Tuesday, 30 May 2006

Kenya and Chelmsford update

John Richardson thought it would be helpful to give us chapter and verse of the things his diocesan bishop has done that he objects to: he spent time over the weekend listing them out, and you can read his list here:
Bishop John Gladwin on the issue of Human Sexuality.

Meanwhile his Anglican Mainstream colleague Chris Sugden has published an interpretation of “Listening” that can best be described as bizarre.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 11:55am BST | TrackBack
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Not the least bizarre aspect of Mr Sugden's non-dictionary definition of "listening" is his statement that "Those who know Africans are well aware that they are expert as listeners, much more so than westerners."

This statement has - presumably unnoticed by Sugden - very unpleasant overtones. To ascribe qualities to allegedly superior parts of the one human race we all belong to was a practice much used by supporters of colonialism. Christians should not use that sort of language.

I also note that the bizarre definition of "listening" is of a piece with Sugden's signature of a statement of “full support” and “recognition of the validity” of the irregular Southwark ordinations, followed by the contradictory statement from the alleged "Anglican Mainstream" (which Sugden runs) that it was "not approving of an irregular ordination."

George Orwell in '1984' described the situation we see here, when he defined "Double Think" as "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt."

Posted by: Rob Hall on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 1:24pm BST

This AngMain definition of listening rather nicely demonstrates a key new conservative strategy or pattern: Redefine, Reclaim, Realign. It is Newspeak arising out of our former historical, cultural, and legacy lexicons and legacy narratives. New Conservative Newspeak arising out of Plural Historic-Cultural Oldspeak.

In Oldspeak terms, then, what is now being defined as listening appears to be mainly comprised of a combination of what used to just be called: Proclamation, plus Judgment. Like the altar call phase of a pro forma Billy Graham Crusade rally, the moment of decision arrives: For the neocon Christ, against the neocon Christ. Everything has to be pitched in Either/Or terms. Your very soul, your eternal salvation or damnation - depends on your accepting the comprehensiveness and ultimacy of these two choices, and only these two choices.

The three elements missing from this fantastic Redefinition of Listening are obvious to anybody who has ever really listened to somebody who is new and/or different to them. That is: (1) Voice, plus (2) Relationship, plus (3) Empathy. If one wishes a point of entry into these matters, the work of Carol Gilligan may serve. She remains controversial. I doubt that even she would say she has a complete or ultimate grasp of all the important matters. A video talk given at San Diego is available, too.

At: http://ethics.acusd.edu/video/Gilligan/Lecture/Voice_and_Relationship.html

If we are being intentional about listening, I suggest that the AngMain starting point is way too narrow and embarassingly self-serving. It reminds me of the famous remark about listening (Susan Sontag?): There is no listening - there is only waiting for the other person to stop talking so that you can make your points. Among the somewhat better intentional alternatives we may consider what Professor Gilligan has to say in her lecture. Consumer Warning: The video lecture needs about 48 minutes to run.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 2:56pm BST

This sentence confirms my worst fears: "The reason we have to listen to them so that they can be transformed not continue in relationships which are unscriptural."

There is a corollary about men who do not allow women to say "no", and explain to the courts why the woman "deserved it" and "really said yes" when charged with rape.

The issue in both cases is the dehumanisation and dismissal of the needs of "the other", which at an extreme becomes a socipathic self-righteousness that one has the right to impose upon "the other" because of one's superiority and/or godliness. For those who are interested in understanding this "blindness"; Daniel Coleman's book "Emotional Intelligence" is a good starting point.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 6:29pm BST

It's great fun to indulge oneself in a little George Orwell once in a while - New Labour in the House of Lords reminds me of nothing so much as the final scene in Animal Farm, where the lowly creatures peer through the windows of the farm house at their revolutionary comrades.

It's not a bad idea to look at the text of Lambeth 1.10 as well and find out what it actually says. It commits Anglicans to listen to the voices of those who perceive themselves to be homosexual, with a view to honouring as far as possible their place in the Communion, but not on their own terms, to which it is opposed.

It does not commit the Anglican Communion to agreement with the views expressed in listening, and it is evident from the text of 1.10 that this is not a debate: 1.10 is intended to settle the matter.

"Listening" means "paying attention to what one hears" - not as some Orwellian Anglicans would have it, committing oneself in advance to accept the views expressed and to modifying Christian doctrine accordingly.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 7:10pm BST

Well, for sake of completeness, here is the whole of the relevant section of Resolution 1:10 (section 3 of 6).. that the Lambeth Conference:

"3. Recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;"

Now it is quite reasonable to imply a "therefore" between sentences 2 (about pastoral care, moral direction and transformation) and 3 (about listening and assurance of God's love for Everyone). There is a clear link between 1. and 2.. But of course 3. could be read to be completely independent of 2. (not usual in one paragraph of english though). And 2 could be read as moral guidance and transformation within homosexual relationships - but that would be in direct contradiction to the other sections of the resolution!!

Now some may think that CS's interpretation is bizarre - implying that the listening was ONLY to help attain guidance and transformation - but it is at least as bizarre to suggest, as many liberals seem to assume, that the "listening" is ONLY to become sympathetic, supportive and ultimately affirming.

Personally, I heard a lot of the arguements from LGCM in the 1970's; I know gay people - celebate and "active" - , one of my oldest friends is a [now] celebate "gay" man. I've read widely on sexual orientation, listened to the reasoning behind "pro-gay-sex" theology, read "Permanent Faithful Stable" and even read both HoB "issues" documents from cover to cover ! Outcome ? After about 30 years of listening I understand how difficult homosexual desires can be to repent of, but I'm convinced that same-sex sex is sinful.. and that God does not "make" people to be gay!

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 30 May 2006 at 7:21pm BST

I wish to go on record in dissent from the repeated new conservative Anglican referencing of Lambeth resolutions, Dromantine Reports, and even the Windsor report as if these were Anglican legal documents handed down from on high to the lowly queers or alternative believers. Softly whispered these sound like anguished calls for people to repent of their best consciences and best provisional discernments, alternative to the conservatism that aspires to the King. Loudly, these sound like threats that the ladies and the laddies are for burning.

That certainly seems the point, repeated, repeated, repeated. Okay. The new conservative claim has been clear to many of us for quite a good while. The facts may still lead us to conclude otherwise. At least until the New Anglican Covenant is voted, along with its crucial Anglican police powers, neither the ACC, nor the Primates, nor even the Archbishop of Canterbury (or the Archbishop of York, or both together) can legislate in the manner that new conservatives so love to presume as their favorite starting places. For the moment, each province is all grown up, and what cannot be achieved by Anglican bonds of affection will not likely be achieved by calling Primate advisories, legislation. If you push on the legislation claim, the fall back conservative position will inevitably be: I alone know how to read scripture.

Ah, no thanks, then to the whole new conservative package.

I didn't start declining conservative approaches in Christian discipleship and theology because I was a weak sister who just couldn't stand the heat that getting saved from sexual sin generates in God's busy kitchen. This implicit or even explicitly definitive notion is innately demeaning to any whole sexual person. It immediately reduces anybody who isn't already conformed to being conservative, to the de factor or even de jure status of a nobody.

Why do so many occasions of conversation with conservative believers tend to end up as pitched apocaplyptic battle of contradictory fundamental starting definitions? It always sounds as if all of every possible important issue could be reduced to a question of whose totalism gets anointed pope.

No matter what a non-conservative believer tries to discuss and explore with a new conservative believer, the conversations always seems to boil down to the following deep sense of cross-purposed claims: Well, I am a saved conservative believer, and sadly - I pray for you without ceasing - you are not. So nothing you say or think or do or love or ethically commit to - actually matters. We conservative believers alone know God's complete will for you and for your life in this 21st century.

I do not put up with letting global business approach me this way, even as a lowly consumer. Why should it become my intentionally preferred means of thinking about my neighbors, God, Jesus, not to mention the absolute way to read scripture and discern anything else important in the 21st century? I long ago stopped pledging my following of Jesus to the infallibility of popes. So I guess it is to be expected that I would fail to appreciate whatever it is that makes the new conservative final word on everything so final?

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 5:59am BST

With about 30 years of listening to victims of abuse, I know how difficult it is recognise and avoid repeating the patterns and mistakes of dysfunctional childhoods. These people too were not "made" by God to be hurt by their carers nor to hurt their children; nor "made" to be abused by their partners/"significant others".

Also, why are there always these "either/or" or "all or nothing" arguments? For example, in this thread it is noted that the paper states that listening is for the purpose of transforming "the other". The other side then posits the direct opposite as the alternative of "if we are not convinced then we haven't listened".

Dinner parties must be really difficult for some of these people. If one has a discussion, then both parties must come to have the same point of view or one side has "lost". There's a term I use with my daughter called "longitudinal conversations". These are conversations where one of us will mention that we had observed something that day and it made us question how that would fit in with the bible. A few days (sometimes weeks) later, the other will say that they'd been thinking about that conversation and noted something else. Another period later one or the other will comment that something else has been added to the picture. Sometimes it can take several weeks or months for us to feel that we sufficiently appreciate an issue, and even then we sometimes vary our opinion or shared view when another observation impacts on our paradigm. There is many a time where the two of us will end up in a third, unexpected space that neither of us had foreseen at the beginning of the dialogue adventure. We often laugh at our "blindness" when the "penny drops" for one of us on the way through, and we both feel richer for having found a new way of looking at the world, not diminished because our new view now includes something of "the other" or the unexpected.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 8:39am BST

It's indeed worth looking at what Lambeth 1.10 and other texts (eg. the Windsor Report) say, as well as the behaviour of all concerned, especially if one does not attempt to twist the meaning of words to suit oneself.

"Listening", for example, means just that: listening. It does not imply any pre-judgment of what will be heard if one does "listen to the experience of homosexual persons." In other words, listening itself does not imply either approval or condemnation of the experiences heard. Note that, contrary to Mr. Sugden's statement, Lambeth 1.10 does not give any reason for the listening it commmits the church to, despite "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture".

The reason why the so-called "Anglican Mainstream" and similar groups are seen as Orwellian is that they twist words to suit themselves. Sugden's words during and after the Southwark ordinations - in whch he also claimed there were "two religions" within the church - are but one example of this.

The Church of Nigeria's recent support for repressive Nigerian legislation, in another example, cannot be squared with Lambeth 1.10's call "to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation".

To take a third example, such groups frequently use the phrase the "Global South" to mean that all Anglicans in continents such as Africa agree with them. This is totally untrue, and certainly flies in the face of "the teaching of Scripture" on honesty.

In a final example, in a sadly not exhaustive list, Akinola's behaivour after the so-called "Global South" meeting in Egypt left one unconvinced that he and those who support him truly are committed to the "teaching of Scripture".

And, for the record, I would agree that "Global South" and related groups don't possess a monopoly of such Orwellian behaviour. "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God..."

Posted by: Rob Hall on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 9:25am BST

The Lambeth Conference resolution was cobbled together in the course of a vitriolic debate in 1998. I was there and I have vivid memories.

The original resolution was dramatically modified in the course of the debate; 'abstinence' was inserted in the first paragraph; 'and we commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual people' was inserted in the second paragraph; 'while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture' was inserted in the third paragraph, as was, separately, 'irrational fear of homosexuals'.

The result of these additons was to wreck the carefully prepared report of the sub-section which had worked for nearly three weeks through huge conflicts and difficulties to produce a unanimous and thoughtful statement. The additions also introduce totally incompatible intentions to the resolution, which Chris is trying to resolve to justify his own position.

It may be that the Holy Spirit was profoundly present during the debate, and that what was created was a true refelction of God's intention for human sexuality and the place of LGBT people in the Church. But I'd stake my reputation on the debate being an outworking of human hubris in the most bitter and unChristian way, rather than a deep initiative of God.

The report of the sub-section said: 'We also recognise that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We wish to assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. We call upon the Church and all its members to work to end any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to oppose homophobia.'

That seems to set the Church a much more complex and challenging task than the kind of listening which is a hearing without any intention of responding or being changed.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 12:17pm BST

I do find troubling the amount of conjecture and spin I detect on the Thinking Anglicans website. Take the above statement about me: "John Richardson thought it would be helpful to give us chapter and verse of the things his diocesan bishop has done that he objects to: he spent time over the weekend listing them out ..."

Well, yes, I thought it would be helpful for people to see some of the issues which, to quote what I actually posted, "some people feel have sat awkwardly with [Bp Gladwin's positive] affirmations" - affirmations which, as I have said, include adherence "to traditional teaching about marriage and the authority of the Bible".

Chapter and verse, yes - no point in unattributed quotes, especially when you are talking publicly about someone personally. There are libel laws! There is, incidentally, more, but these are, as it says, "some representative examples of [things], which have raised questions in people's minds".

And yes, I thought this would be "helpful" in allowing people to make their own minds up. Again, as it says, "some people may be wondering why so much fuss has been made about where he stands" - and some people will still be wondering after they've read this material. They may need to bear in mind, however, that we in CAM have had several meetings with John Gladwin and have been dealing with this issue since his arrival in the diocese - a fair length of time not covered entirely by this material.

And yes, it is material "I" object to - but to described it as "things ... 'he' objects to" is surely spin. Not untrue, indeed, but surely slanted. They are things to which many other people in the diocese object - including people who advise about what should and should not appear on the CAM website. I am not acting alone!

Which brings me finally to "he spent time over the weekend listing them out". Excuse me? I know my house may be bugged, but I didn't know it went direct to Thinking Anglicans. What else did I do over the weekend, then? For a 'Thinking Anglicans' website, this is a very 'unthinking' statement - in fact, it is pure conjecture and, in this case, false.

Posted by: John Richardson on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 12:19pm BST

Ironically it was former bishop Richard Holloway who pointed out that human beings are by nature capable of adultery, but I do not recall that even he (at that time) advocated it as a godly means of sexual fulfilment.

The church continues to maintain that adultery is sinful, but does that mean that the church is acting in an authoritarian manner, oppressing people who simply want to engage in "open marriages" or find sexual fulfilment with additional partners as well as their spouse?

Even to speak in terms of "conservatism" misses the point. The consensus almost everywhere in Christendom is that Christians should only engage in sexual relations within monogamous marriage. Nobody is prevented from debating this virtually universal interpretation of the scriptures and of two millennia of Christian reflection on them, still less is the Anglican Communion talking about burning anyone - that is a most unworthy comment by drdanfee.

Ultimately if the conviction prevails with anyone that sexual fulfilment of the kind which they seek takes priority over everything else, then they are entirely free to believe according to conscience. However the insistence that the church must ratify and even bless such a conclusion is bound to fail, and those who enter into relationships outside marriage must accept that any distance which they put between themselves and the church is a matter of their own deliberate choosing.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 1:36pm BST

Alan wrote: "The church continues to maintain that adultery is sinful, but does that mean that the church is acting in an authoritarian manner, oppressing people who simply want to engage in "open marriages" or find sexual fulfilment with additional partners as well as their spouse?"

Dear Alan, I think that you will find that quite a few "liberals" do indeed believe that it is oppresive of the church to suggest that any consensual sexual relationship is sinful.. provided everyone is "equal", free to do what is "right for them" and mature enough to not be "hurt". Same-sex sex is only the first of several issues..

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 9:53pm BST

"Ironically it was former bishop Richard Holloway who pointed out that human beings are by nature capable of adultery, but I do not recall that even he (at that time) advocated it as a godly means of sexual fulfilment."

Oh please: apples and oranges. Adultery may occur EITHER in a context of homo- or heterosexual orientation . . . but adultery isn't an orientation in itself!

Thank you, Colin, for recounting exactly *how* the Lambeth "Listening" resolution arose in the first place: the fact that so many reasserters, throughout the world, are failing even *its* modest requirements, doesn't change the fact that, as a meaningful definition of "listening", Lambeth 1.10 is ALREADY fatally-flawed.

"Listening" isn't mere *hearing*: it's permitting the POSSIBILITY of *changing one's mind*. *EVERY TIME* I listen to the reasserters (which, provided they don't use abusive language, I try to do as often as my blood-pressure will allow!), I honestly do so (with God's help) with that possibility on my mind, and in my heart. That they have failed to persuade me, thus far, doesn't change the fact that they YET MAY (and then *I'll* be signing up to "Exodus" my orientation, or repress it somehow).

Do the reasserters listen, w/ the idea "***Maybe*** I'll be attending the covenant of a same-sex couple someday---maybe, as priest, I'll celebrate it!"? Ever?

I wonder.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Wednesday, 31 May 2006 at 9:58pm BST

Dear JCF, I would have been more than happy if my 30 years of listening had brought me to the conclusion that gay sex is moral - after all Christianity is a religion of Grace, not Law, so we only have to abstain from things that are immoral - not for the sake of religious duties. . And it is not very pleasant to be always at risk of being thought a bigot and oppressor!

However, what is moral is defined by who God is and how He perceives them... not "how things are", or how we perceive them.

Reflecting on the point you made that "adultery isn't an orientation" I'd like to point out that same-sex sex isn't an orientation either. Anyone could do it!

Posted by: Dave on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 12:03am BST

Even if "orientation" exists only as a behavioural trait or lifestyle choice (there seems to be no scientific evidence for a "gay gene" or for any inherent biological disposition to homosexuality) the consensus of Christian opinion is that to move from orientation to intercourse outside marriage is sinful. That is the position reflected by Lambeth 1.10, and mirrored in statements by other mainline churches, based on scriptural study and more than three millennia of Judaeo-Christian experience of biblical doctrine and anthropology.

The decision to engage in intercourse outside heterosexual marriage is a matter of free choice and moral discernment for any individual. But it cannot alter the biblical foundations so as to render it morally equivalent to marriage, or so as to require the Church to bless it. "Changing Attitude" can not change doctrine and is bound to fail, even with the support of John Gladwin.

Lambeth 1998 did not exclude from the fellowship those who think otherwise and expressly committed itself to continue in dialogue. But the priority in its actions was to affirm what the Church has always believed and taught, which it in turn is free to conclude to be the right conclusion of its study of the scriptures.

Sadly there are growing indications that religious beliefs are to be investigated and persecuted in Blair's New Britain, as they are already in Canada. But no Human Rights Act has the power to redefine Christian doctrine, and one can expect that persecution will simply strengthen the Church's resolve to bear witness to biblical standards of human sexuality.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 12:37am BST

Colin wrote: "The report of the sub-section said: 'We also recognise that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We wish to assure them that they are loved by God, and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. We call upon the Church and all its members to work to end any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to oppose homophobia.'

Hello Colin, I'm interested to find out who formed the sub-section that drafted the initial report. It is a significant betrayal of trust to alter a paragraph to that extent.

Posted by: Tuck-Leong on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 2:18am BST

Dave wrote, "I think that you will find that quite a few "liberals" do indeed believe that it is oppresive of the church to suggest that any consensual sexual relationship is sinful.. provided everyone is "equal", free to do what is "right for them" and mature enough to not be "hurt"."

Fine. Please support your contention with facts. Name three so-called liberal Anglicans who are advocating this idea. I doubt that you can. I don't think that what you postulated represents the point of view of "quite a few liberals."

Posted by: Barry Fernelius on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 4:44am BST

Well it would be absolutely lovely to forget as quickly as possible that the core views which conservative believers are now urging as our final, closed realignment about sexual orientation are also consistent with the church burning people at the stake in past centuries for being different. Savanarola got nuttin on the people who know exactly how God feels about gay sex sin, period. Yes, ideally, we should long ago have moved on. Yes, there is plenty else in our gospel that give us both the call and the spiritual energy and the blessing to move on. To find out how little we may have moved on, screen Arthur Dong's movie, Licensed to Kill. Your will hear plenty of accurate scripture as the basic clobber verses - and their core ideas as read by conservative (or if you like, near universal) believers - are solemnly remembered and invoked by murderers in lockdown.

Whether you prefer the coded, the clinical, the disinfected, the santized, or the really raw or really juicy narratives depends on what particular flavor of condemnation you have a hankering for at any given moment as you contemplate what God is supposed to be planning to do to queer folks in hell's eternity. But these variations - from abstract and rather theoretical, to raw and physical - hardly disguise the underlying fact that all are basically in agreement as iterations of the core, negative, received religious revelation about the especially bad religious constructions of what queer sex essentially is, really. I do applaud the current conservative efforts to give all of this deep connection some serious thought, and try to find ways to back off as much of our real violent histories as possible. But the amnesia of this sudden, total forgetting is way too much. Too quick. Ah, no, dear conservative believers - we may not yet dispense with remembering and analyzing just how these deep connections work - because they are still, deeply, at work among us.

It is rather like the similar readings of scripture once quoted in favor of slavery and color inferiority as God's will. Jack Roger's book on gay issues and the reformed churches rather nicely demonstrates the similarity by going back in time to quote those scriptural authorizations for slavery. You can apply them against queers, sometimes, almost word for word, and not miss a condemnatory beat. How can queer folks really get it good from God, because everything bad we all know about queer stuff is true; but wait, even true believers cannot join in? A broken jaw is hardly anything, next to an eternity in hell. Do not we all really still know that it is way easy to comprehend the deep negative-orthodox religious revelation against queers, and burn them for being what they are? And that the much more difficult and slippery thing is to try to pledge allegiance to this deep negative religious revelation about this awful pervertedness, and still yet not quite get even the barest hints of our mouths watering for the sight of them on their knees before us, gasping for air? The analogy has its limits, but the suggested similarities are clear: instead of abolishing slavery, we should have had a solid and nearly universal Christian movement (lead by conservative or orthodox believers) that taught all the slave owners benevolence and good husbandry of the people they owned. The good husbanding of inferior peoples (thinking just horrible things about other people, but exercising incredible restraint in overt behavior) is still too much the core sense of the typical conservative church message to all of us who are not yet conformed.

This newish neocon dilemma of discourse and narrative will not suddenly evaporate from among us, even if some conservative believers make the bedrock presumption that, we all can count on all orthodox believers to be completely and totally above and beyond such things - no matter what language they happen to indulge that otherwise articulates with darker, bloodier outcomes. It is not just particular individual gay-bashing people who fall short of the mark, because they lose their inner grip on their own violence and fear and disgust (and so cannot manage to revile and condemn, but not hit). It may be that something innate in the narrative itself is toothsome and hungry and will be sated?

The underlying threat of violence is the energy that drives the almost constant intimidation that is a queer person's daily lot, regardless. (The USA state department just issued a formal travel warning to any gay citizens who thought to pass through or stay a while in Nigeria. It wasn't just about Muslims.) We learn to live with this silent threat that can irrupt into violence without much warning; but that does not mean we have forgotten the point of it. The moment we enter any - any -any venue that has not loudly and overtly tagged itself, a friendly LGBTQ-safe space, the orthodox game is up and running.

You are telling yourself silly bedtime stories if you lull yourself into thinking otherwise. Want a check on these realities? Think it must all be in the silly perverts' heads? Experiment with presenting yourself, even for a few hours, as an openly LGBTQ man or woman - just in all those spaces which are not yet loudly and overtly tagged as friendly, welcoming or safe spaces. You already can pretty much guess just how unsafe, uneasy, and intimidated you will probably begin to feel. But do it to get out of your own head for a bit, anyway. Try it out (keeping your cell handy for a quick rescue call if vibes escalate beyond the basic unwelcome built into our daily lives). Some of those venues are churches, or other religious settings and institutions. Duh. Those religious settings and revelations and institutions helped give birth to all the other unsafe venues. Duh. Helping by both their narratives, and sometimes even by their public and private examples. It may be more difficult than we are admitting to ourselves, this innately contradictory ideal of pleding absolute allegiance to the orthodox negative religious revelation, while never feeling that good old hunger for striking out against the perverts. Don't you maybe especially catch yourself buzzing with it, when you see them look to be free, unencumbered, thriving, and happy to be gay and alive? Come on now, try to be truthful with your secret self.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 5:37am BST

To continue drdanfee's posting of 1 June - this is not just the experience of homosexuals, it is the experience of women, and in societies where violence is running rampant of "unworthy" castes.

God makes us as he makes us, and it is disrespectful to challenge God's works e.g. Isaiah 45:9-11 ending “This is what the LORD says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?"

Over the last day I've been contemplating the fear of acceptance of homosexuals and the ordination of women. I wonder if the fear is that if we accept these people, then where are the finite boundaries? What would our church look like?

I contemplated what would have happened if Noah had insisted on knowing where the ark would land before he began God's project. Or if Moses had insisted on the details of the Holy Land before he acted as God's guide to take the Israelites out of Egypt and through Exodus.

We live in a time where a lot of our thinking is based on business practices such as visioning, cost-benefit analysis, market analysis. Where business leaders must convince investors to introduce a new product or allow restructuring. Gaining substantial financial support invariably requires highly structured and organised business plans with clear goals and measurable, predictable forecasts.

I wonder how much such thinking has rippled into our approach to theology? Do governmental agencies and power brokers choose which churches to support based on economics of who can appease the people for the least amount of money? Are churches that foster submissiveness and respect for the authorities (irregardless of the moral implications) more valued and supported by global businesses and/or governmental agencies?

I wonder if we are so accustomed to knowing where we are going, that we now crave certainty - to the point of reducing God and the bible to predictable compartmentalised boundaries. This would make us unable to open our hearts to a bigger vision from God. A bigger vision would frighten us. Where does it stop? If we must love women priests, homosexuals, what next? People of other denominations and/or religions? Animals and plants? The environment? Possibly the whole of creation?

What would that mean? That we recognise the Hand of God in any leaf, in any human, in any star?

For heavens sake, the next thing it will sound like we are walking in the Garden of Eden; able to commune with God at any moment and laugh at the antics of playing young and smile for something as silly as a beautiful sunset.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 11:06am BST

Sadly many of the activists I have met and debated with over many years are as convinced as drdanfee that almost everyone is either hiding something, or are susceptible to being converted to enjoy gay sex for themselves. It simply confirms my assessment that homosexuality is a chosen identity and an assumed lifestyle, rather than a medical disorder or an orientation.

Why would anyone want to present themselves in public in such an identity, as drdanfee suggests, which is profoundly contrary to Christian witness?

Society still, for the most part, does not tolerate drunkenness on the streets, and a sober Christian would hardly wish to go about imitating someone in a drunken state. It is possible to choose to avoid alcohol, just as it is possible to choose to embrace chastity, rather than flaunt sexuality on the high street.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 11:10am BST

But of course the Church can change doctrine if it wishes to. It has done in the past and will do so again. In any case, there are clearly people who believe very different things amongst those posting here.

This, to me, is the key issue - rather than try and force people to change, if there can be no point of agreement, then I think the best thing to do is agree to differ, and if that isn't acceptable, to form two separate organisations.

Is there really any sign that this debate is ever going to reach a peaceful conclusion where people can co-exist??

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 11:26am BST

drdanfee,

Your argument based on some people misinterpreting the Bible to justify slavery is weak. The logical conclusion of your point is that we should be very careful to avoid wrong interpretations of the Bible…and this does not help your cause at all.

The Bible does not condone slavery – if you read what it says on the subject, which is why “evangelicals” were at the forefront of getting it abolished!

If the Bible did say, “Slavery is wrong, don’t tolerate it!” would you accept the prohibition?

When the Bible does make it crystal clear that certain things are wrong, some people think we should ignore it and even ordain those who openly disobey clear teaching...

Posted by: nersen on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 2:17pm BST

I see from the first full report of John Gladwin's news conference on his return from Kenya that he doesn't necessarily agree with the views of Changing Attitude (http://timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/2006/06/gladwin_i_blame.html)

"I was not asked to endorse the views of Changing Attitude when I became a patron."

Do other patrons also take this position? Indeed, which of the patrons in fact do endorse the views of Changing Attitude?

Posted by: John Richardson on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 8:08pm BST

People present themselves as gay because that is what they are, and it is better in every way to be honest rather than lie.

Even if they opt for celibacy, that doesn't make them any less gay.

But who wants a lonely, isolated life, living a lie? Not me.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 1 June 2006 at 10:38pm BST

I find MM's latest comment rather odd. Most of the people I know who publicly or privately identify themselves as "gay" do not adopt mannerisms or dress which indicates something different - why should they, except to make some kind of statement, or to conform to a perceived sub-culture?

What is deceitful or dishonest about continuing to maintain a conventional appearance? Does MM believe that making a statement is an essential aspect of homosexuality?

Where is the "lie" in the consciously chosen celibate life? Does MM assume that everyone, but everyone is engaging in sexual intercourse, even if they do publicly espouse celibacy?

I have some news for him.

Posted by: Alan Marsh on Friday, 2 June 2006 at 1:47am BST

drdanfee's post is simply wonderful and the vile and churlish replies by Alan Marsh and nersen are clear as sin. So sad. The debate can of course go on forever but I more and more sense that the so-called "orthodox" are so far from the message of Jesus' love that it would be difficult to call them Christian at all - but then that wouldn't be very Christian of me and I step back and continue to try to extend my love and prayers to them and hope they understand, in the end, the violence they do so subtly to others. Spirit help us.

Posted by: Byron on Friday, 2 June 2006 at 3:13am BST

Alan,

I don't know what 'activists' you've been hanging out with, but every gay man I know thinks it's a really, really bad idea to go after straight men or guys who give sexually ambiguous signals. Far from wanting to make conversions, most gay guys just want to find partners who are comfortable with themselves and know where they're at. Attempted conversions only end in tears.

Oddly, in ten years of being active on the liberal end of the Church, I really can't say I know more than one or two 'activists.' Though I did witness first hand the attempted exorcism of Richard Kirker by a Nigerian bishop at Lambeth '98, I didn't come away from that making generalisations about straight conservatives, even though I found the sight pretty disgraceful.

Posted by: Christopher Calderhead on Friday, 2 June 2006 at 3:49am BST

GAY SEX * GAY SEX * GAY SEX * GAY SEX * GAY SEX

[Simon, forgive the OT post, but this thread has already gone off the rails from +Chelmsford in Kenya!]

Why is this the *only thing* that reasserters want to discuss?

The point is NOT gay sex! The point is *spousal love, body and soul* for gay couples!

"It simply confirms my assessment that homosexuality is a chosen identity and an assumed lifestyle..."

Alan, you can justify your PREJUDICE any way you want to.

*God knows how God made me* . . . and God has not and WILL NOT be bound by anyone's prejudice!

Go ahead, and tell me that I'm "rationalizing my sin" or whatever.

God is my witness, and God is not mocked.

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Friday, 2 June 2006 at 5:38am BST

Yes, this off topic discussion is now closed.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 June 2006 at 7:47am BST