Thinking Anglicans

Changing Attitude on the Bishop of Durham

Updated Tuesday

Changing Attitude has published the first of two articles concerning the Bishop of Durham’s comments on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections.

The first article is titled The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 1.

The Bishop of Durham’s paper claiming to ‘unpack’ the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Reflections is dangerous for the Church of England, for LGBT people and for the worldwide Anglican Communion. People in the Changing Attitude network, gay and straight, are furious at his abuse and dishonesty. The paper reveals a bishop with a megalomaniacal drive to impose his own solution unilaterally on the Communion.

Durham would like The Episcopal Church and partnered LGBT people evicted from the Communion right now. His stand is unprincipled. The bishop has partnered lesbian and gay clergy in his own diocese and knows full well that there are many partnered clergy in the Church of England. Instead of addressing what he says is the impossibility of the church recognising same-sex blessings, he diverts attention away from home and focuses his attack on The Episcopal Church…

Update
Part 2 is now published: The dangerous Bishop of Durham – part 2

Arrogance
The Bishop of Durham claims to speak for the House of Bishops and to know the mind of the Archbishop of Canterbury better than the Archbishop knows himself. He takes it upon himself to clarify and expand upon what the Archbishop ‘really meant’.

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choirboyfromhell
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choirboyfromhell

If we just ignore him, will he go away? Couldn’t lightning just strike twice?

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Well, now, this is the sort of thing I was hoping for. May there be much more of it.

Rev L Roberts
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Rev L Roberts

This needed saying.

One of ‘Durham’s’ recent predecessors was himself on public record as being no stranger to gay sex. There’s no harm in that, say I. But as this statement says, there is harm in blatant dishonesty / play-acting and in attacking those least able to defend themselves. That means minorities here and in Africa and the East.

When will the C of E’s own gay bishops speak out — with the backing of some of their more rational colleagues, of course !

If the bishop of Liverpool can change, anyone can !

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Changing Attitude doesn’t make the distinction between ‘is it the case?’ and ‘is it good?’. But that is a distinction a seven-year-old can make. A very unpleasant prosperity-theology song popularised by Donnie McClurkin runs: ‘I’m walking in prosperity, living life the way it’s meant to be. It’s not wrong, dear: I belong here – so you might as well get used to me.’. Mutatis mutandis, this is the same as ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’. (Overlooking the fact that nobody, but nobody, has ever denied the ‘we’re here’ bit.) Complete absence of rational argument. Omnipresence of power-discourse.… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I think Wright is homophobic in the older sense of the word – all pretence at rationality disappears and what you get are views which appear to be influenced largely by a visceral dislike

Thomas
Guest
Thomas

Lesson from MP today: 1 Corinthians 12. What a profound meditation, esp.: vv. 12-26. Mutual support and encouragement and celebration in light of our differing strengths and weaknesses. So heartening to meditate on the body united. Though surely the most difficult thing to pull ourselves together, it is certainly what we should be striving toward. @ +Durham: surely a tidy severance is not the vision to be looking toward.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

Is Bishop Tom Wright becoming the new Nazir-Ali? in his stand for the diminishment of TEC’s place in the Communion based on his relationship with GAFCON and ACNA, or is he presuming to speak for the ABC and the ACC? One would like to know this bishop’s real agenda. Is it to rid the Communion of the prophetic element of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada in their espousal of the Gospel imperative for the inclusion of All People? Or is it because he feels the Church is getting its corporate feet dirty by wading into the area of… Read more »

sw
Guest
sw

Christopher Shell says “(Overlooking the fact that nobody, but nobody, has ever denied the ‘we’re here’ bit.)” This is just plain wrong. Many of our brothers and sisters in Africa have asserted that homosexuality doesn’t exist in Africa – and if it does, it is an infection from the west. Perhaps Mr. Shell will remember that people started chanting “we’re here…” when people started dying of AIDS – people everyone assumed to be not gay. Being in the closet is effectively not being here, not being seen. It is a sick and inhumane (abominable in the proper sense) way to… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Mutatis mutandis, this is the same as ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’. (Overlooking the fact that nobody, but nobody, has ever denied the ‘we’re here’ bit.) Complete absence of rational argument. Omnipresence of power-discourse. Possession is nine tenths of the law.” I think you will find, over the course of history, the power structure has often denied the existence of those it finds uncomfortable. In this particular case, in many parts of the world, they still do. I refer you to Bishops Akinola and Orombi’s statements regarding homosexuality in Africa or Mahmoud Ahmedinijad’s assertion that there are… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“Mutatis mutandis, this is the same as ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’. (Overlooking the fact that nobody, but nobody, has ever denied the ‘we’re here’ bit.) Complete absence of rational argument. Omnipresence of power-discourse. Possession is nine tenths of the law.” I think you will find, over the course of history, the power structure has often denied the existence of those it finds uncomfortable. In this particular case, in many parts of the world, they still do. I refer you to Bishops Akinola and Orombi’s statements regarding homosexuality in Africa or Mahmoud Ahmedinijad’s assertion that there are… Read more »

toby forward
Guest

Christopher Shell, I don’t know what marks Tom Wright was awarded in his degree, but I do know there is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. Bishops should be notable for wisdom.

Fr Mark
Guest

Christopher: there is the persistent suggestion behind many of your posts, such as that above, that Tom W = intellectual = rigorous = conservative = right; whereas gay-friendly = liberal = intellectually feeble/ untheological = wrong. People who are highly intelligent can often have amazing lacunae – I remember, for example, being shocked that one don of my acquaintance who was a world leader in his field had such poor French that he couldn’t read a wine label without everyone else present writhing in embarrassment. I think Tom Wright (and some others who adopt his views?) my be highly intelligent… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Sorry sw (and by proxy, Mr. S), I cannot go so far as you in presuming Mr. S to be loving. Convicted, committed to his closed, final conservative views he ever so strictly seems to be. Loving? Well, ah … not so much. Unloving? Well, when you so persistently presume the worst about queer folks, so that they are expected to live down to the worst of your patent expectations or beliefs, is that loving? Some think not. Some queer folks and allies think, not. Unloving? Well when you stand ready to use institutional force in church life, to ignore… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

Christopher Shell is not only plain wrong, as sw comments, but dangerous in his assertion that nobody, but nobody has ever denied the ‘we’re here’ bit. Davis Mac-Iyalla has just sent me an email from a Nigerian with whom he has been in conversation. In his latest email, Ijendu Iheaka writes: “I think I have cause now to confirm my fears that no real living Nigerian is a gay or lesbian or want to be associated with such filthy acts of madness. I am satisfied from my conversation with this entity called Mac-Iyalla to rightly assume that the MAC-IYALLA that… Read more »

Viriato da Silva
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Viriato da Silva

I’m glad to see that sw beat me to it, and reminded Dr. Shell that, in fact, “[m]any of our brothers and sisters in Africa have asserted that homosexuality doesn’t exist in Africa – and if it does, it is an infection from the west.” I would add only that this observation is not limited in the “Global South” to (some) African nations alone, but includes some other countries as well. In this “gay denial,” as in other things, these Global South brothers (and they seem more often indeed to be brothers almost entirely, and not so much sisters) seem… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Durham is emotionally stuck. Two glue downs come to mind. One glue is about queer folks. The other glue is Durham – as a man, particularly. One stuck foot? The loud, closed conservative emotional Beef. Queer folks are allegedly motivated by careless, unthinking, cheap thrills lust. A scale, a cheap thrills depth, not equally a Big Beef about straight folks being straight. Is the cheap thrills lust that straight folks exhibit a holy sign that they must stop being straight folks? Maybe, queer folks can be queer folks while finding ways to follow guidelines we publish and preach for transforming… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Merseymike wrote: “I think Wright is homophobic in the older sense of the word – all pretence at rationality disappears and what you get are views which appear to be influenced largely by a visceral dislike.” This is from an oped article in the New York Times of May 27 2009 by Mike Kristof. Since someone emailed it to me, I assume the whole thing is available online. Here are two paragraphs that are very much to the point. A study reveals that: “Likewise, conservatives are more likely than liberals to sense contamination or perceive disgust. People who would be… Read more »

peterpi
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peterpi

Regarding Mr. Shell’s assumption that everyone knows we’re here, I echo sw, and add that one need not even go to Africa to find people who believe GLBT people don’t exist. I’m a political activist in Denver, Colorado (USA). I have often spent time at the state legislature. In the 1990s, I encountered many rural legislators who absolutely insisted there were no “homosexuals” in their districts, and therefore felt free to vote with impunity against AIDS funding, civil rights legislation and the like. So, yes, “We’re here!” is a statement that has to be made. Regarding the lovely Bishop of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Wright is not always right (who is?), but he is a clever guy and his examiners at university reckoned his special strength was philosophy” – Christopher Shell – My response to Christopher from Holy Writ: “Let no-one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written: *He catches the wise in their craftiness* and again, *The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile*, so let no one boast… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“And ain’t I a Christian?”

Absolutely right. I wih every glbt person in the Communion would send an email to the ABC saying exactly this.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Wright and his fanboys aren’t “rigorous” – they obfuscate, weave words in and out, present spurious “statistics,” use entirely subjective analysis, and arrive at exactly the conclusion they *wanted* to arrive at. The use of such mental gymnastics is sophistry, purely and simply, and a way to make an otherwise bigoted and unintelligent person appear clever.

At least one here seems very upset that that little trick has been seen right through.

Göran Koch-Swahne
Guest

Christopher Shell wrote: ” doesn’t make the distinction between ‘is it the case?’ and ‘is it good?’. But that is a distinction a seven-year-old can make.” A seven-year-old… It is also a “distinction” which is a trap. A Platonist trap… To make this “distinction” is almost automatically to v a l u e – and to value hierarchically is to d e – v a l u e. All your Errors come from that – your misunderstanding of “we’re here, we’re queer…” first, but no least. Bishop Wright may not always be right, that’s true – but “clever”… Not a… Read more »

RosemaryHannah
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RosemaryHannah

Shell’s arguments are however easily and calmly answered. To be sure LGBT people have a better argument that ‘we are here’. That argument is that their partnerships, like those of straight people, have the potential to be a source of healing, help and growth for those in them. I say ‘potential’ because any relationship at all can be a source of harm as well as healing.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

The conservative evangelicals do not like Durham because he rejects justification by faith alone and the liberals don’t like him! He must be pretty lonely in his Castle up in Bishop Auckland.

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“He must be pretty lonely in his Castle up in Bishop Auckland.” – Robert I Williams –

From what I’ve heard, Robert, he’s hardly there. Perhaps the Castle should be sold and the proceeds given to the poor of his diocese.

john
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john

I think Tom Wright is homophobic in all senses of the word. I think – as I have said before – he lacks all compassion. Pace C Shell, I don’t think he is a very good academic. I write as a professor in a different but related discipline. Two specific examples. First, some years ago, at a Durham NT seminar, when he was giving a critique of J D Crossan, I asked him: ‘what’s wrong with the Cynic model of Jesus?’ He replied: ‘they’re never been able to provide any good parallels for the kingship’. As a world expert in… Read more »

Christopher Shell
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Christopher Shell

A lot of commenters (Colin C, sw, peterpi, Viriato) aren’t making the distinction between ‘do self-identified gay people exist?’ and ‘is there a category of people constituted gay as opposed to becoming so by circumstance, environment, or choice?’. I was right to say that no-one denies the first point; the people you mentioned are denying the second point, not the first. Hi John- Tom Wright rates as vastly cited if one takes, for example, the indexes of the most detailed (and indeed the least detailed) 20 books on any one of the historical Jesus, on Paul, on justification, on eschatology,… Read more »

john
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john

‘Bauckham generally works on areas that don’t overlap with Wright; Dunn generally does overlap and (being a comprehensive sort of writer) cites him often.’ Bauckham’s ‘Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses’???? Dunn doesn’t cite Wright often – try Dunn’s ‘Jesus Remembered’ (in effect, Dunn’s ‘historical Jesus’ book, dressed up) – and the citations are generally negative. I live in the Durham diocese. Do you? I listen to what people say – including people who – one might think – would be Wright’s natural allies. People generally aren’t fools. They recognise crass egoism when they see it. Typical quote from (rather Evangelical) 90-year-old… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“…wisdom/learning (which the OT and Paul are, happily, full of) are an inadequate basis in the absence of Christ.” – Chriostopher Shell – Precisely the point I was trying to make, Mr Shell The patent ‘absence of Christ’ from the bishop of Durham’s attitude to the LGBT community is just as inadequate. Francis of Assisi, the simple friar had more compassion in his little toe than Bp. Tom Wright has in his whole body. Cold intellect just cannot match up to the virtue of true compassion. “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth for revealing these things… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“A lot of commenters (Colin C, sw, peterpi, Viriato) aren’t making the distinction between ‘do self-identified gay people exist?’ and ‘is there a category of people constituted gay as opposed to becoming so by circumstance, environment, or choice?’. I was right to say that no-one denies the first point; the people you mentioned are denying the second point, not the first.” Choice? Choice? Tell me, Christopher, when did you choose to be straight? Because I can tell you, I don’t recall ever making that choice myself. And, especially for those gays over the age of 40, why in the world… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“A lot of commenters (Colin C, sw, peterpi, Viriato) aren’t making the distinction between ‘do self-identified gay people exist?’ and ‘is there a category of people constituted gay as opposed to becoming so by circumstance, environment, or choice?’. I was right to say that no-one denies the first point; the people you mentioned are denying the second point, not the first.” Choice? Choice? Tell me, Christopher, when did you choose to be straight? Because I can tell you, I don’t recall ever making that choice myself. And, especially for those gays over the age of 40, why in the world… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I thought +Wright had already said he would step down at 65 and since he is now in his early 60’s he is unlikely to be going anywhere else until then ( after that who knows..a chair abroad?)I suspect, like a couple of others he was surprised to be past over for York.The Bench is changing quite a bit at the moment..with several more retirements to come.Its quite possible Rowan’s successor isnt consecrated yet or might possibly be a suffragan.Who are the up and coming suffragans? The real problem is what sort of Anglican Communion will there be in 10yrs… Read more »

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi John- Of course, I only mentioned Bauckham and Dunn because they were hand-selected by you; the relevant point is not whether two hand-selected scholars cite Wright positively (since that depends entirely on which two one picks) but whether scholars in general do. Bauckham’s book is on a specialist subject (authorship and eyewitness) – not one that Wright has often dealt with in detail at all. Re Dunn I had only ‘Beginning from Jerusalem’ to hand (a repsectable number of references), but will check out Theology of Paul. But you are dealing with only 1% of NT scholarship here. Verbosity… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“A lot of commenters (Colin C, sw, peterpi, Viriato) aren’t making the distinction between ‘do self-identified gay people exist?’ and ‘is there a category of people constituted gay as opposed to becoming so by circumstance, environment, or choice?’.” Well, you see, Christopher, you have been posting here long enough that you know that last statement is just silly, and you know how it makes you look. That you can use the word “choice” shows clearly how difficult it is for you to accept some simple facts about gay people. Christian compassion demands we wonder why you are so adamant in… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Christopher,

The point of the joke – obviously! – is that Wright was thought to be a rotten chaplain. And that was the way it was understood by the guy who told me about it – an alumnus of Worcester, whose Christianity – incidentally – is extremely orthodox, far, far more than mine.

Fr Mark
Guest

Christopher: “Give the guy a break”

I think we’re all hoping the guy might give us a break, actually!

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

A person is not homophobic if they disagree with homosexual practice…for mnay homosexually orientated persons disagree with it. Just as a person is not racist if they have concerns about immigration. Come on lets have balance on this….Durham is a gentle man in te true sense of the word.. he has sincere convictions.however he accepts divorce and womens ordination, and one wonders how he can think St Paul got it wrong on these and not on gays.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- 2 questions: (1) If I say ‘circumstance, environment or choice’, then why are you treating the word ‘or’ as though it means ‘and’? ‘Or’ implies (not ntecesarily correctly, of course) that there could be occasions where choice is not a factor but environemtn and/or circumstance is. (2) How does one steer between the Scylla of choice and the Charybdis of being no more than an animal or robot? I have quoted numerous criteria for distinguishing between the genetic and environmental elements, all of which put the environmental element heavily predominant: (1) identical twins; (2) urban/rural; (3) college/non-college; (4)… Read more »

john
Guest
john

Why isn’t the evidence of Jesus himself recognised as decisive on the gay question? Qua fully human, he must have encountered homosexuality in the countryside and villages of Galilee, in the large crowds he attracted, and in the ‘chorai’ of cities like Gadara (and in Jerusalem, if he didn’t go there just once as an adult). ‘Must have’, because it’s everywhere and always has been. Qua fully God, he knew about it, because it’s everywhere. Never a word of condemnation of it. The people he criticises most often and most strongly are religious hypocrites. Funny, that. Makes you think.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

Hi Ford- ‘Utterly unacademic’ (not to mention ‘fundamentalist’ and all the usual cliches) surely applies more to someone who calls highly contested matters ‘simple facts’. It reminds me of the magazine-title ‘The Plain Truth’. It is certainly the case that anyone of prominence will have their detractors. Margaret Thatcher and Geoff Boycott (and I’m not saying I’m a fan of either) regularly topped both ‘most popular’ and ‘least popular’ polls simultaneously. Adherents of one view were dishonestly amazed that the opposing view was so popular. But it was. It is also always the case that the detractors will be right… Read more »

Blair
Guest
Blair

Christopher, can I just ask you why you put such weight on the genetic / environmental distinction? Seems to me it’s something of a red herring. Cystic fibrosis is (I hope I’m right in saying…) a condition caused solely by genetics. It does not follow from that, that it’s a good thing in itself. On the other hand height (so I read in ‘Scientific American Mind’) is partly influenced by environmental factors – but that doesn’t mean that being tall or short is pathological. If that’s valid, then even if homosexuality were solely genetic (for argument’s sake – I accept… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“(3) One cannot term oneself ‘a homosexual’ by identity if the cause is environmental/circumstantial. It would then fall more into the category of associations/interests/favoured activities that have developed over the course of one’s life.” Huh? A term myself a “native New Yorker”. I was born in New York…it is an immutable fact of my life. But it is a result of purely environmental/circumstantial factors…my mother happened to be living in New York when I was born. Had she lived just ten miles to the west, I would be a native New Jerseyan. Just because something is a result of environment… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“(3) One cannot term oneself ‘a homosexual’ by identity if the cause is environmental/circumstantial. It would then fall more into the category of associations/interests/favoured activities that have developed over the course of one’s life.” Huh? A term myself a “native New Yorker”. I was born in New York…it is an immutable fact of my life. But it is a result of purely environmental/circumstantial factors…my mother happened to be living in New York when I was born. Had she lived just ten miles to the west, I would be a native New Jerseyan. Just because something is a result of environment… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Blair:

As I understand Christopher’s argument, if homosexuality is primarily caused by environmental factors, as opposed to genetic ones, then it is not a genuinely natural condition, and hence can be changed.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Blair:

As I understand Christopher’s argument, if homosexuality is primarily caused by environmental factors, as opposed to genetic ones, then it is not a genuinely natural condition, and hence can be changed.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

Christopher, I see no benefit in engaging you on the actual facts of homosexuality. You have ignored the personal statements of gay people here for the past three years. You, an expert in a particular academic field with, I assume, no formal training in psychology or sexual behaviour, are at odds with the experts in that field. You cite references to discredited work and refuse to accept the reasons why the work was discredited. You have yet to explain why it is that you, a “truth seeker”, find it so easy to be at odds with the experts in a… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“Truth lies in giving a comprehensive, balanced treatment.” – Christopher Shell – Then when, Christopher, (Christ-bearer), for God’s sake are we going to get this proposed *comprehensive, balanced treatment* from you in your blogging on this site? Your scholarly input might be all very well in the lecture halls of some institute of esoteric learning, but frankly I find it often too dense (in the more flattering sense) and generally combative and reactionary, to be either uplifiting or helpful – certainly in the theological arena. I’m not sure what YOUR own particular scholastic field of study is, but I’m wondering… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

The answer to John’s question of why did Jesus not comment on homosexuality.

He did and does , through his living Church.. he that hears you, hears me.

Go ye therefore into the whole world , baptizing and teaching in my name, AND LO I AM WITH YOU EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE AGE.

That is why when St Paul speaks on the subject , it is the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

What things are immutable/unchangeable?- (1) One’s genes; (2) One’s past history. What things are changeable, despite appearances?- (1) One’s taste in music or food. This is possible to change; for example, babies react very positively to Mozart, Haydn and Vivaldi in the womb, the very things that repulse them most when they become hoodies and hear them in the shopping centre as part of the hoodie-dispersal tactic. One can (I know: I’ve tried it) get used to white bread or ‘juice drinks’ and then educate one’s habits into the consumption of brown bread and pure juice, and than end up… Read more »

john
Guest
john

RIW,

(1) Obviously, Jesus trumps Paul every time. The minimal inference from the claim I made (which is correct) is that Jesus didn’t give a hoot about the issue – that it just wasn’t an issue.

(2) I’m glad you support the implications of ‘I am with you till the end of time’. But you don’t seem to see that they too undermine appeal to Paul as the ultimate authority.

Christopher,

Pity you couldn’t be bothered to reply to my argument.