Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 7 May 2016

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons Religion News Service Fifty proven ways to revive mainline churches [and six common pitfalls to avoid]

Kelvin Holdsworth The Seven Actual Marks of Mission

Theo Hobson The Spectator The BBC should commission a Christian version of Woman’s Hour

Ian Paul Should we ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner’?
[in response to the article by Simon Butler linked to here last week]

David Ison ViaMedia Right or True – Discerning the Difference

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Susannah Clark
Guest

Kevin’s comment about the huge attraction of a good music ministry seems so right to me. I am essentially Carmelite and contemplative in my spirituality, so obviously it’s not like I need music and noise in every church I go to. However, I also have feelings and emotions that long to connect with my God in heartfelt ways, and I think that holds true for so many people. We carry all kinds of burdens and emotions – many of which we don’t even know are there – and the amazing thing about music is that it can bypass the controlling… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

With reference to Ian Paul’s “hate the sin” article, if the Bible is fallible (one example: Noah’s Ark carried all the animal species in the world; another example: man-man sex is wrong) and to be read and understood in the context of its authors, rather than being imposed on people as an infallible document… …then there can be a real problem with claiming to “love the sinner but hating the sin”. Because, at that point, what the person is doing is only loving *part* of who a person is. However, sexual orientation is integral to who a person is, and… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Re: “love the sin, hate the sinner.” There simply is nothing sinful about committed gay relationships, especially when entered into covenant, as allowed by some churches. The Bible doesn’t actually say so, depending on which translation or scholar one is referring to. Whether or not Jesus “hated sin,” is pretty irrelevant in the public realm. He certainly took issue with those who used judgement against others on the basis of “sin,” perceived or real. Ian points this out really well, actually, but then goes off on different conclusion. I find the phrase questionable in theology. It’s lacking in love, as… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” One perspective on the history of the Church has been its journey into truth promised us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14-16), a journey which is not yet finished. Truth is not at root a set of propositions, but a Person; not found alone, but through encounter in time and space; not a closed system, but the living way along which we walk into a mystery.” – Dean of St. Pauls – And it is, surely, this journey ‘into all the truth’ that is dismissed by those who think in terms of ‘Sola Scriptura’ –… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Kelvin, as we say in North America, that’s a home run!

Thank you for writing it!

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

The problem is, surely, with calling homosexuality sinful, rather than with the concept of hating sin but loving sinners.

Would anyone here have a problem with hating murder, rape, and other actions universally regarded as wrong? I don’t. What I find unjustifiable is lumping loving relationships in with harmful, life-destroying acts.

Right now, the phrase is inextricably bound up with sexuality. Maybe it can be cut loose, but if so, it’s gotta be used in other contexts, and by people who unequivocal affirm gay relationships.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Ian Paul’s response to Simon Butler’s excellent article is just not good enough.

My response to Ian Paul is to quote Dane Julian on the phenomenon of Sin and the Love of God”

“Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well. All manner of things shall be well!” This indicates God’s response to the reality!

David Runcorn
Guest

Suzannah ‘if the Bible is fallible (one example: Noah’s Ark carried all the animal species in the world).’ The fallibility of the Bible is something you regularly assert. But Noah’s Ark as an example of this? You have got me very curious.

Pam
Guest
Pam

Kelvin Holdsworth lists The Seven Actual Marks of Mission and already I’ve forgotten some of them. I do remember no. 3 – something to do with a sense of humour. So important on so many occasions in church. And no. 7 – ethos, ethos, ethos. Sounds a bit like Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi. But seriously, the characteristic spirit of a community should attract all and welcome all.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

David, it never happened, so yeah!

Susannah Clark
Guest

David, the Noah narrative is a superb myth and archetype – it is truly profound – but along with the whole creation narrative and plenty of other narrative ‘events’ in the Pentateuch it is wholly improbable (not to mention it is scientifically illiterate at a systemic level on several fronts). It just didn’t happen. It was wrong and incorrect if taken as fact for all time. Instead it needs to be read in its own context, as a product of its own community (who, ironically, probably took it mostly as campfire myth and dreaming themselves, rather than the factuality of… Read more »

Tom Downs
Guest
Tom Downs

David Runcorn, picture gathering two of every living thing, even the littlest living things that creep upon the earth (insects, bacteria,etc.). Now picture a ship that can contain them all. Wont fit. In fact we can’t even count them all. New ones are coming up all the time. The ark is a metaphor, not a model boat with two wooden lions, two wooden oxen, etc. Yet we have folks in Kentucky who think the story is literally true and they’re building a ark to prove it’s possible.

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

Before we hate the sin, perhaps a better understanding of what sin is, would lead us in a more productive direction. Sin is destructive. On one level, something that demonstrably hurts my neighbor – theft, assault, lying, unfaithfulness – could be characterized as sin. Or (and?) we might characterize sin as something that separates us from God. Committed, loving same-sex relationships are the opposite of these things: they harm no one, sometimes even inspire others by the richness of the relationship; and as I have personally witnessed, they can bring us closer to God through joy, gratitude, and through living… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Re: “love the sin, hate the sinner.”

Thank you to Cynthia and James Byron for their comments.

I find the phrase insufferably sanctimonious. Condescending as all get out: “I think you filthy homosexuals engage in deviant atrocious behavior, …
But I love you anyway! Ain’t I grand?”

It’s never used for any other group of people. And, people with that attitude invariably target GLBT people.

Father David
Guest
Father David

“Ethos, Ethos, Ethos” reminds me of nothing more than Mr. Blair’s “Education, Education, Education” mantra. What a mess our politicians have made of that over the years. The latest Minister to be in charge of that Department – Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for U Turns in Education, continues the long tradition of political meddling. Isn’t it about time that “here today, gone tomorrow” politicians (to quote Sir Robin Day) were simply to “butt out” – stop interfering and not only let “Kids Be Kids” (I think that’s a trendy new way of describing what used to be called “Children”)… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

peterp ‘It’s never used for any other group of people’. Actually it is. It has been around as a pastoral phrase in some parts of the church for a very long time. But I agree that its inadequacy as a pastoral slogan is totally exposed by the present context of same-sex relationships and the church.

David Runcorn
Guest

Susannah and others. Thank you. Yes Susannah it is all about the original context and also what kind of literature is being used – and for that reason I am more cautious about the language of ‘fallible’ or ‘wrong’ to describe it. Tom. Greetings. Relax – I do not take Noah’s Ark literally. If some do in Kentucky fine – but they have not yet joined in TA threads to my knowledge. James. I think to simply say ‘it did not happen’ is to approach the text in the same way that literalists do – and so to make the… Read more »

Trans woman
Guest
Trans woman

On TA which is generally supportive of LGBTI people and issues, I am surprised Kevin Holdsworth’s emphasis on singing hasn’t been criticised. For women who were forced to go through a male puberty, congregational singing in a service is a nightmare. Many, particularly those who transition young, can walk into church and nobody will know their history. That’s important given the prevailing prejudice still, and vital if one day they wish to marry in church. But perhaps no more than 1 in 50 can maintain that if they have to sing. And in too many churches singing is parts of… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

I think the biggest problem w/ “Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin” is the “the”: it suggests a link of specific “sinners” to specific “sins” [“I hate Joe the Banker’s Greed. I hate Fat Franny’s gluttony.” (to leave the “same-sex = sin” argument aside)]

I’m fine w/ (per Jesus) hating Evil, but the problem w/ “hating sin”, becomes this tendency to link sin w/ sinners (and strangely, these “sins I hate” NEVER turn out to be my own!)

Hate Evil, but LOVE EVERYONE. (Hating “sins” only to be done w/ a mirror!)

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David Runcorn, looked at it from a literal point of view, none of us can ever be sure that our understanding of God is correct. But we’re not approaching this as a scientific question. We’re approaching all of Scripture with our minds, our hearts and our souls, seeking a closer relationship with God. And in that context, I believe it is possible to discern, not what is right or wrong for any individual, but what is allowed and can be encouraged in principle. I would also strongly caution against our often voiced fear that we might get it wrong after… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

In my youth I was much taken with Gnosticism and personal gnosis. I have come to realise that I was trying to form God in my own image rather than accept I am made in His. I increasingly trust the Bible as a gift from God, given in infinite good faith. Fallibility is hard to reconcile with such a gift. Do I think God would try to mislead me? No. As others have said, the issue for same sex relationships isn’t about the meme of hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner. It is that some Christians think all gay sex is a sin. Others say… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Re: Noah and his ark. The Bible needs to be understood in its context, in its time. How the Universe (if such a concept existed back then) was conceived by the Biblical authors is wildly different from how we conceive it today. From chapter 1 of Genesis, the Biblical Universe can be seen as a flat Earth floating on water, with a hemispherical dome (the firmament in some translations) separating the watery heavens* from the Earth. Think of an inverse water globe with the water on the outside, radiating outward in all directions. In such a Universe, it would be… Read more »

rjb
Guest
rjb

Hmmm. Maybe we all need to be a lot more careful about the sort of language we use. Like others here, I find the phrase “hate the sin but love the sinner” trite and insufferably sanctimonious, but I cannot seriously question the theology behind it. Adopting an existentialist anthropology as Simon Butler seems to want to do would be disastrous. It is also a much more challenging imperative than it sounds when it comes from the mouths of many Christians: to put it bluntly, we often seem to be much better at hating sin than we are at loving sinners.… Read more »

Anne Lee
Guest
Anne Lee

As a heterosexual woman who is totally committed to an inclusive church (inclusive of the fat and thin, the dark and blond, the Asian, African, European, etc. etc. etc. as well as all of us wherever we are on the spectrum of sexuality) the only definition of sin that I know is that it is a falling short of the glory of God. And we all do that. How dare we ever accuse other people of sinning? I can accuse myself, but not other people. In particular, how can we ever say that a committed faithful loving relationship can ever… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Replying to the person who said she found singing in church a problem, first of all: it is really valuable to share first-hand experiences of what transition actually feels like, being on the receiving end of a Church that has significant concerns and sadly some considerable antipathy to people who are trans, gay, lesbian, bi- or various kinds of non-binary or gender non-conforming. For groups of people who are too often erased or marginalised, actually hearing their own voices is incredibly instructional, and trans presence on Thinking Anglicans is really valuable for that reason, specially as it is a site… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

Hate the sin and love the sinner is a lie. Only God is perfect enough to separate the two, no human is, and it is the height of arrogance to claim that it is possible for any human, especially humans who arrogate that ability only to themselves and their mindset.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I think there’s a simple solution to the singing problem for the transgendered.

My elder son is a terrible singer. In the words of the old saying, he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Therefore, he either sings very softly in church, or mouths the words. If anyone is rude enough to notice, he simply explains his lack of musical ability.

I see no reason why a transgendered person could not do the same.

David Runcorn
Guest

No I don’t like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ either …. but what kind of relationship it is that is not concerned enough for another’s welfare to warn, or challenge when we sense the need. Not to do so is not loving. That is not the same as presuming to ‘play God’ in the lives of others, some kind of policing or an arrogant claim to personal perfection. The NT church had clearly thought this through. An example would be the gentle guidelines offered in Gal 6.1 – ‘if anyone is overtaken by a transgression, you who have received… Read more »

Geoff M.
Guest
Geoff M.

David Runcorn wrote: “It has been around as a pastoral phrase in some parts of the church for a very long time.”

I don’t think (not to speak for peterpi) anyone is actually suggesting it’s literally never used in any other context, but it’s become a well understood dog-whistle.

Christina Beardsley
Guest

Like Susannah I am glad to see Trans woman contributing to this site. In response to her concern about the possibility of singing in church outing people post-transition, I’m aware that there seem to be many more cis gender women singing tenor these days, as well as cis gender men who chose to sing soprano (there have always been plenty of cis gender male altos). I didn’t realise I could sing in a high register until I transitioned. The human voice is fairly malleable and there could be a lot of potential (and fun) in creating opportunities for trans women… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

My take on Kelvin and the singing issue is that he seems to be promoting inclusion but not delivering inclusion for trans people. Other churches promote inclusion but not same sex marriage: how can a married same sex couple worship together if a church doesn’t recognise their marriage? The music issue isn’t just relevant to gender reassignment. My local cinema offers autism friendly movie screenings. Among other things, I think they avoid a lot of music. Have you ever seen a church advertise regular autism friendly services? Some possibly are autism friendly but they aren’t advertised as such and tend… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Jesus is the real authority, as far as I am concerned, and he allows (and instructs) us to hate our own sins to the extent of excision or amputation. At the same time he is equally clear about not judging the sins of others. So yes, hate the sin that resides in your own heart, and love the sinner — that is, yourself — in order to love your neighbors, knowing them to be no worse sinners than yourself.

The sanctimonious sentiment in “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a false gospel.

Fr DavidH
Guest
Fr DavidH

“Perhaps it is safest to say that while Scripture itself is always infallible, its human readers are fallible indeed” – rjb

I am surprised there is even a discussion about the preposterous concept of scriptural infallibility on this site. Surely no ‘thinking’ anglican can entertain the idea? Rjb (above) refers to “human readers”. As opposed to what? Cats? Hippos? The concept of infallible scriptures has caused untold misery by those convinced of their own certainty against those of whom they disapprove.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Kate, if believing the Bible to be fallible is an “extreme view,” there’s a heckuva lot of extremists out there!

Is believing any text to be fallible an “extreme view,” or is the Bible alone among texts?

Henry Dee
Guest
Henry Dee

I’m getting a bit lost with this thread as I’ve no idea what a cis is – I don’t like nonsensical titles anyway – too much like these PR buzz words that grate on the ear. I also couldn’t care less who comes through the church door on a Sunday morning because our numbers are falling so much that new blood is readily welcomed; they put more brass on the plate, and more people to help. Treat a person as you would like to be treated yourself was what my mum used to tell me, and if they are a… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

FrDavidH I think you have missed the fact that the discussion here has been about the idea of scriptural fallibility.

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

I found myself sitting next to the Abp of C in mufti at Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral a year or so ago. When the precentor said at the end “We sing hymn no xxx”he said ” Not me!”…He doesn’t sing much at all….nor Pope Francis…..so nothing much to worry about.

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

@Henry Dee

Google has this handy definition. It was the work of a moment to find it: “Cisgendered – denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender.”

If Christina Beardsley wants to take up your crticism of her use of the word, I’ll leave it to her to do so.

Kate
Guest
Kate

James, you are misquoting out of context. I identified a range between two points. Inguistically those two points are the extremities of that range.

Susannah Clark
Guest

The reason fallibility matters to me includes the problems that arise when groups of Christians claim the Bible is infallible. If you look at the visceral condemnation of lesbian and gay sexuality in many Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the justification for that condemnation is so often “biblical authority”. Go visit the GAFCON site. Although we can be nuanced about the nature of texts, lesbian and gay people face marginalisation because so many Christians take the bible texts in such an infallible sense: “The Bible is the Word of God and is always right.” Biblical infallibility is a very real… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

We should be cautious when discussing Biblical “infallibility” because the term means different things to different people. It is, for instance, different to the concept of inerrancy. However, over the past several months we have seen the problems which occur when the Bible is assumed to be incomplete or fallible. GAFCON have been basing their position on “traditional teaching” and resolutions made by the Lambeth Council. They are relying on secondary teaching and documents rather than on the New Testament which, I believe, undermines their position. This is made possible because so many of their liberal opponents see the Bible… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

Mr Runcorn: The very idea of the fallibility of scripture is so obvious to any thinking person there seems little to discuss. Any alternative is absurd.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I’ve been contemplating LTSHTS. In the US, it is only used against LGBTQI people. The English have a tendency here to kick it around and see if it works in other settings, so I’ve been kicking it around too. It doesn’t. I’ve been thinking about my interactions with criminals. People who have served time for crimes mentioned in the Bible. Certifiable sinners, I guess some might say. When volunteering in a homeless shelter, some of the guests are inevitably going to be criminals, some recently released from jail. While there, you don’t judge, you just do the job of getting… Read more »

Bernard Randall
Guest
Bernard Randall

Henry Dee, “cis” is used by some to mean the opposite of “trans.” It derives from Latin, where “trans” can mean “across” with a sense of movement, and hence “transgender” would relate to moving across genders. Another meaning of “trans” is “beyond” or “the other side of” with no sense of movement. The opposite of this meaning of “trans” is “cis” meaning “this side of” or “near,” again with no sense of movement. The classic example would be Transalpine Gaul and Cisapline Gaul – which, seen from the perspective of Rome, respectively mean “Gaul beyond the Alps” (France) and “Gaul… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

What is ‘biblical authority’? Because GAFCON’s whole case rests on restoring it. They take the view that the Bible is the authority to be obeyed, and they regard some Provinces as failing to obey what the Bible says. In short, GAFCON takes an elevated and traditionally Protestant view of the Bible, as the ultimate authority by which to live our lives. Implicit in this is the view that the Bible is right, and so should not be contradicted. It is right, and inerrant, and therefore if it presents man-man sex in a negative light (which it does) then man-man sex… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Susannah, I think you are confusing inerrancy and infallibility.

David Runcorn
Guest

Susannah The issue of the authority of the Bible is not just a Gafcon matter. Our case too rests on how we read, interpret and obey scripture. The CofE ‘professes the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Bible and set forth in the Catholic Creeds’. When you hear the word authority used of scripture you seem to assume this can only mean the narrowest form of literal, infallible, coercive reading. I do not understand why. I seek to live in ‘humble obedience to the truth of the Word of God” but that is not for me ‘an inerrant Bible,… Read more »

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

The deep problem with the “hate the sin/love the sinner” response to ethical issues is that it allows the would-be hater/lover to rest comfortably in a position of moral superiority. From that position, the world comes in “either/or” terms, hate is justified, and the beholder finds himself in the position of the Pharisee in Luke 18:10, thanking God that he is not like other men. The Bible is a rich, complex collection of works, told from many different perspectives over centuries of time, often repetitive and contradictory in its narratives and its conclusions, always reflecting human ideas about how things… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

Just a gentle reminder: sic (sic erat scriptum) is used to indicate to the reader that any errors or apparent errors in quoted material do not arise from errors in the course of the transcription. “Favor” is perfectly accurate non-British English. When you use quotation marks, you have indicated to the reader already that the spelling belongs to another. The first Pentecost solved this problem by allowing every nation to hear the marvelous works of God –“spelled” as they liked best — in their own language. May God bless the Anglican Communion in its length and breadth and heal its… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Guest
Laurence Cunnington

“”Favor” is perfectly accurate non-British English. When you use quotation marks, you have indicated to the reader already that the spelling belongs to another.”

Hang out the bunting! I agree with cseitz.