Thursday, 24 February 2005

Stealing the heart of the Church

The BBC referred this morning to the “Battle for the political heart of Anglicanism” being fought out at Armagh between the Anglican primates, over issues about same sex couples.

It is fascinating that this is seen as a particularly Anglican issue, when the same difficulties are found in other churches, as a Baptist observer said at the Church of England’s General Synod last week. The reason must lie in the history of the Anglican Church, the close founding link of Church and state, particularly in the way that relations were defined and described in Richard Hooker’s monumental Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity 400 years ago. Since that time, with bishops in the House of Lords, there has been a close correspondence between the laws of Church and State to the extent that it is often difficult to discover which is which. We’re reaping some of the problems associated with this in the upsets over the marriage plans of Prince Charles and Camilla, and it is fascinating to find that European Human Rights legislation needs to be invoked to say they can legally marry in an English register office outside the gates of Windsor Castle.

Whilst the Church of England was little more than a national church (leaving aside the Scottish Episcopal Church and its great legacy to the Episcopal Church of the USA) it might have seemed that laws of Church and State could be seen to correspond. But, with the growth of the British Empire and the exporting of the national church into other cultures, conflicts were bound to arise.

A particular problem was the prevailing polygamy found in of parts of Africa. Whilst Christianity did not allow polygamy, there was a certain tolerance of it for those who were not Christians, and often a blind eye was turned to the ancient droit de seigneur of local rulers to collect a large harem of young women. Things only came to a head when Mwanga, the ruler of Uganda in 1886, wanted boys, not girls, for his bed. The Christian pages began to refuse his advances, so he had them put to death. They included Catholics and Anglicans. On their way to the place of execution, these young Christians sang hymns in honour of the Lord and some were still singing when the flames surrounded them. Since then they have been regarded as founding martyrs of the Christian Church. It is salutary to think, however, that few people would have shed tears over maids in waiting, had the ruler preferred girls. Not surprisingly, the Church of Uganda, in honouring its founding martyrs, strongly opposes homosexual relationships today, as Britain did in the time when Oscar Wilde went to prison.

So long as the Empire continued, many local cultures were suppressed. Today, with the independence of nations which were once British, the differences emerge. Pakistan is a largely Muslim country, competent to make its own laws. In Muslim law it is legal for a man to take four wives. The Christian Church there, whilst holding different views, would never dare to advocate these for anyone outside their own flock. Equally, the Christians there know that the acceptance of homosexual relationships would lead to the burning of Christian churches and the persecution of Christians. The Church is not in a position to advocate different rules from those of the state.

In a worldwide Communion, Anglicans have to accept that we are not in the driving seat when it comes to making laws. There is in Pakistan, in Uganda, and in other places a complete abhorrence of homosexual activity.

Equally, in Europe, it is secular Human Rights law which is in the driving seat, not the laws of national churches. Today the British Navy asks the advice of gay rights groups about the best way to encourage recruitment of homosexual men and women. Gay rights are enshrined in the law of the land. They are seen as just as important as the rights of people of different races, or the rights of women, and all are protected by law.

In much of Europe, in the USA, and in Canada, discrimination against gay people is now being consigned to history, along with slavery and the lack of universal suffrage. It is only shameful that the Church, which was in the forefront of the campaign to free slaves, still treats women and gay people as being less than fully human, with impaired human rights. Speaking out and saying that a faith founded on the incarnation has to be a faith which respects the dignity of all people has required great courage. Fundamentalism still tries to steal the political heart of the Anglican Church. There is a rearguard action against the ordination of women to the episcopate.

In much of the USA, Canada, Britain and Southern Africa, the battle is over. National laws guarantee the rights of women, of gay people and different races. The Church is doing little more than catching up with what governments, nationally and internationally, have agreed.

At the same time it is totally impossible for Anglicans in many other parts of the world to uphold a viewpoint which is so much at odds with their own national culture and laws. Pakistan and Uganda will want to be different. But we need to be grown up enough to accept that.

The Anglican Communion was never intended to be, and cannot be monolithic. We have to accept (Article 34 in the Prayer Book) that there will be national differences. “It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies in all places be one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries.”

These articles were honed out of the bitter controversies of the Reformation, out of the martyrdom of John Fisher, Thomas More, Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer and the rest. And in the time of Elizabeth people realised that there had to be an end to blood letting. Christians had to learn to live together in peace, and respect differences of conscience and custom. We need to learn the lesson again.

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>>In much of Europe, in the USA, and in Canada, discrimination against gay people is now being consigned to history, along with slavery and the lack of universal suffrage. It is only shameful that the Church....<<

Hmm. We could debate the emotive term "discriminate". I don't know of any church that discriminates. We give an unreserved welcome. Having said that, we encourage people to become disciples, and that means obeying holy scripture.

With regard to people at large, I very much doubt whether they accept homosexuality as you profess. They might make the right noises - we all have to be so polically correct! - but if the subject ever comes up, it is clear that they think homosexuality to be a no, no.

In any case, what the non-Christian world's attitudes are is irrelevant.

Posted by: Richard on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 2:56pm GMT

In sum:
1) The foolish body hath said that we have a conflict about faith, morals, and the will of God.
2) How quaint; we Anglicans did away with such frippery centuries ago.
3) This, and indeed all, debates are about "traditions and ceremonies", or what we social scientists call "culture".
4) After all, what else is there?

Posted by: Austin on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 3:48pm GMT

Obeying Holy Scripture...that means the women are silent and wear hats, for example? If not, why do we allow them to disobey the scriptures?

I don't know what part of the states you live in, but I've lived in four different ones in the last few years, and the overwhelming majority of folks I know consider equal rights for gays and lesbians to be a no brainer; of course we need to advocate for such rights as Christians. And the need to advocate for the right to chose the life partner of our choice is also the attitude of the majority.

The non-Christians are irrelevant? We are witnessing to them by allowing such an issue to divide us. We are pushing them away. Why would anyone be interested in a club that has such exclusive standards?

Most folks in the Episcopal Church are tired of talking about this, and would really like to move on to other things, like maybe proclaiming the Gospel, feeding the hungry, and visiting those who are sick and in prison. At least that's what I see from my perspective.

Posted by: Jake on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 5:21pm GMT

There are certain groups that any organisation should exclude from membership. In the Christian church this does not include those who feel homosexual temptation, or indeed any other kind of temptation. It does include those who are overtly unrepentant - it is not that they are excluded by anyone else, but that they actively exclude themselves from this particular organisation/body, by definition.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 5:58pm GMT

Differences in traditions and ceremonies are one thing. But differences in doctrine, especially over salvation issues (yes, I mean salvation from SIN) are quite another. In a very real sense, this battle is over which differences make a difference and which ones do not. Over the last 2 years especially, the discussions over this reveal 2 incompatible "faiths" with 2 sets of irreconcilable premises from which they originate.

Posted by: Milton on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 6:03pm GMT

Hmmm "what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" has been the cry of the separatist since the time of Tertullian and before — and, of course, it is a scripturally justifiable position (but not the only one) which may be traced back to the anathematising of the Canaanites in parts of the OT (regardless of the fact that Israel owes more to Canaan than it might like to admit - eg the dedication of the Kuntillet 'Arjud chapel 'Yahweh and his consort Asherah').

But this separatist modus operandi is incoherent (rumour has it that Christians opposed the use of anaesthesia in childbirth on the grounds that it undermined the Will of God Expressed in Scripture, whatever happened to that) for what tends to happen is that - eventually - the separatist is dragged along in the wake. There are few (non RC) Christians now who would oppose the use of artificial contraception within marriage, but that was emphatically not the case in early C20. Tertullian objected strongly to the selling-short of the Christian faith when Zephyrinus or Callistus relaxed some aspects of the church's discipline (de pudicitia ch 1), but I can't see that even the hardest-line Christian would want to return to pre-Zephyrinus rigorism, and it is significant that the hard line Montanism Tertullian espoused soon petered out.

And I am always suspicious of the ease with which comfortable Christians find good reasons to adopt the western secular lifestyle, only condemning the bits which don't affect them in the slightest....

Posted by: david rowett on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 6:22pm GMT

This is a salvation issue? Maybe for you, but can you judge what is a salvation issue for others?

An example; I am convicted that it is a sin to charge interest. At its root, I see it as making a profit from the misfortune of others.

Scripture clearly teaches that charging interest is sinful;
Exodus 22:25;
"If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them."
Deuteronomy 23:19;
"You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent."
Just two examples, although it shows up plenty of other places as well.

The tradition certainly condemns it...
"Nothing is baser, nothing is more cruel than the interest that comes from lending. For such a lender trades on other persons' calamities, draws profit from the distress of others, and demands wages for kindness, as though he were afraid to seem merciful. Under the mask of kindness he digs deeper their grave of poverty; when he stretches forth his hand to help, he pushes them down. . ." - St. John Chrysostom

""This point, too, we have thought must not be passed over, that certain possessed with the love of base gain lay out their money at interest, and wish to enrich themselves as usurers. For we are grieved that this is practised not only by those who belong to the clergy, but also by laymen who desire to be called Christians. And we decree that those who have been convicted be punished sharply, that all occasion of sinning be removed." -St. Leo the Great...plenty more of these quotes as well.

So, in my understanding, it is a sin. You may disagree. I would not suggest that your eternal salvation rests on this disagreement, however.

Or maybe a simpler example. I know it is a sin for me to have a beer. I don't do well with alcohol. But I cannot judge if it is a sin if you have one.

I don't think we can judge the way God views committed relationships that we see from afar any more than I can judge the banker or the friend who has a beer on Friday night.

Our salvation rests on our opinion regarding the right of others to select the life partner of their choice? I think not.

Posted by: Jake on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 10:12pm GMT

"And I am always suspicious of the ease with which comfortable Christians find good reasons to adopt the western secular lifestyle, only condemning the bits which don't affect them in the slightest...."

Well said! It's so blindingly obvious that the Biblical "literalists" in these arguments are very much *selective* literalists.

And we so-called "progressives" are supposed to be the only ones caving in to our cultural prejudices and looking for Biblical justification of our desired lifestyle... (harrumph) Eye. Speck. Plank. Enough said :)

Posted by: David Huff on Thursday, 24 February 2005 at 10:27pm GMT

... and the debate continues.

How many times a day do we say the Lord's prayer? Is it wonder that when we are filled with pride and forgetful of whose will we are seeking, that we are divided? Both sides feel that their faith is the strongest and that they are the most right and both sides continue to insist on not listening to one another, and not walking in Love. When the Archbishops reportedly split into factions and can not share Holy Communion with one another, what hope is there that this is a Holy Communion? We are all unworthy. None of us are better than the other in the eyes of God. Unforgiveness and hatred polute our hearts. If our own Bishops do not know how to humble themselves before the Lord when they come to the Lord's table, then where does that leave any of us?

This was an informative article and the history and current cultural issues that we face when dealing with Africans, with the exception of South Africa, is helpful. Thank you.


Posted by: Annie on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 3:37am GMT

Richard doubts whether people at large accept homosexuality. Indeed, but Britain's police have admitted being racist, male chauvinism flourishes, and a popular vote on the death penalty would probably bring it back.
Fortunately the law says discrimination against gays, women and other races is wrong, and it's quite clear that the law was made with the intention of teaching people how to give full human rights to all.
Please don't dismiss this as "political correctness". The law reflects the consience and the concern for justice of all who established the legislation.

Posted by: Tom Ambrose on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 9:39am GMT

Good article, Tom :-)

What is interesting in the comments, ISTM, is what we were talking about this morning - that differences of doctrine are being confused with a supposed need to exclude the "unrighteous". Jesus preached and practiced a radically inclusive ministry; have a quick look at the Gospels - Jesus got stuck right in with just about every excluded group of His culture: women, children, the disabled, lepers and even homosexuals (although that last isn't ironclad, it is very likely that this is what was going on with the centurion and his "servant").

Not only did Jesus say that these people were loved by God, but He ate with them, touched them, laughed with them. He completely flouted the conventions of His time and the religious laws of His time, because He saw that these things were less important than the truth that God's holiness was stronger than the sin of the world and that God's love was stronger than the hatred of the world.

So, for us now, who profess to be followers of this Jesus, is it really right to exclude people from our churches because of their sexual orientation? Or is it right to exclude people from our churches for any cause? Would Jesus have done so? The only people Jesus condemned were the religious, the law-abiding and the hypocritical.

And is it right for us to say that, based on their kindness towards outcasts, another group of Christians are not worthy of our friendship and communion?

Posted by: John Pettigrew on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 9:56am GMT

Poor Richard! If people read what he actually said, as opposed to what they think he said, comments might have been somewhat calmer!

The word "exclusion" seems to be bandied about. I may be wrong, but I don't see where anyone is advocating exclusion. We have gays in our church. We welcome them unconditionally, and they are loved as much as any non-gay. We are all sinners, and need to come closer to the One we worship.

But there are those who feel that the Bible overall seems to have a negative view towards the practice of homosexuality - namely that it is a sin. You may wish to debate this and say that it is not a sin, but that is another issue that needs debating on its own.

If that proposition is acceptable (and I understand that some here do not feel this way), two things follow:
First, gays in the church, if they seeking to be disciples, need to consider whether their life-style is what Jesus would wish.
And secondly, we would find it difficult to accept someone assuming a position of leadership in the church who (in our view) is departing from what the scriptures say.

Re. women keeping silent in the church and wearing hats (actually head coverings), it's not a fair comparison. Women were not allowed education in those days, and those whose heads were uncovered were, shall we say, of ill repute. There is, surely, a difference between a cultural issue and what one perceives the Bible as saying.

Jake, is anyone challenging this equal rights issue? I don't think anyone was!

Was Richard saying that non-Christians are irrelevant? It's up to him, but as I read it he was seeking to make the point that Christians are disciples of Christ, and what the popular (and often highly volatile) opinion amongst NON-Christians is not germaine to the discussion.

I mix with non-Christians a lot, and whatever political correctness may dictate, my clear impression is that most find the practice of homosexuality at its worst repugnant, and at its least very odd and unnatural. They can be ambivalent, of course, but it is interesting that whilst they do not share the Christian faith, many are quite puzzled that this homosexuality debate is going on, because they respect, even if they do not adopt, Christian standards.

On the matter of proclaiming the gospel, feeding the hungy, visiting those whom are sick and in prison, I would totally agree. Is it being suggested that those who are concerned over Biblical teaching are not doing these things? Our church is extremely active on all those fronts. The trouble is that evangelicals are (perhaps deliberately) perceived as obsessed over one issue. They are not. Their concern is that bit by bit the gospel as we see it is eroded, and the homosexuality issue is symptomatic of this.

To me the Bible remains the final authority. I'd have been just as concerned were someone in a teaching role to cast doubt on the resurrection, or the divinity of Christ. If we don't stand up for what we perceive as God's word, we could finish up with a watered down faith, where whatever you feel you want is acceptable. Indeed, only last week there was report, somewhere, that people were being put off Christianity because it was perceived as becoming such a pick-and-mix religion. "Why go to church at all if it doesn't stand for anything other than 'be nice'?" was the comment.

Posted by: R Leggat on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 12:36pm GMT

Hi Jake -

Which do I see more loyalty to in your comment: God or America? The opinion of Americans is authoritative? We make decisions based on 'what most of my friends think'? Risky - since often we move among like-minded ppl in the first place.

Yet America is built on things like freedom (of the laissez-faire variety) and democracy; and if one has grown up there it seems so normal that it can be a shock to discover that these are not precisely the biblical values, however much the God-and-country amalgam might wish they were.

Laissez-faire / live-and-let-live are presuppositions so deeply embedded in American culture that it is possible for Americans to take them as basic, unquestionable, 'givens'. But they ain't.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 6:03pm GMT

Hi John-

There is a much simpler explanation of the centurion's servant. Luke -as often- is trying to reconcile his predecessors John and Matthew (see the works of Robert Morgan, Barbara Shellard, Mark Matson).

John speaks of a 'son', Matthew of a 'servant'. There is one word that reconciles both (or hedges its bets, if you like): 'pais' ('boy'/'child'). So this is the word Luke uses.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 6:08pm GMT

Jake wrote "This is a salvation issue? Maybe for you, but can you judge what is a salvation issue for others? ..."

Hi Jake - I really thought you would have realised that Jesus and the Apostles teachings on sex were far from the liberal position that "it's ok if you are made that way". They were very tough on all sorts of sexual behaviours and allowed no excuses. I don't need to judge what is a salvation issue - it's pretty well defined in the New Testament!

Generally I think that the bankrupcy of the "do what you feel" philosophy, that's been so widely taught and believed in liberal society for the last 50 years, is now clear from the boom in serious sexual diseases, hugely increased relationship breakdown, the consequent pressure on children and lone parents (and much higher depression and suicide rates). People who promote that sort of behaviour are responsible for the outcome - real suffering, sickness, and increasing STD related deaths; they should think hard about what's happened!


PS To clarify your theology regarding the Old Testament: Article 7 of the "39 Articles" says: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral."

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 7:18pm GMT

Chris - I did say that it wasn't ironclad, but it's certainly suggestive. And "simpler" is an opinion; it's a possibility but I don't see it as a "simpler" one (it's very questionable whether Luke could be balancing Matthew against John when John is usually thought to be by far the last of the Gospels to be written).

And even if this isn't actually about a homosexual relationship, nor is it about condemning a homosexual relationship. The point remains that Jesus' ministry was profoundly inclusive rather than exclusive.

pax et bonum

Posted by: John Pettigrew on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 7:29pm GMT

Dave, wasn't it St Augustine who said 'love, and do what you like'? Hardly a victim of the encroaching individualism of the last 50 years! But the emphasis here is, as it always should be, on love- wanting the good of the other, in an unselfish way which should protect from harm, exploitation, etc. It isn't an invitation to change the rules to suit ourselves, or to imagine that there are no rules at all- but to be profoundly other-focussed. The bit that most bothers me about the whole gays-in-the-church debate is that the commitment to listening and learning doesn't seem to have been honoured. If the church really loved gay people (or anyone else perceived to be 'other') in the way Augustine's remark calls for, listening would be an essential part of the process...

Posted by: rowan on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 9:50pm GMT

Setting aside the fact that the 39 Articles of Religion are hardly the last word in OT theology (or so my missus says), and that we are no longer to do more than nod towards them as past expressions of the faith in ordination, I do find the idea that we can distinguish between 'ritual' and 'moral' OT precepts entertaining. A quick read of the OT reveals that breaches of the so-called ritual law were seen as being quite as offensive to God as a breach of the moral law, which suggests very strongly to me that the distinction is one which the average LBA Israelite would not understand for a second.

To base one's theology of scripture on the pronouncements of a puritanical anti-ritualist formulation (ie the 39 articles)seems about as reliable a mehodology as writing the definitive guide to real ale from the point of view of a particularly abstemious Rechabite!

Posted by: david rowett on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 10:24pm GMT

"People who promote that sort of behaviour are responsible for the outcome - real suffering..."

And I wonder how much real suffering has been caused by 'family values'? My next parish is the birthplace of Chad Varah, who, it will be remembered by UK citizens, founded 'Samaritans' after a young girl (on the St Giles' Local Authority Housing scheme in Lincoln, where many of my family were brought up)committed suicide when she began to menstruate, believing she'd picked up some unmentionable disease. One up for 1950's respectability....

Posted by: david rowett on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 10:29pm GMT

Hi Rowan - Yes, didn't Augustine also pray "Make me chaste and continent, but not yet.". But I hardly think we can start to build a new Christian Theology of sexual morality from one Saint's comments, taken out of context. Looking at Augustine's Rule of Life, chapter IV on "Safeguarding Chastity, and Fraternal Correction" our Anglican discipline on sexual chastity looks like a tea party! I hardly think that it is likely that he had freedom of sexual expression in mind when he said "Love God and do as you like!"

On listening, I think I have done a lot in the last 30 years, but rather than fill up Simon's site with me repeating myself, you can find my experiences of listening to, and living with, homosexual persons by clicking on the comments link after the article called "InclusiveChurch calls for moratorium" on Monday 14th Febrary.

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 25 February 2005 at 11:58pm GMT

Hi David - Re the applicability of the OT Law to Christians, I was just trying to keep it simple.. I'm not sure this is the Forum for mega-posts on biblical interpretation. However I think Article VII is not a bad summary.

As for family values causing real suffering. I would like to remind you of the point I made - I wasn't saying that 1950s "Family values" were perfect. I was arguing that, generally, liberal values have turned out to have made things much much worse ! And if you promote them you can't pretend you have no responsibility for some very negative outcomes..

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 26 February 2005 at 12:28am GMT

Hi (again) John

Tell you what, I reckon that this 'inclusive' is a meaningless slogan. Jesus wasnt very inclusive to Pharisees. Or to the unrepentant. Or to those who corrupt children. Or to those who chose noit to follow him. He rightly picked and chose whom he included.

John is hardly ever thought to be 'by far' the last gospel to be written, though often it is thought to be marginally the last. It seems to postdate some synoptic material, but that could amount to one synoptic gospel. After all, I could write a synoptic gospel today, so it is not a logical necessity that all synoptic gospels must predate John. If Q existed it had only one miracle story: the Centurion's Servant. What sort of a book has only one (not none and not plenty)? More economical therefore to say that Matthew derived it from John or his memory of John. Top scholars already put John before Luke (Bauckham, Robinson) - but the clincher is the passion narrative where Luke = Mark + John, and therefore the only realistic possibility is that Mark and JOhn both preceded Luke.

This may not seem v relevant to the homosexuality debate - but it is, since the centurion's/official's son/servant story has begun to be cited often in this connection. How much independent material of historical value re Jesus can be derived from a secondary gospel like Luke, who is not even mentioned by Papias?

Pax tecum.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 26 February 2005 at 1:44pm GMT

I wasn't saying that 1950s "Family values" were perfect. I was arguing that, generally, liberal values have turned out to have made things much much worse!

I'm less than totally convinced by that — we should remember how 'respectability' forced many a 1960's woman into (backstreet) abortion because of the 'shame' a family would feel if their daughter bore out of wedlock (plenty of hard evidence on that one). And if the response is 'Haven't we too many abortions now?'I would suggest it's less down to 'liberal' values (after all, most of northern Europe has better sexual health statistics than we do, despite their perceived 'liberalism'), more to the Daily Mail factor in English life shrieking 'disgusting' at everything south of the navel....

Posted by: david rowett on Saturday, 26 February 2005 at 1:58pm GMT

Establishing which Gospels precede which cannot be done simply by comparing their content. Each writer selected from the array of material that they knew those pieces that told the story the way they wanted it told. Lots was omitted - the writers tell us that.

It is obviously not a logical necessity for the synoptics to precede John. The reason for believing that they do is based on references in the Gospels themselves and other writings, the dates of known early manuscripts of the Gospels, and similar things. Some scholars may believe that John was written early but most AIUI do not. This must leave open the possibility that Luke was not simply trying to reconcile Matthew and John, but was telling the story as he understood it; perhaps, being Greek, he was less likely to disguise the true nature of the relationship.

As for the inclusiveness debate, my point was that Jesus did not exclude people based on stereotypes but only on what they actually did - and, particularly, for their attitude to Him (rather than their actual morality or otherwise). If we can admit even for a monent that, just perhaps, gay Christians might have been made that way and not chosen their orientation; and if we can accept as even remotely possible that God would rather see a gay person in a committed relationship than depressed and cut off from human contact; then perhaps we have to allow that we should not condemn Christian gay people for their choices. By all means, we should debate (gently and lovingly) with those who disagree with us - but debate always allows the possibility that it is our own position that is wrong. Refusing to be open to that possibility is not debate, nor faith but simply arrogant haranguing.

pax et bonum

Posted by: John Pettigrew on Saturday, 26 February 2005 at 7:35pm GMT

John -

'God would rather see a gay person in a committed relationship than depressed and cut off from human contact' - isnt this a false either/or? Why does he have to be either of these 2 things? There are loads of other options available.

On debate - we agree utterly.

On the gospels - we dont! -

(1) 'Establishing which gospels preceded which cannot be one on the basis of their content' - In this, you are disagreeing with 90% of Synoptic Problem scholars. Almost every verse has several pieces of data (not always clear-cut) regarding the sequence.

(2) 'Lots was omitted - the writers tell us that.' Where? I can only think of Jn 21.25. John after all thinks Jesus was instrumental in the creation of the world - hence Jesus did an awful lot of things.

(3) 'Dates of known manuscripts': The earliest dated gospel MS is of John's gospel, the Rylands papyrus in Manchester. So the reverse of what you said is true.

(4) 'Some scholars may believe that John was written early' - There's not just 2 options, 'early' and 'late'. How about in between, around 75? Carson dates about 80, etc.. How about in between in the sequence (e.g. John as the second gospel)?

(5) There are no 'references in the gospels themselves' to John coming last. Out first reference is c200 AD, over a hundred years later.

or maybe Ive misunderstood your points?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Sunday, 27 February 2005 at 6:26pm GMT

There are other options, of course. I was trying to say that, when taking part in this debate, we must be open to the possibility that we are wrong; and that, if that is so, we must not condemn those who make different choices than we do.

On the Gospels :-)

1) I meant "solely on the basis of their content". The problem is that the Gospels were not written in isolation but derive from a rich, wide body of oral preaching and teaching that had been around since Jesus was alive. So, two Gospels could resemble one another not because one copied the other but because both copied the same source.

2) I was thinking primarily of Jn 21.25, as you suggest. But this is also common sense - the huge difference on content of the Gospels (they do not simply superimpose) and, even more, the fact that they simply don't contain 3 years' worth of preaching and healing means that they must be selections.

3) Dates of manuscripts are, as I said *part* of the evidence. One never covers up evidence that might contradict one's position. :-)

4) There are, of course, a wide range of possible dates.

5) I didn't mean references to the other Gospels but references to external events (such as references to the Temple still existing). The problem is that the writers (John included) apparently made reference to things that had definitely vanished as though they still existed, so this task is hard.

Personally, I believe that trying to establish categorically the sequence of the Gospels is a fruitless and largely pointless task. They were written within a fairly small space of years, drawing on essentially the same body of oral tradition, but with different aims and objectives. So, there will always be debate.

As for how we got here, I still doubt that a greek writer would have used "pais" without being aware of its connotations in that context. That being so, he could have selected a less ambiguous word. Which leaves open the possibility that this relationship did involve sex. Not proof, no, but suggestive.

pax et bonum

Posted by: John Pettigrew on Monday, 28 February 2005 at 11:12am GMT


I must disagree on 'pais'. This word is possibly among the top 100 most common Greek words. Whenever a 'boy' or a 'child' is mentioned it is probably the first word that springs to mind.

What proportion of its uses are you suggesting mean 'homosexual partner'? How about we check out Liddell and Scott or another Greek dictionary to see how highly this particular meaning ranks? In many substantial dictionaries such a meaning will in fact be completely invisible, since such a meaning is not of the essence of the word 'pais' at all.

Do homosexual thoughts spring to mind whenever an English person mentions a 'boy' or a 'child'?

Alas, I fear the onset of a creeping panhomosexualism!!!

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 28 February 2005 at 12:47pm GMT

What is sunday worship like in Anglican churches? what are the rituals, teachings and attitudes that make it different from other denominations?
would love someone to get back to me.
thank you

Posted by: felicity on Saturday, 12 November 2005 at 5:59pm GMT

Like the article a lot. I think in order to fulfill its mission to make disciples the church has to be open to everyone. But a line has to be drawn between "churchgoers", if you like those who aren't necessarily christians but attend church and are seeking for God, and "church members", christian people who are committed to the church.

I don't take issue with church goers who practice an openly homosexual lifestyle (or who practices any other kind of immoral lifestyle)as it makes very little sense to me to force christian morals on non-christian people. Strongarming people into following a moral code they don't see the need for is not a compassionate or workable methodology for introducing them to salvation.

The rules have to be different for the church member though, and even more so for church leaders. It totally undermines the credibility of the church, and the christian faith to have people claiming to be christians following a lifestyle which the Bible lables immoral.

Thats where church disciple comes in, in extreme cases when a person is pursuing an immoral lifestyle and is unrepentant there may be a case for excommunication, though it should be a last resort.

Posted by: Jon on Sunday, 6 May 2007 at 3:53pm BST
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