Where are the bishops leading on the sexuality debate?

The Church of England has spent the last couple of years in a process of ‘Shared Conversations’ following the Pilling report on sexuality, the last major part of which was discussion at July’s session of General Synod. Quite rightly, the next stage in the process had to come from the House of Bishops, and their report to February Synod is now available online. (There was also a press conference this morning, but I have not received any documentation from that.)

The central plank of the report is that there should at present be no change in the Church’s understanding and doctrine of marriage and sexual relations, and this is expressed at several points. This is first introduced in para 18:

Two aspects of the emerging consensus are particularly important. First, there was little support for changing the Church of England’s teaching on marriage, as expressed in Canon B.30.3 Second, there was a strong sense that existing resources, guidance and tone needed to be revisited.

This is restated in paras 26 and 39 and several others points. There is no doubt that this will be welcomed with some relief by those who accept the Church’c current teaching, and who have felt as though the Shared Conversation process has been dangling like a sword of Damocles above them for the last few years—but it is also clear that it will be greeted with disappointment and anger by those who wanted to see the Church’s teaching on marriage substantially changed. There are some important nuances around this, though it is not clear that these will in any way ameliorate the negative responses from this group.

One of the things that was widely anticipated was a step back from intrusive personal questioning of those who are same-sex attracted about their personal lives, which would be seen as a move back to a policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’—something written off by Andrew Foreshew-Cain on Newsnight as ‘shabby and shameful’. In fact, the report suggests in para 54 something much more sensible—reasonable accountability of all who are called to ordination, regardless of their situation.

The College and House inclined to the view that any questioning about sexual conduct should apply equally to homosexual and heterosexual people and take the same form – establishing that the person concerned understood the Church’s teaching that sexual relations were properly conducted only within heterosexual marriage and that they understood the principles of clerical obedience to the Church’s teaching.

I wonder whether the last phrase needed one final clarification—but it is clear that this report expects clergy to conform to this teaching. One slightly surprising (but I think welcome) aspect is the affirmation of the principle set out in 1991 Issues in Human Sexuality that clergy and laity have (not different standards of morality, but) different standards of accountability (paras 44–50):

It is clear, then, that there are good grounds in law for holding the clergy to an exemplary standard of behaviour consistent with the Church of England’s doctrine where the laity are not bound in the same way, and that the clergy open themselves to discipline if they contravene the guidance of the bishops on such matters.

All these discussions centre around what the House of Bishops is actually proposing as the way forward for Synod, set out in paras 22 and 23:

As a result of this process, there was a clear (although not unanimous) weight of opinion in favour of the option framed in the following terms:? Interpreting the existing law and guidance to permit maximum freedom within it, without changes to the law, or the doctrine of the Church.

In practical terms this would mean:

(a) establishing across the Church of England a fresh tone and culture of welcome and support for lesbian and gay people, for those who experience same sex attraction, and for their families, and continuing to work toward mutual love and understanding on these issues across the Church;

(b) the preferred option should be backed up by a substantial new Teaching Document on marriage and relationships, replacing (or expanding upon) the House’s teaching document of 1999 on marriage and the 1991 document Issues;

(c) there should be guidance for clergy about appropriate pastoral provision for same sex couples; and

(d) there should be new guidance from the House about the nature of questions put to ordinands and clergy about their lifestyle.

In the context of declining to revise the Church’s doctrine of marriage, these all seem to me to be important—or rather essential—elements of future discussion. My consistent experience in talking to people from a wide range of backgrounds is the vacuum of teaching that there has been in this area—often because of lack of confidence or fear of causing offence. The heated nature of the public debate has, it seems, led to a lack of actual debate on the ground in many contexts.

Having said all that, those arguing that we should maintain what we understand to be the historical teaching of the Church shaped by biblical theology will not welcome everything here. The reference to the ‘classic Anglican triad of scripture, tradition and reason’ has moved away from the language found in Some Issue in Human Sexuality which helpfully set out the long-standing Anglican position of Scripture as having controlling authority, interpreted through the hermeneutical lenses of tradition (how previous generations have read Scripture) and reason (how we make sense of it). Para 34 sets out some of the key issues that need to be addressed in the future teaching document—but there are some notable omissions here. This subject cannot be tackled without noting both the sexualisation of contemporary society, which had led many in the debate to argue that ‘fulness of life’ (John 10.10) cannot be experienced without sexual activity, and the damage that this sexualisation has done to relationships at all levels. Against this, we also need to articulate a clear theology of Christian distinctiveness in society as an essential part of missional communication to the world—not least because this is now recognised as (in historical terms) the key feature of a flourishing church.

Overall, it seems to me to be a good report—but it needs to be well received. I don’t think it is helpful to say (with Gavin Ashenden) that the Church of England is ‘dying’ and that the orthodox should ‘consider leaving’. I do want to take seriously the response of those who will not welcome the report’s commitment to keep the Church’s doctrine unchanged. Andrew Foreshew-Cain commented:

To be honest I find it all exhausting and rather depressing – as well as frustrating and angering. I hope I can put across the case for inclusion and acceptance with grace and with a proper strength and determination. We are about to be sorely disappointed and many are going to feel hurt and betrayed again by our Bishops.

But I find the comments of others singularly unhelpful. Simon Butler, a fellow member of Archbishops’ Council, talks of the report as ‘Dust, crumbs, the fag end of grace after all the ‘righteous’ have had their fair share’, and that all the bishops have done is agreed to talk more. And the statement of LGCM/CA includes this:

The bishops have betrayed their people by suggesting that we could trust them to produce the changes that are needed. There is no sense from their proposals that they are making space to honour the lives, witness and relationships of faithful LGBTI+ members of the Church of England. There is no change in theology, no meaningful change in practice and no change in discipline. LGBTI+ relationships are still second-rate at best, there is no sign of their providing services of blessing for same-sex couples, and their ban on clerical same-sex marriage stays in place.

It is difficult to read this as anything other than: ‘The bishops show leadership when they agree with us and give us what we want; anything else is not leadership.’ In taking this kind of approach, the group appear to demand for themselves what they will not offer to others.

My real hope and prayer is that we can commit to working within the doctrine of the Church, that my fellow clergy can live within the discipline of their calling—and that we can now focus our energies on other, more pressing, missional issues.

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208 thoughts on “Where are the bishops leading on the sexuality debate?”

  1. Misrepresenting my comment as a response to the report is unfair Ian. Perhaps you could clarify that this was made prior to publication.

    • Well, it wasn’t intentionally unfair—and is now corrected. I’d be interested to know whether this is your view of it in these terms, or whether you withdraw that anticipation….?

    • Simon, I’d also be interested to hear from you that, having encouraged me to stay with the process when I felt it was being badly handled, you will now equally commit to the process, rather than undermining it, and respect and submit to the teaching position set out so clearly here, as conservatives would no doubt have been expected to by you had the result been different?

  2. To me, as someone with responsibilities for lay training and who will be grappling with the recent Lay Ministries Report, what stands out here is the sharp delineation between clergy and everyone else. Has any consideration been given (I ask quite genuinely, not rhetorically) to the implications of not requiring the same ‘exemplary standard of behaviour’ of licensed lay ministers (and any others who might publically represent the Church of England)? I ask primarily in relation to the status of such ministers (and without prejudice to whether such a requirement is regarded as a good thing or not).

    • Simon, I think that is an important question, and I hope it will be addressed as clearly in the further teaching. I think it is an essential aspect of pastoral practice.

    • Simon,
      In my reader licensing service the oath I was required to take last year is that Bible Scripture is the prime authority (not any secondary authority, but the prime authority). I note John Sentamu’s handling of the Reader in Yorkshire entering into a same-sex marriage … and so I am left wondering why you actually think that lay people are shown a “sharp delineation”.

      In reality, we are Ministers required to accept the doctrine of the Church just the same and the so-called “sharp delineation” doesn’t actually exist.

      • Clive,
        The only mention of ‘lay’ people in the paper is at paragraph 44. It introduces a set of comments (paragraphs 44-47) that a affirm a specific distinction between ‘lay’ people and clergy in relation to the matter under discussion. This is not a paper focussed on licensed ministers, but quite specifically on ordained ministers. On this basis I use the phrase ‘sharp delineation’.
        As for the situation on the ground, whilst ++York may have applied the same standard expected of clergy to a particular lay minister, I know of a Reader in a different diocese who entered into a same-sex marriage with the knowledge of their bishop, and who holds that this is entirely compatible with the doctrine of the church, especially as it is expressed in ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’.

        • Agreed 1st paragraph although I don’t think it actually represents a “sharp delineation”.

          On your second paragraph there are exactly the same juxtapositions between dioceses for dioceses …. It is not peculiar to Readers.

    • I think this is a good question. The Pastorals do require an especially high standard from leaders. But where the notorious double-standard went wrong was in saying that ‘laypeople’ unlike ‘clergy’ could remain in a settled lifestyle that had always been regarded by Christians as sinful. Removing the double-standard has been agreed to be a good thing to do. Unfortunately a lot have people have wanted to achieve parity by lowering the standards of the group with higher standards (rather like feminism did) and that is always a backward move.

        • This is going to be woefully inadequate answer, but when the state privileged marriage in society (thinking, rightly, that the married unit/family is the strength of a civilization) it did so at the cost of women’s freedom and independence.

          First-wave feminism then, quite rightly, emancipated women from those defined and restrictive roles, but in the quest for parity with men subsequent feminist ideals have had the effect of (to paraphrase Peter Hitchens) “marching women out of slavery in the kitchen into slavery in the workplace instead”. Parity has been achieved (for the most part), but really one form of oppression has been swapped for another and we name it “liberation”.

          I expect Christopher’s point is that, in a roundabout way, the same thoughts/principle could be at work here: If marriage is not uniquely privileged, uniquely honored, and specifically defined, rather than lifting homosexual union to the level of heterosexual ones, what you might find is that all marriage is weakened.

          Just my thoughts. It’s a really interesting area. 🙂

          • Mat, that is a reply that suggests privilege. Working class women always worked outside the home. The ‘sanctity’ of their marriages was never considered. I don’t see why marriage should be uniquely privileged, but why should lifting homosexual unions weaken marriage?

          • Penelope, we don’t see a priori why lifting homosexual unions should weaken marriage. That is because we do not have a perfect grasp beforehand of all relevant factors simultaneously.

            That is a wrong way to proceed. There is never a need for a priori ‘argument’ (‘I don’t see why X should happen’) when we already have evidence from the real world of what actually does happen.

            What does happen? Always the countries that accept same-sex marriage are those where marriage is on the decline. Any exceptions at all? Always the countries that accept it are also those where there is a lower view of the importance of marriage in general.

        • Pre-feminism, women behaved better than men on average. Post-feminism, women began in greatly increased numbers to do negative things they had not generally done before. Swearing, sleeping around, taking drugs, getting drunk and behaving accordingly. Thus they attained equality with men, who also did the same things.

          This shows how incorrect it is to view equality as a good thing rather than a neutral thing. If one gender behaves at a higher level and one at a lower, and later on they both behave at the lower level, that is clearly an attainment of equality, and it is also clearly a deterioration overall.

          Just as much equality would have been attained if men had been encouraged to reach women’s pre-feminism standards of behaviour.

          • Penelope, from your answer you therefore think that swearing, sleeping around, taking drugs, getting drunk were at higher levels among women in the period when women had more constriction on their actions.

            Does anyone agree with Penelope here?

            What is the evidence that your more ‘historical’ view is based on? The popular understanding is with me on this, and it would certainly be odd if it were true. One major point of feminism was to allow women to do all that men do, and that has included the bad bits. Is that not the case?

          • Ian and Christopher- I think the angel in the house model of womanhood was always limited to the middle and upper classes and a, relatively brief, historical period. And I don’t think a major point of feminism was to ‘allow’ women to do all that men do. It’s major point is equality, moral, social, cultural, political, between the genders/sexes.

          • I don’t remember mentioning either an angel or a house.

            Though it is always true that if people male or female have a positive and moral idea of who they are and who they are supposed to be, they are more likely to be motivated to be positive and moral.

            So by your estimation female sleeping around, swearing, drug taking and drunkenness was in most historical periods at the same sorts of levels as today, and in certain ‘classes’ never ceased to be?

            Even if that were historically true, which it is not, it would still not be good – which is the main consideration.

          • Penelope,
            In your response at January 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm you have bizarrely contradicted yourself.

            There is a point to valuing difference and not simply demanding “equality, moral, social, cultural, political, between the genders/sexes.”

            “Equality” ought not to be simply about being the same!

          • Clive. I don’t see where I contradicted myself. Of course feminism is about equality between the sexes. Where did I say that the sexes/genders were, or ought to be the same? But that does not mean that many of the perceived differences are social constructs

          • Clive should read are not social constructs, I.e. Many female and male roles and attributes are social and cultural constructs.

          • I wonder how many male/female distinctives one can remove without removing romance altogether. But why would one want to work against a good thing like romance?

          • Ah Clive what I said and what it means are two different things. But I’ll say it again. Feminism campaigns for equality- moral, social, political- between genders. That does not elide biological sex differences. But many so-called gender differences are socially constructed. Is that clearer?

          • Christopher I can imagine one could remove all ‘distinctions’; otherwise we wouldn’t have homoeroticism.

          • Penelope, you put ‘distinctions’ (sic) in inverted commas.

            From this I gather that you do not think there are any hard-and-fast distinctions between male and female.

            Lest we be in any doubt about this, you say so yourself: ‘one could remove all ‘distinctions”.

            Does anyone else agree that there are no hard-and-fast distinctions at all between male and female? Wombs? Genitals? Who will support Penelope here?

          • Christopher I repeat: what about homoeroticism? One doesn’t need distinctions (no inverted commas) for romance between the sexes. Those distinctions may matter to those of us who are straight, though I don’t remember anyone being attracted by my womb.

          • In using the word ‘romance’ I think we cannot just jettison its chivalry / courtly-love diemnsion. That is to impoverish it.

          • In using the word ‘romance’ I think we cannot just jettison its chivalry / courtly-love dimension. That is to impoverish it.

  3. Some automatically assume a basically legal approach here. This is a stance which actually takes a lot of defending. Law consists in people performing the elementary task of walking into lobbies or, for the technologically astute like the C of E, pressing buttons (both things which anyone can easily do without changing the nature of reality), sometimes under the illusion that they are doing something significant.

    Others assume a basically scriptural approach. That also falls, since anything that is true in scripture was already true on other grounds before it was ever written down. Nothing has been or could be true by virtue of being included in Scripture (it is generally more the other way round: truth is a criterion for inclusion).

    A natural-law approach is miles better since it wins in the correspondence stakes hands-down and also does well in the coherence stakes. It does well in the coherence stakes since natural law is a project that involves discovering the unified nature of reality. It does well in the correspondence stakes since it is falsifiable and testable – usually through the use of statistics.

    When we use statistics (and it is inadmissible, a fantasy world, to ignore them), then we immediately find the massive correlation between acceptance of homosexual intimacy and the catastrophe of the sexual revolution which splits families left, right and centre at astonishingly increased rates, while also increasing STIs and promiscuity stratospherically. This correlation can be seen in at least 3 ways: comparing historical dates, comparing cultures, comparing subcultures within a single culture.

    We also find other massive correlations – between environmental causes and claims to homosexual orientation; between homosexual intimacy and unsafe intimate practices – and so on.

      • So, rather than engage with the substance here, you are happy to write Christopher off as ‘abhorrent’? I wonder what suddenly happened to the mutual listening we were up till recently committed to? Or does that only work one way?

        • I didn’t write Christopher off as abhorrent, I wrote off his ‘use’ of ‘statistics’, and the conclusions he drew from that ‘use’, as abhorrent.

          He didn’t provide any substance to engage with. He lobbed out a load of insulting assertions without any supporting evidence. Some I know are false (eg Syphilis spiked after the second world war; rates of Gonorrhea are lower now than in the 1930s – see Hughes & Field (2015) Review in Future Microbiology 10 p.35-51).

          I find demonising gay and lesbians by using pseudoscience like this abhorrent, and I wish people to know that. As you say, listening goes two ways.

          • Dear Jonathan

            How can you know on the basis of a tiny 9-line summary what evidence I am referring to? It is not customary to give such evidence in short comments. This is the twitter age, but 140 characters can demonstrate nothing, whereas the vast tomes on which students and researchers rely can demonstrate quite a lot. Name the sub-topics you want evidence on, and I will, or will endeavour to, provide it.



          • Anyway – on gonorrhea and syphilis, they used to be effectively the only two STDs.

            Now there are over 30, and the remainder all came in the wake of the ‘sexual revolution’. Does that number not trouble you? – and does not that chronological sequence trouble you? I am sure they do, because they trouble all the people who care.

            And both gonorrhea and syphilis are very much on the rise recently. In an age of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and continuing sexual irresponsibility. Do you know which subgroup of people is by far and away the most likely to catch and/or spread such diseases?

          • Further – which part of that is ‘pseudoscience’? I did not understand your use of this term. Could you defend it, please.

          • Christopher Shell
            “Anyway – on gonorrhea and syphilis, they used to be effectively the only two STDs. Now there are over 30, and the remainder all came in the wake of the ‘sexual revolution’”

            As a medical doctor this statement caught my eye. I rather think this is misuing numbers. What are you including in the 30 STDs that you think are new?

            I agree that we have a massive problem of STDs (e.g. HIV and drug resistant gonorrhea) in highly promiscous subcommunities, but the above misues of numbers isn’t helpful.

        • I am with Jonathan here. I think Christopher’s point (or part of it) has merit, but the conclusions being drawn are way too sweeping and it comes across as an insultingly cheap shot.

          While it is near-certain that the ‘sexual revolution’ has directly led to the breakdown of families, the undermining of the institution of marriage, increased sexual deviance among the young, promiscuity and a whopping increase in STIs, the deluge of pornography and to a whole range of other issues, to claim all of these things have “massive” correlation to the rise and acceptance of homosexuality specifically is nonsense.

          • Hi Mat

            Give me any topic(s) whatever on which you want statistics, and I will, or will endeavour to, provide them.

            I say this because the relevant statistics are so many that they are chapter-length, not comment-length, so it is customary not to include them in comments of this nature.

            One of my central points is easy for you to refute. Either name cultures where acceptance of homosexual practice does not increase hand-in-glove with acceptance of the sexual revolution (of which it is a central plank); or countries where acceptance of the sexual revolution does not bring a large and clear increase in broken families with all that that means for children. Then show that these cultures (if they exist) are more than a tiny minority; then account for their being either non-existent or a tiny minority.
            The common denominator is acceptance of extramarital sex.

          • In other words I am not speaking (a) direct causation (since everything is interrelated somehow, and the world does not consist in simple A-causes-B most of the time), nor of (b) mere correlation (which might be coincidental), but of
            (c) unavoidable correlation.

          • Also, Mat, I rarely find C of E clergy of any description speaking against the things you just spoke against; and least of all do I find them doing so from among the campaigners for LGBT. The entire area of how the sexual revolution has rewritten culture, and often in such demonstrably bad ways, seems rarely to be touched by them.

          • On your last point regarding a voice, or the absence of one, against the cultural revolution from within the CofE, I am certainly in agreement, but I think you’re taking what I said as a little more critical of you, and your statistics, than it was perhaps meant.

            I would agree for instance with the statement that “homosexual practice does increase hand-in-glove with acceptance of the sexual revolution”, to slightly re-word you, but my defense of Jonathan Tallon was that your initial comment did not retain that nuance, and the implication from it was that Homosexuality was a primary causal factor, rather than a correlating one.

            We risk going off topic though. While I accept that you phrased yourself the way you did (because otherwise your comment would have been a list of caveat/explanations 2000 lines long), you’d probably have been better off typing the longer comment, or submitting an argument that needs that level of detail as an article instead.

            On a day when it’s clear people in the revisionist camp are hurting an defensive, it just seems ignoble of you to be so provocative. is that fair? Perhaps not, you judge.

          • Mat, the statistics are already submitted and published as chapters in What Are They Teaching the Children?

            If there are any mistakes, please point them out, and provide superior statistical sources.

            If you can’t do that, you either agree with me and need to change your stance, or else you need to research these matters more first.

            We are dealing with massive percentage discrepancies here – they are not so small as to be able to be reversed.

            Nor are they controversial. Statistics on public health are widely available, and there is usually only a single universally-accepted source for them.

          • I didn’t say they were massively correlated to the rise of homosexual activity ‘specifically’. All of these things are correlated with each other, homosexual activity no more nor less than the rest of them. Everything sexual-revolution-related is correlated with everything else sexual-revolution-related.

          • No, no. You’re still not hearing what I’m saying.

            I am not disputing the statistics. I am not even disputing the main point you’re highlighting from them: that the rise in homosexuality is intricately tied the sexual/cultural revolution. We agree on this! Stop asking me to prove or provide evidence for challenges I simply haven’t made. You seem to spoiling for a fight and I’ll not give you one.

            My complaint was almost entirely about this comment;

            “…we immediately find the massive correlation between acceptance of homosexual intimacy and the catastrophe of the sexual revolution….”,

            about which you now say;

            “I didn’t say they were massively correlated to the rise of homosexual activity ‘specifically’”.

            I’m afraid you did, quite intentionally, and now in addition to being rude, you’re in danger of being a hypocrite too. I am not surprised that Jonathan Tallon, who normally comments reliably and promptly, has not said anything else. If you wanted a conversation, you’re doing an excellent job of throwing that chance away.

          • Dear Mat

            No, I said there was a correlation, which we all agree there is.

            I never used the word ‘specific’ in the original comment. That was your word. I took you to mean ‘exclusive’ by it – but maybe I did not get your meaning right. Of course, one could say that all correlations are specific in their own way, but none more specific than the others. All the elements of the sexual revolution are correlated with one another.

            I seemed to highlight homosexual practice without mentioning other things because it was the topic we were talking about at the time.

            Had we been talking instead about pornography, swearing in the media, drug use, abortion, divorce, extramarital intercourse, STIs, promiscuity levels – then it would have been that that was highlighted.

            I agree that you are with me 90% and was concentrating on the bits where you were arguing ‘case not proven’.

          • As to Jonathan not commenting, he must of course like the rest of us be given the chance to have a life.

            If statistical claims are challenged, then that conversation must be followed through to the end – otherwise we fall prey to the ‘agree to disagree’ fallacy, which fallacy is a convenient dodge for those not supported by the evidence. Also, if they are challenged, it must be indicated *wherein* they are wrong, and superior statistics should be provided. In this case, I have summarised and generalised since the detailed statistics are in my chapters in What Are They Teaching The Children?

  4. Ugh.

    Why are all reports of this sort so frustrating to read? With one hand they (the House of Bishops) uphold the doctrine, value and teaching of the church (as they should!), while with the other they undermine that same position, and invite that teaching, newly affirmed, to be in a perpetual position where it can challenged, ignored or circumvented! You could argue that they are allowing the church to ‘put it’s teaching under siege’, if you prefer melodrama. Sticking with that metaphor, you could argue that this assault on the church has been repelled, or rebuffed, but the encircling army has not been broken and is very much still at the gates. The ‘defenders’ cannot feel at peace, and the ‘attackers’ have good cause to feel like they could yet storm the walls….

    Ultimately I don’t know weather to feel happy, as this is close to the result I wanted, or irritated that it seems unlikely to change anything and leaves the church still sitting precariously?

    This line in particular (emphasis mine)….

    “Interpreting the existing law and guidance to permit maximum freedom within it, without changes to the law, or the doctrine of the Church.”

    ….sounds very close to “the law is not so clear that you can’t find the wiggle room if you look for it” and of the four practical points suggested, only one of them (b) seems to have the intent to change something, or is something that wasn’t being done anyway.

    In this respect, I do symaphise with the central point of the LGCM/CA statement, that;

    “There is no change in theology, no meaningful change in practice and no change in discipline.”

    I think they are right.

    We do not have accord.
    We do not have division either.
    What we have is an Impasse, a stalemate. It won’t last long..

    • Thanks, Mat…but I find aspects of your response puzzling. Stating that there are not sufficient grounds for changing our doctrine—so we do need to actually live it out—is not going to end the dispute. So what to do?

      When ‘conservatives’ were anxious about where the process was going, the ‘liberal’ response was, by and large ‘You just have to stay with the process’. But now it hasn’t worked out as anticipated, it seems as though the process can be neatly dropped. How does that work?

      Should we only stay with doctrine that determined people won’t constantly try to undermine? That’s not a recipe for peace.

      • “What to do?” I don’t know, but I can try and be clearer about my comment…

        My understanding is that this entire process was initiated to see if the church needed to change it’s teaching on marriage, to accommodate those in same-sex relationships. The existing teaching on the subject was clear, but questions had been raised, from both scholarship and society that needed to be answered.

        They now have been. This report reads as unequivocal: no it does not need to change, no it will not change. In this respect I am both pleased and fundamentally in agreement with you and many of your commentators.

        However, there is still another question, one that’s been apparent throughout the whole process. That is, “What else does this change?”

        As I understand it, the principle problem has been not so much that church teaching isn’t clear, but that when it is, it is either (A) not upheld or ignored by those entrusted with teaching it, or (B) circumvented/avoided/undermined by those who want to see it changed.

        Perhaps I am just a pessimist, but I see nothing hopeful in the report that would suggest to me that those who were pushing for revision have any intention of stopping, (point B) or that, aside from issuing some new guidance, the bishops are going to exercise their authority and use their disciplinary powers to make everyone toe-the-line (point A).

        Thus, as I tried to articulate in my comment, despite a positive result (from my perspective) I doubt this will change much. The debate will continue on as before, you will continue to find plenty of material for articles such as this, and the forces of the progressive left and revisionists in the church will continue to push.

        I am not sure things are strong enough to withstand that pressure, but i hope I am wrong.

        • Thanks Mat. I think the report does change two things, and reaction to the report changes a third.

          First, this report does, thankfully, draw something of a line under the Shared Conversations.

          Secondly, it reiterates clearly that clergy are expected to abide by the teaching of the church.

          Thirdly, and I think I am genuinely surprised by this, the reaction of those unhappy with it fairly clearly shows that they were happy to follow due process when it was going ‘their way’, but are very happy now to ditch it. I struggle to make sense of this as a position of integrity.

          • I am glad you see where I am coming from, even if we disagree.

            I think you are right in your third point here, I too find the reaction of some (a minority for sure) to be petty and disingenuous, even ‘mean-spirited’. Let us hope the House is robust enough to stand against that, and discourage it from both ‘sides’, for the mirror of that feeling would be a sense of triumphalism on the part of the traditionalists.

            I suppose I also accept your first point too. If nothing else the SC were a huge, if valuable, drain on time, resources and human emotion. Now that there is a line under it, people can re-focus their energy elsewhere.

            I still think you’re wrong about point two though. I think what was clear could not have been made more clear.

      • The Bishops need to back up their position by consistently disciplining those who undermine the doctrine of marriage for example by blessing SSM . Many on the liberal side say they are doing and will continue do everything which is legal in secular law to undermine the church’s teaching. For example Andrew Foreshaw-Cain on BBC Radio 4 World at One – quite open that he and others have been conducting services of blessing for SSM.

    • You will always have ‘stalemates’ if people consider researched stances to be on a level with stances that are nothing but ideologies based on what people *want*. They are obviously incorrect to consider this to be the case. Quite the reverse: ideology and scholarship are enemies. That means that there is not actually a stalemate. There would be a stalemate if the data of researchers strongly disagreed.

      • “That means that there is not actually a stalemate.”

        Then what do we have?

        Stalemate: a situation in which neither group involved in an argument can win or get an advantage and no action can be taken.

        Stalemates are not about winning or loosing an argument, they are about the possibility of moving forwards, of progress. In chess, a stalemate is not a victory, or even a draw, but a loss for both players as both are prevented from executing a next move.

        I think the word is perfectly appropriate, and your definition of it is wrong. 🙂

          • “In other words, it doesn’t matter at all who wins the argument. Who agrees?”

            I agree. That may be the position we’re in! I am not saying it isn’t important, only that it probably won’t change much. *sigh*.

            The debate was ‘won’, if that’s even the right term, by those in favour of retaining the current teaching. However this only matters or has any import at all if the teaching is now going to be upheld consistently, taught/encouraged by all those in authority within the church and, where necessary, have discipline exercised in light of it. This is Ian’s main point, and I share it.

            If these things don’t happen however (and I feel like I have good cause to be cynical), then by their (the HoB) action, or inaction, the value of that “win” remains to be seen. It may turn out not to matter in slightest.

            Until we know that, stalemate seems like the appropriate term.

          • A debate is won when the evidence is superior on one side. Power politics may sometimes make the losing side seem to ‘win’.

          • So we either accept people withholding comment when they know they have lost (which puts power in the hands of the ideologues who, for their own ends, try to reject research and accuracy), or we challenge them ‘Did you fail to comment because you knew you had lost?’.

            That, in a nutshell, is why people are rebelling against the liberal elites of media and politics insofar as they exist. They think they have the right to sidestep evidence or punish those who are doing nothing but telling the truth.

          • Examples of people who have been removed from their post *because* they told the truth: Judge Paul Coleridge, and Hans-Christian Raabe. I have frequently been escorted away when my handout contained nothing but truthful facts and my escorters were not informed enough to deny that, nor would they have refrained from escorting me off even if they had been informed enough. It’s for reasons like this that I hope Jonathan will at some point engage (there’s no hurry). If he or anyone else thinks any points I make are factually wrong, then debate them, or provide better stats or statistical consensuses, but don’t retreat.

          • I should have added Gavin Ashenden. People say ‘jump before you are pushed’ but if one is wrongly being pushed, I always think you should let them push you, since that draws attention to the injustice in the cases where there is injustice in the sacking.

  5. I have a lot of sympathy with the angry reactions coming from the ‘LGB’ crowd. The CofE has three options, only one of which is loving:

    1) Return to the biblical teaching of marriage by rejecting contraception, thereby allowing a coherent case against same-sexed sexual acts to be made.

    2) Continue to reside in a state of contradiction by accepting contraception whilst also claiming that same-sexed sexual acts are immoral. (This would entail continuing to taunt the LGB.)

    3) Accept all that contraception brings with it, including the notion that same-sexed sexual acts are not immoral. (This would entail lying to the LGB.)

    The CofE can resolve the tension within its present sexual ethic by either returning to the truth or more fully embracing a lie. To suppose it can continue to do neither is to play cat and mouse with the LGB. Quite frankly, the CofE deserves their anger.

    • Daniel: please could you be a bit clearer about what you are saying here? Are you claiming that sexual acts, even within heterosexual marriage, that would not lead to conception are immoral? Because if you are, that might lead to the anger of quite a few people outside of the LGB community as well.

    • The case against same sex relations does not rest on the acceptance or non-acceptance of contraception. The case against same sex relations is grounded in a conception of the design of humankind as divided into male and female, with sexual attraction and anatomy pertaining to the relevant gender. Same sex relations are disordered (and immoral), not because they are not ‘open to conception’, but because they arise from same sex attraction (which is not immoral), and same sex attraction is disordered because it is mismatched with the individual’s gender (and hence anatomy). The disordered nature of same sex attraction is a very deep truth about humankind as divided into male and female by its divine creator, and does not boil down to a question of ‘openness to conception’.

        • The fallacy there is an obvious one. So-called B, C are not equal alternatives, and why force anyone to assume that they should be? We learn what is good for us in food by what makes us healthy and what makes us drop dead. So it is with biology 101. We observe that the one causes every single baby (and therefore could not be of more central importance) and the other is a massive disease risk and causes no babies at all. We also observe that the former would be a disease risk if there were not monogamy, and thereby learn another lesson about what nature intends.

          • Please tell us what the massive disease risk of a married heterosexual couple engaging in oral sex is Christoper?

          • Andrew, I wasn’t referring to OS but to AS. That is the trouble with using coy terms like A, B and C!

            However, OS can cause throat cancer and (the massively-increasing) HPV. Even public medical figures quite frequently fail to mention this, instead presenting it as core repertoire with no questions asked. I have seen Dr Stuttaford in The Times completely miss out this ‘slightly’ important life-and-death consideration. And even public figures like Michael Douglas were kept uninformed.

            Married faithful couples who were virgins at marriage, as you say, run few health risks. That is an obvious message and pointer from nature.

            There are no (sexual or) quasi-sexual circumstances where male ‘couples’ are free from risk. So is that.

            If a person has had the average UK number of sexual partners, their indirect partners will number around a million. So is that.

          • Christopher my point was not simply about procreative sex but about any sexual activity which straight couples enjoy and which gay couples also enjoy. We do not, on the whole, nowadays, claim that sexual intimacy between straight couples, which is not procreative, is immoral. Though that was at one time (many times) the prevailing view. Indeed, sex in marriage as a remedy for lust rather than as a means of procreation is far more ‘biblical’.

          • Penelope, I can think only of Paul’s ‘better be married than burn’ – ‘burn’ of course can be interpreted 2 different ways, only one of which is relevant to outlets for lust.

            Whereas ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is often taken to be part of the big biblical narrative.

        • No, how can you conclude that from the above argument? Since straight sex is not (as such) based on disordered desire it is not (for that reason) immoral. It can be immoral for other reasons of course.

          You also do a disservice to the significance of the human body by speaking of it in the utilitarian terms of ‘tool’ and ‘hole’. What kind of a theology of the body is that?

          • Will. That is rather my point. Straight couples indulge in all kinds of intimacy which is non procreative but which is not, nowadays, considered disordered or immoral, though it was once. The so-called ‘matching’ of anatomies in different gendered partners is irrelevant if and when they are not participating in penetrative, vaginal intercourse.

          • No it isn’t irrelevant. The division into male and female is a very deep truth about the design of human nature. Please see my argument above.

          • Penelope – the matching is not ‘so-called’.

            As mentioned in the earlier point on A,B and C (a point you did not answer), you and everyone else came about only as a result of that matching being a unique reality. C works – billions of times. B does not, ever. Does that (literally) infinite percentage difference between 0% and 100% not have any weight? You know it does.

          • Christopher I know how conception, generally, occurs in humans, but straight sexual activity is not in most couples confined to acts which are open to conception.

          • Only one thing can make a couple ‘one flesh’, and the fusion of male and female contributions into a single baby proves it. There are no competitors, no second and third places in this contest.

          • Christopher and if you don’t have a single baby, you’re not one flesh? (Which btw is only one of the possible meanings of one flesh.)

          • Penelope, it is not only one of the possible meanings of one flesh. Only by one physical means can a baby which is a fusion of male and female contributions be naturally created.

            If you think that physical contact of any kind (or of more kinds than the above) creates one flesh, then we must be one flesh with many thousands of people. Quite a different meaning from that intended by the person who coined the phrase.

          • Christopher I wasn’t referring to physical contact at all in my suggestion that there is an alternative meaning to one flesh. One flesh refers to the creation of a new kinship group.

          • That can be disproved. It refers to bodily union, not kinship-union. See 1 Cor. 6.16 ‘one in body’ (body as opposed to spirit: a bodily union achieved specifically by sexual intercourse and by no other means).

          • Penelope.,

            Then let’s work with that. In Genesis, ‘for this cause’ indicates that God initiation of mankind through sexually differentiated pairing is the divine impetus for marriage. So, by this divine impetus (and not any other) God causes the man to leaves his descent group to be joined to his wife.

            Despite many centuries under Moses’ provisional accommodation of divorce and because ‘it was not so from the beginning’ and it also divides ‘what God has joined together’, Jesus harked back to Genesis as the basis for denouncing his contemporaries’ acceptance of divorce for any cause.

            A same-sex relationship is, by nature, equally ‘not so from the beginning’.

            Of course, Jesus’ detractors were probably just as keen to insist to Him that divorce for any cause was no longer considered ‘disordered or immoral, though it was once’.

          • In any case, Penelope, what about my main point re human origins that the 100%-of-everyone-who-ever-lived vs 0%-of-everyone-who-ever-lived is a statistic that is not merely striking but clear-cut, and not merely clear-cut but determinative? That makes your idea that vaginal intercourse is just one random act among many very inaccurate.

          • Christopher don’t misrepresent me. I didn’t say that vaginal intercourse was one random act. Nor are other acts of sexual intimacy random. Of course procreative sex procreates that is its telos (or one of them). Other sexual acts have other ends. And I think you’ll find that, in the Hebrew bible, one-flesh very much indicated kinship.

          • Penelope, you think Paul in 1 Cor. 6 is taking ‘one flesh’ to mean something different from its prime OT meaning?

          • Penelope,

            The Church’s position is that ‘that there are exceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse’.

            In the official guidance document, a key question for clergy to ask is: ‘Do the couple understand that divorce is a breach of God’s will for marriage?

            How is that at odds with Jesus denouncing divorce *for any cause*? Or St. Paul’s pastoral accommodation of deserted spouses: 1 Cor. 7:15.

          • David two responses: that is the official church teaching but it is clearly interpreted fairly liberally, especially with regard to some remarriages; equal marriage could and should have the same expectation of life-long commitment.

          • Penelope,

            There may well be greater licence than the HoB intended, but that does not make the Church’s teaching inconsistent with scripture.

            Also, same-sex marriage may well have the expectation of life-long commitment, but, since SSM is an innovation of the State, it remains the State’s duty to decide whether this is valid.

          • Penelope,

            You’ve got your history wrong.

            1. It was the Church’s duty to register all marriages, births and deaths as imposed by Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar-General.
            2. Before 1857 (Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act, the legal requirements for a valid marriage in England and Wales had been governed by the canon law of the Church of England.
            3. The State only began to solemnize civil marriages in register offices from 1837.
            4. Until 2013, the legal distinction between religious and civil marriage was in terms of how they were solemnized, not in terms of their effect. All of that changed with the Same-Sex Marriage Act.

            The Church of England is under no obligation to recognize a State innovation, which ignored the Church’s response.

          • David I know that civil marriage was introduced in this country only in the 19thC. I’m taking a rather broader historical perspective. Who married people in the Graeco-Roman Empire? For the first few centuries CE there was no such things as Christian marriage. The ‘state’ has (almost) always mandated marriage. When Paul and Jesus talked of marriage they had no notion of ‘Christian’ marriage.

          • Penelope,

            The key principles of kinship were consonant with Christianity. For example, the Romans held to the presumption of paternity through marriage: pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant The father is he who is married to the mother.

            The presumption, which could only be rebutted by clear and convincing contrary evidence) was that “All children born in wedlock are presumed to be the legitimate children of the husband and wife’.

            It’s only with the State innovation of gender-neutral marriage, that certain states sought the unwarranted re-assignment of this foundational presumption of natural kinship through marriage to same-sex couples.

            So, we have cases, like Q.M. vs. B.C, (NY 2014) and In re: M.C. (Cal. 2011) in which same-sex spouses argued to be recognized as joint parents of a child conceived by one of them during a sexual relationship with the biological father while they were separated.

            This is how same-sex marriage subverts natural kinship rights because it doesn’t just stop at ‘two people who love each other’.

          • David but they weren’t were they? Look at the ABC. I wasn’t arguing about the legitimacy of children -after all there have always been adopted children – but that the State has always controlled marriage. It is a civic institution. That it might also be a sacrament or o religious institution for some communities is a different matter.

          • Penelope,

            You referred to the State as controlling marriage, as distinct from the church, or religious authorities.

            However, in societies existing before and beyond Christendom, that distinction between state and religion is not clear-cut, making it impossible to declare that marriage has always been controlled by the state, rather than religion.

            Presumption of legitimacy has everything to do with marriage automating the recognition of couples as co-founders of a legitimate unit of kinship. This presumption is part of the goods of marriage and a fundamental enough contingency of it for the ECtHR to declare that marriage is ‘geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’ (Schalke v. Austria)

            Presumption is not required for adoption, since it requires the failure, surrender, or demise of natural parents.

      • Will,

        you wrote above, “Same sex relations are disordered (and immoral), not because they are not ‘open to conception’, but because they arise from same sex attraction (which is not immoral), and same sex attraction is disordered because it is mismatched with the individual’s gender (and hence anatomy)”.
        Could you explain how it is that same-sex relationships, which are immoral, arise from same-sex attraction, which is not immoral? (There seems to be a lack of logic there). And, in the case of same-sex attraction, what is the basis of your distinction between ‘disordered’ and ‘not immoral’?
        You also say, if I’m understanding rightly, that the division of humankind into male and female is “a very deep truth” which does not “boil down to a question of ‘openness to conception'”. If this is an argument for gender complementarity in a wider-than-sexual sense, how do you make this argument without proving too much – e.g. without implying that same-sex communities such as religious orders or schools are in some way unhealthy, even though they have been valorised for centuries?
        in friendship, Blair

        • Certainly.

          Same sex relations are immoral because they are activities, and morality is concerned with (free) human action. Same sex attraction is not an activity, it is a condition, and therefore cannot be immoral; that would be a category error. It is disordered and undesirable (like many things), but it is not immoral.

          On the second point, I was not aiming at gender complementarity in a wider-than-sexual sense. I was referring only to the proper form of sexual attraction and relations as pertains to the sexually dimorphic organism that is humankind.

          Does that clear things up?

          • Hello Will,

            it clarifies things in a way, but I’m not sure it makes them any the more plausible.

            I’m not sure what the distinction in your first paragraph achieves – you were arguing earlier that same sex relations are disordered and immoral “because they arise from same sex attraction”. So, for all that it might be a category error to label desires ‘immoral’, still there is a link between disordered desire and immoral relationships. In that case perhaps I was wrong above to say that your position lacked logic here – you are condemning same-sex desire as well as relations, or is that a misreading?

            (As an aside it seems to me your comments could be read as suggesting that all same-sex desire is disordered whereas other-sex desire is not, ie that you don’t seem to leave room for the possibility of disordered other-sex desire. Perhaps that too is a misreading – I realise you’re aiming at brevity – but either way, for those of us who are gay it seems to me that your position potentially leads to despair since our desires are disordered and without them shifting to other-sex desire, there is no way for them to be rightly ordered, no potential to fall short of…..)

            On the other point: if you were only referring to the proper form of sexual attraction and relations for humans, rather than anything broader, why does this not boil down to ‘openness to conception’?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Blair – The distinction I make is a standard one, since morality concerns free human action rather than human conditions. Morality is about correct or proper human action (this definition is found in Aristotle, for example, as well as in a great many other places).

            Same sex attraction is disordered, but cannot be immoral since it is not an action. You ask what this distinction achieves. It achieves the important point that there is nothing immoral about the condition of experiencing same sex attraction. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘condemning’, but I will accept of course that this is a negative evaluation based on the proper form of human sexual attraction. It is not a moral judgement though.

            I believe my above comments do make clear that straight sex can be immoral for other reasons (including of course arising from disordered desire). My only point here is that straight sex is not as such (i.e. as straight sex) immoral, whereas same sex relations are immoral as such (i..e. as same sex relations) because they necessarily arise from same sex attraction, which is disordered. It is disordered because it is mismatched with the individual’s gender (and hence anatomy), since under the fundamental division of humankind into male and female the healthy (well-ordered) male is attracted to the female, and vice-versa. That the male of a species is, as male, attracted to the female, and vice-versa, is a fundamental element of the division of a species into male and female. Which part of this account do you find implausible?

            Penelope – I don’t want to use terminology that is distracting to the argument, but according to Britannica: ‘Sexual dimorphism [is] the differences in appearance between males and females of the same species, such as in colour, shape, size, and structure, that are caused by the inheritance of one or the other sexual pattern in the genetic material.’ My point of course is that attraction to the female is part of the inherited sexual pattern of the male, and vice-versa. (Its absence in any given individual is a consequence of dysfunction, not a feature of the inherited sexual characteristics.)

          • @Will Jones

            Let’s just unpack part of your statement, shall we?

            “…same sex attraction, which is disordered. It is disordered because it is mismatched with the individual’s gender (and hence anatomy)…”

            The plain implication here is that to be sexually attracted to someone of the same sex is somehow a contradiction of one’s gender and anatomy. Well, you can SAY that, of course, but it’s not a statement of any actual empirical fact.

            “….since under the fundamental division of humankind into male and female the healthy (well-ordered) male is attracted to the female, and vice-versa.”

            Well, it is undoubtedly the fact that the vast majority of healthy (well-ordered) males are attracted to females (some females, that is, not all) and vice versa. But a minority clearly aren’t.

            “That the male of a species is, as male, attracted to the female, and vice-versa, is a fundamental element of the division of a species into male and female.”

            While there can be no question that male-female attraction is far and away the majority sexual attraction – and presumably always has been and will be – it clearly isn’t a fundamental element of the division of the species into male and female, because if it were, that minority who are sexually attracted to people of the same sex couldn’t exist.

          • The division into male and female and the characteristics attending that division are not defined by statistics, as though you can point to a few individuals lacking some characteristic and thereby eliminate it from the definition. For instance, it is a feature of the female to have a womb and produce offspring. Some women can’t have children. Some don’t have a womb. But those facts clearly don’t change the properties of the female as female. They just show that some women have unfortunate conditions which deprive them of the features proper to their gender. Likewise, the fact that some males lack the sexual attraction proper to the male does not alter the fact that it is indeed proper to the male to be attracted to the female; it just means they suffer with an unfortunate condition which deprives them of a feature proper to their gender. Your argument doesn’t appear to allow for the possibility of disorder or pathology in an organism, or at least not in relation to gender.

          • @Will Jones

            I agree that the division into male and female and the characteristics attending that division are not defined by statistics. They are defined by the physical facts of biology. That is why the statistical fact that the vast majority of males and females are in fact sexually attracted to people of the other sex is not a sufficient reason to add such attraction to the definition of being male or female.

            I don’t dismiss the possibility of disorder or pathology in an organism in relation to gender. I simply decline to make the assumption that being homosexual (“same-sex attracted”) is a disorder or pathology, since the facts do not require me to make it.

          • That is indeed where we disagree. Perhaps though you can concede that it is not totally implausible to regard attraction to the opposite gender as part of the constitution of gender i.e that your opponents are not complete morons.

          • @Will Jones

            I find the objective biological criteria for being classified as male or female sufficient and satisfactory. My objection to the addition of attraction to the opposite gender as “part of the constitution of gender” is not that it is totally implausible – there is nothing to stop you from doing it if you fancy it – but that it is totally gratuitous, as well as contributing nothing to our knowledge or understanding.

            Furthermore, I do not regard it as a proper use of definition – “a formal statement of the exact meaning of a word, an exact description of the nature, scope, or meaning of something” (Concise Oxford Dictionary), which is a factual matter – to try to make it into a vehicle for advocating one’s opinions about the way that things “ought” to be.

            Whether those who disagree with me should be classified as morons (or as anything else) is not a question to which I have given any thought; I regard it merely as a time-wasting distraction.

          • hello again Will,

            picking up on a few things, the part of your argument i find implausible is in how it’s to be applied. I accept in theory the distinction you’re making between ‘disordered’ and ‘immoral’ but as applied, I’m not sure it takes things very far given that you accept that it’s a negative evaluation, and that in a reply to William you point to same-sex desire as a mark of pathology. I wonder if you have empirical, as well as a priori, grounds for arguing that same-sex desire is pathological? I note that Justin Welby has said that “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship”, and that 1991’s ‘Issues in human sexuality’ speaks of same-sex couples “whose partnerships are a blessing to the world around them, and who achieve great, even heroic sacrifice and devotion”. Can you explain how this is possible if these relationships are based on disorder / pathology?

            I’m not sure you actually “do make clear that straight sex can be immoral for other reasons”, but even if that’s unfair of me I wonder about the implications of saying that straight sex is not, as such, immoral, but that same-sex sex is. How does that sit with “all have sinned, and fallen short…” if for same-sex desire there is no potential to fall short of? And putting it as you have done seems to leave little room, in the case of other-sex desire, for any speaking of ascesis or ‘training’ / ordering of desire – it risks sounding as though other-sex desire is just fine as it is and needs no transforming (whereas same-sex desire in this picture disordered and has no potential for being transformed…). Again, is that a misreading…?

            in friendship, Blair

          • William Fisher – that to be male includes sexual attraction to the female, and vice versa, is part of the objective biological criteria of the constitution of gender. It’s part of what it means to be male and female, and why nature has male and female at all. This is not the insertion of an opinion into a definition; it is the recognition of a clear and distinct element of gender.

            Blair – the a priori argument is the most important point, as any empirical evidence will always be a matter of aggregates, generalities, tendencies and statistics. The psychological and sexual health problems which correlate with same sex relations are well documented and well known (for example, at least 1 in 8 gay men in London has HIV) but the patterns of causation in these things are obviously complex. Christopher Shell, who is much more up on these things than me, elsewhere on this comment thread gives some examples. The existence of same-sex relationships which display virtues and bring benefits does not destroy the point anymore than the example of beneficial lies and thefts (or any other category of sin) overturns the moral disorder inherent in those actions.

            On fallenness – other-sex desire is of course disordered insofar as it is human desire and shares in the disordered nature of all (fallen) human desire. But it is not disordered as other-sex desire i.e. its disorder does not arise from its being other-sex, which is among its proper (well-ordered) qualities. Same-sex desire is disordered as same-sex desire i.e. its disorder arises from its being same-sex. Its transformation would be either to (Platonic) friendship or (for those who also experience other-sex desire) to be subsumed under a (well-ordered) other-sex desire.

          • @Will Jones

            “…that to be male includes sexual attraction to the female, and vice versa, is part of the objective biological criteria of the constitution of gender.”

            I don’t know where you got that one from. The overwhelming majority of males *are in fact* attracted to females, and vice versa. We all know that. However, since there is a minority of both biological males and biological females whose sexual attractions are to members of the same sex and not to members of the other sex, it is clear that to be male does *not* have to include attraction to the female, or vice versa. Other sex attraction, although undeniably by far the majority sexual attraction, cannot therefore be an essential part of what it means to be male or female. It follows that it is incorrect to state that other sex attraction is “part of the objective biological criteria of the constitution of gender.”

            It is apparently your opinion that things *ought* to be different – that *everyone ought* to be heterosexual, and that something is wrong if they aren’t. You are as free to hold that opinion as I am to reject it. I do, however, object to attempts to make an opinion into part of a definition, which, despite your denial, is precisely what you are trying to do.

          • William Fisher – we’ve been through this point. I refer you to the above arguments – the general structure of which you appeared to accept. The fact that not all individuals conform to a biological definition does not undermine the definition or make it subjective opinion. Biological definitions don’t work like that. There are always individuals who do not conform to it. They are those with some form of disorder. Of course this is my opinion. But it is my opinion concerning the fact of the matter. It is based on the clear properties and function of the male-female distinction in nature.

          • Will Jones – If people are male, they are male; if they are female, they are female. An examination of my physiology, added to awareness of the biological differences between male and female, would be sufficient to allow any physician (or indeed any ordinarily knowledgeable person) examining my physiology to perceive immediately that I am male. He/she would not need to know anything whatever about my sexual attractions to arrive at that correct conclusion (which a saliva test would, of course, confirm), nor would it be in any way altered or modified by the information that my sexual attractions are homosexual.

            In view of the above, it is should be clear that to add heterosexual attraction to the biological definitions of male and female is simply gratuitous. The indubitable fact that the overwhelming majority of people are heterosexual does not demonstrate that being homosexual is a disorder, nor does it provide any justification for trying to obtrude your opinion that *everyone* ought to be heterosexual and that being homosexual is a disorder into the factual definitions of male and female. Biological definitions don’t work like that, nor should they. Yes, the male-female division unquestionably serves the vital function of sexual reproduction and would not exist otherwise; no sensible person would dispute that; but nature obviously hasn’t made human sexuality as tidy and uniform as you would prefer it to be – and as it doubtless would be if you had designed it according to your own specifications.

          • William,

            You wrote: ‘The indubitable fact that the overwhelming majority of people are heterosexual does not demonstrate that being homosexual is a disorder.’

            It would useful for you to clarify your understanding of ‘disordered’ objectively.

            As an objective comparison, the overwhelming majority of people do not experience genetic sexual attraction, although GSA is experienced in 50% of re-unions between siblings, separated at birth.

            Is GSA disordered, and, if so, why?

          • hello Will,

            just to pick up a thing or two from your comment yesterday evening… you said “the a priori argument is the most important point” and it is tempting to conclude that this is at least partly because it’s easy to make it neat and clean-cut. The problem is in the applying of it – I wonder how you imagine that your position is / may be heard by those it excludes and pronounces defective?

            However, thank you for noting (in mentioning mental / sexual health problems) that “the patterns of causation in these things are obviously complex” – it’s highly questionable what the meaning of such problems among LGBT people is and just a little too simple to read it straight off as evidence of pathology.

            Unsurprisingly I’m not convinced by the analogy you draw later on: “The existence of same-sex relationships which display virtues and bring benefits does not destroy the point anymore than the example of beneficial lies and thefts (or any other category of sin) overturns the moral disorder inherent in those actions”. I was wondering what kinds of beneficial lies or thefts you had in mind… if it were a lie like, say, a lie told to conceal a Jewish family from the Nazis then that would not stop lying in general being wrong, but it might well be thought that such a lie would be justified – by analogy so would a same-sex relationship but perhaps that’s not the kind of argument you had in mind…? In any case, following your position it still seems to me questionable whether it is possible for same-sex relationships to show forth any virtue at all, if based on pathology / disorder…

            Thanks also for your clarification about fallenness. I note that for you, transformation of same-sex desire essentially means its erasure – which is at least consistent with your own logic but perhaps shows the nub of where we disagree…

            in friendship, Blair

          • hello David,

            sneaking in here if I may…. you ask William about defining ‘disordered’ objectively. I think it worth mentioning James Alison’s essay ‘Good-faith learning and the fear of God’ here, with its analogy of anorexia and alcoholism and suggestion that objectivity may be found in careful study over time (http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng17.html). There’s also the work of Evelyn Hooker from the 50s…

            Also, am wondering why ‘genetic sexual attraction’ is a good analogy – not least because, like any incest analogy it could refer to same- or other-sex couplings?

            in friendship, Blair

          • David Shepherd – I can think of no objective and meaningful sense in which, in my view, being homosexual qualifies to be called a disorder. It is for those who claim that it does to clarify their understanding of ‘disordered’ objectively.

            Whether GSA, of which I have heard but about which I know next to nothing, is disordered is no doubt a fascinating question for those who are interested in the subject, but whatever the answer is, I fail to see that it can shed any light one way or the other on the allegation that being homosexual is ‘disordered’. Indeed, it strikes me as a mere irrelevancy in this context.

          • William Fisher – Except you accepted above that including other-sex attraction as part of the (full) definition of gender was not totally implausible, so you can think of a possible objective basis for regarding it as disordered. You just reject it.

          • Will Jones – Yes, of course I accepted that it’s not totally implausible to include other-sex attraction in the definition of gender. I could not do otherwise, since there is nothing to stop you from doing it. What is totally implausible is the claim that it is a necessary part of the “full” definition of gender: it quite obviously isn’t. The only point of it would seem to be the factitious, ad hoc narrowing of the definition of gender for the purpose of arguing that homosexual attraction must be “disordered because it is mismatched with the individual’s gender”.

            The reason why I reject the contention that being homosexual is disordered is the sufficient one that I see no good reason to accept it. The mere fact that it does not accord with the gratuitous addition of other-sex attraction to the biological definition of gender (or, more properly speaking, sex) certainly does not constitute a good reason.

          • William,

            Come off it. You only consider GSA irrelevant on purely subjective grounds.

            GSA is an unchosen sexual attraction, which the overwhelming majority of humans do not experience. Homosexuality is an unchosen attraction, which the overwhelming majority of humans do not experience.

            You’ve simply avoided as an irrelevance a comparison which objectively undermines the cogency of your argument gainst considering homosexuality to be disordered.

            Your responses here are no more than a ‘question-begging’ special pleading in support of your identity.

          • Hi Blair,

            Thanks for the link. The Good-faith learning and the fear of God excerpt makes interesting reading (apart from falling prey to Godwin’s Law comparison with the Nazis), since it seeks to addresses same-sex attraction from the standpoint of orthodox Catholic doctrine.

            To make the argument work, the author has to accomplish three things:
            1. Bypass a key proviso in the CoT’s decree: since it is left for us to strive against, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ
            2. Insist that, since homosexual attraction (according to the author’s understanding of Catholic doctrine) is capable of being ordered, or healed, any sexual acts resulting from such attraction are not intrinsically wrong, but might be good or bad according to their use and circumstances
            3. Insist that homosexuality can only be considered objectively disordered by presupposing the intrinsic heterosexuality of all human beings.

            In terms of 1, we read: ‘The Church teaches that at the Fall, and therefore in the real living out of all of us, our human nature was very seriously damaged, but that this damage did not destroy our human nature. The distinction is important. If our nature had been destroyed, that is, if we are radically depraved, as is taught by some of the churches which are heirs to the Protestant Reformation, then salvation would come to us as something without any continuity with our nature, with our past, and there would be no organic continuity between “who I was” before accepting salvation and “who I will turn out to be” when all is revealed.

            Yet, setting aside the fact that the Reformed tradition is not deferential to the Council of Trent decrees, there are serious holes in the author’s arguments.

            For instance, far from affirming an organic continuity between “who I was” before accepting salvation and “who I will turn out to be” when all is revealed, the Council of Trent explained that redemption is effected by enabling ‘who I was’ (the old man) to be put off, in order to put on “who I will turn out to be” (the new man in Christ):

            5. For, in those who are born again, God hates nothing, because, There is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism into death; who walk not according to the flesh, but, putting off the old man, and putting on the new one, who is created according to God, are made innocent, immaculate, pure, harmless, and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ; so that there is nothing whatever to retard them from entrance into heaven.’

            There is nothing in the Council of Trent’s decree nor scripture that implies an ‘organic continuity’ between the ‘old man’ and ‘new man’ in Christ.

            St. Paul explained to converted Galatians: ‘So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to one another, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

            2. Regarding orthodox Catholics, the author appears to rely on this distinction between tendency and resulting behaviour to assert :‘If they conceded that “being like that” is simply part of nature, which is to say, part of God’s creative project, then it is evident that the acts which flow from that way of being could not be intrinsically evil, but that they might be good or bad according to their use and circumstances, as is the case with heterosexual acts.

            However, if this was an objective argument, it would be applicable to other aspects of ‘being like that’, such as the prevalence of polygamy elsewhere in the world. Should the Church hold to a blanket ban on such unions, or are they good or bad according to their use and circumstances.

            3. It is a false dichotomy (which excludes chastity and celibacy as behavioural options) to assert that those who consider homosexual tendency to be disordered must presuppose that all humans are intrinsically heterosexual.

            In terms of the comparison with GSA, see my last response to Wiliiam. The appropriate comparator is an unchosen sexual attraction which the overwhelming majority of people do not experience.

          • David Shepherd – Come off it. GSA is indeed an irrelevancy. Yes, homosexuality is an unchosen sexual attraction, which the overwhelming majority of humans do not experience – just as heterosexuality is an unchosen sexual attraction, which the overwhelming majority of humans *do* experience. But being unchosen does not disqualify an attraction from being disordered. For example, I don’t doubt that sexual attraction to children (paedophilia) is unchosen, but that does not prevent it from being disordered.

            My reason against considering homosexuality to be disordered is *not* the fact that it is unchosen, but simply that I have no sufficient reason *for* considering it to be disordered.

            As I have already said, I know little or nothing about GSA, and am therefore reluctant to say much about it, but if we have to conclude that it is, that conclusion and the reasons for it have no more bearing on homosexuality than on heterosexuality.

          • Will,

            You wrote: ‘My reason against considering homosexuality to be disordered is *not* the fact that it is unchosen, but simply that I have no sufficient reason *for* considering it to be disordered.’

            I advanced the fact that both homosexuality attraction and GSA are unchosen, not as proof that they are both disordered, but to demonstrate that the comparison was valid.

            You rightly indicated that, despite being unchosen and not experienced by a majority of people, paedophilia is disordered.Yet, you still can advance no objective criteria by which an attraction can be considered to be disordered.

            You are just subjectively sure that there is not sufficient reason for considering homosexual attraction to be disordered…since an objective rationale for determining what constitutes disordered attraction either escapes you, or is something you’d prefer not to disclose.

            So, absent any objective criteria for determining what is or isn’t disordered, your argument remains circular ‘question begging’. You are simply embedding the premise in question (‘is homosexual attraction disordered?’) into your argument..

          • David Shepherd – As you say, both homosexual attraction and GSA are unchosen, so the comparison is *in that particular respect* valid. What of it? Likewise, both heterosexual attraction and GSA are unchosen, so a comparison between them is *in that particular respect* equally valid. But again, I say, what of it? In either case, apart from indicating that both phenomena share the specific characteristic of being unchosen, what else of importance does the comparison tell us? Nothing at all that I can see.

            I would say that a sexual attraction is disordered if any expression of that attraction in practice would result in behaviour which is morally wrong. That is why I regard paedophilic attraction, however much it is unchosen, as disordered, an assessment with which you have signified your agreement. It is also why I do *not* regard homosexual attraction as disordered.

            Yes, of course I have heard/read countless arguments in favour of the view that all homosexual behaviour *is* immoral. I find none of them convincing. Among the worst I would rate such non sequiturs as “If you once say that homosexual behaviour isn’t per se immoral, you’ll have to admit that (pick one) paedosexual behaviour/incest (including GSA)/sex with animals isn’t immoral either”, or “You can’t claim that homosexual behaviour isn’t per se immoral, unless you first make out a cast-iron case for saying that paedosexual behaviour/incest (including GSA)/sex with animals *is*.”

            Begging the question (“petition principii”) means using an argument which tacitly takes for granted the very thing that one is trying to demonstrate. I have not used the implied assumption that homosexual attraction is not disordered in order to argue that it isn’t; I have simply declined to make the assumption that it is.

          • William,

            Your ‘what of it?’ rhetoric is vacuous. I’ve identified a sexual attraction which has characteristics in common with homosexuality of being unchosen, but also not prevalent among the majority of people. Furthermore, GSA can be consensual, mutual, permanent, faithful and stable.

            Yet, despite those similarities and contrary to any principle of induction, you assert that a comparison can only be made in respect of those specific characteristics and no other. In fact, to shore up your argument, you may as well assert that no other sexual attraction is situated with enough similarity to homosexuality for a salient objective moral comparison to be made. And, of course, after stripping the philosophical gloss away, that’s all you can assert.

            You assert that: ‘I would say that a sexual attraction is disordered if any expression of that attraction in practice would result in behaviour which is morally wrong.’

            Of course, what I asked for were objective criteria and it’s entirely subjective to assert that, whereas any expression of paedophile attraction results in behaviour which is morally wrong, homosexual attraction doesn’t, so it’s not disordered.

            And just as many times as you’ve heard/read countless arguments in favour of the view that all homosexual behaviour *is* immoral, I’ve heard revisionist claiming that it’s morally right.

            Fortunately, I haven’t fallen prey to the non-sequiturs that you mention. Nevertheless, if you can’t clarify the objective criteria by which you morally distinguish behaviour resulting from sexual attractions, your attempt to invalidate any moral comparisons with any other sexual attraction is just another special pleading.

            Which is little better than the non-sequiturs that you mention.

          • David Shepherd – Yes, GSA, like both homosexuality and heterosexuality, is an unchosen sexual attraction, and no doubt sexual relationships based on GSA, like ordinary homosexual and heterosexual relationships, can be consensual, mutual, permanent, faithful and stable. GSA and homosexuality share the additional characteristic – one which they do *not* share with heterosexuality – of not being prevalent among the majority of people. Once again, I “vacuously” ask, what of it? Does it indicate, for example, that if we regard GSA as a disordered attraction, then we must conclude that homosexual attraction is also disordered? No, of course not; no such conclusion follows.

            We both agree that any sexual behaviour between adults and children is morally wrong per se, and that paedophile attraction is therefore disordered. We apparently disagree on the morality of homosexual behaviour and the implications for the status of homosexual attraction. I have no intention of entering into an argument on that question here, since I don’t wish to spend the rest of tonight writing an essay.

            But in any case, we have begun to stray considerably from the original point at issue, which was the assertion that homosexual attraction is “mismatched with the individual’s gender (and hence anatomy).” (Which is my fault as much as yours, for allowing myself to be distracted by your GSA red herring.) That assertion is not a conclusion which the biological reality of being male or female requires us to draw, and I regard the attempt to validate it by gratuitously adding other sex attraction to the biological definition of male and female as simply contrived. I don’t say that there is no mismatch at all here; I concede that there is one. It is not with anyone’s “gender” or with any other objective reality, but merely with some people’s belief that *everyone’s* sexual attractions ought to be heterosexual. I cannot regard that mismatch as an important one.

          • William,

            In response to my challenge to provide objective criteria for determining the morality of behaviour resulting from sexual attraction, all that you’ve managed is to summarise the shape of our disagreement. You can’t even muster a cogent thesis to explain why any of sexual attraction are disordered.

            You merely assert that the agreed similarities between different types of sexual attraction are no basis for establishing objective moral comparison.

            Ultimately, you are asserting that there is no other sexual attraction which can be compared in order to establish objective criteria for determining whether a sexual attraction is disordered. You again merely assert that homosexuality isn’t.

            Of course, your approach to debate works when you have an assertion to deny, but not when challenged to assert your own thesis.

            You may well be privy to objective criteria for detecting the morality of behaviour resulting from sexual attraction, but you haven’t been able to articulate it here.

            Instead, you return to what you know to be a safer tactic: lobbing perceived non-sequiturs back into your debating opponents’ side of the court, in the hope that they’ll tire themselves to return it; but without actually advancing objective moral criteria of your own.

            So, until you can provide objective moral criteria, feel free to continue that. Will Jones might even respond.

          • David Shepherd – You plainly disagree with me about both the (im)morality of homosexual behaviour and the (dis)ordered status of homosexual attraction. You have every right to do so.

            However, GSA, which you have lobbed into my side of the court (to use your own metaphor), is nothing but an irrelevancy. I decline to pontificate on a subject of which I have so little knowledge, and in which (unlike you, apparently) I have not even the most tepid interest, but a consensus, arrived at by the most trenchant and decisive reasoning, that GSA was disordered would not in any way indicate that homosexual attraction was also disordered or make that assessment any more plausible. Neither the fact that GSA shares certain characteristics with both homosexuality and heterosexuality – e.g. being an unchosen attraction, having the potential to lead to sexual relationships which are consensual, mutual, permanent, faithful and stable – nor the fact that it shares with homosexuality, but *not* with heterosexuality, a further characteristic – that of being an attraction experienced only by a minority – leads or even points to any such conclusion.

            Still more importantly for present purposes, nor does your comparison of homosexual attraction with GSA have any bearing on the assertion which I repudiated in my original post, and still do: that homosexual attraction is some kind of “mismatch” with one’s biological sex (which some nowadays prefer for some reason to call “gender”).

          • Dear David,

            this can only be an inadequate quibble or two rather than a good defence of James Alison’s argument, as I haven’t the knowledge to do anything more.

            – the text started out as a lecture and was then a book chapter before being posted online, so I don’t see how Godwin’s Law applies here.
            – you say James has to accomplish 3 things to make the argument work but I’m not sure how (1) fits in, as part of the question the essay is addressing is whether same-sex desire is always something to be “resisted manfully”.
            – also on this, I note your further quotation from the Council of Trent, but wonder if the question is how the language of ‘putting off the old’ and ‘putting on the new’ is to be understood? May be wrong here but I thought part of the basis for James’s argument is that total depravity is not part of Catholic anthropology?
            – I think this also addresses your (2): it is not, I’m suggesting, “according to the author’s understanding of Catholic doctrine” that he argues that same-sex desire can be ordered and healed, but on the grounds that total depravity is not part of Catholic anthropology, so in principle every desire is capable of being transformed (rather than being covered over). I realise it could be said that what the shape of that transformation is in the case of same-sex desire is another question, but this would at least open the possibility that same-sex sex is not *intrinsically* wrong.
            – I’m not sure why you cite polygamy as “another aspect of ‘being like that'”, since polygamy could be called an arrangement, not an orientation – having multiple concurrent partners does not in itself link to which gender/s you’re attracted to.
            – also, on your (3) I think you need to read more carefully – James isn’t insisting, or trying to insist, “that homosexuality can only be considered objectively disordered by presupposing the intrinsic heterosexuality of all human beings”. He is saying that that is how the official Vatican argument works, that making that presupposition is where their argument gets its objectivity from.

            On ‘GSA’….. your argument here seems to be (please correct me if this is wrong):
            ‘GSA’ is an unchosen sexual attraction that very few experience;
            same-sex attraction (if we must use this phrase…) is also an unchosen attraction that very few experience;
            ‘GSA’, (like other incest) is clearly disordered, therefore so is same-sex desire.
            If this is your argument it seems to me that it simply doesn’t follow. And I would just note that you by-passed my point that “like any incest analogy it could refer to same- or other-sex couplings”, which I suggest raises the question of why even adult incest (or so to speak a subset of it like GSA, though presumably GSA could occur among adolescents) is a good analogy here.

            in friendship, Blair

          • So, you’re still reciting the same tired verbiage about irrelevance of GSA (and, in fact, every other kind of unchosen sexual attraction) to the question of whether homosexual attraction is disordered.

            Yet, you remain unable (or unwilling) to provide objective criteria by which the morality of sexual behaviour should be determined.

            It may well stray from your repudiation of Will Jones’ assertions, but it doesn’t alter the fact that If you cannot provide any objective criteria for deciding on what constitutes a disordered attraction (beyond your facile explanation that it results in behaviour which is morally wrong), then it renders your position regarding homosexual attraction entirely subjective.

            Of course, you could simply state that you do not have objective moral criteria. It’s an answer which might not save face, but would save us a lot of time.

            Alternatively (and most likely) you’ll persist in avoiding any declaration of objective moral criteria by which sexual attraction could be considered disordered. After all, you’ve resorted to that in your last three posts, albeit unsuccessfully.

          • David Shepherd – I have dismissed the suggestion that, if we conclude that GSA (or some other kind of unchosen sexual attraction which is not experienced by the majority of people) is disordered, then we have to conclude that homosexual attraction is also disordered, as a non sequitur. It is.

          • William,

            So, no objective moral criteria then!

            And you’ve dismissed a suggestion about GSA which I didn’t make. In respect of GSA, I was merely exploring whether you could explain the consistency of your rationale for deciding whether a sexual attraction is disordered. You’ve proven that you can’t.

          • David Shepherd – My reason for not regarding homosexual attraction as disordered is the adequate one that I see no cogent reason to suppose that it is. What is the bearing on that of your list of characteristics that GSA has in common with both homosexual and heterosexual attraction, and of your accurate observation that GSA and homosexuality are both minority attractions? None.

        • Blair – You say my argument is too neat, but then argue that nothing good can ever come from something disordered, which is much too neat and obviously untrue. The a priori argument is most important not because it is neat but because it is true. That just is the proper form of gender. It’s how God designed male and female to be. Why would he create creatures with complementary anatomy etc and then intend them to be attracted to members of the same sex? It just wouldn’t make sense. It’s obviously the result of something going skewiff.

          I’m not trying to cause offence. I don’t actually make a habit of advertising my views on these things. But I was responding originally to the claim that it was inconsistent to reject same-sex sex while accepting contraception, which is nonsense. And the rest has just been trying to defend the logic of my position from criticisms and objections. Also, truth is sometimes unwelcome – don’t you think I’d like to be able to join in with what our culture now celebrates? But I can’t when the truth of human nature as I understand it means that the celebration is misplaced. I don’t claim to understand why God allows things to go wrong in his creation, sometimes very tragically so. But I do try to have faith that he knows what he is doing and that he is good and loves us deeply and is worth holding onto come what may. Sorry I don’t have better answers for you on this question.

          • Hello Will,

            thanks for continuing to engage. I understand that you’re not trying to cause offence (nor am I offended) and that you’re arguing based on the truth as you understand it. I’m trying to test out the truth of this a priori argument by applying it and seeing how it ‘cashes out’ – as I’ve said above this is what leads me not to be convinced that it quite works. Am wondering if we have reached a point where we disagree, for assorted reasons, and where any further discussion would be better face-to-face…?

            in friendship, Blair

    • Daniel, I agree that it is hard not to see contraception as a natural-law error – it just doesn’t fit in with the Christian big-picture. It is often cited as the start of the C of E’s slippery slope, just as public-school prayer in USA (1962) is cited as the start of theirs. Being the start of the slippery slope does not make it the most precipitate part of the slope, which is probably the acceptance of divorce. NT scholars see Jesus’s divorce dicta as just about his best-attested sayings. If you’re prepared to go against something as well-attested (and, more importantly, wise, as that) then the subsequent big-picture will never be coherent. The past error needs uprooting.

  6. I don’t know what planet Church of England bishops inhabit, but this document tells me that it appears to be one where no one yet has discovered that words are to be used for elucidating rather than obfuscating. Dressed up in an otherworldly, churchy way of speaking for insiders, it’s all about reading between the lines if you wish to deduce what they are up to (or where most of them would like to take us). Numerous (too numerous) earnest paragraphs saying little of substance but desiring that we merrily travel along together in our quest to catch up with the zeitgeist.

    Yes, on the surface it holds the doctrinal line but underneath there is every intention and encouragement of pushing further and further away from that line. (66…’We are seeking to discern the right next steps, not be sure about the end of the road.’) If we really believed that doctrinal line, there would be no ‘next steps’ on this issue and we could allow normal pastoral concern to be resumed for everyone. I wonder what ‘welcome and support for lesbian and gay people’ actually means – beyond what everyone already receives at their churches? A certain grouping more equal than others perhaps? Kit Kats after services when the rest of us get rich teas?

    In all honesty I feel sorry for those bishops who have had to spend precious time on this diversion when there is so much more exciting and productive ministry crying out for their attention. And, from this document and planned synodical deliberations, it looks as if it’s all far from over. How long can the CofE survive if this continues?

    • Don, I have some sympathy with your observations, but I think reactions all round suggest that most people see it as drawing something of a line.

      I shall certainly be bending my energies to getting us to move on to other issues. I am not sure very many have the stomach for more debate…though for very differing reasons.

      • Ian I think you are jumping the gun somewhat. This is not a teaching document and neither does it draw any lines. It’s simply a report of a working party and is scheduled for a ‘take note’ debate. Now I certainly think it shows where the bishops WANT to draw the line. But we are by no means there yet. Synod may choose not to take note of this at all. But if there is a debate, then the bishops will have to take note of what synod says when it does write the new teaching document that this report proposes. Responses like that of the bishop of Liverpool yesterday hint that the line might not yet be where you hope it will.

        • Andrew, I am not sure that is the case. It is not the role of Synod to determine the apostolic teaching of the Church—that is down to the bishops.

          It *is* Synod’s role to ensure that authorised liturgy is in line with Canon Law and apostolic teaching.

          I think Synod will be foolish ‘not to take note’ since all that will do is set up an impasse between the HoB and Synod, and that will help no-one.

  7. For the vast majority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, a “culture of welcome” is simply incompatible with the church teaching that any expression of their sexuality is a sin. Guess the bishops have squared the circle as well as anyone could, but these constraints are self-inflicted, and the combative response it’s drawn shows that it won’t be accepted. Whatever lines they draw, they’ll swiftly be crossed.

    • James, there are three problems with your assertion.

      The first is that it depends on the idea that desire and action are inseparable, in this case in relation to sexual activity. But that requires rewriting much Christian understanding of what it means to be human.

      The second is that it ignores places (like the church I am part of) where there has been clarity about our belief, and yet we still have partnered gay people attend.

      The third is that it also ignores the place and contribution of same-sex attracted Christians who support and live out the church’s current teaching. Glynn Harrison commented yesterday that Living Out and those associated with them have changed the nature of the discussion, and perhaps he is right.

      Those are three very big assumptions to make and three important things that you are setting to one side.

      • Ian, I fully accept that some LGB people will attend churches with traditional teaching (and have directed those who doubt it towards Livingout and similar), but I trust you’ll stipulate that it’s not a majority position within the LGBT community.

    • People always assume that their own little culture and period of history (however abnormal by comparison with others) is quite obviously right. Even when they know very little about any of the alternatives.

    • Indeed, the phrase “Hence, rather than seek changes in law at this point in time…” rather seems to undermine the report and the the House of Bishops as a collective

  8. One of the problems with this report (and I have several) is that it talks about can new tone of welcome for LGBTIQA people (though it doesn’t use that terminology) while demonstrating both in tone and substance a lack of it. It effectively excludes all mention of BTQIA leaving people who identify with those designations feeling utterly excluded. This is about much more than who puts what in what holes. Clearly the main focus is around marriage, but there are huge issues which are deeply interconnected.and which mean that not recognising all these other people is a failure to communicate

    • Priscilla, is it possible to welcome people with agreeing with everything they claim about themselves? If not, how can the church ever offer welcome to any of us who are (in whatever way) imperfect in our understanding of ourselves?

      • Assuming you mean “without agreeing”, yes there is a place for challenge, none of us is perfect. But ithis is about rejecting whole communities when there is genuine theological differnece about our reading of scripture and tradition.
        My point about BTQIA i think is about rendering people invisible in the wider debate.

  9. As a matter of interest I had to submit this twice as when I tried via the Twitter link it wouldn’t let me. Is there a glitch (or feature?)

  10. This reply is to Colin Edwards – I didn;t manage to get it into the appropriate thread.

    Holmes – Sparling – Stamm et al., ‘Sexually Transmitted Diseases’ (a McGraw-Hill textbook) is structured according to 27 STDs. HPV however (to mention just one) has a large number of different strains.

    Gonorrhea and syphilis are big problems at present: resurgent and stronger than before because more antibiotic-resistant.

    All the other best-known ones – HIV/AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, HPV with its numerous strains – broke out in earnest shortly after the sexual revolution began.

    What else would be expected? If the sexual revolution is about greatly increased promiscuity, greatly increased nonmarital sex, greatly increased anal and oral sex, then…. (It ain’t rocket science.)

    Mat – you mentioned being ‘provocative’. Truth-seekers tend to concentrate only on whether what they are saying is true or not. If it is indeed true, then who on earth has the right to silence it? It may also be provocative, but that is secondary, subjective, and frequently unintentional.

    • Christoher, whilst I completely agree that the change in sexual moral with a social acceptance of promiscuity has lead to an increase in STD rates, I don’t think the claim that there were only 2 significant STDs and now there are nearly 30 is a useful marker of this. Its a claim that has dubious assumptions, is therefore debunkable and detracts from the point you are wanting to make.

      Lets look at the ones you mention. “HIV/AIDS, herpes, chlamydia, HPV” Yes, HIV is new and spread alarmingly in Africa by hetersexual interaction and the European communities of men who have sex with men (MSM) and iv drug users. Herpes goes back at least 2000 years. The Romans knew about it. Chlamdyia – well its usually such a mild infection that its hard to give its history. HPV – similarly. They are seen as significant problems now, but they existed with equal significance before, just weren’t diagnosed. And the mutliple strains of HPV is about better diagnosis, not the not previous non-existance of them.

      The claim that there were only 2 significant STDs and now there are 30 is not taking into account better diagnoses. Its not a helpful claim to back up your point and if used in a hostile setting will fall apart very quickly. It doesn’t really make the point you are wanting to make it to.

      • Colin, I was speaking without sufficient accuracy, and was typing very fast. The main point stands, which is that the picture is bleak and the sexual revolution had a stratospherically bad effect both (a) in the number of new STDs which became widespread and (b) in the number of STIs.

        In the interests of accuracy, shall we say that of all the STDs which exist (which experts consider to total 27 or more before we get into the issue of multiple strains), the two which were previously known to be a problem are still a large problem in the wake of the sexual revolution, while all the others sufficiently important to be known to the educated layperson were at relatively insignificant levels before the sexual revolution and reached epidemic levels (unless that is a technical term?) after it.

        • Thanks Christopher. We both agree on the basic premise of what you’re saying, however, if we were to take this argument to a hostile readership (e.g. Gaurdian Comment is Free, or RD.net) then we need to make sure its robust.

          “of all the STDs which exist (which experts consider to total 27 or more before we get into the issue of multiple strains), the two which were previously known to be a problem are still a large problem in the wake of the sexual revolution,” Indeed. And, having been somewhat held in abeyance with antibiotics, the real problem of antibiotic resistance has reared its head and is a becoming a major problem.

          “while all the others sufficiently important to be known to the educated layperson were at relatively insignificant levels before the sexual revolution and reached epidemic levels (unless that is a technical term?) after it” Hmmm, this is still open to being dismantled as things like Herpes proabably were significant, but underdiagnosed. I would say that the others “have become much, much more prevalent since the sexual revolution”. That is indisputable and gets the point across.

          One of the things like about Ian’s blog is the amount of work he puts in to putting robust arguments together. Following his lead on that is a good idea.

          • Yes, I agree with you on all that. I am a big-picture holistic person, and that has more advantages than disadvantages, but it does lead to generalisations on the basis of a clearly-evidenced big picture, generalisations being something I often abhor in normal circumstances. In my own subdiscipline, New Testament studies, several of the best practitioners (such as Bauckham, Wright, Casey) do, surprisingly enough, make a lot of apparently sweeping or over-confident statements; and the reason they do so, I think, is precisely because their big-picture grasp of the situation is so well-founded on evidential detail, allowing them to do so.

          • Well said Colin, and thank you for the nuanced re-phrase. I wonder if Christopher would accept that this is the root cause of so much of the friction he is causing here. It is not that we necessarily find ourselves in dispute with the point he is trying to make (though we might), but that the manner of the debate is not at all in keeping with the tone of the article, or people’s reflections on it.

          • Mat, is it not self-evident that the substance of what someone says is always the main thing – it could scarcely not be more important than the style. I have so often come across people confusing style with substance: e.g., their style was angry so their substance must be faulty. Could there be a more obvious non sequitur? If people took that line, juries would often convict the wrong person. A suave and plausible person needs only to come across stylishly and they will get off, even if they are guilty.

            One can never tell on the internet whether someone’s style is angry – it may just be logical and factual. There is no tone of voice, no facial expression. But I hope that people’ s style will often be genuinely angry, since in quite a range of circumstances that is the appropriate thing to be: when (e.g.) babies are killed and when people use their high office to refuse answering or even addressing questions. In certain circumstances which ought to cause outrage and campaigning, showing no emotion reveals one to be world-weary or compromised (or in rare and extreme cases, psychopathic). A child would never show an inappropriate lack of emotion (just as a child would never dream of killing their own offspring etc.), but people do often get spoilt as they age.

          • One thing though – how is all this relevant to the matter at hand? You’ve established that the sexual revolution had a number of ill effects and that promiscuity does too…. but you haven’t shown why this should mean that committed same-sex relationships shouldn’t in some way be recognised by the church, or that people shouldn’t enter a committed same-sex relationship. If it’s granted that there are currents toward promiscuity in our culture then it might well be thought that entering a committed relationship is counter-cultural in some respects…

            in friendship, Blair

          • Thanks for that, Blair.

            You will find that sexual-revolution things go together and anti-sexual-revolution things go together. Anti-biology intimate pairings are accepted by those societies, subcultures, and historical periods which accept the sexual revolution, and rejected by those who reject it.

            Homosexual males by and large define faithfulness totally differently, in a way that is light years away from anything Christian. Madison and McWhirter (spellings?) The Male Couple found that faithfulness is found in a vanishingly small percentage. So offering marriage will change that? Has it done so? It is not at all obvious that two males can begin a family unit at all, but their unsuitability to do so is more obvious. Why would they need to be faithful?

            The difference from married couples could not be more stark.
            80% of married individuals had been totally faithful as late as the 1990s EVEN in the country worst affected by the sexual revolution (USA), and EVEN well after the revolution had begun its ravages. This suggests a figure in the high 90s% among those married before the revolution. High 90s is simply an amazing cultural achievement, and is clearly quite achievable, as proven by the fact that it has been achieved, given the right culture and presuppositions.
            Where do I get this 80% from? Three independent mid-1990s studies: Laumann, Greeley, Wiederman.

            Talk about amazing statistics. Not unexpected, though.

            If a society includes and is happy to include openly homosexual partnerships, then how can it ever be a Christian society. But the thing a society needs most for flourishing is to be Christian. See how things immediately went wrong at a rate of knots once secularism set in in the early 1960s. See the Transformations videos – what a society needs is to be Christian.

            Being in the very specific culture you are, you probably may not see how strange it is to think it’s fine for people to move to the very opposite end of the gender spectrum from the gender they’re not only born with but also retain.

          • Madison and McWhirter’s finding that male homosexual faithfulness is almost vanishingly rare (note that female homosexual ‘relationships’ are of less average duration than male) are not atypical in the literature. It follows that if someone accepts homosexual sexual relationships (which biologically is not an obvious thing to do) then they accept something that is, in more than (say) 80% of cases, unfaithful, and usually also promiscuous. That is absolutely miles from anything Christian, and if I say that Christians should be ashamed to be in favour of such a thing, then where does my error lie? It is surprising that such an obvious point needs to be made; but everyone knows that people can get very affected by their own cultures, however atypical those cultures may be.

          • Dear Christopher. Statistics tell us nothing about what the ABC calls the stunning quality of some gay relationships, so I’ll tell you a parable instead.
            A young couple (male and female) are getting married in the lovely country church to which they have a qualifying connection. Neither has been to church since the last wedding they attended and neither has any faith. They have lived together for several years and before that, each had a number of sexual partners. They are of course entitled to marry in church. This is the established church and sacraments are a means of grace. They have children and after several years the marriage grows stale. They both have affairs and decide that they should divorce. She instigates the divorce – since that is statistically more likely. She moves in with her lover, but that doesn’t work out either. She is lonely and depressed but she meets a teacher from her children’s school. he is a few years younger and, it turns out, a Christian. They become friends and he invites her to his local church. The vicar and congregation are welcoming and she soon feels at home. Belonging leads to believing and she is confirmed. They decide to marry and the vicar seeing their love as committed and redemptive agrees to marry them in church.
            A gay couple who have been involved in the church for over 20 years become involved in the wedding preparation. One is a florist; the other the choir leader and organist. They provide beautiful flowers and music for the wedding. Then they go home and weep, because, after 20 odd years of faithful, sacrificial love and 20 odd years of faithful and sacrificial service to this church, no-one in the church is permitted to pronounce God’s blessing on their union.

          • The stunning quality of some same-gender friendships – I would be amazed if you could produce a single person to deny it, but the challenge is open for you to do so.
            -If we change the topic to same-gender quasi-sexual activity, what is ‘stunning’ about that? (and was the archbishop to any degree referring to anything like that? – no).
            -In addition, the saying is a bit of a generalisation, Each case is obviously going to be different.
            -And gender-mix will never be a key factor in what makes a friendship stunning.

            The young couple:
            -If you withdraw a Christian culture and replace it with something far worse (so that the only way the poor woman can discover Christ is by a chance friendship with her fiance-to-be), then this sort of mess will happen and is happening.
            -In this scenario where the wonders of Christianity are standardly withheld, of course people end up doing the harmful things you say they did – but these are not things to be spoken of lightly, and it is only the imposition of a worse type of culture that makes such things everyday realities. Within Christian culture 60 years back they were shocking exceptions. The D-word you use is a swearword, and the more people treat it as something normal and everyday, the more people will understand (incorrectly) that it is necessarily that.
            Belonging leads to believing – this is often said. It is not possible. More likely, she is happy to ‘believe’ propositions that she has not examined in depth so long as she is accepted, which is the main thing that matters to her. Just sa she would be happy to ‘disbelieve’ them if that same community started treating her badly. But that is not what ‘believe’ means: it means ‘consider more likely than not to be true’, and the truth of any proposition has no connection at all with how well its proponents treat you.

            Then you say ‘a gay couple’ which presupposes that people are gay by nature – something that has been endlessly refuted from several different angles besides the oft-cited and especially significant identical-twins angle (correlations between lesbian claimed identity and: college education, living in particular types of culture, being brought up by lesbians; gay claimed identity and: urban setting, having been abused, being an adolescent (most claims are reversed by the time adulthood arrives).

          • Christopher: everything comes in parables; in order that
            “they may indeed look, but not perceive,
               and may indeed listen, but not understand;
            so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.” ’

          • Penelope, therefore we are all expected to accept that you are playing the role of the wise Jesus, and I am playing the role of the slow and uncomprehending disciples or hearers, for whom Jesus’s actual intention (according to the Mark 4 that you quoted) is that they should not understand.

            You chose to quote Mark’s version, but that is one of Jesus’s ‘hard sayings’, and it is a prerequisite of your using it that you understand it – however, not even many great minds understand it.

            Why should we accept that those roles (you = the Jesus role, me = the uncomprehending role) are appropriate?

            We understand what parables are, and to some extent why they are employed.

        • Christopher this is a reply to your comment below about homosexual promiscuity. We have had this argument before, but I am still stunned that you can regard the behaviour of some people as an argument for denying the goods of marriage to others. Heterosexual promiscuity does not stop lifelong commitment being an aspiration for straight couples. All the Christian gay and bi couples I know are living in totally faithful, monogamous relationships of great moral probity. It would be good if many straight Christians followed their example of fidelity and self giving. I am sick and tired of hearing how immoral gay Christians are. By all means follow your own readings of scripture and tradition, but do not traduce other faithful Christians.

          • Hi Penelope

            (1) When have we ‘had this argument before’? The topic may have been mentioned before, but a mere mention is only a thousandth of what it takes to expound a case and have a proper clear debate.

            (2) On what basis do you say that ‘marriage’ is not the union of one man and one woman? That is a tiny-minority perspective historically, and it is clear that the fact that you are living in the culture and era that you are, rather than being eclectic among cultures and eras depending on which ones are most successful, is going to be a crucial factor in your adopting it.

            (3) There isn’t a problem of ‘heterosexual’ promiscuity unless people fall for the sexual revolution and its family-destroying lies (which have been written into the legislation of our own culture). Only those who choose this worst cultural option (and why on earth would anyone choose the worst option?) inhabit a scenario where ‘heterosexual’ promiscuity is a problem.

            (4) ‘All the gay and bi couples I know…’ – here you are going down the road of anecdotal evidence, which is inadmissible scientifically. The ones you know will be a non-random sample. And they will be more than averagely like you. And even if you are the most popular person imaginable, they will be too small a sample to be statistically admissible. Why reject the large-scale studies that have already been done in favour of a sample that is not only far smaller scale but far less random? That will not make sense to any reader.

            (5) How immoral gay Christians are? The greater the generalisation, the greater its chance of being too vague to be accurate. The very term ‘gay Christian’ belongs to a vanishingly small percentage of Christian history, and even then it is hotly contested. In addition, the word ‘gay’ very often presupposes the inaccurate ‘born gay’ theory.

            (6) As for ‘my own readings of scripture and tradition’, are all readings equally valid?? If not, what are your criteria for determining which readings are more valid? I would never dream of following my own readings (and I hope you wouldn’t either, unless either of us is a world expert), only those of the people who have studied the topic the most and from the most angles.

  11. I’ve just read the Report and, unfortunately, the Reflection Group have not adopted Oliver O’Donovan’s wise counsel:
    a body may be primarily deliberative or primarily reflective. It may be charged with recommending a course of action, summing up the practical situation, weighing alternative possibilities, implications, modes of implementation, difficulties etc., or with reflecting on how the truths of the faith shed light on a new practical question, gathering the interpretative yield from the work of theologians, listening to those who reflect on it in the course of their lives and ministry, and synthesising it in a form that can facilitate deliberation. (The Church of England Pilling Report and Church of Scotland Commission on Same-Sex Relationships: A Review)

    For instance, out of concerns for the Church of England’s catholicity, the Bishops’ Reflection Group of Sexuality (BRGS), could have articulated exactly where traditionalists and revisionists agreed and then clarified the exact shape of disagreement in theological implications. However much both sides would have continued to disagree, it would have demonstrated that the Bishops had listened carefully to the theological arguments from both sides.

    So, despite the comfort which the Report might give to conservatives, the Reflection Group did not engage on theological reflection as much as it deliberated on alternative options. Instead of clarifying the implications for the Church’s relationship to scripture, tradition and reason of accepting the revisionist understanding of same-sex relationships, or maintain the status quo, Annex 1 (an extract from a note from the Legal Office to BRGS) merely clarifies the legal options upon which General Synod can deliberate.

    In summary, the BRGS were reflect on alternative theological arguments and they declined. That has to be a disappointment for the entire Church.

    • David, thanks for the helpful observation. But my interpretation is that the reason why they needed to set direction rather than map the options was two-fold.

      First, this mapping was done some time ago, in ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality’—and was almost universally ignored.

      Secondly, after all the ‘Conversations’, people on both sides were desperate to get out of the limbo and know what we are actually going to do next.

      Overall within the process, I think that Pilling was a major mistake, precisely because it tried to set direction before mapping things out, and included some really unhelpful material. It was essential that it included the dissenting statement—but this only showed up its failure.

      • Hi Ian,

        ‘Some issues’ was largely ignored because it neither delivered, nor purported to deliver reflective coherence. According to its own remit, ‘Some issues’ sets out a variety of views on homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexualism and seeks to promote informed reflection on them. It neither changes nor suggests changes to current Church policy.

        While another exhaustive mapping of theological opinion wasn’t needed, the remit of the BRGS was to to assist the Bishops of the Church of England in their reflection on issues relating to human sexuality, in the light of theological, biblical, ecumenical, Anglican Communion, pastoral, missiological, historical and societal considerations bearing on these issues, and following experiences of the shared conversations held around the Church between 2014 and 2016.

        The reflection should have drawn upon the settled areas of theological, biblical, ecumenical, pastoral, missiological and historical consensus (catholicity) in order to evaluate the merits (and demerits) of most significant theological arguments for and against change. Instead, there will be an abiding feeling that the ‘fight’ was thrown.

        The Rochester Report (‘Women in the episcopacy’) achieved reflective coherence par excellence, such that it spoke magisterially both to those for and against women bishops.

        Deliberative clarity (‘knowing what we’re actually going to do next’) would have followed from the BRGS achieving reflective coherence. As it is, this unedifying conclusion to listening process is immensely dissatisfying.

  12. Thank you Ian. During my 25 years of ordained service in two provinces of the Anglican Communion there has been debate around sexuality and sexual safety. One line of your coverage rang out to me as reflecting my felt gap in all this. “My consistent experience in talking to people from a wide range of backgrounds is the vacuum of teaching that there has been in this area—often because of lack of confidence or fear of causing offence.” I am one of those people.

    • Thanks, Francis. I have had some fascinating conversations with church leaders which has illustrated this, and it is why I think the provision of better teaching will actually be a very positive move.

  13. Ian,

    I note para 22 of the report, which you quote from above, and also this from para 65:
    “To maintain an unambiguous position on doctrine in this matter while enabling a generous freedom for
    pastoral practice that does not directly and publicly undermine it is entirely consistent with our traditions and is a perfectly coherent approach to take”. Amid all the weariness and other reactions, I wonder if this is offering any move at all from the position of 1991’s ‘Issues’? Isn’t it essentially trying to bolster the status quo? I also recall you hosting an article a few months back by Andrew Goddard, which with his usual thoroughness argued that ‘pastoral accommodation’ in this area would not be right or coherent, yet the report seems to be proposing yet more pastoral accommodation….
    The reaction of LGCM/CA seems more than understandable to me (you may say that I would say that, wouldn’t I…) but I wondered what you meant by “In taking this kind of approach, the group appear to demand for themselves what they will not offer to others”?
    in friendship, Blair

  14. The Bishops’ Statement begins with

    ‘We want to begin by reaffirming the key Christian understanding that all human beings are made in the image of God’.

    But there is no explicit mention of the other great truth about ‘all human beings’ that, as Article 9 puts it, we are all born with a corrupt nature inclined to evil. This omission is unfortunate because this doctrine is an essential context for this whole disagreement.

    My view is that faithful, loving Christian heterosexual sexual married relationships are acceptable to God whereas faithful, loving Christian homosexual sexual relationships are not acceptable to God.

    But people like me, who hold this view, have to be aware of beams in our own eyes. I mean this: the picture of mortification which Christ uses, of plucking out an eye and cutting off a hand, warn us of the excruciating experience when we try, really try, to resist temptations to behave in a way that the Bible says is sinful. Have I tried, really tried, tried to the point of agony, to resist the temptation to disobey the command to be content with food and clothing and give the money saved to those in need? The Bible says much more about such sacrifices than about homosexuality.

    Phil Almond

  15. And Philip there will be those, like me, who think that particular Article is simply in error and contrary to the main thrust of scripture and human experience, let alone a ‘great truth’. And that is why it is not explicitly mentioned.

    • Andrew
      ‘And that is why it is not explicitly mentioned’. I wonder. I would be surprised and dismayed if none of the Bishops believe Article 9 is true. Also, if some of them believe it is true, I am surprised that those Bishops have not issued a minority report. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, against his face to him I opposed, because having been condemned he was”. Here we have, recorded in the in the Bible for all to read, an instance of two Apostles disagreeing. It is time the Bishops started doing the same, publicly and openly, so important is this issue.
      Phil Almond

  16. “…so important is this issue.”

    Phil, it clearly isn’t all that important. If it were, I would have heard bishops study days about it, been taught about it explicitly at theological college, been examined about it, been re taught about it, been reexamined about it, had to teach it to curates, had to put on study days in the clergy development programme about it, etc etc, I recognise that you think it is of crucial importance but the C of E as a whole obviously doesn’t. I honestly don’t think you can be helped about this.

      • Phil: no one is breathing life into those dry bones known as the Articles for good reason – they are entirely about ecclesiastical wars and not really of God.

        And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

        • To clarify: the point is: does Article 9 accurately summarise what the Bible says about the human condition. I believe it does. Although its wording could be improved by making it clear that we are all faced with God’s wrath and condemnation because of Adam’s sin and not because of the (true) fact that we are all born with a corrupt nature inclined to evil.

          Phil Almond

    • Oh please… that’s kind of like saying that since physicists don’t constantly run training sessions on and write books about gravity, none of them actually believe in it.

      Which is silly.

      • Oh please – everyone, universally IS taught about gravity from a very young age. Hardly any regular members of the C of E know anything about the existence of the 39 articles and are not taught about them. Still less have they heard of Pelagius.

        • So now your argument is “Since most people don’t know about Quantum Physics and aren’t taught it at school, quantum physics actually isn’t true and doesn’t exist”.

          Gotcha. Because people don’t talk about X as much as they talk about Y, X is irrelevant and not true.

          Sillier and sillier. Do you ever think through the logical consistency of your arguments?

          • Yep. A lot of the time people aren’t taught things because they are of no relevance to them, are of no use to them, and are heavily disputed anyway. That’s why we have, for example, a national curriculum.

          • Which basically comes back to you saying that Article IX is untrue.

            Who needs the great theologians? Who needs ordination vows? What is sin anyway? Why should Andrew Godsall be accountable to anyone?

            Paul – whisk whisk – gone
            Augustine of Hippo – whisk whisk – gone
            Luther – whisk whisk – gone

            Genesis 8:21 – whisk whisk – gone
            Psalm 51 – whisk whisk – gone
            The sermon on the mount (Matthew 7) – whisk whisk – gone
            Galatians 5 – whisk whisk – gone

            Anything that is official Church of England doctrine that Andrew Godsall doesn’t like – whisk whisk – gone

          • Yep that’s right – particular narrow readings and interpretations of things, whisk whisk gone!

            But here is the real question Peter: when we have all those things, why would we need Article 9?

          • Given you don’t believe what Article IX says, you don’t actually have any of those verses so a bit pointless saying if “we have all those things”.

            At least you could have the decency to admit that Article IX is official Church of England doctrine even if you disagree with it, but I very much doubt your revisionism allows you to do even that.

            I’m done here.

          • Yep, I have all those verses. I have read all of those theologians. I also know the context of the writing of the Articles, which came rather a long time after.
            So I repeat my question: when we have those verses, why do we need Article 9?

        • Actually Andrew, they are NOT universally taught about gravity as some Physicists have an interesting and disputable view of where Einsteins theory of relativity can be projected to become.

  17. “I don’t think it is helpful to say (with Gavin Ashenden) that the Church of England is ‘dying’ and that the orthodox should ‘consider leaving’.” As your link enables us to see, in answer to “How do you see […] the future of the Church of England?”, he says, “Demographically and financially it is dying. Spiritually it appears to be on its last legs too”: three points distinguished, with a further distinction between the first two and the third.

    On what basis would one conclude it is not “dying” (a) demographically and (b) financially?

    And why would it be unhelpful rather than helpful, or neither one or the other, to state this conclusion, if one draws it?

    He is more cautious on the third point – “seems” rather than the “is” of the first two.

    If this more cautious possible ‘diagnosis’ may be true, why is enunciating it unhelpful? As Scrooge asks, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be only?” If there is any chance it “May be only”, might not saying it be as likely to help, as anything else?

    To “How do you see your future in the Church of England”, he answers, “I want to remain a faithful Anglican, but increasingly it looks like that is only possible outside the C of E.”

    If the link says “leave-dying-church-england-urges […]”, the article nowhere says this, not even in its (current) title. And the Rev. Dr. Ashenden is quoted in an Anglican Ink post by Edgar Johnson of 27 January as saying, “at no point do I call upon people to leave the Church of England.” There, he is also quoted as elaborating, “The advice to ‘leave their Church’ was confined to those who attended a congregation that did not teach the biblical apostolic faith. At no point do I advise people to ‘leave the Church of England.” This, with reference to the question, “How should ordinary Christians who seek to be faithful to the gospel of Christ respond to liberal clergy who preach and practice heresy?”, and his answer, “Leave their Church and look for one that has kept as much of the historic, apostolic and biblical values as possible.”

    The elaboration is welcome, as the reference to “clergy” in question and “Church” in answer do not exclude other readings than ‘local Church/parish/Cathedral/Chaplaincy/congregation and its current clergy’.

    So specified, do you still think it unhelpful?

    (It may be worth also noting his discussion of being in the Church of England and what he, among others, hopes for, in the Anglican Unscripted episode 266 of the same date, 27 January.)

  18. Ian,
    Thankyou for your blog and your endurance.

    This blog has discussed a number of important things including death of churches and unfruitful aspects of human sexuality. Statistics were also blandished about.

    It all made me think of work I did in my youth on birth-death processes in modelling population growth of insect pest populations in central Africa. I was struck by the rapidity of population collapse to near extinction when death rate exceeded birth rate. The same hard mathematical realities apply to human populations, and sub-populations. When things fall off a cliff, they fall quickly.

    For some time now the replacement rate in various native human sub-populations on the continent of Europe, and associated archipelagoes has been negative or less than unity.
    One of those sub-populations is the Anglican Church. Another sub-population is the LBGT population within the Anglican community.

    Because our lives, subjectively, last a long time, from day to day, and from hour to hour, the fact of our mortality is hidden from us. And because of this its seems to us that the death process is slow, and will not happen.

    But, the Apostle Paul assures us that if we live after the Spirit, we will live, and that if we live after the flesh in many of the ways advocated by the LBGT lobby, we will die.
    Double whammy, thus, unless we repent!


    • Dick
      I assume your last paragraph refers to Romans 8:12-13, which in Nestle-Marshall reads, ‘So then, brothers, debtors we are, not to the flesh according to flesh to live. For if according to flesh ye live, ye are about to die: but if by the Spirit the practices of the body ye put to death, ye will live’.
      I have made clear my view on this thread (Philip Almond January 29, 2017 at 3:15 pm #). But I think Lloyd-Jones has a point in his comment on pages108-109 of his sermons on Romans 8:5-17, as to how these verses apply to born-again Christians.
      Phil Almond

        • Phil
          Thanks for your remark. I have found my copy of Lloyd-Jones and here is a proper reply.

          On page 108 MLJ says: “He (Paul) is not saying, ‘If you do this, then that will happen’. That would be cause and effect. What he is saying is, ‘The means to that end is….’.” Then he explains that, “(if) my possession of eternal life is dependent upon my mortifying the deeds of my body, he would then be contradicting what he teaches everywhere else, and what the whole of the New Testament teaches. He would be teaching ‘justification by works’, and that my work of mortifying the deeds of my body obtains and secures eternal life for me.” That of course would be wrong for a number of reasons, the first of which is that the truncated quotation of 8:13 does not mention the work of the Spirit.
          Rom 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
          It is not therefore the mortification of the flesh in itself which saves, it is the choice which a ‘born-again Christian’ makes again and again to live according to the Spirit. The mortification requires the active cooperation of the Holy Spirit, who in an act of grace puts to death the deeds of the body. The process seems to be like one of healing and cleaning.
          Ps 51: 7b Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
          wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
          8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
          let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
          Lloyd-Jones continues: “…justification is by ‘faith only’, salvation is ‘by faith’, that it is ‘the free gift of God’, that when man can do nothing God gives him salvation freely.” So you could say that ‘mortification of the flesh’, if it is indeed a work, is the work of God in us. God makes us clean. We cannot do it. That I believe is what is taught, and that is the basis of Christian hope..

          I am a great admirer of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. I came to faith relatively late in life, and his recorded sermons gave me a basis for my faith. But I think there has been a shift in the way Romans now is understood and in particular the understanding of the importance of the works of faith. For example, Cranfield where he discusses these things gives a ‘by the Spirit’ understanding of the work that “doers of the law” do.


  19. Dick
    Thanks for your reply. I am in the middle of reviewing the doctrine of salvation and looking at Romans more deeply than I have ever done before. I am looking at commentaries by Cranfield, Murray, Moo, Schreiner as well at Lloyd-Jones sermons. At the moment, subject to further study and self-criticism, I find that I disagree on some vital points with all of them. Also, as I see it, the disagreement about Tom Wright’s views is still a live issue. As far as I am concerned it is still an open question whether the ‘shift’ that you mention is moving towards or away from what the Bible says about justification and salvation.
    Phil Almond


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