriage conflicted with the Church’s teaching on marriage.

            Although he was correct that marriage with a deceased wife’s sister is contrary to the Church’s teaching, the civil law made provision for clergy to refuse to solemnise such a marriage, and by making clear that it would not protect a clergyman who married his own deceased wife’s sister from ecclesiastical discipline.

            Nevertheless the Court rejected Mr Thompson’s defence, ruling that a priest has no inherent, ex officio power to exclude sinners from holy communion ‘in the absence of a judicial sentence of excommunication’ (p.383). Canon B16 now makes this clear.

            The priest’s function is limited to exhortation. He ‘has authority to reprove, rebuke, exhort … He is to rebuke sin and to give warning of … ‘unworthy receiving’ of holy communion’ (p.387).

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 4:36 pm #

            “The priest’s function is limited to exhortation. He ‘has authority to reprove, rebuke, exhort … He is to rebuke sin and to give warning of … ‘unworthy receiving’ of holy communion’ (p.387).”

            David: the C of E has been absolutely clear that those in active same sex partnerships and marriages are to be welcomed. There is no question or hint of ‘unworthy receiving’ in the communications about this matter.

            Accommodation has been made for those who take a different view to you on this. That accommodation is not very likely to be removed once given. And as the whole of society has accommodated same sex relationships in my life time (I’m nearly 58) then the church will accommodate them more fully in the next few years.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

            Andrew, I have no power whatsoever so what can I threaten?

            And where did I threaten?

            I do not threaten. I point out that people are knowingly avoiding debate because they know they will lose. That is dishonest, and I do not want it to be on their conscience.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

            David, the Brighton HTB plant shows no signs of not regarding ‘gay’ as a fixed rather than adopted identity. Their apparent support for Pride 2016 was an inevitable result of that misconception.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

            Andrew, you say that ‘the whole of society has accommodated same-sex relationships in [your] lifetime’.

            So now we know that you are someone who is quite willing to say that multiple millions of people are non-persons who may as well not exist.

            Even H Clinton and Obama, agreed to be at the radical end, did not support SSM 5 years ago.

            Secondly, your use of ‘relationships’ has a vagueness and unclarity that may not be either deliberate or unintelligent, but one has to wonder why an intelligent personl would use so ambiguous a word.

            Each one of us is in some ‘relationship’ with numerous people, animals and things. It is obvious that the word ‘relationship’ does not in and of itself imply ‘sexual relationship’.

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

            Hi Christopher,

            Point taken regarding Brighton HTB. Especially when, in respect of LGBT issues,

            Vicar says: ‘”I quite like a church where there is not a party line on things,” he says. “We’re Jesus-centred in how we approach different people and different lifestyles.

            “Whatever their lifestyle I encourage people to find their identity in Jesus and be a child of his. That is what we go for and other things begin to shake out of that in different ways with different people.

            “It’s such a hot topic and people want to label you and push you into a corner. Whereas I prefer the idea of people coming and working it out for themselves.”

            In contrast, John the Baptist didn’t leave Herod Antipas and Herodias to join the Jordan throng and work out the lawfulness of their marriage to Herodias for themselves. Neither did Jesus equivocate when he was asked direct questions, for instance, about divorce for any cause.

            Brighton HTB appears to be proclaiming a community engagement gospel built on temporal alliances. if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

            And that’s exactly what happened to Jerusalem in AD 70.

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

            Andrew,

            You wrote: ‘the C of E has been absolutely clear that those in active same sex partnerships and marriages are to be welcomed. There is no question or hint of ‘unworthy receiving’ in the communications about this matter.

            However, the wording of the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage (‘Access to the sacraments and pastoral care for people in same-sex marriages’) provides context for that welcome, as does its reference to Issues in Human Sexuality:

            15. In Issues in Human Sexuality the House affirmed that, while the same standards of conduct applied to all, the Church of England should not exclude from its fellowship those lay peope of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and who, instead, chose to enter into a faithful, committed sexually active relationship.

            16. Consistent with that, we said in our 2005 pastoral statement that lay people who had registered civil partnerships ought not to be asked to give assurances about the nature of their relationship before being admitted to baptism, confirmation and holy communion, or being welcomed into the life of the local worshipping community more generally.

            This approach is fully clarified in Chapter 5 of Issues in Human Sexuality, The Homophile [sic] in the Life and Fellowship of the Church.

            5.2 The first [principle] is that homophile orientation and its expression in sexual activity do not constitute a parallel and alternative form of human sexuality as complete with the terms of the created order as the heterosexual. The convergence of Scripture, Tradition and reasoned reflection on experience, even including the newly sympathetic and perceptive thinking of our own day, make it impossible for the Church to come with integrity to any other conclusion. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation or with the insights of revelation as the Church engages with these in the light of her pastoral ministry.

            So, the HoB guidance must be informed by this conclusion. Welcome does not require clergy to shy away from maintaining this conclusion through the preached word of exhortation, reproof and rebuke in accordance with the doctrine of the Church.

            Regarding this God-given moral order, Issues further explains: ‘While insisting that conscience needs to be informed in the light of that order, Christian tradition also contains an emphasis on free conscientious judgement, where the individual has seriously weighed the consequences.

            So, it is entire consistent with this emphasis to be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community without either being subjected to questioning about one’s lifestyle, or being denied access to the sacraments. Providing room for personal discretion on this matter does not preclude the responsibility of clergy to preach in accordance with Church doctrine as it stands. This is mentioned later in Issues:

            5.23. Let us try to sum up the essential points of the guidance we are seeking to give in this chapter. The Church in its pastoral mission ought to help and encourage all its members, as they pursue their pilgrimage from the starting-points given in their own personalities and circumstances, and as they grow in grace within their own particular potential. It is therefore only right that there should be an open and welcoming place in the Christian community both for those homophiles [sic] who follow the way of abstinence, giving themselves to friendship for many rather than to intimacy with one, and also for those who are conscientiously convinced that a faithful, sexually active relationship with one other person, aimed at helping both partners to grow in discipleship, is the way of life God wills for them.

            But the Church exists also to live out in the world the truth it has been given about the nature of God’s creation, the way of redemption through the Cross, and the ultimate hope of newness and fullness of life. We have judged that we ourselves and all clergy, as consecrated public and representative figures, entrusted with the message and means of grace, have a responsibility on behalf of the whole Body of Christ to show the primacy of this truth by striving to embody it in our own lives. But we also wish to stress the Church’s care for and value of all her clergy alike, and that where the Church’s teaching results for an ordained person in a burden grievous to be borne we, the bishops, as pastors to the pastors, will always be ready to share in any way we can in the bearing of that burden.

            However compassionately that burden may be shared, ‘all clergy, as consecrated public and representative figures, entrusted with the message and means of grace, have responsibility on behalf of the whole Body of Christ to show the primacy of the truth’ that ‘heterosexuality and homosexuality are not equally congruous with the observed order of creation’.

            Whatever eventually appears in the Teaching Document, the ‘welcome’ required of CofE churches did not simply materialise out of thin air in 2014. So, it would just be a self-serving tactic to reject out of hand the Bishops’ stated context of welcome.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

            David: it’s increasingly clear that the ‘welcome’ is rather ambiguous and was, I suspect, intended to be that way. That’s the context we need to bear in mind first. That’s the context that requires a new teaching document with a rather greater understanding of sexuality as outlined in the Archbishops’ letter etc.

            I doubt we shall ever agree here David and I firmly believe the two track approach will prevail. And I am not aware of anyone being denied communion or being warned – formally, rather than from conservative websites – that anyone should refrain from taking holy communion on account of their views of lifestyles in this area.

            But I am sure you will come back to correct me.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:09 pm #

            David, I agree with that perspective, which is particularly deeply felt by those of us who are teachers.

            If you say to a class ‘Work it out for yourselves’ there are several things wrong:

            (1) First, some of them will never manage to do so;

            (2) Second, it makes the whole thing directionless;

            (3) Third, it makes the whole thing unclear and vague;

            (4) Fourth, it suggests you don’t particularly care where your charges end up;

            (5) Fifth, as the teacher you yourself have knowledge. You were made the teacher precisely because you have more knowledge than the pupils. That knowledge is helpful. Yet you are withholding it. To withhold knowledge is to withhold help. It is therefore uncaring. So what then is the point of the teaching process if you are not imparting it?

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 10:30 pm #

            Andrew,

            Since the Church and State have upheld disciplinary action (revocation of PTO and routine denial of preferment) against clergy for entering a same-sex marriage, your suspicion of intended ambiguity is no more than that.

            The Archbishops’ letter simply reassured that, despite the Bishops having principal responsibility for the teaching ministry of the church, the proposals will ensure a wide ranging and fully inclusive approach, both in subject matter and in those who work on it.

            The Teaching Document is intended to establish a ‘fresh tone and culture’, provide guidance for clergy about appropriate pastoral provision for same sex couples and interpret the existing law and guidance to permit maximum freedom within it, without changes to the law, or the doctrine of the Church.

            The consensus expressed by the bishops is reluctant to amend canon law (B30 or C26), but I accept the possibility, which is mentioned in the BRGS Report, that the Teaching Document could distinguish civil marriage from holy matrimony, such that, in future, entering into a civil marriage might not be considered as acting in a way contrary to the doctrine set out in Canon B 30.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 10:41 pm #

            David: what I wrote was

            “And I am not aware of anyone being denied communion or being warned – formally, rather than from conservative websites – that anyone should refrain from taking holy communion on account of their views of lifestyles in this area.”

            So – are you implying that clergy who have been denied preferment or a PTO have been denied the sacrament? I think not………

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

            Andrew,

            What part of my earlier comment: ‘So, to be clear, and as I said on the previous thread, there is no basis in law for excluding same-sex couples from Communion did you not understand?

          • Andrew Godsall June 29, 2017 at 6:59 am #

            David: I have no interest in arguments in law about whether communion should or should not be withheld. It simply isn’t a legal issue in this case. It’s a moral issue. And the bishops have made it clear there is no moral basis for such an exclusion.
            Once we begin arguments in law about who should or should not receive communion we behave like the Scribes and Pharisees, surely? It just doesn’t work that way so I don’t understand your comment at all. And thankfully neither do 99.9% of the population.

          • Andrew Godsall June 29, 2017 at 7:14 am #

            Oh and the key part of the Archbishops letter is this:

            “How we deal with the real and profound disagreement – put so passionately and so clearly by many at the debate – is the challenge we face as people who all belong to Christ.”

            We don’t deal with such a profound disagreement by resorting to debate about minutiae of law. The bishops lost the debate in the February synod and they know they need to carry the vast majority with them if they are going to move forward with this. Otherwise the real and profound disagreement they refer to will simply run on and on for years. And do any of us seriously want that?

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 8:26 am #

            Regardless of whether you’re interested in arguments in law, it was you who asked whether I was implying that clergy who have been denied preferment or a PTO have been denied the sacrament.

            I gave you my answer that, because the CofE is a church by law established, there is no precedent for clergy to deny the sacrament to same-sex couples. I have never implied otherwise.

            The matter of how, in the future, the Church deals with profound disagreement is an entirely different subject compared to how the Church is required to be deal with same-sex couples today.

            The bishops lost the debate because they failed to do what they are doing now. Back in February, after the ‘Take Note’ debate, I commented on this blog:
            ‘The words of Professor Oliver O’Donovan are particularly prescient of conservative thinking behind voting to not take note of the Report:

            A good revision in practice cannot be supported by a ‘revisionist’ theology—on the contrary, it needs a thoroughly catholic and orthodox foundation. By articulating carefully everything theological that two sides in a practical disagreement can say together, we can get the scope of the disagreement in proper perspective, and may open the way to agreement on experiments which have a chance of commending themselves in practice. So long as proposals for experiment come with the label of ‘revisionism’, on the other hand, no church with concerns for its catholicity can embrace them. It seems to me that this elementary wisdom has never been seriously put to the test in the gay issue’

            It’s interesting that the approach recommended by O’Donovan is now reflected in the scope of the Teaching Document:
            We do not expect the teaching document, or the process of writing it, to achieve reconciliation of all views across the Church of England. Such reconciliation, were it to happen, would be the work of the Holy Spirit, not of human hands or brains. But we need our internal debates to be grounded in the best available scholarship, across many disciplines and to draw in the perspectives of people in all their difference. And we need the whole process to happen prayerfully, and with the supportive prayers of our fellow Christians across the world. If the
            teaching document can express clearly the ground on which we are agreed – and be very clear about where we disagree, and why – it will have done its work well.

            Finally, this approach provides exactly what O’Donovan had recommended after the Pilling Report. Unswerving adherence to such a remit for bipartisan theological reflection on the exact shape and scale of disagreement would have redeemed the failed Report by the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality.

          • Andrew Godsall June 29, 2017 at 9:11 am #

            “Unswerving adherence to such a remit for bipartisan theological reflection…”

            In other words, a twin track approach. Bipartisan will involve compromise David, and so far you have denied that both a twin track approach and compromise can work. So I’m glad you are coming round to the idea.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 9:58 am #

            Andrew,

            Back in April, you commented: ‘ I’m saying it has to become fully inclusive of both positions and therefore twin track. and, again, ‘What will happen is some kind of twin track approach, as is being considered in the Church of Scotland. There is now no alternative.

            My counter to this was ‘What you call ‘two-track’ is actually a short-term tactical ruse to gain acceptance and then ascendancy…and that’s not based on emotion, but past experience.

            However, contrary to your assertion that I’m coming round to your idea, reflection and deliberation are related, but distinct disciplines.

            Bipartisan theological reflection simply means that both sides are allowed to articulate together where and how they agree and disagree in their own words.

            And, contrary to your assertion, bipartisan theological reflection may result in policy outcomes which are not fully inclusive of both positions. It certainly does not have to result in an approach resembling the one adopted by the Church of Scotland.

            Sorry to spoil that moment of self-glorying triumph.

          • Andrew Godsall June 29, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

            “Bipartisan theological reflection simply means that both sides are allowed to articulate together where and how they agree and disagree in their own words.”

            Gosh. Who knew. And that’s been done for several years now in the shared conversations. And look where we are!

            No one triumphs here David. 99.9% of people don’t care at all. The .1% enjoyed a nice chat. Now they have to work out how to live together. We have done the theology about this to death. There is no new teaching to be developed. We simply have to work out the ecclesiastical polity.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 6:54 pm #

            ‘Gosh. Who knew. And that’s been done for several years now in the shared conversations. And look where we are!’

            Oh, sarcasm. That’s novel.

            Despite your ersatz incredulity, the Shared Conversations involved listening, in turn, different views and experiences. However, the requirement to listen did not map out the exact shape and scale of theological agreement or disagreement.

            Professor O’Donovan’s criticism on the Pilling Working Group was its broad remit: ‘ which attempted to wrap up in one endeavour a focused question about the pastoral practice defined by Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991 with a reflective absorption of the Listening Process.

            He stated: ‘One of the things the group reckoned it had learned from its listening process was that at the root of the stubborn disagreement about sexuality there lay incompatible understandings of the doctrine and use of Scripture. What understandings?

            It is true that there are in currency certain well-entrenched pettifogging ways of handling certain texts, yet the wider discussions of hermeneutic principle over the past half-century have come a long way towards convergence: everybody understands that reading Scripture involves encountering a historical situation that is not our own; nobody thinks that our contemporary experience is irrelevant to what we draw from that encounter; nobody thinks it can simply dictate what we draw from it. Why does this convergence not soften the radical hermeneutical opposition that is supposed to bedevil the area? of sexuality? And why does that opposition only show up in this area?

            We would be frankly surprised to be told that disagreements about capitalism and socialism, nationalism and internationalism, truth-telling and lying, and so on, all sprang from disagreements about the meaning and use of Scripture. It is, I am afraid, something of a displacement myth, current among those who, in disagreeing deeply about sexuality, would like to find some more dignified grounds for doing so.’

            So, in contrast with the Pilling Group, it is a fresh and commendable approach for the Church to bring together experts on both sides of the debate to develop a wide range of workstreams into a comprehensive and coherent reflection in which they will describe, in their own words (and not just in summarised propositions and the appendices) exactly where and how they agree. Not just where and how they disagree.

            And, yet, after reminding us verbatim of the Archbishops’ letter (which promises this development of a new Teaching Document), you now suggest that it’s just so much window-dressing around working out the ecclesiastical polity by claiming that ‘there is no new teaching to be developed’.

            Try giving us even one shred of real evidence to support your conclusion.

          • Andrew Godsall June 30, 2017 at 7:57 am #

            David: the only evidence for what *will* happen is bssed on what has happened already. I’m very happy to wait and see.
            But whatever emerges, the question still has to be faced. What will be the ecclesiastical polity that enables bipartisan living together within the same church. Unless you have an answer to that, then I can’t think there is anything further to say really?

      • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

        John, what you write has scarcely a grain of truth in it, John. It is not an ‘interpretation’ to say that every biblical text that touches on homosexual sexual practice treats/views it as something negative, it is plain and obvious, no more or less so than the fact that lying, cheating, murder etc are always viewed as something negative.

        Obviously this is what scholars can see, but you don’t need scholars to see it, just people of average or even less than average intelligence.

        How would you justify classing that as an ‘interpretation’? Interpretation is needed about matters that are not clear. Each Bible verse throws up lots of minute issues, many of which are not clear. But the main broad question (is homosexual sexual practice ever viewed other than very negatively?) is clear.

        If even such obvious things are unclear to you, then would you, dare I say it, have been among those who thought that Hans Christian Andersen’s emperor was dressed in fine apparel?

        • Nick June 29, 2017 at 10:01 pm #

          Christopher,

          I am not an academic theologian, but by day a scientist and engineer. In scientific literature the words “it is obvious that” or more frequently “thus it can be clearly shown that” are, in my experience shorthand, for a lack of evidence. They are normally regarded with suspicion. Of course they may eventually be shown to be right, but they are also sometimes proved wrong.

          I am also concerned that someone who styles themselves as a scholar does not appear to be able to see the other side of an argument. In science it is difficult to see how an alternative view be discounted if it is not understood? Maybe this is normal for academic theologeans, but I cannot see that happening in a scientific discipline.

          I confess I am puzzled.

          • Andrew Godsall June 30, 2017 at 8:03 am #

            Thank you Nick for saying so clearly what so many of us have been wondering for quite some time.

          • Christopher Shell July 1, 2017 at 11:51 am #

            Nick, there are 5 points here.

            First, ‘cite your chapter and verse’ is something I perpetually say myself. And that can be seen if one scrolls back. Did you think it was a principle I disagreed with or was ambivalent about?

            Second, I am not a theologian either and am very often suspicious of theologians, since the less hard (softer) the ‘science’ in question, the more it is open to abuse. My training is in biblical studies and biblical history (NT).

            Third, the idea that an issue has 2 sides (you speak of ‘the other side’) is spectacularly wrong and illogical. It has any number of sides till you get the right answer, after which it has one. So at no point does it have precisely 2. This point was also made by McPhee in ‘That Hideous Strength’.
            A total of 2 ‘sides’ does often appear in public discourse. Often these are (1) evidence and (2) wishful thinking: total = 2.

            Fourth, there will be cases where there are at present good arguments pointing to different conclusions. Many such cases. But your position, as I understand it, is totalitarian and incredibly sweeping. You are implying that *in any issue under the sun* there will be good arguments pointing to different conclusions.
            That is as untrue as one can get. Quite the contrary: for most things the evidence points only one way. We fail to see that because it is only the controversial issues that end up being discussed. (And even those are at times only ‘controversial’ because people do not like the way the evidence is pointing.) You are not, I imagine, saying that we should debate whether Queen Victoria lived in the 16th, 12th or 19th centuries. Horror of horrors, some things are actually uncontroversial. Most things, probably.
            -The third-rate mind thinks that everything is simple.
            -The second-rate mind (see Stott on BTD Smith, who apparently relished difficulty) thinks that everything is impossibly difficult (a convenient position to take if one wants all positions to be regarded as valid: this position is therefore also taken by the dishonest, who may or may not be 2nd rate minds).
            -The first-rate mind understands the reality: that the world is full of trillions of issues and that it is obvious that these will be arranged on a *spectrum* from extremely easy to extremely difficult.

            You have not persuaded me that ‘Insofar as one can generalise, all the biblical texts, where they touch on the topic (and also in the broader context of their thought) uniformly view homosexual practice as a very bad thing’ is not at the extremely easy end of this spectrum. As the saying goes, scratch a person who denies this sort of thing, and you will find a person who ideologically prefers difficult to easy in a world that really has plenty of both.

            Fifth, wouldn’t you agree that you know as well as I do that blog comments are not normally a place for footnoting? See my chapters in What Are They Teaching The Children? for chapter and verse.

            Thanks for your response.

          • Christopher Shell July 1, 2017 at 11:56 am #

            Andrew, in your phrase ‘many of us’ (which is also a cliche) you reveal yourself as in Lewis’s terms an inner-ring / outer-ring merchant. Thanks for deciding in advance that you are in the inner (those who think things about others) and that I am in the outer (those who get thought about); I am sure you applied impeccable logic in reaching those 2 conclusions. The trouble is that I have not the slightest desire to be in the inner ring anyway; and those who want to be in it inevitably find that it is an illusion, not what it is cracked up to be.

          • Nick July 2, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

            Christopher,

            1) “Did you think it was a principle I disagreed with or was ambivalent about?” No, but by saying in your response to John that ” It is not an ‘interpretation’ to say that every biblical text that touches on homosexual sexual practice treats/views it as something negative, it is plain and obvious,” you sidestepped the need to explain why. And an explanation would have been helpful.
            2) Noted but I would restate my point, with this adjustment.
            3) I recognise that some arguments are multifaceted (I do not limit it to 2) and a some are indeed uncontroversial. I only referenced two here as this argument seems to have resolved itself in this thread as binary at the moment. I cannot see it as only one outcome or there would not be all this discussion.
            4) “My position” – I am not sure you know what my position really is – If you do please tell me because i am genuinely on a re-exploration of this subject and have not reached a position yet – It is a journey that has not finished. I certainly see this as a complex issue, but I do not despair of reaching a position.
            5) I was not expecting footnotes – just something more than it is obvious.

  4. Will Jones June 26, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    On the Peter Ball scandal – will the same people who blamed evangelical theology for John Smyth’s abuse now point the finger at liberal theology for Ball’s? After all, the Church’s 1979 Gloucester Report included this nugget of 1970s safeguarding:

    It is clear that there is a class of child-molester, who is typically attracted by young children (often of either sex) whom he wishes to fondle or whom he invites to touch or inspect his genitals. Such behaviour, more pathetic than immediately dangerous, is understandably greatly shocking to the parents of the child, and in some the child himself will be frightened and disturbed, though there may be no long-term ill effects.

    As with Smyth, I would be reticent to make any accusations of connection without actual evidence of heightened incidence amongst adherents of a particular theological tradition. But on the face of it you would have thought there might be a connection between antinomian pro-sex theology of the kind beloved of liberals (and that once produced sentiments like the above), and incidence of sexual misconduct. At any rate, the 1960s-80s (the heyday of liberal theology) seem to be when a lot of abuse occurred. A coincidence worth examining, surely.

    • Christopher Shell June 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

      Yes – moreover, Boston the epicentre of liberalism was the epicentre of RC pedrasty.

      It’s not rocket science. Liberalism took the initiative to ‘relax’ the rules, so bears responsibility.

    • Penelope Cowell Doe June 27, 2017 at 10:51 am #

      As the person who pointed you to that nugget I would argue that the parallel between Ball and Smyth isn’t churchmanship (obviously), but privilege. Both belonged to the (male) establishment with access to boys only groups and societies whom they could groom. Both their spiritual practices were infused with homoeroticism and secrecy. They weren’t suspected, despite evidence, because they were the right sort of chaps, with the right sort of connections. I should think that the increasing liberalism of the 1960s and 70s has little to do with the predatory nature of these abusers. Quite the reverse. They were both especially keen to chastise boys for masturbating, not to encourage it. Pederasty has quite a heritage, but we need only to look back to the19thC to see its manifestation in a form similar to Ball and Smyth. Read Swinburne. The so-called permissive society has nothing to do with this abuse: it is, thankfully, as a consequence of that ‘liberalism’ that we are now able to see clearly that such behaviour is abusive and not wish (most of us) to sweep it under the carpet as ‘not quite the thing’.

      • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 11:34 am #

        As I say, it needs some proper researching. But the idea that liberalism revealed such behaviour as abusive, rather than equivocating about it for several decades (as the history of the PIE shows) would not bear scrutiny. Part of the reason for tightening up restrictions on homosexuality in the late 19th century was concern about its prevalence in the public schools i.e. among (and with) teenage boys. The distinction between homosexuality and pederasty was not a clear one in the CHE in the 60s and 70s, and there was a general move to liberate everyone sexually, with the question of age limitations far from settled (and we still get the occasional call from judges and others to lower the age of consent to 13 to reflect ‘reality’, while the last Labour government legalised gay sex with children once they reach 16). The idea that liberalism has a central concern to protect children from sexually abusive situations is laughable. It’s more something that’s been imposed on it as the risks to children’s innocence became undeniable.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe June 27, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

          I don’t think the PIE (wholly reprehensible) and abusers such as Ball and Smyth have much, if anything, in common. PIE was open in its attempts to lower the age of consent (and was, perhaps, the context, in which Gloucester was written). Ball and Smyth operated in the dark, in secret; they might even have denied that what they were doing was sexual. Certainly, safeguarding has improved, even since the 90s, and that is, I believe an outworking of a more open and less hypocritical society. It took a while, but we might be getting there.
          I don’t think people are ‘children’ at 16 and I don’t believe the age of consent should be different for homosexual people.
          Conservatism of the Ball and Smyth sort certainly hasn’t protected children.
          And calling Jayne ‘unhinged’ isn’t helpful. Disagreeing strongly is one thing. Suggesting your ‘opponent’ is mentally ill, is quite another.

          • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

            I wasn’t saying Ball and PIE were connected – I have no reason to think they were. I was responding to your claim that liberalism (by which I mean here specifically the permissive society) has helped deal with sexual abuse rather than exacerbated it. The progress in safeguarding since the 90s was a (partial) reaction against the liberalism of the permissive society and its sexualisation of teenagers (not a very successful one, like using garden hose on a house fire), not a natural extension of it.

            16 year olds are children. They are minors. They are not adults.

            I didn’t mean to imply Jayne was mentally ill. But she doesn’t sound like she is being entirely rational either (being an understatement). Specifically I was referring to her responding to Dermot O’Callaghan ‘with a strongly worded letter characterising my request as amounting to bullying and bribery’ and her characterising the Church’s current teaching position as ‘inherently abusive to LGBTI Christians’. These are not reasonable and well-balanced things to do, and certainly not constructive.

          • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 5:41 pm #

            The trouble with your argument is that it is of the nature:

            ‘if just one abuser can be identified, the whole system is corrupt’.

            That is because the one sinner gets all the media airtime and the 99 righteous persons get none.

            But who actually thinks that the existence of the one sinner is more real than that of the vast majority of non-offenders?

          • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

            Of course when I say ‘one sinner’ that is shorthand for ‘sinner of this particular type’ – everyone else is also sinners.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 27, 2017 at 7:23 pm #

            Oops, I didn’t mean to imply that you thought there was a connection between Smyth and Ball. The connection I see is one of U examined male privilege and an unhealthy attitude towards sexuality.
            I agree that our society sexualises children, but I don’t think increased safeguarding is a response to that. I think it’s a response to what was formerly hidden and not spoken of. And that comes, partly, from living in a more tolerant and open society where pubescent girls don’t commit suicide because they start menstruating. There are many things wrong with our society, but there are also many improvements on the past.
            As for 16 year olds. If peopl are old enough to die in wars, they’re old enough to enjoy sexual intimacy. You may wish that the age of consent was increased but that would only criminalise more minors.
            As for Jayne, quite a lot of people think that her PMM is reasonable since conversion therapy is banned by most therapeutic bodies. Indeed, someone from Livimg Out claims that it is harmful. And she may well be right that some of the church’s teaching is homophobic. Just as was (is?) misogynistic.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 27, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

            Unexamined and just as it [the church’s teaching] was….

      • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

        I agree that both had in common the public school connection (and in fact increased that connection for all they were worth, considering neither was employed by a public school!) and also that both were ostensibly concerned to combat sexual immorality rather than encourage it.

  5. Clive June 26, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    The report states:
    “The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the divisions cannot be healed by human hands but only by divine intervention. His remarks indicate deepening desperation among Anglican leaders over the irreconcilable gap between liberals who demand gay equality within the Church and conservative evangelicals who say that gay sex is sinful.”

    The terminology “Conservative” and “traditional” are both dismissive, hateful and inaccurate. The word being struggled for is “Faithful” because many of us who have higher degrees always realise how complex it can be to understand holistically and contextually what the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ says so words “traditional”, “conservative” and phrases like “taking the Bible literally” are completely wrong.

    There is some disagreement over whether “gay sex is sinful” but there is wide agreement that the Lord Jesus Christ himself says that marriage is between one woman and one man largely without patriarchy. So ABC really should have been reported as saying:

    “The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the divisions cannot be healed by human hands but only by divine intervention. His remarks indicate deepening desperation among Anglican leaders over the irreconcilable gap between liberals who demand gay equality within the Church and faithful evangelicals who say that marriage is between one woman and one man.”.

    • Will Jones June 26, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

      I agree, but prefer orthodox.

  6. Kerry Buttram June 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    Thank you, Ian, for this helpful article. As an outsider who is deeply concerned at how the Church of England is under assault in the ways you enumerate, I do find it very puzzling that bishops seem unwilling to take up the teaching office of bishops (in which bishops lay out the traditional, biblical view, to which they all have vowed to uphold). This seems to be something they quickly rule out for fear of being labeled bigots and bullies.

    Have not church leaders of every age had to grit their teeth and get on with this? St Paul certainly had no hesitancy in calling out false teaching and false teachers (often by name). As David Ould rightly suggests, clear and unequivocal statements from the bishops would be an obvious way forward. True, I have no idea of the pressures and sensitivities they must continually face, but this is not an excuse to withold the healthy teaching of Scripture. God has graciously given his Word to the Church to counter dangerous doctrine and edify his people. Those promoting a change in orthodox teachings are not so shy about putting their views on the table. In fact, they have become emboldened by a lack of clear teaching which counters that which is not in line with the Gospel? God’s people need faithful shepherds to do their Acts 20 ministry every bit as much today as when St Paul, in his parting words to the Ephesian elders, laid out the hard road ahead.

    • Nick June 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

      Why are Bishops only permitted to take a traditional view? Do they have to leave their brains behind when they are consecrated?

      If there is to be a resolution of this matter then both sides must come with open minds – open to listening to opposing views and to the Holy Spirit.

      I will repeat what Oliver Cromwell said to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He asked them to consider that they might be mistaken. We should do the same of both sides here.

      • Ian Paul June 26, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

        Why on earth do you assume that you have to leave your brains behind to be orthodox? Do I come across as stupid?

        In fact, there is a good reason why bishops should take the traditional view: they made a public commitment to uphold the teaching of the Church. According to the ordinal, that is one of their primary functions.

        On this blog, I actively consider that I might be wrong, which is why I engage with different views and host a range of opinion. But when I engage my brain, I don’t find the case for change very persuasive.

        Oh, and we are not coming to this with two equal views. The Church *has* a teaching position, and it currently lines up with almost all of Christendom through almost all of history and currently almost all of the Christian world.

        • David Ould June 27, 2017 at 12:22 am #

          “In fact, there is a good reason why bishops should take the traditional view: they made a public commitment to uphold the teaching of the Church. According to the ordinal, that is one of their primary functions.”

          Exactly. So if they think they can’t carry out the job they committed themselves to then the act of integrity is to resign immediately and stop taking the stipend.

          https://youtu.be/z2HZee8QMuw

        • Nick June 27, 2017 at 9:58 am #

          Ian, I was not suggesting that you were not being open. I am concerned more about, for example, those who would not take part in the conversations. Many seem unwilling even to debate the issue.

          I very strongly believe that Bishops must teach, and this must be Biblical. I do not for one minute think that we can disguard parts of the Bible because they are no longer convenient. However, some traditional interpretations of the Bible were for a different age.

          The ordinal requires priests, if I remember correctly, to teach the Gospel afresh in each generation. If the Church’s teaching is wrong, and this is driving many away from the Gospel, then that is a serious matter.
          If the traditional view of the church it is correct, then we need to move on and find an appropriate way to minister to the LGBT community.

          At the moment the very public debate with participants publically and apparently angrily (that is how it comes over in the secular media) trumpeting their views to a nation of unbelievers does the Church and the Gospel no good.

          We need to create a space in which this debate can take place in a spirit that models the love of Christ. I pray that the Archbishops’ proposals will give us that space. However, clergy denouncing them before the teaching has even been outlined, does not give me confidence.

          • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 10:07 am #

            If you’re referring to the Shared Conversations, then I think you’ll find that those were anything but an opportunity to ‘debate the issue’. That was one of the main criticisms levelled against them.

      • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 10:48 am #

        Nick why do you think the issue is whether things are ‘traditional’ or ‘up to date’.

        Nothing ever became true or plausible by virtue of being traditional.

        Nothing ever became true or plausible by virtue of being up to date.

        The issue is always which way the *evidence* points. Whether it points a ‘new’ way, an ‘old’ way, or both, or neither, is utterly irrelevant.

        Surely you agree with that. You are framing things according to how traditional things may or may not be, which leads me to think you don’t understand this point.

        • Nick June 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

          Christopher, I was using the word traditional because Kerry Buttram stated above (if I understood him correctly) that it was the role of Bishops to lay out the traditional Biblical view. I was suggesting they should lay out teaching that is Biblical whether it is traditional or not.

          My views on traditional and up to date apear to be the same as yours. Except perhaps that if a view is traditional it might be time to review the evidence.

          • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

            Here we agree. It ought to be the role of the Bishops to speak the truth. Where it comes to the biblical material, there can be few things more obvious than that the biblical writings are unremittingly negative where it comes to homosexual sexual practice. But of course the biblical writers’ perspective on this could be wrong. Natural law and statistics suggest to me that the biblical writers were spot on in this instance.

          • Nick June 27, 2017 at 8:56 pm #

            Christopher, I am pleased that we agree on the process.

    • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

      You watch. The less clarity there is from bishops the more deathly decline there will be.

      • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:53 pm #

        I didn’t actually say vagueness is of the devil, but I do believe it very often is.

  7. Mrs S Wilson June 26, 2017 at 2:14 pm #

    Another well thought-out article. I have found the same re the unwillingness to enter into reasoned debate but rather to immediately use the obnoxious “homophobic” and “bigoted” words in response, as a shut-down. When will the church as a whole begin to see the difference between truth and error by those propounding their new interpretations of Scripture entering into proper discussion?

  8. Graham June 26, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Simply – Amen!

  9. Nigel Feilden June 26, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    Your third “miracle” – should it occur – would not be a miracle – ie something, like a bone being mended so there is no sign on the X-radiogram of it ever having been broken; something that does not occur in the natural. It would be our bishops and pastors being obedient to their calling and doing what they promised to do, God being their helper, when they were ordained.
    It would be good if, in addition, they pointed out that orthodox marriage has been shown, over and over again, by secular research, to be beneficial to husbands, wives and their children as compared to other arrangements. Yes God really is good and He made us and His commands are for our benefit.

  10. Rusty Writer June 26, 2017 at 5:23 pm #

    Your carefully crafted arguments remind me of those of the church when Galileo’s telescope was causing such a fuss. People had to choose between church teaching and what their own eyes showed them. Today, most of us know LGBT people and can see they are capable of falling in love with someone of the same sex, getting married and living their personal happy-ever-after as good human beings and active members of their church, but the church is insisting such people are dangerous to others and must be opposed regardless of whether they are in the church or out of it.
    I think this issue will die down in time, and it’s possible our grandkids won’t remember what the fuss was all about. Having friends from church who are LGBT and Christian will be as controversial as having church friends who are left-handed.

    • Ian Paul June 26, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

      Thanks Rusty—but if only our eyesight was as reliable as you suppose! The research data says that same-sex and other-sex marriage are quite different phenomena, and that same sex attraction is fluid, especially amongst women, and has clear correlation with a variety of social contexts, including parental relationship, absence of father, and social situation.

      When you need to lean on arguments from your own hypothetical construction of the future, it doesn’t look too promising! But thanks for engaging.

    • Ian Paul June 26, 2017 at 6:09 pm #

      You might to cast your eye over this.

      https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/what-does-science-say-about-sexuality/

      • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 11:54 am #

        Ian points you to his post which highlights a controversial, non-peer reviewed paper published by a conservative group with an axe to grind.

        Alternatively, you could go to a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal written by experts exasperated by pseudo-scientific interpretation from conservative groups.

        http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1529100616637616

    • Christopher Shell June 26, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

      Maybe it was a spoof. I read one in the Church Times about 8 years ago about the perils of witchcraft. It was from Ross Angus, Witchburn House, Witchburn Way (etc.).

      I don’t think it was actually a spoof, but it perfectly illustrates the way that a liberal vs conservative mentality (i.e. fashion and chronology is the key issue) has blinded people. Far from being the key issue it is an issue of utter irrelevance.

      An evidence vs ideology mentality (i.e. truth is the key issue) immediately exposes this egregious nonsense for what it is.

    • Christopher Shell June 26, 2017 at 8:21 pm #

      What do our eyes show us? One thing is for sure – they show us not just one thing but many.

      They show us that as soon as same-sex intercourse is legalised, levels of promiscuity shoot up. These are precious children we are talking about.

      Levels of STIs also shoot up at the same time.

      There is a close correlation between acceptance of homosexual ‘intercourse’ and the sexual revolution.The same sexual revolution that has split families left right and centre when we already knew a worldview that meant massively higher percentages of stable families.

      Not to mention the early deaths.

      Not to mention the unsafe sexual practices such that any insertive practice requires a condom, proof of its unnaturalness. How different from a married couple who will very frequently be virgin and faithful according to the norms of massive numbers of cultures.

      If you invest £12 in What are they teaching the children? (Wilberforce) you’ll see that the sexual revolution increased some 20 harmful practices and norms by a minimum of 400% in very quick time.

      All these things a single generation has seen with their own eyes from beginning to end. Anyone over 60 can remember virtually the whole process. It takes years to build up, one second to destroy.

      • Penelope Cowell Doe June 26, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

        Back to the usual subject I see Christopher!

        • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 10:51 am #

          Penelope, you are basically arguing Proposition A: ‘Whatever people repeat often, they ought not to do so.’

          Can I find a single person who supports that Proposition?

          If it is true, then who has the right to prevent people saying it? They might not like it being said, becasue it exposers the flaws in their own posiiton, and that is why they want to silence those who are saying it.

          If, on the other hand, it is false, all you need to do is refute it.

          What you will not be able to do is say it is false *because* it is often-repeated. That is obvious.

        • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 11:01 am #

          In short, there are 2 options: either refute or affirm what I say, but always with evidence, never with mere assertion.

          Molesworth answered an exam question ‘larfably easy’. But he didn’t actually give any answer.

      • Tim Chesterton June 27, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

        I am the father of a beautiful daughter in a same-sex marriage; she and her wife are the parents of two children who are being brought up in a safe and loving home. Personally, I have problems with using the word ‘marriage’ to describe their situation, but I absolutely do not recognize any of the behavioural examples given above as describing my daughter and her family. They are generalisations that do an injustice to almost every loving, faithful same sex couple I know (and I have made it my business to know quite a few).

        My wife and I were the guests last week of another lesbian couple in a stable, committed SSM. No sign of promiscuity, STIs or early deaths in either of these situations.

        Yes, ‘these are precious children’. Mine, in fact. And whether I agree with their choices or not, I’m rather protective of them when other people say untrue things about them.

        • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 9:36 am #

          Where are the children’s father(s)?

          • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 11:58 am #

            Perhaps they were adopted? Perhaps donor? I fail to see, firstly, what relevance this question has to the quality of the marriage, and secondly, how on earth it is any of our business to know.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm #

            An important objection to same-sex marriage is that it deprives children of being raised by their natural parents and/or a parent of each sex. Which I am sure you knew. The welfare of children, like all aspects of the moral law, is our business – we are not atomised individuals unaccountable to one another for our conduct, particularly as it affects others.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 2:39 pm #

            The children were conceived by AI, both from a single sperm donor.

            Thank you for your concern for the welfare of my grandchildren, Will. They are bering raised in a safe and loving home and in the network of an extended family (aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins) which is very much involved in their lives. They are also part of a caring church community. I can assure you that they’re doing fine.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

            It is concerning that you do not see why this is morally problematic! Children should not be created to serve the interests of adults in experimental living arrangements. It is not fair on children (i.e. people) deliberately to bring them into being outside of their natural family, separate from their mother and/or father, or indeed any father.

          • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

            It’s strange how concerns over issues like this only seem to arise when the couple are same-sex, and not for heterosexual couples.

            Still not sure what it has to do with marriage. This situation applies to plenty of couples who aren’t married.

            And I am pretty certain it isn’t appropriate to describe a couple’s marriage as ‘experimental’ when you know nothing about them.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

            ‘Children should not be created to serve the interests of adults in experimental living arrangements’

            Will, if your definition of ‘experimental living arrangements’ is ‘anything other than a traditional two parent family headed by both biological parents’, then as a pastor I would reply that approximately fifty percent of the children in my congregation are living in ‘experimental living arrangements’. Here are some I can think of:
            – There are blended families resulting from divorce and remarriage
            – There are single parent families in which the absent parent may or may not be involved in the lives of the children
            – There are families in which one parent has died and the surviving parent has later remarried
            – There are families in which children have been adopted – either because the couple themselves could not have children, or because they wanted to offer a home to an unwanted child
            – There are opposite-sex families in which children have been conceived in the same way as my grandchildren, because the husband could not produce what was necessary and they wanted the child to be biologically related to at least one of the parents

            I would also note that many children have been psychologically damaged and abused in the context of traditional families. Thus we know for sure that a traditional family is not a guarantee of a child’s being brought up in a loving, safe and stable home. We also know that divorce has a major negative impact on the children. But what we do not know when a couple get married is whether their marriage will survive or not. In a sense, then, even a traditional marriage can be an ‘experimental living arrangement’ – we all hop the experiment will succeed, of course, but we really don’t know.

            The biggest problem I see in this conversation is people talking in terms of theoretical ideas and philosophical principles. My daughter and her family (and indeed our whole family, because we are a very close extended family) are not a theoretical idea. They are real human beings trying to find a way to live faithfully in the context of the hand they have been dealt. Whether or not I agree with the choices they have made I will not sit by and allow them to be reduced to a generalization.

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

            The situations you are describing are the result of things going wrong. We should not deliberately create wrong situations. Deliberately creating children to be raised outside of their natural family, and without a father/mother, is not playing the hand your are dealt but committing a violation of natural justice in relation to the child. (Yes, sperm donation is always morally objectionable, whether for a natural union or a same-sex one. The offence is compounded by the couple lacking a male or female parent.) That a child seems happy, or that natural families can be dysfunctional, cannot obviate the moral error inherent in deliberately bringing about the situation you describe.

            The fact that you appear to indicate some doubt about their choices means you clearly understand the import of these points, at least on some level, but have (understandably, perhaps) allowed your judgement to be clouded by empathy with their situation.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:16 pm #

            Jonathan, are your comments for real? If genuine parents wash their hands of their own children and you don’t even comment?

            If the child is not allowed to know their own mum or their own dad? Wouldn’t they want to know them? And have input from them? And live with them? Ah, but adults know best. Would that they were indeed adult, i.e. mature.

            As for Tim’s extended family, in terms of extended family these children or those in a similar position have no more and no less extended family than any others. But in terms of mum and dad they very definiteyly have less. So overall they have on average less, and moreover the lacuna is an especially large and central one.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:18 pm #

            Tim, you are saying that *because* things are a certain way in your congregation, we are obliged to consider that situation good or OK.

            Of course the families will become that way if the media promotes and thereby normalises the awful sexual revolution. Nothing is more predictable.

            The lack of logic in that ‘because’ is obvious. No we are not obliged to take that view, nor are we likely to take it unless the evidence supports it.

            Once again you are taking a tiny sample and suggesting we form our views on the basis of that. We are unlikely to do so, especially if we know what the larger-scale surveys say. Are you actually imagining that the large-scale has to correspond to the one very particular small-scale that is known to you? Why does it have to? Where is the logic in that?

            Of course there will be plusses in non mum/dad homes. But overall and on average they will be clearly fewer. Of course there will be minuses in mum/dad homes. But overall and on average they will be clearly fewer.

            A dad (like a mum, of course) is what a child most needs. See again my chapter in What Are They Teaching The Children? The dadless fare far worse, those with dads far better. Yes, of course we are talking averages. Those averages are derived from precious people. UK Parliament c2008 voted that a child does not need a father. Are they determined to vote in exactly the opposite way to that in which the evidence points? Are they determined to deny the most obvious biological realities?

        • Philip Almond June 28, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

          This highly sensitive and deeply personal and wounding exchange brings us again to the agonising choice we all have, in one form or another: faced with what we believe is the clear teaching of the Bible and with personal experience which we believe contradicts that teaching, do we accept what the Bible teaches as the truth from God or do we accept personal experience as the truth from God. (I of course recognise that what the Bible teaches about sexuality is the disagreement).
          Phil Almond

          • Will Jones June 28, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

            We do not need to be fideists. The moral teaching of scripture is in line with the natural moral law. That’s why Paul can say it is ‘written on the heart’ (Romans 2:15). The moral law can be known by reason and is accessible to all. Scripture only confirms its content, for the avoidance of doubt.

          • Jonathan Tallon June 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

            “The moral teaching of scripture is in line with the natural moral law.”

            I’m inclined to agree with you. I just think you are wrong on both the natural moral law and the moral teaching of scripture.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

            Philip, do you think that people really believe that the Bible is unclear on ‘sexuality’? Or are they trying their luck? Because they live in a culture where every discussion promotes the lie that there are *always* plural valid points of view, no matter what the topic?

          • Philip Almond June 29, 2017 at 10:40 am #

            Christopher

            I don’t know since I can’t read minds. As I have tried to say before I think the best way to handle these doctrinal/theological controversies is by open debate on the web, with Bishops, scholars and all who want contributing, carefully moderated, where the strongest arguments from all sides can be set out and challenged. Ian Paul’s website goes some way towards this but I would like to see it used instead of Bishops writing reports which are debated in Synod.

            I also make the following general observation. Faced with the various conflicting understandings of what the Bible means, we all have some understandings which we don’t want to be true. For instance, in my case: I don’t want Tom Wright’s view of justification to be true. But I have to discipline myself to examine the strongest arguments from all sides and be open to the possibility that it might be true. This is especially difficult in cases involving sensitive, personal and harrowing instances.

            Phil Almond

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

          She and her wife are not the parents. At most, one of them is a parent.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

            Which would also by extension mean that you feel adoptive parents are not ‘the parents’.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm #

            I never once mentioned what I ‘feel’. You introduced the word ‘feel’, not relevantly.

            They are not parents because ‘parere’ means give birth to or bring forth. Both parents bring forth their child from their combined contributions.

            Of course the etymological fallacy is real, but in this case there is ideology at work because it is impossible that no word be assigned to the incredibly common reality of a mum and a dad who have had a child.

            You will be saying that no word should be assigned to an even more common reality, mum and dad’s union next.

            Oh, wait a minute….

          • David Shepherd June 28, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

            Hi Tim,

            I understand that you live in Edmonton. As you may be aware, in 2013, the Court of Appeal in Alberta ruled in favour of a child having three parents in order to make the legal presumption of parentage through marriage automatically and equally applicable to the family intentions of same-sex couples.

            This automatic presumption is vastly different from adoptive parenthood, which you mention, since the latter requires the default, surrender or demise of natural parents.

            From time immemorial, the basis of presumed parentage has always been the sanctity of marriage vows and biological probability.

            The Family Law Act, Alberta, Section 8: Presumption of parentage — biological father
            8(1) For the purposes of section 7(2)(a), unless the contrary is proven on a balance of probabilities, a male person is presumed to be the biological father of a child and is recognized in law to be a parent of a child in any of the following circumstances:
            (a) he was married to the birth mother at the time of the child’s birth;

            Yet, regarding the law on which this was based, the Alberta Court of Appeals ruling declared: ‘the Domestic Relations Act grants the benefit of presumed parentage (and with it, joint guardianship rights under s. 50 where the father is in a marriage or common?law relationship with the mother) to heterosexual couples alone.

            This limited recognition through presumption operates to an unfair disadvantage for individuals not in a heterosexual relationship with the birth mother and is discriminatory.

            So, this means that the Court held it to be discriminatory not to presume same-sex spouses to have joint biological parenthood despite the certainty that one of them has no biological relationship to the child. In contrast, the ‘balance of probabilities’ which,in section 8, limits presumed parentage continues to apply to all heterosexual couples. How on earth is this fair?

            What further demonstrates the blindness of this judicial LGBT activism is the outcome of a similar case in New York (http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2014/2014-ny-slip-op-24345.html), where same-sex marriage is legal. The court denied the same-sex couple’s usurpation of the biological father, declaring that: ‘the Marriage Equality Act does not require the court to ignore the obvious biological differences between husbands and wives.

            Again, in 2013, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to enact legislation that allowed official birth certificates to list donors and surrogates as additional parents.

            Of course, in pursuit of these ‘rights’ for the adults, what’s missed here is the impact on the child as soon as any of these ‘parents’ seeks legal redress for lack of access or involvement in parental decisions. And as the number of legal parents multiplies, so does the prospective level of acrimony over custody arrangements, which will invariably involve shuttling the child between three or more adults.

            So, whatever the specifics of same-sex couples whom you know and love, it is the introduction of same-sex marriage which has led to court rulings which have either automatically deprived a child of, at least half of its natural parenthood or have irresponsibly re-distributed its parenthood among three or more parents.

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:46 pm #

          So the father either did a runner or is not bringing up his own daughter who wants her dad to be a dad and is not allowed a choice in the matter.

          Worse, we are then required to celebrate this.

          You couldn’t make it up.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

            Sorry, is this comment directed to my family?

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

            I don’t know. Maybe the dad is present for his child(ren); it would certainly make them normally happy.

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

          Tim, what you say about STIs, promiscuity and early deaths makes no sense, for several strong reasons.

          First, are you claiming you were unaware I was speaking of averages, and very markedly increased averages at that?

          Second, aggregates and averages are and always will be in direct correlation, by definition.

          Third, your argument is of the nature ‘It is nonsense to say that many (or a disproportionate number of) buses are red. I saw ONE bus at the weekend, and it was definitely blue, so that throws that theory out of the water.’ Do you still support an argument that displays that structure, or do you, rather, see the flaw in it? If you don’t yet see the flaw in it, let me know.

          Fourth, STIs, promiscuity and early deaths are extremely serious things. Not things to be played ball with.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 5:05 pm #

            Averages of what? If the averages are for the gay population as a whole, then that includes a large number of people who have lived or are still living in dangerous lifestyles (which are the only lifestyles our society has allowed them until recently).

            If you can produce statistics for these things for gay and lesbian people in committed monogamous relationships, then I’ll be interested. If not, then we’re comparing apples to oranges. And that makes no sense to me.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 5:11 am #

            Tim,

            There is no need to produce a sub-set of statistics for gay and lesbian people in committed monogamous relationships, since those who argue for Church to affirm same-sex relationships do not limit this affirmation to monogamy.

            As Andrew Goddard has noted ‘the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s Statement of Conviction is famously non-prescriptive. In relation to sexual behaviour it simply says, “it is entirely compatible with the Christian faith not only to love another person of the same sex but also to express that love fully in a personal sexual relationship”

            This would include, as you say, ‘a large number of people who have lived or are still living in dangerous lifestyles.. This is why Christopher’s comparison of statistical averages among LGBT and straight populations is entirely valid.

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

          Tim, you say – ‘Whether I agree with their choices or not, I am rather protective of them when other people say untrue things about them’.

          First, this illustrates what I have always said, that it is utterly hopeless to expect parents or grandparents to be objective about their own children. Consequently we should just ignore their evaluations, a discipline I am more than happy to submit to myself: I know I would be hopelessly subjective and biased on that particular topic. You may have seen the cartoon of the mischivous individual who enters a room full of mums and newborn, and opines ‘Oh! What a beautiful child.’. ‘Thankyou!’ reply all 16 grateful mothers in unison.

          McWhirter, The Gay Couple failed to find monogamy among gay couples – of course it does exist but it was surprising that the sample found none at all. It was gay couples who first defined monogamy in a loose way, and lesbians who perfected serial monogamy. Even amid the sexual revolution and even in America 3 independent studies 20 short years ago agreed that 80 percent of married people had always been faithful to their present spouse. See: What Are They Teaching The Children? (Wilberforce 2016) ch11.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

            typo ‘mischievous’

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm #

            Very well. Since you do not wish to hear from people who are actually personally impacted by the discussion, I will withdraw.

          • Andrew Godsall June 28, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

            Tim: thank you so much for your testimony here and your wonderful honesty. I’m sorry you have been subject to such awful, insensitive and unhelpful replies but please be assured how helpful your comments have been.

        • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

          Your use of the word ‘choices’ needs scrutiny. What you call choices would not even have occurred to people as options in most eras and societies. So it’s not just a matter of ‘choice’, it’s also a matter of imbibing, often uncritically, transient social norms.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

            And people only make their choice from the options that have occurred to them or been suggested to them. Which mostly means the options of their own milieu and culture.

            That is why people of other milieu and cultures can often immediately see that if only they had been aware of different real options (which in fact never occurred to them) things would have worked out more happily.

            Choice is no good unless it is informed choice. If you don’t know the options there is no sense in which you really have a choice at all.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe June 28, 2017 at 10:12 pm #

          Tim (and Jonathan) thank you. I have tried very hard not to comment here being aware of how abortive and abusive such engagement can be.
          However, I am once again appalled (or should I say especially appalled) by the comments in response to Tim’s gracious and open discourse about his family. Each disclosure had been greeted by ideological and vicious responses. Perhaps heterosexual adoptive families would have evinced such reactions. Perhaps not. But, blended families are not a creation of contemporary society: what about Jesus; what about Jacob?
          Christopher is a prisoner of the ideology which he disclaims.
          David thinks case law reveals God’s law.
          Will believes that the Bible is clear on homosexuality and marriage: two concepts which were alien to or very different in the ANE.
          All think that it is acceptable to traduce a brother’s faithful testimony.
          Ian, as moderator, does nothing.
          I am ashamed.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

            Tim, what on earth do you mean when you say that the people in question have only been allowed dangerous lifestyles till recently? Can you name a single person who would wish for them to have dangerous lifestyles? And yet you are talking as though everyone (rather than no-one) is assigning to them such lifestyles.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:24 pm #

            And all the above-names want the children to have the bare minimum that should be every child’s right.

            And not to be robbed of it because people are bowing down to the sexual revolution that should be extirpated not worshipped.

          • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

            typo ‘above-named’

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 5:45 am #

            Penelope,

            My comments here are just paying due regard to the context of this discussion: the Church of England, which is a church by law established.

            So, enough of your false accusation that I think case law reveals God’s law.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

            Penelope,

            My argument is that your ‘laissez-faire’ approach is just a fantasy. And I’m sure that the eventual outcome of this so-called ‘good disagreement’ will bear a striking similarity (hence the use of ‘like’) to the debacle over Philip North’s episcopal appointment.

            To paraphrase how one commentator might respond in such a future: ‘Bishop [insert name of bishop supporting traditional marriage here] has to accept the legal reality of same-sex marriages, but he doesn’t accept their validity…This is quite different from a Parish which can opt out of affirming SSM. A whole diocese can’t.

            https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/agreeing-to-disagree-in-sheffield/#comment-344287

            Also, I’m not aware of the criteria for appointment to the BRGS or the recently formed Pastoral Advisory Group. However, I well remember one of Andrew Goddard’s posts to this blog, “Equal marriage”: Is There A New Christian Ethic for Sex and Marriage?

            It provided Savi Hensman, an Inclusive Church trustee, with an opportunity to explain, in comparison to the LGCM’s non-prescriptive Statement of Conviction, how the traditional ethic (i.e. sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively) should be adapted for same-sex marriages.

            Here was her reply: ‘Diverse theological views exist among heterosexual as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians about the proper place for sex. Indeed a few of us may believe (as was common in mediaeval times and in Scotland until comparatively recently) that marriage does not necessarily involve a ceremony – intimacy may involve implicit promises of exclusivity and lifelong commitment.

            Moreover there are different views about whether one’s spouse need be Christian (Asian Christian perspectives might be relevant here since these have required revisiting the Bible and tradition in contexts where Christians are a minority).

            People these days are also often reluctant to be judgmental and sometimes this is no bad thing when none of us can fully know others’ circumstances. But certainly some LGBT people hold to the ethic set out by Jeffrey John in ‘Permanent, faithful, stable’.

            When a trustee representing such a high-profile religious LGBT advocacy organisation obfuscates on the issue confining sex within marriage for any orientation, it should be no wonder that they’re not nominated to the Church’s working groups.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 6:20 pm #

            David, I can’t see what was obfuscatory about Savi’s remarks. Quite a few ‘revisionists’ would agree with JJ’s ethic in PFS. And, indeed, the church for many centuries did not see the need for a ceremony to recognise a partnership as a marriage. The couple themselves are the ministers of the sacrament. There is nothing laissez faire about these views, although you and Sam A. may disagree with some of them. In any case, Savi is not the only representative of affirming groups.

            I believe firmly in the ‘no conversation about us, without us principle’. The CoE would hardly set up a BAME groups without any BAME representation. It is entirely proper, therefore that Living Out and its beliefs are represented. It is appalling, after a call for radical inclusion by the ABC, that no-one from one of the affirming groups is represented.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

            Penelope,

            You note that quite a few ‘revisionists’ would agree with JJ’s ethic in PFS, but, Savi’s response, as a representative for a high-profile affirming group, demonstrates no commitment to upholding, as a common principle, that: ‘sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.’

            This is all too reminiscent of the excerpt from Changing Attitudes’ Sexual Ethics – A Report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Working Group:

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

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

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

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

            Neither Changing Attitudes, nor LGCM has ever distanced themselves from this permissive view of ‘special circumstances’ casual sex.

            So, is it any wonder that the Church views with suspicion the aims and objectives of those who support this kind of licence as part of the LGBTI agenda?

            Radical inclusion does not have to countenance the notion that ‘brief sexual engagement between mature adults’ should be deemed loving or that ‘in special circumstances’ they can be occasions of grace.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 30, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

            David

            Perhaps I am being particularly stupid but I can see nothing in Savi’s comments (as cited) which indicate a departure from ‘sexual intercourse…belongs properly within marriage exclusively’.

            The excerpt from CA, which you quoted on an earlier blog – which I just happened to be reading yesterday – was, as I’m sure you know written some time ago by (I think) someone who no longer has formal links with 1B1F. Be that as it may, there are no doubt people in the affirming groups who would agree with that, just as others will disagree and hold a more ‘traditional’ sexual ethic. I am sure that conservatives disagree on sexual ethics too. For example, I don’t think Christopher approves of either divorce or contraception, and this will, I think, put him in a minority here.

            In any case, why does the Church view these beliefs with suspicion. Are the Bishops so afraid that they must surround themselves with people who are all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’? This doesn’t seem to worry them when they are dealing with other social and ethical issues. And why should doctrinal difference scare them? There must be those who hold widely different views on the Eucharis, for example, whenever they get together.

            But perhaps you think that only people, like Sam Allberry who will not challenge the perceived status quo, should be included in the inner circles. Not a very god example of radical inclusion and not a very good augury for a teaching document that we hope will do more than patch together the threadbare remains of Issues in Human Sexuality – a shabby little pamphlet.
            Miranda Threlfall Holmes wrote a very good blog after the Bishops’ Report in January. (Ian blogged on it, you may remember.) She made some excellent points about marriage and the people to whom she ministers. I quote:

            Stop talking about sex outside marriage being inherently sinful. Celebrate it as the gift it is, as something that can lead to a deepening of relationship and may in time lead to marriage/committed relationship. Recognise that virtually every heterosexual couple we marry has been living together for years. They do not see this as sinful. If you talk about it as such, they will stop listening and assume that the rest of what you have to say is irrelevant too.

            2. Understand that these couples – ie, virtually everyone that gets married – see their marriage as the ‘crown upon the head’ of their relationship – it is because of the quality of their relationship that they want to marry, not the other way around. Marriage isn’t primarily creating something new, it is celebrating what already exists.

            3. Admit that most of our morality surrounding marriage is historically to do with controlling conception, the possession of women, and inheritance of property. Take seriously the difference that first the legal changes to the status of women (from the nineteenth century), and more recently the widespread availability of safe contraception (coupled with the decrease in infant and maternal mortality) have had.

            4. Recognise that perceptions, images and understandings of marriage are historically, geographically and socially context-bound and changeable. Take academic advice on this, and learn from it. I still shudder when I remember the fiasco the Church centrally made of Linda Woodhead’s point that the arguments used against equal marriage were near-identical to those used against the Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill. She was right. She quoted from Hansard. The church completely ignored her and simply denied what she was saying, in a way reminiscent of the ‘alternative facts’ debacle last week.

            5. Stop talking about ‘biblical marriage’ and be honest about the mess that so many of the Biblical characters make of their marriages, the many different forms of relationship that that title is used for, and the variety of sexual moralities that the Bible reflects from its several thousand year history.

            6. Then you can start talking about when sex IS sinful. At the moment, the mantra of ‘sex is bad unless in a heterosexual marriage’ is stopping us saying or being heard to say anything constructive about the full spectrum of sexual abuse, addiction, degrees of and uses of porn, marital rape/coercion, what happens when sex dies off but one of you still wants it, viagra, etc, etc, etc. The only decent thing written on this recently was the preamble to the Pilling report by Jessica Martin, but that was largely buried due to being attached to Pilling.

            7. Be very, very careful about what you say about gender. There has been a worrying tendency in recent years for statements about equal marriage or same sex relationships to parrot the line ‘one man and one woman’, and go on to emphasis that this is about complementarity or some such post-hoc justification, without (at least, I hope it wasn’t deliberate) thinking about what statements about men and women and gender relations are being accidentally made in the heat of trying to fend off the same sex ‘issue’. The two are linked – and they are linked because of this.

            Until this is discussed maturely, theologically, honestly, and without fear, and with proper representation from theologians, biblical scholars gay , trans, intersex people on all ‘sides’, the Bishops haven’t a hope of producing a teaching document which is theologically robust and which will command respect.

          • Simon June 30, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

            Penelope – thank you for the courage of your convictions and the clarity with which you always write. I do enjoy reading your contributions, even if we are often far apart theologically, because you say what you think and have thought deeply about, and don’t tip-toe around. I think your comment above “Stop talking about sex outside marriage being inherently sinful. Celebrate it as the gift it is…” really gets to the heart of the matter facing the CofE: what is the gift of sex God has given and when is it blessed and when might it be sinful? Most conservative traditionalists would say it is a blessed gift for marriage between a man and a woman. Most liberal revisionists might say it is a blessing in and of itself and extend its enjoyment to any and many as long as its not in an abusive context. Who decides and how do we decide what is or when is sex a sin? What is the basis for the claim that sex is sinful outside marriage or that sex is a gift of God to be widely enjoyed, married or not? Risking serious over-simplification, Conservative traditionalists have generally appealed to God speaking through Scripture and history of Tradition – Liberal revisionists appeal to God’s spirit speaking through cultural norms or as your comment, a couple’s subjective feeling that it isn’t sinful…. And this of course is the great divide in the SSM debate – what is blessed of God and what is a sin? Who decides what God blesses and on what basis? Are there moral absolutes, on what basis can we arbitrate? Elsewhere on this thread I have mused about whether we can walk together for much longer because we are poles apart. For what one group regards as a sin against God, the other perceives as a gift of God. One group calls for repentance on an act which another calls for blessing on. Neither group will relinquish their position because they are committed to their alternative authority sources and both posit divine sanction to these and both are in polarity. Kyrie eleison

          • Will Jones July 1, 2017 at 7:35 am #

            Simon, the restriction of sex to marriage is a precept of the natural moral law. This is why it is common across many cultures. It is not peculiar to the Bible, and Christian arguments for it historically have always been grounded in the natural moral law. It is based principally on the inherent connection between sex and procreation, both in practice and in the natural created order. It is to protect children, women, paternity and family lineage, and society as a whole. It is also supported by the risks and negative consequences (moral, social, psychological, physical) of sexual promiscuity, and by the moral concepts of purity and fidelity. It isn’t merely a matter of fideistic appeals to scriptural or divine authority and never has been.

          • Simon July 1, 2017 at 8:56 am #

            Thanks Will – I agree. I think my moral framework drawn from scripture and divine authority are not fideistic appeals built on a positivism of special revelation but shown to cohere with what is accessed to reason by many cultures through the universal moral law. But if there was any doubt or discrepancy I would always plump for scripture first 🙂 However, the fact is, Penelope doesn’t read Scripture as I do or Nature as you do, and her tradition appeal to an extra authority source, that of God in the drive of history and culture which trumps Scripture and moral law. Penelope’s conclusions on these ethical issues are diametric to mine. I think the debate is done with. And we cannot be reconciled intellectually, theologically. My interest then is what is to be done now. The CofE are desperately trying to hold us together, make us shake hands and play nice, whilst incrementally accommodating to the revisionist position. But so profound is the disagreement over Authority, Revelation, doctrine, God, creation, salvation, sin, the good – that I no longer think we can live together under the same roof. I am asking Penelope where we she thinks we go from here, because I read her as a clear and robust voice for the revisionist case. She knows we profoundly disagree – and she knows we cannot be made to agree except for a miracle (which would look like one side totally changing its mind and conviction). So I am interested to know what Penelope and her spiritual/intellectual community want. How does she see this going forward? Two integrities? Alternative Episcopacies? Or legal separation?

          • David Shepherd July 1, 2017 at 10:19 am #

            Penelope,
            You wrote: ’ I can see nothing in Savi’s comments (as cited) which indicate a departure from sexual intercourse…belongs properly within marriage exclusively’.

            I actually used the phrase ‘demonstrates no commitment’ to describe her reply, That does not have to manifest itself as an overt departure. Andrew Goddard’s post issued a call, with the enactment of same-sex marriage, for the whole Church to endorse the extension of this sexual ethic to encompass all orientations.

            Instead of affirming this as a common principle, in her representative organisational role, Savi preferred to remind us of breadth of theological views on the subject:
            a) that a few people believe that sexual intimacy may by itself imply permanent monogamy without the requirement to solemnise vows publicly (well, we knew that)
            b) that (contrary to 1 Cor. 7:39 and 2 Cor. 6:14), there’s are different views on whether Christians should marry in the faith (and we also knew that)
            c) that some hold to the ethic enunciated by Jeffrey John in ‘Permanent, Faithful, Stable’ (and guess what?…Yep, we knew that too)

            You also wrote: ’ In any case, why does the Church view these beliefs with suspicion. Are the Bishops so afraid that they must surround themselves with people who are all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’?’

            If Christ is the prime example of radical inclusion, He certainly didn’t countenance every shade of belief and opinion any more than we should. He bluntly expressed his estimation of Samaritan religious belief: ’You worship you know not what for salvation is of the Jews’

            In fact, as you’ve done, it’s all too easy to label any aversion towards heterodoxy as a phobia.

            However, there are entirely rational aversions, which an amateur diagnosis will fail to distinguish. So, similarly, there are, no doubt, far-right supporters who think the same of the 2014 HoB vote which made it a potential disciplinary offence for clergy to join the BNP or National Front, but rejecting right-wing fascism is not a phobia.

            Regarding Changing Attitude’s Sexual Ethics – A Report of the Lesbian and Gay Clergy Consultation Working Group, the cessation of formal links with the person responsible for the excerpt does not absolve the organisation which commissioned the paper and published its findings.

            Furthermore, it would be easy for representatives of 1B1F to repudiate the permissive view of ‘special circumstances’ casual sex, but they never have.

            So, while these organisations can affirm unequivocally sexuality causes (and despite your mention of the diversity of opinion among their members), they simply refuse to affirm unequivocally that marriage is the proper place for sexual intercourse.

            And it shows breath-taking bias to pass judgment on Issues in Human Sexuality as a ’shabby little pamphlet, while exempting the Changing Attitude paper from similar censure. Yet, to paraphrase Mandy Rice Davies’ riposte: ‘Well you would, wouldn’t you?’

            Miranda Threlfall Holmes’ piece was a political reaction to a specific obstacle described in the BRGS Report: ‘Sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of God’s purposes for human beings’

            As the Report further explained: If that remains the Church of England’s teaching, then a service which *sanctioned or condoned* such a sexual relationship would not meet the requirement that a service must “edify the people” and would probably also be contrary to, or indicative of a departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in an essential matter.

            So, MTH’s piece, which urged the Church to abandon its traditional opposition to sex outside of marriage, was motivated by the knowledge that unless the proposed Teaching Document provides a theological departure from Church’s current disapproval of all sexual relationships outside of marriage, it will remain impossible to publicly affirm same-sex sexual relationships.

            MTH’s rant, which you echo verbatim, provides no explanation of the public purpose of marriage, which is to bestow certainty and congruence of family and parental responsibility. In terms of the rights conferred by marriage, even the European Court of Human Rights recognises that ‘marriage is geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood.

            In an earlier comment, I highlighted the disastrous incongruences in Canadian family law, which are specifically attributable to the introduction of same-sex marriage.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe July 1, 2017 at 11:29 am #

            David

            I am at a loss to see how a, b, or c demonstrates no commitment to faithful monogamous marriage. They all do.

            I didn’t say that the Church should countenance every shade of belief, simply that it would do well – in a major teaching document – to attend to the views of faithful Christians such as MTH. I note that you dismiss her contribution as a ‘rant’, a term you never seem to use for the more intemperate blogs and comments made by ‘conservatives’. (I didn’t echo it verbatim, BTW, I cited it, at some length, as you have often quoted material in your comments.)

            I also do not see the connection, which you claim MTH makes, between abandoning the Church’s current teaching on marriage and the affirmation of same-sex relationships. The vast majority of those lobbying for SSM in church, want God’s blessing on their relationships; wants the CoE to recognise (as does the law of the land) that their marriages are as licit as other-sex marriages. The irony is that the campaign for SSM is, essentially, conservative. Gay couples want God’s blessing on their relationships. (Whys they want to join a patriarchal institution, I am not sure. But, then, I am married too. So, perhaps, we are not always rational!)

            Which brings me to the CA statement. Echoing MTH’s blog, I think the time has come for a conversation on whether marriage is the only proper place for sexual intercourse. Your own comments on marriage law demonstrate that one its major roles has been to safeguard paternity/legitimacy. This is surely one of the prime reasons for the valorisation of marriage in most societies.. However, the introduction of safe, reliable contraception has weakened that particular link, as the CoE has, itself, recognised. Let me make it perfectly clear here, I am not advocating change in the Church’s position, I am simply saying that it is naïve and foolish not to consider the historical exigencies of marriage and not to ask whether these are eternal verities.
            I might also add that disastrous incongruences in law are surely the result of bad law.

            Lastly, I find it interesting that you describe Miranda’s blog as a ‘rant’, whilst arguing that my views on Issues show ‘breath-taking bias’. Issues is theologically threadbare, on gender as well as sexuality. Its view of bisexuality is ignorant and it does not address trans or intersex ‘issues’. It teaches male primacy. It is shoddily written and out of date. It was never meant to be the last word on the subject, but has become a shibboleth. It is high time it was replaced. But I hope and pray that it will be replaced by something more theologically intelligent and robust.

          • David Shepherd July 1, 2017 at 4:34 pm #

            Penelope,

            You wrote: ‘I am at a loss to see how a, b, or c demonstrates no commitment to faithful monogamous marriage. They all do.

            Really? So, according to your lights, Savi’s commitment to faithful monogamous marriage is demonstrated by relaying other people’s notions of commitment being silently inferred through sexual intimacy, while dispensing with the institution of marriage. Your position makes no sense.

            In response to your statement that: ‘the Church…would do well – in a major teaching document – to attend to the views of faithful Christians such as MTH, I ask out loud: ‘faithful to what?’ Attaching the ‘faithful Christian’ label to those promoting heterodoxy doesn’t magically lend credence to their opinions, such that they shouldn’t be dismissed.

            MTH’s piece was an adverse commentary on the BRGS Report, which mostly dealt with the Church’s position on same-sex sex. Yet, in her response, instead of denouncing just the bishops’ refusal to alter canon law to accommodate same-sex couples, she further sought to rally a far broader coalition: every couple in a non-marital sexual relationship.

            Her political tactic was obvious: unleashing her ire upon the Report’s overtly described obstacle to any future solemnisation of same-sex marriages, i.e. the Church’s continuing refusal to affirm any sexual relationship outside of marriage.

            You state: I think the time has come for a conversation on whether marriage is the only proper place for sexual intercourse.Your own comments on marriage law demonstrate that one its major roles has been to safeguard paternity/legitimacy. This is surely one of the prime reasons for the valorisation of marriage in most societies. However, the introduction of safe, reliable contraception has weakened that particular link, as the CoE has, itself, recognised.

            However, neither availability of safe, reliable contraception, nor DNA testing can provide society with the non-intrusive assignment of natural kinship responsibilities which marriage facilitates. William Blackstone’s insight on the public purpose of marriage holds true today: ”The main goal and design of marriage therefore being to ascertain and fix upon some certain person, to whom the care, the protection, the maintenance, and the education of the children should belong.’

            ‘And the reason that our English law is surely far superior to that of the Romans, if we consider the principal goal and design of establishing the contract of marriage, considered in a civil light; (leaving aside any religious view, which has nothing to do with the legal recognition or non-recognition of the children) because of the very great uncertainty there will generally be, in the proof that the offspring were actually conceived through the same man; whereas, by confining the proof to the birth, and not to the conception, our law has made it completely certain, which child is legally recognised, and who is to take care of the child.’

            If we don’t want to embark on an intrusive regime of compulsory DNA testing for all children, marriage still remains the most efficient means of establishing family recognition.

            You attribute the disastrous incongruences, which I described, to bad law. True enough: the root-and-branch gender-neutralisation of an marriage which imparts gendered parental rights is bad law. The remedy is to repeal bad law, instead of endorsing it.

            Now, severas of your criticisms of ‘Issues’ are entirely valid, but I do wish that you’d apply the same level of critical scrutiny to Changing Attitude’s Sexual Ethics report and challenge 1B1F’s persistent refusal to repudiate it.

            That’s where I perceive bias, and that will never provide something more intelligent and robust than ‘Issues’.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe July 1, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

            David

            I don’t know which of the 3 you think contradicts the notion of marriage as monogamous covenantal relationship, but I suspect it is a). If this is so, it pretty much describes Christian marriage for over a millennium and Roman marriage before that.

            Heterodoxy is a puissant word. If Miranda was denying the eternal progression of the Son, or the physical resurrection of Jesus, I might think that she was heterodox. Asking about the place of sex in (faithful, or are we assuming all those couples coming forward for marriage in church) are faithless?) relationships in the 21st C is hardly heresy.

            The Bishops’ Report was on ‘Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships’ and promised a teaching document on marriage, so it was quite proper for MTH to suggest that the Working Group(s) should look afresh at marriage. You are quite a conspiracy theorist and see this as a ‘political’ act (though how destabilising other-sex marriage furthers the cause of SSM, I fail to understand). I see her as a theologian, asking theological questions.

            You are clearly an expert on marriage law and know far more than I. And yes, of course ‘marriage still remains the most efficient means of establishing family recognition’. But procreation (and the maintenance of children) are one of the goods of marriage. The question: is the unitive nature of sex, given the availability of contraception, proper only within marriage? I am not suggesting that the answer is ‘no’, only that it is a licit, theological question.

            I am sure that SSM law could be framed so that parental rights were not vitiated and the definition of adultery changed or dropped in OSMs.

            As I explained before, CA is (was) a lobby group. Lobby groups, like the Core Issues Trust and the Christian Institute, say all sorts of weird and risible things. Probably just as ‘unorthodox’ as you believe CA’s statement to be. But lobby groups are just that. They are hoping to persuade, to challenge. A Statement by the House of Bishops may, of course, be challenged, but it has an authority which the statements of lobby groups do not.

          • David Shepherd July 1, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

            Penelope,

            It demonstrate neither her own, nor Inclusive Church’s commitment to upholding, as a common principle, that: ‘sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively’ for Savi to mention merely that a few people believe that intimacy may involve ‘implicit promises of exclusivity and lifelong commitment’ while dispensing with the institution of marriage.

            In terms of heterodoxy, I was simply challenging your use of the ‘faithful Christian’ label. In attempting to invoke automatic deference, the word faithful (as in PSF) is equally puissant. Heterodoxy describes no more and no less than beliefs which are at variance with authorised liturgy, since this defines orthodox belief in the CofE ‘lex orandi, lex credendi’

            MTH is welcome to round upon any aspect of the BRGS report, but a key term of reference for the working group was: ‘To assist the House of Bishops in identifying questions in relation to human sexuality, with particular reference to same sex relationships. It will also develop possible answers to those questions for the House to consider, as a contribution to the leadership which the House provides to the Church on such issues. This specific emphasis on same sex relationships was reflected in the Report, but not in MTH’s criticism of it.

            It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to observe this disparity and venture the most probable motivation for it.

            This is better than resorting to the naive credulity by which you assert: ‘I am sure that SSM law could be framed so that parental rights were not vitiated and the definition of adultery changed or dropped in OSMs.

            Your optimism is not well-founded, since LGBT advocacy organisations are intent on ensuring that the marital presumption of parentage is amended to secure the family intentions of same-sex couples.

            Also, one of the arguments in favour of same-sex marriage was that making provision for it would not affect marriage for heterosexuals. Now, it’s a cause for concern that you suggest that, to achieve parity, the definition of adultery could be changed or dropped in OSMs.

            The relatively greater authority of the HoB does not mean that statements made by lobby groups should escape censure. If a lobby group posted an overtly homophobic or sexist statement on this blog post, I somehow doubt that it would escape your criticism.

        • Penelope Cowell Doe June 28, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

          Tim, if you are still looking at this, and why should you? Thank you for your story and for your gracious responses to egregious and highly personalised attacks. I am sorry that your story has been so traduced. God speaks to us through stories. Your attackers are ideologues not theologians. God bless you.

          • Tim Chesterton June 28, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

            Thanks Penelope. I continue to hope for a way forward, even though I’m not sure I have a correct answer to the question.

            Unlike Christopher, I think that no one should venture an opinion on this subject until they’ve sat down for hours with a Christian LGBTQ person and listened – really listened – to the story of their struggle. Until that happens, the whole discussion seems cold, uncaring, impersonal and judgemental.

            Still, I used to say the same things myself, so I can’t point any fingers.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 28, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

            I try not to point fingers, though I’m afraid I have done this evening. LGBTI stories and the biblical narrative both tell of the ‘outsider’. Who is welcomed by God’s grace. We are all aliens. Some, perhaps, don’t recognise this.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 5:30 am #

            Hi Tim,

            I suspect that, regardless of how much time is spent listening to the struggle of a Christian LGBTQ person, any outcome which falls short of conservatives abandoning their beliefs to affirm fully same-sex relationships will seem cold, uncaring, impersonal and judgemental.

            Of course, the same accusation might directed towards a revisionist, who hasn’t spent hours listening to the struggle and commitment to Church teaching on marriage of a celibate LGBTQ person.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 9:49 am #

            Many revisionists listen to the struggle of LGBT Christians with ‘unwanted SSA’. I have read Ed Shaw’s book, frequently read conservative blogs and visit the Living Out website. I honour their choices. But they are based on their own reading of scripture and tradition. No revisionist is forcing them to abandon their other sex marriages or their abstinent ‘lifestyles’. Nor should they demand that affirming LGBTI Christians abandon their principles or their marriages and CPs.
            If you think Living Out voices are marginalised, ponder this. Sam Allberry is on the Bishops’ reflection groups on human sexuality. There is no representation from 1B1F, Inclusive Church, or LGBTI Mission.

          • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 10:02 am #

            Penelope, Tim presented his story intending it as a contribution to a discussion about the right and the good. He intended it to affect rational discourse. To respond to it with rational points about the moral qualities of the situation described is not to ‘traduce’ it or to be ‘vicious’ or ‘ideological’. Indeed, I might say that to assert without qualification that ‘God speaks to us through stories’ while trying to denounce rational discourse as ‘unhelpful’ is essentially ideological.

            If anything is appalling here it is your emotive attempt to close down rational discourse by denouncing interlocutors and claiming a trump card for testimony. As a scholar, you surely can’t mean to replace rational argument with unexamined personal testimony and the denouncing of those who dare to query its content when presented.

            I note that no attempt has been made to provide rational responses to the very pertinent points of natural justice raised by David, Christopher and myself. Instead those presenting testimony as argument are simply withdrawing from rational discourse and allegations of insensitivity (or worse) are beginning to fly. Perhaps if instead of complaining about hurt feelings or of people not being willing to ‘listen to’ (i.e. not interrogate the meaning of) personal testimony rational discourse can be engaged and rational points responded to with rational argument then we will be able to make progress. Otherwise we have nothing left but sub-rational feelings and irresolvable conflict.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 10:47 am #

            I am truly sorry Will. I saw nothing ‘rational’ in your responses to Tim. Is ‘So the father either did a runner or is not bringing up his own daughter…’, a ‘rational’ comment? I think it’s a cheap and nasty attack.
            Your (plural) comments about blended families were both unkind and historically ignorant (and ‘unbiblical’). I doubt that you would reacted thus to heterosexual adoptive parents or to an other-sex couple who had used surrogacy. Though, I suspect Christopher might.

            This is not a 6th Form debating society, though it sometimes feels like one, with commentators wanting to ‘win’. This discussion concerned people’s lives and the difficult moral choices they have made. Tim was honest and vulnerable and admitted that he found it hard to see his daughter’s partnership as marriage, even though he supported her. And you claim your points were about ‘natural justice’.

            Of course, if you have a post enlightenment view of rationality, you will believe that emotion and reason are implacably opposed. I am not a dualist, so I don’t adhere to that view. Furthermore, who gets to define ‘rational argument’ and ‘unexamined personal testimony’? You, Christopher, David? I see quite a lot of ‘unexamined rational argument’ on here; a few commentators who are unware of their subjectivity and their unexamined bias.

            Don’t dismiss stories. How did the Word of God reach us? Through the stories He told and through the stories the evangelists announced about Him.

          • Christopher Shell June 29, 2017 at 11:16 am #

            Tim, you say ‘unlike Christopher’, but in fact you don’t know even to the slightest extent what I have or have not done.

          • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 11:19 am #

            If you do not believe reason should rule over the passions then you have removed yourself from the scope of rational argument, which is an untenable position for a scholar. This is not a ‘post-Enlightenment’ view. It was the view of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and all Western philosophy (except, oddly, David Hume, who thought reason was rightly the slave of the passions, a wholly paradoxical statement which uses the inherent authority of reason to attempt to undermine it).

            I don’t dismiss stories. But they must be subject to rational interrogation if they are to inform reasoned discourse. Tim may have been being vulnerable by sharing his story, but he was also using it to try to make a contribution to rational moral discourse, so it must be treated as such, and not with kid gloves. Certainly it shouldn’t be granted some kind of free pass or trump card, and protected from rational analysis.

            I won’t defend every comment on this thread. But most of the points being made were certainly rational and have not been responded to (simply calling them ‘historically ignorant’ and ‘unbiblical’ is not by itself an argument). They are crucial points of moral import in this whole debate.

          • Christopher Shell June 29, 2017 at 11:21 am #

            Penelope, there is certainly a serious issue if you are against the winning of arguments.

            What then is the point of debating at all?

            It certainly does not matter at all which individual wins…

            …though it has to be said that the quality of argument will greatly improve if each person tries their best to do so.

            But it does matter utterly that we find which *argument* wins the day.

            Those whose positions do not bear scrutiny and exposure to the evidence absolutely love the situation where there are no winners or losers. It means that their ideological wishful-thinking private-benefit or peer-group benefit ‘points of view’ can continue to be regardede as valid.

            If there are no winners or losers then nothing is more true than anything else. What could be odder than that?

            That is as far as it is possible to be from the nature of reality. For everything that is true there are infinite things that are false.

          • Mat Sheffield June 29, 2017 at 11:39 am #

            “If you do not believe reason should rule over the passions then you have removed yourself from the scope of rational argument, which is an untenable position for a scholar.”

            1. That I am aware of, Penelope has never claimed to be a scholar.
            2. Reason controls and directs passion, it does not “rule over” or invalidate it.
            3. I am pleased that you “..don’t dismiss stories”, but subjecting them to open and frank discussion is a very different thing from what you seem to mean, and I am not sure the word “interrogation” was the most helpful one you could have used. That implies a superior authority on your part, rather than an equality.

            As I said in my comment right at the bottom of this thread, I think your questions are valid and need answering, but a one line “where are the children’s father(s)?”, without caveat or explanation, as the opening question, seems to have been asked with the express intention of causing offense.

          • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

            Hi Mat. No, certainly no intention of offence. Just trying to cut to the main point not addressed in the story. I could have added more to soften the question, and that perhaps may have been wise. But since Tim writes a blog I assumed that he was used to robust discourse, and indeed that he was used to presenting his personal story as part of reasoned argument, so hazarded that it wouldn’t be necessary.

            My definition of control and direct is the same as rule over, so I think we agree. I agree it doesn’t invalidate it – to control/direct/rule over is not to invalidate.

            By interrogate I just meant subject to questioning. No superiority assumed.

            Sorry if my motives came across as poor!

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

            Actually Matt, to be fair, I have. I just don’t believe in the concept of disinterested scholarship.

          • Mat Sheffield June 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

            Then I happily stand corrected.

            My complaint here was pretty minor anyway, which Will acknowledges. I.e, that even if not explicitly meant as offense a person has a duty (in line with the conventions of rational discourse) to not set out with the deliberate aim of causing harm to a person’s integrity, or to provoke anger, unless they give you explicit cause to do so.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

            Will. I don’t believe it’s scholarly to assert that reason should rule over passions (actually, I said emotions). Neither should rule the other, or be a ‘slave’ of the other They should join in critical engagement. To assert that critical engagement is uninfluenced by emotion is to deny reality. No scholar is entirely disinterested.

            My comment was also that much of the interrogation of Tim’s evidence simply wasn’t rational but emotional and bordering on the abusive.

            I called the comments about blended families historically ignorant and unbiblical because they implied that such arrangements are a modern invention. Which is nonsense. Look at Jacob, Rachel, Leah and the handmaidens, and all their children.. A fine example of surrogacy and blended families.

            Again, what do you mean by rational interrogation of stories? Is the resurrection ‘rational’?
            And who decides what is rational analysis and what is emotional? Aren’t these value laden-terms? Or is it an irregular verb: I’m rational, you’re emotional, she’s unhinged?

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 2:59 pm #

            Penelope,

            You may well honour the choices of Ed Shaw and members of Living Out! You might even agree with the CofE, when it declares a commitment to: ‘ enabling them to flourish within its life and structure.’

            We all know that the commitment will end with a hue and cry over the nomination of a traditionalist bishop (like Philip North) who refuses to affirm PSF same-sex sexual relationships.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

            David. You haven’t addressed my point about Sam Allberry. And we both know that the objections to Philip North’s preferment had nothing to do with his views on SSM.

          • Christopher Shell July 1, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

            Penelope

            Do you believe that everyone is precisely **equally** unable to be disinterested?

            Or are some more able in this regard than other:
            more self-critical,
            more making allowances for bias,
            less concerned with their own preferences in the first place,
            more able to distinguish their own preferences from the scholarly task,
            abhorring dishonesty and partiality?

            If you agree that these 5 listed abilities exist then cannot they too exist to vastly differing degrees?

            Consequently, your idea that no scholarship can be disinterested (is this based on evidence? or on one person’s perception of their own experience?) is too vague. If there are many many different degrees to which it cannot be disinterested, then it follows that there are also many many different degrees to which it *can* be disinterested. These are just 2 sides of the same coin. But it gives a real-world realistic picture rather than an unrealistically 100% negative (or despairing) picture.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe July 1, 2017 at 3:10 pm #

            Christopher

            I find it neither negative nor ‘despairing’ that no scholar is entirely disinterested. It is merely a result of living in cultures and circumstances and contexts which influence out thinking and our reactions.

            Some scholars are more aware of their own context and privilege; for others is remains unexamined. I am a little surprised that you did not respond to Nick’s comment on your own predilection for not recognising the other’s point of view.

            But, perhaps you have. These threads are getting very long

          • Will Jones July 1, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

            Penelope – do you agree that scholars can identify their biases and can and should minimise them, as part of maintaining professional standards of scholarship?

            Can you give a couple of examples of scholarship that you consider to have been legitimately influenced by the scholar’s own biases so I can understand better what it is you’re defending?

            Thanks.

          • Will Jones July 2, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

            Penelope, I’m genuinely interested in your answers to these questions if you’re willing to answer them as I’m trying to understand your position on objectivity and bias. Thanks.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe July 3, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

            Hi Will

            Yes, I do think scholars can become more self aware about their privilege and implicit assumptions. I wrote a piece on self reflexivety to try to identify my own assumptions and prejudices. But, even if we are aware of our own culture and context, we are still unable to distance ourselves completely from our ‘identities’.

            Two examples, though I’m away from sources, so I’m a bit vague on citations. Neither about sex!
            James Dunn on John 6 saying that the bread is clearly a memorial, i.e. no sense that this passage is about the ‘real presence’. Jesus *is* the bread of life.
            Gordon Fee’s Commentry on 1 Corinthians claiming that there is no sense of the ‘magical’ in the NT, when Paul has just taught that those who do not partake of the Eucharist worthily have become weak and died, 11.30.

            Both seem to me to show a Protestant bias in their commentaries: their Paul and John (in these particular instances) have the outlook of 20thC Protestants rather than 1stC Jews.

          • Will Jones July 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

            Thanks that’s helpful.

  11. Ian H June 26, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

    A letter to the Church Times last week (24June) illustrates the problem:

    ‘A mature understanding of the bible, being aware of its pre-scientific context and origins, and interpreting it in relation to the culture of today, leads many to a more progressive, more liberal, expression of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.’ Paul Brett

    I’m almost lost for words that anyone would put that in print with their name attached.

  12. Greg. Moss June 26, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    Have you read Glynn Harrison’s book ‘A Better Story’? It touches on some similar issues, particularly that of standing up for orthodoxy.

  13. Don Benson June 26, 2017 at 9:03 pm #

    Ian, this is a very succinct and pertinent article.

    What is clear also is that each one of the problems which needs a miracle if it is to be solved comes from within the Church of England itself. You might say that it is Christians from within our church who are threatening its survival as a living, faithful witness to Jesus Christ; and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Whether it’s Aggression (against other Christians) or Abuse (mishandling of) or Articulation (absence of), these things should not be problems in faithful spiritually alive churches. This should be particularly so in a church which has such a clear and longstanding body of doctrine which is grounded in Biblical revelation and teaching.

    It may not go down well here, but I suspect that a major source of failure has its root in our cathedrals and theological colleges. These are places where church politics are machinated and people destined for high office are educated and advanced; beautiful buildings, exquisite music, rich liturgy, academic excellence and creativity can perhaps too easily become a substitute for sincere personal faith and simple obedience to the man of Galilee. None of these things are bad, but they carry the temptation which all riches carry: pride in and reliance on something other than the grace of God. So, even in the name of service to God, it is possible to lose sight of him and to place your energy and interest in things which offer a different narrative from faith in him and obedience to his word.

    If we think that this is so (many may disagree) we might well expect a divide to arise between the political head and the parish body of our church. Our clergy at parish level may also be divided between those whose interest is the true mission of the church and those for whom it is not. And in such a divide we should expect all manner of diversions, tribal alignments and disagreements to erupt. If we believe in the Devil we would expect him to stir up disputes; we would also expect his sure-fire question ‘did God really say…?’ to be employed to good effect. We would expect to see angry disputes, personal battles, false doctrines, lack of integrity and failure of bishops to articulate confidence in orthodox teaching; things could hardly be expected to be other than exactly what we are now suffering. And confusion surrounding sexuality is simply today’s manifestation.

    So while we fight this battle and pray for the necessary miracles to bring it to an end, we might do well also to attempt at least to discern its root cause (my observations here might be entirely misplaced?). Because if God does spare this church from what many of us may fear is to come, we will owe it to him to repent and rebuild it so that it is more in keeping with the faithful army of true believers that he surely wishes it to be.

  14. Philip Evans June 26, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    I would be interested to know if the Royal College of Psychiatrists (or its Spirituality SIG) supports Jayne Ozanne’s writing her paper with its logo at its head.

  15. David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 12:26 am #

    In GS2070A, Jayne Ozanne refers to the 2009 American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic responses to Sexual Orientation as the ‘most notable’ evidence that conversion therapy has the potential to cause harm.

    She quotes from the study: ‘Given the limited amount of methodologically sound research, claims that recent Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) is effective are not supported…..the results of scientifically valid research indicate that is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE.’

    The Royal College of Psychiatry also referred to this study, when, in 2024, the professional body explained: ‘The College believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Systematic reviews carried out by both the APA and Serovich et al suggest that studies which have shown conversion therapies to be successful are seriously methodologically flawed.

    So, let’s see what the widely referenced study actually states.

    1. sexual orientation identity can be distinguished from sexual orientation and the American Psychological Association, whose study she cites, also describes the former as exhibiting fluidity:

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

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

    2. Ozanne indicates that sexual orientation identity is the focus of conversion therapy, when she writes: ‘5. However, as the sexual orientation of an individual is based on their sexual attraction or innate desire – which medical professionals agree cannot be changed – conversion therapy looks instead to focus on changing a person’s sexual behaviour and sense of identity.

    In contrast with conversion therapy, she states:
    ’11. Whilst questions around sexuality and identity can be difficult and challenging, the medical profession deems it irresponsible and damaging to try to change sexual orientation. Instead they believe that the correct course of action is to provide gay affirmative therapy.

    Yet, the APA’s position is in stark contrast with her declaration that the medical consensus in favour of gay affirmative therapy. The paper, from which she quotes, also states:
    ‘We define an affirmative approach as supportive of clients’ identity development without a priori treatment goals for how clients identify or express their sexual orientations. Thus, a multiculturally competent affirmative approach aspires to understand the diverse personal and cultural in uences on clients and enables clients to determine (a) the ultimate goals for their identity process; (b) the behavioral expression of their sexual orientation; (c) their public and private social roles; (d) their gender roles, identities, and expression; (e) the sex and gender of their partner; and (f) the forms of their relationships.’

    Perhaps, Ozanne can explain how her belief that the medical profession believe in gay affirmative therapy is completely at odds with the APA abandoning such a priori goals as gay affirmation in the very study which she describes as ‘the most notable’ scientific evidence underpinning her position.

    This motion will be show-trial of conservative evangelical theology. It will give ABC the impetus he needs to abandon such traditional moorings and set a new course to impose the amalgamation of heterodoxy with watered-down orthodoxy

    Ozanne’s ‘evidence’ will be merely a side-show to the main event: LGBT clergy and laity bravely sharing their harrowing stories of conversion therapy abuse. Fearing widespread backlash, most conservatives will sit in stunned silence, apart from the few who feel called upon to beat their breasts and recite mea culpa apologetically, as charge upon charge is laid at the traditionalist door.

    • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 12:28 am #

      CORRECTION: 3rd paragraph should begin:
      The Royal College of Psychiatry also referred to this study, when, in 2014

  16. David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    Also, if you had any doubts about which evangelicals are being targeted by Ozanne’s denunciation, have a read of her article posted on the Royal College of Psychiatry web-site:
    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/jayneozannespiritualabusethenextgreatscandalforthechurch.pdf.

    She’s even got the Guardian to take up her story: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/23/gay-activist-claims-spiritually-abused-church

    In a paper, which is remarkably lacking in references to academic research, she writes:
    The Group Model of Spiritual Abuse
    This is a far subtler – albeit unconscious – form of control compared to the ‘Individual Leader Model’, and is mostly due to the formation of a group dynamic that is unique to certain types of churches and network groups.

    Much of this is driven by the ‘spiritual atmosphere’ that is created during the teaching and worship times, and especially the prayer ministry sessions. An emotionally safe and open ‘spiritual space’ is established by a mix of factors, which include the choice of worship songs, a modern open-plan worship space and a laidback approach to dress codes. Surrounded by a large number of like-minded people (often in their thousands), worshippers are frequently encouraged to overcome their inhibitions and raise their hands and/or dance. The impact of this is that a group norm is created, where people are led to feel that whatever happens during prayer ministry must be both normal and spiritual. Such sessions are overseen by leaders who have a powerful air of authority. This makes it very difficult for people to question or show concern about what is happening, and can feel akin to ‘pressure selling’ where individuals feel obliged to comply. Dissenters who do not conform to the group norm (such as LGBTI Christians, divorcees and single parents) are frequently viewed as lacking in faith or spiritual maturity, and are often subsequently viewed with caution and scepticism.

    A key common group dynamic is the church’s attitude to the Holy Spirit, particularly the belief in the importance of being baptised in the Holy Spirit. This forms the core part of the now global Alpha Course, where in Week 9 of the 10-week programme people are invited to attend a Holy Spirit weekend in order to be ‘baptised in the Spirit’

    Of course, Ozanne knows that, if this large group dynamic is prone to cause abuse, we may as well ban Gay Pride parades for same suspicion of any situation in which ‘a large number of like-minded people (often in their thousands),…are frequently encouraged to overcome their inhibitions and raise their hands and/or dance’.

    But then again, I guess it’s okay for her when that large gathering supports her cause, so that, far from abusive, she’d probably deem it to be a wholesome and liberating expression of their common LGBT identity.

    I mean, what’s her remedy for church’s attitude to the Holy Spirit? Excising Him from the creed? RestrictIng the size of evangelical congregations so that they are less intimidating? Banning glossolalia?

    Make no mistake: GS2070A is Ozanne’s loaded sniper rifle and the likes of Holy Trinity Brompton are firmly in its cross-hairs.

    If I was on Synod, I’d so challenge her on PR abuse, where the channels of mass communication are exploited in order to encourage widespread vilification of specific sections of the church or society.

  17. David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 9:48 am #

    Also, if you had any doubts about which evangelicals are being targeted by Ozanne’s denunciation, have a read of her article posted on the Royal College of Psychiatry web-site:
    http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/jayneozannespiritualabusethenextgreatscandalforthechurch.pdf.

    She’s even got the Guardian to take up her story.

    In a paper, which is remarkably lacking in references to academic research, she writes:
    The Group Model of Spiritual Abuse
    This is a far subtler – albeit unconscious – form of control compared to the ‘Individual Leader Model’, and is mostly due to the formation of a group dynamic that is unique to certain types of churches and network groups.

    Much of this is driven by the ‘spiritual atmosphere’ that is created during the teaching and worship times, and especially the prayer ministry sessions. An emotionally safe and open ‘spiritual space’ is established by a mix of factors, which include the choice of worship songs, a modern open-plan worship space and a laidback approach to dress codes. Surrounded by a large number of like-minded people (often in their thousands), worshippers are frequently encouraged to overcome their inhibitions and raise their hands and/or dance. The impact of this is that a group norm is created, where people are led to feel that whatever happens during prayer ministry must be both normal and spiritual. Such sessions are overseen by leaders who have a powerful air of authority. This makes it very difficult for people to question or show concern about what is happening, and can feel akin to ‘pressure selling’ where individuals feel obliged to comply. Dissenters who do not conform to the group norm (such as LGBTI Christians, divorcees and single parents) are frequently viewed as lacking in faith or spiritual maturity, and are often subsequently viewed with caution and scepticism.

    A key common group dynamic is the church’s attitude to the Holy Spirit, particularly the belief in the importance of being baptised in the Holy Spirit. This forms the core part of the now global Alpha Course, where in Week 9 of the 10-week programme people are invited to attend a Holy Spirit weekend in order to be ‘baptised in the Spirit’

    Of course, Ozanne knows that, if this group dynamic amounts to abuse, we may as well shut down Gay Pride parades for same fear of an environment in which ‘a large number of like-minded people (often in their thousands),…are frequently encouraged to overcome their inhibitions and raise their hands and/or dance’.

    But then again, I guess it’s okay for her when a large gathering advances her cause, so that, far from abusive, she’d probably deem it to be a wholesome and liberating expression of shared identity.

    I mean, what’s her remedy for a church’s attitude to the Holy Spirit? Excising Him from the creed? RestrictIng the size of evangelical congregations so that they are less intimidating? Banning glossolalia?

    Make no mistake: GS2070A is Ozanne’s loaded sniper rifle and the likes of Holy Trinity Brompton, which promote the Alpha course approach, are firmly in its cross-hairs.

    • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 9:51 am #

      You can read the Guardian article here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/23/gay-activist-claims-spiritually-abused-church

    • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 10:22 am #

      Words fail me. She is essentially criticising the whole concept of group culture and dynamics, and the benefits of community in shaping character. Or at least if they don’t conform to her view of the world (though she doesn’t seem to make that distinction).

      She is also criticising the whole charismatic approach to worship. Not exactly respectful of different traditions within the church! Or of orthodox Christian teaching on the matter.

  18. John Telford June 27, 2017 at 10:05 am #

    Thanks, Ian. This is a very helpful piece which delineates the strands of attack upon the church.

    What baffles me is that Jayne Ozanne who, only last year, was calling for “Good Disagreement,” so that people of different persuasions could coexist within the CofE, is now claiming that those who do disagree with her are spiritually abusive.

    Jayne, I’m sure you’ll read this, I’d honestly love to know why you’ve changed your mind so radically, vociferously and incredibly quickly on Good Disagreement. It was a central plank in your argument only 12 or so months ago.

    • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

      The naming of via media looks tactical to me.

      Those involved in it are not by any stretch of the imagination occupiers of the middle ground.

      However, if they can get it to be perceived that their position is the middle ground they will have succeeded in moving the ground in their direction.

      *If* that was what happened, it is manipulative and dishonest.

  19. Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Jayne Ozanne in her response to Dermot O’Callaghan thinks she can bypass the normal process of scrutiny and attention to the academic findings.

    What gives her that right? None of the rest of us has that right.

    Plus, we are too honest to wish to exercise it even if we had it. It would be detrimental to truth if we exercised it, therefore we have no appetite for exercising it.

    The same applies to her censoring various contributors to via media. All we wish to do is present the academic findings. That is normally the main thing that would be welcomed and would be central to the debating process.

    By far the simplest would be to complile a list of debate-avoidance.
    Both William Lane Craig and abort67 in 2012.
    Brownson and Vines avoiding ML Brown and James White.
    My being escorted out of Deans Yard in Feb 2016 at the instruction of someone who did not even know whether I had quoted one paper or many, nor what those papers were, nor what they said nor concluded. (The person said that the papers in toto were ‘tosh’. Not that they knew what those papers were.)
    David Shepherd and myself and perhaps others being barred from thinkinganglicans (and/or via media).
    David Ison and Alan Wilson failing to respond to numerous points.

    It is not common or justifiable practice to exclude academic evidence or qualified people from debate.

    It is obvious that the main reason debate is being avoided is that people do not think they can win.

    If people think it is wrong to name and shame, think how much more wrong the alternative is: thinking that one is above contradiction, while failing to extend that privilege to others.

    • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

      Christopher,

      You ask: ‘What gives her that right? None of the rest of us has that right.

      There is not a right, but there are many in Synod who will accord her (and those whom she claims to represent) the privilege of superior victimhood, which, in political circles, trumps any rational argument.

      And that’s how Dermot O’Callaghan’s polite request for actual evidence can be characterised by Ozanne as bullying and bribery.

  20. James Edmonds June 27, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    http://whatweknow.law.columbia.edu/topics/lgbt-equality/what-does-the-scholarly-research-say-about-whether-conversion-therapy-can-alter-sexual-orientation-without-causing-harm/

    This summary of research on gay conversion therapy from Colombia Law School makes two main observations.

    1. The overwhelming consensus among the scientific community is that it does not work.

    2. For various reasons, it is incredibly difficult to determine scientifically whether it is harmful.

    This doesn’t, of course, mean that it’s wrong to take a personal moral view on whether it’s harmful or not. That would be a cop-out.

    The one question that is begged by the evidence is ‘why do something that doesn’t work’?

    • Christopher Shell June 27, 2017 at 8:02 pm #

      Do its levels of success depend on the prevailing culture of the surrounding society? Would someone seeking to drop gay involvement be likely to be equally successful in a Christian culture and in a sexually liberal culture?

      • Penelope Cowell Doe June 28, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

        Why should anyone want to change their sexual orientation?

        • Christopher Shell June 29, 2017 at 11:32 am #

          For several reasons.

          First, they are fluid anyway. They may have found themselves happy in some manifestations and sad in others.

          Second, the very concept ‘sexual orientation’ is not a concept that represents the way things are.

          People under a certain age have no SO at all.

          Those above that age may not have it instrinsically.
          -They may be affected by circumstances, by culture, by seduction… You name it.

          They may just do anything society allows. If society allows pansexuality all of a sudden loads more people ‘become’ pansexual. No, they don’t. It’s just that people will always do whatever society allows them to get away with. They do not know the consequences in advance or whether it will make them happy or sad. By that time it will be too late. What connection has that with ‘orientation’?

          If you believe in SO how come 4 times as many women are sleeping with women as 20 years ago?

          In a society where sleeping with 12-15 year olds was considered OK or positive, many more would do so. That is nothing to do with SO. It is to do with the imposition and relaxation of tabus; sense of shame or lack of it.

          If you frame the whole thing in terms of SO, you are just following the contemporary fashion without seeing the range of options and being critical (in the academic sense) towards the contemporay fashion.

          Those who typically follow contemporary fashion would never have criticised PIE pre-1983. Who actually did criticise it prior to that time? Very few; but the Christians did. Christians (whose position is robust enough not to need to change as much) found such things abhorrent from beginning to end. Their position has not changed and will not. But the adolescents finally grow up and realise the obvious: that the Christians were right.

    • Will Jones June 27, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

      What I don’t understand is why, if it is impossible to diminish unwanted sexual attraction, it is standard practice to attempt to do so in the rehabilitation of sexual offenders. If you can help someone diminish their appetite for abusive sex (e.g with children), why not other non-abusive forms of sexual attraction (without drawing any moral equivalence of course)? If we are so sure that we can cure a paedophile, why should other efforts directed to non-abusive sexual attraction be necessarily ineffective? When you add in that we believe we can change a biological man into a woman, it just seems odd that the one thing we think we can’t have any impact on is sexual orientation. Doesn’t that just seem strange? We can cure a paedophile of unwanted sexual attraction. We can turn a man into a woman. But we can’t help someone address unwanted homosexual feelings. Doesn’t that just strike you as odd? It at least needs some explanation, which I haven’t yet seen.

      • William Fisher June 28, 2017 at 11:26 am #

        “If we are so sure that we can cure a paedophile… We can cure a paedophile of unwanted sexual attraction.”

        Who are “we”? In point of fact those who deal professionally with the treatment and counselling of paedophiles generally admit that they can’t, and that their efforts are directed at helping paedophiles to identify and avoid risky situations (in theological language “proximate occasions of sin”) and teaching them techniques of self-control.

        “When you add in that we believe we can change a biological man into a woman… We can turn a man into a woman.”

        Once again, who are “we”? I don’t believe that we can, and no, we can’t. Some people are dissatisfied with their sex and want to change it. But no amount of surgical tinkering or administration of hormones will change their biological sex from male to female or vice versa.

        Yes, we can help someone address unwanted homosexual feelings. That doesn’t mean that we can actually change them to heterosexual ones. Deliberate attempts to do so are seldom, if ever, successful. Some people’s delusional belief that biological sex can be altered has no bearing on that.

        • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 10:38 am #

          Our government does provide treatment for gender transition and sex offenders. The point is it’s odd that we’re so adamant we can’t do this, when normally our scientific impulse is to believe we can do things, and we do attempt other changes in the area of sex and sexuality.

          It is also odd that people are at such pains to deny that a person might reasonably wish not to have same-sex attraction, and to be heterosexual. Why, in a world where we allow a person reasonably to wish to have a gender different to their biological sex, are we so insistent that they may not reasonably wish to be heterosexual? Maybe they just want to get married and have children in the normal way. Does such a wish really have to be pathologised as ‘internalised homophobia’?

          • William Fisher July 1, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

            What our scientific impulse leads us – or, perhaps more accurately, some of us – to believe that we can do is no guide to what we actually *can* do. Yes, “gender reassignment surgery” is provided, for some at least, on the NHS. Whether it should be is another matter. But whether it should be or not, it cannot change a person’s biological sex, and people should not be lied to and told that it can. The government does provide treatment for sex offenders, but that treatment is aimed at the practical and realistic goal of preventing them from re-offending; it does not (unfortunately) turn a paedophile into a non-paedophile. (Incidentally, according to last night’s news, the indications are that one of the programs of that kind which has been most widely used in prisons has not been particularly successful, and even appears to have slightly increased the rate of re-offending.)

            Yes, a person might reasonably wish not to have same-sex attraction and to be heterosexual instead. A person might even wish not to have other-sex attraction and to be homosexual instead (such case are rare but I know of two, and there are doubtless others). There have always been people who are dissatisfied with some aspect, physical or psychological, of who they are. But it does not follow, from the fact that someone passionately wants something, that it is possible. Some people’s sexuality, women’s more often than men’s, does seem to be fluid, and there are some convincing cases of people’s sexuality spontaneously changing – in both directions – but attempts at deliberately engineering change of that kind are seldom if ever successful. I agree that there is no point in pathologizing people’s desire for such change. It is surely sufficient to express the situation in objective terms: they desire something that they are unlikely to get. Personally, I would counsel them to view offers to deliver it with severe scepticism.

      • Christopher Shell June 28, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

        When people are concerned only with the outcome (and with getting it ‘now’), they will not be consistent joined-up thinkers.

      • Penelope Cowell Doe June 28, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

        You can’t ‘cure’ a paedophile. You can’t biologically change male into female – at least not in humans.
        You would only want to change your sexual orientation if you thought it was disordered, or that sexual expression of it was forbidden. If you believed it was god-given, why would you want to change it!

  21. Penelope Cowell Doe June 27, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    If no-one believed homosexuality to be intrinsically disordered and its sexual expression forbidden, would there be any call for conversion therapy?

    • David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 6:42 pm #

      If no-one believed bereavement to be intrinsically disordered and its expression forbidden, would there be any call for bereavement therapy?

      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02682620903355424

      So, why not ban grief counselling: https://churchofenglandfunerals.org/gravetalk/

      Your point is?

    • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 5:17 am #

      Penelope,

      I could also apply your rhetorical question to grief counselling: If no-one believed bereavement to be intrinsically disordered and its expression forbidden, would there be any call for bereavement therapy?

      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02682620903355424

      So, on that basis, should we ban grief counselling too, which is a form of therapy that the CofE currently endorses?

      • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 9:53 am #

        Silly analogy. Bereavement counsellors don’t attempt to change loss into non loss.

        • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 10:59 am #

          Silly retort.

          On request, bereavement counsellors help people to cope more effectively and overcome their unchosen experience of loss.

          On request, conversion therapists help people to cope more effectively and overcome their unchosen experience of same-sex attraction.

          There is clear scientific evidence which calls into question the efficacy of grief counselling, but some, like you, turn a blind eye towards it and for fatuous reasons.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 11:17 am #

            Ah ‘unchosen’. Well at least we agree on something! But why should ‘SSA’ be overcome? It is not loss, nor grief, unless the church makes it so.

          • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 11:25 am #

            A person might reasonably wish to overcome unwanted SSA in order to be able to get married and have children in the normal way. Is this so difficult to understand? I certainly know people in this position.

          • Penelope Cowell Doe June 29, 2017 at 11:59 am #

            But why, Will, is it unwanted? Gay people can have quite normal families.

          • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

            So they can get married and have children in the normal way i.e. by sexual intercourse producing their own genetic offspring.

          • David Shepherd June 29, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

            Penelope,

            As i said, the reason is that a person specifies it as a goal. As the APA recommends:
            ‘We encourage Licensed Medical Health Practitioners to support clients in determining their own:
            (a) goals for their identity process;
            (b) behavioral expression of sexual orientation;
            (c) public and private social roles;
            (d) gender role, identity, and expression;
            (e) sex and gender of partner; and
            (f) form of relationship(s).’

            If a person, who experiences unchosen SSA determines that overcoming it is a goal for their identity process, who are any of us to determine otherwise?

    • Christopher Shell June 29, 2017 at 11:36 am #

      (1) So people are allowed to change physically from male to female or vice-versa, but not to wish to change something relatively minor like their feelings?

      (2) Do you think the LGBT activists would make such a hue and cry about people wishing to change from straight to gay? Consistency, please.

      • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 11:51 am #

        Matthew Parris jokes that among gay men the ‘usual prescription to alter a straight man’s sexuality is five pints of lager’.

        • William Fisher July 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm #

          Matthew Parris has made some quite foolish jokes in his time (which of us hasn’t?). Do you believe that your own sexuality could be altered by five pints (or more) of lager (or of anything else)? Have you ever tried that one out?

  22. David Shepherd June 27, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

    Turning attention to William Nye’s note, there are three key arguments:

    1. Non-existent illness:
    The American Psychiatric Association removed references to homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in a series of steps between 1973 and 19874 and the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases followed suit in 1992. the prevalent view among professional psychological bodies in the UK, USA and elsewhere is that conversion therapy, by its very nature, cannot be efficacious: one cannot cure a non-existent illness.

    Comment: Bereavement is also excluded from the DSM and the WHO’s ICD. Does this mean that bereavement therapy (to paraphrase Nye), by its very nature, cannot be efficacious: one cannot cure a non-existent illness.

    2. Efficacy:
    ‘The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) has concluded that ‘There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Systematic reviews of the evidence for conversion therapy suggest that studies which have shown it to be successful are seriously methodologically flawed.’ The American Psychological Association concurs that ‘Compelling evidence of decreased same-sex sexual behavior and increased attraction to and engagement in sexual behavior with the other sex was rare’. The consensus of expert opinion is that the efficacy of conversion therapy is not supported by scientific research.

    The RCP’s position paper refers to the APA Task Force’s Appropriate Therapeutic responses to Sexual Orientation, when it states: ‘Leading therapy organisations across the world have published
    statements warning of the ineffectiveness of treatments to change sexual orientation, their potential for harm and their influence in stigmatising lesbian, gay and bisexual people.’

    Yet, the APA does not warn against treatments to modify a person’s sexual orientation identity. The cited report states: ”The available evidence, from both early and recent studies, suggests that although sexual orientation is unlikely to change, some individuals modified their sexual orientation identity (i.e., individual or group membership and affiliation, self-labeling) and other aspects of sexuality (i.e., values and behavior). They did so in a variety of ways and with varied and unpredictable outcomes, some of which were temporary.’

    ”Sexual orientation identity exploration can help clients create a valued personal and social identity that provides self-esteem, belonging, meaning, direction, and future purpose, including the redefining of religious beliefs, identity, and motivations and the redefining of sexual values, norms, and behaviors (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008).’

    ‘We encourage Licensed Medical Health Practitioners to support clients in determining their own:
    (a) goals for their identity process;
    (b) behavioral expression of sexual orientation;
    (c) public and private social roles;
    (d) gender role, identity, and expression;
    (e) sex and gender of partner; and
    (f) form of relationship(s).’

    In contrast with this recommendation, gay affirmation therapy overtly imposes a goal for the sexual orientation identity exploration process.

    3. Safety:
    Nye is correct when he explains that: ‘It is, however, difficult to identify rigorous scientific research into the safety of conversion therapy practices

    The language of the position statements on the issue is decidedly vague, such as: ‘ ‘is widely believed that it has the potential to cause harm’; is potentially harmful; ‘there are individuals who perceive they have been harmed..

    Nye also explains: ‘The World Psychiatric Association is more forthright in its assessment and ‘highlights the harm and adverse effects of such “therapies”. However, in making this statement, the WPA cites Rao and Jacobs, 2012 (Homosexuality and India), who, in turn and without citing any research, claim:

    ‘ In fact, there is evidence that such attempts may cause more harm than good, including inducing depression and sexual dysfunction. However, faith-based groups and counsellors pursue such attempts at conversion using yardsticks, which do not meet scientific standards.

    So much for evidence-based therapies when those who condemn CT can’t even establish evidence-based proof of its harm.

  23. Philip Almond June 28, 2017 at 8:12 am #

    I suggest, (if not already suggested above – apologies if it has) an overarching miracle: that God in his grace, mercy and love will send his breath from heaven to rebuke and revive all (including me) who name the name of Christ and unite us all to proclaim the God and Christ that the Bible gives us.
    Phil Almond

  24. Simon June 29, 2017 at 9:03 am #

    Thanks Philip – but therein is the rub – what does God rebuke? The Revisionists would see God aim at the Traditionalists, and vice versa. And who is the God and Christ the Bible gives us that we are proclaim. We seem to have above two very different Gospels to proclaim: one embraces as a gift of God what the other thinks is sin. We are at an impasse. I see no possibility of compromise nor complementation.
    It is time to shake hands and divide.

    • Philip Almond June 29, 2017 at 10:43 am #

      Simon
      We all need rebuking about some disobedience/blindspot or other. We don’t all need rebuking about the same thing. The breath from heaven, in God’s sovereign mercy, can humble us and change our convictions.

      But my suggestion, before we ‘divide’ is:

      I believe that only a minority of ordained persons in the Church of England believe ex animo that we are all faced from birth onwards with the wrath and condemnation of God. I know I can’t prove that and I would be humbled but glad if it could be shown that I am wrong and that this terrible warning, together with the message of deliverance through Christ from that wrath and condemnation, is widely proclaimed in the Church from the Archbishops ‘downwards’. (Incidentally, when I raised the question on Fulcrum whether the Archbishop of Canterbury had ever preached on the wrath of God in a public address, one reply asserted that to do so would be a hate crime.) If I am wrong, that kicks the proposed strategy below into touch. But I don’t think I am wrong and I think this is the most fundamental disagreement among Anglicans.

      A Strategic Suggestion

      What should we all do? No doubt we are all agreed that the terrible and wonderful God and Christ that the Bible reveals will only be taken seriously when and if there come a breath from heaven to ‘breathe upon these slain, that they may live’. No doubt we are all praying that God in his grace, love and mercy will send that breath, of blessing and rebuke, upon the Church (including us) and the world.

      Meanwhile, I suggest the time has come for those of us, with all our faults, who believe these terrible and wonderful doctrines, to take a humble, courteous but much more forthright stance towards the Archbishops, Bishops and other Ordained, challenging them to say where they stand specifically on the doctrine of Original Sin, in the light of what the Bible clearly says and in the light of Canon C15. How about an Open Letter from, say, Reform, Church Society, Proclamation Trust, Fellowship of Word and Spirit, AMiE, GAFCON, maybe Fulcrum, maybe New Wine, maybe CEEC. The Apostle Paul’s rebuke to the Apostle Peter and his opening anathema in Galatians are in the public domain for all time. Surely the time has come for open, public disagreement among Bishops and Archbishops within the Church of England, before any steps are taken towards some kind of separation as mooted by CEEC.

      Of course I realise it is easy for me to suggest this. I have nothing to lose!

      (To be frank I have to give my private view that while Article 9 rightly states that we are all born with a nature inclined to evil and we all face God’s wrath and condemnation from birth onwards, it errs in making our corrupt nature the ground of that condemnation. The ground, according to Romans 5:12-21, is the sin of Adam.)

      Phil Almond

  25. Simon June 29, 2017 at 10:00 am #

    What seems so clear to me from the years of tussling over this and from observing what occurred a decade or so ago in the USA/Canada is that the two sides are irreconcilable. So fundamental are the differences, so profound the disagreements on Scriptural authority, Scriptural interpretation, Doctrine of God, Doctrine of Creation, Holiness/Sin etc that the two cannot hold. How can they – when one side says practicing homosexuality is a sin and needs repentance and the other side says homosexuality it is a creation gift of God and needs church blessing. We are completely at odds. For both sides these are not second order issues. They go to the heart of what we think the Gospel is and who we think God is and what we think Church is. The eloquent, intelligent, fiercely held and totally opposing views above show we are not in communion – why bother pretending and holding together something no-one wants. Call in the lawyers and be done with it.

    • Mat Sheffield June 30, 2017 at 10:18 am #

      I think you are right about many things here Simon, but one phrase stands out to me as clearly mistaken and I think it’s important you justify why you feel this way. You say;

      “…why bother pretending and holding together something no-one wants.”?

      ..and I would like to challenge you on this. The church does want to remain in communion, and I don’t recall hearing very many voices (yes, there are a minority) who are calling for a wholesale breakdown and split of the CofE. Of course, many are worried about that outcome and talk about the possibility of it, but only ever as an outcome to be avoided, never encouraged. Even Jayne Ozanne, who has perhaps done more than most to exacerbate tensions and make everything harder, would not desire the demolition of the church.

      Whatever the deeply held beliefs and convictions of the players in this debate, the desire remains one of reconciliation.

      Both Will Jones and Tim Chesterton, despite strongly contrasting views, want the church to remain strong and united. It is not said explicitly above, but I am inferring it from their previous writings. I would assume both of them also feel that this is a goal well worth the time they spend commenting and writing about it, both here and elsewhere.

      It is actually the reason Ian wrote this article in the first place: he still hopes, despite the clear and seemingly insurmountable barriers to it, that reconciliation may yet come. But we should not look to man for such a breakthrough.

      You are needlessly pessimistic.
      Mat

      • Philip Almond June 30, 2017 at 11:19 am #

        Mat
        But…as I keep saying, the fundamental disagreement among members of the CofE goes much deeper than the sexuality disagreement. It is a disagreement about the doctrine of Original Sin. See my posts elsewhere on this thread about my view on the way forward.
        Phil Almond

        • Mat Sheffield June 30, 2017 at 11:35 am #

          Phil, I don’t see how your point has any relevance to the one I was making to Simon? I did not even mention SSM in this response. It was about attitude, not teaching or theology.

          I am not saying you’re wrong -although I personally think you exaggerate this point- and I would certainly agree that the issues go deeper/wider than human sexuality alone, but I was not addressing this. As I very clearly said, I largely agree with Simon.

          Rather I was affirming the central desire for some sort of unity/reconciliation (call it what you will) within the communion over an issue that everyone acknowledges could be -and very well might be- divisive. Whatever the positions of different people, no one is in it simply to see it fail and I think it is mistaken for Simon to refer to the communion has “something no one wants”.

      • Simon June 30, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

        Thanks Matt – the “something no-one wants” is the impasse we are at. No-one wants to be holding together what is increasingly difficult to hold, as Amos says, “how can two walk together when they don’t agree.’ Even the ABC is now speaking in terms of needing a miracle. The increased robustness of the revisionists pushing for change and a full acceptance of their shift in theology and praxis is forcing the issue, but the conservatives and traditionalists will never cave in to pressure or compromise when the argument has not been made Biblically. I rarely even hear the Bible referred to these days! Personally, I think we are just a few years behind North America – their matter of factness pushed for a swift split over this very issue. But English pragmatism, and I like to think Godly intentions, have sought to find ways of walking together – debates, motions, votes, shared conversations, but are we any closer or has this all just revealed how far apart we are? Any mild observer of this over the years can see how much more polarised we are now than even 2 years ago. Neither side is happy with the status quo – one pushing for more change, one against the change already here. Reconciliation is an apostolic mandate, but so is contention for the faith as once delivered. The latter means the former is not always possible. I cannot see us going back to a more conservative place and the exigency to move to a more liberal one will cause the traditionalists to robustly resist. Twin tracks, two integrities…its hardly communion. But the revisionists want more than they have got, and the traditionalists feel too much has already been given. Deep compromises on fundamentally held beliefs for the sake of a maintaining superficial communion is not compelling because conviction on both sides is driving this. As a Priest and pastor I know God hates divorce, but I also know pastorally sometimes it’s for the best. Meanwhile, as some work hard to change the Church doctrine and practise I subscribed to when ordained over two decades ago, I’m in the pray for a miracle group. What would that look like? I’ve been reading JW Bready’s classic work on Wesley and the state of the church and society in the early C18th, which makes today look positively peachy. A wonderful revival came to the church and to society. That’s what I long for.

  26. Mat Sheffield June 29, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    These comments have been exceptionally painful to read, uncomfortable, even distressing. That said, they have also been some of the most honest and illuminating I have read in a long time. They are valuable because they are both of these things together, and they do this (if I might be allowed a little ‘dig’) much better than ‘Journeys Together…’ did.

    Unlike Penelope however, though I understand her motive in saying so, I am pleased Ian has moderated in silence, allowing the discussion to continue despite it’s obvious rawness.

    My general thoughts, for what they are worth, are that both parties/sides/factions here, especially in the responses and comments directed to Tim Chesterton (above), have grasped something vitally important and valuable, clinging onto it with all their might. But in doing so both have been unable to recognize their opponents in this discussion have done exactly the same.

    What I mean is that Christopher Shell, Will Jones and David Shepard are absolutely right to ask the questions they have, and to be blunt about them; even in spite of the obvious pain it causes others to answer them. There needs to be some recognition at least that said bluntness is somewhat justified, as attempts to phrase these questions more, what’s the word, ‘sympathetically?’ in the recent past on this blog have been met with unhelpful digression and avoidance of the subject. Clearly they do not need me to defend them, but it is clear to me at least that it comes not from a place of hate, but from a personal faith and zealous desire for the truth. In order to have the conversations the CofE needs, this ‘truth’ needs to be asked about publically and pursued publically. I thank them sincerely for doing so.

    But Tim, Penelope and Andrew’s deeply personal responses are no less important, and a no less valid part of the conversation that the objective questions. After all, the reality of what a faithful relationship, of any type, looks like, cannot be easily genralised. A monogamous relationship, in which children are raised and loved (however misplaced we might feel those foundations are, and I agree they are), cannot and should not be torn apart as an abstract philosophical idea without regard for the feelings of those for whom such an idea is a deeply personal reality. I should not pretend to sit on the fence when I do not, but I do not feel that Tim’s integrity and courage in saying what he has said here has been sufficiently respected, but nor do I feel that the questions asked here have been sufficiently answered. Time will resolve some of this I am sure but pastoral accommodation in line with church teaching needs to hold these things in balance as best it can.

    Sometimes though there is no Mercy or Compassion in the truth, and while it does indeed ‘set you free’, it does not always do so without pain and distress. Paul and Silas’ liberation from prison coincides with a violent Earthquake. I think perhaps there needs to be some recognition of this in the paradigm of the SSM discussion. ‘Good disagreement’ is perhaps too disarmingly positive a phrase, and I don’t think it is right to expect the process of reaching that point to be painless, the desire to avoid that pain is actually a limiting factor to reaching the resolution needed.

    Mat

    • Tim Chesterton June 29, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

      Thanks for this, Mat. This will be my final contribution to this thread. Excuse me if I use the ‘reply to’ function for your post to respond to a few points made by others.

      First, I’m not sure how anyone can claim to know my motivation for offering my story (‘He intended it to affect rational discourse’). Personally, I have very little confidence in the power of ‘rational discourse’. I have very rarely seen anyone’s mind changed by it; we’re far too strong in our tribal loyalties, and changing our world view is very threatening to us. I willingly include myself in that description. Stories, however, don’t work in the same way; they often open up a different way of viewing the world, whether or not they are rationally persuasive.

      Second, I don’t agree that rational theology should always trump stories. It happens the other way around in Acts; Christian evangelists who have parted company with the clear teaching of scripture about the relationship between Jews and Gentiles are called onto the carpet to account for their actions, and they respond by telling the story of God’s work among the Gentiles. Of course the statistics of sexual immorality amongst Gentiles would justify any misgivings on the part of the Judaizers, but the stories told by Paul and Barnabas show that the Holy Spirit can enter into that situation and change it. And in the end, the stories of the Spirit’s work win the day.

      Third, I don’t agree that what I encountered here was purely rational discourse. No one can claim to know the motivations of the man who donated his sperm so that a woman unknown to him could have a child, but to dismiss his actions as ‘the father did a runner’ is irrational and insulting in the extreme. No one donates sperm on the understanding that they will have a parental relationship with the child (in the case of my daughter, any contact is specifically excluded until the child reaches the age of 18).

      Also, I would like to point out that I was explicitly told that my views were not worth listening to, because as a parent and grandparent I was incapable of objectivity (as if anyone is every completely objective). It was at this point that I decided it was a waste of time for me to continue to participate in the discussion, as my principal interlocutor evidently thought it was a waste of his time to listen to me.

      Fourthly, I find the presumption that because I write a blog I must be used to vigorous debate to be highly problematic. Not everyone writes a blog for the same reason. Mine is called ‘Faith, Folk and Charity’; on it I share not only sermons but also fiction I have written, book reviews, articles about traditional folk music (a big interest of mine) etc. etc. To assume that the only reason a person would write a blog is that they enjoy arguing with people is to display an astonishingly narrow view of the world of blogging.

      And with this, I will sign out and get busy with my sermon for this coming Sunday!

      • Mat Sheffield June 29, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

        Don’t worry that you’re replying to me, this comments system doesn’t always cope especially well with longer, more drawn out conversation; people often end up starting newer posts nearer the bottom and everyone interacts with the system differently.

        In any case I thank you for your detailed thoughts. Even if you don’t reply further, I’ll respond briefly in the hopes you’ll read them.

        On your first point I admit I do have some sympathy, but generally I don’t agree with you. Rational discourse is not an inherently bad thing, and it does not mean an exclusively objective and dispassionate conversation (like yourself, I object to that ideal), but one wherein the ideas being raised and evidence being presented can be subject to, what was Christopher’s word, ‘Scrutiny’ and questioning. It is vital to this debate that such an environment be preserved, as it a necessary tool to discerning and applying truth. This means that I fully support your right, and the value of, bringing the contribution you did, but I nonetheless have to weigh it against what is objectively (and statistically) verifiable. Rational discourse is surely both?

        On point two I am not fully persuaded by the exegesis, but I do agree with the main thrust of what you’re saying. Theology is not superior to story, but they are part of each other. For example, poetry can be theology, and vice-versa, but Poetry and theology are not synonyms. A lot of this is context driven, as the needs of the academy differ from the needs of the laity. What I will say however is that my perception of the shared conversations process is that each ‘side’ chose one of those two polarizations and stuck with it, denying everyone a quality of debate that could have been had. Everyone sang to their own choir, rather than to each others…

        On point three and four we agree almost fully. For all of the justification I feel people had to ask the questions they did, the manner and style with which they chose to do it was not always…wise, and the pretext with which they felt that justification is shaky at best. I think this point was made at length above, so I won’t say much else.

        Once again, thanks for you time. I certainly appreciated it.

        • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 7:56 pm #

          Thanks, Mat, for doing better than me on the ‘it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it’ front. I do understand your criticisms of my comments and will try to take on board your points (they are reasonable!).

          I guess (and this is an explanation not a justification) I often feel like the way testimony and story are deployed in these discussions is unhelpfully emotive, often (whether intended or not) hijacking rational discussion with something else that is then fenced off from rational objection. I guess I need to master my emotional response to that when it happens and be less impatient, practice what I preach!

          • Mat Sheffield June 29, 2017 at 10:10 pm #

            “….something else that is then fenced off from rational objection.” Emphasis mine.

            You are exactly right about this. The problem is not that emotive language and appeals to experience are inherently unhelpful, but that that become so when they are ‘fenced off’ to use your language and removed from the things that can be questioned.

      • Will Jones June 29, 2017 at 7:05 pm #

        Tim, I’m afraid you’re not making any sense.

        You say want to tell stories to open up different ways of viewing the world. But you don’t have any faith in rational discourse. So you want to open up new ways of viewing the world that aren’t rational? But why then should anyone accept that way of viewing the world? Are you going to give us a reason, or will it just be because it feels right? But I have lots of feelings. Reason tells me which feelings are good and which are bad. Reason shows us the rational moral law, which is binding on rational beings regardless of how we feel.

        People often change views because of being presented with cogent reasons. That’s why we have Christian apologetics, and explain why faith makes sense – which is what we see throughout Acts and the NT. We are rational creatures. If we do not let reason rule us, showing us right from wrong, then we are governed by emotions, which is not a rational place to be. Then we do not know if we are doing what we have most reason to do, what is right, or only what feels good at the time. Why don’t you want us to do what we have most reason to do?

        Who said your views aren’t worth listening to? Of course they’re worth listening to. But views can only be discussed and assessed rationally, not presented as a fait accompli in story form. Story is rhetorically powerful, and to be valued for that reason, but it must be assessed rationally to ensure that the ways it is affecting us are right and good. Acts is most certainly not about story replacing rational discourse – God is the God of reason who created rational creatures, and who sent the divine Logos, divine Reason itself, to come and save us. Acts is very clear about presenting a rational message grounded in scripture. If you think that the lesson of Acts is that we should replace scriptural teaching and rational analysis with story and sub-rational views of the world then you will let unexamined experience and feeling move you ever further from the God of the Bible. Animals are governed by instinct. We are human beings, created by the Divine Reason to participate in that reason and to know him and his ways.

      • Philip Almond June 29, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

        Contra Tim’s second point: the accounts in Acts 11 and 15 are part of God’s revelation in the Bible, and there are Old Testament prophecies and words and actions of Jesus which make it clear that Gentiles would be included in the Church. Stories which are not in the Bible do not trump what the Bible says.

        Phil Almond

      • Christopher Shell June 29, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

        Tim, I think I am engaged in rational discourse, as you say, but I would not use the word ‘theology’ for it.

        Anyone can be irrational, that is easy.

        Not being rational is the same as saying things that do not make sense, and holding positions that do not add up. To impose on others the idea that we ought not to accept conclusions that logically follow – that imposition is tyrrany, and no-one can in conscience think they have the right to make such impositions. it boikls down to: ‘thinking is difficult, so I won’t think, and I will then suggest or require that my unthinking is better than anyone’s thinking.’

        As for stories, like most of us I am a firm believer in them. They are very particular and do not prove anything, so when the task in hand is a debate, a story may not advance it.

        But good stories shed light.

        The totally wrong thing is the perspective that stories and reason are mutually exclusiver alternatives, that it is an either/or. That position cannot stand. How are stories and reason at enmity, mutually exclusive? How is it *either* stories *or* reason. How can that position be defended? It can’t.

        Testimonies I thoroughly believe in. If true, they are beyond contradiction by others. They therefore contribute to our sum of knowledge and facts. They are excellent (eyewitness) evidence. You see that the idea that reason and evidence is one thing and stories and testimony are a quite different thing is inaccurate.

        The Acts 15 model is that scripture was modified in the face of experience. So the two players are scripture and experience. Neither of these players is reason, contrary to what you said. The one of the two that is closer to reason (or at least to evidence) is experience, not scripture. Again contrary to what you said.

        You didn’t mention that I already said I would not even think twice about refusing to comment objectively and without bias on my dear ones, because I know I couldn’t do so. I imagine (not without reason) that very few of us could do so. Yet you took that reasonable position as the most objectionable thing I said.

        You are expecting that we should affirm that which you affirm. But it is up to us whether we do so. This applies, for example, to the lifetyles and ways of life which you affirm.

        The main point, however, is that many end up affirming virtually everything. In other words it is a foregone conclusion that they will affirm person X’s deed Y or lifestyle Z. But to affirm everything is to affirm nothing. I feel no joy at the praise of the teacher who lavishes ‘praise’ on everything. I think this is an error you have escaped, certainly, as you say there are choices you do not affirm while still affirming the people involved, which is my own position too (though I am always cautious about calling things choices when the array of options, even some of the more basic options, were unknown).

        • Philip Almond June 30, 2017 at 7:43 am #

          Christopher
          Acts 15 IS Scripture!
          Phil Almond

          • Christopher Shell June 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

            No! I am talking about the events narrated in Acts 15.

            First, events can’t be Scripture.

            Second, the book of Acts had not yet been written, so that could not be Scripture either.

            I am talking about what took place at the council, not anything subsequent.

  27. Simon June 30, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    Anglicanism was built on Scripture, Tradition and Reason, but currently it seems we are being forced to bow the knee to the Liberal canons of Zeitgeist, Subjectivity and Personal Story.

  28. Christopher Shell July 2, 2017 at 8:22 am #

    As people’s brain pathways apparently get increasingly fixed round about age 20-25, what we look to be talking about is not ‘orientation’, but rather being thereafter stuck in the thoughts and ways one happened to be pursuing at one particular juncture in one’s life. Good or bad thoughts and ways – it makes no difference, there is a danger of being thereafter stuck in them.

    We can all test this out by checking how far our own thoughts and ways have changed since that age. Conversions after this time plummet on average, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, our thoughts and ways become ‘set’. This is a matter of habit (which is increasingly hard to change) and of physical/brain development.

    On the other hand, testimonies of becoming a Christian and immediately dropping (as it may be) an ingrained swearing habit etc are common. After that 20-25 age Christ is about the only hope for that kind of transformation.

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