Monday, 10 September 2007

Central Florida: bishop writes

The Bishop of Central Florida, John Howe has sent this letter to his diocese. Bear in mind that Central Florida is one of the Network dioceses.

The Central Florida Episcopalian for this month also contains another article which details further the position on property issues for congregations who might wish to leave the diocese. That can be found in the original PDF here, on pages 11 and 12, or there is an html copy here.

Both documents are worth reading right through. Some quotes from the letter:

…Nearly thirty of our Bishops – myself among them – have given the assurances requested, but a larger number than that have said they will never agree to these requests, and more than a third of the Bishops have yet to declare themselves. (Note: The Episcopal Church has never officially authorized the blessings, but some Bishops have done so in their own Dioceses.)

Everyone hopes that clarity and understanding will be improved on all sides when the Archbishop meets with us, but I know of no one who expects that at the end of the meeting the unequivocal assurances will have been given by the House as a whole.

Archbishop Williams will need to consult with the other Primates to consider and evaluate whatever responses we will have given them. The Archbishop has recently said he is “hopeful, but not optimistic” that the Anglican Communion will be able to stay together after that point.

What this will mean for parishes, Dioceses, and The Episcopal Church as a whole is not yet clear. There is, however, increasing talk among several of our Central Florida clergy about the possibility of their declaring their “separation from The Episcopal Church” and their seeking “realignment” with some other Province of the Anglican Communion. They would hope to take as many of their parishioners with them as possible, and they would try to retain the property belonging to those congregations.

If they decide to do this it will be extremely messy, difficult, and costly in every way imaginable.

Both the canons of The Episcopal Church and the state law of Florida stipulate that congregational properties are held “in trust” for the Diocese and the national Episcopal Church. This means that even if every single person in a given congregation wanted to leave they could not simply “take the property with them.”

…I believe that in virtually every one of our congregations, even those in which the desire to separate is widespread, there are many who do not wish to leave The Episcopal Church or the Diocese of Central Florida. If those who desire to remain can become a viable congregation, that congregation becomes the continuing body of that parish, with a claim upon the property.

So: I foresee an extremely difficult period ahead of us, in which congregations may be pulled apart, and arguments over property become horribly distracting and costly.

I am committed to being as gracious and generous as possible to those who, for conscience sake, believe they must separate. But I am pledged to stand alongside those who, for conscience sake, choose to remain, and I am committed to the rebuilding of congregations and this Diocese in the wake of any such departures…

Also, Bishop Howe recently wrote this letter in reaction to this one from retired Bishop Spong.

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Comments

Now that Bishop Spong's letter is highlighted for comment, it is time then to comment.

I agree with him. he might have been more polite, apparently, but there is this huge level of disappointment in what has been taking place for a very long time. What is the alternative? It is this, from Bishop Howe:

_But the deeper question is not whether or not a given person's orientation has changed, but whether or not that person is willing (often at great personal sacrifice!) to conform his/her conduct to the teaching of Scripture that sexual intimacy is for marriage (one man, one woman, in Christ)._

So that is it then. A gay person cannot express themselves fully if they want to be a member of this religion. As Spong says, the Bible has been used to justify every anti-social equalitarian position along the line, and failed - and it will fail on this.

Sometimes you have to decide on an ethical position and then let the institutional position follow. The mistake (one mistake, but it leads to all others) of the Archbishop of Canterbury has been to pursue unity at an ethical price that cannot be sustained. Spong is right.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 9:19pm BST

This is a rather refreshing letter from a Network Bishop, not only recognizing the legal reality about individual parishioners or clergy who choose to depart the Episcopal Church versus such persons taking real and personal property associated with each parish, but also clearly stating that he, Bishop Howe, will stay. Yes, we can all live together, people with varying beliefs on non-core issues, in this Province and in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion. We did before, and we will do so in the future. Thanks be to God.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 9:28pm BST

Sometimes I think Bishop Howe is passive aggressive...and for those of you that think he is being reasonable (like me) this time, please take a trip to St. Lukes "Network Cathedral" in downtown Orlando and listen to another hate/feardriven excluding homily from the olden days/daze of fire, brimstone and *difference* (think "back of the bus")....ole'

Posted by: Leonardo Ricardo on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 9:53pm BST

Now there's a class act. Maybe he could give Duncan, Iker et al lessons?

Also nice to see the unequivocal declaration of property rights.

Posted by: dave paisley on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 10:10pm BST

"I urge you not to go looking for lawyers who will support a position you would like to see prevail. Look for the best advice you can find regarding what will prevail. I believe we have already received that from [our chancellor and vice chancellor]. I can assure you, there is no one in the state of Florida who has thought more deeply about these issues!"

Ouch! I hope reasserters are listening. He's clear on where his theology is, and he's clear about the law and he's clear about his allegiences - if he has to leave TEC to stay in the AC he will - but no property taking. It's illegal and and it's wrong to try. God bless him. I disagree with his theology with respect to gays, but I respect his principles and admire his guts.

Posted by: C.B. on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 10:53pm BST

Of course, it was events in this diocese which made clear the real agenda of the so called reasserters.

Because this conservative bishop would not launch a hate filled schismatical broadside at the rest of the Episcopal Church, he and his diocese were dragged before the Archbishop of Canterbury's Panel of Reference and accused of being mean to the "real conservatives" who tried to steal the property as they departed.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Monday, 10 September 2007 at 11:48pm BST

Too bad in the long run that Bishop H. links his stellar clarity about maintaining big tent Anglicanism with references to junk science about how readily queer folks can change to straight.

Just because Masters and Johnson did the study doesn't make it best practices. By now enough holes and questions have been published in the peer-reviewed literatures about that particular M&J effort, that we should all get a bit red-faced to cite their study. The study focused way too exclusively on changing men, and involved men who were by reasonable criteria better described as bisexual or mainly straight, regardless of the MSM accommodations they seemed to have made at one point in their life cycles.

Then citing Socarides.

Socarides has spent nearly his whole career claiming that he is a royal road sexual orientation change therapist, but his soft stats are as limited as anybody else's soft stats. Even if you take self-reports of becoming straight at face value, Socarides is reporting from a highly skewed sample whose members have already self-selected for becoming straight as the only possible outcome. Even then failures are reported.

So, if we even give the soft stats some benefit, about one third are said to become straight. Another one third are said to be able to become non-sexual celibates who help raise serious questions about the possible mental health status of studied non-intimacy. And one third fail miserably to the point of emotional exhaustion, major clinical depression, cognitive disorientation, suicidality, and the like. Is this state of the art sexual orientation change success? Indeed.

Junk science, pure and simple. A great lab for talking about what is, and what is not, best practices in empirical methodology. And few or none of these change studies would meet even minimal testing standards if we were studying a new possible medicine, or a new approach in surgery. Would we all clamor for FDA approval of any medicine that cured people one third of the time, rendered another third with an organ system incapable of functioning, and drove the remaining one third bonkers?

Dismal, dismal, dismal. Science, for all its known limitations, knows how to do way better in testing hypotheses than any of the change studies so far published.

If we cannot meet sanely on the common grounds of junk science, it is any real surprise, still, that we have trouble talking with one another?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 12:50am BST

Pluralist says, "Spong is right."

This is how the AC has come to the present impasse. Whatever Spong is, "right" is almost never a fitting description!

Posted by: Joe on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 2:29am BST

My own blog comments here:

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2007/09/bishop-spongs-necessary-letter.html

If you've seen his letter before, scroll down to the cartoon.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 3:14am BST

Jesus says that marriage is not for everyone. There are some who are born without the inclination to marry. There is nothing in history to suggest that eunuchs were either always castrated or always celibate (remember Potiphar?)--at the very least, they frequently played the passive sexual role in same-sex relationships. I think that the best translation of "eunuch" is GLBT. So, Jesus affirmed a place in the Kingdom for the sexually other.

Posted by: James on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 5:14am BST

I retract my "class act" comment, at least in reference to the response to the Spong letter. He's entitled to think it a bit mean-spirited, but as noted above, fails the junk science test on refuting Spong.

Gee, and I have never really cared for Spong much, ever, but his letter says something that needs to be said, sugar coating be damned. However, is there anything in there that Williams doesn't know already?

Posted by: dave paisley on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 9:32am BST

With respect to the bishop, the Masters & Johnson studies on Homosexuality are "Dark Ages" stuff. They were conducted between 1968 and 1977 (until 1973 the APA classified homosexuality as a "disorder"). M & J claimed a 71.6% cure rate. While recognizing that Masters' & Johnson's sexuality studies contain much good stuff, this is clearly nonsense.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 12:15pm BST

Bishop Howe is in that most uncomfortable of all possible positions--straddling the fence.

Most here praise the foot on the "reappraiser" side of the fence while disparaging the foot on the "reasserter" side. I would do the opposite, and see his position on property issues as merely being the result of a fairly hard-eyed and practical review of the legal issues in the State of Florida--right and wrong be damned. Still, his response to Spong shows his heart is in the right place even if he is placing one foot in the "reappraiser" property camp. The trouble is, his stands will ultimately make him an outcast on both sides. The "reappraiser" tribe will denounce him and ultimately harry him out of TEC for his stands on homosexuality--the denunciations here at TA are only a tiny taste of what will take place as conservatives are increasingly marginalized in and eliminated from TEC. On the other hand, those with whom he is more closely aligned theologically and Biblically will view him as being untrustworthy at best.

Howe seems to be a good man, but he has definitely placed himself in an untenable position. I suppose that, like many others in the days ahead, he may be allowed to complete his tenure as a token conservative bishop in the increasingly radicalized TEC that is coming. I fear, however, that he will ultimately be forced to lick the boots of Spong and his theological (I use the term loosely) descendents.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 2:32pm BST

I have an alternative view of Bishop Spong insofar as I find myself agreeing with many of the questions he seems to ask, while not necessarily fully agreeing with the forms in which he asks questions, and not necessarily agreeing with the tentative provisional answers or restatements of belief which he proposes.

Almost any time Spong talks/writes about the symbolical-nonliteral nature of much religious talk, including doctrines, creeds, and other treasures of our traditions, I find myself at minimum resonating with what what he is often saying. His comments about the contradictions and fudges built into some church life mores or institutional processes also seems rather on target - even very con-evo realignment blogs seem to agree that some fudges are less satisfactory as ways of living together in peace, than maybe they used to be in former times. Don't Ask, Don't Tell seems less helpful as an Anglican more, and it is under considerable duress even in overt military life. Just for example.

Yes, his letter was rather bluntly put, for a public media release - but isn't frank disagreement and mutual criticism at least an improvement on the traditional Anglican narratives of filth and danger and disgust that we so often see/hear coming from realignment sources?

The real issues for the near future HoB meeting with Canterbury involve asking Canterbury how we can all most powerfully assist RW in taking a clear, unequivocal stand for big tent Anglicanism which opens to both all willing African believers and everybody else, too, without presupposing ahead of time that - as RW has said publicly, surprising or inconveniently difficult questions are not foreclosed among us, too quickly, and too superficially. ????

Believers who still subscribe to the traditional beliefs (filth, danger, disgust) in sexuality have personal room to do so, but their use of these matters to collapse and conform the big Anglican tent is just what we cannot allow without considerable raging against the necessary dimming realignment involves of the big Anglican witness lights.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 3:51pm BST

'...Socarides has spent nearly his whole career claiming that he is a royal road sexual orientation change therapist, but his soft stats are as limited as anybody else's soft stats. Even if you take self-reports of becoming straight at face value, Socarides is reporting from a highly skewed sample whose members have already self-selected for becoming straight as the only possible outcome. Even then failures are reported.'

Speaking of 'failures', Socarides' son may be seen as such by his dad. He is an out and proud gay man; and himself a campaigner FOR gay rights !

If only Socarides had listened to his son, as did *John Wolfenden,seems to have paid heed, to his own gay son.

*aka Lord Wolfenden of the 1957 Report fame.

Posted by: L Roberts on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 3:51pm BST

And of course, one gay man Socarides never did manage to convince was his own son!

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 4:57pm BST

re dave paisley and lapinbizarre,

Spong said in his letter that surely no "learned person" espoused ignorant attitudes on homosexuality...


...and then Howe (who has at least a Masters degree) goes and proves him wrong. I know a lot of reparative therapy groups at least correctly make the distinction between behavior and orientation, and aim at changing the former. Howe failed to do so. I wonder how he got his Masters degree.

Posted by: Weiwen on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 4:59pm BST

I have to give Bishop Howe much credit. Pittsburgh is considering four options of which only one is really being considered (It's like the old Soviet Union, one candidate to vote for).

My father left the Roman Catholic Church when he married my mother. He didn't get a pew, a brick, a missalette, nothing! I don't understand how people think they're entitled to everything and have such little regard for those wishing to remain (such as Falls Church and St. Stephen's in Virginia).

Maybe Duncan will take note but I doubt it.
This is going to be a long messy battle with no end in sight.

Peace, Bob

Posted by: BobinSwPA on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 6:16pm BST

Wrong diocese Malcolm+

It was the Diocese of Florida, not Central Florida that was before the Panel of Reference.

Posted by: George Conger on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 6:50pm BST

"Study after study, from Masters and Johnson to Charles Socarides has shown that for a remarkably high percentage of homosexual persons a change of orientation is possible."

Most interesting here is that those conservatives who speak in support of bishop Howe will not address the fact that this statement is an out and out lie. If a bishop in the Church can make such a statement, how can he be said to be in service to the truth? This is one of my problems with these people: they pretend to be standing for God's truth, yet their statements about gay people make it clear that they are either woefully ignorant about homosexuality, or are deliberately lying to further their own ends by vilifying gay people. I would have no problem with someone who says "God is calling people like you to celebacy". I will not listen to those who say that "God is calling the horrible stereotype I have of you to celebacy". The horrible stereotype can go and obey them, the real me is not interested in following those who have no interest in the truth.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 6:53pm BST

Hi Ford:

I think I'm the only conservative here responding positively to any aspect of Howe's letter to Spong, so you must be speaking to me.

What is it exactly that you want me to respond to? I'm not aware of any "horrible stereotypes" of homosexuals and any "vilifying" of homosexuals in his letter, so I am at a loss as to how to proceed on that front. Actually, I think it is you that is engaging in a needlessly disparaging diatribe against Howe, not the other way around.

As to whether the statement you quote is incorrect . . . well, perhaps you should cite your evidence in proof of that point. That will give me something a bit more tangible to deal with. On the other hand, I can't really see the point either way, as the question of reversability/irreversability doesn't change the Biblical realities. Frankly, if I was to criticize Howe on his statement it would be for wasting his breath on a matter that is (from my point of view) largely irrelevant to the discussion.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 9:31pm BST

Hi James

There are some souls who get caught up with what a eunuch is versus what GLBTs are. They refuse to countenance granting any kind of tolerance or biblical legitimization.

Yet, when I read the bible, I find the conventions and compassion that is shown to the eunuchs could easily be applied to GLBTs too.

In Matthew 19:12 Jesus says that some eunuchs are born that way, others made that way by man. While homosexuality is such a disturbing thing for some souls, it becomes a weapon. Some souls can use it as an act of rebellion to "pervert" children or shame a family by selling one of their children into sex slavery.

While there is shame and stigma associated with GLBT, it is possible to use it as a weapon of intimidation and to justify vilification.

Yet, God promises eunuchs dignity, if they honor the Sabbath and love his desired everlasting covenants and laws, and then they too are called God's peoples (Isaiah 56:3-8).

There is the precedence of the king who chose to accept that some of his descendants would be eunuchs in order that peace could become manifest (2 Kings 20:18).

Nor are eunuchs completely passive in the bible, the conversion scene in Acts 8. The two or three eunuchs who threw Jezebel out of her high tower at the anointed Jehu's behest in order that God's prophecy could be fulfilled (2 Kings 9:30-37). Jehu's mission was to avenge the blood of the prophets and the Lord's servants that had been killed by a cruel leadership.

Jesus also holds similar sentiments (Luke 11:46-54). I don't see why Jesus would have any problem having GLBTs help him tear down the high towers of tyranny and accusations, if it was good enough for Jehu to use the hands of eunuchs so then it is good enough for GLBTs today.

Fortunately, most have evolved the need to aggressively act out dissociative rejection. We now take on the paradigms that shape how we perceive the world and interpret the holy texts. We embrace that which will lead us into peace, joy and abundance; and we reject that which destroys, grieves or deprives.

Remember Jesus' biggest enemies were the teachers of the law. The law without faith, compassion or mercy is meaningless.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 10:14pm BST

There is nothing in Scripture which suggests that eunuchs were castrated or celibate. Nor is there anything in history. Eunuch is a catch-all term for men who were not inclined toward heterosexual marriage for any number of reasons. Because they didn't fit the traditional paradigm, they were used in various official positions. I don't think eunuchs are analogous to GLBT--I think they ARE GLBT. Eunuch was the term used back then for the "sexually other." And Jesus welcomed all the "sexually other" into the church when He welcomed eunuchs.

My point is this: We have a Scriptural basis for including GLBTs, and we should use it.

Posted by: James on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 3:25am BST

"What is it exactly that you want me to respond to? "

The fact that his statement is false. There is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation is fluid in this way. Sure there's propaganda like Cameron, but that ain't science. The "ex-gay" movement is dangerous and the "success" rate is so low that, were it a drug, it would not be used in clinical practice. There really isn't any evidence as to the origins of these people's sexual confusion, so their "change" is suspect. It is not whether or not it makes any difference from a Biblical standpoint, but that such untrue comments add to the "fog of war" surrounding this issue. This is just another brushstroke in creating the stereotype of gay people as evil sinful rebels who could be Godly and pure if they'd only try. I'd have no problem with the Right's call to celebacy if they could show me they actually understood anything about homosexuality, but they won't listen to anything we say. I am gay. I have told you repeatedly what my experience has been, yet you still insist that I give evidence that sexuality is not changable. Do you think you'd be able to have an honest gay relationship if you just tried hard enough? The scientific method seeks to affirm a positive, not disprove a negative. It is for the right to come out with valid scientific studies that PROVE their methods work, not for everyone else to disprove them. Why should I listen to anyone who preaches untruth about me as fact and demands that I affirm that untruth?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 1:07pm BST

Ford:

(1) My respect for the "soft" sciences is muted at best, and non-existent in many cases. Researchers in this area are, and have seemingly always been, too susceptible to political correctness and the various ideologies of the practitioners to make them very reliable to one schooled in the hard sciences. Older studies are criticized by the current generation for erroneous findings reflecting the pre-existing biases of the ones running the studies, while more recent studies claim to determine exactly the opposite. However, the latter studies may, for the same reasons, merely reflect the pre-existing biases of the current generation of researchers. Who is to be trusted among this bunch of twits-the followers of yesteryear's brand of political correctness or the followers of this year's brand of political correctness? I'm tempted to say, "A pox on both of your houses!"

(2) You are getting mixed up on the ol' can't prove a negative idea. I didn't ask you to prove there was NO scientific evidence that a homosexual orientation was mutable, but to provide evidence that it was immutable. This is not asking you to prove a negative. And, I am just as entitled to ask you for your evidence as you are to ask me for mine. However, given the fact that I don't really trust any of these researchers all that much, the point is largely moot from my standpoint.

(3) So on to your big complaint: "This is just another brushstroke in creating the stereotype of gay people as evil sinful rebels who could be Godly and pure if they'd only try." Balderdash! It doesn't make any difference--we're all evil sinful rebels. If you can't change your orientation, you can't--so what. We're all of us struggling with one seemingly intractable sin or another. I've got my struggles and you've got yours. I can guarantee that my struggles on a variety of fronts have led me to the point of despair, wondering why I couldn't find or develop more holiness in my life in certain areas. Nonetheless, I (mostly) soldier on, trying to do the best I can, and struggling to stand up again each time I fall, and fall, and fall . . . So it goes. It's lucky we have a savior that understands.

(Cont'd)

Posted by: Steven on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 7:26pm BST

Ford:

(cont'd)

So, based on the foregoing, I'm quite willing to concede (arguendo) everything you say in terms of immutability. I can even assume the existence of the "holy grail" of current pro-gayness researchers: "THE GAY GENE". What difference would it make in terms of what God has asked homosexuals to do? None. At best, it means that non-homosexuals should be more understanding and compassionate, but it doesn't change the spiritual and scriptural realities. These apply whether the condition is mutable or immutable.

The same is true of the genetic basis for alcoholism (a definite problem in my family line btw)--it doesn't make drunkeness any better in the eyes of Scripture, nor does it eliminate the obligation to avoid drunkeness. Heck, as far as I know, there may be genetic determinants or predispositons for violence, jealousy, prejudice, and . . . you name it. Finding this out might, as you point out, place more of an obligation on those who don't struggle with these temptations to be understanding with those who do, but we should be doing this anyhow. But, once again, it would not make any difference in terms of God's desire that we avoid certain behaviors.

So, whether it makes you feel any better or not, I'll make it definite: I bear no particular animousity towards those who are dealing with this variety of temptation. We're all fallen, all continuously falling one way or the other, and all tempted by one thing or another. This isn't our great failing, our great failing is to stop trying.

Steven

PS-I know I'm sounding a little preachy in that last sentence. Apologies. In my own defense I'll comment that I'm preaching to myself as much or more than anyone else. I need it.

Posted by: Steven on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 7:51pm BST

Dear S., it reads as too clever by far of you to ask for specific contrary empirical data in your posts, while you vigorously occupy two defining presuppositions. (Try PsychINFO database?)

One, you pledge an allegedly eternal and unchanged or unchanging biblical frame in which the very people we moderns understand empirically as queer folks simply do not and by categorical definition, ahead of time in weighing all facts, can NOT appear, except as villains who need to stop. Then you basically dare anybody to make queer folks - as real people with real loves, real ethics, and real lives of cherished good meaning - appear on your pre-framed villainy screens.

Two. You not only pursue this strategy in regard to queer folks and what worth and competency they by biblical definition can NEVER have, you also very cleverly pursue it concerning scripture itself.

Yet rich veins of scripture having to do with eunuchs and other sorts of outcasts in ancient near eastern times, along with all the biblical witness to love, faith, mercy, and neighbor equalities, weigh precisely contrary to what you are claiming is an exclusively negative final biblical revelation about queer folks.

Ah, no thanks. I don’t buy either starting frame. If I wanted to close my mind in the first place, I probably wouldn't read science or scripture.

Used car sales are used car sales. Presuppositional spin is spin. Even when it comes to reading our sacred texts. But loud, clear propaganda FOR alleged truth claims is NOT exactly the same as an empirical hypothesis test of competing truth claims.

Have our modern facts pretty much established that queer folks as such are no more, no less capable than comparison group straight folks on any number of serious dimensions of operationally measurable competency? Or - have we cooked the disconfirming data by not adequately testing it?

Yes, we can side track into an endless battle of religious presuppositional preaching. But the data remains, standing.

Any decent empirical test of the surprise hypothesis - queer folks as competent human beings – reports that queer folks do not look any better or worse on the whole than their straight counterparts. (We still ask queer folks to change sexual orientation, while straight folks don’t.) Sometimes queer folks reach as high as any straight person ever studied. Higher than a received system of negative religious beliefs about them predicts or allows?

Posted by: drdanfee on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 10:19pm BST

James

You and I have come to much the same conclusion.

One form of red herring debates are around whether the term eunuch is meant to cover GLBTs. Whether it covers some categories or not others. Whether only "celibates" were valid before God...

It is like having six Adams discussing what names the various animals in the paddock should have (e.g. Clydesdales, Shetland ponies, Arabian, Palomino)? Then are the Zebras also horses? What should they call and how will they categorize the various llamas, alpacas, goats, cows and sheep? This can go on for hours, days, weeks, months or years.

Along comes Eve. "You know what guys, they are all animals, they are all hungry and they all need to be watered and fed."

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 10:20pm BST

"I didn't ask you to prove there was NO scientific evidence that a homosexual orientation was mutable, but to provide evidence that it was immutable."

There was famous court case in Australia a couple of years ago where the prosecutor accused the defendant of contempt of court, but the defendant successfully defended themselves by demonstrating the question was a trap.

The question was "Mr X, when did you stop beating your wife?" When Mr X tried to say that he had never beaten his wife, the lawyer tried to say that he wasn't answering the question. The lawyer was right, he wasn't answering the question, but the question was premised that it had already been agreed that he had been beating his wife. That had not been proven in court.

S's question demands that evidence be submitted that homosexuality is immutable. If such evidence can not be submitted, he can then claim that homosexuality is mutable and therefore there is no basis for scriptural tolerance.

The trap to his question is to claim that all homosexuals are equally mutable or immutable. But by GLBTs own testimony, there are some who are mutable (those attracted to either/both gender), and others who are strongly immutable (they have absolutely no desire for the opposite/same gender) and the continuum in between.

The question itself demonstrates either sophistry or ignorance, both of which would also color their ability to recognize and accept both scientific or biblical evidence and interpretations. Witness drdanfee's comments. Colin Roses' texts on subjectivity in scientific testing and observations are equally valid in theological research and interpretations.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 13 September 2007 at 11:32am BST

"Older studies are criticized by the current generation for erroneous findings reflecting the pre-existing biases of the ones running the studies"

Which is, of course, one of the purposes of publishing one's work. All studies are flawed and will be refined by further study. Thus, one published study leads to another that corrects the flaws of the first, etc. This is why one study means nothing, results must be independently verified. And there is rarely, if ever, a "last word".

"My respect for the "soft" sciences is muted at best, and non-existent in many cases"

"However, given the fact that I don't really trust any of these researchers all that much."

So don't make scientific arguments if you are just going to dismiss counter opinions by saying you don't trust them. Do you trust Cameron?

"we're all evil sinful rebels"

No, actually, we're all fallen broken children of God. He loves us and redeems us. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but that doesn't mean we are all some kind of criminals. Jesus came to win us back from bondage to sin and death that our own wilfullness brought on us. He didn't come so that a bunch of criminals could get away with their crimes. Creation is awaiting her perfection. This idea that we, and I suspect subconsciously, Creation as a whole, are evil is not Incarnational, and borders on some Gnostic doctrines.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 September 2007 at 1:02pm BST

And, Steven, as to us all suffering from temptation, I'm interested as to what "temptation" you suffer from that you would equate with the "temptation" for a lifelong, committed, monogamous relationship.

And your comments on the "gay gene" are not true. It is most certainly NOT a "holy grail". Many gay activists are quite afraid of it actually, since if there can be found to be a "gay gene", then there can be a prenatal test for it, which would lead to abortions of gay children. And, most gay people, myself included, would have no trouble believing that to be one form of abortion the Prolifers would have no problem with. Not an extreme thing to expect from people who all your life have told you you are evil, sick, predatory, even God hates you, and, subtly and not so subtly, indicate they don't think you fully human. It's not like they haven't killed us before, it's not like they aren't doing it now. Besides, anything as complex as sexuality has both nature and nurture involved in it. Most geneticists would think it very unlikely to be controlled by one gene or one gene complex. This is part of what casts doubt on the whole "ex-gay" phenomenon, actually. If sexuality is determined by some constitutional factors and some environmental ones, then we can ask if what is happening is that some people, on the more heterosexual end of the spectrum, were subjected to experiences in their upbringing that led to confusion in their sexuality that expressed itself in gay activity, and that is relieved in some sense by the "therapy' of the ex-gay people. Is it the difficulty of dealing with all this in a situation where there are NOT qualified therapists the reason for the suicides of these people? Few credible scientists would consider sexuality to be controlled by a single gene, so, no, not some holy grail of the politically correct.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 September 2007 at 1:22pm BST

"If you can't change your orientation, you can't--so what. "

So, then your orientation is part of your natural life, a gift from God. Why would God give you a gift he didn't intend you to enjoy?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 13 September 2007 at 2:28pm BST

Shucks! Another lengthy post of mine that was apparently too lengthy and is now, therefore, non-existant. I'm sorry the time and words were wasted. Anyhow, I'll summarize:

Cheryl:

You missed the point. Mutability, immutability and degree thereof are irrelevant to the Biblical question. I don't really have a vested interest in any of them from that standpoint, and don't really trust the purveyors of any particular viewpoint on the matter all that much. I certainly am not trying to promote one view to the exclusion of any other--I think the whole question is up for grabs.

Ford:

First post: I never tried to make any scientific arguments, though I'm willing (due to general curiousity) to look into various studies (even though I take them all with a "great deal of salt"). On the "No, actually" paragraph, I agree mostly (except for your accusation of gnosticism--which I'm still trying to figure out).

Second post: First paragraph = touche. You make a good point and I have already agreed that monogomous relationships appear to be a relative good when compared to serial relationships of this type. However, I still see celibacy as being superior to both.

Second paragraph = thanks for the insights. You have given me some interesting things to think about. I agree with your basic ideas vis-a-vis orientation, nature/nurture, and variable mutability--though I think nothing is solidly established at this point. Also, no abortion. You underestimate conservative aversion to the practice.

Sorry everything else was lost--I hope this one makes it through.

Steven

Posted by: Steven on Friday, 14 September 2007 at 2:07pm BST

"gnosticism"

One trend that went through Gnostic teaching is that the world is an evil place, created by an evil demiurge. Thus, it is the responsibility of the believer to avoid contributing to the evil of the world. For some, like the Cathars, this was why sex was wrong: to have sex was to risk creating new, evil, life and adding to the evil of the world. Christianity sees Creation as a good thing, broken and awaiting its perfection, but still not evil in and of itself. Humans likewise are fallen, broken creatures, but still part of Creation, still made in the image and likeness of God. To claim that we are "evil rebellious sinners" comes close to that Gnostic idea of denying the inherent goodness of Creation. What's more, the Incarnation restores us to the state of Grace in which we are created, so to say that we are 'evil' would seem to reflect a different understanding of the Incarnation as well. I know I'm reading into what you said, but that's where I see your ideas going. Why do you think humans are evil?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 September 2007 at 7:15pm BST

"still see celibacy as being superior to both."

So does St. Paul. The thing is, he sees celibacy as best for everybody, if they have the charism. If not, they should marry. It is interesting that Issues in Human Sexuality sees marriage as the ideal and celibacy as fitting for those who do NOT have the charism for marriage, an interesting reversal of Paul. I very much doubt that any of them would council a young couple to try celibacy and then grudgingly marry them if they prove unable to control themselves.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 September 2007 at 7:28pm BST

Ford

I think we all know of marriages where the parents/priests only grudgingly allow the couple to marry after they have proved they were unable to control themselves. :-)

Hi Steven

I'm sorry your first posting went missing or that I misunderstood your intention. One battle is against others who think attempt to stereotype GLBTs e.g. find one serial homosexual pedophile and then state all GLBTs are pedophiles (but by that reckoning, all priests are pedophiles).

No, the claims that there are anti-abortionist Christians who would like to be able to test for a gay gene so they could terminate the pregnancy are not far fetched; some examples of that advocacy were linked onto TA last year.

We are coming to some world view filters that affect our receptivity to various elements of the holy text. One is the idea that all humanity are sinners who are dead to God unless, and only if, they subscribe to a prescribed version of believing in Jesus. The other that there is a holy spark within all which God seeks to nourish and affirm. The Daughter of Zion's missive has always covered all Creation (both Jew and Gentile, human and animal, animate and inanimate). All souls go through Jesus because she acknowledges Jesus. How souls are treated is based on safety for themselves and each other. There are many rooms and some have higher security than others.

Does God want this level of reality made manifest? Absolutely! Some souls find it overwhelming and prefer to be celibate. Other souls love it too much and become drunk with lusts. Most souls wander between the two extremes. The holy texts exist to help souls live, it helps people not to be frightened, whilst warning of the kinds of behaviors and thinkings that will cause problems and make this reality uncomfortable, and exhorting others that are beneficial.

Some souls think that celibacy is holy, and sexual relations are "dirty". Yet, fully manifesting, including a faithful active love can be even more holy. There is something truly amazing about living an ordinary life yet being able to remain in an extraordinary relationship with God. It is like a huge inside joke, like walking around two months pregnant, you know you are but no one else does. It is an absolutely delightful experience.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Saturday, 15 September 2007 at 1:07am BST
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