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What does the Church need to do to approve same-sex marriage?

The Scottish Episcopal Church has been moving in the direction of recognising same-sex marriage as equivalent to traditional marriage from a theological and ethical point of view for some time. At last year’s Synod, it discussed a change to canon law to remove reference to ‘one man and one woman’ in marriage, which it then sent to its seven dioceses and will come back for confirmation this year.

In parallel with this, the Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian rather than Episcopal) is also considering the issue, and as part of that its Theological Forum has published a report An Approach to the Theology of Same-sex Marriage, and for anyone who has been convinced by the church’s traditional teaching on marriage it makes sober reading.

The first section is on the use of Scripture, and rather than explore the scriptural arguments, it offers some reflections on the ways that the two ‘sides’ in the debate draw on Scripture. It identifies two main aspects of the argument ‘for greater inclusion’:

As committed and faithful partnerships between equal persons of the same sex were largely unknown in the ancient world, neither St Paul nor any other biblical writer could have had such partnerships in mind when they condemned same-sex sexual activity.

Another more inclusive argument in favour of same-sex relationships rests on a distinction between the written text of Scripture and the living Word of God, the latter being associated with Jesus Christ who speaks to us in our hearts and consciences.

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What is the pastoral impact of eschatology?

In my new Grove booklet on eschatology, after outlining eschatological expectation in Old and New Testaments, I end my reflecting on the pastoral implications of what we have found.There are many aspects of Christian living which are affected by our understanding of eschatology, and where misunderstanding creates serious obstacles both within the church and at […]

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Why don’t we talk about the end of the world more?

My latest Grove Booklet is now available and it offers an overview of eschatology—beliefs about the end things—starting with background ideas in the Old Testament and looking at the key issues in the Gospels, Paul and Revelation. My introduction explains why this is such an important issue. Eschatology, meaning ‘understanding of last things,’ is of […]

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Resolving tensions in our reading of Scripture

Following my previous observations about Tony Campolo no longer calling himself evangelical, Tony himself responded on Christian Today. Every once in awhile unfair judgments are made. That was the case when Christian Today contributor Ian Paul wrote that I, along with other Red Letter Christians, emphasised the red letters in the New Testament, which in many Bibles highlight […]

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The Wounds of a Leader

I have been at New Wine B this week, and at the early morning meetings Simon Ponsonby (from St Aldate’s, Oxford) has been reflected on verses from 2 Corinthians. This morning we reflected on perhaps some of the most challenging: I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and […]

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Power and the pulpit

Back in June, I wrote about two apparently unconnected topics. The first was around the question of whether preaching should be monologue or dialogue, and how we might make the monologue we were forced into more dialogical. Within that, one of the questions I touched on but did not expand on further was the relation […]

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Inclusivity and discipleship

During Easter Week I enjoyed saying the Easter Anthems in Morning Prayer. This is a set of eight versicles drawn from three passages in Paul; they used to be a weekly option in ASB, but in Common Worship they have been relegated to p 634 and used only seasonally, which is a loss (but that is […]

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Jesus and Paul on ministry and discipleship

During his address to the New Wine Leaders Conference in Harrogate this week, Justin Welby focussed on Paul’s defence of his ministry in 1 Cor 4.1–9 as part of his challenge to embrace the cost of ministry: we should be willing to suffer as Paul did. This was given particular poignancy by reference to the […]

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