Sunday, 10 December 2006

secularism: bishops attacked and responding

For the second week running, English bishops are criticised by an Observer columnist. This time, Mary Riddell has a piece titled Integrate? Tell that to the Christian church, Mr Blair. Here’s an excerpt:

…Even so, the bishops are on the prowl. The Bishop of Rochester criticises diversity legislation, while lamenting the lack of Christmas celebrations in that hotbed of Saturnalia, the nation’s SureStart schemes. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, announces that ‘illiberal atheists’ and ‘aggressive secularists’ have stolen Christmas. On a point of semantics, secularists do not wish to harm religion or deny its great cultural influence. They simply want it to know its place.

Which, in the view of many bishops, is in every corner of the public realm. In the current Times Higher Education Supplement, the Archbishop of Canterbury defends Christian campus groups which risk banishment because of their attitudes to gay sex. ‘It isn’t as though sexual activity were any different from any other conscious choice,’ writes Dr Rowan Williams, likening any threat to such groups to banning CND. Public organisations should operate within the statute. On 1 January, laws protecting gay people in Northern Ireland will be tightened. Ruth Kelly, who plans weaker, later rules for the rest of the UK, has bowed to religious leaders complaining that the pillars of Christendom will totter unless Christian adoption agencies, bookshops and hotels are allowed free rein for prejudice. Islamist extremism is obviously never to be compared to the behaviour of peaceful citizens. Even so, the harmonious society Mr Blair desires is not best served by Christian leaders passing themselves off as a persecuted minority and the whipping boy of multicultural Britain.

This is purest fallacy. The might of bishops trickles down from the House of Lords, where they sit without a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy. Cathedrals are forecasting record attendances this Christmas. In a fearful, divided country, religion is the beneficiary. Mr Blair, though recognising that shift, was too selective and too timid in his remedies. He condemned radical Muslim schools, quite rightly, but omitted to say that creationism in Christian ones is deplorable, too. He demanded that faith schools must abide by guidelines requiring tolerance and respect for other faiths…

The article by Rowan Williams to which she refers can be found in the Times Higher Education Supplement which is read largely by university academics and administrators. The article is trailed on the front page of the weekly journal this way:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has hit out at the “suppression” of Christian unions on university campuses with an impassioned defence of free speech in an exclusive article for The Times Higher.

and the background to it is summarised in a news article entitled Archbishop hits back.

Rowan Williams’ article is titled It is not a crime to hold traditional values. A couple of excerpts (but read it all, please):

…But beyond this, we sometimes seem to be unclear. Quite often in discussion of Christian attitudes to homosexuality (and this is often the presenting issue where Christian unions are concerned), it is taken for granted that any statement that a form of behaviour might be sinful is on a par with the expression of hate, so that it is impossible for a conservative Christian, Catholic or Protestant or, for that matter, an orthodox Muslim to state the traditional position of their faith without being accused of something akin to holocaust denial or racial bigotry.

Yet the truth surely is that while it is wholly indefensible to deny respect to a person as such, any person’s choices are bound to be open to challenge. Any kind of behaviour or policy freely opted for by a responsible adult is likely to be challenged from somewhere; it isn’t as though sexual activity were different from any other area of conscious choice. And to challenge behaviour may be deeply unwelcome and offensive in a personal sense, but it is not a matter for legislative action…

and this:

…Christian unions, like most student associations, can be a nuisance. As a university chaplain many years ago, I was blessed with good relations with members of the Christian union, thanks to the maturity and warmth of the local leadership; but I know that not every chaplain in higher education has the same good fortune. Questions about tests for orthodoxy recur regularly in the histories of Christian unions, and every few years there is likely to be some degree of conflict and sometimes schism (as in other societies - I can also remember the ferocity of debates in the 1970s within a university Labour Club at the time leading up to the formation of the Social Democrat Party). Furthermore, there is real debate and divergence among Christians about the ethics of same-sex relationships, and some more liberal Christians will find it embarrassing that the traditional position of the Christian union can be seen by the rest of the student world as something like an unquestioned Christian line. Christian unions can appear detached from the rest of student life in some campuses (by no means all); or they can lay themselves open to charges of insensitive recruitment; and so on. But the basic question remains. Is there a straightforward right of association for people with these convictions? …

Other material relating to the current dispute over Christian Unions on British university campuses can be found in this excellent report from Ekklesia (PDF file), which was also written up in the Guardian in Christian unions warned against legal action. See also Simon Barrow here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 2:37pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

The toxic pickle in the new conservative sandwich we are always being offered as exclusive nourishment these days mostly involves the fresh rise of the militant conformed new conservative who wishes to force everybody into the only simplistic religious mould possible, his own. Her own is included in his own, traditionally speaking for such believers, and given the sense of outrage about women in leadership, this movement has minimally begun to earn its chops as a neo-patriarchal renewal movement.

The louder, more militant, and more coercive the new conservative movement grows, the less we are free to occupy frames of equality, democracy, hermeneutic discernment, and best practices competency in our religious life.

Why not? Because the pattern is too clear to not notice.

New conservatives start off provisionally occupying some piece of our common 21st century frames - (democracy, equality, competency and so forth - usually as a part of their assertions of their own rights of citizen freedom and conscience) - then once that layer of narrative is well up and running in our mutual conversations, the second phase consistently occurs, wherein a special new conservative godliness tips and redefines that citizen common frame towards the familiar special new conservative religious conformity.

Funny thing is, this second step just happens to tilt our basic definitions towards undoing the frame that was just used to help assert new conservative rights of citizen freedom and conscience.

At the very least, the frame gets qualified so that it cannot serve anybody else's rights of freedom or conscience in quite the same manner in which it was just used to support special conservative religious rights. If you ask an intellectual sort of new conservative about this, you will either get a knowing, wry smile back, or you might get a speedy comment about how the eternal Truth just happens to have this quality of breathing all the citizen air in our diverse range of institutional rooms.

You will rarely if ever get any hint of an admission that this is all down to the typical new conservative hermeneutic dance going down before our very eyes, among us.

Thus the third step in this dance is always the posing of a dilemma: conform or exit. It follows consistently hard upon the first two maneuvers. Just watch it happen, this dance, as the realignment pressures now come home to roost in CoE.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 5:36pm GMT

Simon rightly singles out from the Archbishop of Canterbury's article the phrase: "it isn't as though sexual activity were different from any other area of conscious choice".

I don't accept that our sexual instincts are matters of conscious choice, or that our decision whether or not to follow them by being sexually active is no more than a conscious choice. That is why celibacy is described as a vocation: most people don't have it and can't manage it.

In fact, religious belief is more likely to be regarded as a conscious choice than the question of whether a person does or does not forego any sexual activity for their whole life with the gender of their preference.

Moreover, the suggestion of a "distinction between declaring behaviour unacceptable and in effect passing judgment on a whole category of persons", which echoes that of Fulcrum's recent article, is too glib. The whole point of a sexual identity (however modern such a concept may be) is that there is no distinction (for example) between calling homosexual practice morally disordered or evil and calling a person of homosexual identity morally disordered and evil. The distinction, if it exists at all, is too fine. For most people, it is a distinction without a difference. That is why the majority of Christians who condemn same sex activity can't understand it and don't make it. It is also why the majority of those at the receiving end of judgments on their sex lives can't understand it as not being a judgment on their sexuality, and on them personally, and don't experience it as such.

Posted by: badman on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 7:32pm GMT

What a bizarre argument form the Observer -but it's nothing new . Only a few weeks ago, the Times ran its article about Christian Unions alongside an article about Islamic Terrorists being recruited in Universities. The message is clear -strong religious vies = fundamentalism and fundamentalism = terrorism. Christians are equally dangerous with Al Quaeda.

Neglect the fact that our education system, our legal system, our hospitals....are drawn from a Christian heritage so that to talk about religion knowing its place is sheer folly and shows both cultural and historic ignorance.

Posted by: dave williams on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 8:16pm GMT

"Any kind of behaviour or policy freely opted for by a responsible adult is likely to be challenged from somewhere; it isn’t as though sexual activity were different from any other area of conscious choice."

It is most distressing to hear Rowan Cantuar repeating this sort of blather.

The issue ISN'T "sexual activity", per se---due to the obvious observation that the specific flesh-on-flesh "activity" of ***heterosexuals*** is not up for discussion.

Rather, what is held up to judgment is the ENTIRE LIVES of homosexuals (apart from a *fig-leaf* cover of "Oh, we don't judge their orientation!").

It is for this reason, that what these "Christian" groups are doing (apparently: I watch from afar) IS an "expression of hate", "akin to holocaust denial or racial bigotry."

That the ABC can't see this (or WON'T, for political reasons) is pathetic beyond the telling of it... :-(

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 8:44pm GMT

The universities have been organised accordong to the way that Christian Churches in this country may be organised - the real differences becoming the boundaries, rather than divisions within institutions.

Of course their views should be tolerated, but a Student Union is not obliged to support it beyond a minimal provision. It can add the line that views of associations are not necessarily those of the Student Union. That might help, it it is not being done already.

It seems this 'militant secularism' charge is all the rage at the moment, and choosing an easy apparently common enemy allows all manner of folks to join in. It is just that Christianity should not be in the job of finding enemies in order to set up a false basis of unity within itself. Its unity within itself should be based on having no enemies, only an outlook based on loving principles.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 9:14pm GMT

JC,

The problem is that you are reading from afar. The Pure course is being very heavily misrepresented as an attack on homosexuals. That's not what it is. It's a course aimed at Christians -obviously it comes froma conservative point of view so maybe not all will agree with it here. In that respect it is pro marriage rather than anti everything. My suspicion is that the "It's homophobic" charge is a very clever way of making it one of the "common enemies" that we are so fond of at the moment. University SUs thrive on selling sex as a commodotity, the only restriction is use a condom. Something that stands out against the "Feel a little Fresher" culture is not going to be popular

Posted by: dave williams on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 11:18pm GMT

Something in Dr Williams’s article made me suspect that “Christian Unions” might not just be student Unions that are Christian in some sense, so I Googled and found:

http://www.uccf.org.uk/index.php

Their 1928 “core” doctrines – inalterable – were a post 17th century Anselmism, narrow to the point of excluding most Christians – even quite a few evangelical Christians, I imagine – and somewhat American 20th century in flavour. Who would have thought…

The Trustees is men only ;=) into money and numbers – and yes, they include a mega church “planter”.

I found the advice under Resources on how the students should “share” their faith most troubling, hurtful; spiritual violence. Some protection for the young and vulnerable seems to be called for.

From the Ekklesia PDF: “In a letter to The Times newspaper several (mainly evangelical) Church of England Bishops, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, as well as representatives of Christian campaigning groups described the perceived actions of various SU’s as “intolerant and unlawful”.”

A political campaign mounted by the usual suspects. Very dernier cri.

However I would say some of the 9 Ekklesia think tank proposals are a little naïve. Surely, to suggest that the Christian Unions ditch their 1928 “core” doctrines for the time honoured Creeds of the Church, is the safest way to make them panic?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 10 December 2006 at 11:55pm GMT

The issue isn't really the ethics of given genital acts -- these in themselves would not cause any more urgent concern than, say, masturbation or contraceptive acts. Rather it is the recognition of the human (psycho-sexual affective) identity of gays that is the sticking point.

"The ethics of same-sex relationships" is a phrase that you will never hear on the lips of Pope Benedict -- it implicitly dedramatizes the debate and posits the reality and value of these relationships as a given (suggesting that one goes on from there to mull over the rightness or wrongness of specific sexual acts).

Posted by: Fr Joseph O'Leary on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 3:56am GMT

Rowan has (conveniently?) forgotten his Freud, and psychological insight of late. Yet he writes convincingly of transference in his book Lost Icons. His poetry too, has insight into human being, which makes his current naivete questionable. (e.g. his poem about teenage single mothers at the bus stop, in a Valleys town).

His theology of relationship & sexuality too, as evinced in his Michael Harding Memorial Lecture, given to LGCM, some years ago, is deep, sensitive, and has poetic sensibility. Also, more recently,in his talk to Lesbian & Gay Clergy at their regular consultation, in London.

But now he seems to be denying his gifts and insights, in favour of 'standard church double-talk', which seems more self-serving, than authentic. I am sure the tactics of some are making his life a misery, and he wouldn't want a re-run of the Bishop of Reading disaster, when HE, Rowan, was forced to back down. I think the campaigns against him, before his inauguration, and since, must be unprecedented for an archbishop of Canterbury in modern times. ( Chris Sugden, 'Anglican' 'Mainstream', Reform, the right wing US ideologues, bankrolled by Ahmanson et al; and of course both Careys --George & Andrew, in an unprecedented and disgracefully self-serving double bill. (And I do mean bill in both senses of the word -- for US readers - gravy).I know I couldn't cope with it -- so why should he ? I can't help feeling disappointed though. Those who have railed against him, because (not satisfied with 'the Carey years' )they wanted another conservative archbishop, have effectively, so pressurized and hounded him, that they now have one, doing their bidding. Though sometimes with the olde Rowan flashes of insight, humour, love (and without the pedestrian plodding of the previous pontificate).

Posted by: laurence on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 11:32am GMT

Objecting to a 'Pure' course (precisely what is needed in this day and age, one would have thought?) and not to the wider amoralities on campus. Surely some topsy-turvy priorities here?

Ekklesia's report is said to be balanced. But:
(1) I do not think that it is as independent as it claims. After all, how many people wrote it? And is it helpful that it is anonymous?
(2) When it claims that CUs ocasionally have been troublesome to chaplains, it must also surely admit that this necessitates that the reverse is also true. There is no justification for seeing the chaplains as right and the CUs as wrong (without further argument): this smacks of siding with the establishment, with those already in power. People can but follow their own consciences. If they did not, they would be lying.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 1:02pm GMT

Dave Williams (one of them) wrote: “The Pure course is being very heavily misrepresented as an attack on homosexuals. That's not what it is. It's a course aimed at Christians – obviously it comes from a conservative point of view so maybe not all will agree with it here. In that respect it is pro marriage rather than anti everything.”

Why this language of “conservative” versus “liberal”? Because all this Anglican nastiness really is about a political fight for power?

For very little of this is traditional in a theological sense. Traditional 2nd Millennium theology on human sexuality was not “pro marriage”, it was anti marriage.

Chastity (which does not mean abstinence) was the thing. For all.

For a thousand years from Carolingian times (longer than that in academic circles), marriage was merely a lesser celibacy for those week in the flesh, not a heterosexism cum fertility cult mandate from Colorado.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 1:21pm GMT

There are two different issues here, and I think it's important not to confuse the two.

The first is indeed attempts to exclude Christian Unions from Students' Union premises, and this does indeed stem from an aggressive new left, secularist agenda long associated with Students' Unions. And yes, those trendy lefty students are indeed intolerant of those who disagree with them and often only to willing to shut down divergent opinion.

No matter how much I loathe the Christian Unions and all they stand for (and yes, I really do loathe their repugnant abortion of Christianity), in a free society it's their right to express it as publicly and voluminously as they can.

It's also their right to disagree rather pointedly with me about my gay 'lifestyle', and it's my right to regard them as a crowd of neanderthal, hate-filled, heretics (and I do). Neither of us has to 'respect' one another at all - just allow the other their right their lives as they see fit.

The second question is why Rowan is making an issue of this subject now - a much more interesting question. Ever since Rowan realised the degree of opposition to liberalism on homosexuality in the church after the failed appointment of Jeffrey John, he's been trying to deny his past and 'Sister Souljah' the gay rights movement within the Church. However, in recent months he's become much more proactive in actively championing bits of the Evangelical agenda - mocing off the essentially secular-left territory of anti-consumerism and environmentalism where he's traditionally set out his political stall.

Why, I don't know. I'd love to know if this is a sign of a more proactive Williams strategy beyond the "oh, God, what next" crisis management of his archepiscopate so far, but I'm not really in a position to speculate.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 2:15pm GMT

For many years UCCF advised their member CU's NOT to affiliate to Student Unions. Many still do not.

It is not unreasonable for CU's to agree to sign up to the equality statement of the SU.If they do not wish to, that is their choice, but then the SU is at will not to accept them as affiliates.

Note that this does not affect the individual student or their membership of the NUS.Purely whether the CU as a group is an affiliate or not.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 4:17pm GMT

Goran,

Once again I'm not sure what your point is. Maybe it's because you were so eager to get your comment in that you didn't bother to read and respond to the point I was making?

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 5:22pm GMT

Goran, do you have student Christian groups in Sweden? I wondered that you may not know of any, given this account of the Church of Sweden by a Swedish pastor, Folke T. Olofsson:

http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=17-09-032-f

Posted by: Steve Watson. on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 6:47pm GMT

Merseymike,

What is your source for this UCCF advise that CUs should not affiliate to their Student Unions? All I can find is Ekklesia's anecdotal evidence. It is news to me!

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 7:25pm GMT

I was thinking about this thread overnight (thanks again Simon for bringing things to the fore).

A few things that have me cogitating and/or chuckling.

Firstly, the Lutherans are probably singing praises to God that this happened in the CoE as they recently voted to divest themselves of State sponsorship so that their government is truly secular (recognising the idolatry of power and statehood).

Secondly, some of these comments are made by leaders who do not have strong sex drives. They remind me of a friend of mine who found herself unexpectedly pregnant; it took me several years to appreciate her confidence of one or another due date was because she'd only had sex twice in the four months preceding the knowledge of her conception...

Thirdly, some of this thread and others reeks of self-absorption. I remember in TA the forum on the British Airways dispute noted that other faiths were coming to Christians' defense in the right to wear crosses. Yet, some of the writeups I am seeing are referring to the CoE Bishop's victory; as if there were no other players on the stage.

That appears to be self-absorbed and callous. My experience from team sports and performances is that players who take all the credit and fail to acknowledge the input from others often find themselves standing alone and shunned as others seek less self-oriented company. In the entertainment industry, we all know of "divas" who are not respected, and those who are consistently kind on and off the set who are sought out because they are a joy to work with...

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 9:39pm GMT

I said 'used to', Dave, and I know, because I spent 2 and a half years as an evangelical, and knew the policy from the inside.

It worked well, simply because the CU didn't want to be compromised by having to sign up to SU policies

Which, of course, they are not forced to do, but if they don't , then they cannot expect the same privileges.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 10:07pm GMT

Cheryl,

The problem is that the victory probably was a Cof E one -seems that shareholder power talks loudest!

Posted by: dave williams on Monday, 11 December 2006 at 10:52pm GMT

Yes Steve Watson, there are student Christian Groups at all Universities and what we call High Schools, which are university standard, but do not have the 4 Faculties.

There are 2 Church of Sweden student associations:

Credo or SESG Sweden’s Evangelical Movement for Students www.credo.nu

This is Evangelical, that is historically Pietist/Bohemian brothers. Calvinism in Sweden (apart from regional and social pockets influenced by the 1686/1687 Calvinist State Church of the Absolutist Kings) is mainly found outside the Church in the Free churches.

Credo is the result of a break in 1924 with SKS, the 1907 Swedish Christian Student Movement, which was ecumenical. From the 1960ies there has been an increasing late modern pick and chose mixis of American Biblicist, Charismatic and Calvinist influences focusing on anti-intellectualism, lifestyle and “leadership”. This has made Credo emphasize its character as Evangelicals first.

The Free churches were established in the 19th century, often from Bohemian brothers in the old State protected “German”, that is Calvinist, congregations of Stockholm (1556), Gothenburg (1621, mainly Dutch and Scots), Norrköping (1650ies, French speaking) and Malmö (1682).

There was an English Methodist (Birmingham) mission in the 1820ies at the “English” chapel at Stockholm, a high society affair housed in Count De Geer’s Orangery. He was a descendant of a Dutch industrial (also slave trading) Calvinist family, which brought many blacksmiths here from Vallony and Liège in the 17th century.

Later in the century came an American Baptist mission from Hamburg. In the early 20th century Pentecostalism was brought here (by Swedes) from Los Angeles.

From Pentecostalism the KDS, now Christian Democrats, one of the 4 parties in the present Government, was established in 1964. The elder Free churches have generally stayed Liberal, as in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Both the Q & A section and the Confession http://www.credo.nu/credo/dettaArCredo/trosgrundval on the Credo home page resemble their English counterpart. The influence of American 20th century Biblicism has grown in the last decades and Credo is associated to IFES International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

The other Christian Student association is KRISS, the Christian Student Movement in Sweden www.kriss.se formed in 1971 by SKS, founded in 1907 out of an international students meeting led by John R. Mott at Vadstena in 1895 (Christian Students International Movement) and the Free Church Student movement, which had been part of the 1907 SKS, but went separate in 1912.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 6:12am GMT

Do people remember the word "graciousness"?

IF we are serious about world peace and fighting terrorism, then we are going to need to learn the higher social skills.

Other players contributed to the protection of Christians right to wear crosses with their uniform.

Spoilt "look at me" children demand the attention and forgot the others who cheered them on. They are the horrible children who demand presents and then sneer that they are not expensive or pure enough.

What the world needs is not self absorbed bullies. The world needs leaders who are looking to build alliances and hospitable communities, and thus will acknowledge the input from others.

For those who have forgotten social skills, there is also the gentle bonding that means that next time they go to attack you, you can act genuinely surprised because they came to your defence with British Airways.

There is a huge difference between snatching accolades versus accepting freely offered gifts.

It is also rude to forget who acknowledged you and lent their support to your cause.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 11:01am GMT

Put this item together with the article in the Telegraph about the evangelical backlash and you see a primate wedged between the devil and a hotplace. Poor old Rowan doesn't seem able to stand up and tell us what he really believes. Instead he shifts and turns with every political twist from left or right. He seems to be coming down most firmly on the right of late, wagering that the right will win out in the end, and that the left will fall by the wayside. I hope he is wrong, but it is quite clear that the breadth of Anglicanism is in serious danger, not least from its titular leader.

Clearly, poor old Rowan can't even see what moral issues are involved in the whole question of gay and lesbian relationships. It has to do with whole people, not with specific choices about behaviour. (See how often 'sexual activity', 'behaviour', and 'choice' are mentioned in his pathetic little piece in the THES.) That's what the evangelicals could never see, and Rowan used to be able to understand, but now he's reduced gay and lesbian people to what they do in bed, instead of seeing that that is none of his business. What is his business is to add the church's voice to respect for persons, and support for their loving and creative relationships. But as long as he, along with the Christian unions, insist on reducing those relationships to physical acts, there is no way for them to see beyond their own petty ideas of sin and salvation.

What a terrible end for a once great church.

Posted by: Eric MacDonald on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 12:19pm GMT

This website has failed to engage with the Christian Union issue until now. Given it headlined the front page of the Times on 18th November, and was followed by open letters signed by senior CofE bishops, why has the issue not been engaged with?

Due to the above, I have not been surprised that the current coverage of the Bishop of Southwark has also been completely ignored.

Are there some issues on which TA just doesn't know how to respond?

Posted by: Stephen Smith on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 3:01pm GMT

Cheryl observed
some of these comments are made by leaders who do not have strong sex drives

I offer two quotations, given that church leaders are not usually in their first fluxh of youth:

Peter de Rosa's character Father Doddleswell, commenting on obsessing about sexual sin: "Father Neil; if you wait long enough you don't have to leave the sins of the flesh alone. They leave you alone."

And Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Trial by Jury'
"Oh I was like that when a lad/
a shocking young scamp of a rover.
I behaved like a regular cad, /
but that sort of thing is all over.
I am now a respectable chap, /
and shine with a virtue resplendent,
and therefore I haven't a scrap/
of sympathy with the defendant."

Alternatively, google for the little known work of comic genius, 'Carp' for a wicked insight into the puritannical mind.

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 3:10pm GMT

David

It's not just an age thing (though that can make a difference). There are some people for example who should never aspire to be a celibate priest or nun. And history demonstrates that they often come to realise the error of their ways. Similarly, some only come to priesthood after the first flush of youth has passed.

I loved the poems.

I still keep thinking of the Victorian ages where women were told to "lie back and think of England".

Nowadays, I chuckle, because the AIDS pandemic is causing nations to have to choose effective strategies versus text book strategies. The churches that encourage monogamy and condoms have more credibility than those who call for abstinence. The former acknowledge what it is to be human and that we must work with what we are.

God doesn't ask us to be perfect before He works with us. God asks us to make the most of what has been given to us.

That is why God loved Leah so much. Not because she was perfect. But simply because she was pragmatic and kept doing the right thing: irregardless the emotional neglect, slights and rejections.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 12 December 2006 at 8:42pm GMT

The ABC complains that it's difficult for "conservatives", "...to state the traditional position of their faith without being accused of something akin to holocaust denial or racial bigotry."

Well, Your Grace, that's because it *IS* akin to racial bigotry.

I grew up in the American South during the Civil Rights struggles there, and heard all the religious justifications for keeping non-whites "in their place." And this stuff smells JUST the same...

Posted by: David Huff on Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 2:58pm GMT

Dear David Huff, I think your sense of smell needs checking.. Racial bigotry is about treating people of other races inferior. I don't know of any conservatives in the CofE who treat other people as inferior, whoever they are, whatever they believe, and however they define themselves...

What I (and they) do is believe that God has moral views on our choices. If you think about this you will realise that you do too. The only real difference is the exact grounds on which you and I decide whether something is immoral. You would be very upset (I guess) if I said that your disapproval of polygamy was equivalent to racial prejudice... because you believe that the moral issues override the "big love" orientation of the man, and the personal choices of the women (?).

If you can justify making moral assessments on certain grounds, other people can too! All you really disagree about is the exact "terms of reference"!

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 13 December 2006 at 8:58pm GMT

The CU is a free association of people and is therefore free to form its own views on membership.

The Student Union is a free association of people and is equally free to determine the criteria on which other associations for students can be affiliated as part of the SU.

Having a non-discrimination criteria is democratic (if voted for by the SU), reasonable and moral as well as being only fair if the SU represents all members why should it grant financial support to organisations that treat some members less favourably?

As has been pointed out, this doesn't bar the CU from meeting, just that the freedom of association that allows the CU to define its membership (to restrict it) also must allow the SU to define its membership (to affirm its inclusivity) and use that as a criterion as to which other student bodies it supports.

That's only what is reasonable.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 1:11am GMT

Dave dear,

1) There is only o n e human race.

Not seldom in-human.

2) Polygamy has n e v e r been the "personal choice" of the women. Even less of "love", certainly not of "big love orientation" - whatever that is supposed to mean.

Polygamy is a question of an in-balance in social, legal and economic powers.

Nor do I think that you are privy to God's "views", moral or otherwise.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 6:27am GMT

The Student Union is a free association of people

No it isn't, because students at most, if not all, UK universities must belong to one. One doesn't get a choice in the matter.

And even if it were, there's a difference between what it legally must do and what it should ideally do. There's a nasty strain of intolerance among the academic/student left - look at the repeated attempts in NATHFE/AUT, pre-amalgamation, to boycott Israeli academics. Free speech is at something of a premium.

Personally I think the views of UCCF and its members on homosexuality are repellent, but I defend their right to promote them as they see fit, not least so their views can have maximum exposure and be seen for the intolerant, unscriptural, bigotry that they are.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 10:55am GMT

Göran asserted. "Polygamy has n e v e r been the "personal choice" of the women."

Dear Göran, are you claiming omniscience, or just asserting that you have perfect perception of every choice ever made by a woman throughtout time and space ?

ps For more liberally acceptable forms of "big love" try reading up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory

Posted by: Dave on Thursday, 14 December 2006 at 11:27pm GMT

Dear David,

Since "Polygamy is a question of an in-balance in social, legal and economic powers"

there is no "choice" involved, personal or otherwise (except stayng un-polygamed ;=)

Do try to be serious!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Friday, 15 December 2006 at 11:04am GMT
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