What signal was given by the Ely Pride flag?

Last weekend, Ely Cathedral flew a rainbow Pride flag in order to signal support for the Ely Pride festival taking place (for the first time) over the weekend. The decision was made on the recommendation of the Dean, Mark Bonney, and the cathedral chapter voted to accept his recommendation—though this was not a decision by the diocese or the diocesan bishop, Stephen Conway, since (like local churches) cathedrals have no formal need to consult. Bonney told the local paper:

I am pleased to lend my backing to this community event because it celebrates the breadth and diversity of the community in which we all live.

I am also very conscious that Christians have not always been perceived as being very supportive and inclusive as some of us would wish, and so I am pleased to fly this flag as a sign of the kind of inclusion that I wish to promote at the cathedral.

The Pride event was comparatively low key, and the flying of the flag by the Cathedral didn’t appear to attract much coverage. But there was the usual robust response from former Church of England minister Gavin Ashenden:

The Dean of Ely has adopted the secular values of a culture that has set its face against Christianity, and is waging a war against Judaeo-Christian culture. Sexual ethics have always been at the heart of the Christian’s struggle with sin, the world and the devil. But it seems the Dean of Ely is not over concerned with either sin, or the distinction between the Church and the world, or the struggle with evil.

Lee Gatiss, who is Director of Church Society and lives in the diocese, wrote a brief comment on the Church Society website:

Why is a Church of England cathedral promoting what is described as “primarily a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender celebration”? They are not naive, and know what they are doing. The flag will no doubt be a rainbow, but in reality it is a white flag, signalling their surrender of Christianity in favour of a completely different gospel, which is divisive in the church and endangering to the soul. There are better ways of rejoicing in the diversity of humanity — by proclaiming the joyful news of eternal life for every one of us who repents, turns away from our sin and turns to Jesus instead. Bring back the cross, the symbol of his kingdom. That is the banner under which Christians gather. But God says, “pride comes before destruction.”

On the other hand, I have no doubt that many will have written to Bonney at the Cathedral to give their support and approval—and of course it was well received by the organisers of Pride:

Fritha Love, one of the organisers of Pride in Ely, said she was “completely overwhelmed” by the decision, and believes it reflects Ely’s spirit of acceptance… “It goes to prove it doesn’t matter who you are, from whichever walk of life, we can all celebrate inclusion and have ‘pride’ in Ely.”

To make sense of these different reactions, we need to think about flags in general, the Pride flag in particular, and what kinds of signals it gives.

Flags are hugely emotive. They are powerful symbols which evoke emotional and even visceral reactions. Think about national flags at international football matches. Think about flag-burning protests around the world, used to express objection, disgust and even violent opposition to another nation. Think of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima as a powerful symbol of victory. Even think about the uneasy reaction when you see a cross of St George flag, or a Union Flag flying outside someone’s house, suggesting vigorous nationalism (rather in contrast to the presence of the Stars and Stripes in the US). Think about the controversies provoked by those in the southern US states flying the Confederate flag. I remember once being completely caught off guard by the unexpected and powerful emotion evoked some years ago on seeing the crest of my former college; I am hardly an ardent alumnus, yet my visceral response was there. These are the reasons why Andrew Goddard dislikes the idea of flying any flag over a cathedral or other place of worship:

To help me process some of this I’ve started reading Tim Marshall’s fascinating recent book “Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags”.  His introduction explains some of the reasons why I dislike church flag-flying of any but a Christian symbol (and even that, to be honest, I think needs great care).

National flags, he points out, are about “trying to unite a population behind a homogeneous set of ideals, aims, history and beliefs – an almost impossible task. But when passions are aroused, when the banner of an enemy is flying high, that’s when people flock to their own symbol”.  But these features are not just applicable to national flags but all flags.  They “have much to do with our traditional tribal tendencies and notions of identity – the idea of ‘us versus them’”.  And so we find that “these symbols can still wield a great deal of power, communicating ideas quickly and drawing strongly on emotions”.

Flags are not symbols of inclusivity and diversity; they are powerful symbols of tribal identity (even where that tribe is a nation) and they function to define who is in and who is out. They are so powerful that people will, literally, die for them and their defence.

And that is why the rainbow flag has been central in the cause of seeking acceptance of gay and lesbian identity in Western culture. American scholar, author and LGBT advocate, Joshua Gamson explains:

Lesbians and gay men have made themselves an effective force in this country over the past several decades largely by giving themselves what civil rights movements had: a public collective identity. Gay and lesbian social movements have built a quasi-ethnicity, complete with its own political and cultural institutions, festivals, neighborhoods, even its own flag.

Underlying that ethnicity is typically the notion that what gays and lesbians share—the anchor of minority status and minority rights claims—is the same fixed, natural essence, a self with same-sex desires. The shared oppression, these movements have forcefully claimed, is the denial of the freedoms and opportunities to actualize this self. In this ethnic/essentialist politic, clear categories of collective identity are necessary for successful resistance and political gain.

What is most fascinating about this observation is that it flies in the face of the evidence—as set out by other LGBT advocates like Lisa Diamond, who notes that the instability of sexual ‘orientation’ means that campaigning should be on the basis of freedom and rights, and not on the basis of identity politics.

What, then, are the concerns raised by the action of the cathedral? I wrote to the diocesan bishop, Stephen Conway, to express my concern, not least because we have come to know each other well on Archbishops’ Council. He was away, and in any case his chaplain said that I should contact the Dean, which I did. My concerns were fourfold:

1. The Pride movement is not simply about ‘celebrating diversity’ but about campaigning for the acceptance of particular forms of sexual relationships which go against the teaching of the Church of England on sexuality and marriage. (The festival included an ‘adults only’ party in the evening from 7 pm…) In deciding to fly the Pride flag, the cathedral was therefore signalling their rejection of the Church’s current teaching, which in fact Bonney acknowledged in his comment to the press that the Church has not been inclusive ‘in the way that some of us would wish’.

2. Given this situation, I wondered what steps were taken to consult the diocesan bishop beforehand.

3. The chapter will have been well aware of the involved process of discussion on the question of sexuality in the Church, which has included the Shared Conversations and continues in the work on the teaching document Living in Love and Faith—all of which has taken up considerable resources of the Church in terms of time and money. By making a unilateral statement rejecting the Church’s current teaching, the chapter appears to be short-circuiting this process—and indeed, undermining its usefulness and questioning the value of the time and energy being put into it.

4. I don’t know the diocese well, but I am aware that some churches in the diocese are already finding it difficult to be fully involved in the life of the diocese, and that this action will further distance them and cause division in the Church. The action of the chapter will have a serious impact on Church unity in the diocese, and further undermines of the role of Bishop Stephen as a focus of unity around the teaching of the Church.

Mark Bonney was kind enough to reply to my expressions of concern:

I do not view the action here as undermining/rejecting the Church’s teaching in quite the way that you think it does – rather I see it as an entering into the debate , and  a questioning  of some of that teaching, as happens in many quarters  – certainly it is being part of the debate.
For me it is similar to the questions around remarriage of divorcees which was a very live issue when I was ordained. Throughout the time that that was being debated I NEVER did anything against the Church of England’s teaching beyond expressing views that challenged it – and this has been the same in the current sexuality debate.
In retrospect Chapter may not have appreciated the extent to which this might be seen as some kind of statement on behalf of the Diocese or the Bishop  – and of course it is definitely NOT that. This was something that Andrew Nunn, the Dean of Southwark, pointed out in his speech at General Synod on the Cathedrals Working Group Report in relation to the independence that currently exists between Cathedrals and Bishops and the opportunity that, at present, Cathedrals have to do things without seeking the Bishop’s permission. Southwark Cathedral flew the Pride flag I believe, the Pride march in York has begun at the Cathedral and has been blessed by one of the clergy – so I have not been alone in taking part in the debate in this way. The event in Ely was quite low key in comparison with the big marches in other places, no marching, just a gathering by the riverside opened by the City Mayor…….I might not have given consideration to the extent that what I knew was going to be a small local event here might have much wider ramifications.
I did inform Bishop Stephen that I was taking this request to the Chapter, and , as I think he has said in replies to questions to him, it was a Chapter decision.  And I have replied to others that this was a Chapter decision and not the Bishop’s.
I’m aware that this has caused concern for some churches that are finding it difficult to be part of the diocese, and I will be meeting with a couple of clergy to talk further.  I’m also aware of many within my own and other congregations who have been in contact with me to say quite the opposite.

I want to take this response seriously, but it raises so many other questions. First, there really is no parallel between the debate about remarriage and the debate here; it was not a church-dividing issue in the way that this is, and I do not recall anyone forming alliances with outside organisations which have, in their recent history, been highly critical of and antagonistic to the Church as is happening now. The idea that flying a flag signals ‘entering a debate’ is either disingenuous, or it shows a serious ignorance of human experience—and a pretence of ignorance about how important this symbol has been to the gay movement. Bonney is right to note that they have not been the first—but he must surely be aware of how divisive this has been in other dioceses, and when I asked him about this, he acknowledged it. So it seems that, rather than taking them into account, my four concerns simply did not register with sufficient weight in the chapter to counter their goal of making a statement.

The raising of the flag was not, therefore, a symbol of surrender so much as a symbol of blitzkrieg. In the Second World War, the German forces conquered so quickly by avoiding being bogged down at enemy strongpoints (as had happened in the First World War, to catastrophic effect) but instead driving around them and cutting them off as pockets of resistance to be dealt with later. They simply drove past them, and established their hold well beyond the line of conflict. By flying the Pride flag, the Dean and cathedral chapter are signalling that they simply do not have time to engage in the continued debate and discussion that is ongoing in the church, and will make their own unilateral declaration of belief. As Andrew Goddard observes:

The recourse to flag flying therefore sadly signals that, rather than “some of us” engaging with “them” in a careful, time-consuming, reasoned discussion, the preferred process of engagement is instead one which does what flags do: “wield a great deal of power, communicating ideas quickly and drawing strongly on emotions”.  The Cathedral has sought to rally people to what Marshall calls “powerful symbols” by use of an “emotion-charged emblem” that “has the power to evoke and embody sentiments so strong that sometimes people will even follow their coloured cloth into gunfire and die for what it symbolizes”.  The problem is, as Bruce Springsteen said in an interview with Rolling Stone about the Stars and Stripes appearing on the cover of his “Born in the USA” album: “The flag is a powerful image , and when you set that stuff loose, you don’t know what’s gonna be done with it”.

The question, then, is how the diocesan bishop will respond, but also how other bishops and leaders in the Church of England will react. There is a strong resistance to bishops ‘interfering’ in what is happening in other dioceses. But this kind of action has implications for the relationship between other cathedrals and dioceses, for the teaching document, and for national processes. Why is it only ever those wanting change on this issue who are prepared to make bold and controversial statements?

Comments policy: this is a contentious issue, so please guard the tone of your comments. This is a space for robust discussion, even serious disagreement. But if you want to engage, please play the argument not the person—and there is no need to quote Bible verses at another person. We all have Bibles!

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98 thoughts on “What signal was given by the Ely Pride flag?”

  1. Publicly endorsing a celebration of raw sexuality = taking part in a debate. Hmm, makes you wonder what wouldn’t qualify as merely part of the ‘debate’!

    It’s a fair comment that they are not the first. Southwark and York are also at fault here and should receive more criticism.

    One thing worth saying is that even if the CofE were to accept same-sex ‘marriage’ that still wouldn’t justify support for a Pride event, which it hardly needs pointing out is a celebration of sexual diversity that goes well beyond permanent marital monogamy. In some ways I think in endorsing these events liberals are showing their hand in that it is clear that they wish to support more than just a new version of marriage, but a whole new sexual ethic, namely the secular ethic of consent. (It was clear on the previous thread that a number of the liberal commenters who engage here were happy to support the world’s values in this regard, up to and including pederastic relationships.) I think whatever side of this debate we’re on we need to be clear where this is taking us.

  2. Ian – once again thank you for your post.

    Could you clarify your comments policy asking us not to quote Bible verses…surely that is the basis of our argument? or have I misunderstood you?

    • Of course it is. So comments along the lines of ‘What do you think Paul means by X’ and ‘There seems to be a theme in these verses’ is fine. But in a previous discussion there were times when people appeared simply to quote Bible verses–and I am not sure that is helpful.

      • There was one occasion where I quoted 1 Tim 1:3-11 during a discussion because it seemed a particularly apt response to the position being presented – was that one of the examples? I thought it was powerful to quote scripture in that context when the prescience seemed so striking, but perhaps not everyone was of the same view…

  3. A couple of comments.

    “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

    Your Blitzkrieg comparison is a very good one. This is clearly not an invitation to debate, or a robust dialogue; this is ignoring the issue and declaring victory without having actually having fought at all. I feel particular sympathy for those like Andrew Wilson, Penelope C.D and Andrew Godsall (and others) who want to forge a path for SSM recognition, but yet who maintain an active distance from the ‘carnal’ and permissive attitudes that define many ‘pride’ movements, and are fighting the battle with sweat and toil in dialogue with their opponents. In some ways they are unique in that they’re fighting the battle on both fronts; against the unyielding conservatives to the front, and the revolutionary zealots behind.

    So yes, they should not have flown the flag. I appreciate that the precise role of Cathedrals in the secular world is somewhat contentious, but cathedrals were built to a be a declaration of God’s glory expressed in stone. Flying anything other than a cross from one is akin to the Romans erecting the Aquila in the temple in AD 70. It is to appropriate of God’s glory for another.

    I feel the same way about flying national flags from churches actually, though in much of the formerly-christian-west the flags of nations do at least tend to incorporate a cross.

    • Hi Mat

      On the last thread on this topic Penelope (and David R) were arguing that consensual sexual relationships in general are not illicit or immoral, and Penelope was defending pederastic relationships (and David appeared to be agreeing). So I’m not sure they are as committed to marital monogamy as the standard for sexual relationships as you suggest.

      I don’t know if they would endorse a Pride event – if they join us for this discussion they can clarify. But clearly many liberals are perfectly happy to – and that speaks volumes for where the LGBT agenda in the church is taking us.

      What I’d really like to see is advocates of SSM in the church distancing themselves from Pride events because they embody the promiscuous gay culture that they regard SSM as helping to address. I’m not holding my breath though.

      • I’m not sure, I think you’re distorting their words…

        I don’t think David R was at any point advocating for sexual activity outside of the permanent-stable-faithful paradigm; I think he was recognising it as a reality of the current culture. But without going and checking (these comment threads are lengthy and often repeat) I wouldn’t want to speak for him.

        Similar with Penelope. I thought she was defending pederasty in a historical setting, one where it was not seen as immoral, rather than advocating for it’s practice today.

        Nonetheless my point is that if the debate about sexuality/sex in general exists on a spectrum where at one end are the puritan, conservative ‘prudes’ (for want of a better word) being hyper-restrictive and at the other end are orgiastic, ‘liberated’ pleasure-seekers who want to demolish every barrier thy can find, then I think you’d find that we have a lot more in common with our revisionist brethren than you give them credit for…

        But perhaps I’m wrong.

        • Hi Mat

          I must admit I’m a little uncomfortable about discussing the views of people who aren’t (currently) here to speak for themselves. But since I started it, and in an effort to avoid accusations of misrepresentation, here’s what David R wrote:
          I agree with Penelope that there is nothing illicit in relationships between people who are of different ages where both above the age of consent.

          The full quote from Penelope with which David was agreeing was:
          No I don’t think a relationship between two people one of whom is older than the other is illicit, if both are over the age of consent. On the whole, we don’t regard heterosexual relationships, where there is a disparity of age, immoral.

          This seemed to me a straightforward endorsement of consensual sexual relationships in general, including pederasty, and certainly not any attempt to classify them as immoral.

          Penelope gave a fuller explanation of her views in a later comment here: https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/the-church-of-england-teaching-document-on-sexuality/comment-page-1/#comment-354011

          I hope I’m not misrepresenting anyone. Anyway, I say this not to get anyone ‘into trouble’ but because I think the fact that the SSM agenda is really about much more than that is a very important and under-appreciated one, and there is a lot of naivete in the discussion around this.

          • It was Penelope who described them as pederastic and defended them as such e.g. ‘I wrote that pederastic relationships between two people over the age of consent are not illicit.’

            The age of consent is 16 so relationships with 16-17 year olds could be classed as pederastic.

          • “This seemed to me a straightforward endorsement of consensual sexual relationships in general, including pederasty, and certainly not any attempt to classify them as immoral.”

            You did indeed start it, and I still think you’re wrong, at least in part. 😉

            Both D and P agreed that in a relationship where both parties are over the age of consent -but where there is a significant age gap- that a relationship would not be immoral on that basis. It may be immoral for other reasons, but not on basis of age providing the legal consent-condition is met, which was the factor under discussion. Both acknowledge such an age disparity may be problematic for other reasons. I agree with them on both counts.

            Penelope does later go on to say many things with which I disagree, including, yes, that sexual relations outside marriage are immoral, but that was not what you accused her of.

            I’m also cautious that we’re arguing about things neither of us actually said, so I’ll say nothing else until they’ve spoken too.

          • The word ‘not’ is missing from the penultimate paragraph. It should read;

            Penelope does later go on to say many things with which I disagree, including, yes, that sexual relations outside marriage arenot immoral, but that was not what you accused her of.

          • Hi Will,
            As I understand it, although the legal age for consent is 16, under the ‘Abuse of Trust’ law, it is an offence for a person aged 18 or more who is in a specified position of trust (such as a schoolteacher) to have sex with a person under the age of 18 – this law applies, even if the relationship is consensual.

          • Hi Mat

            Just to be clear I’m not ‘accusing’ Penelope of anything. I am just attempting accurately to report her view as part of making a wider point about how the SSM agenda brings with it more than marriage.

            I’m not trying to ‘accuse’ her of supporting pederasty. It was she who brought up the topic of ‘pederasty’ in order to endorse it. She wrote: ‘I wrote that pederastic relationships between two people over the age of consent are not illicit.’

            My main point isn’t about pederasty anyway, it’s just about the fact that even liberals/revisionists who mainly emphasise SSM do in fact often (for I don’t think P and D are untypical in this) regard all (or most) consensual sexual relationships as morally permissible (or at least not illicit or immoral).

            I’m just aiming for clarity 🙂

          • No, I’m not here. I’m on the Rhine. I was identifying as pederastic what would be identified as pederasty in antiquity. Relationships between an older man (twenties) and an adolescent. Not a huge disparity of age. I made no judgement on the morality, I simply said that, provided both men were over the age of consent, they are licit. Will seems to believe that because of this I, and other revisionists, are arguing for celebrating relationships in the church which are not permanent, faithful and stable. I am not. But I do not wish to live in a theocracy.
            May I get on with my holiday?

          • Thanks Penelope – enjoy your holiday!

            My point isn’t about what the church celebrates but what is regarded under biblical and church teaching as immoral. The biblical position is that non-marital sexual relationships are immoral (objectively, for everyone). P and D equivocate on this, as do most liberals/revisionists (or more than equivocate). That’s my point.

            If I have misrepresented anyone then I can only apologise and am happy to be corrected.

            (I am also it is true unhappy about the endorsement of pederastic relationships, which are inherently non-permanent, being focused on the youth of the beloved and not for the long haul, and anyway are inherently immoral and corrupting and usually abusive. But that isn’t my main point here.)

          • What disturbed me in that thread was the willingness to theologise over whether Jesus had a pederastic relationship with a boy/young man – be it John, John-Mark or another who ran naked from Gethsemene, rather than condemn such as blasphemy.

          • I do not know why people are talking about what is licit.

            (1) We already know what the law is.

            (2) Everyone knows that the other participants are aware of the law, not needing to be informed about it.

            (3) What the law is is changeable over time and over location.

            (4) Law is a less important consideration than morality (as Penny says) and yet seems to be highlighted more than morality – there is a contradiction there if so.

  4. These things make a statement about who and what is really in charge.

    If you have a flag, or a central statue, or an altar frontal, that can show what the centre of your loyalty is.

    If pop stars dance on the roof of Buckingham Palace that is saying that they want to impose a spirit unlovely in the Queen’s eyes over that building and all it represents.

    The unrolling of a rainbow flag over the steps of York Minster shows:
    (1) That there is no outside position tolerated – rainbows cover the entire spectrum.
    (2) A statement that this is something big, as big as the absolutely huge rainbow carpet. It is something that figures big in what this building is all about. Nothing is more central or bigger (at least at that time).
    (3) By comparison with a welcome mat – the building you are being welcomed into is proclaimed to be an LGBT+ building.
    (4) A motivation to spread such messages right at the top, i.e. where there are Archbishops present.

    Spiritual mapping.

    • Indeed Christopher.

      The Dean risibly claims the flag planting was his Cathedral ‘entering the debate’. Such an action is not entering a debate but closing your statement. Planting a Flag is a territorial marker – it is about claiming, owning, belonging. For any Cathedral to do this at this crucial time is not a so much a gesture of inclusion and embrace but declaration and defiance.

      • Well worded. Hence too the UKIP-flag satirical piece. I wonder whether we may not be at the beginning of a period when such satire is widely and effectively used to expose the flaws.

      • A territorial marker: exactly.

        The UKIP-flag satirical piece on archbishopcranmer seems to be part of the new and certainly entertaining trend to expose faulty or dishonest logic by means of satire.

      • Such an action is not entering a debate but closing your statement

        Well technically one does enter a debate — whether proposing, seconding, or opposing the motion —by stating one’s position. So you know that’s fair enough. The cathedral has stated its position.

        The only question is who is going to enter the debate on the other side?

  5. Just one quick comment, it’s not a given that your readers would feel unease at a Union Jack or a flag of St George outside a house, or flying on top of one.. we’re not all Emily Thornberry 🙂

    Great article, more thoughts soon (I bet you can’t wait lol).

    • I see Union Jacks everywhere and have for years. They are sported by straightforward folk who just want to join the rest of the world in feeling pride in their country, which obviously has no bearing at all on their warm attitude to all the other countries.

    • Many years ago I was given the line that only two flags were permissible/appropriate for the CofE to fly. One being the flag of St George (it’s the Church of England not the Church of Gt Britain) the other being the diocesan flag.

      On Ely….I suggest it’s misleading to say they were merely entering into discussion as if neutral and searching. They were making a statement and I find it hard to believe (in view of who was involved) that it was not a ‘liberal ‘ stand being taken and proclaimed.

      In the light of ‘it’s not what you say but what is heard’ I’m doubly convinced and disappointed. I like the Diocesan Bishop but would be surprised if he disagreed.

  6. I’m beginning to lose patience with the way Pride and its associated spin-offs are unduly influencing society generally. If you visit London there are Pride rainbows everywhere and sexual symbols on traffic lights. Schools are getting awards for being Pride-friendly and displaying photos of all the children in assembly holding up cards to display the 6 Pride colours. I always fancied a rainbow umbrella but won’t buy one now as everyone will assume I’ve gone LGBT!
    The most annoying thing is the high-jacking of language by giving ordinary words a sexual meaning. At school we had to change the word ‘gay’ in a well-known Christmas song to stop the kids rolling around in mirth. However, I was still caught out when in a Maths lesson the children were not quite getting the concept. So to help, I spontaneously said in all innocence, “Right, we’ll use a bent number line to understand this.” The whole class of 8-9 years old burst out laughing.
    I always like to give my gay friend a hug; he is such a kind and gentle person. But Pride seems to be a disproportionate influence by a social minority. There’s no doubt it is now very ‘fashionable’ to express LGBT support with companies like Costa and Marmite getting into it: classic virtue signalling – I’ve no doubt that was one reason why Ely chose to fly the flag.

    • They have rushed into it without a thought for the science. Now we are set up for a generation that is totalitarian in this respect since they have been taught that only one point of view is possible. Ought one traditionally to predict rivers of blood or something at this point? They are not yet in a position to have any point of view unless they first study the facts.

      • Do I need to remind you all that until very recently it was the chuch as the voice of social morality that was in the vanguard of the oppression of gay and lesbian people, ensuring that consenting homosexual acts remained against the law, and hounding anyone found to be gay out of their jobs and communities. Gay pride marches started as an antidote to the shame and despair forced on gay and lesbian people in the name of Christ. For every action comes an equal and opposite one. All I am hearing here is the indignant squeals of people whos cold reactionary fingers have been prised off the leavers of power.

        And are we really going to judge this issue by (apparently not) quoting from a book that claims the earth was made in 6 days and that adultery should be punished by stoning. if anything, every church should put up a rainbow flag as an act of repentance.

  7. The language of being ‘supportive’ and ‘inclusive’ (as in Bonny’s statement to the press) really needs to be challenged. If a far-right group were marching in Ely, would the cathedral display a flag with a swastika to show that they are willing to include and support Nazi sympathizers? Do not such people also demonstrate the “breadth and diversity of the community”? Perhaps more interesting, would they display a Muslim flag or symbol to support a local Muslim community event?

    I would very much hope that they would not. That implies that they need to explain the reasons for supporting and including some but not others. That reasoning is missing.

  8. An excellent article, with some comments that get to the heart of the matter. As an outsider knowing little about the structural or “organisational chart” there seems to be questions to be raised over:
    1. Authority
    2 Leadership
    3 Discipline
    4 Accountability
    5 Precedent, (what is or isn’t?)
    What are the CoE equivalents of a Company’s Memoradum and Articles of Association. They are of use in determining whether a Company, officers, are acting “ultra vires”?
    I’d suggest that promoting and “getting into bed “with “Pride” which, as a cause, include people who would seek the demise of the Church is indeed acting “ultra vires ” the Christian Church.
    In any other organisational sphere (except perhaps politics) such actions would not be permitted and if they occured, would result in discipline being exerted.
    From what has been written above, there certainly has been no attempt by the Cathedral to engage in anything but identity politics as a means to an end.
    And the rainbow flag is not a true rainbow (not all colours are included). It is a knowing or ignoraant misappropriation of God’s covenant sign. Perhaps it does provide an opening for the Gospel message, after all.

  9. Even setting aside the optics of using “blitzkrieg” as an analogy for those seeking LGBT inclusion (but seriously, blitzkrieg? Don Draper would be sobbing into his Scotch), on the substantive point, this would only be unreasonable if we had any faith whatsoever in an official process so transparently ring-fenced by realpolitik that its outcome’s one already set in stone as solid as any Cathedral’s.

    What other option is there but to go around it?

    As it happens, I’d also criticize the cathedral for flying the flag, but for the opposite reason: so long as they continue to apply unequal rules, they’re being two-faced, and haven’t earned the right to raise that standard. If you won’t walk the walk, don’t presume to talk the talk.

    • So would you discriminate over which minorities could have their flag hoisted by the cathedral and which couldn’t? Would you allow it for those already ubiquitous and fashionable and decline it for those which by comparison needed more airtime?

      • Depends which “minorities” you’re talking about (political movements, other religions, local football club?). This’d only be inconsistent if I were advocating an open-flagpole policy, which I’m not. Each request should be decided on its merits.

          • Does anyone present themselves against discrimination on any grounds whatsoever? If you ever find such a rare beast, an exception to what’s otherwise a straw man among straw men, treasure them!

  10. It is hard not to be utterly depressed at what is being allowed to happen (endorsed by the very silence) right at the heart of the Church of England. So it’s encouraging to read this characteristically well thought through article by Ian (along with some others on the ‘pride’ issue) unapologetically placed in our church’s public square.

    Like it or not, cathedrals are themselves a kind of flag for the CofE. And that is now a dangerous thing because they often appear to see themselves as free from collective responsibility regarding the teaching and discipline of the church. In some cases they appear also to be the convenient mouthpiece for a bishop who cannot (yet) quite say honestly and openly what he or she would really like to say. Thus their very existence raises a standard not solely for Christ but for attitudes and causes which oppose him. That we now accept this as part of the CofE scene is a cause for shame.

    But most of us love our cathedrals. You’d have to be pretty emotionally cold to be immune to the aesthetic thrill of their architecture, the stunning acoustics, the grandeur of their organs and the beauty of an incomparable repertoire of choral music, performed to the highest standard. Many of us will find their history compelling, their liturgy enriching (if we like that sort of thing), the vast space intoxicating. They remind us of how small we are compared with God and they offer us, if we wish, a place to sit publicly but privately at the same time and reset our perspective, to ponder and to pray. They really do work exactly as their original creators must have envisaged.

    But perhaps these amazing riches have come to tempt some (but surely not all) of those who work in such places into thinking they themselves are a special group of people, well connected with the church hierarchy but set apart from the gut realities of life in most normal parishes. Perhaps some of them have come to feel free from the constraints of simple faith on the one hand and petty church discipline on the other. Here, if they choose, they can float high and free, privileged beings, endowed with superior intellect or exceptional musical talent, dispensing doubts or dilutions as radical theological insights, and promoting issues that directly challenge the real church’s calling. And a lot of visitors or passers by will be impressed by the whole spectacle. Who wouldn’t be?

    So perhaps it hardly comes as a surprise when we are told (I have no first hand knowledge) that cathedral staff are more than averagely representative of the liberal agenda on sexuality, not least amongst deans in their personal arrangements. And why should we be surprised, at this present time, that some cathedrals are openly endorsing gay pride events, flying the rainbow flag and thereby championing the gay lifestyle? Why would they not? Who is going to stop them? And so some of the greatest physical witnesses we have (signposts) which should be pointing to the purity and the love and the grace of God are currently pointing to gay sex.

    When Jesus walked this earth he forcibly cleansed the temple. I wonder what he’d do about those of our Church of England cathedrals (or any other churches) which need to be cleansed today? What does he expect from those of us who remain members of the CofE in 2018?

    • What a stunning comment Don–thank you. I love your poetic description here of the power of cathedrals—and the challenging theological notion of their needing cleansing.

  11. I think it’s high time, well past the time, in fact, for the genuine, born again Christian still within the Anglican church to get out. The talking, the dialogue has to come to an end and Christians within that denomination have got to realise that, by remaining within that fold, they share responsibility for its sins and their continuing membership of it compromises their own witness.

    • What about the genuine, born-from-on-high son of Mary who found himself still within the Jewish community some 1980-odd years ago? I can’t quite remember – did he get out?

      • Yes…. though….

        Matthew 24:
        ” 1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

        I’m not sure of application but this and Revelation surely would warn againt false securities. I’m not singling cathedrals out and any parish church could fit but they do exhibit a particular independence within the CofE. The bishop, I think, has much less authority here than in a parish. The bishops throne there is barely more than symbolic….though of what?

  12. Hmm Bishops not wanting to be involved in decisions over sexuality at any level. No big surprise here. That fence that they are sitting on will give way under the massive strain of having too many Bishops sitting on it.

  13. Has anyone in these comments referred to the “remarrying of divorcees” argument? I am not informed enough to know how the level of debate contrasted with the debate about homosexuality, but divorce has never been a trivial issue in the Christian church, and I think the comparison was dismissed rather easily. At the risk of snapping in with the Bible verses, Jesus makes very stern comments about divorce, and I think a lot of divorced Christians have struggled with the situation.

    • Hi Penelope

      Andrew Goddard’s piece here https://www.psephizo.com/sexuality-2/is-pastoral-accommodation-the-way-forward/ is one of the best on how this issue compares with other ethical issues the church has revisited in recent decades.

      A very brief explanation of the difference between divorce and same-sex marriage is that scripture (including Christ in the New Testament) permits divorce in some circumstances but same-sex relations are always condemned as unnatural and contrary to God’s will (and indicative of the corruption and idolatry of the world).

      • It is very questionable that Christ permits it. 90% of NT scholars think Mark to be the earliest gospel. Mark has an outright ban: that has to count for a lot. Matthew’s additions (‘for any cause’, ‘except for adultery’, ‘eunuchs’) seem rabbinic, which considering that (a) Matthew is himself rabbinic and the other gospels are not, (b) Matthew does not seem to have original eyewitness material in Markan contexts, would lead us to attribute these additions to Matthew or to such accretion as had taken place between Mark and Matthew.

    • And the realpolitik behind the theology: no-fault divorce has become too widespread to be condemned outright, despite the gospels placing two explicit condemnations in Jesus’ own lips (either total, or with a narrow exception for adultery). Even the Catholic Church, which supposedly prohibits it, has turned “annulments” into de facto divorces, obtainable for “defective intent,” even after years of consummated marriage.

      The church’s position on homosexuality, by contrast, will always directly affect around 1-2 percent of the population. It indirectly affects a lot more people, but, as shown by society’s total and shameful indifference to gay rights until they proved politically useful for progressives, people can turn a blind eye very easily.

      • So you treat the number of people that do a thing as an argument in that thing’s favour.

        How does that work logically? A lot of people lie. A lot of people commit adultery. The point is therefore not only refuted but easily refuted. And already has been over a period of n years, had anyone been listening.

        • It doesn’t: popularity’s incidental. I supported gay rights back when they were still called gay rights, alongside being a despised minority position shunned by all mainstream politicians.

      • Dear James

        You imply realpolitik trumps Church thinking. BUT …..

        To be a Christian, you follow Jesus Christ, that is what is means. You follow Jesus Christ in full, not merely selective bits to suit anyone’s personal individual feelings. you follow Jesus Christ in full. So what exactly has realpolitik got to do with anything Christian whatsoever? Realpolitik is just an excuse for worshipping the world and not worshipping God – Do the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    • There was quite a lot of discussion and some substantial CofE input to the issue. The titles elude me and I’m away from home. I did my college ethics thesis on this in the mid 70s.

      I don’t recall the divisions and heat as being anywhere near the same-sex incendiary level. For many the issue was if remarriage after divorce was allowed and in what cicumstances rather than the possibility of divorce itself. The latter had diverse interpretations but very few thought it entirely unbiblical.

  14. Some more on the P.R. angle: literal false flags are the best way to maintain the conservative position.

    Despite Rome’s theology around homosexuality (and even unexpressed gay sexuality) being as unyielding as ever, Francis got the public thinking that the Church was cool with it merely by quipping, “who am I to judge?” Style so very often triumphs over substance.

    Tokenism’s great cover for conservatism. If the CoE appears to change, then the English public, most of whom are cheerfully ignorant on religious matters, will buy it. Flying pride flags, being scrupulous about using the latest alphabet soup (Welby’s gotten this down to an artform), and noisily condemning homophobia safeguards Issues … and Higton from external pressure.

    Best thing conservatives can do to undermine the status quo’s to expose their own ruse de guerre, condemn empty symbolism, and pull back the curtain.

  15. Dean Mark Bonney: I did inform Bishop Stephen that I was taking this request to the Chapter, and , as I think he has said in replies to questions to him, it was a Chapter decision. And I have replied to others that this was a Chapter decision and not the Bishop’s.

    So, whatever Dean and Canon Stephen Bourne’s media spin on this, this statement shows just a few senior leaders at the Cathedral made the final decision for the historic site to be ‘re-imagined’ as the LGBT equivalent of Joe Rosenthal’s iconic picture of US Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima, namely:
    Mark Bonney – Dean
    Rev. Canon Dr. Jessica Martin – Canon Chancellor, member of Board of Trustees
    Rev. Canon James Garrard – Precentor
    Rev. Dr. Vicky Johnson – Residentiary Canon

    It doesn’t take much research to discover that Mark Bonney previously co-signed the March 2014 statement by religious leaders in support of same-sex marriage and the Jan 2016 open letter to the Archbishops (on the eve of the Primates Meeting) – https://lettertoarchbishops.wordpress.com/).

    Also, apart from Canon Jessica Martin’s prominence as the author of the prologue to the Pilling Report, she wrote two chapters of An Acceptable Sacrifice? Homosexuality and the Church.

    In the latter, she presents celibacy as untenable for those with same-sex attraction:
    ‘You might allow yourself most of the gamut of ambiguous sexual responses while never expecting any complete sexual fulfilment for you or anyone you might love in that way. You would of course never let yourself think about the misleading messages you might be giving out. Alternatively, you could spend your energy on rigorously suppressing every sexualized
    response for fear of influencing someone, anyone at all, in your direction. Your motives would not be the call to celibacy but a fear of your own self: not the perfect love which casts out fear but an act of that violence – directed against the self – which fear breeds. One option mostly hurts others; the other mostly hurts yourself’

    So, considering the publicly declared sympathies of the Chapter’s most influential leaders, it should come as no surprise that they decided to exploit the Cathedral’s relative independence and prominence to promote the principal emblem of Gay Pride.

    While Mark Bonney’s response to Ian has channeled Andrew Nunn’s concerns expressed at Synod over the need to preserve the independence of cathedrals from bishops, he’s conveniently failed to mention the equally valid concerns of the Cathedrals Working Group Report about the lack of effective internal or external scrutiny of (and therefore accountability for) a Chapter’s actions.

    When we compare the bishop asking for 3% p.a. parish share increases with the Cathedral securing a combined surplus of £1,397,000 in 2016 (largely from a single trustee donor who contributed £813,000 for the freehold on an investment property) and a bumper £0.25 million Fabrics and Maintenance Grant, we should understand that there’s one word to describe the Chapter’s high-handed decision and that’s ‘hubris’.

    So, as with Southwark Cathedral, the misuse of Ely Cathedral to advance LGBT identity politics has resulted from a combination of its organisational and financial independence from the diocese, its Chapter’s lack of any realistic accountability for its actions, but, mostly, from the untrammelled activist exploitation by its Dean.

    That the liberal wing of the Church is this desperate and willing use any and every resource capable of bypassing accountability should serve as a salutary warning to traditional marriage supporters. They will fight dirty.

    Certainly, Canon Dr. Jessica Martin’s involvement in the Cathedral Chapter’s high-handed decision and membership of one of the key Episcopal Teaching Document working groups should now ring the loudest alarm bells in our minds!

    • “They will fight dirty.”

      Nah. (Generalization alert.) Not in their nature. In England, establishment liberals tend to loathe conflict far more than injustice. The majority will pay their dues, obey the rules, and then, safely in private, moan impotently to one another about those beastly conservatives.

      For decades, the “strategy” (if you can dignify it as such) has been to plead with bishops, again safely in private, to change their minds. The bishops, people of the right sort who went to school and seminary with the supplicants, make sympathetic noises, offer white port, and *wipes artful tear* explain that, of course they sympathize, but the time’s not right. Meantime, it’s DADT all the way, in the finest traditions of the public school set.

      Suggest any actual acts of rebellion — withholding parish share, publicly conducting same-sex marriages, seminaries refusing to train anyone until Issues … is repealed, dioceses unilaterally suspending “discipline” — and liberals tend to get a fit of the vapors that’d shame the heroine of a Victorian melodrama.

      Change, when it comes, will come from within evangelicalism. The green shoots are growing — Chalke, Beeching, and of course, the awesome Ozanne — and will spread until they’ve taken over.

      • Come on James,

        Surely, it’s entirely possible to ‘fight dirty’ without having to rebel overtly. I
        mean, look how the Republican Party turned that approach into an art-form.

        Despite the reluctance of Establsihment liberals to engage in outright rebellion to force the repeal of Issues…, why should they, when the Episcopal Teaching Document will consign it to the dustbin of history.

        Yet, as David Faris (author of ‘It’s time to fight dirty’) has noted: ’policy isn’t what decides elections; that’s not how most voters make decisions’.

        His statement that Democrats are engaged in “policy fights”, while Republicans are waging a “procedural war” is equally applicable to Conservative Evangelicals and their opponents.

        ‘Playing dirty’ includes Jayne Ozanne’s paper in which she highlighted the perils of spiritual abuse, while demonising Conservative Evangelical congregations as likely hot-beds of it.

        And, just as, absent an explicit Constututional obligation, Republicans rejected outright Obama’s SCOTUS nomination of Merrick Garland, so it’s true that, absent any explicit obligation of the ‘Five Guiding Principles’, Church pressure groups mounted a campaign which eventually forced Bishop Philip North’s withdrawal from the see of Sheffield.

        At the same time, the holes in the HoB’s updated pastoral guidance (‘maximum freedom within the law’).are so large that clergy can easily drive a forklift truck through them.

        No doubt, the purpose behind this is to foster a Church-wide ethos of welcome (read, routine connivance), such that, by 2020, when the Teaching Document is finished and the ABC is being feted for the ‘success’ of his Reform and Renewal initiative, church blessings of same-sex sexual relationships (i.e. church weddings in all but name) will become as much of an accepted ‘fact on the ground’ as the Church blessing of second marriages were just before the re-marriage in church was officially sanctioned.

        Alea iacta est!

        • As noted, Ozanne is from a totally different tradition to the liberals. However much I disagree with evangelicals, I tend to enjoy their company in large part since they have the courage of their convictions, and boy, does she ever fit that mold.

          The “teaching document” may, I suppose, contain some gesture towards not-blessing blessings, but unless it’s preceded by near-apocalyptic events, it’ll still require celibacy and oppose same-sex marriage.

          Neither will be tolerated by affirming evangelicals. All the tactics you cite, and more, will be deployed by them. Little for the pitiful liberal remnant to do besides watch the coming evangelical civil, ahem, discourse, and keep sipping that port.

          • While I’d agree that Ozanne comes from a different tradition to liberals, as you know, the ideological battle hasn’t been fought along tradition lines.

            Show me the key Evangelical distinctives ( conversionism, activism, biblical authority, Christocentrism, the Lordship of the Holy Spirit, commitment to Christian community, and respect for historic orthodoxy), I can show you where Ozanne and others have repudiated most of them to advance the cause of their coalition with liberals and progressives.

            So, for affirming evangelicals, conversionism is completely re-configured to encompass the awakening of LGBT identity (Ozanne and Beeching are prime examples of this).

            They can also adopt a liberal or progressive stance on biblical authority (e.g. Steve Chalke) and jettison historic orthodoxy when it defies the lordship of sexual identity essentialism.

            By 2020, the decline of evangelical distinctiveness among the newly elected GS reps may well prompt those ‘pitiful’ liberals to break out the port and toast the ascendancy of their unlikely coalition with those of other traditions who, unlike them, are so prepared to ‘fight dirty’.

          • James
            It’s not where you came from but where you now stand that defines what you are. Evangelical is as evangelical believes, not whether someone once attended evangelical churches and has now left. You cannot think as a liberal and claim to be evangelical. The terms ‘affirming’ and ‘evangelical’ are a contradiction in terms. Belief in liberal ethics and liberal hermeneutics and a missionary zeal to promote a liberal agenda doth not an evangelical make. So there is no evangelical ‘civil war’ as you put it. There are evangelicals who haven’t changed and whose Biblical hermeneutics haven’t submitted to the canons of a secular society, these are post evangelicals, former evangelicals, no longer evangelicals but now liberals – who go with the flow and then attempt to bring some Biblical gravy to justify the change.

            Penelope on this forum clearly and consistently claims to be a Liberal – and so she is with honesty and integrity. Someone who thinks as Penelope does and concludes as Penelope writes is also a Liberal – but lacking either the self awareness or the integrity of Penelope.

          • correction:
            ‘these are post evangelicals, former evangelicals’
            should read ‘there are post evangelical…’

          • James, you are viewing someone’s stable as the decisive factor. But how is that a defensible position? How can one understand anything primarily by reference to its origins? What about the several other factors? It is a bit like the etymological fallacy.

            I was brought up anglocatholic till 8, immersed in a liberal stronghold till 13, more impressed by evangelicalism from 14, pleasantly impressed by charismatic renewal from 18, a pentecostal elder from 28 to 38, fortunate to have worked centrally with catholics from 40 while working practically with evangelicals and based at a Focus/HTB-affiliated church. The point is that I am well capable of being either impressed or unimpressed with whatever I am working with at the time. The newspapers always see things along party lines (the drama!). That is not even true in politics, so how untrue is it in the church?

          • Hi Christopher – fascinating history/bio/spiritual journey – thanks

            so, are there any titles/tribes you would happily claim?

            from 14-40’s you have been evangelical and the Catholics on most things are more ‘evangelical’ than many who claim the title.

          • Hi Simon

            The truth is I am not a catholic but was employed by them because beggars can’t be choosers.

            The labels I like are: brother, disciple, friend, Christian, NT Christian, thinking Christian, mere Christian, evangelical, renewal evangelical, truth seeker, truth lover.

          • And battle-Christian, Christian activist. Acknowledgement of the reality of the battle (albeit not activism) is something that unites Inklings, Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

          • Thanks Christopher

            I like all those titles

            “battle christian” indeed – I think much of the Church has lost this crucial Biblical paradigm of understanding the Cross, the Kingdom and the Christian life through the motif of warfare. I sense much of the church, especially in recent debates, has been more about appeasement than kingdom engagement.

            Today I was reading the biography of Duncan Campbell of Hebridean Revival fame and was struck by his last sermon hours before he died. Others said he looked ill and shouldn’t speak, but he insisted he had an important word from the Lord and he preached his last, on “fight the good fight”. He retired to his room, but was soon rushed to hospital and died some hours later.

            He fought the good fight

          • I do tremendously admire Duncan Campbell. We ought not to worry, because the Hebrides Revival was within the lifetimes of many alive today, and there have been subsequent ones. Prayer and repentance are 2 mighty things that go such a long way. As David Watson wrote in 1982, quoting Isaiah: ‘O that you would rend the heavens and come down.’.

            Re: battle – I think that the new post-c.2004 avoiding of controversial stances in the UK evangelical churches (which actually are often commonsense stances) – so unlike the 1980s – goes together with a Lethe-like forgetful style of worship in which there is no tension to be resolved (spiritual warfare songs have suddenly disappeared – not that I liked all of them). The first watermark in this process I found to be Delirious ‘I could sing of your love forever’ – the music remains at the same base throughout – in a way one might be lying in a hammock (not that there is not some quality in the song). The second benchmark was 2-3 years ago with the song ‘Good Good Father’ – here the idea is that an individual is affirmed cosily in everything they like and prefer and are well able to make God in their own image, even though others (who actually are individuals too, so the whole thing is self-contradictory) may have other (‘wrong’) ideas about God. It’s all just self-affirming therapy, and I do prefer the ‘shul’ model of church where it’s a challenge and there are expectations and furthering of the educational process. If everything is all right already now, then that particular ‘Christianity’ does not correspond at all to reality, but it does correspond to a people-pleasing message (maybe I’m not a Willow Creek fan). The real world I inhabit is the one where *some* stories end irresolubly unhappily, where there are Susans who indeed don’t get saved, where life that is not adventure is missing the point, where adventure would not be adventure if a happy ending were guaranteed.

  16. Very interesting consideration of what a flag means, but surely different people will view if in a variety of different ways. There is therefore no single meaning associated with flying any flag. By way of an example, flying the flag of St George can be mild patriotism, or a rallying call for the extreme right. Should we cease to fly the flag of St George because some will mistake our meaning?

    Some people might have seen it they way the Dean intended, but clearly you, Ian saw it a different way.

    • Hi Nick,

      Regardless of how flags convey different messages to different people, the St. George flag is a national flag, which an emblem of the English public collective identity.

      That’s because, as with all institutions, it has a shared social meaning.

      Equally, at a time when the Church has committed to a Teaching Document, which will examine (among other things) the compatibility of same-sex sexual behaviour with Christian teaching, a high-profile Cathedral flies a different ‘national’ flag: an emblem by which LGBT individuals and advocates assert the notion that same-sex sexual behaviour is simply the reasonable actualisation of an irreducible shared public collective identity (or quasi-ethnicity) akin to race.

      The 2014 HoB Pastoral Guidance explained: ’The Church of England will continue to place a high value on theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity. That is why Church of England clergy are able to argue for a change in its teaching on marriage and human sexuality, while at the same time being required to fashion their lives consistently with that teaching.

      The Chapter’s decision to use the collectively funded Cathedral as a public platform for advancing the LGBT campaign is NOT ‘theological exploration and debate that is conducted with integrity’.

      It’s just another ‘dirty trick’, which violates the provisional accord enshrined in HoB Pastoral Guidance.

      Integrity means nothing to an affirming camp whose mantra appears to be ‘by any means necessary’.

      There has been no public censure of Ely Cathedral’s Chapter and the Archbishop’s Council 2018 budget reveals a desperate need to increase the diocesan apportionment to complement Church Commissioners’ funding of Welby’s ambitious Reform and Renewal proposals,

      In response to the current ethos of connivance and impunity, I would now advocate the setting aside of differences among supporters of marriage orthodoxy from all church traditions in order to establish a Foundation in furtherance of their mutual spiritual/financial support and the organised re-purposing of part of the voluntary Parish Share to accomplish this.

      Instead of responding with a flag of surrender, it’s time for supporters of marriage orthodoxy to fight ‘the good fight of faith’.

  17. Not all Christians who support Pride have some kind of unstoppable agenda. Some of us simply want those who are LGBT+. *Including our own children*, to know that there is no shame in how they are, how God created them. Christians at Pride have an incredible witness to the welcoming love of God.

    And there things differ, some will demand /wish change in individuals some won’t. Some think anything goes, others want to stick with monogamous lifelong committments.

    What I’m saying is you cannot label “pride supporters” into one homogenous group.

    Ps I’m even starting on the ww2 imagery…

    • Thanks for the comment. You are quite right to point out that ‘pride supporters’ are not a homogeneous group…but I wonder if all have taken note of what gay advocates observe about the role of the flag in the Pride movement.

  18. Thanks for the very helpful article, Ian. It struck me that in our common language we use the metaphor “to show one’s true colours” to mean indicating someone’s real character. The origin of this metaphor is when ships going into battle had to display the flag (colour) of their nation. So in our common language we link flag-flying with clearly proclaimed identities.

  19. Flags, doctrines, churches and all that aside, I would say this to any appalled LGBTQ+ people reading these comments:

    Not all Christians believe that ‘alternative’ sexuality is ‘wrong’. Some of us are full affirmers of LGBTQ+ people, and simply love and accept you, just as you are, just like Jesus does. We don’t just ‘love’ you but secretly hope to change you, the love is unconditional. Jesus is not a nasty, angry god; He’s kind and gentle, and there are people in the Church who are just like Him in terms of their kindness and gentleness. Be encouraged. We are not all harsh, hard, judgemental people. People like me are willing to lay our church reputations, our church membership and our church relationships on the line to follow Jesus in His love of LGBTQ+ people. I would much rather follow Him where He leads than accede to any church’s rejection of LGBTQ+ people.

    • Thanks for the comment Tony. The question I would want to ask in follow up is: how do you know that Jesus not simply loves people as they are, but wants to leave people as they are, in the light of his central call to *all* of us to ‘repent and believe’?

  20. I was deliberately avoiding commenting on the theology of LGBT. I was merely pointing out that different people will view the flying of the flag differently.

    You, it would, appear regard it as a flag of surrender. The Dean saw it differently and others will have their own views.

    The difficulty now lies in that criticism of it will equally be viewed differently.

    Flying the flag could, for example, have been taken as support for those of a homosexual or lesbian orientation who still hold to the teaching of the church. Some of these people also feel marginalised by some christian people. If there is a vociferous opposition to this event they would have their feelings of marginalisation further confirmed.

    Ian said in his post:

    “The Pride event was comparatively low key, and the flying of the flag by the Cathedral didn’t appear to attract much coverage. ”

    Perhaps we should leave it that lest we do further harm.

    • You made some useful points, but there are other alternatives than choosing between turning a blind eye towards this violation of the provisional accord in the Pastoral Guidance and being struck dumb for fear of risking the further marginalisation of those of homosexual or lesbian orientation who hold to the Church’s teaching.

      The flag still reifies, as a given, the false notion that same-sex sexual attraction is a fixed and shared collective essence: ‘a self with same-sex desires’.

      I suppose that, by modern sentiments, Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees might be described as marginalising many sincere adherents of that sect.

      He certainly was circumspect, but didn’t relent for fear of causing inadvertent harm and neither should we.

      • David S,
        Many thanks for the totallity of your comments. They have shown where , authority, leadership, accountability, discipline, de facto dwell or don’t, particularly as you have delved, dug, to reveal the roots.
        You may already be aware of this from USA, but it stikes me that there is much to learn, or relearn from Revoice and the sweeping coverage (of Revoice and much more see below) of this 47 min podcast. Although it primarily relates to the PCA it may give a glimpse or echoes into the future over here and how it also relates to teaching.
        It is not well recorded, with an echo, which could distract.
        ” Why Christians should be concerned about the Revoice conference.
        How Christians should think and speak about the Revoice conference.
        How Christians should write and speak about matters related to gender and sexuality from the Word of God.
        How Obergefell affected Christians witness on matters related to gender and sexuality.
        How to talk across differences related to gender and sexuality.
        The effect of intersectionality on contemporary discussions on gender and sexuality.
        The importance of sound doctrine and sound ethics.
        The importance of a biblical understanding of repentance, and sanctification.
        The background of the Revoice Conference.
        The importance of having a biblical understanding of sin, personhood, and the grace of God.
        Being careful about the teaching we receive.
        The importance of local churches being safe and loving places for those coming out of the gay rights movement.
        The person and work of Christ and biblical anthropology.
        The importance of local church membership.
        How conflict clarifies matters of biblical truth.”

      • David,
        Here is another (this time written) comment on the Revoice Conference, a comment which uses voices, highlights, much of the language found, mimicked, in the comments in many of Ian’s blog posts. It mentions, briefly, the BCP. Is this a catalyst for a focus group church Billboard/ Notice Board, “Coming to a CoE church near you”???
        And here is a tweet from Glynn Harrison getting to the crux of it (though unrelated to the Revoice Conference:
        “Glynn Harrison
        ? @Glynnharry
        23h23 hours ago
        Glynn Harrison Retweeted spiked

        The problem is – queer theory has no interest in coherence or consistency. It’s all about subversion.”
        This is a point of Harrison’s was developed at greater length in different language , words by Butterfield in the podcast. There are now no common starting positions, points where language and categories have been invented.
        As seen below in the Beeching You tube keynote address this can be demonstrated to be takeover.
        In the light of all this, it would be difficult to gainsay Butterfield’s end comments, about Church even as it may apply to the CoE and Anglican community, its doctrine on marriage and teaching on gender and sexuality.

    • Hi Nick,

      “Flying the flag could, for example, have been taken as support for those of a homosexual or lesbian orientation who still hold to the teaching of the church. ”

      Do you believe that’s what was intended? The intended meaning flows out of the flag-raisers mind-set. So I don’t think that fits or was intended.

      Do you think that was how the wider world took it? The context and common sense, I suggest, wouldn’t think that’s a fit either. It certainly doesn’t appear to be how it was taken.

      Perhaps the cathedral will offer a post-event note disavowing things outside that…..

      • I don’t know how it was intended, that was not my point. It is how it is received that is the point I am making.

        So do I think that was intended? – I don’t know
        Do I think that was how it was received? – Yes by some

        When we have this debate we forget how others will understand what we are saying and, in doing so, sometimes hurt people unnecessarily. We need to be very careful in the way we hold such debates for that reason.

        • I appreciate the ‘hurt’ bit and agree.

          But I think (or have little doubt) that it is what was intended. The flag flyers are not neutral. I can’t conclude that they merely intended solace for the excluded and not the whole gamut. I don’t believe they had any doubt or vagaries about what was being ‘flagged’. They are not naive.

          How it was seen….. it was seen by LGBT eyes as coming down on the side of their philosophy. Who could have thought in the current climate that it would be taken otherwise? I guess it’s being seen as a victory, a slide down the aisle of change, brave and pioneering….

  21. “Hurt” and victimhood :
    Here is a keynote speech by Vicky Beeching (from minute 36) at The Reformation Project in Kansas City:
    Triumphalist, activist motives are on full display, as are silences on the person and Place of Jesus and scripture in church. Not much “hurt” happening here.

    • Geoff. Have you read Vicky’s book? She talks at length there about the unbearable tension of feeling required to be a publically ‘victorious’ and inspirational worship leader when she was struggling with deep inner contradictions with nowhere to share or take them. This eventually nearly killed her. In fact actually anyone in public ministry faces this tension at some level, at some time. For her it was particularly acute. If we only see a ‘not hurting’ , triumphalist teacher on that youtube clip it is because we are only are seeing what is on the surface – in an evangelical market glad to lap it up and look no further. There are, of course, no youtube clips showing what was going on inside her at that point.

    • Hi Geoff,

      I’ve just read this. To most CofE churchgoers, I’d expect that Black majority churches are an alien world . For many in the UK, the experience, during the recent Royal wedding, of Michael Currie’s preaching style (typifying key elements of black Pentecostal and Southern Baptist traditions) was a complete revelation.

      For anyone swayed by Jayne Ozanne’s repeated references to the ‘charismatic leader’ and ‘charismatic tribe’ models as pop-psychology bywords for spiritual abuse, the link that you provided must make uncomfortable reading:
      ‘Because I knew I liked girls, the conviction I experienced in my room was not only unexpected but also unwelcome. I’d heard more times than I cared to count that what seemed to me a natural enough expression of love was, in fact, unnatural and flat-out abominable.

      I had grown up in the traditional black church, where sermons were presented in a Mount Sinai kind of way, both loud and heavy. I’d heard the preacher speak for God when he, with fire and frenzy on his tongue, read to us from Romans 1 about God giving his creatures over to the sinful desires of their hearts, which included men and women “exchang[ing] natural sexual relations” for “shameful lusts” toward members of the same sex (v. 26).

      In fact, having seen God’s words for myself, I never once had felt the need to question whether what he said was true. So when my thoughts spoke of my sin, which I knew to be a prompting from God and not my subconscious behaving unnaturally, I wasn’t offended by the idea of my identity being a product of sin. What offended me most was that idea that it (my sin, my kind of love) was to be the death of me. Because if that were true, then surely I would be asked to lay it aside for the sake of life.

      In contrast, an excerpt from the recent Ad Clerum from the bishop of Lichfield reads:
      ‘It is not right to conceal our ethical and theological views, but we all need to tread gently when we express them and be ready to listen sensitively to those for whom our words might be difficult…We must be alert to the power relations involved in such prayers and conversations, and the possibility of spiritual or emotional abuse.’

      Yet, it’s all too easy for the bishop of Lichfield to forget the power relations involved in his own role of oversight, such that his message and cadre of safeguarding advisers are interpreted by the clergy in his diocese as veiled dissuasion from the theological forthrightness of treating same-sex sexual activity as no different from any other sexual sin for fear of incurring disciplinary action for spiritual or emotional abuse.

      Well, clergy will either be intimidated by that threat, or decide that it’s a cross worth bearing and exhibit the holy boldness in holding to the truth of scripture and denouncing sin that marks out true saints.

      I know that I’d give my last penny to defend and fund any and every priest who does the latter.

      • Hello David,
        1 Spritual or emotional abuse needs to be defined. I’d see it as more than preaching or teaching, more as arising from a personal fiduciary relationship between minister and church member and would involve domination, manipulation and control, at a personal level. Interestingly, Hill-Perry describes being alone when God spoke to her and she wrestled with God.
        “So God came to my house. I was having a very “unspiritual” kind of night. The TV was on. The morning was hours away. My thoughts were boring and typical until they turned on me. As suddenly and randomly as Paul was struck blind on the Damascus Road, I had the unsettling thought that my sin would be “the death of me.”
        2 There is a commonality to the conversions of Butterfield and Hill Perry. Butterfield likens it to a train crash in her life and Hill Perry “as painful as the extreme act of removing a part of the body”.
        3 Hill Perry:
        “That night, I knew that it wasn’t just my lesbianism that had me at odds with God—it was my entire heart….
        “I sat up in my bed and thought deeply about all that was happening in me. I’d known about God for so long, but now it seemed as if God was inviting me to know him. To love him. To walk with him. To be in relationship with him. That moment—that epiphany that my sin, left untreated, would be “the death of me”—wasn’t a matter of trying to be straight or even trying to escape hell. No, it was about God positioning himself before my eyes, so that I could finally see that he is everything he says he is—and worthy to be trusted….”
        “Without a sermon, an altar call, or any emotionally laden music gesturing me to “come to Jesus”—just sitting in my bed, with the TV on and the sun not yet up—I saw Jesus. He was better than everything I’d ever known and more worthy of having everything that I thought was mine to own, including my affections. They were for him to have and to be glorified with…”
        “Shortly after that pivotal night, I was doing the painful work of breaking up with my girlfriend…”
        “To leave her, us, our love, made no sense apart from the divine doing of God. She was both my woman and my idol…”
        “I just . . . gotta live for God now,” I said with a tear-broken voice. A new identity was to come after I hung up”

        “I had no idea what would come next or how I’d have the power to resist everything I’d once lived for, but I knew that if Jesus was God and if God was mighty to save, then surely, God would be mighty to keep. And 10 years later, he is still keeping this girl godly.”
        4 It’s difficult to attribute the preaching and scripture and conversion to the Bishop of Lichfield’s idea of “spiritual or emotionasl abuse”…unless he would contend the it was Jesus, God, abusing Hill Perry.

        5 Here, for further edification. are two short testimonies, from another blog of people “coming out” of homosexuality
        5.1 “Thoshammer”
        “As a man who was consumed by LGBT identitarianism for some time at university, who genuinely thought I was gay, and then came to Christ more fully (I kinda had a gnostic-ish belief in what I thought to be the triune Christian God before) through the witness of a specific Church, and who now is engaged (to a kind, Godly and beautiful woman) , I can say that the gospel you preach is far better, kind and loving than any of the Beeching and affirmation crowds.

        For me, it angers me deeply when I hear LGBT affirmation from professing Christians, as to me it feels like they want me to shove my face back in my vomit so to speak. Their gospel is one of slavery to ones sel-made identity (read idol), where yours is one of freedom in Christ. I originally wanted for the affirmation arguments to be true, but now I consider them utterly appalling. They effectively deny Christ’s power to save us, and create a clean heart in us. A “clean heart” needing to be created after all requires the current heart to be filthy.

        And no; I’m not some individual that has been brainwashed by “gay-cure” therapy, which is just the other side of the coin of the heresy that dominates LGBT identitarianism (Pelagianism). I also don’t think my experience is universal, the struggle is life-long for most, nor do I think I’m somehow a special Christian, merely one who has been changed by the awesome power abd love of God.

        The call from Christ is a love that preaches self-denial (Mark, Luke and Matthew all have Jesus telling people to “deny” themselves in order to “follow” Him Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23, Mark8:34) not of self acceptence as Beeching espouses. Jesus destroyed the false God in my heart and changed my nature. I’m not perfect by any means (there is still sin in my heart in thought, word and deed that pops up), but I know God can change anyone, for He did change and is changing me.”
        5.2 Followed in continuity by this comment from Gordon Kennedy:
        “Hi I totally agree with you. I lived for many years in the gay lifestyle until God called me out of it and I have been celibate for 18 years. It is a very painful lifestyle and God’s call on my life is to pray for the LGBT community and get others to do the same. However having tried to get the churches to come together in prayer for several months before it, it was nothing short of pathetic I invited 8 churches to come together and I organised several meetings with an average attendance of 4 people, the churches in this city are asleep when it comes to prayer for this issue but quick to condemn it. If the church want to see change in this area they have to wake up and pray. Fantastic testimony”
        He continues with this:
        “I was recently asked if I am ex gay. Please No 1 Million times no. The whole issue of LGBT is based on identity. Where does ones identity come from? Does it come from ones sexuality if they are out and proud as I was once. ? Or does our identity come from something much more intrinsic. I lived in the gay scene for 18 years and my whole identity came from that i lived socialised and worked in the gay scene. Now I have become a Christian as soon as that happens a divine exchange takes place and it is no longer I that lives but Christ lives in me. Therefore my identity is in Him and not in my sexual brokenness”

        6 I suppose all of this conversion ought to be banned. and is little more than spiritual or emotional abuse even though as Thoshammer says:
        “The issue I find (from personal experience, see my comment above) is that it often leads to Christians just using “same-sex attracted” as a more Churchy way of saying “gay”. Fundamentally, we shouldn’t even give ground that sees LGBT+ as a category of people. As in the terms of sin there are fundamentally only two sorts of people: those in Adam and those in Christ.

        While I agree my testimony and those with similar testimonies can be particularly effective to those willing to listen, I find that it risks turning into a “here’s one of you lot who repented” . Which suggests that my former false identity and their false identity was valid (it wasn’t/isn’t).
        While of course all sin has consequences and therefore certain worldly consequences (in terms of testimony and personal things) are inevitable (and I accept that), these are thoughts to bear in mind rather than criticisms of what you say.

        Also I totally agree on the latter point, we are taught what to think (as a young man), and certain experiences we have are interpreted for us in an Ungodly way i.e. “you found a guy physically attractive, this means you’re gay” total nonsense of course.”

        7 Being “taught what to think” and “interpreted for us in an ungodly way”, as stated by Thoshammer – is that not “spiritual or emotional abuse” in itself, that the Bishop of Lichfield would counsel against?

        7 Of course these two men, will not be popping up any time soon as keynote speakers or on TV giving their testimonies nor given the high platform in church circles.

  22. Thanks for the link Geoff.
    Jackie Hill’s testimony was powerful and significant and showed clearly that Salvation is not self actualising but self denying. I eagerly await the imminent publication of David Bennets story.

  23. I was fascinated by Don Benson’s comment on the point of cathedrals and in particular the majesty of what they represent. One question remains unspoken so far: who are the cathedrals there to serve. It is relevant to those (volunteers) who serve in Cathedrals and in my case as a Day Chaplain. One of my duties is to say the hourly prayers and to maintain the rhythm of prayer between the formal offices of morning and evening prayer plus the Communion services during the week.

    I am often asked by visitors: what is the purpose of this place and what goes on here, simple questions with many answers. A “House of Prayer” is a typical answer I give, because it is one of very few places in our cities where this takes place in such an open way. Many of the attractions that Don Benson mentions such as the architecture can be found elsewhere in cities and towns but prayer remains at the heart of what we do.

    And why do people come? For many reasons, and irrespective of faith too: some come out of curiosity to see and appreciate the building for what it is, some to shelter from the rain, and a fair few to seek sanctuary, to find a quiet space just to be and to listen. Importantly some need to be listened to and ask for prayer, one of the tasks of Day Chaplaincy. We are there to serve any who enter and for whatever reason.

    One of the key points is that none of things that we do is about “Me”. It is not. We all, from Deans to doorkeepers, must hold servant hearts for the work and the flying of special interest flags sits uneasily with this aspiration.

  24. And now, in an RT on my twitter timeline, a photo of a eucharist at Reading Minster celebrating Reading Pride, with a Pride ‘rainbow’ draped across the front of the eucharistic table.
    Et tu, Reading?

  25. The Anglican church is often the cause of much ridiculing of Christians. They compromise so often that one wonders why they ever had any foundational documents at all.
    I attend an evangelical church, we believe the things the Anglicans are supposed to believe but plainly the senior one’s don’t believe at all.
    My wife still attends a small Anglican church and that despite it having women ministering but I am sure that soon the Bishops will decide that the world knows best and that sexual deviants aren’t any worse than adulterers and so should be able to marry and remarry anyone they want.

  26. The act of Ely Cathedral supporting LGBTQ+ does not get around the fact that the Church of England is now in severe terminal decline. Within the next 10 to 20 years, there will be a large number of redundant churches in various rural parishes. Attendance at church services is falling precipitously in the Church of England.


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