Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 21 May 2016

Andrew Lightbown Why I am worried about the C of E’S 8.2% return

Kelvin Holdsworth We worship a non-binary God. Don’t we?

Giles Fraser The Guardian Giving your body for dissection overcomes an ancient taboo

Deepening Connections: The Diocese of Virginia and the Diocese of Liverpool — a personal reflection by The Rt Rev Susan E Goff, Bishop Suffragan of Virginia

Helen King Behind closed doors

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Susannah Clark
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Kelvin, if a non-binary ‘God’, then also a non-binary ‘Goddess’. Both terms are heavy-laden with gender-suggesting terminology, so neither term seems ideal. I use God, as a term of convenience, as it has probably been used in the article, but I prefer the term ‘Godde’ which not only hearkens back to ancient times, but is also precisely straight down the middle between the masculine ‘God’ and the feminine ‘Goddess’. When speaking about gender and Godde, I think we need to be very careful not to erase gender (gender all the way along a spectrum). Personally, I believe that Godde understands,… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Kelvin Holdsworth tries and for that he deserves credit but once again IMO he misses the mark. This time he wrongly conflates gender and gender identity. Then he conflates them both (or just one?) with sex by allowing the question of Gender with the verses of Genesis which talk about sex. It’s a common mistake. For instance, how many people know that it is entirely legal for two people of the same sex to marry in the Church of England so long as their paperwork says they are not the same gender? I wonder how GAFCON would react if they… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Then there is the question of whether or not God is male. Kelvin Holdsworth thinks not. Kelvin suggests – rightly I think – that the gender identity of each member of the congregation should be respected according to their personal definition. So why should we not extend the same courtesy to God? He suggests God has male and female attributes. Maybe. But even if that is true, that speaks to God’s gender not to His gender identity and, I would suggest, our best evidence is that God identifies as male. (This question then points to the far deeper questions as… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Thank you for the Kelvin Holdsworth article. I think he came up with a marvelous solution to the census survey. Regarding God, the Hebrew language assigns all sorts of nouns as either male or female, similar to numerous languages around the planet, and assigns a male pronoun to God. Fair enough for the time in which it was written, I suppose, but I have for some time seen God as neither and both male and female. Sex is necessary for reproduction, but God is eternal. God does not need to reproduce in order to continue God’s existence. Even the Christian… Read more »

David Marshall
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David Marshall

Kate: “our best evidence is that God identifies as male”. There is no evidence that “God identifies”, full stop. Self-identification is a human characteristic. The God the Old Testament writers arrived at, the meaning that Jesus seems to have related to, is the One who creates and sustains the universe. The notion that God, this foundational feature of reality, has human characteristics is one of the most insidious and damaging consequences of the idea of divine incarnation. Of course use of the male pronoun runs through the whole Bible, because the texts (or at least our translations) are entirely the… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

Christians believe that God is three persons in one being. This I believe. I don’t believe God is a substitute Daddy in the Sky even as I have no problem addressing God as “Father”. We have a book, God’s book, the Bible which is not easy to understand. We feel love for God which is so necessary for our walk. God’s love is available freely to all people. Isn’t that enough?

Sensitivity about gender identity on bureaucratic forms is necessary in these days of acceptance of diversity.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

I love the idea of God as ‘Abba, Father’. This has a particular connotation in Scripture. But then, Jesus (who is at one with God) also speaks of wishing he were like a mother hen, who would take her young under her wings. God is great and wonderful Mystery, unkown in reality, I suspect, this side of Heaven.

All good to think about on Trinity Sunday!

David Marshall
Guest
David Marshall

Pam: “Christians believe that God is three persons in one being”. OK, you don’t think I’m a Christian. Yet I’m baptised and confirmed in the Church of England. My theological thinking is mostly a product of involvement with its various traditions. From a broader historical perspective others probably would refer to me as Christian. I’m not complaining, just noting that you’re using a less than universal definition of Christian. “Isn’t [a simple understanding] enough?” For a personal faith, absolutely, if it works for you. But as the basis for a religion enshrined in the law of the land, no, it… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

“The notion that God, this foundational feature of reality, has human characteristics is one of the most insidious and damaging consequences of the idea of divine incarnation.” Thank you, David Marshall! We humans are too tempted to make God in our own image. Just as one example, the notion of God, which I have heard in some churches, as being a pure white masculine figure with a long-flowing pure white beard, and long-flowing pure white hair, wearing pure white robes, sitting on a pure white throne, next to a pure white crystal sea, … Leaves me snow-blind. You say you… Read more »

John Bunyan
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John Bunyan

Sorry but may I gently say “persons” is not used in the 4th century decrees in the modern sense of the word. And that the Bible (as the very word indicates) is a collection of – human – writings – evolving over time, with many authors. And if God’s love is freely available to all people, those who suffer sickness and great pain, accidents, violence, war and hunger, including fine Christians, wonder why God does not show that more “love” clearly. Again, not all Christians believe that God is three persons in one substance or indeed that we could possibly… Read more »

Pam
Guest
Pam

To David: I was not attempting to imply you are not a Christian. My wording may be at fault!

To John: The Creed of St Athanasius is my source for the word “persons” to describe the trinity. I’m not ready to discard this Creed, even if it’s considered outdated by some (or many) people. Re God’s love being freely available to all – I would agree it’s challenging when things aren’t great for us, but that’s the time faith in God’s constancy comes into its own. Just my thinking.

Martyn Percy
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Martyn Percy

Comment on Andrew’s article – Andrew, your PCC Meeting discussions are a cut above the average, I must say. I share your concerns about the Church Commissioners. Andrew Chandler’s excellent history of the Church of England in the 20th century would provide further evidence and discussion material in which to ground your well-founded concerns. Excellent article, meanwhile…

Kate
Guest
Kate

“We are called simply, though sometimes in costly ways, to care for our neighbour as the Samaritan did, thereby finding “eternal life” (St Luke 10.25-28) or as an earlier Jewish prophet put it, all God requires is to love kindness, to act justly, and to walk humbly with our God. Isn’t that enough ?” I don’t believe it is because the greater commandment is to love God with all our might. Addressing Him using the pronouns used in the Bible is something I see as important. In fact, I would regard using male pronouns as probably more important than arguments… Read more »

RevDave
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RevDave

The trouble IMHO with the non-binary argument is that, in the end, *we are all different* so, really, each of us should have our own category. But for surveys and for some other legitimate purposes, we have to put people into broader categories and, give the very low prevalence of biological intersex, the biological status of our body is one such simple category. For 99.9% of us it was not “assigned at birth” it developed in our mother’s womb. Even if we don’t identify with our body’s gender psychologically it is what it is, and it will determine much about… Read more »

Kelvin Holdsworth
Guest

One of the strands of the book of Genesis (for example) fairly consistently uses plural pronouns for God. I’d be interested to know from Kate how she can be sure that God wants to be called Him given that the bible simply isn’t consistent on pronouns for the divine. Kate says that “Gender is such a significant part of His creation, that I think it would be unduly hasty to abandon the concept of God as a gendered being” However, the text just doesn’t back her up – the creation stories don’t actually all speak of god in gendered terms… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I like several things you have said there, Rev Dave 🙂 to which I would add some others. Yes, we are all different: each one of us is unique, called into being by the creative will of God, to become who we alone can uniquely become. In this sense, I tend to see every single human being as ‘queer’ (in the sense of individually defined and quirky in our own ways) and reflect that perhaps God(de) is queer as well in that sense – not just some homogenous ‘spirit’ thing, but a personal being with quirks and traits and individuality… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

The other point, if I understand you correctly Rev Dave, which I thought was a point well made is this: However much (and rightly so) we make the case for diversity, and the reality that not everyone feels comfortable with identifying as ‘male’ or ‘female’… nevertheless, it is fair to observe that the vast majority of the world find those terms useful, and understandably so. For evolutionary and reproductive purposes, our species (and others like ours) has developed over hundreds of millions of years… to reproduce and survive. And to that end, male and female have been differentiated biologically, and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Me, typing too fast:

‘Binary is less normative than male or female.’

*head bang*

I meant of course ‘NON-binary’.

Malcolm
Guest
Malcolm

Martyn / Andrew I raised the level of senior Church Commissioners’ salaries in General Synod in November 2013 and this was the answer I received: Mr Malcolm Halliday (Bradford) asked the Church Commissioners: In the light of the recent suggestion by the Chair of the Charity Commission that high salaries risked bringing charities into disrepute, and of the vocational aspect of the work of the National Church Institutions: (a) how many staff of Church Commissioners are paid salaries in excess of £100,000; (b) how many appointments of such staff have been made within the last three years and how many… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

RevDave, how would you feel if the only two options on a form were female and intersex? Which would you tick? There is zero justification for a church survey not including a non-binary option. I can understand that an hospital admission form might ask only about male and female to decide ward assignments, but we are not talking about that. And as for incidence, have you seen how many options there are under race on most forms? In comparison adding a non-binary option to sex on diversity monitoring surveys is hardly disproportionate. As to your comments about the womb, all… Read more »

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Kate: “… I would suggest, our best evidence is that God identifies as male.”

Huh? Evidence? What on earth are you talking about?

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“For 99.9% of us it was not “assigned at birth” it developed in our mother’s womb. Even if we don’t identify with our body’s gender psychologically it is what it is, and it will determine much about our lives.” Posted by: RevDave on Monday, 23 May I must say, Dave, this is a most insightful idea about the nature of our assigned gender identity. I guess only life experience can actually ‘tell’ us who we actually are – except that being ‘In Christ’, for Christians, is our basic identity. The rest is how we actually function as human beings. (Taking… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“Personally I regard God(de) as…”. What does this actually mean? 1) God(de) is a human projection? — in the case of the ‘res’ being referred to with the language ‘God(de)’ this must surely be true: as you state it ‘personally I regard X as’; 2) the true God–does such a thing exist?–has no essential identity that has been disclosed and to which we must of necessity defer; at most we have accidents referring to some substance or ‘res’ 3) the nature and character of God has been definitively revealed, but this is a view held by people with whom we… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Daniel, He chose to incarnate in a male body as Jesus who taught us to pray, “Our Father…”

David Marshall
Guest
David Marshall

Susannah Clark: “Personally I regard God(de) as possessing desire in the love that is extended to us: desire of a sort of sexual nature, transcended to the divine level (beyond the reproductive function).” Thing is, we can all “personally regard”, that is, imagine God as having any characteristic we like. If we’re story-telling for entertainment and we construct our characters well they may acquire a life of their own in popular imagination. But most people, the sane ones anyway, would consider it silly to rely on such a character’s abilities in a hazardous real life situation. Isn’t that what faith… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Christopher, I can only speak of Godde as I find them. Godde does not ‘exist’ as a human projection. On the contrary, humans exist as the projection of Godde’s mind and will. However, Godde may be interpreted and understood in a multiplicity of ways by individuals and communities, through people’s personal encounters, and the encounters recorded and reported in tradition. In terms of Godde’s identity, I think that is bound to be subjectively received, whether we ‘defer’ to the Bible. or defer to actual encounters of our own. Godde seems many faceted, but personally approaching us, and yet at the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I don’t know whether that is enough for you to term me ‘liberal’. Or simply raving and deluded 😉 However, I find certain things about Christian tradition hugely helpful and informative: the Trinity is an astonishing disclosure. So is the disclosure of Godde in the person and life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are called, I believe, into the divine relationship; even, into the divine consciousness. ‘Relationship and love’ is a huge concept, but in opening up to it, we may become more of who we were uniquely made to be, called into being (and ‘projected’) by… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

That’s all very interesting. It tells people a lot about your own mental imaginings.

How anyone could possibly verify it as an account of who God genuinely is, such that people can give their lives up to death for him, often in appalling circumstances and persecution, is beyond me.

It sounds more like a hall of mirrors.

Susannah Clark
Guest

Dear Christopher, I wouldn’t for a moment suppose that my account of encounters with God would be taken as a basis for anyone else to know or encounter Godde. Indeed, I thought it was Godde who encountered people, and through that initiative, opened their hearts to faith. Nor would I suggest that MY little path is THE path. It is just A christian path. There must be a multiplicity of ways that people encounter Godde. I have simply been describing some of my own understandings of Godde, based on my Christian journey. I guess you do the same sometimes. We… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I feel a longing to affirm you along your journey Christopher, and I share this blessing; share it with other people who visit Thinking Anglicans, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3CYv83yKME

May God (however we see God) bless us and draw us into the deep peace of God’s strong and tender love.

JCF
Guest
JCF

I can’t tell you, as a non-binary person, how truly JOYFUL Kelvin’s blog post made me. Thanks be to (the non-binary) God!

“Male and female, God created me”