Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Bishop of London writes

Sent: 18 June 2008 12:02
Subject: Communication from the Bishop of London re St Bartholomew the Great

To:
Clergy in the Diocese of London
Diocesan Readers
Churchwardens
PCC Secretaries
PCC Treasurers
Deanery Lay Chairs
Members of the Diocesan Synod
Members of the Bishop’s Council

Please find attached two letters which the Bishop of London has asked me to circulate.

With best wishes
Robert Hargrave
Diocesan Communications
———-
PDF original
18th June 2008

Dear Friends,

Many of you will have seen the publicity over the weekend around the service which was held at St Bartholomew the Great on May 31st. I attach a letter I have written to the Rector which sets out the situation as I understand it.

So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

With thanks for our partnership in the Gospel.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA
———
PDF original
18th June 2008

The Reverend Dr Martin Dudley,
St Bartholomew the Great Parish Office,
6 Kinghorn Street,
London,
EC1A 7HW.

Dear Martin,

You have sought to justify your actions to the BBC and in various newspapers but have failed more than two weeks after the service to communicate with me.

I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November. I find it astonishing that you did not take the opportunity to consult your Bishop.

You describe the result as “familiar words reordered and reconfigured carrying new meanings.” I note that the order of service, which I have now received, includes the phrase “With this ring I thee bind, with my body I thee worship”.

At first sight this seems to break the House of Bishops Guidelines which as I explained in my letter of December 6th 2005 apply the traditional teaching of the Church of England to the new circumstances created by the enactment of Civil Partnerships.

The point at issue is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. There is of course a range of opinion on these matters in the Church and, as you know, homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.

The Archbishops have already issued a statement in which they say that “those clergy who disagree with the Church’s teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it.”

St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.

Yours faithfully.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Richard Chartres DD FSA

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Comments

"I read in the press that you had been planning this event since November." Last November is quite some time ago. Curious to know whether Bishop Chartres himself heard any whisper of the intended event during that seven month period. One would hate to think that this might be nothing more than an exercise in butt-covering.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:03pm BST

Aha well, I see a formal charge of canonical disobedience for breaking his promise to use only those forms of service as are authorised by canon in the offing.

How nice and fair of the Bishop to ask for his representations on the matter. I wonder if Dr Dudley is in a union...

Posted by: dodgyvicar on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:19pm BST

Chartres says "So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda."
In other words, 'discrimination in the Church against homosexuals is an unimportant distraction from other things'. One can easily imagine Chartres saying much the same about the abolition of slavery - 'a distraction from other things'.
It would be nice if, "in the spirit of Jesus Christ", Chartres would engage in some honest reflection, but I doubt he is capable of it. His letter to Martin Dudley is transparent bullying.

Posted by: Paul Rowlandson on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:34pm BST

Speaking entirely without metaphor or hyperbole, this letter made me want to throw up. Am I alone in feeling that the weight of pressure the Bishop can bring to bear, as compared to the resources of the Rector, is so great as to be, in any other world than the church, a simple example of bullying?

Posted by: poppy tupper on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:41pm BST

@dodgyvicar:

If indeed Dr. Dudley is talking to the press but hasn't bothered to consult his own bishop at any time on this matter since November, not even after it broke to the press, then by all means respect for our homosexual brothers and sisters, but he really is *way* out of line.

The last thing we need is loose cannons in the run-up to Lambeth. Especially when a priest not only openly disregards and disobeys his bishop, but revels in it publicly.

I should add that us of the more liberal hue are frequently accused of not taking Scripture too literally. Willfully disregarding canons and discipline when it suits us (while criticizing the likes of +Duncan or +Scofield or ++Akinola for doing the same) just makes us look not only hypocritical, but risks proving the conservatives' point.

Posted by: Walsingham on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:42pm BST

Another lucid and robust response.

Posted by: Graham Kings on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 1:56pm BST

So if reminding a cleric of the significance of their oath of canonical obedience constitutes bullying, then presumably clergy can all do whatever they want and get away with it. Because anything by way of episcopal response is bullying. Nice one, paul and poppy...

Posted by: pete hobson on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:01pm BST

The code of practice to the Clergy Discipline Measure contains this paragraph.

10. There may be occasions when no formal complaint under the Measure has yet been made but the bishop receives information about a priest or deacon which, if true, would amount to serious misconduct. The bishop will obviously wish to find out more about it. However, the bishop should be cautious about the extent of any direct involvement. The bishop should not do anything that could prejudice, or appear to prejudice, the fair handling of any formal complaint under the Measure that could be made subsequently. Instead, the bishop should consider asking an appropriate person, such as the archdeacon, to look into it.

Although the Bishop of London has followed the advice in the last sentence, he appears to have ignored the rest of the paragraph by sending his letter to Dr Dudley. Perhaps he has already decided that what Dr Dudley has done does not constitute "serious misconduct".

Posted by: Peter Owen on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:04pm BST

One person's bullying is another person's simple stating of facts.

This letter seems to me the least the Bishop of London could have said. And let's not have too much sympathy for Revd. Dudley: he did this knowing the state of affairs in the CoE and wider Communion at the moment - it would be more than naive of him not to expect some consequences. If I did this, I'd expect to be disciplined - in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if that was (partly) the object of the exercise: to provoke discipline and become a sort of liberal martyr.

I'm by no means a full blooded conservative, but the actions of the Revd Dudley seem to me appalling. I'm trying hard not to rush to judgement - but I don't at the moment see how he can possibly retain his office.

Posted by: Peter Waddell on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:13pm BST

Do you think he means 'directly' at the end?

Posted by: Wilf on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:21pm BST

Dear Martin,

You won't be surprised to get this letter from me. I'm sure you agree that we need to talk this over between ourselves. Please will you make an appointment to see me as soon as possible?

With all best wishes,

Richard.

Now, how about that between one Christian and another? Not copied to anyone else, not put in the public domain, and with room for a more formal letter, after the meeting has taken place.

There is a sword in these dealings, but the Bishop of London does not need to unsheath it so early, nor so publicly. To do so is a form of bullying.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:40pm BST

Oh, and PS. I know you must be feeling battered by events and by publicity. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. R

Posted by: poppy tupper on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:42pm BST

Surely the rector didn't do this without anticipating the possible consequences. I'm an unqualified supporter of same-sex marriage in the church, but I also understand that we have to either obey the canons or accept the consequences. Before same-sex blessings were permissible in our diocese, our rector and parish wavered between simply marrying everybody (defying the bishop and the canons) and marrying nobody (completely legal). We chose the latter course, but if we had chosen the former, it would have been with the expectation that our rector would be disciplined, maybe even deposed.

Posted by: Joe Episcopalian on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:57pm BST

When will the Church of England stop obsessing over sexuality, masturbation, menstruation et al, and recognise the clear humanity in how some of its incumbents respond to reality. Its diverse attitudes to homosexuality, far from defined by generally accepted genetics, is a mish-mash of prejudice and dogmatic self-righteousness.

Judgmental rules and regulations, wrapped up within a monumental waste of effort, signifies what the church has become, and demonstrates its increasing irrelevance. Isn't the Bishop of London paid to stay ahead of the game? What is this some sort of Trollopean reverie?

Posted by: George Parr on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 3:59pm BST

I wonder if a comment in support of Chartres is allowed on this blog?
The actions of Martin Dudley have been deliberate and irresponsible and will weaken and split the Church of England and Anglican Communion further.
It is interesting that one of the priests has already resigned. If so proud, why?
We cannot make God bless something which He is against in His word. To do that is to reform God in our own image. There is a four letter word for that: IDOL.

Posted by: James on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 4:19pm BST

I'm certainly sympathetic to Fr. Dudley's actions. That said, he acted in a manner he knew would be controversial, and did so (deliberately it seems) without consulting his ordinary.

Civil disobedience (which is what this amounts to) can be a powerful witness. But what makes such disobedience a powerful witness is the willingness to face the consequences of the disobedience.

Neither Ghandi nor Kig ever argued that their imprisonment was illegal, but rather that it was a perfectly legal enforcement of an unjust law. They accepted the punishment as the inevitable consequence of their actions.

People who approach principled disobedience in this manner are heroic.

People who disobey and expect to face no consequence are not herois, merely arrogant and immature.

Bishop Chartres's letter seems a measured and appropriate response to the situation.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 4:38pm BST

Ever so slightly concerned that the Bishop of London seems to have made his mind up about the circumstances and motivations of the StBtG service *before* the results of the Archdetective's investigation have come in.

I'm sure that's just me misinterpreting the Bishop's meaning, though.

Posted by: Justin (3MinuteTheologian) on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 4:53pm BST

It does seem as if public letters - relating to very private matters - are par for the course these days, I find it very disturbing.

Every bishop I have ever challenged says their policy is "don't ask me, I shall be bound to refuse" and this does not just relate to the blessing of gay relationships. I would say this attitude from bishops is part of the warp and weft of life in all episcopally led churches. It certainly forms a significant part of the wallpaper that constitutes the structural integrity of the Church of England - without it, the diversity of Catholic and Calvinist worship we enjoy could not happen.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 5:25pm BST

My first reaction to Poppy's suggested Bishop's note was, 'well yes, that would have been quite good.'

My second is to say, 'come on'. Revd. Dudley is a senior and experienced priest, who knew full well what he was doing. What his failure to talk to the Bishop before or afterwards says is that he doesn't consider episcopal authority worth consulting. He is his own 'Bishop': not so much the victim of power as a pretender to it.

I agree Richard's letter is terse - in the circumstances I think I would have been even terser. Perhaps there could be a gentler way of putting essentially the same point. But what I find astonishing is that this has become a discussion about the Bishop's words - the thing that is causing shockwaves throughout the church is the vicar's action.

Once again, I'm not a full blooded conservative. Akinola and Co. make me want to scream. But if I feel so cross about what happened at St. Bartholomew's, goodness knows what more conservative believers think. And they're not all ranting bigots...

Posted by: Peter Waddell on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 5:46pm BST

brilliant, poppy, brilliant !

Posted by: L Roberts on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 5:51pm BST

Poppy Tupper, what Mr Dudley did was public defiance: "I double dare you to do anything!" A public response is both required and utterly foreseeable. Any surprise on Mr Dudley's part would be very contrived.

Posted by: robroy on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 5:57pm BST

Section 7 of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 provides:

(1) The following provisions of this Measure shall have effect for the purpose of regulating proceedings against a Clerk in holy orders who is alleged to have committed an act or omission other than one relating to matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial, and references to misconduct shall be construed accordingly.
(2) Proceedings in relation to matters involving doctrine, ritual or ceremonial shall continue to be conducted in accordance with the 1963 Measure.

I am no lawyer, but it would seem that this case, if a complaint were to be made, it would definitely "involve" such matters, and would therefore be outside the scope of the CDM and its Code of Practice. A lawyer might read "involving" differently.

The discussion of the role of the Bishop in relation to the CDM is nonetheless interesting - because everyone expects the Bishop to be able to deal with matters like this which are in the public domain. (Concern about the apparent constraints placed by the Code on Bishops was the subject of a motion at the Chelmsford Diocesan Synod last Saturday).

Bear in mind also that section 91 of the CDM Code of Practice requires a Bishop who has a conflict of interest, or has been involved in the case in some way at an early stage to delegate the disciplinary functions to a suffragan (with associated provisions to deal with various circumstances).

This is not intended as any comment on the substance of this case, simply to help us all to be more accurate in our comments.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 6:04pm BST

I think, poppy, as per peter owen's comment on the CDM code of practice, that to invite an informal conversation would indeed amount to the sort of direct involvement that is advised against. Having read Richard Chartres' letter carefully again, I think it responds to what has already been put firmly into the public domain, and although it is 'robust' it doesn't presume guilt or innocence of anything ("at first sight this seems to..." clearly offers the possibility that there are other ways of viewing it), but it does initiate an investigative procedure, and invites an initial written response.

I agree that for him to publish it to his clergy and lay ministers does up the ante, and I'm guessing that he has done so in the context of a diocesan clergy event where he will have been pressed strongly as to his response to the wide publicity around an event whose nature and timing is prima facie exceedingly provocative to much of the Anglican Communion.

Oh and I don't know who initiated the 'battering publicity' (can anyone enlighten?) but I can't believe anyone could arrange and preside over such an event and not anticipate it.

Posted by: pete hobson on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 6:08pm BST

“Every bishop I have ever challenged says their policy is "don't ask me, I shall be bound to refuse" and this does not just relate to the blessing of gay relationships.”

How about simply: Sorry, I was wrong, my bad. And congratulations!

(Gaffecon and the troubles in the Communion seem to me a matter of bad to non existent leadership, from the Jeffrey John affair onwards).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 7:44pm BST

Maybe others won't care, but I am STILL waiting to hear how this (common as daisies, and just as lovely) ceremony FIRST became public knowledge?

Was it done w/ a "push the envelope" positive intention, or a "expose the gay agenda!" negative one?

*****

My: Bishop Chartres certainly has the milk-of-human-kindness flowing through his veins. (Not! >:-/)

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 8:30pm BST

Well, I know plenty of Con Evo clergy who break canon law on a weekly basis by leading public worship in lay dress, and yet not one of them ever gets a letter from his (and they are all men) bishop. Legalism only applies in one direction in the C of E at the moment.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 8:40pm BST

Mark : I agree - this isn't a CDM matter, Incumbents Vacation of Benefices Measure is likely to be invoked as I alluded earlier.

Posted by: dodgyvicar on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 9:44pm BST

George Parr wrote: "When will the Church of England stop obsessing over sexuality, masturbation, menstruation et al..."

Are masturbation and menstruation really current issues of interest in the CofE?

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 9:59pm BST

If the London Evening Standard is to believed Dr Dudley is far from being a poor misunderstood priest. He is portrayed there as an arrogant self publicist.
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23495803-details/The+Anglican+'gay+wedding'+and+a+distinctly+turbulent+priest/article.do

Posted by: Audrey on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 at 10:48pm BST

Ouch.

I find it ironic that, to my knowledge, Bishop Peter Akinola never received a "pastoral letter" when he advocated jailing (read death) for glbt persons in his country. Nor for his words-like-swords directed at glbt persons.

Apparently, "pastoral guidance" is only given when love is involved. Pity.

Posted by: cany on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 1:00am BST

Pete Hobson, you say that my suggested letter would amount to the sort of direct involvement that Chartres is advised against. You're right, of course. But so does the letter he sent. Given that he has decided on direct involvement I was simply suggesting a better way that he could have done it, both in the content of the letter and in the timing of making any further correspondence public. However difficult Chartres may find his relationship with Dudley he should never forget the disparity in power between them and should strive to be gracious. I'm afraid the church seems to put people into positions of authority as bishops who would never be considered able enough for such work in the secular world.

Posted by: poppy tupper on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 8:33am BST

Well, Billy D, my device to gain attention worked then! The current endless discussion - concerning homosexuality and all the surrounding liturgical issues it attracts - seems to be one chosen aspect beloved by Christians who consider themselves to be above human nature. It has eclipsed many other humanitarian concerns, leaving them in the shadows. That the Anglican Church should be riven over it paints the institution as an archaic nonsense.

There is no alternative formula for human nature. Those who, through internalised notions of religious guilt, are trying to live a life of rigidity outside of their own feelings are prone to withdrawal, depression, even suicide. Super Christians, arguably, are making what is generally accepted as genetic normality wholly worse for these people and in doing so are denying them their own feelings, their sexuality, their identity and their religion.

The suspicion is that the Super Pious protest too much. Replacing a spectrum of normative genetic sexuality, with a nonsensical hierarchy of behaviour, for example accepting that homosexuality exists in priests, but denouncing sexual contact as sinful, tellingly leaves a door ajar, within their own normal range of sexual inner feelings.

Posted by: George Parr on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 9:31am BST

Very helpful analysis George Parr. I feel better for reading it.

(I should copy it, and keep to hand as an antidote).

Posted by: L Roberts on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 1:00pm BST

Do you have to know that an action is disobedient in order to be disobedient?
(Ignorance is no defence under Law)
But what if the Bishop had failed to convey his opinion that such a service would be contrary to canon in his Nov letter? Or even conveyed the impression that although he didn't like them, he didn't order him not to proceed?
The state of the bishops mind then, and in any subsequent enquiries to him on this issue could form a useful defence. So too could the presence of any member of the house of bishops at such a service in the past... (If they were among those who issued the guidance).

Why not start a long list of advice given, and service attended to show that Bishops have not followed their own guidance, presumably because it is guidance and advisory NOT part of canon.

Posted by: dodgyvicar on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 1:23pm BST

You mean, after all this, +Chartres hadn't even heard a single whisper of what took place!!!

"The final words of the Sunday Telegraph's coverage of the gay Anglican "wedding" caught my eye. "A champagne reception was held in the Great Hall of St Bartholomew's Hospital . . ." it said, and afterwards the couple "left in an open landau and headed for the Ivy restaurant with close friends and family". The order of service that was helpfully printed above made clear that these events happened on 31 May, and I was reading it on 15 June.

Let us get this straight. It is possible to conduct "the Church of England's first homosexual wedding" - an event so important it is apparently set to cause "an irreversible schism" in the worldwide Anglican community - in London on a Saturday in May, and the national press does not notice for a fortnight.

Footballers and Wags, take note. The ingredients of a discreet wedding, it seems, are these: hold it in one of the country's best-known churches (featured in both Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love), with rose-petal confetti, a robed choir, morning suits, bridesmaids and a VIP congregation, and then, after a reception in the historic public building next door, process to dinner at the Ivy in an open-topped carriage drawn by horses."

http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2008/06/gay-news-wedding-notice

Posted by: MJ on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 2:46pm BST

Wilf,
In British usage, "directly" means "immediately", not "in person" or "without intermediary" as in North American English. Presumably Chartres used "direct" in the way North Americans use "directly".

Posted by: Ken on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 3:13pm BST

"Super Christians, arguably, are making what is generally accepted as genetic normality wholly worse for these people and in doing so are denying them their own feelings, their sexuality, their identity and their religion."

I recently read a statement from the American Psychological Association which challenges the definitive nature of this quoted statement. Especially if the phrase 'genetic normality' is understood in a deterministic sense (i.e., your genes determine sexual orientation) rather than in an 'obviously there are different sexual orientations and this difference is normal' sense. The paragraph is question is as follows:

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."

The whole report can be found here: www.apa.org/topics/sorientation.html, and it is very helpful in dealing with the pastoral issues which have been raised in other statements in George Parr’s recent post.

But I find the rhetoric about 'super Christians' and 'Super Pious' to be unmeasured, for both liberal and conservative camps claim this high ground, and it only seems to anger an interlocutor in a debate that is complex, difficult, (and painful) for all sides. And if the claim is true that “nature and nurture both play complex roles” in forming a sexual orientation--as is ostensibly the case in forming personalities, etc., etc.--then it’s probably best to remove this rhetoric from the discussion, for it does foster prejudice and, oftentimes, blurs issues which are clear, or makes grey data black and white.

Posted by: Chris on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 6:04pm BST

thank you chris. Yes, I am often made more angry than i should by the sort of 'super Christian' language that obscures genuine debate.

and poppy - I agree it might be argued Richard Chartres actual letter inviting a written response was prejudicial to his role if CDM is invoked (though I've said why he might also argue it isn't), but your suggested alternative inviting a face to face meeting would, if it happened, be far more prejudicial than an exchange of letters. be

Posted by: pete hobson on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 7:37pm BST

"...most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation"

THIS is the crux of the matter. If it is not a choice, how can it be a sin?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 9:37pm BST

The words 'pompous prat' come to mind

keep the faith, Dud!

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 11:17pm BST

... oh, and unless he accepts equality, then Chartres not only tolerates but promotes homophobia. Chartres and all others who actively discriminate and maintain the church position are exercising homophobia.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 19 June 2008 at 11:19pm BST

I am unconcerned over those who wish to prescribe how others write. The 'issue' that is 'complex difficult (and painful) for all sides' needs to be wholly less so, with posturing authoritarianism much reduced.

The 'nature and nurture' debate has no more legs than the endless and tedious discussion surrounding homosexuals being possessed by evil spirits, pursuing an unduly hedonistic agenda or wilfully making an unholy choice, which forms the core of the unreasonable squad's 'argument'. Recent research suggests that sexuality is defined in the womb, producing evidence that there are physiological similarities between those experiencing inverted sexuality and their opposite sex.

Outside of the scientific evidence there is clearly a spectrum of attitudes among Christians. Those who exist above the tolerant and humane mindset are associating homosexuals with evil and ungodliness. They are putting their own willing prejudices above the human rights of others and, in a sense, since there is still an unresolved debate over causation are either denying that debate or playing God.

If 'Super Christian' rhetoric obscures 'genuine' debate, I weep for any form of positive outcome from these pompous and precious people. Which issues are blurred and which are clear through a choice of words? In whose view?

Since we appear to be in the business of removing rhetoric, maybe back-slapping empty nonsense such as "Thank you Chris, yes I am often made more angry than I should" might be expunged.

Posted by: George Parr on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:14am BST

Dealing successfully with related 'pastoral issues', could of course rely to some extent on what one is prepared to accept and believe in the science one chooses to quote. Since this is likely to be informed by possibly unrelated notions of faith, possessing an open mind also might help. Since not all traits and facets of human personality are as a result of, or formed by the 'complex role' of nature and nurture, perhaps this might also be taken into account by those attempting to perform the impossible trick of solving sexually-related issues of guilt biblically.

Posted by: George Parr on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:49am BST

Pat
"...most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation"

THIS is the crux of the matter. If it is not a choice, how can it be a sin?"

That implies that homosexuality would be sinful if it were chosen.

Bisexual people do have a choice. Because it's ultimately about love, not about chosing someone for sex, there is nothing sinful in a bisexual person opting for a same sex relationship.

If only we could get away from thinking about everything in terms of sinful sex.
Sex, like everything else, is morally neutral.
What makes it sinful is exploitation. What makes it good is love, faithfulness and stability.

Whether the partners involved chose to be in a particular kind of relationship or whether they feel they have no choice is beside the point.
Do they exploit each other, or do they have a loving , equal relationship. That's the only valid question.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:53am BST

"If it is not a choice, how can it be a sin?"

Not a very good argument, Pat. I am not arguing for the other side, but you need to differentiate between not choosing to be gay, with which I agree, having personal experience thereto, and other non-chosen obviously sinful states. Take, for instance, fetal alcohol syndrome. It causes poor impulse control and violent behaviour, among other things, in those afflicted by it, yet is certainly not chosen. Pedophilia likewise. Not that I am equating homosexuality with pedophilia, there are huge differences. But they also experience what they are as something they did not choose, and many of them find it impossible to fight against it. We'd call call their actions sinful, though.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 1:18pm BST

The Clergy Discipline Measure, unfortunately, is not relevant here as th General Synod, in 2004, refused to include Doctrine. Liturgy and Ritual in it. Members of Synod will now be petition9ing for this to be changed.
Paul Eddy
Member of General Synod

Posted by: Paul Eddy on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:28pm BST

Ford:

I take your point, but...if pedophilia is recognized as a mental disease (and I think it is so recognized), can it be a sin? It is something for society to recognize and prevent and treat, but is it a sin? Yes, we should keep those who suffer from it away from their possible victims, preferably through appropriate care, not incarceration (IMO), but are those afflicted with it, by definition, sinners?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 21 June 2008 at 1:05am BST

"It would be nice if, "in the spirit of Jesus Christ", Chartres would engage in some honest reflection..."

Like actually issuing "guidelines" instead of simply pretending Reality will go away.

(God is a dynamic Creator, remember. In a Biblical perspective he operates dynamically in and with his Creation. The one constant is Change...

It is to the Indo Greek Philosophers of Alexandria that The Higest Being is un-changing, immovable, and so on.)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 21 June 2008 at 7:36am BST

The Clergy Discipline Measure, unfortunately, is not relevant here as th General Synod, in 2004, refused to include Doctrine. Liturgy and Ritual in it. Members of Synod will now be petition9ing for this to be changed.
Paul Eddy
Member of General Synod

Posted by: Paul Eddy on Friday, 20 June 2008 at 10:28pm BST

'Members' --perhaps---but not many, you can be sure.

Why invite trouble ?

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 21 June 2008 at 4:44pm BST

'We'd call call their actions sinful, though.'
No, Ford. Speak for yourself. You would, apparently.

I wouldnt. And as for a 'we' ....

Posted by: Treebeard on Saturday, 21 June 2008 at 4:46pm BST

Treebeard, and Pat:
This is an interesting point. I've heard the wry remark that we have reclassified all the Seven Deadlies as illnesses. At what point does behaviour coming out of mental dysfunction become, or cease to be, sin? I am astonished that anyone would consider child abuse not sinful, Treebeard. Just because a pedophile can't control himself doesn't make his actions not sinful. We have always had the concept of involuntary sin. We have to stop thinking of sin as crime. What is it, then? May I suggest we define it as "corruption of the pure" or, as the Greeks have always called it "missing the mark", the mark being God? Take away the judgement and the criminality, and suddenly it isn't such a horrible thing to say that someone who yields to such emotional forces is sinning. This is, I think, a major flaw in Evangelical thought. If one accepts, for the sake of argument, that homosexuality is a sin, and if one assumes sin is crime, then gay people are criminals. So, while they may, as +Akinola so hypocritically claimed, feel the need to "love them more than that", they are completely unable to understand how to do so. Look where that leads. Five years of jail time is actually a "good compromise" for gay people. This assumes that to be gay deserves some earthly punishment. Robroy hasn't acknowledged what he thinks that punishment should be, but clearly for him sin is a crime to be punished BY US who are the arms of God in the world, a very unorthodox concept indeed. It also leads to the arguably blasphemous concept of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, and the contortions NP used to go through to justify ignoring the "plain word" of Scripture: judge not lest ye be judged. It leads to the idea that we have the right to force society to our will, since what we teach is not a Gospel, but a Law given from God. It is a concept more at home in some other religions than it is in Christianity. Sin is not crime. It appears more and more to me that our inability to appreciate this point leads us far from the Gospel. It has certainly led Evangelicals into some very dark places and taken away their ability to shine the Light there.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 2:07pm BST

Ford,
thank you for that outstanding comment

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 5:12pm BST

Thanks for all comments, supportive, amusing, challenging.

Posted by: Martin Dudley on Monday, 23 June 2008 at 11:22pm BST
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