Why we should listen to Vicky Beeching

Vicky Beeching, Undivided: Coming Out, Becoming Whole and Living Free from Shame (William Collins, 2018) 

Jayne Ozanne, Just Love: A Journey of Self-Acceptance (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2018)

Andrew Atherstone writes: In a remarkable symbiosis, two new autobiographies have hit the shelves from two of the Church of England’s most prominent LGBT campaigners, published within a fortnight of each other. Although born a decade apart – Jayne Ozanne in 1968 and Vicky Beeching in 1979 – their stories have coalesced and display striking parallels. Both were nurtured within charismatic evangelicalism, both experienced deep psychological trauma partly as a result of their conflicted sexuality, and both made a splash in the national press when they first ‘came out’, Vicky in August 2014 and Jayne in February 2015. 

Vicky was once an ‘evangelical poster girl’ (U196) who spent a decade touring American megachurches as a peripatetic worship leader with a devoted fan-base, and since the end of her music career has built up an impressive media portfolio. Jayne has also endured a nomadic lifestyle, often ‘living by faith’ without secure employment, though her professional expertise is in marketing and fund-raising with giants such as Proctor and Gamble, BBC Television, Oxfam and the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Both are accomplished media players and expert communicators. Vicky’s book is highly polished, with one clear line of argument prosecuted from beginning to end – more of an extended essay than a full memoir. It will sell briskly, written for the American market, with its references to ‘semesters’ at the University of Oxford and buying ‘cotton candy’ on Eastbourne pier (U86, 94, 184). Jayne’s story contains far more details and tangents, but is equally fascinating and especially important for those interested in the current power dynamics of the Church of England and the General Synod. 

Taken together, these autobiographies raise five major themes.

1) Breaking the Mental Health Taboo

Their most positive contribution is the way they both speak frankly about mental illness. By revealing their inner turmoil, Vicky and Jayne have made themselves vulnerable, displaying their mental fragility to public scrutiny. This is an admirable example to the church and to wider society. As Vicky memorably puts it, we need to help people to ‘come out of the mental health closet’ by breaking down the taboo surrounding mental illness (U269).

Their stories make harrowing reading. Vicky identifies as a perfectionist and extreme workaholic, which resulted in excellent exam results as a teenager and place at the University of Oxford. She now sees that this work obsession ‘had deeper roots: I was trying to outrun my own pain’ (U120). Oxford is inundated with workaholic students and the University’s mental health services are always chronically overburdened. After college, Vicky launched into a highly stressful music career in the States, thousands of miles from her family, with a relentless touring schedule, frequent media interviews, constant jet lag, and nightly sleeping tablets. ‘Everyone around me told me I was living the dream’, she writes, ‘but in reality it looked like empty hotel rooms, heavy equipment, and endless pressure to smile, sing, say the right things, and keep quiet about my utter exhaustion, and my sexuality’ (U123). Before long she was ‘running on absolute empty’ (U136). This led to mental and physical collapse, including the onset of scleroderma (a skin condition which can cause disfigurement), often caused by psychological and emotional triggers. Vicky hoped that coming out as gay in 2014 would lead to ‘happily ever after’ (U254) but she was subsequently diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and is currently on anti-depressants. She also suffers with the debilitating effects of fibromyalgia and ME. Most bitter of all, dealing with this mental anguish in secret, without a church environment in which it could be articulated, merely multiplied its effects. As she laments, ‘Much of me existed behind an invisible wall, not able to talk about what I was really dealing with’ (U121). It is a desperately sad, heart-wrenching story, which should be obligatory reading for every evangelical pastor and every evangelical parent.

Jayne has also suffered repeatedly with poor mental health. Sometimes this has been a struggle with depression, with periods when she was ‘completely overwhelmed with sadness’ (JL59). She describes one serious breakdown, which left her in heaps of tears collapsed on the floor and ‘virtually non-functional’. She sought psychiatric treatment at The Priory in Roehampton, including ‘scream therapy’ to ‘get in touch with our inner anger’ (JL102-4). But the most truly awful was Jayne’s experience at a PROMIS rehab clinic in Kent. In Christological terms she interprets it as ‘a version of my own passion – allowing the world to throw at me what it could’ (JL113). It is a distressing, visceral account, showing some of the depths of human brokenness, and Jayne deserves thanks for articulating it. She acknowledges that she was ‘angry with God, very angry’. Rather than bottling it up, she eventually realized that ‘I just needed to connect with the reality of my raw emotions and be one hundred per cent honest about where I was at. Then I realised that God could meet me in that space, and we could walk forward together’ (JL114-5).

The underlying causes of poor mental health are, of course, highly complex and difficult to discern. In her own situation, Vicky identifies her struggles with sexuality as the root problem, a form of fragmentation: ‘Inside, I felt as though I was psychologically being ripped in two’ (U150). This single message comes across in every chapter – hence the title Undivided – and by the end we are left wondering whether there is any manifestation of stress and anxiety which cannot be attributed to evangelical doctrine. Jayne is more nuanced. She speaks of herself as ‘broken on the inside’, but acknowledges, ‘My issues around sexuality were just part of a large complex jigsaw’ (JL116). Whatever the diagnosis, both these books nonetheless set a positive example by helping us to talk frankly about the turmoil of mental illness and to break the great taboo. They sit helpfully alongside a growing body of similar literature, often from pioneering women, such as Katharine Welby-Roberts’ I Thought There Would Be Cake (2017) and Emma Scrivener’s A New Day (2017). Here are brave voices the church needs to hear.

2) Loneliness and Singleness

Both Vicky and Jayne identify loneliness as a major part of their mental anguish. Perhaps with a deliberate nod to the title of Radclyffe Hall’s famous novel, Jayne writes of ‘the deep well of aloneness … endless isolated nothingness filled with continual pain’ (JLl7). She calls loneliness ‘a beast that has stalked me for a very significant part of my life, and still does. … True friends are hard to find’ (JL38). Even as a school child she felt ‘incredibly alienated and isolated’, with little self-confidence and bullied for being bright (JL40). Reflecting on her struggles over gay identity, she recalls: ‘But if the days were lonely, the nights were even more so. I yearned for love. My longing formed a gaping hole that would swallow me up at times. Try as I might, no amount of prayer would fill it’ (JL133).

Vicky also felt ‘the icy grip of loneliness’ and contemplated ending it all by throwing herself under a London Underground train (U7). She had made her career ‘the sole focus of my life’, but it was ‘no longer filling the hole in my heart that it once had. Behind all the busyness, my loneliness grew and grew’ (U117). Her workaholism – ‘the next gig, the next plane ride, the next hotel, the next rehearsal’ – was a ‘lifestyle I’d created to drown out my inner sadness and loneliness’ (U152). This sense of dislocation was heightened by living as a Brit abroad, in a foreign culture, ‘feeling less and less as though I belonged anywhere’. In a tragic development, she was happiest when on aeroplanes: ‘It felt like a strange limbo, but up there, in the in-between, where no one quite belonged to the people around them, I experienced the closest thing to peace that I had’ (U122-3). She describes herself as ‘anxious, lonely, full of shame, and constantly on edge’ (U142).

And worst of all, the church often feels the loneliest place to be. Listening to some of the most egregious examples of evangelical preaching and crass pastoral insensitivity, Vicky exclaims: ‘Everything in me wanted to interrupt those awful sermons and shout that LGBTQ+ people aren’t just out there, but in here as well – within the church – and that I was one of them’ (U150). Why is the church so slow to model deep community, honesty and loyal friendship? As Jayne protests, ‘True friends are hard to find’, but that ought never to be the case among Christians. So Vicky asks the killer question, ‘could I face a life of lonely singleness for ever?’ (U112), as if the only plausible solution to loneliness is to find a sexual partner. The complaint is well made in a marriage-obsessed church. Ed Shaw navigates a better way in The Plausibility Problem (2015) and Sam Allberry’s Seven Myths about Singleness (2019) will help us further, but the church needs to tackle the loneliness epidemic as a matter of urgency by offering a better story—one that is explored in Kate Wharton’s Single Minded.

3) Guilt, Shame and Sexual Purity

One of Vicky’s strongest words – picked up by the subtitle of her autobiography – is ‘shame’. It falls from her pen again and again. Her memoir is about ‘the battle I’ve fought to make peace with who I am and to unlearn a lifetime of shame and fear’ (Uix). As a teenager, homosexual desire ‘caused waves of shame to crash over me’ (U3). Her feelings were ‘laced with anxiety and left me feeling dirty and ashamed … as always, nagging shame and fear plagued me as I thought about my orientation’ (U22-4). When she was romantically attracted to a girl, ‘I shut the feelings down at once, as guilt and shame rushed in’ (U33). She was ‘breaking under the weight of shame and anxiety, believing I had to keep this secret forever’, surrounded by ‘a wall of shame and fear’. ‘Shame swallowed me up like a rising tide’, ‘I felt more ashamed than ever’ (U36-40). ‘How fearful and ashamed I was about being gay’, overshadowed by ‘a cloud of worries and old shame’ (U192-3). And much more of a similar nature.

Vicky’s basic line of argument is that evangelical teaching about sexual intimacy binds young people into a culture of shame, from which they need to break free. After coming out, when she began to date women, she found it difficult to express physical intimacy because too many evangelical sermons had ‘lodged deep in my psyche, creating a Pavlovian connection’. She could not ‘shake off the feelings of shame’ and was ‘overshadowed by guilt’. But it was not just shame about being gay, but ‘fear and anxiety connected with sexual attraction in general’ after ‘three decades of indoctrination’ (U241-3). Vicky’s protest is not only at evangelical views of homosexual relationships, but evangelical views of sexual expression more broadly. She offers a catalogue of straight couples whose marriages have fallen apart because of their sexual inhibitions and hang-ups learnt from the church youth group.

It is undoubtedly the case that many evangelical churches need to teach about sex more positively, and that the topic has been badly handled by many a youth leader. The American ‘purity organizations’ like True Love Waits come in for particular criticism, not only from Vicky but also other insiders such as Linda Kay Klein in her new book Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free (2018). Of course these movements have a long history, as shown in Sara Moslener’s Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence (2015). On the other hand, evangelicals have also led the way in teaching very frankly about the importance of satisfying sex lives for married couples, as analysed in Kelsey Burke’s Christians Under Covers (2016). 

Vicky complains that for evangelicals to teach young people that sex is for marriage damages them psychologically. And here we come to the nub of the issue. These autobiographies reveal that what is at stake is not simply ‘equal marriage’, but the whole fabric of sexual purity as taught in the Scriptures. Jayne frankly confesses that in her view sex before marriage is allowable for Christians, provided they are truly ‘committed to each other’. Her non-Christian boyfriend Geoff was naturally ‘stunned but delighted’ when she suggested they begin sleeping together (JL98). She argues that only ‘a rare few’ are given ‘the gift of celibacy’ (JL243). Vicky put is more starkly, telling her grandfather: ‘I believe the Bible says celibacy is always a choice, never a demand’ (U228). In her opinion, Living Out’s call to celibacy is ‘extremely damaging’ (U178). These accounts give the clear impression that neither Jayne nor Vicky believes that sexual intimacy with their girlfriends should be reserved for marriage.

So where does that leave us? This is far broader than a debate about same-sex relations or LGBT inclusion. How would our two authors counsel a young Christian couple, seriously dating and keen to have sex? Or what would they say to a couple who have had sex, outside marriage, and come to them for pastoral advice, feeling burdened with guilt and shame? The ethic appears to be, fear not, live free. So what then are the God-given parameters for sexual expression? We need an answer from Vicky and Jayne. The Scriptures teach, of course, that a sense of guilt and conviction of sin is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s ministry (John 16:8). And the only true remedy for ‘living free from shame’ is to run to the cross of Christ and to lay down our burdens there. The gospel always provides the answers to our deepest human needs and longings, and the church has wonderful news to tell of God’s gracious dealing with our hidden fears and shame. Here is a real pastoral and evangelistic opportunity.

4) Hearing God’s Voice

A fourth question, underlying both autobiographies, is how we hear God speak. Vicky writes: ‘I needed to step out and be my authentic self. … I knew God’s voice was the one I must follow’ (U182). And again, on coming out to her parents: ‘I’d just take a very significant step toward greater authenticity as I trusted God’s leading and moved forward in obedience’ (U202). But how do we discern God’s voice and how do we measure godly obedience? Vicky’s love for the Bible comes across consistently through her story, and she is explicit in her desire to process these questions ‘with God, not without him, asking for answers and listening for his voice’ (U166). She attempts to build a case for the holiness of same-sex relationships based on Acts 10, where Peter in his vision was ‘asked to follow heaven’s inclusive agenda’ (U169). Vicky concludes: ‘only one voice ultimately matters in time and eternity – God’s voice. … God was letting me in on a new perspective, one of radical acceptance and inclusion. … God had spoken’ (U171-2). Her exegesis is superficial and her conclusions are wrong-headed, but her basic methodology is sound – only by rigorous and prayerful wrestling together with the Scriptures can we hear God’s directions for godly living in the church.

Jayne’s narrative paints an altogether different picture. Although she speaks of her ‘passion and respect for scripture’ (JL138), it is almost entirely absent from her account. Much prayer is evident, and testimony to many miraculous God-ordained ‘coincidences’ concerning job offers, gifts of money and unexpected encounters. But for guidance she lays out metaphorical fleeces like Gideon, and often operates on a ‘sense’ or gut-instinct of what God wants her to do. She listens for a ‘very clear internal voice, which I have always associated with Mr God’ (JL130). Much of her life, she explains, has been ‘determined by “the witness in my spirit” of what I believed was the Holy Spirit. I just “knew in my knower” that some things were either right or wrong’ (JL232-3). Sometimes when she feels ‘very hot’ she takes it as ‘a sign of the Holy Spirit at work’ (JL160). On living with her first serious girlfriend (the relationship lasted 5½ years), Jayne reflects: ‘despite what I had been taught – that I was living in the deepest and darkest of sin and walking away from all that God had for me – I felt closer to God than I had ever done before. He was still there in my thoughts, in my dreams, whispering in my inner ear …’ (JL227). This may owe something to charismatic experience, but it is more like the Quaker inner light. That inner voice, in any of us, is no sure guide to God’s desires. Only Scripture, not our guts, can show us God’s will for the Church of England. So it is no surprise to find that our understandings of marriage and sexuality are incompatible if our starting points are so far apart.

5) The Gospel: Be Yourself?

Since coming out, both Vicky and Jayne have experienced a deep freeze in their relationships with the evangelical community. Vicky’s music sales took a nose dive when she was excluded from the megachurch worship circuit. As she puts it, they ‘slammed the door in my face’ and ‘left me out in the cold’ (U224, 226). Others have met with a similar reaction, like fellow evangelical musician and LGBT campaigner Jennifer Knapp, told in Facing the Music (2014). The prominent American ethicist David Gushee discovered after publishing Changing Our Mind (2014) that he had crossed a ‘line in the sand’. He writes in his autobiography that he experienced ‘the ashy chill of evangelical nuclear winter’, having his name deleted from ‘the invitation list of pretty much the entire evangelical world’ (see D.P. Gushee, Still Christian: Following Jesus Out Of American Evangelicalism, 2017). Likewise after coming out, Jayne felt like she was ‘living in exile’, as a leper, excluded from the church. She was eventually nurtured back at Littlemore parish, near Oxford: ‘The church many not have running water, toilets or heating, but it has gallons and gallons of unconditional love’ (JL236). In terms of their relationship with evangelicalism, Vicky has now cut the cord, but Jayne continues to identify herself, and to campaign, as ‘a gay evangelical’ (JL240).

But these church party labels and loyalties are not important. What really matters is the most fundamental question: what is the evangel, the gospel message? What would Vicky and Jayne say to their new secular friends at Stonewall about the call of Jesus Christ? Jayne concludes succinctly: ‘the most important truth we must embrace is that God loves us, unconditionally, just as we are’ (JL242). Amen to that! John 3:16 says something similar. Many gospel sermons begin with that excellent affirmation. But what next? How then should we respond to this God of love and his call on our lives? What does Christian transformation look like? Vicky summarizes her central message in a different way: ‘What is crucial, though, is this: we need to love and accept who we are. It’s about making peace with ourselves’ (Uxi). She concludes, with typical clarity, ‘God longs for us to simply be ourselves’ (U264). That is a remarkable motto, more akin to a pep-talk from a life coach, and shows the theological gulf between her current position and the gospel as she originally received it. Jesus does not say, ‘Be yourself’; he commands us to ‘Be born again.’ 

These two autobiographies are powerful accounts of personal anguish and compelling stories which deserve wide engagement. They are worth reading in parallel with the personal narratives of women who have moved in the opposite direction, from homosexual lifestyle to evangelical conversion, like Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (2014), while Jackie Hill Perry’s Gay Girl, Good God: The Story of Who I Was and Who God Has Always Been (2018) is eagerly awaited.


Andrew Atherstone is Latimer research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and a member of the Church of England’s General Synod


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414 thoughts on “Why we should listen to Vicky Beeching

  1. It is possible to go through much or all of that without even the cold consolation of “oh well, it’s because I’m gay” – which at least offers the hope that a simple legal change might “fix” it.
    But the problem goes beyond that, and will still be there even after change – not every person, gay or straight, can find a partner. Many are undergoing the private hell of being unloved, year after year, and feeling unlovable and rejected – some are even married, in a church where divorce, while no longer a cause for expulsion, is still a public shame and remarriage a minefield. And prayer, as generations of celibate religious have found, doesn’t really quiet the basic mating urge.
    Christians have never really found a reason for the unpartnered to exist, despite the Church’s heavy reliance on widows for hours of unglamorous effort. Milton’s jibe that nunneries were “storage” for unwanted daughters proves it’s nothing new: too much advice, then and now, treats the single as merely partners-in-waiting and has nothing to offer on the possibility of permanent unmarried “burning”.
    That is the real issue we need to beg the Holy Spirit’s help in addressing: for surely God made nothing, and no-one, to be wasted.

    • On your claim that “Christians have never really found a reason for the unpartnered to exist”:
      What part of Jesus’ teaching requires a person to be married? There are, on the contrary, passages that suggest singleness is a God-given and useful thing for a Christian: Some are ‘eunuchs’ (i.e. do not have children) for the sake of the kingdom [Matthew 19:12] and Paul would like people to be single like himself [1Corinthians 7:7,8]. So, if a Christian could see no reason for a single person to exist, other than to marry, then that ‘Christian’ knows nothing of what it is to follow Jesus. Furthermore, since Jesus himself was single, how can anyone think that you need to be married to truly follow him?!

      -Your statement is quite bizarre.

      • Jas,
        I think Karen overstates her case; but life as a single adult aged between 25-40 in UK churches, and indeed in the years since my marriage, tells me that she is not being at all bizarre. To say “Christians have never really found…” implies a deep knowledge of 20 centuries of worldwide church history which is probably beyond most of us. To say “Both European and African Christian leaders, in conventional evangelical churches in the UK during the last 50 years, have had great difficulty in finding…” would be true to my experience.

        • I think you too overstate your case. The closest I have witnessed to what you describe is a few single people who think the church owes them a spouse. If you had a few like that in a single church, then it would be a very creepy place and the Gospel message may well get fogged out. But if no leader can explain what the role of a single person might be in following Jesus (who was himself a single person) – then that’s the claim I find bizarre – How could you even label that a church? Did they get no further than Genesis 1:28’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply”?!

    • Karen, thanks for highlighting a painful reality which many experience. I agree with you that, despite Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching and example, many churches struggle to live out the reality that would bring an end to loneliness—but that there are few other places that even take on this challenge.

      • Thank you Ian for your courteous reply.
        “20 centuries of Church history” have shown us two extremes:
        (1) the often unhealthy veneration of virginity and celibacy, which rested on the concept of of sex being generally polluting and sinful – a Greek, not a Jewish tradition; and –
        (2) the later fear of Catholic priestly and cloistered orders and saint-worship which led to the Protestant default as marriage being the natural vocation of most men and every woman, often enforced by social penalties for those left “on the shelf” (female) or under suspicion of queerness if they waited too long (men). Even the Virgin Mary’s marriage was then preached as consummated subsequent to Christ’s birth, which the earlier traditions held, and still hold, not to be the case. And now the rest of the world also thinks that anyone not having regular sex is at best peculiar, and at worst dangerous, the Church has soaked it up without even noticing.
        Neither extreme truly accommodates the person who wants – and even needs, as Jed heartrendingly relates and I can sign up to – to be partnered, but remains “unwanted” altogether, or in a failed marriage where the other partner is not interested in saving it. There is plenty of Scriptural cover for “marry” or “burn”, but not much for those who cannot choose celibacy and cannot achieve the safety of marriage. (The disabled are very often in this position!)
        Nor has the position of divorcees been fully resolved – they are either in the same lottery of yes/no parishes as gays, or half heartedly allowed to remarry IF they are prepared to submit to the individual, private judgement of the vicar as to their personal guilt. I have often speculated what became of the “woman taken in adultery” if her husband refused to take her back – unless the infant Church took her in, “sin no more” would have been merely a slower death sentence as she starved outside society.
        If I had any solutions to suggest I’d be doing it, believe me – but all I can do is hold faith that God never made any soul to be wasted, and that somehow the Holy Spirit will break through and find a way of mending the broken while holding on to Christ’s teaching.

        • Karen, thank you. The modern church valorises marriage and family at the expense of singleness (and widowhood). It s a kind of idolatry.

          • Penelope: It’s merely the same spirit that is attacking the rest of the world and driving sex into first place – but Christians, aware that God’s first intent was and is one-to-one opposite-sex marriage, try desperately to fit that template over the roar of ever more finely-divided and aggressive demands. I pretty much seized on marriage, after years of single misery, the way a drowning person would to a lifeline; that the lifeline later parted under the strain of expectations is something I bear a heavy load for even now.
            What level of “economy” (an Orthodox term I’ve learned to love) the Church can rightly, under the Spirit’s guidance, apply to other partnerships falling short of the Edenic ideal – and surely *every* marriage must, to some extent, fall short! – to work God’s love even over the “hardness of men’s hearts” (And BTW, did our Lord actually say “men” or “humankind”?) is a matter of disparate belief and practice across all the Churches. The one thing we should all agree on is what the standard was “from the beginning”, and we should not pretend it wasn’t or try and dilute it – just work with the Spirit to find how He wants us to deal with our universal failure to meet it.

  2. Thanks Andrew
    really good review

    I have read both biographies and was moved, saddened, annoyed, and challenged by both. My overall sense was “we have inadvertently done harm” and the evangelical church has not been a safe and healing place for those with SSA. Whilst my own Biblical faith convictions do not support the trajectory both women have taken, and I find their theological justifications without Biblical warrant, I did feel pained at how the church has failed here and wonder how many numerous others have a similar story. The evangelical church has sought to engage with this crucial issue in recent years, and has come a long way in its understanding – but we have some way to go and we must listen and learn from Vicky & Jayne, even if we cannot concede to their conclusions. How many others like them are within our church communities with SSA, and yet the environment that is meant to be healing is actually hurting; exacerbating mental health issues and shame and confusion and a sense of divided self and getting sick. Ironically, both books set up a polarity in me: their poor theological justifications and arguments only served to reinforce my own traditional theological view, but the heart wrenching testimonies of their pain left me knowing we must continue working at this and listening and learning how to be communities that hold and heal and not harm.

  3. The lack of commitment to limiting sex to marriage is telling. It’s a shame that everyone isn’t more upfront about this and we all have to pretend to be debating just the definition of marriage when really it is the whole of Christian sexual ethics.

    I’m not sure I agree that evangelicals in general should be encouraged to read these books. They sound full of emotive argument and poor theology of the kind that has led many astray, and a lot of blaming of biblical teaching for complex mental health conditions. On the other hand, I agree that evangelical leaders may benefit from being exposed to this testimony, and I would certainly recommend this review!

    • That’s one or two nails hit on the head. One of my concerns is that what is genuinely heartfelt pain shared in the books is unlikely to be scrutinised for the principles behind them. We live in an age of taking emotion as truth and that it is unloving to question such. It felt good so it must be good.

      Though should we, can we, hide/protect our fellow Christians from these views? I’d have thought more open teaching would help (not solve) but I wonder how meant feel equipped to do this…. and how many are prepared to take the inevitable flak? I’m not criticising such….it’s a tough world.

    • Vicky’s book – I haven’t yet read Jayne’s – is not light on theology or hermeneutics despite Andrew’s review. It is quite clear that much of the so-called biblical teaching which Vicky heard wasn’t Anglican, but was deeply fundamentalist. It’s nothing like the ‘enlightened’ views of Living Out. Even being gay is a Satanic orientation. That is abusive.

      • Hi Penelope – long time no see.

        I didn’t take Andrew to say it was light on theology but that the theology was poor.

        I’m uncomfortable with the idea that being gay is sinful. But it seems to be a common view in the States. Here’s a recent defence of it: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/07/22066/.

        I think it fails because it implies that temptation is itself sinful, yet scripture says that Christ was tempted. However I note that it is a mainstream position in the Reformed tradition and I haven’t yet seen a response to that particular objection.

        • Hi Will, sorry for the delay in replying. We’re in France! I don’t think Vicky’s theology is poor, she’s done the work, although I don’t agree with her in everything. But then I don’t agree with most revisionists on everything! It’s certainly not a scholarly work, nor meant to be. And aimed at a US audience. It seems that Vicky had a particularly horrible time, mostly in the US and from Christians whom I woul call abusive. I’m sure such exist in the UK too. But, of course not al evangelicals…….
          It also seemed to me that living a lie (not her fault) for so long and her punishing work schedule contributed to the stress which (probably) caused the auto-immune disease and subsequent health problems.
          One of the most interesting things in this discussion, it seems to me, is what is changing in the Church’s view on sexual ethics generally, particularly on premarital sex. I was very taken by Miranda Threlfall Holmes’ blog on this two years ago, which has been mentioned on this blog! And, in which she says, inter alia, that most couples coming for a Church wedding are already living together. That is my experience and would include the children of clergy.

          • (1) Do people not know already that most people are cohabiting before marriage? How can something that is not news be presented as news?

            (2) How is it relevant that they are doing so? Headline: People sometimes do bad things, sometimes do good things. Who knew?

            (3) Second headline: People conform to their prevailing culture. Who would have thought it?

            Strange things are put forward as headlines, or as significant data. ‘I lied, said politician’. We all collapse in shock. Meanwhile on page 47, 60 new galaxies have been discovered.

            Are you saying that Miranda Threlfall Holmes says that anything that happens must (by virtue of its happening) be good? I am sure she does not believe anything like that. If she did, she would believe that the London shootings, the Syrian crisis, global warming, expense-fraud were all good things.

          • Not sure if this comment will appear in the right place, but trying to reply to Christopher, who was replying to Penelope.
            To just pick up on the question that Christopher made:
            “Second headline: People conform to their prevailing culture. Who would have thought it?”
            Prevailing culture shifts – of course. What makes the previous prevailing culture of no sex unless within marriage more ‘correct’ than the current prevailing culture?

          • Andrew is wondering whether all cultures are equally good/bad.

            No they aren’t, and no-one believes they are. How could they be? That would be the most colossal coincidence. Nothing could be less likely.

            Harm and benefit are measurable from many angles. Nazi, present-day-Syrian cultures are not as good as many others.

          • No – I’m not wondering if all cultures are equally good or bad. Please read what I asked and answer that question rather than one of your own making.
            Here it is again: What makes the previous prevailing culture of no sex unless within marriage more ‘correct’ than the current prevailing culture?

          • What makes the previous prevailing culture of no sex unless within marriage more ‘correct’ than the current prevailing culture?

            What makes any culture more correct than any other?

            The ore correct culture is obviously the one which is closer to God’s intent for how humans are supposed to be.

          • Andrew ‘What makes the previous prevailing culture of no sex unless within marriage more ‘correct’ than the current prevailing culture?’

            The measure to which it corresponds with the kingdom of God as revealed in the Word of God.

          • “The ore correct culture is obviously the one which is closer to God’s intent for how humans are supposed to be.”

            Yes S. I don’t think any of us would disagree with that. That’s not the question however. Its about how you know, given that, as Christopher says, people conform to their prevailing culture (as they presumably also did when they wrote the scriptures) .

          • ’What makes the previous prevailing culture of no sex unless within marriage more ‘correct’ than the current prevailing culture?

            Where a culture of no sex unless within marriage actually prevails, then it facilitates valid public recognition of couples with joint primary parental responsibility for children born into their marriage, but without resorting to the intrusion on privacy of genetic testing: (Pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant)

            In contrast, a culture in ‘no sex unless within marriage’ does not predominate can provide no means of fixing joint paternal responsibility without intrusion on privacy of genetic tests.

            Back in 2013, LGBT advocacy groups, like Policy Exchsnge, highlighted the importance of marriage as society’s recognised ‘commitment device’ – “

            ’It is argued that marriage, by encouraging fidelity and lifelong relationships, acts as a ‘commitment device’ – being a powerful enough institution to alter behaviour. Social science research has underscored the importance of marriage to enable commitment. Michael Johnson broke down commitment in relationships into three separate elements – structural, moral and personal. Structural commitment is commitment based on external factors, such as marriage vows, moral commitment is commitment based on a value system and personal commitment is commitment based on the personal satisfaction and pleasure gained from the relationship. Without marriage, relationships are only held together by personal commitment, whereas marriage helps to build commitment through structural, moral and personal commitment. By declaring their commitment and sharing vows in a public ceremony, in addition to making a legal contract of marriage, married couples appear to be more likely to stay together, more likely to work through rocky patches in their relationship and more likely to feel external social pressure to remain committed and monogamous.

            It would be strange for any LGBT advocate to first espouse and then jettison the importance of marriage as a commitment enabler for sexual relationships.

            Of course, what’s debatable is:
            1. whether ‘no sex unless within marrriage’ actually prevailed behaviourally in previous cultures, or was merely an aspirational ideal to which the majority were paying lip service.

          • Andrew,

            (1) marriage and religious involvement are constantly the 2 main predictors of happiness. Marriage is constantly the main predictor of health.

            (2) Stability and maturity are the same thing. Instability and immaturity are the same thing.

            (3) Cohabitation. We have had well within living memory a situation where most inhabit the healthiest/happiest state *always we talk in terms of averages, of course – in this case, in terms of very clear-cut superior averages).
            Of single women (I have no data for men, but for obvious reasons they will be the same or virtually the same), 1-2% cohabited in the 1950s, rising to 70% in 1993, followed by a drop in marriage itself. This is a 3400% rise towards the less healthy/happy state. Some things you can’t get a positive spin on – but spinning is not a Christian activity anyway.

            (4) Cohabitees profile similarly to singles. The standard public-body secular statistics (conveniently collected by non-researcher and former public servant / health trust head Dr Ted Williams in ‘Cohabitation or Marriage?’ – see too Harry Benson thefamilywatch.org/doc/doc.0087.es.pdf) show:
            cohabitees are
            50% above non-cohabitees in postmarital separation or ‘d’
            130% above in smoking during pregnancy
            900% above in serial relationships and 250% above in concurrent
            300% above in ‘abortions’
            60% above in anxiety, neurosis, depression.

            (5) 52% of cohabitees (as against 8% of married couples) split before a child is 5: a 550% rise.

            Like any loving person, I don’t want people to have that, but I want people *not* to have that: to have the good option that in many more cultures is standard practice, and anyone who says they have forgotten it from within this particular culture is not telling the truth or has a short memory.

          • Christopher: you still aren’t addressing the question. It’s not about cohabiting. Maybe reflect on what it is about and then have another go?

          • Andrew, two of the things I did were

            (a) I gave figures on the effects and correlates of cohabitation and how very badly it compares with marriage (which was till recently the default). *These were centrally relevant because the concept of ‘cohabitation’ overlaps so clearly with the concept of ‘no sex unless within marriage’, which was the concept you were asking about.

            (b) I also said that the studies in question regularly found that the profile of cohabiting people in such matters was similar to that of single people but distant from that of married people. From that you can deduce that the same negative effects and correlates attend the single-and-sexually-active state, on average.

            It will make no sense to anybody, and will be regarded as cruel, if you want people to wrench themselves out of a system (the marriage-as-default system) that makes sense, reflects maturity, and has a great track record of health and happiness – for what alternative? An alternative that is far worse in all these respects. I wonder if you can find one person that thinks that makes sense.

          • Christopher: it isn’t about cohabiting! It’s about sex outside of marriage. The statistics you need to give me are couples who get married without EVER having sex before doing so, compared with those who get married who have had some form of sexual intimacy. Those are what we need to compare.

          • When did I say it was about cohabiting? I said it was about not getting married – and nonmarried ‘sexually-active’ people fall into 2 sets, the cohabiting and the domestically single – both of whom I mentioned.

            OK I will see what stats I can come up with on the precise issue you want – albeit it has a large overlap with the ones already addressed.

          • Unsurprisingly, the large-scale US National Survey of Family Growth (ongoing) consistently shows that clearly the number of premarital sexual partners that produces greatest marital stability is zero.

            This is followed by one.

            Numbers of premarital sexual partners between 2 and n don’t seem significantly different from one another in the outcome they produce. In that sense, 2 is a bit of a Rubicon.

            Weekly/regular churchgoing looks to be the most significant factor correlating with stable marriage.

            Can be googled.

            What are your thoughts?

          • We add to this some intrinsic problems with the concept of marriage post cohabitation.

            1. Most ceremonies mark the initiation of something. The less initiation there actually is, the more compromised or vaguer a marriage ceremony will be. What new reality are we celebrating?

            2. If the first (or second) baby is the typical time for cohabitees to wed, they have to do so at an already more-than-previously-stressful time…

            3. …and also in a rather hurried manner so as not to coincide with the childbirth.

            5. Nothing good is added by the marriage ceremony of cohabitees in most cases. Decreased stress is not added. Lifelong commitment is not added, since cohabiting initially without commitment is a trait that marks people out as nonbelievers in lifelong commitment as a principle.

            6. Moreover, once they marry and realise that not a single thing has got better, then they may become cynical about that.

            The main point is that it is all so unnecessary. They could marry. Far more generations did so than their own one to two generations that didn’t. Keeping options open without commitment is just the same thing as extended immaturity; it will therefore be no surprise that extended immaturity and infantilisation have both already been identified as features of modern UK life.

          • Christopher: I’m sorry but you are still assuming cohabitation and/or multiple sexual partners compared to single partner and marriage. Let’s try to compare like for like otherwise it is meaningless.
            The comparison we need is: couples who marry never having had sex compared to couples who marry having expressed themselves together sexually first. (Both sorts may or may not have cohabited. But let’s assume not so that we can compare apples with apples. No cohabiting. No multiple partners. Just that one lot have had sex and one lot haven’t).

          • That’s what I already gave 2 comments back, when I spoke of the US National Survey of Family Growth. Cohabitation was irrelevant to that, just as it is to your requirements.

          • No Christopher. That survey talks about multiple partners. That’s irrelevant for my question. Let’s ask it one more time. You are reminding me of the fifth formers who can’t answer the question asked so just invent one that’s their version of it.

            The comparison we need is: couples who marry never having had sex compared to couples who marry having expressed themselves together sexually first. (Both sorts may or may not have cohabited. But let’s assume not so that we can compare apples with apples. No cohabiting. No multiple partners. Just that one lot have had sex and one lot not. Really easy!

          • The task is to find a survey on quite a recondite topic. What I’m not clear about is why it’s my job to find these results rather than yours, or even both of ours. As the nature of the survey is as specified by you, you’d be more the person to search it out?

            The topic becomes recondite when we assume no cohabitation and no multiple partners. We are in search of 2 groups. Finding the first group is easy: they are the virgins at marriage. Finding the other group – well, they have to fit a very precise specification of yours: (a) have had premarital sex, (b) but with only one person, (c) that person being the one they are now marrying, (d) yet they have not cohabited. The 2 of us will do our best to find the appropriate survey.

            If we return to the multi-angled survey I already mentioned, we can assume that where there is ‘one’ premarital partner, a substantial percentage of the time this is the same person who later becomes the spouse. Falling into the category of having had one premarital partner (as opposed to none) was a factor that doubled the divorce rate after 5 years in the 1980s (100% increase of chance of negative outcome) but by the 2000s quadrupled it (300% increase of change of negative outcome) – present day figures will therefore be more on the quadrupled end of the scale.

            The difference between the average divorce profiles of the two groups one-premarital-partner-different-from-spouse and one-premarital-partner-namely-spouse would have to be absolutely astronomical to avoid the inevitable conclusion that the virgins come off quite easily best.

            But how could the average of two large sets of people be as different as that? One of the 2 groups named above would have to far outstrip even the record of the virgin contingent.

            Given that the clear and predictable message of the graph is: fewer partners – less divorce – that is very likely not to be the case anyway, even before we consider its intrinsic unlikelihood (previous para).

          • Christopher: because you keep claiming that sex before marriage is harmful but you never compare like for like. You only ever compare promiscuous and cohabiting couples with couples you think are pure and virgins. That won’t ever work or be convincing. And you can’t ever know what went on in previous cultures as David Shepherd so wisely points out.

          • Andrew, for reasons stated, the first US National Survey of Family Growth graph (https://ifstudies.org/blog/counterintuitive-trends-in-the-link-between-premarital-sex-and-marital-instability) already shows zero-premarital-partners people to have an unbeatable lead (in the hundreds of percentage points) in the no-divorce-after-5-years-stakes. As mentioned, although you are interested only in the comparison of the aforementioned zero-partners people with one very large subset of the one-premarital-partner contingent, there is not the slightest chance that that subset would come close to the score of the zero-premarital-partners contingent – as will be seen from the graph.

            Would you agree or not, and if not, why?

            I didn’t understand how your last comment related to that.

            Other commenters can easily check this out for themselves – it is clear-cut.

          • Christopher: I’m asking for a comparison between zero partners and zero partners. Are you saying that a couple who wait until their wedding night, or after, to have any sexual relationship at all are much less likely to divorce be unhappy than a couple who have had no other partners but have some sexual relationship before making marriage vows? Can you explain why that would be? And how can we be sure they have had no kind of sexual relationship? What counts? Can they kiss? Can they touch? Please get real…

          • The best way of getting real is to take statistics on board rather than ignoring them. They are our most precise and accurate window into the *real* world, not any fantasy ideological world pressed on us by the media or whomever.

            According to the terms of the large-scale ongoing survey I mentioned, you are not asking for a comparison between zero and zero, since the issue is premarital sexual partners. Your query-request would be defined as a comparison between those with zero premarital sexual partners and (a particular subset of) those with one premarital sexual partner (namely the subset of those for whom that one premarital partner is the same person as the person they then go on to marry).

            As for the gory gradated details, these surveys go by people’s own self-assessment and witness. Broadly speaking there will most certainly be considerably more sexual activity among the ‘one’s than among the ‘zero’s, but obviously there is a limit when it comes to detail.

          • “Your query-request would be defined as a comparison between those with zero premarital sexual partners and (a particular subset of) those with one premarital sexual partner (namely the subset of those for whom that one premarital partner is the same person as the person they then go on to marry).”

            Yes, that’s the comparison we need in order for your claims to have any meaning.

          • As mentioned, from this large-scale ongoing study, the zeros not only win but win hands-down. Could you analyse the data in any way different from that?

          • Christopher: it’s very well known that if you are trying to analyse what causes a particular change then you only alter one thing at a time. So the comparison I am requesting is crucial for your argument. When you have that data we can helpfully continue the discussion.

          • As I already mentioned, the study already cited is sufficient, since there could not possibly be a sufficient swing among the subset you specified – therefore the zeros win quite easily.

            I mentioned before that you are treating me as someone who has to find statistics for you: statistics of your own precise specification. We both have the same internet. It is not the case that one of us is the master and one is the slave who has to do the running and fetching. I have found one already, but people will be wondering why you have offered no assessment of its relevant data.

          • Christopher: there aren’t any ‘subsets’. You are claiming that the thing which produces problems like divorce and so on is sex before marriage. To test this claim we need a controlled experiment – one that changes one variable at a time. First, and most obvious experiment – take a group of people who have got married never having had any sexual relationships. Then take a group who have – not who have cohabited or had multiple partners. But have just had some sexual contact with each other. There aren’t any subsets. Just two equal groups with one variable. None of your statistics address this issue, and neither do you. So your claim is invalid.

          • Which only goes to prove that the more picky you are about the specifics to be surveyed, the less likely it is that there will be a survey on that precise topic. Which stands to reason.

            The graph is before you. By far the best number is zero; then there is a long gap to one; then there is a long gap to 2 or more. The interesting finding is that ‘2 or more’ is a valid category. The two Rubicons are from zero to one, and then from one to two. After that it doesn’t seem to make much difference. 3 options: Zero – one- plural.

            You can call all this correlation rather than causation. We have all heard that one many times before. When correlation is the main ingredient of causation anyway; and when the correlation is so clear; then trumpet the slogan ‘causation is not correlation’ all you like – sensible people will obviously be staying away from anything that’s correlated with bad things. And by that I mean bad things that are conceptually closely-connected, rather than things like sunshine – ice cream – sexual assault (which do indeed comprise a fully causative family tree provided we know which is the parent and which are the independent children).

          • “Which only goes to prove that the more picky you are about the specifics to be surveyed, the less likely it is that there will be a survey on that precise topic. Which stands to reason.”

            Christopher; I’m not being ‘picky’, but I’m asking you to be precise. You can’t be. Enough said.

          • We can be precise enough to say that the zeros have a walkover in a very large-scale study that addresses much the same question. That means that the result would be very similar in any study that addressed your own almost identical question.

          • Sadly Christopher that’s only precise enough to confirm your prejudices. There are too many variables in that survey. When there is a precise one, do let me know.

          • Say what these variables are, and we’ll deal with them.

            Any study will have variables anyway – what is the alternative?

            But so long as the study is large-scale, national and ongoing, then it is good data that will be used by large bodies.

          • We need just the one variable for your claims to have any evidence Christopher. They are all ‘zeros’. It’s just that some of the zeros will have, undoubtedly, have had some sexual experience with each other only before they get married. So – if what you claim is true, that group of ‘zeros’ will exhibit a higher rate of marriage failure or unhappiness. Do the research, and then let us know.

      • Penny, I think you are right. The quite common views in the US that even having feelings of SSA is almost irredeemably sinful is quite a long way from the position of most churches here.

    • Hi Will.

      Like Penelope I have also read Vicky’s book, and I can confirm that it isn’t a strong theological work, but it was never pretending to be that, it is a personal testimony. The nature of her story is certainly emotive, especially when discussing the failings of churches that feel very familiar, but I do not think critising it for being this when that’s the intention is fair. On your first point, RE the wider issues of sexual ethics, I am in complete agreement though.

    • Hi Will,

      “It’s a shame that everyone isn’t more upfront about this and we all have to pretend to be debating just the definition of marriage when really it is the whole of Christian sexual ethics” – but pause a moment. Following the logic of a conservative position on this, if same-sex sex is intrinsically wrong, what difference does it make how faithful a relationship is? If an act is wrong in itself, doing it faithfully can’t make it right… following the logic through, there can’t be an ethics of same-sex sex because there can’t be an ethics of something that’s intrinsically wrong. So if you believe that’s the case with same-sex sex, on what basis can you ask those of us who disagree to limit sex to marriage / committed relationships?

      in friendship, Blair

  4. Promiscuity, in fact any short-term-based sexual activity without a coherent big-picture life-plan in view (which is exactly the same as sex outside marriage, since no typically longterm scenarii exist other than marriage) is unsurprisingly a mental health timebomb.

    As it has increased (and its increase has been a little-remarked major development of the past 2 decades, and also to a lesser degree of the past 5 decades) so have ‘mental health problems’. Problems of integrity, identity, soul-ties, mixed-up-ness, messed-up-ness. You can be a coherent unit in yourself, and with your covenant one-flesh, but not otherwise.

    What is difficult to understand or believe is that the homosexual failure to oppose extramarital sex is shared by self-identified Christian homosexuals. One does not hear them speaking out against it; but things are worse, since they do not even seem to oppose it privately, and sometimes regard it as good.

    The world inhabited by the 2 autobiographees is to that extent not the Christian world. Neither seems to have had the above understanding when they were growing up. I can believe that, as I am a near-contemporary. ‘Mental health problems’ will, in such a context, be unsurprising, and we need to understand that the simple Christian way of doing things, which has been widespread and longterm so is the reverse of unworkable, has been blocked off and never mentioned as an option, often by those who want to have as large a pool of potential sexual ‘partners’ as possible. They may not realise the things that to others of us are obvious, because of the norms that have been foisted on them.

    • “since no typically longterm scenarii exist other than marriage”

      Whether you agree with relationships outside marriage or not, might I suggest you should get out more. There are plenty of examples of cohabiting couples who are not married but who have been happily together for several decades. That is longer than a good many marriages!

      • That’s true at the level of anecdote…but which you can prove anything. But taken as a whole, cohabitation is markedly less stable than marriage, and the ones losing out are usually the women and the children.

      • Nick, what I wrote was 100% accurate. Cohabitation is not ‘typically longterm’.

        Worse than that, it is the exact reverse: ‘typically short-term’.

        As for your saying I should ‘get out more’, which is
        (a) insulting,
        (b) based on no knowledge of my actual practice,
        (c) a cliche [and cliches are inclined to be unthinking],
        (d) an incoherent cliche at that,
        (e) a startling example of devil’s advocacy: are you keen to stand up for unstable practices and simultaneously also against stable ones?…

        is the idea that if I ‘got out more’ I would discover that within the whole of reality there are examples of the kind you said?

        I would not need to discover it, since I already know it. You could scarcely imagine that I didn’t. And you already knew that I know it, since if I had not known it I would have been speaking in terms of ‘invariably’ rather than in terms of ‘typically’.

        • Christopher,

          Apologies if I caused offence. The point I was trying to make was that since marriage has regrettably become less popular there are more and more cohabiting relationships that are long term and have lasted longer than many marriages.

          So while it would be correct to say that marriages typically last longer than cohabiting relationships, it is not correct to say that marriage is typically the only form of long term stable relationship.

          It would be interesting to understand how much of our present understanding of the need for formalisation of marriage comes from the Bible and how much comes from out culture and Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753.

          Does anyone know any sources that have looked at this?

          • it is not correct to say that marriage is typically the only form of long term stable relationship

            It is, though, because while I’m sure lifelong monogamous cohabiting arrangements do exist, they are atypical, ie, not characteristic of their type.

            It’s not just about the eventual cohabiting arrangement, either: even the long-term cohabiting arrangements that exist were usually preceded by a period of both parties promiscuously ‘shopping around’.

            It would be interesting to understand how much of our present understanding of the need for formalisation of marriage comes from the Bible

            It’s exclusively from the Bible that we get our understanding of marriage being about making ‘one flesh’, ie, the requirement for lifelong monogamy, isn’t it?

            Drop the Biblical understanding, adopt the ‘long-term cohabiting is a fine model’ philosophy, and there’s no reason not to spend your late teens and early twenties having sex with various partners until you find one to enter into a long-term cohabiting relationship with, is there?

          • “It is, though, because while I’m sure lifelong monogamous cohabiting arrangements do exist, they are atypical, ie, not characteristic of their type.”

            Does anyone know where there are statistics on the longevity of cohabiting relationships vs marriages and whether this is changing as marriage has become less of the norm?

            There would have to be a very wide difference and a very low rate of long term cohabiting relationships before I could use the word atypical to describe them.

            The complication is of course the high proportion of marriages where the couples have been cohabiting for some time. Anecdotally this seems now to be the norm.

            “It’s exclusively from the Bible that we get our understanding of marriage being about making ‘one flesh’, ie, the requirement for lifelong monogamy, isn’t it?”

            As I read the bible, polygamy was common through most the Old Testament including the patriarch and Kings. Monogamy seems to be a desirable characteristic for a Bishop in the New Testament. Yet we regard monogamy as an absolute requirement so much so that it is enshrined in law! – How did we arrive at that?

            How marriage is formalised has varied over history and I see nowhere in the bible saying you have to go through a ceremony, yet that too is seen as a requirement. Where does this all come from how much is from God and how much is our culture. That is the question I am asking.

          • I didn’t say that marriage was typically the only form of longterm st able relationship. I said that it was the only form of typically longterm stable relationship – which it is. (And ‘relationship’ is a very vague word indeed, to boot.)

          • Does anyone know where there are statistics on the longevity of cohabiting relationships vs marriages and whether this is changing as marriage has become less of the norm?

            I don’t know if there even are any, but even if there are, you’d have to be very very careful about what’s included and what’s not; ie, you’ll get a very skewed picture if, for example, you only consider those relationships which the participants self-report as having been, or intended to be, ‘long-term’, which I suspect are themselves a small minority of all cohabiting relationships.

            I’m pretty sure the vast majority of cohabiting relationships start off as ‘let’s move in together and see how it goes’; and the vast majority of those don’t last beyond a year. If you cut those ‘causal try-outs’ out of the statistics and only include ‘serious’ relationships you will get a very very wrong picture of the rate of cohabiting which are long-term.

            There would have to be a very wide difference and a very low rate of long term cohabiting relationships before I could use the word atypical to describe them

            Given that I know just one person, not atypical for today’s world, who has added at least five to the number of cohabiting relationships without any of them being long-term, I am willing to believe that there is such a wide difference and such a very low rate.

          • Anyway, Nick, why are you worried that you caused offence (which is a mere emotional matter – and anyway you didn’t) rather than worried about committing multiple illogic (which is a rational matter)?

          • For some sources that have looked at this question, see my comments to Andrew slightly above.

    • I hardly think those were Jayne’s or Vicky’s norms, rather the reverse! You don’t choose Wycliffe if you simply want a large pool of potential partners; well I wouldn’t have thought so.

  5. Well, that was an extremely generous review, Andrew, whereas there are others much more challenging of what Vicky has written.

    The definition of ‘mental health’ seems to have widened considerably. I hear my grandchildren mention things in mental health terms which we never took any notice of in ourselves at their age. Sometimes it sounds like overt ‘naval gazing’ compared to what used to be categorised as mental health needing professional help. (I am trying to make this point sensitively!)

    When Vicky produced that Independent article 4 years ago I wondered two things: why go to the Independent and not something more sympathetic to evangelicals; and why was she not given sensible pastoral advice with something which had troubled her for 20 years? I do wonder if loving the limelight is a big thing for her.

    I do appreciate your analysis of the sexual ethics involved, Andrew. I am flabbergasted at how much the church has swallowed the pervading sexual ethic. Why is virginity no longer considered to have any value? But even more so, why do Christians support a secular ethic of sex before marriage which is has come about solely because of the availability of contraception? Contemplating sex before marriage before contraception was available gave relationships a totally different perspective. And to make it even simpler, if God is our designer, why are Christians consecrating ‘sex’ which is ‘non-biological’ (another way of putting Paul’s ‘natural use’)?

    Yes, it is about time that we are having to add the things they have highlighted to our pastoral hearts and find a way of leading everyone into spiritual maturity. And I agree, the idea that God wants us to ‘be yourself’ is the opposite of the main teaching of Jesus – ‘whoever loses their life for my sake will find it’.

    • Peter Mattacola ‘I am trying to make this point sensitively!’
      So can I clarify – do you really mean Vicky Beeching’s problems were possibly not actual mental health needing professional help but ‘overt navel gazing’?
      – do you think she is attention seeking? -So were her struggles were imagined or faked?
      – despite all the evidence in the book that the evangelical world she was part of would have treated her as needing exorcism you wonder why she did not go to somewhere more ‘sympathetic to evangelicals’ to share her story?
      – precisely what ‘sensible pastoral advice’ would have been appropriate to her personal situation and struggles 20 years ago in your opinion?

      • Hello David, the answer is “No”, I did not mean any of those things – if I did I would have said them.
        I was trying to tease out if there is a difference between mental health and what used to be called mental illness. All of us need to maintain mental health and I was merely observing that the focus on self and introspection which is so common now may not necessarily be helpful. Don Benson seems to be commenting on this below too.
        I’m not sure if you are an evangelical but her descriptions are not stereotypical responses in counselling amongst all evangelicals. I obviously cannot suggest what would have been appropriate pastoral advice; it’s just that her turmoil over such a long period of time must have been noticed by someone close to her.

  6. Christopher ‘Promiscuity, in fact any short-term-based sexual activity without a coherent big-picture life-plan in view (which is exactly the same as sex outside marriage, since no typically longterm scenarii exist other than marriage) is unsurprisingly a mental health time-bomb.’

    I would agree – but both Jayne’s and Vicky’s mental health issues did not arise through promiscuity but through their SSA within a church community where they were led to believe even to feel such attractions was evil, and in both cases, told it was demonic requiring exorcism.

    • How do you know? Both of them either were or are committed to seeing extramarital sex as a Christian option. People have quickly forgotten what a Rubicon that is.

      • Destruction of an entire life plan, one’s *main* entire life plan, will always be a Rubicon.

        What makes me suspicious is that JO, whom I have frequently heard (I have not read the books) frames so many things in the accepted/prescribed way of framing them at this particular date in this particular culture – (one byproduct of which is that she will gain maximum sympathy). There are plenty of other angles but these are cordoned off. But not to the truthful, they are not.

    • In Jayne’s case, unclarity and/or simple human laxity over parameters for premarital sexual practice scarred her. What I always compare it to is child-abuse. Just as in the case of child abuse (at present: abhorred by all), so with extramarital sex (at present: incoherently applauded by many): fleeting moments typically rewrite and scar one’s whole life history and identity: opening presents early (so to speak) typically rewrites and scars one’s history and identity. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory. And the way he does that is through repentance, forgiveness and healing.

      • Hi Christopher,

        “In Jayne’s case, unclarity and/or simple human laxity over parameters for premarital sexual practice scarred her”… but how can you know this, especially when you are honest enough to admit above that you haven’t read either book?

        in friendship, Blair

        • It’s there in the review: “Jayne frankly confesses that in her view sex before marriage is allowable for Christians, provided they are truly ‘committed to each other’. Her non-Christian boyfriend Geoff was naturally ‘stunned but delighted’ when she suggested they begin sleeping together (JL98). She argues that only ‘a rare few’ are given ‘the gift of celibacy’ (JL243). ”
          This woman is on the General Synod of the C of E.

          • Hi Brian,

            but the lines you’ve quoted don’t provide a warrant for Christopher’s assertion – he specifically says that ” unclarity and/or simple human laxity over parameters for premarital sexual practice *scarred her*” [my emphasis]. There’s no mention of any kind of scarring in the words you quoted above.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Brian, I think you’ll find she’s not the only person on GS who has had sex before or outside marriage, clergy and lay!

          • Penelope, (a) the issue is not what people have done but what they approve of; (b) in what way does having done something baptise that thing?

            I was making exactly the same (not unobvious) points over 10 years ago, and others have been making them for decades. I am not sure people *want* to advance the discussion.

        • Because I have frequently heard her speak. The inner turmoil is admitted. The (attitude to) extramarital sex and promiscuity (at the milder end of the scale) is affirmed. The connection between the 2 is not made. Yet there is a connection, because she says how she had set her heart (her innermost being) on giving herself to her groom. Sorry to speak so potentially intrusively. We need to straighten out the thinking.

          • Jayne set her heart on giving herself to her groom because that was the evangelical mindset within which she was raised. She didn’t even want a groom!

      • Christopher, premarital sex, so long as it’s consensual, does not scar people for life. There are plenty of morally healthy Christians and humanists who have had several relationships and some who live together happily without being married. And they are not all young, by any means.

        • Hi Penelope, if you don’t mind me asking, your remarks here suggest that you see absolutely no value in virginity, or how do you view that? The meaning of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 implies that as Christians our bodies belong to God as Temples of the Holy Spirit and not to ourselves. Also that sex makes you joined to your sexual partner as ‘one flesh’ – a situation which biblically is viewed as the exclusive domain of marriage.

          • Hi, no I don’t see a particular value in virginity. What is it, an absence or a presence? I see value in a single, consecrated life, but widows make those vows as well as virgins. Besides, many lesbians are, of course, technically virgins!

          • When one has seen the depth, promise and expectation in the eyes of an aged-twenties person who knows that this precious period of their lives, with its rich harvest, is shortly to graduate into a new and very exciting one – then one understands the value of virginity. It is not merely precious, it is regularly described through the ages and cultures as the *most* precious gift one can give.

          • Christopher: I wonder if you might be happier in a community like the Shakers, where every contact between men and women was monitored.
            Perhaps, just perhaps, virginity was described in the way you support as one way of controlling women? Has that occurred to you?

        • 1 Corinthians 6.16 echoes the question that must have occurred to many: how many people can a person coherently be one flesh with? Without getting mixed up. I mean, it would be mixed up if a person were one flesh with even one person simultaneously with another. Soul ties. What does that do to a person’s integrity or identity? Mental health issues rise according to the same graph wherein promiscuity rises.

          As for ‘consent’, many points can and have been made. Many people jointly consent to things that are wrong, harmful, or both – we all know that. So what is any good about consent, aside from lack of consent being so bad?

          I use the fact that someone uses the word ‘relationship’ without clarification as one good barometer of unclear thinking. (I am sure I have done it myself.) What does it mean?

          All you are doing here is making the same mistake as Nick above. There are instances of many things – but only because this is a large world. What you would need (for your preferred conclusion – but life is rarely how we would *prefer* it to be, and no honest thinker has ‘preferred’ conclusions anyway) is for those things to be typical; and they are the reverse of that. Marriage is the only remotely typically-stable ‘relationship’-type. (Yes, I know, I used the word.)

          You say they are not all young. How many of them had formative years that predated the sexual revolution? That tends to be the critical factor.

          • Christopher: Surely you are asking the same question as the Pharisees (Whose wife will she then be?).
            And there has in the past been a significant body of opinion against widows (less so widowers) remarrying.
            Perhaps when we all have resurrection bodies our previous “flesh” will be of less significance than they are here.

          • Karen, no – my topic is promiscuity, far distant from serial widowhood-and -remarriage.

          • Christopher, I don’t think either Vicky or Jsyne is advocating multiple, simultaneous partners! With serial monogamy you can be one-flesh with quite a few people. Four for Katharine Parr, for example

          • I certainly didn’t advocate serial monogamy while the former spouse was still living!!

            Holding the views that Jayne Ozanne and others hold seems so regularly to correlate with a pattern of emotion-based transient attachments.

      • (1) In her #metoo TV interview JO said ‘I know what people will say’ in their interpretation – namely: they will see the root of her subsequent psychological problems with this sort of experience (pp57-8 in the book) rather/more than with her being unable to be allowed to be gay and Christian.

        (2) In so saying, she showed that the thought must have crossed her own mind also. She has lived her own life, and inhabited her own skin, and in those circumstances has herself made this connection.

        (3) She was at the time operating on the (unworkable) basis that ‘anything other than full-on penetration was probably okay’ – (but as the Adrian Plass sketch says, ‘once you pass Milton Keynes [in your northward journey] it is very hard to stop’ – I may have misquoted here).

        (4) She was friends with the sort of ordained minister who believes in premarital sex.

        (5) More than friends, in fact.

        (6) The book itself dates overwhelming sadness and depression from this root.

        (7) Her previous wedding-night hopes make the profound effect of this experience very understandable.

        (8) The extent to which her mental health was affected (being booked into the Priory) means that readers should run a mile from repeating such a scenario.

        All this is far more simply explained by the existing Christian view: Don’t play with fire, because you will get burnt. You may also end up resenting men in general to some extent – this seems to be among the most replayed patterns.

        • Christopher

          I couldn’t agree more. If you are a lesbian, having sex with a man because you think it may make you straight or will redeem you, is a recipe for disaster.

          • I don’t know whether that was what she thought. She doesn’t, to my knowledge, say that that was what she thought.

            There are 2 times she launches into premarital sexual activity: with curate and with ‘Geoff’. Not only are these the *main* 2 times which bring on all kinds of mental horrors; also, these horrors begin almost immediately after the experience.

            Both times the experience is knowingly brought about by accepting that premarital sex, or something approximating, is ok and acting accordingly.

            She then says the church has got this wrong. Her prescription is impossibly complex and sophistic, whereas ‘the church’ has a simple one: avoid premarital sex. Simple clear advice can benefit people.

            It is exactly what any Christian would expect. Premarital sexual activity has always been warned against.

            Karen Armstrong and Jayne Ozanne had in common high ideals and great expectations. They had similar bad experiences once they gave a foothold to the lie of the sexual revolution, and so many others have had too.

            What was the mess of pottage that put paid to their high ideals? The sexual revolution, and the fact that men were/are not willing to marry at an age that women could endure till, or respect women.

            Whoever thinks that JO or VB are the central villains of the piece should think again: the central villain is the sexual revolution, and its instigators and fans. I do not like the disingenuousness in much of what they write. Patrick Strudwick is an ally? He has been known to be underhand; and also to veil his ultimate intent to get rid of the church. One could go on. But how can any woman survive when they cannot find a man to marry them by mid-late 20s? Even by mid-late 30s? The whole thing becomes making it up as one goes along, a succession of transient ‘relationships’. How question-begging that word is. The idea is that people need precisely one special ‘significant other’. I have never understood why. They need *one* one-flesh partner because that is the shape of every family. Together with that they need as many as they like of rich friendships. Why do they need precisely *one* person who is not their biological-family spouse? What is wrong with other numbers than one?

          • Christopher, no, what was traumatic was sexual intimacy with men when she is a lesbian. That is unnatural.
            I married when I was 35. I was not a virgin. Draw your own conclusions.
            I am not scarred for life.

          • Penelope, why do you persist in evoking a solid unfluctuating category ‘lesbian’? Lisa Diamond’s studies are the cutting edge and they reject that.

            You are rejecting a second thing: the pattern of women being hurt by men and sticking to other women in the future whether out of revenge or hurt.

            And you are rejecting the multi-angled science (on cultural difference; on parenting and its influence; on social-setting influence; on rural/urban; on identical twins etc etc) that sees lesbian etc as things that people become, not things that they ‘are’.
            -Does life experience and circumstances (i.e. one’s entire life) count for nothing?

            Fourthly, you are implying that, if lesbian is something you ‘are’, then some babies must be lesbian.

            Fifthly, you are paying no attention to the fact that the direction of travel is on balance clearly for people to be less homosexual as they grow older.

            We ought to put our own authority at a lower level than that of the researchers, of course. To put it at the same level would obviously not be right. But at a higher level? What is your view on that? Would you think that laypeople should regard their opinions as of higher, equal or lower worth vis a vis researchers. For me it is a non question since I have no opinion separate from that of the researchers, and I struggle to see why anyone does.

          • Please, Christopher, you should know by now that Lisa Diamond has strongly criticised this misinterpretation of her work; it has been reiterated often enough on this blog.
            Lesbians who have been raped or who have had unwanted sex with men will tend to remain lesbians.
            Straight women who have been raped by men tend to prefer sex with men, even though the rape was traumatic.
            Jayne didn’t become a lesbian because she was raped. She tried to form relationships with men because she believed that was normal, and, surprise, they didn’t work.

            I have no idea when people become gay. Most gay people report erotic feelings for the same gender from a very early age, so most reputable scientists assume there are probably genetic, hormonal and nurturing influences. Just as there are with straight infants.

          • (1) Which particular aspect of what I said is a misinterpretation? (a) Fluidity among self-styled lesbians or (b) gravitating to women when men scar you? Are you merging the 2 (Trojan-Horse like)? These are 2 quite separate questions. (a) or (b)?

            She does find substantial fluidity among self-styled lesbians. That is the central issue we were discussing. She has not reneged on that, nor do her findings allow her to.

            (2) You know, also, I guess, that on average lesbians have slept with twice as many men as the average?

            (3) Do you say that babies can be lesbian?

          • Christopher,
            (a) Lisa Diamond has sharply criticised this misreading of her research.
            (2) do you mean the average of straight women? If so, what are you concluding from this?
            (3) I have no idea when infants realise that they are gay. I suspect at different stages in their development. Some gay people report erotic feelings for the same sex from a very early age; others much later. I suppose it’s the same as with straight people. Some of us feel attracted towards the other sex from childhood; some after puberty.

          • (1) So Lisa Diamond does not, despite all appearances, believe lesbianism-or-otherwise is highly fluid?

            (2) Yes, though the average of all-women and that of ‘straight’-women will of course be similar. I am concluding from this that the ‘orientation’ lens that most people seem to prefer is way wide of the mark. One of those who prefers it is you.

            (3) It was a yes/no question: do you believe there are lesbian babies: yes/no?

          • As for JO thinking ‘Join the club’ when her mum regretted not having grandkids, that is (a) quite horribly unfeeling towards someone of any age, (b) disrespectful to an older close relative, (c) inaccurate. There is no such ‘club’ – *unless* one subscribes to the sexual revolution, and why would any half-sensible person do that?

          • Christopher
            Yes, Lisa Diamond does claim that her research has been misinterpreted
            I said I don’t know if there are gay babies. It’s not a simple yes/no
            Regardless of whether lesbianism is more fluid than male homosexuality, the review looks at the memoirs of two women. Both struggled for many years with their orientation, both received prayer ministry and exorcism, both had physical and mental breakdowns, largely because they couldn’t change their orientation, and both now realise that they are as God created them to be. They, and others colluded in this, tried to marr their God-given image and this resulted in great harm. As blasphemy often does.
            I fully sympathise with Jayne’s reaction to her mother’s comment. I reacted in a very similar way to my mother making a very similar, and completely insensitive, comment

          • (1) That was not my question. Which *aspect* of her research has been misinterpreted? On fluidity, or on something else? If on fluidity, why would she backtrack on her own conclusions?

            (2) If you do not know whether there can be gay babies, then you can’t use the word gay/lesbian. To use it is to assume it is something innate. If it is not something innate it cannot be appealed to by equality law – as many studies from numerous angles already make plain.

            (3) How unkind and lacking in feelings towards a mother can people be?

            Immaturity is everywhere here. What I mean by a mature environment is, e.g., a good school, where people grow and develop every day and emotional outbursts are given short shrift. JO’s book is full of emotion which is a more juvenile narcissistic trait. So am I wrong to see a connection between that and the fact that she reacts against motherhood and also, secondly, against her own real mother.

            Joan Bakewell (‘The 60s were a good time to have an affair’) finally reached the requisite maturity to realise that those who had questioned the 60s amorality were right.

          • Christopher
            Diamond says that her fluidity claims have been misrepresented. I don’t have the link. Google it.
            I didn’t say babies couldn’t be gay. I said I didn’t know. Also, society protects characteristics which aren’t innate or from birth
            How unkind can Mothers sometimes be to daighters who can’t/won’t have babies. Mothers don’t deserve respect simply because they are mothers.
            Emotions are neither narcissistic nor juvenile. They are evidence of a living heart and soul. Read Paul’s letters.

          • You made the claim about Lisa Diamond, and no-one will believe the claim unless you present evidence, rather than telling people to ‘google it’. You made the claim, so it follows that it it your responsibility to google it. I am sure she was misrepresented in many ways, as are all scholars, since what they say is very precise. But the question is whether she believes in a significant level of ‘lesbian’ fluidity or not. Her actual conclusions, not merely the details of what she writes, give the lie to what you say.

            You didn’t address the point about innateness. The words ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, ‘orientation’ imply innateness. Christians have emphasised behaviour not orientation, and they are (according to the science) right – secularists are wrong (and, like most people, regularly unfamiliar with the research) on this. How can people go on using words like homosexual, gay, orientation, without making this clear. Simpler to abandon those words and speak of behaviour only; behaviour, of course, can become ingrained at a later stage.

            When we see how mothers are treated, we understand something of the one (or the societal group) who is treating them thus.

          • Penelope, there is a game people play where they say ‘Scholar X has spoken out about misrepresentations of their work’ (as who wouldn’t) when it is conveniently unmentioned that the aspect of their work they have spoken out about is nothing to do with the aspect that we are presently talking about. The same game is played with regard to what the Bible says about homosexuality. With any text (especially ancient texts) there will always be interpretative issues; it does not at all follow that the interpretative issues bear on the central issue of whether homosexual acts are approved or disapproved – the answer to that latter point is quite straightforward. This game is sleight of hand. Indulging in sleight of hand removes a person from the company of the honest.

            In the present case,

            (1) Lisa Diamond believes in self-styled ‘lesbian’ fluidity, and in sexual-‘orientation’ fluidity in general (as who wouldn’t) but to a more marked degree than was formerly standard, and especially among the young and among the female.

            (2) She is actually the scholar most associated with that stance, together with Savin-Williams. (Both call themselves gay/lesbian.)

            (3) It would be a remarkable volte-face, involving denying all her main conclusions, if she were to take any other position.

            L M Diamond, ‘Female Bisexuality from Adolescence to Adulthood: Results from a 10-Year Longitudinal Study’ (Developmental Psychology 44, 2008)

            L M Diamond, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire (Harvard University Press 2008)

            L M Diamond Entry in APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology vol. 1 (2014): 629-52 – here, p.633

            L M Diamond & C J Rosky: Scrutinising Immutability (Journal of Sex Research 53, 2016)

            The whole equality thing becomes impossibly complex once one includes non-innate states. Being a smoker? Being a Mozart-lover? Being at present up a tree?

            Lisa D did speak out against 2 possible ways her work might be used:

            (A) She posted a youtube video 2008 speaking out against NARTH’s saying that she had said people could ‘choose’ their sexuality. What she had said was that people’s sexuality could vary but this was not because of their wilful choice but was simply something that they experienced happening. This is a correct distinction, but how far the two scenarii differ in practice does depend on one’s use of language, and language is a slippery thing. Either way, she joins NARTH in opposing ‘Born This Way’. Yet the whole language of homosexual/heterosexual, gay/lesbian most naturally implies the ‘born this way’ idea. That is why we should stop using it.

            (B) Her 2016 paper – see above – spoke out against people using the fact that ‘Born This Way’ is (as Christians had always said – so why not listen to them?) incorrect in ways that could have legal equality implications. Once again, this argument is based on the fact that ‘Born This Way’ is indeed incorrect.

            Yet you implied that what she had spoken out against was the fluidity idea. The truth is the exact opposite.
            She affirms it strongly.
            She is its leading proponent.

          • Christopher
            Diamond writes in the New Scientist 2015 that sexual orientation is innate but that there is also fluidity, especially amongst women. As you say, she emphasises that any change in orientation is involuntary and strongly repudiates NARTH’s idelological claim that it is a matter of choice.
            As I have said elsewhere, Jayne’s and Vick’s orientation seem to be static (if that is the opposite of fluid). Jayne thought she could make herself straight, but this only brought suffering).
            On a different topic, re mothers: do you think parents deserve unquestioning deference and respect, even when they hurt or insult their children?

          • If she believes in innateness she really does have her work cut out – even the official bodies do not believe that, and there is stacks of clear-cut evidence from many angles involving hundreds of percentage points, as I have often listed. Again it may be a matter of definition: what she seems to believe is that each person has a range and that range is innate. However, this is almost defining innateness out of existence: once you have a range rather than a fixed point – and that range changes over time – and is particularly changeable for women and youngsters….

            On mothers: It just so happens that we are at a point in history where successive generations may have had colossally different levels of self-sacrifice. It is hard for us to imagine the level of our parents’ generation’s self-sacrifice. Even if we are not sure how to estimate it accurately, pietas suggests we err on the side of honour. Bollywood film Baghban has highlighted dependency on parents and failure to repay them as a big issue. ‘Bank of mum and dad’ entered the vocabulary at a particular time for a particular reason. The expectation of grandchildren is of course a normal and natural one, given that they would normally materialise 90% of the time, and anything one has a 90% chance of, one can naturally expect. It is only the present generation that is so abnormal in that regard – historically they are in a minuscule minority and (statistically) strange. The reality of zero grandchildren must be an incredibly hard thing to take – how can we enter another’s mind to estimate its magnitude? Of course neither mothers nor children are infallible. Honouring parents is part of healthy living, but we should also note that failure to do so is a sign of immaturity, and further that immaturity is the characteristic shortcoming of our own particular age (see above). In Big Brother 2005 Michelle Bass’s grandmother was so physically affected by her granddaughter’s antics that she was dead within a year, but the newspapers that reported that did not say that she was in the right. I would want to do justice by such people and say, yes, your care for your offspring is wonderful.

          • If you have zero grandchildren then that means that a line of descent that has been going literally for ever has finally come to an end.

            A small thing? It’s not even a large thing, it’s a colossal thing.

          • Well, Christopher, that takes my breath away. If you think it is worse for a parent to have no grandchildren than it is for her daughter to have no child, I have no words. She has had her child, the daughter hasn’t and never will. Parents deserve respect when they earn it for being loving and supportive.
            Some parents need to become mature and to learn that grandchildren are not their ‘right’.

          • And, yes, Christopher, I know my line comes to an end with me. My father was an only child. My mother had one sister and only one of her sons has children. That hurts me every bloody day.

          • Why would I think one was worse than the other? It must be bad for both those who want to be parents and those who want to be grandparents when their dreams are dashed. The sexual revolution is the chief way in which they are dashed.

          • Christopher
            you stated that the (potential) grandparents deserved pietas. Yes, it’s sad if they don’t have grandchildren, but they deserve no sympathy for being snippy about it.
            The reason they don’t become grandparents is usually reproductive failure in their children (as it has ever been). This has nothing to do with the sexual revolution.

          • The extent it has to do with the sexual revolution is precisely the same as the extent to which that revolution’s children choose to have fewer children themselves (or are not able to have as many because the men won’t commit at all or not till too late). A significant percentage.

  7. Im rather taken aback too.Though it is interesting that he grounds his argument in an irreconcilable? conflict between RC and Reformed understandings of anthropology.
    I often wonder reading this kind of thing whether the writers believe Adam was an actual historical figure and the Fall ( always with capital F)a datable event with an historical pre-fall Paradise.

  8. Fascinating and a little surprising. I guess I’m not as Reformed as I thought. and shock horror, more catholic.

    Isn’t Augustine’s doctrine of concupiscence just autobiography and self flagellation ?:)

    James 1v14f seems more pertinent? ‘But each one is tempted when they are lured and enticed by their own desires. v15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin…’

    The Reformed guys you link to equate desire with sin even before temptation – but the logic of James, at least to my mind, is that desire precedes (is the landing pad for) temptation and only when the temptation is acted upon is it sin. DESIRE CONCEIVED – enacted – IS SIN

    In relation to the issue at hand – homosexual desire is seen by:
    Some extreme christians as ‘Demonic’ and needing deliverance –
    The Reformed guys you link to as a personal ‘Sin’ that needs repentance –
    Current Western society would say it is your identity or who you choose to be, so go for it –
    Liberal Theology would say it is who God made you so celebrate it –
    I think it is the flesh/inherited Adamic nature, in our body and needs denying/mortifying

    Vicky & Jayne’s biographies show they spent years repenting/renouncing a desire, to no avail – ‘cos it didn’t need repenting and repenting wont remove something that is not a sin in itself. Following tragic (and sadly all too common in such situations) physical or mental breakdowns, relief to their inner conflict came when they embraced the world’s-view on their SSA as being a good thing. Clearly if they encountered the exponents of the Reformed view in that article they would be made to feel condemned at their sin. But I believe a more Biblical Christian anthropology is to say we all inhabit a fallen body in a fallen world and have a panoply of fallen desires – and we seek under God to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. When it comes to desire of the flesh, Self denial not self fulfilment is the way of Christ.

    what do you think Will – et al? does that sound right or am I off beam?

    • Thanks Simon. Yes I agree and think you’re spot on. I don’t really understand why this isn’t obvious given what scripture teaches and it’s a bit depressing to learn the mainstream Reformed tradition has come to a different view, one which I find morally problematic. To me the fact that Christ experienced temptation ‘yet without sin’ places beyond doubt that temptation, and hence desire for the wrong things, is not itself sinful.

      • Thanks Will – indeed, I think the clincher is surely that Christ was tempted yet without sin ? And temptation is not tempting unless there is a desire to awaken? But I read John Piper on this, who says “You can’t choose to sin if there is no desire to sin. And Jesus never had any desire to sin. Therefore he couldn’t sin.” The Western tradition has generally said Jesus did not take our fallen sinful nature, though both ancients like Gregory of Nazianzus ‘that which is not assumed cannot be healed’ and moderns like Karl Barth think he did: ‘God’s Son not only assumed our nature but he entered the concrete form of our nature, under which we stand before God as men damned and lost.’ Interesting essay here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-asked-did-jesus-assume-a-fallen-human-nature/

        • So I guess they see Jesus’ temptations as external, from Satan, rather than internal, from the flesh? Though Hebrews does say he was tempted in every way as we are.

          I think the question of Christ’s human nature is a tricky one. Similar to Adam’s prelapsarian nature I guess, so not fallen but still susceptible to temptation and sin. It’s hard to understand how this works, but it seems that even unfallen nature can be subject to temptation and is susceptible to sin – in Adam’s case succumbing, in Christ’s case not.

          Either way, temptation cannot be itself sin or we have big problems for our Christology.

          Perhaps though it’s not so difficult to understand: consider that it would have been wrong for Jesus to break any fast he had undertaken before God, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t hungry ie desired to eat.

        • Simon (and Will) thanks for highlighting this issue. Ad you can see by the reference in the article to Wes Hill (with whom I am friends) this is a massive fault line in US evangelical thinking about the whole issue of sexuality—but it has an impact on some thinking in the UK. You will find, for example, Lee Gatiss agreeing with Denny Burk on this question. I discussed it online with him, and found myself vociferously disagreeing.

          It is the issue behind ‘conversion therapy’, since, if the desire for what is sinful is sinful, then you can only be a faithful disciple when all such desires are eliminated. Hence its explosive significance.

          What I find odd about the debate is the strange, forensic constructions around ‘desire’. In fact, ‘desire’ can mean all sorts of things. If I see a cream cake, and see how attractive it is (‘and good for food’) is that sinful? If I just *wish* I had the money to buy it, is that sinful? If I start to think of ways to break into the bakers and steal it, is that sinful? If I buy a hammer to smash the window, is that sinful?

          The ‘concupiscence is sin’ argument seems to suggest that every one of those thoughts is sinful–including the very first. That seems to me to make the sinless life both quite unreal, and very dull, being denuded of all admiration of beauty.

          • Thanks Ian. I find it baffling to be honest. How do they square it with the Bible’s depiction of Christ as undergoing temptation? Your description of the definitional problems of desire illustrates well the kinds of conceptual difficulties it runs into.

          • thanks Ian – I confess its new to me in this application – but it seems important – and I would like some direction on reading pls

          • Hi Ian,

            like you I’m grateful to Will for linking to the article by Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield. But I’m curious about the way your comment characterises it – you say it “is a massive fault line in US evangelical thinking about the whole issue of sexuality”, and evidently it is, but surely it’s much bigger than that, even from a quick reading of their piece? Burk & Butterfield clearly outline how this is at root a difference in anthropology between Catholic and (some) Reformed theologies, with manifold implications. (James Alison also sketches this difference in this essay http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng17.html).

            Given your, and others’, disagreement with Burk & Butterfield’s view, it’s clearly possible to belong to a Reformed denomination and not hold to the strictest Reformed anthropology – but doesn’t that imply it’s something of a faultline among Reformed traditions?

            Somewhat linked to this – out of interest, do you support Wesley Hill’s insistence on identifying as a gay Christian, though celibate?

            in friendship, Blair

          • Christine – I take the lust in Mt 5:28 to refer to something more developed and deliberate than involuntary sexual desire – fantasies of sexual encounters. Otherwise you might as well call hunger gluttony!

          • Hi Will, Thank you for replying. If involuntary sexual desire is a need/appetite, then adulterous desires can be compared with gluttony/greed. Yet by definition, ‘involuntary sexual desire’ is involuntary and can, and does, sometimes take people by surprise. I appreciate why there is so much debate about it, especially, for instance, in the US between Matthew Lee Anderson and Denny Burk. I also appreciate why some people (like me) don’t have the time or energy to attend all the finer points of the debate – so for me personally the jury is still out on the subject of concupiscence!

          • Hi Christine

            The ESV renders it as lustful intent and as committing adultery in your heart. Lustful intent is not mere desire, it is an active intent to engage in adulterous activity, albeit only in fantasy. The point is that to commit adultery internally (by fantasy) is itself a form of adultery.

            Lustful intent is an internal activity, not mere sexual desire for those one finds sexually attractive. Otherwise we all commit sin simply by finding attractive people attractive, which, if true, would undermine the goodness of human beauty, and would also mean that we sin even as we search for a future husband or wife!

          • Hi Will,
            Yes,the ESV and other translations do render ‘…pros epithymesai…’ as ‘…with lustful intent…’, but the NIV renders it as ‘…who looks at a woman lustfully…’ Given that ‘pros’ can mean ‘in order to’ I think that the ESV ( and NKJV) versions are more accurate. I am reminded again of how dependent many of us are on whatever Bible translations we have access to. and how much time we have to investigate different translations.
            I also think that there is a world of difference between appreciating/ delighting in/admiring , and lusting after, and that the former are not sins!
            (Sorry I was not able to post my quotes from the Greek in Greek font)

  9. I’m more than sceptical about the merits of immersing oneself in this type of amateur self analysis: tales of victimhood and ill-judged choices as a way of promoting a dodgy agenda.

    For starters you’re told only what the authors choose to tell you. Astute readers may well recognise when they’re being hoodwinked, but for many people there’s no way of telling whether they’re encountering morbid self pity, a genuine bad luck story, self delusion, a good trawl through someone else’s bad experiences on the darker side of life for the sake of big sales, a cynical attempt to win a poor argument by drowning your reader in emotion – or perhaps a bit of each and a fair bit more to boot. And then there’s the over exposure of one’s innermost feelings as an answer to an obsessive need to capture other people’s attention at all costs; it verges on psychological voyeurism. I find the need to read such stuff almost as unhealthy as the impulse to write it. And when you mix it all up with half baked and plain erroneous theology, I believe it’s more than dangerous for Christians, particularly less mature Christians.

    I wonder how many young people in particular will be seriously led astray by these books. Is a recommendation to read them really worth that risk, even to one human soul? Doubtless these books will do their job and put one more nail in the coffin of the Church of England. The whole sorry business is deeply depressing. No, I’ll not be reading either book – life’s too short and eternity’s too precious.

    • Blunt, but I think you’re dead right, Don. It certainly doesn’t sound edifying when compared with the advice in Philippians 4:8 for maintaining spiritual mental health!

    • Hello Don,

      you say that you won’t be reading either of these texts, so how can you be so sure as to be “more than sceptical about the merits of immersing oneself in this type of amateur self analysis: tales of victimhood and ill-judged choices as a way of promoting a dodgy agenda”…? I don’t doubt that the autobiographical is a “highly risky zone”, as James Alison remarks somewhere (‘Faith beyond resentment’ ch 2 i think) and that you highlight some of these risks – but how do you know that your remarks apply to the books reviewed here?

      in friendship, Blair

      • Hi Blair,

        ‘…but how do you know that your remarks apply to the books reviewed here?’

        Given that I haven’t read the books, I think that’s a fair point!

        But what I would say is that, for us Christians in the UK, you’d have to live on a different mental planet not to know the background to the sexuality debate and the part these two authors have been playing in it. Most of us will have read stuff about them, already heard both of them recently talking on the radio and been well rehearsed with the way they present their case. Some of us have had the pleasure of crossing swords with one of them online! Most of us will have already come across other reviews. Both are unambiguously intent on campaigning for a change in Christian doctrine on sexuality. Nothing I’ve heard or read has given me the slightest reason to suppose the books will be markedly different from what I suggested.

        So it’s a case of how can I pray ‘lead us not into temptation’ if I’m prepared to trawl through stuff that, in my best judgement, will do exactly that? And, if I think that for myself, should I not have concern for other people (particularly younger people) on the same basis? And, as Peter Mattacola helpfully comments above, the application of Philippians 4:8 is well worth thinking about.

        • Hello Don,

          thanks for your response. I take your point in the third paragraph, but I still don’t think that’s sufficient reason to dismiss the witness borne by the books under review, or to make such sweeping statements despite not having read them yourself.

          in friendship, Blair

  10. Ooh Don!
    Just like what my most cynical friends would describe most Christian testimony. Spot on …. in fact.

  11. I empathise with much that Andrew Atherstone writes about in his analysis of Jayne and Vicky’s autobiographies. But it’s not just those with homosexual affections that experience these difficulties. I have struggled with what someone once called, ‘rampant heterosexuality’.

    I, too, was nurtured within charismatic evangelicalism, experienced deep psychological trauma partly as a result of my sexuality, and made a splash in the national press when my 33 year old marriage finally came to an end.
    I struggled with overwork, and mental and physical collapse caused by psychological and emotional triggers. Underlying these were a root problem with sexual fulfilment and true intimacy. Like Vicky I ‘felt the icy grip of loneliness’ and tried to fill the hole in my life by busyness and working hard.

    Loneliness was a major part of my mental anguish, albeit loneliness and lack of intimacy within a marriage relationship that people around me thought was great, but I knew to be empty of real affection. I have shared Jayne’s ‘deep well of aloneness … endless isolated nothingness filled with continual pain … a beast that has stalked me for a very significant part of my life , and still does… true friends are hard to find’.
    As a school child from a very poor background I felt ‘incredibly alienated and isolated’, with little self-confidence and bullied for being bright. I too yearned for love. I found church hard even though I loved it. Evangelical preaching told me I was a sinner for the heterosexual feelings I had. I wanted to shout that sexual sinners are not just outside but here, within the church, within the clergy too.

    I found it increasingly difficult in a ‘marriage obsessed church’ that denied me a true expression of my heterosexuality that wasn’t satisified within my marriage.

    I too have battled with shame. I still do. As a teenager sexual desire ‘caused waves of shame to crash over me’ and my feelings were ‘laced with anxiety and left me feeling dirty and ashamed … as always, nagging shame and fear plagued me as I thought about my strong sexual desires’. I experienced ‘fear and anxiety connected with sexual attraction in general’ after ‘decades of indoctrination’. I can empathise with those ‘whose marriages have fallen apart because of their sexual inhibitions and hang-ups learnt from the church youth group’.

    I also struggled to hear God’s voice through all this. Should I trust God’s leading and ‘move towards greater authenticity’ even when it was contrary to all I had been taught or believed in the Scriptures. Discerning God’s voice and measuring godly obedience is difficult. If only one voice matters it is essential we are hearing it right. By rigorous and prayerful wrestling with the Scriptures, much tears and weeping, I was able to discover God’s directions for living a godly, righteous and sober life. If I’d paid attention simply to my gut-instinct, ‘clear internal voice’, ‘knowing in my knower’, ‘feeling close to God’, I would have continued in my sin and, frankly, probably have felt better about it.

    I didn’t get any help from my evangelical ‘friends’. Quite the opposite in fact. Since ‘coming out’ on the breakdown of my marriage I experienced a deep freeze my relationship with the evangelical community. Friends I had loved for years no longer wanted to speak to me or hear how I had come to this place. I am still afraid to confess amongst evangelicals that I am divorced, an adulterer, even though I have now lived a celibate life for many years. I have experienced all the negative reactions you can imagine and still feel sometimes that I am ‘living in exile’, as a leper, excluded from the church’. I no longer use my spiritual gifts or express my calling. I find it hard to be open about my celibate, pure, intimate, godly relationships with members of the opposite sex for fear that they are misunderstood and dissaproved of. Sometimes I think the church expects me to be not only celibate but also friendless. It wants to punish me for failing. Back to loneliness and lack of intimacy again.

    If it is true that the whole fabric of sexual purity as taught in the Scriptures is questionable and only ‘a rare few’ are given ‘the gift of celibacy’, that celibacy is ‘always a choice, never a demand’ and can be ‘extremely damaging’, then I am off the hook and can accept that sexual intimacy doesn’t need to be reserved for marriage. I don’t need to live a celibate life, I must ‘fear not and live free’, finding true freedom in sexual expression with like-minded adults wherever it is to be found. This is heterosexual freedom outside the bounds of marriage, sexual relationships with whoever you like, whenever you like. But it is not the gospel.

    The gospel is not simply a ‘need to love and accept who we are … about making peace with ourselves’. Yes, I have needed to love and accept who I am and make peace with myself. But it is through the recognition that I am a sinner, saved by grace, accepted and loved by God as I am, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live a holy life that true freedom lies.

    God longs for me to be myself, and I have discovered, paradoxically, that the way to be my true self, is to die to self with all its conflicting desires. It doesn’t make any difference those desires are homosexual or heterosexual.

  12. ‘Should we listen to Vicky Beeching? ‘ Well, yes… and no.
    I love hearing testimony from Christians about the ways in which God has worked in their lives, and I especially love hearing testimony about ways in which the power of God is made perfect in human weakness.
    But there is a difference between giving testimony about the power of God, and setting oneself up as an advisor on church doctrine!

    • Christine If you don’t listen how do you know what is being said? Vicky has written an autobiography. As you would expect that includes both both her experience of life and God and the way her beliefs have been shaped and changed along the way. The power of God and the doctrine and theology that gives understanding to that power. Nowhere does she claim to be setting herself up as anything. She is contributing to a discussion – like and I. But one that for her has come close to costing her life.

    • Hi David,
      I understand the word ‘listen’ in the title of Ian’s article to mean: pay attention to, give careful consideration to – as in ‘listen to a plea’ The church has already listened to Vicky’s plea that ‘conversion therapy’ should be banned in churches. The church has already listened to her plea that LGBT people should be made welcome in church and valued as people – the Archbishop of Canterbury has already celebrated Vicky’s gifts as a musician. The Synod has continued to listen to the plea that same-sex marriage should be given equality with heterosexual marriage in the church. But it does not follow that listening to (considering) the plea that same-sex marriage should be regarded as equal to heterosexual marriage can in good conscience be followed by the church honouring this plea when many faithful and prayerful Christians deeply believe that honouring this plea would be dishonouring God’s purpose for us when he made us male and female.

      • Thanks for clarifying Christine. ‘Not listening’ is not the same as listening, weighing a viewpoint but disagreeing with it. Which I think is your position. ‘Many faithful and prayerful Christians deeply believe …’ – well many faithful and prayerful Christians now believe that Vicky Beeching’s understanding of welcome and inclusion honours the God-given diversity in humanity that has been missing for too long – and at terrible cost to many, including her.

        • David you appear here to endorse Vicky’s sexual ethics. Does this mean you agree with her about sex outside of marriage (however defined) being acceptable? Is this part of the God given diversity you, along with Vicky Beeching, endorse? Or are there parts of her ‘inclusive welcome’ that you would repudiate?

          • I think he does endorse her viewpoint which is the same as Benny Hazlehurst’s group Affirming Evangelicals.

          • Hi Will I agree with Vicky that marriage should be extended to same-sex couples. ‘Sex outside marriage’ in Christian debate (I don’t know what you mean by ‘however defined’ – the definition is key to this debate) means something very different for people who have the option or hope of sexual love and fulfilment in marriage some day. But it doesn’t make any sense when spoken to Christians who are gay because the church presently allows nothing outside or in except life-long celibacy. I do not agree with that position – unless a vocation to celibacy is actually a gift and calling, of course. I think that is St Paul’s position on celibacy. Those couples I know who have committed to each other in a relationship they would call marriage are committed to the same standards of faithfulness, holiness and fidelity as heterosexual couples. Nothing less. And like Archbishop Justin I find the quality of their relating a blessing and a challenge.

          • Thanks David. But you forgot to answer the question! Accepting (arguendo) a definition of marriage that includes same-sex couples, would you (unlike Vicky) reject the legitimacy (moral acceptability) of sex outside such relationships? Many in the ‘inclusive’ movement do not reject them, but see them as part of the diversity to be welcomed. Do you think they are wrong? (If so, do you let them know, like you let us know your disagreements with us?)

          • Will Greetings. What I wrote was in fact an attempt to respond to your question actually. But if you wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ then, OK, it is true. Of course I could push back and ask you what ‘sex’ in ‘sex before marriage’ actually includes or prohibits in practice here?
            Let me start from somewhere else. I have lived all my life in a society that has been steadily drifting from its traditional Christian moorings and that includes, among many other things, accepted boundaries of sexual behaviour and attitudes to traditional marriage. It has been highly exploratory and therefore not without risk. Hedonism and promiscuity have caused real damage. But there have also been alternative patterns of faithful committed relating emerging alongside marriage and I believe these need honouring and supporting. Christian faith is forward looking. It is future oriented. This should shape how we do ethics and suggests an important place for risk, adventure and experiment. But while these have always been a mark of evangelical approaches to mission its approach to ethics remains instinctively conservative and look and sounds reactionary. I passionately believe Christians have significant truths to contribute to the understanding of human loving and commitment, but to insist on reducing the issue to a binary “sex before marriage ‘yes’ or ‘no’” is neither realistic nor practical – and means we are ignored in practice.
            Among the new patterns of committed relating over this period is the path Vicky Beeching and others in the gay community have been on. Here we have a lifelong evangelical, bible-centred Christian who from an early age knew she was gay in a church tradition that has taught her that this is sinful (and probably demonic) and that sex outside (heterosexual) marriage is totally wrong. Her faithfulness over the years is extraordinary and came at a high price to her own physical and mental health and often acute personal isolation. She has come to believe, after extended biblical study and prayer, that she is loved by God as she is, that the scriptures do not in fact judge her for being gay, and that she too may seek a life-long partnership in faithful love, blessed by God.

          • Hi Will,

            ’But there have also been alternative patterns of faithful committed relating emerging alongside marriage and I believe these need honouring and supporting. Christian faith is forward looking. It is future oriented.

            Surely, Peter Toon’s sage words (quoted in the Rochester report) are applicable here:
            ’in his leaflet, Reforming Forwards?:
            In its present form, Anglican ‘reception’ is not an appeal to the sureties of the past, or even to what has been. Instead, it is an appeal to what might be someday, with the associated permission to test or experiment with the proposed possibilities of the future.

            This kind of ‘reception’ is, thus, a novelty in itself. It is no longer a ‘reformation’ (an effort to achieve the original, pristine form). Rather it is a ‘reformation forward,’ so that the true form of the Church may not have been seen or achieved yet.

            That is not, however, an eschatological consideration, according to which we are not completely sure of what Christ will make of us.

            Rather, it is an inversion, an experiment to determine what we will discover of Christ and his Body, the Church.

            In the end, one is faced with this question: Is there justification provided in the Scriptures for a principle of experimentation?

            No previous effort at reformation or renewal has looked to the future, rather than to the settled past. It may even be said that the reformation forward is contrary to every basic principle of church polity.
            For the experiment to proceed, it must be permitted by human authority. But until the experiment succeeds, it cannot be known if the human authorities granting permission have the divinely given authority to allow the experiment.’

            In fact, those who permit such unprecedented experimentation are arrogating to themselves that which is solely within God’s prerogative to authorise. (Ps. 50:21)

            The sin of presumption has always incurred a hefty penalty.

          • David Shepherd Those of us exploring, here and elsewhere, more including perspectives on this subject are well used to being threatened with God. But it is hardly a way of engaging in theological discussion with people we disagree with in the hope of changing opinions is it? This is just a discussion thread – not the final Judgement Hall. Fear is never a good basis for believing anything. It is precisely because God is my judge that I engage with this subject at all. I am here to discuss share and learn. Threatening impresses no-one.

          • Hi David R (thanks David S for a great quote!)

            You say you oppose sex outside (reformed) marriage but you also characterise traditional (orthodox) Christian ethics as reactionary, not practical or realistic, lacking forward looking vision etc. But biblical ethics are based on God’s revelation of his will in nature and holy scripture, not risk and experimentation in an obscure ‘future-oriented’ process of discernment with no clear criteria or end point. I don’t know how you can read scripture and think that that is its prescription for acquiring ethical knowledge but I have to say you are gravely wrong. Whether or not you endorse premarital sex those you endorse do explicitly so, and by your ethical methodology the only reason you haven’t joined them is, presumably, a residual (reactionary?) conservatism in yourself.

          • David Runcorn,

            It may surprise you that:
            1. I’m not attempting to impress you or anyone else;
            2. Reference to the sin of presumption could not be a threatening you or anyone else with God, unless you considered yourself to be guilty of the same (I assume that you don’t)

            You might want to engage with Peter Toon’s reasonable argument regarding ‘reception’ and experimentation.

            Anyway, since you would not be able to authorise any such experiment, so any reference to presumption could not have been directed at you personally.

            BTW, it also impresses no-one for you to be piqued so easily.

          • Will
            Permit me a quick response as time is tight for the next few days (so David Shepherd may want to turn off his stop watch).
            First, I don’t think I actually said I opposed ‘sex outside (reformed) marriage’. I am more likely to say it is none of my business.
            Secondly, I would say conservative Christian approaches to ethics ‘tend’ to be reactionary and reactive. But in practice they can and do embrace new perspectives over time, some of which require careful and unsettling revisiting and re-interpreting of traditional readings of scripture. Obvious examples include race/slavery, divorce/remarriage, women and men in church and society, contraception …. I think Peter’s response to his dream/nightmare Joppa is a pivotal example of revolutionary future-shaped faith in the NT church. These points have been made before of course.
            Thirdly, Sam Wells makes a good point while arguing for a forward vision of faith and ethics when he writes – ‘When ethics is understood as the adjudication of tricky cases of conscience by balancing moral principles, the practice is implicitly conservative – since it assumes there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the status quo, only with its anomalies. In contrast, the Christian community lives within a tradition based on a story which in many respects contradicts the assumptions of the status quo.’
            Thanks for engaging.

          • Thanks David.

            Ah yes, Peter’s vision. Has there been an outbreak of similar visions? Peter’s confirmed Christ’s teaching on what is and is not unclean. You are claiming visions which directly contradict the clear teaching of scripture, and without Christ’s authority. Perhaps all those claiming to have had these visions should record them in a book for the discernment of the church? Or if you are not saying there have been any actual visions, then why should anyone actually give any weight to the claims being made about a new teaching that contradicts the old? It is poor hermeneutics to take Peter’s vision as a carte blanche for a revisionist agenda notwithstanding all else that scripture teaches.

            The other examples you give and their relationship to scripture have been amply dealt with elsewhere.

          • Will
            ‘Has there been an outbreak of similar visions?’
            Does there need to be?

            ‘Peter’s confirmed Christ’s teaching on what is and is not unclean’.
            Only with hindsight – as he first response and that of the Jerusalem church made clear.

            ‘You are claiming visions which directly contradict the clear teaching of scripture, and without Christ’s authority’.
            I am not claiming visions at all. Nor do I believe I am contradicting scripture in what I am saying. I would never do that as an evangelical. But that never means evangelicals do not strongly disagree at times.

            ‘It is poor hermeneutics to take Peter’s vision as a carte blanche for a revisionist agenda’.
            I haven’t. I offered it as an example – among others in church history.

            ‘The other examples you give and their relationship to scripture have been amply dealt with elsewhere’.
            Yes – and by all sides Will. ‘Amply’ does not, for me and many others, mean that conservatives have plainly refuted the relevance of those topics for buttressing wicked revisionist agendas.

            Thank you for engaging.

          • David – no biblical scholar of any persuasion thinks that the Bible is ever anything except negative about homosexuality. Your claim, despite this, that you are somehow not contradicting scripture with your agenda is the most misleading part of all.

          • Hi David,

            As the Ordinal explains: ’Priests…are to be messengers, watchmen and stewards of the Lord; they are to teach and to admonish, to feed and provide for his family, to search for his children in the wilderness of this world’s temptations, and to guide them through its confusions, that they may be saved through Christ for ever.

            So, how can any claim that ‘sex outside of marriage’ is ‘none of my business’ be compatible with this call to guide God’s children through the world’s confusions?

            Tick, tock, tick, tock! 🙂

          • David Shepherd Do you really need to explain why I, as a parish priest, did not believe it was my business to roam the streets of my parish trying to see into people’s bedroom windows? Something about pastoral context … loving and respectful appropriateness ….?

          • Will ‘no biblical scholar of any persuasion thinks that the Bible is ever anything except negative about homosexuality’. As any bible scholar knows the word homosexual is not found in the Bible at all – and did not exist at all until very recent social history. So I presume you mean same-sex sexual activity. If so, I agree with you. But how those (relatively few) instances relate in any way to contemporary expressions of faithful, committed love is a significant part of this discussion. For me ‘this’ is not ‘that’.

          • David – ‘She has come to believe, after extended biblical study and prayer, that she is loved by God as she is, that the scriptures do not in fact judge her for being gay, and that she too may seek a life-long partnership in faithful love, blessed by God.’

            Have you actually read the book David? You posit a tone and trajectory that I didnt read in the book?

          • But David, even if you could somehow find in scripture a warrant to permit same sex sex in ‘faithful committed relationships’ that wouldn’t explain your support for premarital same sex sex or your endorsement of/refusal to criticise those who engage in it. You claim to find an exception in the Bible to its prohibition on same sex sex for faithful committed relationships, but then you extend your support to other forms of sexual relationship. So even your revisionist hermeneutics doesn’t cover all that you want to endorse. If you think the Bible only permits same sex sex for faithful committed relationships you should still condemn premarital same sex sex. But you won’t. So even on your own terms you’re not faithful to scripture.

          • Will …. ‘your support for premarital same sex sex or your endorsement of/refusal to criticise those who engage in it. ‘
            I have said none of this. Say one thing here and it is so easily heard to mean something else. I’m sure others feel I do this to their words too – and if I have here I apologise.
            But there really are limits to this format for trying to discuss complex and deeply felt issues. We do well to remember that ….
            So I am very grateful for those who have engaged here – and I trust my case.

          • David R,

            You wrote: ’Do you really need to explain why I, as a parish priest, did not believe it was my business to roam the streets of my parish trying to see into people’s bedroom windows?

            You’re just promoting a false binary. As if pruriently ‘trying to see into people’s bedroom windows’ is the sole pastoral alternative to ‘none of my business’ disinterest.

            It isn’t and you know it isn’t.

          • Sorry David but your position on premarital sex is really not clear here. You seem to be saying that you think the Bible permits same sex sex in faithful committed relationships ie a reformed marriage. Here you have denied that you endorse (or refuse to criticise) those who engage in premarital sex. Yet earlier when it was put to you that you opposed sex outside reformed marriage you wrote ‘First, I don’t think I actually said I opposed ‘sex outside (reformed) marriage’. I am more likely to say it is none of my business.’ Then gave an account of how reactionary and impractical conservative sexual ethics are. I don’t think I’m the only one unclear on your view of premarital sex and whether you think scripture endorses premarital same sex sex.

            If you think same sex sex is biblically speaking only permissible in faithful committed relationships do you make clear your objections to premarital same sex sex, and your differences with say Jayne and Vicky in this area?

  13. It does seem to me that reading the testimony from Jed Stone indicates that there is nothing particularly unique about Beeching and Ozanne’s experiences and they cannot be used to argue for changes in the historical understanding and teaching of Christian sexual relationships. Surely the imperative here should not be being at ‘peace with yourself’ but being at peace with God?

  14. I haven’t read either book but I have read a fair bit both women have written elsewhere about their lives and I’m not surprised to hear about their mental health problems. Actually these are pretty common – depression in particular – and more common among women than men. The quality of theology – or is it spirituality? – described here is fairly low: long on personal quests for intimacy, love and being at peace with oneself (again, a very common theme in our culture) and short on a positive understanding of singleness in the Christian life. Did either woman express a desire to be a mother? Of course, both women come from a charismatic or Pentecostalist-fundamentalist background, and this may well be part of the problem. Andrew Atherstone likens JO’s “inner voice” to Quakerism’s “inner light” but a deep belief in the immediacy of the Holy Spirit – even to the point of overruling the Scriptures – is a perpetual temptation in charismatic-Pentecostalist circles, almost to the point of Gnosticism – which JO exhibits.

    But what bothers me most is the degree of truthfulness and objectivity in what they describe. JO is on record as claiming that she was raped by a C of E priest for whom she had romantic feelings (so she wasn’t exclusively lesbian, at least in the past) and has used this claim to batter C of E clergy as colluding in the abuse of women. But the claim she made (at the height of the Harvey Weinstein and ‘#metoo’ media storm) was never substantiated and never really added up. A number of people (especially from the ‘Cranmer’ blog) took her to task on this but she excluded them from her blog. Vicky Beeching is also on record (perhaps in this book?) as claiming that while she was a student at Wycliffe Hall (presumably 18-20 years ago), adultery and extra-marital sex were rampant among the students there. I find this claim really hard to believe and wonder what Andrew Atherstone makes of it. To me it sounds frankly slanderous – and not a little self-serving: ‘See what hypocrites these straight evangelicals are.’

    It is not surprising that gay activists from the Christian world don’t believe that sex belongs only within marriage (even ‘same-sex marriage’). Homosexual sex has a very different dynamic from male-female sex because it has no connection to pregnancy and child-rearing. The only physical consequence (for men) is STD.
    But this is not the only place where their “theology” – idiosyncratic and subjective as it is – goes off-beam. Christian truth is systemic – and so is the effect of poison in the bloodstream.

    • ‘Of course, both women come from a charismatic or Pentecostalist-fundamentalist background, and this may well be part of the problem…’

      I was going to make that point above but pulled back from it and took a different angle (what a coward!). But it’s something that needs to be addressed honestly – an elephant in the room issue. And I do wonder if the absence of a coherent stand by evangelicals as a group against the Church of England’s de facto revisionist treatment of its doctrine on sexuality can be explained by a charismatic mindset which looks inward at the desire of the self for experience of the Spirit rather more than it looks outward at the need to fight the powers of evil with the truth of God’s Word (Ephesians 6:17).

      Whatever one may conclude about that, it’s pretty clear that something is not right about what has been and is being allowed to go on in our church here in the UK (and other places) with so little effective opposition. And in that regard I do think that the tactic and the power of the two books in question is that, they will occupy the minds of Christians with what is experiential of the world and alien to their faith rather than what is revelatory of God and builds up their faith.

    • Hi Brian,

      “I haven’t read either book but….” – again on this thread, a comment is offered without having read the books under discussion.
      “Actually these are pretty common – depression in particular – and more common among women than men”. Could I ask what you meant to imply by this sentence?
      “The quality of theology – or is it spirituality? – described here is fairly low…” – but how do you know, not having read these texts for yourself?

      in friendship, Blair

      • ““I haven’t read either book but….” – again on this thread, a comment is offered without having read the books under discussion.”
        – I don’t have the time, money or inclination to read every book that appears. Atherstone has given us a pretty full review and I have read two other lengthy reviews.

        ““Actually these are pretty common – depression in particular – and more common among women than men”. Could I ask what you meant to imply by this sentence?”
        – Fairly straightforward. Depression is a common condition, more common among women than men – and much more common among people with SSA, whether religious or not.
        ““The quality of theology – or is it spirituality? – described here is fairly low…” – but how do you know, not having read these texts for yourself?”
        – From the copious quotations that Atherstone gives and from reading both women’s blogs. I’m not unfamiliar with their opinions or writings.

        • Brian As a theological teacher I know what I would say to someone whose opinions were based entirely on secondary sources. Very unevangelical too.

          • Yes, me too, David. But as you have clearly seen, I have read substantial parts of their blogs and quotations from them so I have read a great deal of the primary sources. And I agree with you that these two women are very unevangelical too.

          • Brian I most certainly did not say these two women were unevangelical! They clearly are. I said it was unevangelical to rely on secondary sources for shaping our own opinions! This discussion is about their books. I think it is fair to challenge you for joining in without having read them. As an author myself I know how I would feel about that.

        • Hello Brian,

          I’m not remotely suggesting you can or should read every book that appears – just those that you make sweeping public statements about.

          I understood you’re saying that depression is a common condition – sorry, my question should have been phrased better. I’m trying to ask why you added that sentence, what the significance of it is for you – e.g. do you mean that because depression is common, particularly according to you in women and people with ssa (sic), that the 2 authors’ experiences aren’t that significant, and/or that they don’t deserve the praise Andrew A gave them because they’re not in fact breaking a taboo?

          In friendship, Blair

    • Brian and Don
      How could Jayne ‘substantiate’ a claim from so many years ago, and why does it not ‘add up’? Ditto Vicky.
      The #metoo and #churchtoo movement revealed not only how commonplace sexual abuse of women is, but also, as your remarks indicate, how often women’s stories are dismissed. If either of you had claimed to have been abused by a priest or a church leader many years ago, why would I not believe you? How would you feel if I dismissed something which it may have cost you dear to admit? Indeed, safeguarding experts and the police say that very few false allegations of rape and abuse are made.
      I am not at all surprised that a Jayne, for her own sanity, blocked commentators from Cranmer’s blog. Adrian occasionally writes something very pertinent, but his followers are usually juvenile, rude, and often vindictive – as well as hiding behind anonymity.
      Furthermore, I find Vicky’s stories of sexual impropriety at Wycliffe entirely convincing. Not that I know the college, but I do know of several ordinands, priests and at least one bishop who have been guilty of marital infidelity.

  15. Within Anglicanism, do either or both of these books prosper or hinder, in whole or part, their espoused cause?
    There seems to be far more at play in both individual lives than solely, sexual identity or attraction.
    As for the movement or working of Holy Spirit in our lives:
    “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” ~ Hebrews 10:16
    This is the antithesis both to legalism and to antinomianism.
    Any hot flushes, nor derived peace is not of the Spirit, if it leads to countermanding God. It may lead to peace with self, but not with God, for it is He who makes peace with us, to be transformed by degree into the likeness of Christ
    What is proposed is human displacement, replacement, therapy to fulfill that which Christ can only fill in Union with Him: for the reality captured by Charles Wesley in Love Divine All Loves Excelling.
    Otherwise what is being proposed is that we can live anyway “true to ourselves” plus Jesus – a value-added Christ (vaj).

  16. This is what Vicky Beeching writes about Wycliffe Hall in the 1980s:
    “Within the college, lots of unmarried seminary students were having sex, and a handful of married students were having affairs with other students. The shiny façade of evangelical morality seemed to be crumbling in front of my eyes. This was not what I’d expected to see at an evangelical college. “
    She also claims that she was “sexually abused” by a priest there. Are these claims true?

    • It was not the 1980s (I can vouch for that since I was there then) since she was born in 1979!

      It is amazing what you can do with vague words like ‘lots’ and ‘handful’, together with a little bit of exaggeration or bigging up. It all depends what you emphasise or de-emphasise. Remember that these are private matters on which by definition her data would not be accurate.

      Plus – by coincidence or not, the quoted paragraph just so happens to be what the readers want to read, and is not cliche-free.

      What one looks for is honesty and truth. I am glad there is plenty of both in her book. What I was not in favour of (nor could anyone be) was the idea that PhD conclusions can (broadly) be known in advance of the research, which was the idea when she first changed her research topic (see blog). The whole fun is not knowing in advance which way the evidence will point. Otherwise integrity lies dead.

  17. I haven’t read either book but I applaud these women for daring to be open about such an intimate aspect of their lives, when they already know from experience what is waiting for them when they dare to admit that they have sexual feelings, for the opposite sex, and feel more complete and more fully themselves when they give those expression. This is one of the more gentle articles on the internet discussing these books, but I fear there is much in the article and certainly in the comments that comes from the same perspective that Vicky and Jackie have found so damaging.

    These women are accused of being hyprocrites, but how many more Christians do the same in private, whether they are straight or gay? Which is the path of greater integrity? It seems the church is perfectly happy to tolerate “sexual sin” as long as it’s not spoken of in public – I think most vicars would be hard-pressed to remember when they last married a couple that weren’t living together first.

    Strange also, I think, how “sexual sin” is seen by many as a fast-track to hell, to the extent that even reading these books is thought to pose a threat to your soul, but people can “transgress” in so many other ways and still be a respected member of the church community. Too many comments on these books are too quick to dismiss these women as not being “proper Christians” because they are trying to honour God and still be true to the person He made them to be. I see no shame in that, and want to publically thank them for knowingly placing themselves in the line of fire AGAIN to share their stories.

    It was refreshing to read at least a couple of these comments from people who have faced similar struggles, either with singleness or with sexuality or both. Too many of those viciously criticising Vicky and Jackie are married straight Christians, with access to the marriage-oriented social networks in churches. People who have not experienced these struggles have limited experience of what Vicky and Jackie have been through, yet are so quick to judge and dismiss them, even as a threat to Christianity itself. The problems Vicky and Jackie have faced aren’t going away, are they?

    • Heather, thank you for your comment. I think you are right to commend the honesty here—and Andrew’s review honours that. But it also raises other issues.

      As you say, some others have also commented on their struggles here–but that includes some who have struggled within marriage, as well as without it. And the difference is that none of them appear to have blamed the teaching of the church for their experiences, but recognise the common human challenge of desire in an ever more sexualised society.

      Moreover, none have gone on to use their experience as leverage for campaigning for change in the church. These are indeed painful testimonies—but in their published form they have now been turned into more than testimony. It is difficult to see how those who disagree with the campaign are given space to do so in the way these personal experiences are now being used.

      • Hi Ian,

        Surely folk like Ed Shaw and Sam Allberry have written books which also include potentially moving accounts of their experience, but as part of a campaign to keep church teaching as it is…? How wide a difference is there between that and the books reviewed here?

        Also, basing this solely on Andrew’s review, it doesn’t sound like either VB or JO are simply blaming church teaching for their struggles – certainly the wider debate is not reducible to that. And I don’t doubt it’s true that human challenges of desire have much in common; but that doesn’t mean there are no differences. Those who experience other-sex desire are at least told it has a telos, that it can potentially be healed and ordered within a relationship (without for an instant wishing to deny the kind of shaming Jed powerfully described above). Those of us who experience same-sex desire hear (or have heard) that it can have no telos and cannot be brought to fruition in any licit relationship, and perhaps have it questioned whether we can love at all. And the nub of it is whether this is a true characterisation of same-sex desire – this is a question of truth, not of fulfilling desire.

        In friendship, Blair

        • Same sex attraction can find its telos in friendship and other platonic relationships (platonic, of course, because Plato, although a proponent of same sex love, famously argued against same sex relationships being sexual, because of it being contrary to nature).

          • Hi Will,

            I’m not sure that that entirely addresses the point I’m making, but…
            i) on what grounds do you say that “Same sex attraction [sic] can find its telos in friendship and other platonic relationships”? How would you see these as different from friendships of people whose desire is mainly / solely other-sex? If they’re not different from these, surely that wouldn’t be a/the telos of same-sex desire as such? If they are different, are you thinking of a model such as that espoused (ahem) by those at Spiritual friendship? Some, like Butterfield & Burk in the article you helpfully linked to, have criticised that model…
            ii) if you can excuse my ignorance, what did Plato mean by contrary to nature and why are his reasons still binding for us now?
            In friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair,

            i) I believe you’ve read the output of those involved with Living Out, which explains in detail the relationship between friendship and SSA (why the ‘sic’ btw? What error is involved here?). So I won’t try to add to their explanations.
            ii) Plato meant the same as Paul and anyone else who uses the phrase in this connection – contrary to the anatomical form of male and female and the anatomical function of sexual organs (clue’s in the name: sexual organs, organs relating to the sexes and sexual reproduction; likewise genitals, from generate). The sexual organs of male and female are two halves of the human reproductive system, naturally purposed to unite, as is evident in their design. This is basic and uncontroversial biology and anatomy.

          • Hi Will,

            Thanks for your response. You’re right that I’ve read some of the material on the Living Out website; I think some articles (Steve Holmes’ especially) are very good, while others fall some way short – Sam Allberry’s thin piece on Scripture and Ed Shaw’s on what’s wrong with faithful same-sex relationships, for instance. But I’m not sure which of their resources you meant on friendship – could you point to any specific articles? So I’m also not sure my points have been addressed… (I admit the ‘sic’ was slightly provocative – but a small protest against the constant use of ‘ssa’ by some).

            Re contrary to nature: surely there are at least 2 snags with the argument you sketched above. The logic of it suggests the only licit sex would be procreative – ie penile-vaginal sex only: are you suggesting that this is the only permissible kind of sex (or even physical arousal for that matter), even for straight married couples? Is there also an implication that the infertile shouldn’t have sex?

            Moreover, if we are only to use organs according to their biological/anatomical function, what of, for instance, kissing? Could one find a biology textbook that teaches that a function of the mouth is to kiss? If not, surely this would be just as contrary to nature, on your argument…?

            And, at risk of veering into absurdity (esp coming from me…!) doesn’t your argument imply that a woman’s clitoris is redundant, since it is part of her genitals but its ‘function’ is pleasure not procreation?

            I may regret typing that paragraph…. 🙂

            In friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair

            Your question was what Plato meant by contrary to nature and I explained, in terms of anatomical function and the form of the sexes. Further questions about what is and is not a proper use of different parts of the body require more detailed ethical analysis which I won’t go into here. The point is that the concept of contrary to nature in relation to homosexuality is readily understandable in terms of anatomical function and biological form.

            If you want to argue that sexual organs have additional basic functions of giving pleasure that can ethically be separated from their basic biological function to such an extent that it is acceptable to use them for that in a wide variety of contexts then that requires a broader discussion about the general consequences that follow from permissive approaches to sexual behaviour. None of which however can remove the basic function and form of human reproductive anatomy, which homosexuality always is wholly contrary to.

          • Afternoon Will,

            I understand your view is that “The point is that the concept of contrary to nature in relation to homosexuality is readily understandable in terms of anatomical function and biological form”, but it seems to me that you’re simply repeating this rather than engaging with what I wrote; I was trying to draw out some of the problems with the logic of this argument. Although I did wonder whether your sentence, “Further questions about what is and is not a proper use of different parts of the body require more detailed ethical analysis which I won’t go into here”, was an acknowledgement that biological form and function cannot have the last word on the *moral* use of different body parts…?

            Also, could I clarify that I’m not wanting “to argue that sexual organs have additional basic functions of giving pleasure that can ethically be separated from their basic biological function to such an extent that it is acceptable to use them for that in a wide variety of contexts then that requires a broader discussion about the general consequences that follow from permissive approaches to sexual behaviour”. I don’t think I mentioned “permissive approaches” or “a wide variety of contexts” anywhere. My point was that pleasure is among the functions of sexual organs, and that (at risk of tipping right over into the ridiculous) the fact that the clitoris is part of the genitals but has no direct reproductive function, shows up another gap in the argument you sketched.

            I would suggest there are stronger conservative arguments than this one…

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair and Will,
            Excuse me butting in here!
            On the subject of ‘contrary to nature’, have you read Guy de Maupassant’s ‘Idylle’ ?
            I first read it many years ago before I became a Christian, and at that time I thought,
            ‘Ah well, desperate people do desperate things.’ Now, having followed your conversation, I have read ‘Idylle’ again, and I am pondering on it. If you have read it, I would be interested in your thoughts.

          • St Plato? Why should the telos of gay love be non-genital? Does Leviticus discuss love? Does Paul?

          • There aren’t stronger conservative arguments than the function and form of male and female and their sexual anatomy. There are only two basic conservative arguments. 1) The natural form and function of male and female and their sexual anatomy and the importance of respecting the divine design (and command). 2) The general consequences that follow from disregarding this form and function. In fact, there are only two basic forms of moral argument full stop, those from form and function and those from consequences. The defence of same sex sex fails on both. Which is why both Plato and Paul and numerous thinkers since have described it as contrary to nature.

            Re the clitoris there are numerous parts of the body which in isolation have the giving of pleasure as part of their function. Using them for pleasure in isolation from their wider function is where addiction comes from. Gluttony is tied up with the excessive use of taste for pleasure, for example, and sloth with the excessive enjoyment of the pleasure of inactivity. Lust concerns using sex for pleasure in excessive and inappropriate forms. That’s why they’re called the sins of the flesh.

          • Thanks, Will. Is this to me? I think the church, but not the world is obsessed with PIV sex and regards it as the only really licit form of sexual intimacy because it may produce offspring. Leaving aside same-sex relationships for a moment, there are all sorts of reasons, physical and non-physical why couples would prefer other kinds of sexual intimacy. This does not mean that they are indulging in sins of the flesh. The telos of the clitoris is to produce pleasure. Plato and Paul were simply wrong about ‘against nature’. Non PIV sex is entirely natural.

          • “Re the clitoris there are numerous parts of the body which in isolation have the giving of pleasure as part of their function. Using them for pleasure in isolation from their wider function is where addiction comes from.”

            Will: would you please explain, for those of us who aren’t aware, what the wider function of the clitoris is?

          • Andrew – what’s the wider function of taste buds? Is it just to experience pleasure? Of course not. It’s to give pleasure (and differentiation) to a particular activity, namely eating. Likewise the purpose of the parts of the reproductive system which give pleasure is to give pleasure to a particular activity namely sexual union. The clue is the location and the form of pleasure and how it interacts with other parts of the system. Do you really need all this spelling out to you? It sometimes feels like you are being deliberately obtuse when it comes to basic principles of anatomy because you don’t like what they imply.

            In terms of using pleasure centres outside of the primary function of the system in which they are located, ethically that is determined by whether these additional uses serve or harm the primary purpose. Thus sexual union between a married couple serves the family unit in which human beings are created and nurtured, whereas other forms of sexual pleasure are destructive of that function both for individuals and for society.

          • “Likewise the purpose of the parts of the reproductive system which give pleasure is to give pleasure to a particular activity namely sexual union. ”

            Ok thanks Will for your take on that. Can I clarify please – does this make female masturbation wrong/unethical in you view?

          • Hi Will
            Do you truly believe that “other forms of sexual pleasure are destructive of that function both for individuals and for society.”
            Is PIV the only licit form of sexual activity?
            And what if this isn’t possible, isn’t desired?
            What if the couple are past childbearing age?
            What, if women can become pregnant without orgasm, is the telos of the clitoris?

          • Penelope – I think couples should be cautious about straying too far from PIV, if only for their own sake. It is the real deal and enjoying it together is both a mutual pleasure and a marital discipline.

            Andrew – I think masturbation can easily be problematic through connection with porn addiction and unfaithful fantasy. However, forms of it could be defended as part of managing a chaste sexuality.

          • Andrew I’m not sure what’s quaint about saying it’s good for husband and wife to make love regularly, or that porn addiction is something to avoid!

          • No Will – but the rest of it is.
            As Penny has commented, there are lots of reasons why other forms of activity might be indicated. And have you not heard of foreplay?

          • Thanks Will, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t ever refer to it as either ‘the real deal’ or ‘a marital discipline’. The former because it privileges PIV sex as the authentic sexual expression and not all straight couples can or wish to have PIV sex. Secondly, discipline implies (to me) the time when conjugal rights could be insisted on and marital rape was not a crime.
            And, thirdly, which is a bit of an aside, since few women orgasm through intercourse, I hope that the clitoris gets a look in sometimes!

          • Andrew, your use of ‘quaint’ exposes a deficiency in your thought in that you are seeing the main question as ‘is it fashionable’ rather than ‘is it true or evidenced?’. Since all debate is concerned with the second question and (because the chronological-snobbery fallacy is sound) regards the first as an irrelevance, you would therefore lose the debate in the sense of never having seen it as being a quest for truth (as opposed to right-on-ness) in the first place.

          • “Andrew, your use of ‘quaint’ exposes a deficiency in your thought in that you are seeing the main question as ‘is it fashionable’ rather than ‘is it true or evidenced?’. Since all debate is concerned with the second question….”

            It is true, and evidenced, that the majority of couples, even ‘Christian’ couples, engage in other forms of sexual activity than PIV. So for Will to be saying they shouldn’t, and seemingly having no knowledge of foreplay is just quant Christopher. That isn’t about winning any debate. It’s just an observation.

          • Hello Will,

            at risk of going back a step or 2 in the conversation, since Andrew and Penelope have commented – I’m a little bemused. You wrote that “There aren’t stronger conservative arguments than the function and form of male and female and their sexual anatomy” and then later that “there are only two forms of moral argument full stop” – it surprised me that you barely mention biblical texts in this comment. Also, do you mean to say that those you mention are the *only* forms of moral argument – no mention of virtue ethics or deontological approaches, for example?

            I would still contend that you haven’t addressed the points I made, suggesting the flaws in the logic of the ‘form and function’ argument. Kissing is not among the biological functions of the mouth; surely this makes it immoral or even ‘contrary to nature’ on your argument? Or to borrow an example from Gareth Moore OP: a carpenter might briefly hold nails in his teeth during a job, but again, that isn’t what teeth are biologically ‘for’ – is this therefore immoral?

            “Re the clitoris there are numerous parts of the body which in isolation have the giving of pleasure as part of their function” – but as others have said, that is its only ‘function’, so the comparison with taste buds doesn’t quite work. You wrote to Andrew that, “the purpose of the parts of the reproductive system which give pleasure is to give pleasure to a particular activity namely sexual union” – well, indeed, but I don’t see how it follows from this that only a particular kind of sexual union is morally right. If you’re wanting to argue that such pleasure should only accompany a reproductive act, wouldn’t that ban masturbation (contra your other comment)? Incidentally, wouldn’t it also follow from this that you would argue against contraception, since it seeks to block / prevent the natural function of the genitals and some forms of it arguably reduce pleasure also?

            I don’t think your argument is quaint; just that it is flawed and doesn’t do the work that you hope it will…

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Christine,

            thanks for your mention of the story by de Maupassant. I’m a bit sheepish as I did a literature degree some years back… and still hadn’t heard of it.

            I found some brief but interesting thoughts here:
            http://rereadinglives.blogspot.com/2011/06/idylle-by-guy-de-maupassant-i-need-some.html

            I’ve quickly read an English translation and can see a little of how the text could be read in a number of ways, as the blog linked to above suggests. On the matter at hand, I can’t help thinking that, as I said before, “biological form and function cannot have the last word on the *moral* use of different body parts”…. but there may well be more to be said.

            in friendship, Blair

          • Hi Blair,
            Thank you for your reply, and for posting the link about ‘Idylle’ (I have yet to work out how to post links on this page!)
            I also first read this story as part of my studies. Guy de Maupassant was not a Christian, so I am guessing that he was not alluding to anything in the scriptures when he wrote this short story. Apart from saying that I think that de Maupassant was a very gifted writer, I find it difficult to make a comment about this story that would really do justice to it. I just have a couple of thoughts: both the young man and the young woman had pressing (non-sexual) needs, and each met the need of the other in a complementary way; it was also an extraordinary one-off event – I imagine that it was not part of the regular life-style of either of them!

          • Hi Blair

            I think you might have missed this point which addresses your questions:
            ‘In terms of using pleasure centres outside of the primary function of the system in which they are located, ethically that is determined by whether these additional uses serve or harm the primary purpose. Thus sexual union between a married couple serves the family unit in which human beings are created and nurtured, whereas sexual pleasure outside of this context are destructive of that function both for individuals and for society.’ (adapted for clarity)

            So the point is that using parts of the body for things other than but not harmful to their primary function(s) is fine and resourceful, but uses which harm or undermine the primary function (individually or socially) are not permitted as they fail to respect the divine design of the human being.

            I only referred in passing to biblical texts because, as the Bible itself explains, the moral law is not a matter of special revelation but general revelation, and is composed of natural and necessary truths which follow from the nature of humankind and the way God has made us. This is why in forbidding same sex sex scripture describes it as contrary to nature – it is setting out a principle of the natural moral law (one adduced by Plato, for example), not newly revealing it.

            Deontology is a form of virtue ethics, as is clear in Kant’s writings. In virtue ethics justice is a key virtue – the virtue of doing one’s duty. Virtue ethics is part of a conception of the form and function of the human being, as is evident in the works of Plato and Aristotle (among many others). It is about what the good human being consists in i.e. what is a human being which has taken on its proper form and is fulfilling its proper function. That’s why the classical virtues are about the rule of reason (practical wisdom) and the subjugation of appetite (temperance) and fear (courage) in favour of duty (justice).

          • Evening Will,

            Thanks for clarifying – especially in your 4th paragraph, which shows I’m out of my depth in trying to debate what Plato and Aristotle wrote as I haven’t read them.

            Romans 1 is the only place in Scripture which could be read to say that same-sex sex is ‘contrary to nature’; although later on Paul says that God acts ‘para physin’ in grafting on the Gentiles…. & more broadly on interpreting Romans 1, there’s Rowan Williams’ comment from his essay in ‘The way forward?’ to the effect that it’s begging the question to see that text as an account of same-sex desire/sex tout court (there’s also Mike Higton’s reading http://mikehigton.org.uk/on-the-bodys-grace-11-reading-romans-1/)… though I realise this is becoming a tangent to the main point here.

            I did see your comment quoted in your first paragraph – but I’m still disagreeing that your argument as it stands works. You sum up saying “the point is that using parts of the body for things other than but not harmful to their primary function(s) is fine and resourceful, but uses which harm or undermine the primary function (individually or socially) are not permitted”. But as I keep saying, it does not follow from this that same-sex sex is morally wrong – applying the argument in the way that you do, all kinds of sexual acts between men and women would be ‘contrary to nature’ also, and you don’t pick up my comments about masturbation or contraception which surely would also be ruled out? Moreover, you haven’t shown that same-sex sex is harmful to the primary function of the parts involved (or indeed intrinsically harmful individually or socially – and to make that case it won’t suffice to suggest that anal sex is harmful, since that isn’t the sole preserve of gay male couples, nor to cite the promiscuity of some men who have sex with men, since that would be a problem of *male* sexuality not *homo*sexuality).

            in friendship, Blair

          • Oh Blair – you surely must at least read the Republic! One of the foundational texts of western philosophy. Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics are also pretty indispensable for understanding the background to debates in western thought.

            I didn’t think I’d need to spell out that contraception and masturbation that serve rather than undermine the married family are (arguably) acceptable under this understanding.

            I think your argument is that my argument only rules out male and not female homosexuality? Female homosexuality is also ruled out because it undermines the sanctity of the married family and does not respect God’s design in creation. The harm is done individually, because a woman (no less than a man) is much less likely to be able to enter and sustain a marriage and raise her children within it if she is engaging in same sex sexual activity, and socially as marriage and family will be much less stable and secure in a context in which women (and men of course) are routinely engaging in sexual activity outside it.

            It’s all about respecting God’s design in creation and safeguarding the sanctity of the married family as the proper and optimal context for producing and raising children.

          • No – I meant that using the word ‘quaint’ at all makes one not a truth-seeker, but a fashion victim. Failure to be a truth-seeker means conceding the argument.

      • Ian,
        In tandem with Social Marketing, you may be interested in this (as it may lend some none scripturalinformationwith which to apply wisdom ) about “Social Movement Change “from my time in the NHS from a document by a now defucnt Modernisation Agency “Towards a Million Change Agents”
        https://mentalhealthpartnerships.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/Towards_a_million1.pdf
        from which the following is abstracted:
        Social Change Movement.
        Conflict has been identified as a key element in the following Review of Literature of Social Movements
        ” 3.2.7 Conflict and resistance
        Movements relate to the ‘underlife’ (Goffman, 1962) of an organisation or society, often seeking to avoid detection. They are also often seen as an unwelcome, subversive or forbidden oppositionary force and conflicts often occur ‘in which challengers contest authorities over the shape and governance of institutionalized systems of power’ (Morrill
        et al.,2003). Such polarisation can have a strong impact on bringing and binding participants together:
        ‘The sense of crisis that develops in such conflicts strengthens participants’ belief that their
        fate is tied to that of the group. Because of the need to act quickly in a crisis,participants also become willing to submerge their differences with respect to the group’s tactical choices’ (Hirsch, 1990, as cited in Goodwin & Jasper, 2003).
        So, Palmer (1997) asks:
        ‘Has significant social change ever been achieved in the face of massive institutional opposition? The answer seems clear: Only in the face of such opposition has significant social change been achieved.
        If institutions had a capacity for constant evolution, there would never have been a crisis demanding transformation …Resistance helps change happen.
        The resistance itself points to the need for something new. It encourages us to
        imagine alternatives. And it energises those who are called to work toward
        those ends’ (1997: 164-165).

        There is an interesting table and conclusion

        2.2 Organisation studies and social movement analysis
        In the early 1960s no connection existed, or appeared possible, between organisational studies and social movement analysis, as the former concentrated on instrumental, organised behaviour while the latter’s focus was unorganised and unstructured phenomena (McAdam & Scott, 2002). Then, three decades ago,Zald and Berger (1978) drew our attention to the similarities between change processes in organisations and those in social movements and the wider society, later adding the intriguing suggestion that most major ‘second order’ changes in society had come about as the result of social movements, not formal, planned change efforts – offering a direct challenge to mainstream organisation development thinking and practice:
        ‘In some measure, much of the social change we have witnessed in America in the last several decades can be attributed to social movements, large and small …[these] have contributed to changes in the way we live’ (Zald et al., 2002: 1).
        However, whilst social movement theorists have begun to look increasingly to organisation studies perspectives for ideas for the reason that
        ‘…the most interesting problems and greatest advances in the sciences, often take place at
        the intersection of established fields of study’ (McAdam & Scott, 2002: 3),
        until quite recently, (Van de Van and Hargrave forthcoming), organisational change
        people have been unaware – or just not interested – in social movement
        research:
        ‘Organisational Study scholars have been far less opportunistic in
        taking advantage of movement ideas’ (McAdam & Scott, 2002: 3).
        Contemporary developments in the NHS, including the move towards devolution
        of ownership for improvement to Strategic Health Authority and local levels,
        and the increasing interest in the role of front-line clinical microsystems in
        service improvement (Donaldson & Mohr, 2000; Mohr & Batalden, 2002),
        highlight the timeliness of exploring this interface between social movements
        and organisational change further within the UK healthcare context
        1
        (Table 2 Project / programme approach
        a planned programme of change with
        1 goals and milestones (centrally led)
        2 ‘motivating’ people
        3 change is driven by an appeal to the
        4 ‘what’s in it for me’
        5 talks about ‘overcoming resistance’
        6 change is done ‘to’ people or ‘with’
        them – leaders and followers
        7 driven by formal systems change:
        structures (roles, institutions) lead the
        change process
        Social movements approach
        1 change is about releasing energy and
        is largely self-directing (bottom up)
        2 ‘moving’ people
        3 there may well be personal costs
        involved
        4 insists change needs opposition – it is
        the friend not enemy of change
        5 people change themselves and each
        other – peer to peer
        6 driven by informal systems: structures
        consolidate, stabilise and
        7 institutionalise emergent direction
        below).
        As Strang and Il-Jung (2002) suggest, to traditional (organisational studies)
        questions like ‘what is this programme?’ and ‘what evidence is there that it
        works?’. A social movement analysis adds ‘who supports it?’, ‘how were they
        mobilised?’ and ‘how much influence do they have?’. Zald
        et al., (2002), examining the impact of social movements on organisations, pose similar questions: what are the processes and organisational structures that shape how particular organisations respond to movement demands? How do the changes in discourse, and direct and insists change needs opposition – it is the friend not enemy of change people change themselves and each other – peer to peer driven by informal systems: structures consolidate, stabilise and institutionalise emergent direction.

        This is abstracted from :
        “Modernisation Agency
        TOWARDS A MILLION CHANGE AGENTS
        A REVIEW OF THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS LITERATURE:
        IMPLICATIONS FOR LARGE SCALE CHANGE IN THE NHS.” (54 pages)

        https://www.reach4resource.co.uk/sites/default/files/images/Million_Change_Agents.pdf

        While in places the review seems greatly dated (before social media) many of the principles adduced from the, then, literature review seem to continue to be relevant, in the current social sea changes, even though the application to the NHS was not embraced. Social change activism has, however, been embraced by many within and particularly without the church in relation to gender and SSM.

      • There may be a way, by giving prominent exposure to testimonies of those who have moved in the opposite direction, such as David Bennet, and Rosaria Butterfield, whose lives have been turned upside -down, inside- out transformed. But they will need to be brave in the febrile culture of today.

    • Heather, I think your comment reveals exactly how difficult it is to question either the content or purpose of these books without being painted as nasty or hypocritical in some way.

      And surely that is precisely why they have been written in the way that they are. Otherwise why not write a more academic or theological book about the issue (which of course would produce nothing like the same publicity and sales!)? But all of us who know about the current debate in the church over sexual ethics are well acquainted with both authors, where they stand and what they intend – both of them have regularly put themselves about in both the secular and Christian media. So we can’t pretend they are simply straightforward human interest books or factual autobiographies: they serve a very well defined campaign.

      And if you campaign for something, you can’t expect a free ride; and if you do so by means of exposing your intimate self, you can’t complain that people are being personally hurtful if they push back on the same terms. And that is why I view this kind of book in this kind of situation as pretty distasteful, not because of the sexual issues explored, but because of the means by which they try to implant a sympathetic response in their readers.

      But I’ll just say one particular thing. I do agree that some churches can be lonely places for single people for all sorts of reasons, and the ‘happily married couple’ expectation is certainly one of them (I’ve experienced that for myself when single). I’m a natural loner, and I find the unimaginative, sheepish and oafish way otherwise reasonable people often behave when in crowds is pretty disappointing (and perplexing). Christians in their churches can and should to better – they regularly don’t.

  18. No Brian, you mean the late 1990’s, not the 1980’s – when she was a BA student at Wycliffe which served as a PPH then, matriculating BA students. It would be wrong to make any comment as to the veracity of the abuse claim.

    However, I did find the claim to ‘lots of unmarried ‘Wycliffe’ students having sex and a handful of married’s having affairs with other students’ somewhat incredulous. As a chaplain in Oxford in those years, and minister of a church attended by a large percentage of the Wycliffe students, I was very involved over several years with many single & married ordinands, and non ordinand students at the college. I never heard of anything in those years, which rather surprises me as it was a small college even then and such ‘gossip’ would surely have seeped out – ordinands called in and sent down. Did such things happen? Well, humans are human and living in close community it wouldn’t surprise me. But Vicky conveys an impression the college was a hotbed of immorality and hypocrisy. She says ‘lots’ – I wonder how many in her mind = ‘lots’ and what evidence she has to make such a claim?

    Andrew Atherston was doing his PHD at Wycliffe in those years – perhaps he could comment?

    • Simon,
      Be very careful with your use of “very involved …with…” otherwise you’d need to be forensically questioned!!

    • You’re right, I got the date mixed up. I asked a friend who was at Wycliffe shortly after VB and he had heard no such thing either. A claim like this made me wonder about the veracity of some of these narratives – and the purpose in making them. If any theological colleges had a reputation for sexual looseness in the past, it was Salisbury and Wells, which had a significant homosexual element, both in students and staff.
      It is also clear – from her own words – that Jo’s sexual feelings have changed over the year, from heterosexual and longing for marriage, to homosexual and living with another woman for nearly six years. She has obviously been through a great deal of inner dissonance, and it is easy to project this onto others.

    • Thanks, Simon for the link to Peter Lynas.
      1 What seems to have been ignored or downplayed (or at least if it has been mentioned, I’ve missed it) is this part of Lyna’s piece;
      “For her coming out piece, Vicky spoke to the activist and campaigner Patrick Strudwick. I had a debate with Patrick for a TV show once, following which, in the green room, he tried to persuade me that the church should change its view on gay people to be more appealing. I tried to explain that it was a matter of biblical teaching not simply people changing their minds. Then he turned and said something like, actually I don’t care, I want to see the end of Christianity. When the story originally came out I thought Vicky’s decision to use Patrick and Stonewall was telling; these were not neutral choices.”
      2 For all the mention of VB’s evangelicalism, (which begs the question of what the evangel is) and for all the talk of primary sources and secondary source, it seems that she has turned to a primary activist source, which, or who looks forward to the end of Christianity and a (primary source) lens through which to deconstruct scripture.
      3 Social Marketing, or Marketing Social Change. (Anyone could look it up if it stimulates an interest) In my last post in the NHS, I was part of a social marketing project in public health seeking to change behaviour. What is happening with sexuality and marriage, bears many of the hallmarks of social marketing.
      Here are two initial links:
      https://www.samhsa.gov/capt/tools-learning-resources/understanding-social-marketing
      https://ctb.ku.edu/en/sustain/social-marketing/overview/main
      Emotional pull is significant in any of the process.
      And if the principles are followed by Stonewall , the Christian church would be part of the main target groups,and would be delighted to include, or use,VB.

  19. David Runcorn was raised in a traditional evangelical world, but soo too were Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke, Rob Bell, Dave Tomlinson and others. How we were brought up is no guarantee for the character of our current beliefs and practices, and we cannot define theological descriptors idiosyncratically or individually. David has been clear for years that he supports “same-sex marriage”, as was evident in his address to ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ in 2014.
    http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/AE-synod-address-David-Runcorn.pdf
    Yet such an opinion is nowhere found in the Bible (not to mention the catholic tradition) and is not remotely ‘evangelical’. It is, quite simply, theological liberalism because it affirms that human reason or experience – or perhaps even a recent revelation by the Holy Spirit in culture – has superseded what is taught about the nature of marriage in the Gospels and Epistles. It may be uncomfortable to drop the evangelical label after many years of using it, but honest communication demands this.

    • Brian
      ‘David Runcorn was raised in a traditional evangelical world’ – no I wasn’t.
      ‘David has been clear for years that he supports “same-sex marriage”, as was evident in his address to ‘Accepting Evangelicals’ in 2014.’ No I haven’t and in that address I actually say ‘I am still working through my understanding of marriage in relation to same sex relationships’.
      ‘It is, quite simply, theological liberalism because it affirms that human reason or experience has superseded what is taught about the nature of marriage in the Gospels and Epistles’.
      If I thought that I would not bother to take such constant care to wrestle with scripture and its faithful interpretation and base all I write on that.
      Brian you do not know me. But I am in the room here. Instead of telling everyone else what you think you know about me – you could be talking to me.

      • “Evangelical ” isn’t a wax nose, David – it means submission to the finality of Scripture. If you are suggesting that Jesus supported the idea of “same sex marriage” then that is nonsense. You state you ‘have come to an accepting interpretation of same sex relationships ‘ which means that you think homosexual relationships are approved by God. Many people have come to this view as well – but it is not evangelical but liberal. The word must not be tortured to mean what it doesn’t. Don’t take offence at my plain speaking. David Gillett also changed his thinking, but he was on a liberal trajectory anyway for a number of years and once he had retired he could say how his thinking had changed. Not easy when working in an evangelical college, I know. But it isn’t right to use a label that no longer fits. I have no trouble with contributors like Penny and Andrew Goodsall who start from liberal views about the nature of the Bible – a time-conditioned human document that imperfectly conveys God’s word admired with error. That is what theological liberalism has consistently taught and It’s more honest than torturing words. David, Don’t take umbrage but argue the case instead.

        • Jesus probably supported slavery and believed in a geocentric model. What do we do with these beliefs?

          • ‘Probably’…. from the gospel silence on the ‘issue’ of slavery and on Jesus’ (spoken) attitude to people generally that this can’t be turned into a ‘belief’ that needs anything doing about it. Unless we think that Jesus must have expressed a view on everything the jump to assumptions and probabilities is rather tenuous surely? Certainly that’s no basis for doing any theology.

            I wonder (with the same unsupportable basis) what Jesus expressed views on that were not passed on to us.

          • Hi Ian, ‘probably’ that he would not have supported SSM. He was fully human. But, as I said, where does that leave us?

        • Actually Brian, although I’m a liberal and a revisionist, I take scriptural hermeneutics very seriously indeed. I do not believe that the Bible condemns same-sex love, but that we now know ‘better’. I believe that the Bible never speaks of same-sex love (with the possible exception of David and Jonathan), the (exclusively) male same sex acts (always buggery?) being proscribed for very different reasons.

      • Well, why not tell us then David.
        Do you believe the church should embrace same sex marriage?
        Do you believe the church should offer same sex blessings?

  20. Simon Greetings. I have answered this question earlier on this thread. Yes to both.

    Brian I am as evangelical as you. We just disagree – as evangelicals sometimes do. Does it help to know that for a number of years I have taught evangelism, pastoral theology, spirituality and church history at Anglican evangelical colleges – including some years as a colleague of Ian Paul’s at St John’s Nottingham – all while holding including views on same sex relationships? I have also guest lectured at Wycliffe Hall for a morning on ‘Being formed by scripture’ – just the week after the Pilling report came out in which I wrote an appendix on ‘including evangelicals’. ‘Liberal’ is not a bin into which you to can conveniently dump evangelicals you disagree with – no offence.

    • ah, I missed that, apologies David – appreciate the clarity – haven’t actually known exactly what you believed until this post.

      I think you indirectly raise an interesting question – what is an evangelical? I find it ironic that Jayne O declares herself as evangelical, whilst Vicky Beeching writes a book taking sustained aim at evangelical theology & spirituality – yet they seem of one mind on what the gospel or mission of the church should be…. and I’m pretty sure it aint what John Stott would call evangelical.

      • For my self it means having an evangelical background and currently being part of an evangelical church.

        As an aside, interesting to mention John Stott. I’ve always presumed he was gay – no proof apart from his bachelorhood and a long line of intelligent young male researchers he employed to research his books and have intimate conversations with into the night!

        • Origen, it is quite amazing that you did not think that the only alternative would have been to have young female assistants. How could he have been above reproach then?

          Bachelorhood and gender of research-assistants adds up to a warranted presumption?……

    • I know about your work, David, and have heard you lecture years ago, besides reading several pieces you’ve written. I was not talking about pastoral theology and spirituality, which by nature are eclectic and imprecise (because of the strong subjective, psychological character in them: prayer and the interior life entail a great detail of self-description and self-exploration, which may or may not be true, but that is the nature of the mystical: we are mysteries to ourselves and often mistaken about ourselves – at least the Reformers would say this but JO and VB deny this). I was thinking of the much more objective disciplines: biblical exegesis and evangelical ethics (the fusion of exegesis and philosophy). Judged against the work of, say, John Nolland, I have to say your conclusions are *not* evangelical but liberal because I think you operate from an eclectic psychological model of being human rather than the classical reformed view of Scripture. It is what I saw David Gillett doing as well: it began in the Bible but did not remain there because the controlling model became more Jungian than biblical. I understand and appreciate very much your love for Christians with SSA and your desire that they should experience a life as full and as happy as possible. The question is, how is this done living faithfully to the word of Jesus and his apostles? That is what evangelicalism means, and by the exegetical standards of John Nolland, John Stott, Michael Green and Jim Packer (or even historical Catholicism), I don’t think that is where you are.

      • Brian John Holland and I taught together at Trinity under David Gillett’s leadership for a number of years. They were wonderful times working together. It was great team. I don’t for a minute think John would say that David and I were working with an ‘eclectic psychological model’ that was more ‘Jungian than Biblical’. And each year, I might note, we all had to sign a biblically conservative doctrinal basis of faith. But thank you for expressing appreciation of my love and hope for LGBTi folk in the life of the gospel. They could do with hearing it rather more on these threads.

        • David, R,
          You have no idea how any of us who disagree with you relate to individuals. Many are the gay colleagues I had and great they were too.
          It would be good if you could explain what you mean by “life in the gospel”.

          • Geoff Nor have I any idea what you first sentence means or its relevance to this discussion.

          • David R,
            Apologies for not making myself plain.
            1 My first and second sentence relates to this sentence of yours in your response to Brian: “But thank you for expressing appreciation of my love and hope for LGBTi folk in the life of the gospel. They could do with hearing it rather more on these threads.” The implication is that those who disagree as expressed in the threads do not have love …
            2 My third sentence is asking what you mean by your love and hope for LGBTI folk “IN THE LIFE OF THE GOSPEL.” Apologies for the capitalisation, but I don’t know how to embolden or use italics on this computer in the comments section. What exactly is their “life in the gospel”? I genuinely don’t know what you mean.
            Hope this clarifies.

          • Geoff Thank you for clarifying
            1. I was in no way suggesting that those posting here lacked love. I was affirming the importance of stating it explicitly. When disagreements are strong here, as they often are, it is easy to forget who else is in the room with us and how it sounds to them.
            2. ‘The life of the gospel’ – is following Christ, no more no less.

        • I know, David, I studied under Nolland and continue to read his work. You will know his 2009 piece in Anvil on the meaning of porneia and its relation to homosexual acts. ‘More Jungian than biblical
          ‘ was my estimate of how I saw Gillett’s outlook developing, along with a strong dose of the Enneagram, and his subsequent revisionism affirming same sex relationships, struck me as very subjective in character. That isn’t evangelical but post-Evangelical- a familiar pathway.

          • Hello Brian,

            just to say thanks for the pointer to John Nolland’s article from 2009. I note that he is honest enough to point out that ‘porneia’ could well include sex with a menstruating woman (Lev. 18:19 and 20:17 I think), given that this appears in the Levitical lists he suggests it points back to (pp25, 26 and footnotes 18 & 19). I’m also glad that he is clear enough to say it’s “male homosexual sex” that Leviticus (& therefore 1 Cor 6:9-10) refers to (ie rather than same-sex sex more generally). These two thoughts might go part way to suggesting that it’s not enough just to say that ‘porneia’ in the Gospels includes everything we’d think of as same-sex sex, and perhaps also that there’s a risk of begging the question in baldly asserting that it does.
            JN makes a fairly familiar argument that ‘malakoi’ and ‘arsenokoitai’ of 1 Cor. 6:9-10 are a pair, although he doesn’t (unless I missed something) address why the latter appears by itself in 1 Tim. 1:10, nor why they should be read as a pair in 1 Cor given that the list there isn’t comprised of pairs of terms.
            His article certainly dispatches the argument that he means it to, as he concludes – but the argument he demolishes was never very sound anyhow, I’d suggest. JN’s article itself is still useful and commendably clear though, I thought.

            in friendship, blair

  21. That, is a point I made in a comment that didn’t get put up- it begs the question of what defines Evangelical. David R, you maybe a Bible scholar, but whichever way you cut it or put it the idea that Peterson dream can be used now either by you or VB to support homosexual marriage is frankly preposterous. How did Paul deal with it in Galatians. The idea that it was in the mind of the writers of Acts and Galatians is nonsense. What is being suggested is little more than “that means is” In all your scholarship, please don’t insult my intelligence, limited though it may be. It is seems more than pertinent That VB didn’t seem to arrive at her “new understanding” of Peters dream till after her self realisation. Seems more like a cause seeking a reason. As for your continued exploration, is it akin to the discover of America, mapless. On a NHS Senior management course led by a round the world boat race captain, he was coming out with relativistic philosophy, but he had to agree that he couldn’t navigate without fixed points. What are your fixed points for navigating your explorations? What are your no- go limits and where do you draw the lines. I was an atheist, child of the 60s. And we all have much to answer for, with rebellion against almost all authority, using arguments that resurface to justify rampant serialisation, the fostering of Foucault and Queer Theory, to undermine and seek to demolish the Family. Truth decay.

    • Geoff,
      Paul deals with the ‘Jerusalem Agreement’ by ignoring it. He writes, simply, that he was asked to remember the poor.

      I spend a lot of my time reading and writing queer theology. I am not seeking to undermine and demolish the Family.

      • 1 My point is that there is no way that Peter’s dream can be construed (even if deconstructed through the lens of queer theory), or reconstruct to include sex activity or desire of any sort, gentile or otherwise.
        2 Did Paul contend with Peter because Peter wasn’t indulging in gentile sexuality activity or desire homosexual or otherwise or indulging in queer theory?
        3 I find it very revealing that you spend a lot of your time on queer theory
        5 Queer Theory:
        Queer theory is grounded in gender and sexuality. Due to this association, a debate emerges as to whether sexual orientation is natural or essential to the person, as an essentialist believes, or if sexuality is a social construction and subject to change.
        The queer theory has two predominant strains:
        Radical deconstructionism: interrogates categories of sexual orientations.
        Radical subversion: disrupts the normalizing tendencies of the sexual order.
        4 You’ll be more than aware that a former expounder of Queer Theory, Rosaria Butterfield, jettisoned it following her Christian Conversion. There is much on the internet, from her.
        5 3 How do you define or describe family after it has been deconstructed through the embrace of queer theory. ?

        • Thanks, Geoff. I won’t repeat my argument about Acts, and about Paul’s rationale in Galatians, which is somewhat different, because I’ve outlined them elsewhere on this thread. But it’s not a queer reading.

          Of course Paul and Peter didn’t contend over sexuality. I’m using the circumcision/kosher argument as analogy.
          I said I spent a lot of my time reading queer theology. I didn’t say I subscribe to every tenet of queer theory. Indeed, how could I when queer theory is itself unstable and contested?

          I am not a gender essentialist nor a constructivist.

          I find queer theory useful because it deconstructs the norms which society often regards as immutable. This is useful when reading a patriarchal text and tradition. I do this this tradition needs interrogating and occasionally subverting, so that we don’t construct God in our own western, white, andrarchal, neo liberal image.

          I am aware of Rosario Butterfield. Her renouncing queer theory is not the least of her mistakes.

          I fail to see how interrogating white, male, hegemonic norms harms the family. Rather the reverse.

  22. Hi Brian, David S. . Will, David R., et al,
    I see faithfulness and love for God and for His divinely inspired Word in all of your comments here.
    Brian – you wrote to David R. ‘I appreciate your love for Christians with SSA and your desire that they should experience a life as full and happy as possible.’ Yes, Jesus spoke of having an abundant life in John 10:10 , and John wrote of the love of God in John 3:16 . Vicky Beeching said that God loves her just as she is . Yes, we can all have a deep sense of God’s presence (and love) in our darkest hours, as the psalmist wrote in
    Psalm 139:8 . In Psalm 51:6,7 the psalmist also prayed for God’s truth, cleansing and wisdom. John reassured us that God forgives all who truly repent in 1 John 1:9
    Vicky has spoken about her suffering. As Christians, we follow a Lord who was a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, who died a terrible death on the cross , and who said, as he hung on that cross,’Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ – a Lord who told us to take up our cross daily. Many of us suffer for many reasons, many of us are acquainted with grief, many of us take up our cross daily.
    I am mindful of this : though we are many, we are one body, and one part of the Body of Christ is not more ‘special’ than another part. We follow a humble Lord who asked us to be humble in Matthew 11:29.
    The word ‘pride’ in the phrase ‘Gay Pride’ offends the spirit within me.

    • Christine Thank you for your comments. It is all I aspire too so they mean a lot.

      Can I comment on ‘pride’? I wonder why it offends you – not least at the end of a such a gentle and gracious reflection? The word is an important feature of minority, marginalised, abused or persecuted groups who have long been despised, told they an offence and should be ashamed of who they are – but who are now emerging into their own identity and confidence. You find it it in the civil rights struggle in the US (‘Black pride’), in Gandhi’s India, in the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. It found expression in the feminist movement and the campaign to ordain women previously denied a full place and voice in the church.
      ‘Pride’ in the context of ‘Gay Pride’ is the direct response of a vilified and marginalised community to having long been treated as a source of shame and offence by surrounding society and church.
      Thanks again

      • Hi David R.
        Thank you for your comment.
        Telling you why pride offends me would mean telling a long story, but I will keep it brief.
        I became a Christian in 1992 after Christian colleagues prayed for me when I collapsed at work. The first thing that I said when I collapsed was, ‘My willpower let me down. ‘ I soon realised that it was my pride that let me down, because I had prided myself for months on soldiering on with severe headaches to the point where (I discovered later) my CSF levels were dangerously high. After I became a Christian, my first prayer was ,’Thy Kingdom come.’ My second prayer was asking God to break my pride and grant me humility. This prayer for humility is one of my daily prayers, and I pray it for others as I pray it for myself.
        Jesus told us to take the plank out of our own eyes – then we can see more clearly to take the mote out of the eyes of others.
        One outworking of pride in others that I became aware in some others after I was hospitalised in 1992 was pride in their own opinions – they were far more interested in telling me their own theories and opinions about my condition than they were in listening to me telling them about the professional judgements of no less than 13 neurologists I met when my consultant asked me if I would agree to being a case study! Thankfully from my point of view, most people I was in contact with were high on listening and low on opinionating.
        While I was in hospital I met a number of patients who had rare conditions. One said to me, ‘I hate being rare, don’t you?’ Yes, it’s difficult having a rare condition.
        Twenty-six years on from this, I am so thankful to our Lord, the Giver of Life. New every morning is the love….

        • Thank you sharing your moving faith story Christine. But I don’t think we are talking about the same thing. I agree that there is pride that is opinionated, self inflating etc … That is what I hear you meaning.
          But for someone who has never been valued or loved enough to ever feel they had any worth at all there is a right ‘pride’ and self-valuing that is about loving self-discovery in Christ – and with it the healing from they can take their place in the world in love and service. Now I know we disagree on this – but for me and for my gay friends, that is what Gay Pride is about, at its best.

          • David R.,
            Thank you for your comment.
            I will add a little to what I said in my earlier comment. In 1992, as I lay in a hospital bed wondering what would be revealed by my scan results, and wondering how much longer I would live, my thought,’ I don’t deserve this’ was soon followed by the thought, ‘I don’t actually deserve anything – I didn’t even ‘deserve’ to be born in the first place.’ I have every reason to be thankful to God for the Christians who prayed for me when I collapsed. I have every reason to be thankful to God for His love, healing and mercy. and for the wonderful gift of life itself. I have no reason to be proud of myself.
            You are right when you say that we disagree about ‘gay pride.’

        • Christine,
          Thank you. It also chimes with me, notwithstanding my own awareness that the tenor of some of my contributions may come across as a contradiction. Pride is a biggee, “the pride of life”.
          I can recall that as I came to know a calling to Christ, while singing “Spirit of the living God” …” Break me, melt me, mold me, fill me” I knew I had to be broken and asked God to do so. The conviction was most acute in the realm of intellect, but was, in fact, a whole life conviction.
          And for that and more, such as an indirect link to liberation theology I find David R’s response to you revealing, whereas there is a Christian liberation to brokenness and coming to the end of self in submission to Christ.
          Apologies for butting in.
          Geoff

          • Thank you, Geoff,
            and please don’t apologise for ‘butting in’ – I value your testimony.
            Yes submission to Christ really does set us free.
            The peace of the Lord be with you.
            Christine

    • Thank you Christine for your witness to the reaction of the Spirit within us. I feel the same response. Our lives are in “submission” to Christ because of his love and sacrifice”. We have no reason to be proud – in fact it is destructive to our spiritual life. A couple of months ago I was prompted to ensure that I did not support any businesses funding Gay Pride – “flee from sin” was the verse. It was so strong I had to seek some spiritual advice from clergy. I have taken steps to change my supermarket and who I put my savings with and where I spend my money. But it is very difficult as so many companies and banks are funding this event.

      • Thank you, Tricia. I wonder how many Christians, while having an inclusive attitude towards the ‘gay’ part of ‘gay pride’, cannot in good conscience have an inclusive attitude towards the ‘pride’ part of it? Before you mentioned businesses who support LGBT events, I had not realised how many businesses support them. I was also not aware until recently of the number of such events which omit the ‘gay’ part of ‘gay pride’ and just have ‘pride’ logos in rainbow colours.

  23. The 2 needs for love and affirmation/acceptance are distinct but overlap.

    A normal upbringing can maximise the opportunities to form close friendships. Parents can identify families/children who will make good friends, and arrange memorable times/locations/activities.

    Family itself is a central part of that process as the siblings are ready-made God-given friends.

    The more real friends people have, the less they will invest emotionally in a single (idealised?) person.

    While people are needy and/or immature, that spells trouble at the end of the line.

    As for taking dads away from children – just think how much love-deprivation they get. That is like throwing a hand grenade into their future.

    Friends, open spaces – the best things in life are free.

    All this is basic common sense and was the way things long worked, till recently.

    It is a school of thought that it is not uncommon for self-styled gay men to need affirmation – that is their real need and sex will just make things lonelier not better. (Some think sex is sought in a quest to be desired or liked, and that must be partly true – but to a large extent it is also sought because people expect it will be fun and have short term needs.) Friends, family, church provide ready-made healthy affirmation.

    The most dangerous thing of all: Primary school children are being told: *You* might be gay. For most of them, same-gender friends are their most significant friends. Is that child abuse? Not only is it child abuse but it is child abuse of one of the worst sorts.

    To hear some talk, one would think that they had never heard of friendship, which is one of the most ubiquitous realities. It is obvious that loving our friends has nothing to do with sex – but that is understood by anyone as soon as they ever hear of sex, so why does one now have to explain it to adults? It cannot be that they do not understand this point. In honesty, it may be that they want to merge the concepts ‘love’ and ‘sex’ for their own ends.

  24. Just seen the reference to Peter Toon on reception quoted in the Rochester report. Toon was of course arguing against women bishops and was an opponent of women priests. I imagine not all those on here oppose these developments. And indeed in terms of the C of E ( tho not GAFCON) the train has ledft the station.

    • Thank you Perry Butler. As a matter of interest would David Shepherd (who posted and applied this quote to a different issue) and Will (who enthused over it) be willing to confirm they are also against the ordination of women? Genuine question.

      • Genuine Answer.

        Despite agreeing with Toon that Christian theology appeal has traditionally been made to the authority of antiquity, the Rochester Report (GS1557) contended that women’s ordination did not involve an appeal to the future rather than to the past.

        ’Those in the Church of England who have supported the ordination of women have generally argued that their ordination is consistent with the witness of Scripture and tradition. Thus, in his speech opening the General Synod debate on the ordination of women to the priesthood in November 1992, the Bishop of Guildford, Michael Adie, declared: ‘the ordination of women is a reasoned development, consonant with Scripture, required by tradition’.

        The Report compares the women bishops proposal to the decision of the Jerusalem Council:
        Biblically, a parallel with what is proposed in the current Anglican doctrine of reception is provided by the record of the admission of Gentiles to the Church in chapters 10-15 of Acts.

        Yet, we know that the decision in Acts 15 was supported by explicit reference to scripture. So, St. James endorsed the decision with a direct quote from Amos:
        “And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: ‘Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the Gentiles— all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken— he who made these things known so long ago.

        In contrast, in the absence of any positive scriptural endorsement of same-sex sexual activity, the CofE’s LGBT advocacy groups resort to unwarranted assertions that any negative scriptural pronouncements regarding same-sex sexual acts are inapplicable to modern PSF same-sex relationships.

        And that’s bears no similarity to St. James’ decisive argument from scripture.

        • And although they argue that biblical prohibitions on same sex sex don’t apply to PSF relationships, yet they actually endorse sexual relationships that are not PSF. So how does their novel interpretation of scripture support that? Not only is their revisionist interpretation implausible and without warrant, it doesn’t even support their ethical position. If they were consistent they would have to condemn same sex sex outside of PSF relationships. But they don’t.

          • Male homosexual relations reflect maleness, female homosexual relations reflect femaleness. Whether heterosexual or homosexual, there is no escaping biology. Steven Pinker has noted this well. There are twice as many self-identified male homosexuals as females, which is a very interesting imbalance. Why aren’t the numbers equal? Males are easily aroused sexually, females less so. Again, there s a biological element in this. Male homosexuals are far more likely to have numerous sexual liaisons (even anonymous ones) than lesbians, and lesbian relationships tend to be more stable than male homosexual ones. That is because the sexual element lessens greatly for women and their energies are more directed to child rearing. Lesbians don’t stop wanting to be mothers, and a fair number have children from their earlier (heterosexual) marriages. Sex for women is a means of cementing a relationship centred on the home and producing a family. Most male homosexuals are not concerned with this, though others are fathers from earlier (heterosexual) marriages that broke down. Given these differences between males and females, it is not too difficult to understand why advocates of same-sex relations do not insist on restricting sexual intimacy to the bond of marriage (there is no need for such a sanction). The same male-female difference explains why men will pay for sex but women don’t.
            Anybody who thinks you can change the nature of Christian marriage as an exclusive male-female union intended for life as the foundation for producing children and not bring on radical consequences for Christian theology simply hasn’t been paying attention.

          • Hello Will,

            That’s a fair point about consistency – I think your penultimate sentence is right, although you might have mentioned some of those who have clearly advocated only PSF same-sex relationships (e.g. Rowan Williams, Sarah Coakley, Eugene Rogers, Jeffrey John, Gareth Moore OP…).

            But on consistency: do you accept that if your position is that same-sex sex is intrinsically wrong, it follows that there’s no distinction between any kind of same sex sex, however faithful or otherwise, so to be consistent with that position you wouldn’t have anything to say about the ethics of same sex sex…? There can’t be an ethics if something that’s intrinsically wrong surely….

            In friendship, Blair

        • David
          Leaving aside how ‘historical’ Luke’s account is, the scriptural argument is somewhat post hoc, (following Peter’ vision and Paul’s experience of gentiles receiving the Spirit at Antioch).
          Following N.T. Wright much of scripture points to the eschatological inclusion of gentiles, but on Jewish terms, not on Paul’s law free model. That was the scandal.

          • Exactly Penelope. Post hoc. And the text in Acts 15 records that the Council come to its decision after ‘much debate’ – Peter’s initial justification for his actions at Joppa in Acts 11 is simply to testify to the vision and the subsequent work of the Spirit in the house of a Gentile. No appeal to texts. Based on his testimony the early church follows Peter in stepping into an unknown future under the compelling of the Spirit. Though they did find OT texts that suggested guidance for where they found themselves, I do not think it is true that they found texts that could fully explained what was going.

          • Penelope,
            I’ll repeat the reply I’ve just made to your reply to me on 15 July, above, as it is pertinent here:
            1 My point is that there is no way that Peter’s dream can be construed (even if deconstructed through the lens of queer theory), or reconstruct to include sex activity or desire of any sort, gentile or otherwise.
            2 Did Paul contend with Peter because Peter wasn’t indulging in gentile sexuality activity or desire homosexual or otherwise or indulging in queer theory?
            3 I find it very revealing that you spend a lot of your time on queer theory
            5 Queer Theory:
            Queer theory is grounded in gender and sexuality. Due to this association, a debate emerges as to whether sexual orientation is natural or essential to the person, as an essentialist believes, or if sexuality is a social construction and subject to change.
            The queer theory has two predominant strains:
            Radical deconstructionism: interrogates categories of sexual orientations.
            Radical subversion: disrupts the normalizing tendencies of the sexual order.
            4 You’ll be more than aware that a former expounder of Queer Theory, Rosaria Butterfield, jettisoned it following her Christian Conversion. There is much on the internet, from her.
            5 3 How do you define or describe family after it has been deconstructed through the embrace of queer theory. ?

          • Penelope,

            While the scriptural argument against imposing Judaism on Gentiles was indeed somewhat post hoc, the point remains that positive scriptural endorsement is required for any development (including this earliest example) to be legitimised, after much debate, through the process of ecumenical reception.

            As the 1988 study, Reception: An Ecumenical Opportunity describes it, this includes:
            ‘all phases and aspects of an ongoing process by which a church under the guidance of God’s spirit makes the results of a bilateral or a multilateral conversation a part of its faith and its life because the results are seen to be in conformity with the teachings of Christ and of the apostolic community, that is, the gospel as witnessed to in Scripture.’

            To resort to Peter’s initial lack of scriptural rationale as precedent for the reception of same-sex sexual relationships is as much of an anachronistic fallacy as recommending that the CofE ‘cast lots’ (Acts 1:26) to determine God’s choice for the next bishop of Norwich.

            In fact, far from just the lack of positive scriptural evidence of conformity to the gospel preventing the reception of same-sex sexual relationships as legitimate development, the revisionist argument faces the hurdle of Scripture’s explicit marriage archetype (to which Christ explicitly harked back) and its unequivocal condemnation of same-sex sex (which is dismissed as irrelevant through a ‘this is not that’ special pleading).

            This kind of special pleading revisionism bears no resemblance to the reception process for women’s ordination.

          • David Shepherd and others here.
            I do not think it can be disputed that Peter acted out of obedience to a (baffling and contradictory) vision and the compelling presence of the Spirit. Testimony of his experience was the basis on with the Jerusalem church, also initially scandalised, went along with him. ‘The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.’ 11.12. Only after the Spirit fell on the Gentiles does Peter say a text came to mind. And that was a text about baptism, from Acts 1.5 at Pentecost.
            Experience and obedience to that experience, came first. The richer textual reflection came later.

            The argument being made here is not that there is anything about sexuality in this story. There isn’t. The argument is that there is precedent in the NT church for stepping out into something very new and even shocking – acting obediently too what is feels to be the inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings of the given text. I find that indisputable.

            I can’t help thinking that if the context to this discussion of Joppa was not same sex relationships we would not be disagreeing on this point at all.

          • Sorry, David S., that’s just special pleading for the post hoc rationale of Acts and Luke’s agenda. Paul saw gentiles (probably) at Antioch receiving the Spirit without being baptised etc. first and drew his own conclusions about what God was doing. Despite Peter’s vision at Joppa, Paul was let down by Peter and opposed by the Pillar Apostles, so Paul travels to Jerusalem for the second time and gives rather a different account of the meeting there.
            The interesting analogue is that some in the church are now behaving like the Pillar Apostles.

          • David R,

            As you explained to Will, the example of Peter’s vision is not ‘carte blanche for the revisionist agenda’, but you ‘offered it as an example – among others in church history.

            You cannot infer a corollary from one among very different examples in church history that “experience and obedience to that experience, came first. The richer textual reflection came later.”

            In fact, if there is an example in Acts of the recommended process of reception, it’s that of the Bereans who not only received “the gospel with great eagerness”, but also “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

            The NT church didn’t and doesn’t simply act obediently too what is feels to be the inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings of the given text.

            Instead, that approach of “following what you feel to be inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings” can so easily provide a pretext for schism and eisegesis.

          • David Shepherd “following what you feel to be inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings” can so easily provide a pretext for schism and eisegesis.

            If only Peter had stayed on the roof at Joppa we wouldn’t have such a dangerously schismatic example to follow.

          • Penelope,

            If don’t need to make, as you assert, a special pleading for the post hoc scriptural arguments against imposing Judaism on Gentile converts, when, as David R exlained, he ‘offered it as an example – among others in church history.’

            Crafting that one example (among many counter-examples) into a corollary for advancing your cause is a special pleading.

          • David Runcorn,

            However, since the example of Peter’s vision in Joppa isn’t ‘‘carte blanche for the revisionist agenda’, but, as you say, ‘offered it as an example – among others in church history, you might want to abandon the anachronistic fallacy for a better corollary of the reception process.

          • Penelope,

            I don’t need to make, as you assert, a special pleading for the post hoc scriptural arguments against the imposition of Judaism on Gentile converts. As David R explained, he only ‘offered it as an example – among others in church history.’

            Crafting that one example (among many counter-examples) into a corollary for advancing your cause is a special pleading.

          • David S. The text doe say what you require it to say. So the innovation was made without a proof text, but within the liberating narrative of scripture. I guess anti-abolitionists made the same special pleading point about abolitionists.

          • To assert that my position is wrong (“the text doesn’t say what you want it to say’) is not enough to prove it to be wrong.

            You and David R still haven’t explained why what he ’offered as an example – among others in Church history’ bears more similarity to the present situation than any other examples of the commended NT response to innovation that it can serve as a precedent and corollary for Anglican reception, in this case, specifically relating to Church affirmation of same-sex couples.

            One example among many alternative examples simply doesn’t make a case, despite your misappropriation of the anti-abolitionist mantle.

          • The other reason why the example of Peter’s vision doesn’t work as a parallel of the current situation is that its attempt to correlate ethnicity with sexual identity.

            The doctrine of a tripartite sexual orientation identity (immutable, stable and requiring embodiment in behaviour) as a quasi-ethnicity: ‘fixed, a natural essence, a self with same sex desires’ was no more than part of the gay advocacy movement‘s political and legal strategy which developed in the wake of the Bowers vs. Hardwick decision.

            There no justification for eisegesis of imposing this quasi-ethnic equivalence on scripture.

          • David S. Because, firstly it’s a movement of the Spirit, as I said, analogous to the admission of the gentiles. Second, it wasn’t really ethnicity, since gentiles were being recquired to convert to early Judaism. Thirdly the abolitionist argument is also analogous because it relied on the prompting the Spirit and the meta narrative of Scripture rather than the proof texts which mandated or supported it.
            Lastly, I don’t believe that orientation is always immutable (though it seems to be in Vicky’s and Jayne’s cases). If you believe, as I do, that homosexuality is a natural, God given orientation, then it might be, unnecessary to change it and even blasphemous to try.

          • Hi Penelope,

            So, when someone embeds as a conclusion (Because, firstly it’s a movement of the Spirit, as I said, analogous to the admission of the gentiles) the very question under debate (on what basis should the Church legitimise the affirmation of same-sex sexual relationships?), what do we call that?

            I’m surprised, since for both of us, as seasoned debaters here, petitio principii (begging the question) is part of the Introduction to Logic 101 class.

            The conversion of the Bereans was also a move of the Spirit (Acts 17:11) and they checked Paul’s teaching against the scriptural record.

            Therefore, given the apostles’ repeated reminders to test all things, why is the single instance of Peter following his vision a better model than that of the Berean’s scriptural circumspection, which Luke held to be more commendable than the Thessalonians?

            You note that sexual orientation is natural. If you Kean that in terms of anthropological prevalence, so are genetic sexual attraction and polyamory.

            So, would you consider it to be a move of the Spirit for the Church to affirm those too? Or is this a special pleading (again)?

          • To be absolutely clear, the question, ‘why does Peter’s vision and response bear more similarity to the present situation than any other examples of the commended NT response to innovation?’ could be re-phrased as ‘why is the Church affirmation of same-sex couples analogous to the admission of the Gentiles?’

            To respond ‘because it’s a movement of the Spirit, as I said, analogous to the admission of the gentiles’ is question-begging.

            There are many naturally prevalent human attractions. So, when compared to so many other kinds of sexual attraction, why should homosexual attraction be considered God-given, instead of another propensity of fallen humanity?

          • David S.
            Then it’s great pity the writers of scripture didn’t take logic 101.
            Is a talking snake and a talking ass logical? What about the virgin birth, the feeding of the masses, turning the other cheek, giving away all you have, not burying your father, leaving your family, going out without a purse, receiving the Spirit without the proper qualifications?
            None of this sounds very ‘logical’ to me. 1 Cor. 1.25

          • Hi Penelope,

            Really? I didn’t think that you would consider fallacious reasoning to be on par with the miracles that you’ve cited.

            Anyway, your reply now compounds question-begging with the category error of comparing our reasoning here which should observe logic with supernatural encounters which can defy it.

            Perhaps, for you, Peter’s vision is a mere literary device, but it doesn’t justify defying logic yourself.

          • David S.
            1) is the ‘supernatural’ confined to the pages of the HB and NT?
            2) was Paul’s decision at Antioch because of a supernatural vision, or because he saw the HS at work amongst the gentiles?
            3) when Jesus promised an advocate did he set a time limit?

          • Hi Penelope,
            My Catch-22-esque responses are:
            1. Why is ‘supernatural’?
            2. When is Antioch?
            3. Which is an advocate?

            All of which defy logic, but, you’re the one maintaining the false dichotomy between observing the rules of logic and the dictates of special revelation.

            If you accept here that your own reasoning should subject to the rules of logic, then I’ll our re-commence reasoned discussion.

  25. Sex is the answer to my every need
    Sex is the answer it is my friend indeed
    Problems of life my spirit may assail
    With sex my saviour I can never fail
    For sex is the answer to my need
    (with apologies to the original author)
    The issues are not homosex, bisex, intersex or anysex but just that life has been taken over by sex.

  26. Brian Please can you give me a practical example of what this means. At the moment I don’t understand this statement.
    ‘Male homosexual relations reflect maleness, female homosexual relations reflect femaleness. Whether heterosexual or homosexual, there is no escaping biology.’
    Thanks

  27. David R
    You base all this: “feelings”:
    “The argument being made here is not that there is anything about sexuality in this story. There isn’t. The argument is that there is precedent in the NT church for stepping out into something very new and even shocking – acting obediently too what is feels to be the inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings of the given text. I find that indisputable.”
    Now we (I) know where you are coming from: experience and feelings that are indisputable. Coming from a non cessationist background I find that more than disputable. Where do you draw lines with your feelings that countermand scripture. In fact my feelings in this are as indisputable as yours!
    Acts and the baptism of the Spirit and Pentecost are a reversal of Babel, to speak with one voice, but many voices, the one gospel, Good News message of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection as fulfilment of all echoes, types, allusions, signs, promises, offices, covenant fulfillment in the the Old Testament, which all coalesce in Christ. That is what is radical, not any new found sexual relations.

    • Geoff
      I think it is very clear I am talking about the positive place of experience in the way Peter and the early church responded to what happened at Joppa. That that experience led to renewed theology and mission is what is ‘indisputable’.
      It is very big leap to claim from this exegesis that I base everything on my feelings. I don’t – and it should be clear from my attempts to contribute to this discussions and from my writings elsewhere. I take a great of trouble over biblical interpretation and would not bother if I only needed feelings. So no – you are wrong this is where I am coming from. Be reassured.

      I agree there is an important discussion to be had as to how our feelings and experiences are to be tested, discerned and allowed to contribute to our understanding of the scriptures. But there is nothing new in that. Peter and the early church had to do the same.

      • Hi David

        Until you can account for why you endorse, or do not oppose, same sex sex outside PSF relationships, even though your interpretation of scripture only permits it in modern PSF relationships, I don’t think you can claim to take scripture seriously, even on your own terms.

        • Will

          OK. Here goes. I am heterosexual male, an evangelical, ordained in a church and formed in a tradition that I have slowly learned has too often taught sex badly and caused great hurt and isolation in its consequent judgments and boundary making. I repent of this.
          So I am reluctant to respond to the demand for negative public pronouncements of this kind. I find more to admire than despair of or criticise among those seeking to live and love with integrity in a very confused world. Where there is trust and respect we speak honestly and lovingly challenge each other on these and other issues of fight and life as I am sure you do.
          Please notice I have not confirmed or denied your first line and what you suppose to be my views. i understand your concerns here. But please listen to my reasons why.
          Thank you

          • And similarly great hurt and isolation was caused by the Church of England’s judgments and boundary making regarding African polygamist converts.

            So, at least, it would be consistent to have heard you similarly “finding more to admire than despair of or criticise” among those who practice polygamy, when they are also “seeking to live and love with integrity in a very confused world”.

            So, is your personal moratorium on negative public pronouncements applicable to all sexual involvement outside of marriage, or just that of LGBTIQ+ people?

  28. Ps David,
    Acts generally is also a recapitualtion of the Genesis theme to fill the earth, with a “new” Spirit breathed humanity, through the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. That is what is radical obedience to include gentiles, every tongue, tribe, and nation.
    And as set out by Roberts and Wilson in their “Echoes of Exodus” there is a radical theme of Exodus in Acts.
    And it’s worth remembering that the Spirit, is Holy.
    Disputable?? Feels like….??

    • Geoff I agree with all this. I even think the Spirit is – er Holy. No dispute – believe it or not!
      Meanwhile if you want to respond to what I have actually written here we can perhaps have a discussion. I would welcome that.

      • David R,
        About having a discussion, I’m not sure that a comments section in a blog is the correct-place, or format, particularly as it seems to engender tit -for- tat responses. And I’m no longer searching for answers to the big questions of having been supernatural converted to Christ as a 47year old lawyer. My theology has changed over the intervening years from to what I’d loosely self-define as reformed charismatic, but less so charismatic now.
        But a sea changes in my Christian theology started when coming across Graeme Goldsworthy’s biblical theology writings, as I was training as a lay preacher in the Methodist Church, which included all the stuff about Form Criticism Bultman et al. This was at a time of personal upheaval, with health, work and family bereavement and the change in theology made me realise that I couldn’t in all conscience continue in Methodism training, as at the end I could not vow to not preach or teach against the teachings of the Methodist Church. I recall after preaching on one occasion someone saying approvingly that they never thought they would hear what I said in a Methodist church.
        But there was more biblical theology as I came across on the net a recording of a taught DMin course with Edmun Clowney and Tim Keller and I continued to seek out as much as I could find on biblical Theology, and scripture being all about our Triune God, manifest in Christ, and Michael Reeves has been very influential.
        My position theologically is settled, and I’ve approached it as a convert from an unchurched background, but I realise how much vestigial influence, my training and former life as a lawyer continues to play in my life especially on sites I visit, as heaven forfend that I should self-indulge any more on the likes of facebook, twitter. Something which sticks is to advocate without “fear or favour.” For this is all about advocacy, no matter how the CoE may hope to dress it up with “curates egg conversations”.
        But what would not be accepted in a Court of law in the interpretation of law, would be argument , for inclusion from an omission, that was never in the mind of the drafters of law. the law stands, until, repealed.
        I’m in a slighty similar position to Rosaria Butterfield, who has left behind all her academic Queer Theory life and practice, (to her own astonishment (my words) following conversion to Christ.
        Her testimony is strong ( and readily viewed on the internet) notwithstanding Penelope’s far from scholarly, off-hand, dismissal of her in Penelope’s response to me above.
        Butterfield’s conversion seems to be an inside-out, whole life, adult, transformation. That is where the similarity lies.
        So I’m not exploring, as are you.
        And I’m of little consequence, in regards to the people you may seek to influence within the Anglican Church.

        • Dear Geoff
          I would be very grateful if you could disagree with me without being rude. I fail to see what was unscholarly in my ‘dismissal’ of Butterfield, but my concern about her transformation is that she felt she needed to give up gender and queer studies. Some of the finest Christians I know are working in those fields.

          • Penelope,
            I wrote this:
            “4 You’ll be more than aware that a former expounder of Queer Theory, Rosaria Butterfield, jettisoned it following her Christian Conversion. There is much on the internet, from her.
            5 3 How do you define or describe family after it has been deconstructed through the embrace of queer theory. ?”
            You replied:
            You wrote this:
            “I am aware of Rosario Butterfield. Her renouncing queer theory is not the least of her mistakes.
            I fail to see how interrogating white, male, hegemonic norms harms the family. Rather the reverse.”
            Is that a scholarly response or a denigration of Butterfield? The people you know in the Queer Theory fraternity, is neither here nor there.

          • I don’t know Geoff, is it a denigration, or an observation that I think Butterfield is wrong and that I know many fine Christians working in these fields. I don’t really see the connection between renouncing lesbianism and eschewing gender and queer studies. I’m not a lesbian.

    • Indeed
      And Acts is also the outworking of the Great Commission to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and uttermost ends” – it came as a jolt to Peter but it shouldn’t have. It was God’s plan all along.
      Peter’s particular vision (which he received only because of his stubbornness and reluctance to obey the gospel – something Paul never needed) removed kosher barriers to the gospel ministry to Gentiles. To make this the hermeneutical key to saying that same sex relations are pure is the very worst eisegesis I have ever read. It is theologically and exegetically indefensible. The text does not bear it whatsoever nor establish any principle whereby such an application can be made. To say such is risible – more than that, it is dangerous – for it gives the authority to the subjectivity of the reader, and in this context one whose own desire is looking for Biblical justification. No one, reading that text in context without their own pretext, would conclude it legitimates homosexual relations.

      • Simon
        I assume this is aimed at me?

        What in this statement do you disagree with:
        ‘The argument being made here is not that there is anything about sexuality in this story. There isn’t. The argument is that there is precedent in the NT church for stepping out into something very new and even shocking – acting obediently too what is feels to be the inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings of the given text.’

        • In one breath, you assert “this is not that” to routinely dismiss all negative scriptural references to same-sex sex as completely irrelevant to modern same-sex partners.

          In the next breath, you practically assert “this is that” when it comes to pressing one example (viz. Peter acting on his vision without appeal to scripture) into service as precedent for the Church “stepping out into something very new and even shocking.”

          This is clear evidence of subjective bias.

          The very definition of a precedent is ‘an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances.

          So, what you’ve haven’t done is to explain how the circumstances of this one NT example are sufficiently similar to the present situation as to become an example or guide for the Church to adopt it.

          In fact, in the Old and New Testament, the normative precedent is for the Church to test any revelation with “the gospel as witnessed to in Scripture” before it steps into “something very new and even shocking”. (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 14:29; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:2; 1 Thess. 5:20-22; 1 John 4:1)

          The scriptural evidence doesn’t support your alternative precedent.

          • David Shepherd ‘you practically assert “this is that”’.
            Well either I do or I don’t. But I have made very clear more than once here I am precisely not doing that.
            David I seek to be very careful with what I am saying here – and invite you please to reciprocate.

          • “This is not that” asserts irrelevance, whereas “this is that” establishes relevance.

            So, you’re precisely not establishing a ‘this is that’ relevance, so ‘the argument is that there is precedent in the NT church for stepping out into something very new and even shocking – acting obediently too what is feels to be the inspiration of the Spirit even though it appears to contradict the familiar traditional readings of the given text’ is indeed not relevant to the same-sex partners today.

            So, it’s a wonder that you even mentioned it!

        • No David – not ‘aimed’ at you – just offered here in context as I’ve been reading VB’s argument again and musing on it and others here who seem to think she’s had a revelation from Peter’s revelation – but it is not a revelation, it is wishful thinking.

          Here’s the irony – VB was actively looking to find justification in Scripture for living out her SSA – Peter was not looking for any change of any sort and the revelation when it came to him was unwelcome: Peter says “surely not ” – but the revelation VB was looking for is “surely yes”. Peter had a vision he did not want, but VB got the revelation she did want.

          • Hi Simon
            Thanks – happy not to be the target.
            Given how deeply rooted her conservative scripture teaching was in her I think you seriously understate how painful VB’s journey was towards a welcoming and including theology. I have journeyed with folk like her and watched their anguished but steadfast faithfulness to the conservative reading they had always known. It is simply not an easy ‘yes’ – and having come to that place VB describes how hard it has been to accept it as gift and life for her. Other’s here will draw their own conclusions as to why this is so for her – but ‘surely yes’, ‘getting what she wants’ does no justice to her story and her struggles.

      • Simon and David R.

        It may be to me, who has made the same observation about Acts and Galatians.

        The fact that Peter was surprised does not nullify the Great Commission. Peter, James and John (and others) were evangelising the gentiles; but only on the terms that they first became Jews. This was in line with scripture which foresaw the gentiles coming in at the end times, but only if they as repentant ‘Jews’.

        It was Paul who made the great ‘law-free’ breakthrough, probably in Antioch. We do not know what caused this insight. It most probably wasn’t scripture, which he knew intimately, but the experience of gentiles receiving the Spirit before they were baptised and circumcised.

        That is the analogical move which ‘revisionist’ commentators make. God is doing a new thing which may be foreshadowed in the meta narrative of scripture, but not by finding proof texts, like Amos, which don’t even prove the conclusion the Jerusalem Council came to!

        • Penelope Thank you. This is really helpful. ‘foreshadowed in the meta narrative of scripture, but not by finding proof texts’. Which is why the constant demand for actual texts end up, for different reasons, frustrating everyone.

          • Thank you David. This is what I constantly work with. Both what is core and what is contingent in Scripture and how the HS might be speaking into tradition today. I think there’s a danger of fossilising her and of forgetting that all scripture is recorded experience.

          • Penelope I am sure you are right in this and I seek the same. But encountered within the evangelical tradition it challenges and unsettles familiar ways of reading and interpreting scripture in very unsettling ways.

          • Simon To go looking for ‘a text’ to ‘prove’ a meta narrative is precisely the problem. It can’t be done. Penelope’s comment to us both above clarifies the hermeneutical process being used here.

          • David – the revisionist presumption to wear the mantle of Peter and the apostles as they delivered the deposit of faith of the New Covenant – a covenant in which Jew and gentile were on equal terms – is the big problem here. You are not Peter nor do you carry his foundational apostolic authority. The apostles had the authority to establish a new kind of community in line with a hitherto neglected metanarrative of scripture and Jesus’ ministry. You do not. Even if it were possible to construe scripture as possessing a metanarrative of replacing the creation pattern of the human family with a postmodern one based on sexual diversity no one, including you, would have the authority to establish it. The New Covenant and New Testament is the deposit of faith once delivered to the saints, and your expectation of a further revolution in our understanding of biblical teaching, overturning a major component of it, is misplaced, and indeed the stuff of heresy.

          • David, I am not, as you may now realise, an evangelical!
            I take scripture very seriously, as I have said somewhere above, but I find it hard to understand the evangelical viewpoint (though I hope I’m improving). But I suppose each tribe finds it hard to understand the other.I

          • Will

            if I may butt in, two questions:
            do you think the ‘creation pattern of the human family’ has remained constant?
            what is the HS doing in the Church today?

          • Hi Penelope

            1) The creation pattern of the family is and always has been man and woman becoming one flesh, producing new human beings as the fruit of that union, and raising them as their joint offspring. So yes it is the same as ever. The pattern is the ideal for human reproduction and flourishing given in nature and set down in scripture, and is not destroyed by being non-universal in practice.

            2) The Holy Spirit is calling on the true church to remain faithful to God’s word in the face of a virulent postmodern agenda of relativism and sexual diversity and laxity. He is not calling on the church to sanctify anal sex or any other forms of sexual immorality!

          • Thank you Will, but I don’t think that quite answers my question. Gen. 2 and Matt state that the man and woman become ‘one flesh’ ( I think, in p// with other HB texts, this means a new kinship group rather than a sexual union, but that is probably a distraction). Neither text mentions procreation. Even if this is a creation ordinance, it has never been universal in tradition or practice, and it seems very convenient (if not an example of chronological snobbery) that we are only getting it ‘right’ in the developed world in recent history.
            As for the sexual revolution. Well, as I have said before, it’s not new. I cannot remember what proportion of women in 19thC London were prostitutes, something like 1 in 4. I didn’t mention anal sex and have no idea what the HS thinks of it. I will repeat that there is evidence that straight couples engage in it more than gay, and it’s not something which interests lesbians much. I hope the HS is baptising the good fruits of the ‘sexual revolution’, the ebbing of shame and bigotry. The cruelty of mother and baby homes in Ireland were one of the bad fruits of sexual shame and bigotry, and they were evil.

          • Penelope I’m glad you admit that you have biases but you really should do more to address them because some of your claims are ridiculous.

            The married family is a modern novel innovation, even though it’s found in Genesis and the NT? Here’s Aristotle:

            ‘In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves)… Now we should begin by examining everything in its fewest possible elements; and the first and fewest possible parts of a family are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children. We have therefore to consider what each of these three relations is and ought to be: I mean the relation of master and servant, the marriage relation (the conjunction of man and wife has no name of its own), and thirdly, the procreative relation (this also has no proper name).’

            I’m pretty sure Irish mother and baby homes were, in origin at least, a compassionate response to women pregnant without a husband to provide for the family. Of course in a traditional culture there is shame in such circumstances, but they were trying to look after them not just abandon them. Even if the response could have been better, why describe that as evil?

          • Will Ah? This is the Aristotle who believed “as regards the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject” ? And this is ‘modern marriage’ – as found in Genesis? I just asked my personal slave what he thought of this and he just laughed out loud!
            Conservative cultures everywhere have always treated women who get pregnant out of wedlock with special, grim severity. You really need to provide evidence of exceptions to this. Sadly the church has more often profited from trading on the outcome. Evil and sinful and appropriate words here.

          • David your remarks about slavery and Aristotle’s errors about women are irrelevant to the point being made, that the married family is not a modern innovation. Can we stop getting distracted from the points at hand by conservative bashing? You don’t win an argument by changing the subject.

            And if we’re going to play that game – at least conservative cultures don’t massacre unwanted children in the womb or immensely magnify the problem by encouraging irresponsible sexual behaviour.

            (Initially posted in wrong place)

          • Will
            This is very much on the subject. I am making the point that marriage and other patterns of social relating have huge variations through history. The Bible itself makes that clear. So even when arguing for heterosexual marriage I can be reasonably challenged to make clear what particular expression of relationship I intend and on what basis – economically, legally, socially, sexually …. to name but a few variants. It is not ‘one thing’ and never has been. Don’t blame this on revisionists please. This is social history.
            btw I am still not clear if you agree with Aristotle’s view of gender relating and think he is also basically biblical in his understanding? You appear to quote him in support of Matthew and Genesis.

          • David the word errors means what it says. I consider the views of Aristotle you quote to be errors, as I said.

            The quote from Aristotle shows that the creation pattern of the married family (husband, wife, offspring) is not a modern innovation, as Penelope claimed. That’s all. The fact that marriage today differs in other ways from ancient Greece, or that it has varied between cultures more generally is not relevant to this basic point of history which was in dispute.

          • Penelope – on ‘there is evidence that straight couples indulge in it more than gay’ – 2 wrongs don;t make a right. This is true now, but untrue if we add the time dimension. Hence, to a large extent, AIDS and anal/rectal cancer.

            Even now when the stats are supposedly as you say, ST disease is very disproportionately high indeed among the homosexual body.

          • Will Sorry too miss ‘errors’. Careless off me. He was of course wrong about men as well. And he remains, to my mind, a baffling unhelpful person to quote on marriage at all.
            Please explain where I am changing the subject? You are talking about marriage. So am I. Nor did I bash conservatives. I made no mention of them. I asked, in passing, that revisionists be spare a bashing at this point for pointing out that ‘marriage’ has changed and evolved throughout history and across cultures. That can and should be admitted as a matter of fact without requiring anyone to go near supporting equal marriage.

          • Hi David

            I didn’t deny the obvious fact that expressions of marriage have varied across cultures. But this doesn’t change in any way the fact that marriage is a creation pattern of husband, wife and offspring, and that that pattern constitutes the optimal context for the welcoming and nurture of human children – which is precisely why it is almost universally recognised across human cultures. Whatever variety it has and whatever ways it can be improved its essence is its function in relation to human reproduction, namely the optimal context for it. (Reproduction of course being one of the two most basic functions of a biological organism, the other being survival.) This is why it is a creation ordinance and most certainly is not a modern innovation.

          • HI Will
            Hope this posts in the right place.
            Judahite marriage and marriage in late antiquity bears very little resemblance to modern, companionate marriage. It was mostly a property transaction or a tribal affair. To say that it has remained constant in any way is deeply unhistorical. Marriage wasn’t even celebrated in Church until the 9th century. Whatever Genesis is describing – which is never called marriage – it isn’t 21st C marriage in the developed world.
            From the evidence, mother and baby homes seem to have been places where women and their babies were abused and neglected, physically as well as mentally. Children were forcibly separated from their mothers and many seem to have died and been buried in unconsecrated and unmarked graves. That is evil

          • Christopher, not quite sure why your reply posted here. No straight anal sex doesn’t make it right. It does mean that it’s not a uniquely gay male activity. I can’t quite see why it’s ‘wrong’ if it’s consensual.

          • Penelope you’re fixated on trying to deny the irrefutable: that the married family is the optimal context for welcoming human offspring and that’s why, regardless of the diversity in its expression, it has been recognised in almost all human cultures. There is nothing unhistorical about this very basic and incontrovertible fact.

            The allegations of mass abuse are unproven and the claims of cruelty you cite have been discredited. But in any case even if the Irish were peculiarly cruel to their ‘fallen women’ that doesn’t affect the general principles of human reproduction and marriage we are discussing.

          • WIll, I don’t know why you assume that I am denying marriage as the optimal place for nurturing children and as one of the building blocks of society. Where did I say that? That is one of the reasons I believe that extending marriage to same sex couples is a good thing.
            What I did say was that marriage has changed greatly over different centuries and different cultures and that appealing to an unchanging archetype is unhistorical.
            As an aside, perhaps you should listen to the Radio 4 podcast on Tuam if you think the allegations of cruelty and neglect have been disproved.

          • WIll
            Just to add that the Irish homes point was not about marriage per se, but to point out that there are good as well as bad fruits of the so-called sexual revolution.

          • Will

            A standard response to those arguing for widening the patterns of committed human relationships is to appeal to the Genesis 2 creation account.
            So what is it that we think this text lays down as a creation principle for all time?
            1. Gen 2 is an account of the origin of the species. It therefore must be about the union of a man and woman. It could not be otherwise. So much is to be expected.
            2. The story does not mention children or procreation at all. The first human being in the original goodness of life in the image of God, is alone. God declares this ‘not good’. This is not a consequence of sin. The longing and need for loving relationship lies at the good heart of being human.
            3. This is not a need God can fulfil. In the first creation account all is divinely decreed. Here God decrees nothing (except what is ‘not good’). Rather God is present as one who serves, creating creature after creature for Adam in his in the search for a suitable companion. But only Adam, it seems, can recognise who this is. He must choose. ‘A companion, in the sense of companionship which is in view in this text, is somebody you actually want to be with and share your life with. An imposed companion would be no companion at all’ (Gareth Moore).
            4. Eve is created. But what do we learn about this first human relationship? The word marriage is not used of it. There is no mention of children. No legal, religious or social ceremony. No vows. Everything is centred on the needs of the man – including her creation at all. Adam names her as he has named the animals. She never speaks. Her consent and choice is not invited. Her own fulfilment or delight is not considered. There is no obvious mutuality. So beyond the fact that this is a heterosexual couple what makes this a Christian vision of any committed human relationships? Or are we being disobedient to the original teaching in going beyond it?
            5. No other relationships of any kind are found in this creation text. The loneliness of the man leads directly to a joyful intimate companionship with his wo-man. He is not told he needs to value friendship more and to not be so preoccupied with a need for sex as gay folk are often told. But we have not ever assumed from this that friendship and community are somehow unbiblical or second best (though as someone who was single for the first part of my adult life I have not forgotten an emphasis on marriage among some Christians that suggested precisely that at times).

            So those of us exploring a wider understanding of marriage want to say:
            a) this is a creation story that comes deeply embedded in the cultural assumptions of an ancient patriarchal society marked, among other things, by male hierarchy and female subordination. A Christian reading of this story therefore requires critical, theological discernment. We have already been doing this ….
            b) ‘marriage’ here, as an expression of a committed union of a man and a woman, is ‘typical’ and central in creation and it is to be utterly reverenced as that. But what is typical does not need to rule out what is atypical.
            c) there are no grounds here for excluding the possibility of covenanted same-sex relationships (that is unless any relationships at all outside of heterosexual marriage are excluded). Grounds for such an argument need to be sought from elsewhere. But here the question is simply not addressed.

          • Penelope – to accept that marriage is ‘the optimal place for nurturing children’ is to accept that it is a creation pattern. What do you think that means? Natural structures are functionally or formally defined.

            It’s because it is optimal for such an important function that it is so important to protect it and respect it.

            This argument cannot be extended to same sex relationships, which:
            – do not produce new human beings
            – are not the optimal context for nurturing human offspring, leading to human beings being raised in alienation from at least one of their natural parents and from either a mother or father
            – undermine the sanctity of marriage by encouraging individuals and society to engage in sexual relationships outside the married family

            I don’t think you’ve grasped the full metaphysical and practical significance for human beings of the fact that the married family is the optimal context for welcoming and raising human offspring.

            Of course there is also the basic importance of respecting the divine design of the human being and command in regard to sexual relationships. But these metaphysical and practical considerations explain the rationality behind the design and command.

          • David – what is typical does rule out what is atypical if what is atypical is harmful to what is typical, and what is typical provides a crucial moral function. That applies in this case – see my reply to Penelope for the reasoning.

          • Every harmful group activity in the world is ‘consensual’. You cannot seriously still be thinking consent is a good rather than a neutral thing. It all depends what the activity being consented to is. That point was made years ago – you cannot be unaware of it.

          • Will
            ‘what is typical does rule out what is atypical if what is atypical is harmful to what is typical’. And to what is atypical presumably?
            But I don’t accept it is harmful. That is a point of significant disagreement here.
            But I do thing, in passing, that what we are calling typical here is needing to listen and learn about how harmful its responses have been to what is atypical. Ruling out cuts both ways.

          • David – not if what is typical fulfils a crucial moral function that must be protected and honoured.

            The average harms of same sex sex and relationships (and extra marital sex more generally) to individuals, children, marriage and society are very well documented. It isn’t an option to deny them, and pointing to exceptions cannot remove them.

          • Will
            Thanks but you missed my line above:
            I wrote – ‘marriage here, as an expression of a committed union of a man and a woman, is ‘typical’ and central in creation and it is to be utterly reverenced as that.’
            ‘But what is typical does not need to rule out what is atypical.’
            I do not accept that other relationship patterns alongside heterosexual partnerships need to threaten heterosexual marriage. But I do accept we are journeying through very new patterns of social belonging and this is unsettling. Not all of it is wise. Which is why I long for loving Christian wisdom to be in the midst of it and guiding it.

            ‘average harms’ – I have no idea what this means.
            But you surely acknowledge typical heterosexual society and church has caused enormous hurt in a typical communities.
            I find more to admire than despise the stories I hear. And any community emerging out long term violent exclusion and despising as the gay community is, is going to be working through deep hurts and pains. I have no idea what kind of secure relating I would be capable of if I had endured what some of my gay friends have in their lifetime.

          • Will
            Claiming marriage as the optimal place for raising children does not rely on it being a creation ordinance. Why should it?
            And, perhaps, raising is the important word here. Gay couples do raise adoptive children and step children as do straight couples. Families are not always procreative, but they are still families.
            A gay couple with adoptive children or step children or without any responsibility for children cannot undermine my own childless marriage, nor my relationship with my step children and grandchildren.
            There are plenty of reports which show that children do just as well with same-sex as with mixed-sex parents.

          • David – average harm means that harm is done by something to a population in the aggregate rather than in every case.

            Those who engage in same sex sex and relationships have been found (no less in contexts where homosexuality has long been acceptable) to:
            – have many more sexual partners (of both sexes)
            – have many more unwanted pregnancies and abortions
            – have many more STDs
            – have much worse mental health and much greater suicide rate
            – have much less exclusive relationships (for men)
            – have much more violent relationships (for men)

            In addition any children born into or raised by a same sex couple necessarily are alienated from at least one of their natural parents (this is a violation of their natural right) and from either a mother or a father. This is known to be seriously harmful to a child’s well being, as are the dysfunctions listed above with greater prevalence in same sex couples. It is not possible to deny these harms, which have been securely established by research and are not in dispute.

            So the atypical is actively harmful both to the morally crucial function of healthy human reproduction and to many other morally important indices as well. Therefore it is neither morally good nor morally neutral but morally bad and needs to be treated accordingly.

          • Penelope – you’ve shifted position now. We were talking about the married family (husband, wife, offspring) as the optimal context. Now you’ve started talking about something else with other elements.

            To say the married family (original definition) is the optimal context for welcoming and nurturing children is to say that it is a creation pattern (or ordinance) because that’s all we mean by it – it is the form of life provided by God (ie in nature) for this purpose because it is best for it. Otherwise it would be arbitrary.

          • David it’s not about judging the best by the worst it’s about discerning moral rules according to natural forms and their effects.

            First you deny the harms exist, saying that is a crucial point of disagreement. Then you’re presented with evidence and deny they are relevant. But how can it not be relevant that something of no moral value has such harmful effects on things of great moral value? You refuse to draw the necessary moral conclusions because you are blinded by a non-negotiable commitment to permitting same sex sex.

          • Will
            We are both trying very hard here. But I just don’t feel you hear what I am actually saying. You probably feel the same about me. I have noted before this is not always the best forum for the kind for the discussion this needs.

            ‘You refuse to draw the necessary moral conclusions’.
            No. I just don’t agree with you as to what you think those are. That is different.
            Thank for engaging.

          • Will
            I am sorry, I think my reply posted in the wrong place? Or, rather, I posted I in the wrong place. But you have found it!
            When I said that marriage was the optimal place for nurturing children, I didn’t specify that this meant only 1 man with 1 woman (no other partners living) who were raising a child/children who were fruit of their own loins.
            That is not applicable to most ‘biblical’ marriages, nor to many normal, ordinary marriages through the centuries (and some extraordinary ones).

          • But Penelope your comment came in a conversation about the creation pattern of the family where I had said:

            ‘The creation pattern of the family is and always has been man and woman becoming one flesh, producing new human beings as the fruit of that union, and raising them as their joint offspring. So yes it is the same as ever. The pattern is the ideal for human reproduction and flourishing given in nature and set down in scripture, and is not destroyed by being non-universal in practice.’
            And you said:
            ‘I don’t know why you assume that I am denying marriage as the optimal place for nurturing children.’

            So the concept of married family we were working with was clear. But then you started talking about something different.

            Regardless, it is only my definition of married family which is the optimal context for welcoming and nurturing human offspring. Yours definitely is not (not least because any children in it have already had their natural right to be raised by their own parents violated, and also their right to have a mother and a father disregarded) so it is not the same pattern and does not share in its benefits.

            The problem is I was using a term precisely, and had been clear what that was, but you started making statements in relation to another definition, which is another concept, which can only confuse rational discussion.

            So do you dispute that the married family (my definition) is the optimal context for welcoming and nurturing human offspring?

          • Will
            You simply said that marriage was the optimal place for raising a family and I agreed.
            Yes, I do dispute that your definition is wrong because it would exclude all the families like mine which include step children and all the families with adopted and/or foster children. It would exclude second marriages and single parents. And all of these are sometimes the optimal place for bringing up children.

          • No Penelope the definition of the term could not have been clearer and it is most unhelpful for you to make statements relating to other definitions in the middle of a discussion. Is that seriously how they trained you – to start using your own definition in the middle of a discussion? No wonder the fields you work in are so confused if its scholars can’t even stick to the definitions in play.

            The phrase ‘sometimes optimal’ fundamentally misunderstands the nature of statistics. Your refusal to acknowledge that the married family (husband, wife, their own children) is the optimal context for raising children is in defiance of all research and really demonstrates the rational deficit at the heart of your fact-denying position.

          • Will
            Mea culpa. I read your comment about marriage being the optimal context for the raiding of children, but not the one before where you defined marriage as 1M +1F = child/ren. However, as I argued that is not the ‘only’ optimal family pattern for the nurturing of children; it is not even the biblical archetype, since procreation isn’t mentioned until after the Fall.

            I have no ide what you mean by the fields I work in being so confused, unless this is a slur aimed at queer theory.

          • Which mentions marriage, where?
            Cf. Gen, 24-25 which mentions neither marriage, nor procreation, the latter seeming to be an exigency of the Fall.

        • To be clear, James’ quotation from Amos was not cited as a proof text, although I can understand how it might appeal to revisionists here to dismiss it as such.

          It still doesn’t take a genius to scan through this thread and work out that I mentioned it to explain that the Acts 15 analogy to the current Anglican process of reception (which legitimises a development to become part of the Church’s faith and life) does not involve the Church setting aside what David R called ‘appeals to the text’ in order to step “out into something very new and even shocking”.

          Of course, stating that won’t stop the vapid nonsense of some here from turning what they admit to be one example among many others into an unwarranted precedent and meta-narrative for the Church to adopt.

          • David S
            I cannot now remember – and this thread is getting very long – whether it was you or Simon who cited Amos as the scriptural basis for the decision to admit gentiles on a law-free basis at the Jerusalem Council. I argued that the Amos text sees the salvation of the gentiles but not in a new way; rather in the way expected in the Hebrew Bible and aptly described by N.T. Wright; the gentiles would flock in, repentant, at the end times, but certainly not on their own terms. So the text quoted doesn’t quite do what (some) readers want it to do in the context of the council.

            In addition, we have Peter’s vision at Joppa and Paul’ decision at Antioch. It is easy to overlook just how very scandalous these moves were, and how violently they were opposed, probably by the Pillar Apostles, certainly by other Jewish Christians, who followed, and tried to undermine Paul throughout his ministry. Now that the Holy Spirit is trying to do something new (and perhaps shocking) in the Church, it is no surprise that some are opposed to her invitation to not call profane what God has made clean.
            Lastly, could you refrain from framing hermeneutics with which you disagree ‘vapid nonsense’? Thank you.

          • As one sage commenter told me: “David I seek to be very careful with what I am saying here – and invite you please to reciprocate.” The Find box should help.

            I should hope that to calling hermeneutics from one example ‘vapid nonsense’ would not cause any more offence than the delicious and thinly-veneered slight: ‘the interesting analogue is that some in the church are now behaving like the Pillar Apostles.

            If it does, then so be it.

          • David Shepherd There is robust but respectful disagreement and there is simple rudeness. I am grateful for the former. But simply insulting the carefully considered theology of others here is rudeness. We have got as far as we can on this ….

          • Presumably, declaring ‘that some in the church are now behaving like the Pillar Apostles’ or that ‘David Shepherd may want to turn off his stop watch’ are all part of robust and respectful disagreement.

            Happy to end this deeply polarised exchange.

        • David your remarks about slavery and Aristotle’s errors about women are irrelevant to the point being made, that the married family is not a modern innovation. Can we stop getting distracted from the points at hand by conservative bashing? You don’t win an argument by changing the subject.

          And if we’re going to play that game – at least conservative cultures don’t massacre unwanted children in the womb or immensely magnify the problem by encouraging irresponsible sexual behaviour.

        • Penelope – to accept that marriage is ‘the optimal place for nurturing children’ is to accept that it is a creation pattern. What do you think that means? Natural structures are functionally or formally defined.

          It’s because it is optimal for such an important function that it is so important to protect it and respect it.

          This argument cannot be extended to same sex relationships, which:
          – do not produce new human beings
          – are not the optimal context for nurturing human offspring, leading to human beings being raised in alienation from at least one of their natural parents and from either a mother or father
          – undermine the sanctity of marriage by encouraging individuals and society to engage in sexual relationships outside the married family

          I don’t think you’ve grasped the full metaphysical and practical significance for human beings of the fact that the married family is the optimal context for welcoming and raising human offspring.

          Of course there is also the basic importance of respecting the divine design of the human being and command in regard to sexual relationships. But these metaphysical and practical considerations explain the rationality behind the design and command.

          • Penelope, which do you prefer – a society where the optimal/creational pattern is simply assumed, to mutual benefit, or one where it is questioned and abandoned for less optimal (we say ‘worse’) options, plus everyone wastes time chattering about that?

          • Clearly, Christopher, like many scholars, a society where the pattern is questioned.

          • Questioning is always good, but to abandon a model that works in favour of a mix of one that works and several that on average don’t work would be a low-IQ choice.

          • Christopher
            I am not in favour of abandoning the model of marriage. I am in favour of extending it as a healthy and moral pattern of living!

          • No Christopher I want to use the word for one reality. An equal, faithful and stable relationship in which children might be nurtured. Could be mixed sex or same sex.

          • Hi Penelope

            Not all types of equal, stable and faithful relationships are equal in relation to stability and fidelity. They are also certainly not equal in relation to children, not least because of their differences in average stability and fidelity, but also for other reasons such as not providing a father and mother, and depriving children of being raised by their own father and mother.

            The problem here is your insistence on putting unlike forms of relationship together under a category you have invented even though they have quite different profiles on highly relevant indices.

            Children being raised by their own married parents is the pattern God has built into creation as optimal, and thus commanded human beings to honour as sacred. Where this is not possible because of tragic circumstances a close approximation is permissible. But this does not extend to same sex relationships, which as a type fail on multiple indices to be anywhere close to optimal for childrearing.

          • Will
            You have yet to show that 1F + 1M (married) = child/ren is God’s pattern for humanity. I cannot find it in either of the Genesis accounts without some creative reading.
            I haven’t invented marriage – various cultures and religions have done that and it seems to have been a fairly flexible institution.
            Many things deprive a child of being raised by its natural parents, sometimes, of course, to the good.

            Sometimes gay parenting is the optimal choice; sometimes it might simply be a ‘good enough’ choice, like most parenting.

            Of course, some gay partnerships, like some straight partnerships remain childless. That does not make them any less a marriage.

            [apologies for not always picking up your responses; for some reason I only receive email notifications of Christopher’s and Clive’s!]

  29. I just want to share this about our amazing God of surprises.
    After I prayed a few hours ago. I remembered how God blessed me through Vicky Beeching in a surprising way just over four years ago.
    I was new to twitter then, and I was surprised when Vicky Beeching followed me, and I followed her back. I thought she was friendly and articulate – but I did not share her views on SSM. I thought that people who struggled with same-sex attraction were to be pitied rather than condemned, and I also deeply believed that the Ordodox church doctrine on marriage between a man and a woman honoured God’s purpose when he created us male and female.
    I followed Vicky’s blog before she came out, and the hostile comments on both sides of the debate really grieved me. I began to despair about the church and I more or less decided that twitter was not for me .Then I saw one comment on Vicky’s blog page which shone like a bright star and was like a breath of fresh air. The courteous writer of this comment wrote with wisdom and beauty about men, women, marriage and procreation. His words gave me hope, so I decided to follow him on twitter. When I found that he had a private account, I made a follower request. I was delighted when he accepted my request. There was another surprise to come – he told me that he also had an open account on twitter which had the twitter handle ‘zugzwanged’. This was how I came across Alastair Roberts. Soon afterwards, Alastair participated in the twitter Bible Study #luke2acts, and that was my first love on twitter. Had I not been following Vicky’s blog, I would not have come across Alastair, and I would not have come across #luke2acts . I would also not have come across Alastair’s online friends. I would probably not have (just inches away from me as I type this) a copy of the vibrant book ‘Echoes of Exodus’ ,which Alastair and Andrew Wilson co-authored
    Our God of Hope and God of Glory really does work in mysterious and wonderful ways.

    • Christine That’s a lovely story and shows how social media can work to the good and introduce us to lots of interesting places and people!

  30. Parts of this comment thread have now unravelled into what could pass for meeting minutes of the Revisionist Mutual Admiration Society.

    This may be a blessing in disguise by signalling an end to erroneous caricatures here of orthodox reasoning and belief.

    • David S. Splendid, that makes a change from the usual Conservative Mutual Admiration Society. If you want evidence, I’ll have to locate the Find box!

    • David, thanks for the link. Andrew’s response is very revealing. He appears to be saying that a. Vicky’s book is *just * a personal memoir, and forms no part of a campaign to change the church’s teaching; and b. that the theology presented, such as it is, must be beyond criticism.

      I don’t think either of these positions is easily defensible.

      • Hi Ian
        I don’t think he ‘appears to be saying’ any of this. You leave me puzzled. He says quite clearly it is a personal memoir. And it is. He was making a specific response to Andrew A’s description of the book as, for example, ‘highly polished, with one clear line of argument prosecuted from beginning to end – more of an extended essay than a full memoir.’ The book expresses both story and her journey with theology and faith. That is what memoirs do. I don’t think he anywhere suggest her theology must be ‘beyond criticism’. So I don’t think there is anything here he needs to defend.

        • David R,
          I’d suggest that this is a false dichotomy from the review:
          “Christianity has the potential to do one of two things, to make things a whole lot better or a whole lot worse. Christian practice is never, it seems to me, neutral. It either heals or harms, blesses or curses.” (particularly “blesses or curses “) in the light of the whole of scriptural teaching on blessing and cursing. Christ transforms whole of life. in conversion. Otherwise, as I said above we can just be as we are PLUS Value Added Jesus.
          More apt, is the polarity of light and darkness, ofChristian saltiness.
          And how about holiness, which in an earlier reply to me you seemed to make a stange point that Holy Spirit is “er – holy”.

          • Geoff
            er Holiness – I was replying to you!
            You wrote – as if (I felt) this would come as complete news to me –
            “it’s worth remembering that the Spirit, is Holy. Disputable?? Feelings???”
            As I had not disputed the Holiness of the Spirit anywhere I was rather puzzled by all this “????” stuff. And as I had not forgotten this fact either I replied in admittedly ironic tone,
            ??”Geoff, I agree with all this. I even think the Spirit is – er Holy. No dispute – believe it or not!”

            Sorry but I don’t understand the point you make about dichotomy and polarity. I think I followed Andrew’s point and I agreed with it.
            Thanks

          • David R,
            For the sake of clarification
            1 Is the Spirit of our Triune God, Holy?
            2 The addition of the word “er”, in “er -Holy”, seemed to me to cast some doubt.
            3 Or if you do agree that the Spirit of God is Holy, you may be seeking to question the meaning of the Holiness of God.
            4 And connected with that, question what Christian holiness is.
            5 Both question are important and foundational in the questions of sexuality, gender, SSM.
            6 As I’ve not read either book and have not picked up in any of the reviews, did, do, either book discuss the question of the Holiness of
            6.1 God
            6.2 Christian life?
            7 The whole question of holiness may have been covered in another blog post of Ian Paul’s

          • Geoff
            If you read back I have answered your question ‘1’ twice now.
            I don’t propose to answer it again.

  31. As I see it, people are cherry-picking different things and this leads to disagreement. Thank goodness most of us don’t put to death rebellious teenagers anymore or beat our slaves. Most of us accept women in leadership these days despite the writer of Timothy’s appeal to the created order. What I would suggest is more graciousness and acceptance of others who have cherry-picked differently from you.

    • Cherry picking is of the essence of dishonesty. One can prove anything by cherry picking. Your recipe is: go on cherry picking but be more tolerant of others. In other words: Everyone is dishonest, everyone is cherry-picking, and it is not possible that they stop. ???

      How about withdrawing from cherry picking, eschewing the dishonesty implicit in it, and taking the comprehensivist (real-world) approach?

  32. Given that by far the optimum life pattern from several angles is (unsurprisingly) to observe the natural biological pattern man + woman = children, together with limitless rich friendships (with people of both genders of course), then what is all the fuss about?

    We already knew that abstinence is extremely difficult, but it is the sexual revolution that enforces so much abstinence by working against marriage and/or delaying it well beyond endurance. We already had the answer to that one for generations: don’t reject science, but see what nature tells you are the childbearing years and/or the years that combine childbearing ability with sufficient maturity.

    It is also unsurprising that women regularly find other women more attractive than men. What’s new? Why did the phrase ‘the fairer sex’ exist?

    The supposed problems of today had already been addressed and answered over a period of generations. Even in a period when (since Baker Education Act) history-teaching has been curtailed and sometimes also dumbed down, can all generations really have forgotten these long-term answers? The oldest (i.e. the ones who are meant to apologise for being old and less equal than others, and who must surely be leaking wisdom as they age – which will then presumably soon be the fate of those now young) have not forgotten them.

    • And given the limitless rich friendships plus the obvious perils of forming close romantic not-with-a-view-to-marriage attachments, it remains the case that we are only looking to marry one person anyway. That makes things like bisexuality irrelevant. It also makes lesbianism irrelevant, since lesbians have slept on average with more than twice as many men as have straight men, so they are (on average) anything but averse to men. With men, both babies and biological gender complementarity are on the cards, with women neither. As for male homosexuality, the question is always how many thousands of percent the average discrepancy between homosexual and heterosexual men would need to be re promiscuity and re STIs before people started seeing it as something bad. Clearly a thousand-times greater chance per-head of catching HIV/AIDS is not enough – but that only goes to highlight the deficiency and bias of those holding the attitude that such discrepancies are fine. For figures on these and related matters, see my ch.11 in ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’.

      • You don’t seem to understand bisexuality. A bisexual can fall in love with a person of either sex. So, it is hardly irrelevant. If a bisexual woman falls in love with and marries another bisexual woman or a lesbian, they can marry and form a lifelong bond.
        Similarly, as I’ve pointed out before, incidences of STIs are completely irrelevant, since we are debating SSM, not Grindr. And the person most likely to contract AIDs is a young evangelical woman in Africa.

        • Cliche. How does that make the ratio between homosexual and heterosexual males contracting it any less than 1000:1. Referring people to the young evangelical woman in Africa (whom we also feel for just as much) is just a smokescreen for that incredible yet incredibly glossed-over stat.

  33. Christopher
    No. As I said, we are dealing with SSM, not Grindr. The young evangelical girl is not a smokescreen; she is the person most likely to get AIDS and less likely to get advanced treatment which makes the disease undetectable and non transferable. Gay men do not contract HIV/AIDS because they are gay.

    • Well, that thought will be a comfort to them when they contract it at a rate 1000 times greater than normal. Do you not care for them?

      • 2016 828 heterosexual men diagnosed with HIV
        898 heterosexual women diagnosed with HIV
        2398 homosexual men diagnosed with HIV
        How does this correspond to a rate of 1000 times greater?

          • Yes, Christine. 41 too many, which is the number of HIV infections passed from mother to child in 2016.

        • The answer is obvious. Only a small percentage of people are homosexual, so the figure is a ‘per head’ figure. A rate 1000 times greater. This figure will vary slightly of course depending on country and period of time. More details are given in ch11 of ‘What Are They Teaching The Children?’.

          • Normally if a behaviour doubled a risk, that would be a risky behaviour. People now pretend that a behaviour that makes a risk 1000 times higher is OK. So give me a figure – how many times higher does it have to be before it is not OK? 5000? 10000? How was that figure arrived at?

  34. Ian
    I would like to comment on your July 10 post on this thread which I repeat here for ease of reference:

    “Ian Paul
    July 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    Simon (and Will) thanks for highlighting this issue. Ad you can see by the reference in the article to Wes Hill (with whom I am friends) this is a massive fault line in US evangelical thinking about the whole issue of sexuality—but it has an impact on some thinking in the UK. You will find, for example, Lee Gatiss agreeing with Denny Burk on this question. I discussed it online with him, and found myself vociferously disagreeing.
    It is the issue behind ‘conversion therapy’, since, if the desire for what is sinful is sinful, then you can only be a faithful disciple when all such desires are eliminated. Hence its explosive significance.
    What I find odd about the debate is the strange, forensic constructions around ‘desire’. In fact, ‘desire’ can mean all sorts of things. If I see a cream cake, and see how attractive it is (‘and good for food’) is that sinful? If I just *wish* I had the money to buy it, is that sinful? If I start to think of ways to break into the bakers and steal it, is that sinful? If I buy a hammer to smash the window, is that sinful?
    The ‘concupiscence is sin’ argument seems to suggest that every one of those thoughts is sinful–including the very first. That seems to me to make the sinless life both quite unreal, and very dull, being denuded of all admiration of beauty”.
    1 As you know, Article 9 of the 39 Articles ends with ‘And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.’ I take this statement to be identical in meaning to the statement ‘concupiscence is sin’ and this last sentence of the Article includes the doctrine ‘concupiscence is sin’ in official Anglican doctrine (Canons A5 and C15). Do you agree?
    2 You wrote “…if the desire for what is sinful is sinful, then you can only be a faithful disciple when all such desires are eliminated”. I don’t think that is right. Rather, as the ‘Public Discourse’ article says,
    “We Reformed Protestants believe that original sin, actual sin, and indwelling sin all condemn us. We know that for some of us, same-sex desire is Adam’s thumbprint on our lives. We do not believe that baptism removes original sin. Nor do we believe that redemption in Christ makes all effects of our sinful nature disappear. Redemption gives us ransom and Christ’s power and compassion to fight against our sinful nature, but until the final consummation we groan, struggling against indwelling sin and longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2).”
    This is the faithful struggle all Christians are engaged in, whatever is Adam’s thumbprint on our lives (we all have one). I make no comment on whether that thumbprint can ever be removed before the final consummation.
    Phil Almond

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