Friday, 21 November 2008

Church Times on NEAC

Three items in today’s Church Times relating to the NEAC event last Saturday.

NEAC5 closes in acrimony after claims of ‘set-up’ by Pat Ashworth

Evangelicals cannot serve two masters by Giles Fraser

Leader column, Church parties within parties.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 9:17am GMT | TrackBack
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"Then there is the question of money. For too long, rich evangelical parishes have been allowed to bully others by threatening to withhold their parish share. Some parishes have carried out their threats, and set themselves up as independent churches effectively raising two fingers to the rest of the diocese" - Giles Faser.

Giles Fraser in his Church Times article here highlights one of the problems of congregations electing to bypass the diocesan quota system, by directing their parish share to their own pet schemes of evangelism. Not only does this rob the diocese of its due revenue, it also empowers the parishes concerned to set their own agenda as to the particular type of mission they wish to pursue - regardless of diocesan, and quite often provincial, priorities.

Such behaviour is usually peculiar to the more congregational churches, where the focus and ambience of mission can be widely different from that of the parent body, and determined by the theological stance of the congregation involved.

The Anglican system is, traditionally, that of parishes supporting the mission of the local diocese, whose Bishop is given the task of overseeing the mission of the Church in that particular locale.

Such parishes, as those who want to control both the finances and the mission of their church, should seriously consider whether they want to continue to be part of the Anglican diocesan structure - thereby remaining Anglican - or whether they ought, like the dissident Anglicans in North America, to abandon their church plant and declare themselves to be other than Anglicans

It may be that the diocesan authorities in such cases are not careful enough in their oversight to warn of the consequences of such behaviour in parishes under their control. Extra-diocesan church congregations, such as those involved in this matter of avoiding their diocesan dues, can surely no longer be considered to contribute to the ethos of Anglicanism as we now know it.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 10:26am GMT

Interesting bully-boy tactics from Richard Turnbull.
It is a matter of common courtesy to inform people of the agenda before meetings to allow them time to consider matters properly, and to think and pray about them.
Rail-roading items through like this attempt is a disgraceful way for a Christian to behave.

Posted by: dodgey_vicar on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 11:37am GMT

The Jerusalem Declaration is vitally important for ministry in ordinary parishes in the Church of England. As a parish minister in a small church in the north of England, I cannot stress this enough.

Orthodox net-giving churches which subsidise ministry in net-receiving parishes have a moral responsibility to make it clear to diocesan boards of finance that Anglican unity is not institutional but creedal.

It is quite immoral for ministries that are not preaching the Gospel or preaching another gospel to be subsidised on the basis of an appeal to institutional unity, masquerading as support for the Body of Christ. In God’s goodness, the Jerusalem Declaration is a rallying point for confessing Anglicans of whatever churchmanship enabling them to get that message across to diocesan authorities.

Partnership in the Gospel of our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ needs to be the motivating factor behind the generosity of net-giving churches. If it is not, then ‘generosity’ is not the right word to describe their support for ministry in other parishes – ungodly irresponsibility is a better phrase.

Generosity of course involves giving away resources to Gospel partners on the basis of mutual trust. Distrustful control-freakery by large churches – only giving if they can control what goes on – of course hinders Gospel ministry, but currently the indiscriminate nature of parish support is not helping the Gospel either.

The efforts of Anglican Mainstream to get a broad coalition behind the Jerusalem Declaration is vital for parish evangelism. They need our prayers, support and loyalty during this difficult and challenging period following NEAC5.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 12:10pm GMT

To the question, which planet, the planet Turnbull is on is the one that makes sure that GAFCON's international oversight and the Conservative approach is the only show in town for Evangelicals, that there is chaos and exclusion elsewhere, that they appear to pass resolutions by whichever body can do so.

It is up to others to organise otherwise, but so far CEEC has been all about those activists who grab a core institution for Evangelicals and run it their own way. Just like GAFCON.

Posted by: Pluralist on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 12:18pm GMT

There are 2 things I disagree with in Giles Fraser's article:
(1) a national (British) branch of global anglicanism is a subset of global anglicanism, not a competing body. How can it be competing when the larger of the two *includes* the smaller? If the choice were between loyalty to the big set and loyalty to some subset, in cases where both loyalties were not possible simultaneously then obviously loyalty to the big set would be more important. (As well as being a refreshing instance of not merely & meekly going along with national social norms.) And to pledge loyalty to the big set would be a way of *avoiding* sitting on the fence (mugwumpery) and *avoiding* serving two masters.

Posted by: Chirstopher Shell on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 12:26pm GMT

(2) 'the church' within which the evangelicals are expected to stay is not one and the same as 'the church' which they first joined. This being the case, the onus falls on those who changed it, not on those who have remained on much the same solid rock which doesn't need so much changing.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 12:28pm GMT

"Rail-roading items through like this attempt is a disgraceful way for a Christian to behave."

And that would be different from any other GAFCON type behaviour in that........? I was heartened by:

"400 Evangelical leaders resisted the plans of their more conservative brethren to align themselves more fully with the alternative Church of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)."

Evangelicals are not monolithic liberal-haters after all. The majority, apparently, have not allowed themselves to be manipulated by angry fear mongers.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 12:45pm GMT

"In God’s goodness, the Jerusalem Declaration is a rallying point for confessing Anglicans of whatever churchmanship enabling them to get that message across to diocesan authorities."

If you can't understand why the Jerusalem Declaration cannot possibly be a rallying point for "confessing Anglicans", whatever that means, of Anglo-catholic Churchmanship, you have a very poor understanding of things like orthodoxy and catholicity. Either that or you have not read any of my posts since that thing was signed. The Jerusalem Declaration, besides containing lies, slanders, and revilings, which you have accepted if your use of the phrase "preaching a different Gospel" is anything to go by, also declares a highly unorthodox Christology. Orthodoxy has never been defined as our attitudes towards sexuality morality or Biblical authority, or a hatred of liberals or gays. It is defined by Who we believe Christ to be, and how we understand God. Anyone who signed the Jerusalem Declaration has a heretical, unorthodox understanding of these things, and therefor cannot be called "orthodox". And don't, please, fall for this "The Evil Hell Bound Liberals are preaching a different Gospel, they are all leading people away from the True faith, they don't believe anything, they have no respect for the Gospel, they think the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales" nonsense. It is lies, it is reviling, it is unChristian. I hold some equally unChristian attitudes about Evangelicals, and have often engaged in reviling of them. It isn't right, I oughtn't do it. Neither should you, but I suspect that you have been led to your attitudes about "liberals" by the same emotions that have caused me to think as I do about Evangelicals. I am gradually coming to learn that Evangelicals aren't all hand waving hysterics with a paranoid fear of anything that smacks of Rome, who have convinced themselves of a bunch of falsehoods about the Church and the faith just to strengthen their feelings of being better than everyone else, or shore up their weak faith. As far as a "different Gospel" goes, I happen to think that most of what Evangelicals believe is radically different from the Gospel, so, again, much the same attitude you have towards Liberals. So, you pray for me, and I'll pray for you, how's that?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 2:19pm GMT

"Canon Chris Sugden proposed that Evangelicals “will keep formal administrative links with the formal Church of England, but our real identity is with Global Anglicanism, as defined by the Jerusalem statement and dec­laration”."

So some are going to be "formally" part of the Church of England, but in reality members of Global Anglicanism.

That sounds like they are deceitful spies, pretending to be one thing when they are really another.

Mind you, it is consistent with their claiming to be loving, when in reality they abuse and insult.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 2:45pm GMT

At the NEAC meeting it was very clear to me that the problem was far less about theological differences between evangelicals than about the appalling behaviour of bully-boys who seem to be in the ascendency. If Turnbull really was elected to this post, it must have been before everyone knew about the chaos he was causing at Wycliffe Hall, and his attitude of being above the law of the land. (I am told there is still an action pending against him in the employment tribunal which has not been resolved). The unhappy combination of Chris Sugden and the bullying of Turnbull couldn't do anything but make people at NEAC feel either cowed or angry.
It's nothing to do with evangelicalism. It is to do with spiritual immaturity, childishness, defensive psychology, egoism and a perverse desire to be stirring up opposition to people they don't like. This all gets translated into a martyr complex where they alone have the truth and must force everyone to accept that. May the Good Lord save us from deluded 'leaders' like this.

Posted by: Jem on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 2:49pm GMT

Some of the contributions lead me to conclude that we are dealing with a 'foundational myth'. Lots of groups have them, but they can become toxic.

I suspect that the 'the church has changed' etc etc is one of those foundational myths which for a certain type of Christian is of the toxic variety - that is, it enables the Believer (the believer in the myth, that is) to avoid examining their own presuppositions - for example, to what degree is this about power, pride, disappointment, etc etc?

A good SD will usually put a bomb under such a delusionary story, but I don't see much evidence in the NEAC reports of (eg) Richard Turnbull wanting to ask such questions of himself.

Change, of course, is one of those irregular verbs: "I/we grow and mature, you compromise the faith, he/she/they corrupt"

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 4:26pm GMT

"'the church' within which the evangelicals are expected to stay is not one and the same as 'the church' which they first joined."

As far as it goes, the Church isn't the one any of us "joined", in that sense, yet we are also expected to remain in it. And most of us "joined" at an age when we weren't capable of understanding what we were "joining", either, which is fine, since the effect of baptism doesn't hang on our undersanding of it. They can't possibly be as upset at having to share a Church with people like Spong as I was when I first found out that I had to share a Church with people whose beliefs and practices looked suspiciously like those Evangelicals I grew up around, and whose behaviour seemed to have little relationship to the Gospel whatsoever. If I can manage to share a Church with them, and be willing to kneel and receive the Sacrament with them, even though we have deep disagreements about what it is we would be receiving, I cannot understand why they can't return the favour. To be absolutely clear, I believe that Evangelicalism is a "different Gospel", is deeply misguided on some basic points of Christianity, preaches some things that look suspiciously like blasphemy to me, has effectively led people to misunderstand and hate Christianity, is responsible as a result, for some of the attacks on the Church both in the West and elsewhere, and is a product of some very strong self delusions on the part of Evangelicals. There. Now, if I am willing to remain in a Church with people I feel that way about, why are they so bloody righteous they can't return the courtesy? Is there no humility in them, that they can't even consider the possibility they might be wrong? Where does this collossal arrogance come from? Insecurity? A direct line to God? Where?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 4:36pm GMT

My fav line from the Leader column, ...remember that the gospel is not about coming out on top.

Oh but many evangelicals of the newish Turnbull Wycliffe College type do lead and preach as if they did believe coming out on top is Jobs' friends' proof of God being exclusively for you and against all the others who are not you. Funny that Jesus would die and rise again for that skanky lot who are not you; but rest assured Jesus' work of God is solely to make those skanky others just like you, and you alone it would loudly seem.

But being better than everybody else is a heavy burden, all told.

Meanwhile, we get it clearly: Anglican evangelical Mega-church is deliberately NOT big tent Anglican. Such believers may and will take advantage of leeway and space so long as that advantage in passing serves their special evo agendas of being better than everybody else. Okay, we get it: Evos alone claim to know Jesus of Nazareth up close and personal. Non-evos are just pretending to know Jesus, if memory of evo preaching serves.

Too bady really. There is much in evangelical traditions, as in catholic, as in progressive - that nourishes and enlightens and inspires - almost none of it being pushed in these divisive wedge issue meetings and leads.

Alas Mr Shell, global Anglicanism is not yet, not yet, not yet at all, nothing but the sort of hierarchical conformed global church you constantly presuppose us to be, with the big tent collapsed fatally upon misguided foppish partisans. Will the new covenant collapse the big tent, then? I think fair-minded observors still have to say, the juries of dispersed Anglican authority are still out, and indeed, quite a few of that global Us are hardly even finished with Voir Dire preparatory to sitting in discernment of the high matters of collapsing the big tent and conforming.

Posted by: drdanfee on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 6:01pm GMT

"Anglican unity is . . . creedal."?

I've been saying creeds [Apostles', Nicene, even Athanasian] all my life. At times I even studied them. Have I missed something?

"Generosity of course involves giving away resources to Gospel partners . . ."

When you give to partners, in a sense you are giving to yourself, so it's safe to be generous. Right? But what if you continue to support those who are almost certain to bite back? Is that good gospel or bad?

What would we ever do without these precious lectures about the REALLY true nature of the nouveau-orthodoxy?

Posted by: Cal McMillan+ on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 6:44pm GMT

I was shocked that the Bishop of Chichester will not appoint a woman ordaining assistant. He says he wants to keep the status quo... and of course one of his assistant bishops is the leading GAFCONITE Wallace Benn..the last bishop in the Church of England to refuse to wear a mitre.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 7:00pm GMT

Julian,

My parish share is over a third of a million pounds a year and rising at 18% every year. Lucky for the small and struggling evangelical parishes in this Diocese that we don't have the same narrow minded attitude as you. Do you think we way we support them 'immoral', given that we disagree about theology?

Posted by: Giles Fraser on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 8:05pm GMT

Americans reading this post are probably having flashbacks to the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Others would do well to research that event.

Posted by: JPM on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 9:32pm GMT

"The Jerusalem Declaration is vitally important for ministry in ordinary parishes in the Church of England. As a parish minister in a small church in the north of England, I cannot stress this enough. Orthodox net-giving churches which subsidise ministry in net-receiving parishes have a moral responsibility to make it clear to diocesan boards of finance that Anglican unity is not institutional but creedal." - Julian Mann -

Contrary to the speculation of the writer here, the Jerusalem Declaration is only important for supporters of the GAFCON movement for biblical literalism and separation from the historic 'via media' of the Anglican Communion.

Its unique plea for unity on the basis of a puritanical agenda being espoused by the like of the Archibshops of Sydney and Nigeria and Kenya ought to be anathema to anyone nurtured in the Anglican way of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, as the basis of the Church Catholic and Reformed.

Mr. Mann is advocating the way of classic congregationalism, wherein each congregation is free to pursue its own mission agenda. This is not the traditional ethos of the Anglican Church around the world - except in those places where the faith is limited to the personal rather than the communal experience of being Church.

To advocate self-government in any way which preempts the episcopal, diocesan & provincial model of oversight, is to resile from what every normal Anglican would regard as their Mother Church's Christian vocation of service in, and to, the modern world.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 21 November 2008 at 10:36pm GMT

Like many I am an admirer of Dr Fraser's writings in the Church Times, particularly the piece on mission blocking a couple of years back. I agree it is difficult for orthodox net-receiving parishes to differentiate money they may be receiving from false teaching churches such as Dr Fraser's in Putney which gave a platform to a wolf in sheep's clothing in the form of Mr Robinson in the summer. Perhaps orthodox net-givers in dioceses should publish a list of net-receiving ministries in which they have confidence.

Posted by: Julian on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 9:06am GMT

Several points here:

(1) Of course a given denomination will change (tho' not in essentials) - that is not the point. The point is that there is a certain 'point' for *each* of us where a line in the sand would have been crossed, and one could no longer in conscience identify with that denomination. One cannot blame people for giving different identifications of where this line lies. They do so in good conscience. But: everybody but everybody recognises that such a line does and should exist. For example, were the majority of anglicans to become satan-worshippers, then all of us would believe the line had been crossed. Therefore, all of us believe both (a) that such a line exists and (b) that it can potentially be crossed. We differ only in (the relatively minor matter of) defining where exactly that line is.

Re Ford believing evangelicalism is a different gospel: different in Paul's sense (he who coined the phrase) or different from what other groups may be used to or have grown up with? What is wrong with the view that all strands and denominations have both strengths and weaknesses, and that it is increasingly impossible to generalise or label (this person slots in the 'evangelical' box, etc.)? As people become better educated (insofar as they do!) their views become more nuanced, more individually thought-out, and less tribal.

Hi drdanfee-
One cannot but speak in averages here. Whoever said, or even expected, that every one of the many million anglicans would speak with one voice? There are, nevertheless, voices that are far more international than others. And dare I say more interdenominational as well.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 1:55pm GMT

Julian:

Do the "false teaching churches" get the same privilege...to identify the churches THEY would prefer not to receive their money?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 3:03pm GMT

Christopher:

But can't we expect that the line in the sand will be defined by first order concerns--Christology, theology, even ecclesiology--and not a second- or third-order concern such as human sexuality?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 5:29pm GMT

Rocks do change.

Rocks are eroded by weather, heat, water. The rocks in the walls of Jerusalem change. The wall remains, the exact constituency and form varies over time e.g. Nehemiah.

There is a difference between Pauline evangelicism and gospel (that being the books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) evangelicism. The former is written by a man who never knew Jesus in the flesh and was trying to describe overwhelming spiritual encounters. The latter from people who knew both Jesus the man and Jesus of Spirit. They contain Jesus' own words of how Jesus saw himself in relation to God and Spirit.

Jesus saw himself as an emissary given full authority, who acknowleged that God spoke to him and that he was merely repeating what he had heard from God. Thus Jesus never claimed to be God in entirety, but one member of a shared consciousness.

The line in the sand has been crossed. It is to do idolatry (overstating that Jesus is all of God and that the other two entities are passive energies with no opinions or choices of their own), tikkun olam (trying to heal a broken planet and restore that which has been desecrated). At its most fundamental level its about moving beyond seeing the feminine as passive and without feelings or thoughts that don't matter because the man "rules" the house.

It's about keeping Jesus' promise to the Daughter of Zion of being gentle (Matthew 21:5) (which neither he or his Christians have been for many centuries), and about Jesus defending those that are rejected and abused by his own priests (Matthew 25:41-45).

God loves this planet and refers to it as his footstool. It is cruel to claim that this planet is undesired, that a woman is to blame for all the mistakes, and that it is therefore okay to insult and abuse any and all occupants of this planet. If Jesus was serious about gentleness, he would have thought about how Gaia, Eve, the Daughters of Zion and Jerusalem, the prophets and the matriarchs would have felt about entrenched misogyny and theology that justifies violence and abuse. Instead, Jesus has allowed his Christians to make him look like a man who makes promises to women, with no intention of implementing them, and no remorse for the consequences of the cruelty of failing to deliver what was promised.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 8:57pm GMT

An interesting conversation at dinner last night with a former member of a parish which was 'Jensened': that is, it was repackaged as belonging to a Jensen-sponsored evangelical subgroup. Since then, the guy who precipitated the split has set up an 'independent Anglican Church'.

http://www.emmanuelonline.org.uk

Those acquainted with the locations of UK theological colleges will be intrigued....

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Sunday, 23 November 2008 at 4:49pm GMT

Looking in on 'mynsterpreost's contribution from the web'site of 'emmanuelonline' here, one wonders why such schismatics need to use the honourable title of 'Anglican' as part of their institutional base-line. This is no less than a cynical highjacking of the spiritual integrity that has formerly been recognisable as derived from the Catholic and Reformed Tradition of the Church of England.

Surely the local Anglican Bishop must take some remediary action against this piratical use of the good name of the Church of England. To allow such an act of assumption - that Emmanuel Church is still connected to the body from which it has severed itself - is incredibly irresponsible.

When will this schismatic body be properly removed from the parent it has rejected? Is this the thin end of the wedge that will be allowed to happen in the wake of FOCA and GAFCON, I wonder?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 23 November 2008 at 11:08pm GMT

Certainly, there can be questions about the accountability of non-parochial church plants. Parish planting seems a much better way forward when a group from a larger church goes to a struggling smaller church with the intention of reinvigorating it. Usually it is evangelical churches wanting to do this in churches that haven't been previously evangelical. In some cases dioceses are supportive, in other cases not on the ground that the smaller church is being 'taken over' by another theological tradition. Such a negative response by liberal diocesan authorities is surely inexcusable when it's a clear choice between orthodoxy and closure.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 11:14am GMT

Hi Pat-

Emphatically not. The matters which are talked of - whether in academic or ecclesiastical congresses, newspapers, or wherever, will always be those that are currently most controversial, not necessarily those that are most important. Why? Because when it comes to matters that are less controversial, there will be much less to say - and we will only be agreeing with one another anyway. So why discuss it?

A second point: it was not traditional Christians but their opponents that made such issues controversial by moving the goalposts in the first place. The blame then gets given not to the instigators but to those that merely point out that the instigation has taken place. Who thinks that is fair?

Third: it is all very well to say what you think traditional Christians should *not* be doing in such circumstances. But what about what you think they *should* be doing? Standing by while Rome burns? Not caring? or what?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 12:24pm GMT

Hi Cheryl-

The four gospel writers were (mostly) probably no more and no less eyewitnesses of Jesus than Paul had been. Paul had been in Jerusalem certainly before AD 36 - *possibly* therefore during the crucifixion. John the elder (Jn 1.14, 1Jn 1.1) may well have 'seen and touched' Jesus when young - and Mark may have done, since the early church met in his house. The authors of Matthew and Luke are highly unlikely to have done so. But I take the point that the gospels reflect the preaching of such as Peter.

I wasn't contrasting gospels and Paul anyway. I was contrasting what Paul meant by 'another gospel' with what Ford might mean by 'another gospel'. The last thing Paul was was an anglocatholic.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 12:31pm GMT

"What is wrong with the view that all strands and denominations have both strengths and weaknesses, and that it is increasingly impossible to generalise or label (this person slots in the 'evangelical' box, etc.)? "

Aboslutely nothing, which is why my blanket denunciations of "Evangelicalism" are so wrong, and why I am trying to develop a better attitude. Now, the question is, why can't conservatives also acknowledge this? And, WRT a "different Gospel", look at traditional ideas of the redemption of Creation, and the expression of those ideas in sacramental theology, to cite but two areas. In these and many other areas, Evangelicalism preaches something quite different from what was universal in the Church for 1500 years. That was the thrust of the Reformation, after all, a reinterpretation of what had been taught prior, on the grounds that what has gone before was wrong, the "traditions of men". Again, I am not saying they are wrong, though my personal belief is that they are. All I am saying is that those for whom the Reformation is some great redemption of Christianity from human error cannot claim to be preaching the same Gospel as what was understood for the first 1500 years of Christianity, so claims to following some ancient tradition, or accusations that those who follow, or at least attempt to, the older forms are "preaching a different Gospel" from what has traditionally been understood to be the Gospel are patently false. The idea that the entirety of Christianity is to be found in Scripture, that Scripture gives us some sort of guidebook for worship, and that many of the traditions that are concrete embodiments of ideas about the Incarnation and the victory we all share in in Christ are actually errors because they cannot be proved by Scripture are radically innovative Reformation Era ideas that are purposeful changes to the Tradition, and thus are "different" and can now only be said to have a "traditional" status of not more than 500 years or so. Now a 500 year old tradition is still a tradition, I grant you, but it is different, that much is obvious.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 1:54pm GMT

"Such a negative response by liberal diocesan authorities is surely inexcusable when it's a clear choice between orthodoxy and closure."

Well, I wouldn't take too kindly to a bunch of Evangelicals taking over our more or less Anglo-catholic parish, and we're hardly "liberal". Why shouldn't those remaining continue to worship in the style that speaks to their souls and profess the things they actually DO believe, instead of being forced to accept innovative doctrines they have always shied away from? I doubt you'd be so supportive of a bunch of Anglo-catholics wanting to bring ritual, Benediction, and a rosary group into a failing Evangelical parish. Why not instead help a failing congregation to reinvigorate themselves in witness to what they ARE, rather than make them over into Evangelicals? Perhaps because underlying it all is the idea that Evangelicals are the only True Christians, and the rest of us, at best, are indulged in our errors by God? You need to realize that there are many people like me who, after a lifetime of experience of Evangelicals, are deeply suspicious of their motives. Oh, and by the way, a few points: Evangelicalism is NOT 'orthodoxy', the opposite of 'orthodox' is NOT liberal, and not wanting to be forced into practices and beliefs one has previously rejected is NOT evidence of a liberal plot. What's more, as far as I'm concerned, if it comes to a choice between Evangelicalism and closure, I'd opt for closure any day! If my parish were to be taken over and forcibly converted in such a manner, I really don't know what I'd do, but I DO know I would cease to be a parishioner. I case you are detecting hostility, it comes from your seeming belief that the true faithful "orthodox" are being beset by the Evil Hell Bound Liberals. I'm curious how you define "orthodox" since I can find little in Evangelicalism that fits the traditional definition of that word. And those of us who aren't Evangelicals aren't apostates, despite the thunderings of GAFCON. If you are looking for apostacy, heresy, and abandonment of the basics of the Gospel, you needn't look fuirther than the Jerusalem Declaration. How is Evangelicalism in any way "orthodox"?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 4:52pm GMT

One thing that Paul was illiterate on was women. Considering his Jewish lineage his dismissiveness of women is saddening. There are so many things that women have contributed to Jewish culture, and the women have played crucial roles in the formation of Judaism and its perpetuity.

Paul's myopic teachings were inspirational but they are hardly the full, complete or perfect teachings about either Judaism, Jesus, the feminine or God.

Here's one thread that shows that even Moses "didn't get" women. http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5757/vayakhel.html

This article offers an alternative perspective, comparing and contrasting the feminine traits to masculine swash buckling sword waving bravado.
http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/519047/jewish/Dont-Women-Count.htm

There is a time and place for both. Nor is the bible arbitrary boundaries between one or the other. When men can not or will not step up the fray, the women move e.g. the prophetess Deborah, confirming that all the Amalek were dead after the battle was done by the Jewish women, Zion who is called to rise and thresh.

Just as the stones and their configuration in Jerusalem's walls change over time, so too does Christianity and all of Creation.

There is now an evangelical form of Christianity that is looking at the mystic elements of its ancestry, rediscovering the "behind the scenes" ingredients to redemption, and appreciating Jesus' role in context of an inspirational nurturer and healer for all of this planet rather than as an impositional cudgel for a few at the expense of the rest of this planet.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 6:26pm GMT

Julian Mann: I take issue with your unsubtle and incorrect use of the term "orthodox". Using the term, without quotation marks, to mean "people who take a conservative on (uniquely) the issue of homosexuality" is not accurate. Attitudes to homosexuality have never formed part of the historic tests of orthodoxy in any ecclesial context, as far as I am aware. You need to refer to some oecumenical councils if you wish to support your view.

In my experience (and I was brought up in a Conservative Evangelical environment), Conservative Evangelicals often have little sense of the historic contexts of the use of the term "orthodox". Trying to hijack the term now, out of context, to shore up a dying belief in the rectitude of dismissing gay Chrstians' spiritual lives is, and I choose the word more carefully than you use the word "orthodox", iniquitous.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 7:54pm GMT

"The last thing Paul was was an anglocatholic."

I sincerely doubt St. Paul would find a comfortable place anywhere in modern Christianity, actually. I do think he'd find more that was familiar in Rome or Constantinople, and perhaps in Canturbury, than elsewhere. At least there the language would be something he'd recognize. Oh, I'm sure he'd consider a lot of what we think so important to be so much "skubala", but I'd love to see him arguing with Evangelicals. I imagine "skubala" would be mild compared to his responses then!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 8:04pm GMT

Christopher:

If matters such as the real presence in the Eucharist and lay presidency are not sufficient to split the church--matters that are truly part of our understanding of Christ and his place in our lives--then I cannot see why consecrating a gay man as a bishop is. I don't care that the place of gays in society is a currently controversial issue in the world at large...so is, for example, the use of torture--but I don't see anyone suggesting we should split the church between those who think torturing our enemies is OK and those who don't.

On your second point: The goalposts, as you put it, are moving all the time, as human beings gain greater understanding of the world, our place in it, and how that effects our understanding of God. Darwin was controversial, but did not split the church; Freud was controversial, but did not split the church.

And what should "traditional" Christians be doing? The same thing they always should have been doing, obeying the two Great Commandments--especially the second one about loving our neighbors.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 24 November 2008 at 9:40pm GMT

"matters that are truly part of our understanding of Christ and his place in our lives"

But, for an Evangelical, these are not issues at all. They are "the traditions of men". The only understanding we need to have is that Christ is the ubervictim, whose place in our lives is on the Cross where we should be, so that God can calm down enough so as not to roast us for all eternity. Matter is not redeemed, Creation is not redeemed, since redemption consists of getting a very angry judge to let us away with our crimes. What could priesthood possibly have to do with that? With such a concept of redemption, it is utterly unnecessary for a piece of bread to be anything other than a piece of bread. Besides, the Bible doesn't say anything about priests, and we all know the entirety of Christianity is to be found in Scripture. The Apostles, apparently, spent three years wandering around Palestine taking dictation. No chats around the fire of a cold desert evening, none of that, no unwritten Tradition to pass on.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 11:40am GMT

Hi Pat-

The goalposts of *fashion* shift all the time, yes. So do the goalposts of *academic study* - though much of academic study is not only pluralist in its conclusions but vague about criteria.

But if you think that is why popular opinion shifts, then you are only partly right. One main barometer for public opinion is, quite simply, which country and which culture one is born into. The proportion of people who can think outside this particular box is low. Within our culture there is the additional complication that our politicians and our media are so unrepresentative of their country, being disproportionately biased towards people of particular backgrounds. Both media and politicians (not to mention celebrities) strongly influence what the questions are perceived to be in the first place, let alone any conclusions that are reached on those questions.

So your view that shifting of cultural goalposts is simly to do with advance of knowledge cannot be sustained for at least two or three quite separate reasons.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 12:14pm GMT

"much of academic study is not only pluralist in its conclusions but vague about criteria."

Not when it comes to scientific study, Christopher. Study structure, the definition of what is being studied, how it is to be recognized, factors that may have inadvertently been overlooked or assumed, all these are important parts of scientific publication. In fact, failure to attend properly to these kinds of issues is a large part of why people like Cameron are discredited in scientific circles. Given your citation of people like him in the past, I find it odd you would level the accusation of vagueness at more reputable researchers.


"One main barometer for public opinion is, quite simply, which country and which culture one is born into. The proportion of people who can think outside this particular box is low."

Among conservatives, especially conservative Evangelicals, I'd say that number is non-existent. Indeed, the inability of such people to think outside their particular cultural boxes seems almost willfull. Look at the assumptions of how certain aspects of conservative Western culture are considered to be God given, even those things Christians once thought sinful.

"Both media and politicians (not to mention celebrities) strongly influence what the questions are perceived to be in the first place"

Well, between them CNN and FOX broadcast six (6) hours of far right wing Republican opinion every single night in North America. There is no liberal equivalent, except on comedy networks, so the conservaitve complaint of a "liberal media bias" is laughable. Yet, there is hope, since despite this obvious conservative media bias, Obama still won.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 5:13pm GMT

Christopher:

I respectfully disagree. First of all, I don't think our politicians are unrepresentative of our country...if anything, there are times I think they are TOO representative, in that they are following the opinions of their constituency instead of voting their own consciences. See Edmund Burke for why that's a bad idea.

Second, in regard to the specific issues I mentioned--evolution, the place of gays in society, torture, psychology--it was scientific research that changed the argument...that, indeed, set the argument going. Before the science changed, there was no argument at all.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 5:39pm GMT

Christopher: yes, but aren't you always talking up the different take that some Asians may have on Western culture?

You can't surely, on the one hand claim that Western Europeans are culturally conditioned (now in an anti-discriminatory way), and that this is incompatible with living as a Christian, but that non-Europeans are also equally culturally conditioned (often in a discriminatory way, one would submit), yet that this is not equally problematic?

I think that cultural conditioning operates at every level of religion. Religion in Europe has historically both conditioned and been conditioned by the surrounding culture.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 7:53pm GMT

"One main barometer for public opinion is, quite simply, which country and which culture one is born into." - Christopher Shell -

And was The Christ not incarnated into each and every culture - whether its denizens are aware of Him or not? Have you not thought that maybe God designed things that way for God's own good purposes? - That every culture should have something to contribute to the understanding of both the Creator and the Creation?.

If indeed that was God's purpose - that every culture, race and religious inclination should have a significant place in the composition of what constitutes the 'Kingdom of God' - this would presuppose that a spirit of convergence is needed, in order for God's Kingdom to come 'on earth, as it is in heaven' for which Jesus asks his followers to pray.

In this Octave of the Feast of Christ the King, I cannot believe that God created any part of his human family to be outside of the parameters of his grace and redemptive power of love, in Christ.

What we Christians need to do is to consider whether OUR attitudes towards people of other faiths, and of none (and, indeed, towards one another), are attractive enough to draw people to the personhood of God that we have found in Jesus Christ. "They'll know you're my disciples by your love", he said. - (Not by your sectarian purity, and certainly not by your hatred of those different from yourself).

"God so loved the World" - not only the Church!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 25 November 2008 at 9:15pm GMT

Several points here:

(1) I applaud Pat's citing of Burke. It goes without saying that politicians should vote with their consciences, and the fact that they don't shows that they are too concerned with guarding their own backs / their own re-election. (However, a 'whipped' system is inherently corrupt, and is the enemy of conscience and of right.)

(2) But what has Burke's dictum got to do with the many other ways in which MPs are unrepresentative? They are not proportionally representative in gender, class/background/education, priorities (they are disproportionately trained in politics/economics/law, i.e. the most this-worldly and -with the exception of law- the most short-term areas of study). Anyone who dislikes manipulation and power-play, the idea that 'playing the game' is what it is all about (i.e. good people) are not likely to be drawn to, or to feel at home in, the political world. (Still less likely to be drawn to journalism, which relegates science, history and archaeology reports of large and long-term significance to page 43 in favour of transient minor economic and political -or indeed celebrity- developments on page 1.) More likely politics will inevitably become the arena for those who love to discuss what is new (Acts 17, Athens).

That is not to deny the great public servants who work so hard and get only vilification in return. It is simply to point out how unrepresentative the House of Commons is.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 12:27pm GMT

Fr Ron-
You are making the point about diversity of cultures being a good thing. Couldn't agree more. I have always sought out ideologically *international* churches and colleges as a no.1 priority. But that has nothing to do with the point that (a) most people do not tend to think outside their own culture and wrongly assume it is a norm; (b) some people *can* do so - which proves it is perfectly possible - and we should in general listen to them rather than to the others, whose conclusions will be more predetermined and therefore less interesting or significant.

Hi Pat-
It is often repeated that there have been scientific advances in our understanding of homosexuality. If one is referring to orientation, that has been known about for millennia - but its existence/normality is obviously a quite separate question from whether it is right or beneficial. Human nature both exists and is normal - indeed universal. But it is not always positive. Sin both exists and is normal - indeed universal. But it is negative.

I agree with the point that all sorts of people are culturally conditioned. And also with the point that this is unnecessary and can be greatly diminished.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 12:35pm GMT

Fr. Ron,
"a spirit of convergence is needed"

I think the conservative Evangelical position would be that what is needed is conformity with what God wants. That in itself is not something I'd disagree with, it's just that they have convinced themselves that what God wants is their Middle Class white Western lifestyle with its conservative American values. They've even convinced themselves that such a position is "countercultural"!

"Octave of the Feast of Christ the King"

To paraphrase an old Irish folksong:

The ACs in their chazzies swinging incense
Speak a language that the Evos do not know.

Isn't it interesting that the very people the conservatives accuse of refusing to acknowledge the "lordship of Christ", a term they steadfastly refuse to define, not only acknowledge His Kingship in a major Feast, they rejoice in that Kingship, then spend 8 days meditating and praying about nothing else?

Pat,
"evolution, the place of gays in society, torture, psychology"

I think you'll find evolution is a mere theory supported by pluralists who stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the role of God, and is not really scientific at all; gays, being a threat to all the is good and holy in Western society have no place in that society at all, and, if they cannot be fixed, should at least deny themselves and hide, under threat of some vague yet severe penalty/reparative "therapy"; and psychology is a dubious pseudoscience that merely butresses societal trends.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 1:22pm GMT

"existence/normality is obviously a quite separate question from whether it is right or beneficial."

You keep talking about "beneficial" and the harm done by homosexuality. Well, time to pony up. Can you name one thing about homosexuality that is detrimental to society and does NOT spring directly from the oppression of gay people by heterosexuals over millennia or a reaction against that oppression by people who refuse to be walked on any more? And, you being a conservative Evangelical, I'd think you ought to give some consideration to the myriad ways in which conservative Evangelical Christianity is a detriment to society. It isn't all that hard, all you have to do is turn on your television to see the kinds of things that society justifiably ridicules about the Church. Better you do that than try to find ways in which I, who you only know from this blog, am "not right" and not "beneficial". If you are offended at my claim that your religion is a detriment to society, well, right back at ya, there, buddy boy, with your ever so pious implication that I and people like me are somehow not "beneficial". I worked as a doctor in Emergency for 11 years, I imagine I came across at least one person during those years who would consider me to have been a benefit in his life!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 2:16pm GMT

Christopher,

Thankyou for your agreement, at least on matters concerning the need for convergence in our appreciation and understanding of different cultures.

However, you seem still to be protesting that the phenomenon of homosexuality, and its presence in society, is in some ways offensive both to God and humanity. Have you ever considered the fact that it might be something of a cultural reality -not only in western society but also in other parts of the world, and, therefore, a matter of theological, as well as sociological, importance for the Church to come to terms with?

After all, the issue of human love was something about which Jesus himself was vitally concerned in his advice to his disciples: "They will know you're my disciples by your LOVE". If you indeed consider homosexual attraction outside of God's purview, why do you imagine it exists? Is God deliberately tempting us to 'sin' in this way? And how does this differ from heterosexual loving? I am speaking here of love, not lust.

Is God's concern, in the wonderful gift of sexual loving, only with the business of procreation? Or has it something to do with the erotic nature that needs to be satisfied in all of us - regardless of gender or sexual orientation, which seems to be a 'given' in creation? Perhaps a re-reading of the 'Song of Solomon' may be helpful!

Even the present Pope Gregory, in his first Encyclical, had to point out that 'eros' is a legitimate component of 'agape', and that the Church needs to come to terms with this inescapable fact. Homosexuality is here to stay. It is a natural part of the created order, and the Church needs to come to terms with it.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 9:26pm GMT

What a Twit, I am: "The present Pope GREGORY", indeed! A Feudian slip do you think, when I was writing that last comment? Anyway, when it happened - that Pope BENEDICT spoke, in his first encyclical, about the legitimacy of 'eros', many of us clergy were quite excited - thinking that this might be a preliminary move to opening up the RC priesthood to (dare I say it on line?) those Roman Catholic men who are actually married?
There! I've said it!.

There's no guarantee of course that, if the Vatican thinks that none of its married men might be gay and omits to apply the newly-ordered 'gay-test' on them, that they might not be ordaining gay clergy unawares. And how would all that denial of 'gays in the ministry' affect them then?

Whatever may happen in that direction. It does seem that the RC Bishops in England have been asked to consider the propriety of the ordination of married men. Perhaps this is a new beginning? What do you think Robert? And how would this affect your dalliance with Rome?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 27 November 2008 at 10:11am GMT

Fr Ron: Friends who are RC priests in England tend to be against allowing married parish clergy, not least because it would throw an uncomfortable spotlight upon those who were not married, and possibly entail some difficult questions to be answered as a result.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 27 November 2008 at 7:16pm GMT

Hi Fr Ron-

I have never met, and will never meet, someone who denies that homosexuality is a cultural reality. Or, simply, a reality tout court. What *isn't* a reality? Of course, one can name unicorns and dodos. But the world is full of things that exist. What has their existence got to do with whether they are good, bad or neutral?

To affirm that homosexuality is a reality is something that one wd expect to be done by people who feared that their interlocutor denied this. So, is anyone can find someone who denies that it is a reality, then we will be in business.

You pose a false either/or. Many of the things that are cultural realities are positive, and many of them are negative. Being something of sociological/theological significance obviously does not automatically make something positive. Gap in logic.

Hi Ford-
This is the central person/activity confusion, which is the very first clarification made by any traditional Christian on this topic. You yourself, as a person, are very probably extremely beneficial, but we were not talking about you as a person. If you can find any beneficial person who is 100% beneficial in all that they are and do, it wd be surprising. Most of us are beneficial in some ways and less so (even to the extent of being detrimental) in others. (A small point: I don't have a 'religion', because so far as I can see, Jesus is all to do with reality and relationship and thinking that what he is essentially to do with is something called 'religion' is not only historically inaccurate but is widely understood to be a classic way of missing the point.)

Posted by: Chirstopher Shell on Friday, 28 November 2008 at 1:24pm GMT

"You yourself, as a person, are very probably extremely beneficial, but we were not talking about you as a person."

Sophistry. The fact is that the "person/activity confusion" is pretty much a given for the majority of humanity. Do you seriously think that people beat us to death just because of what we do, all the while acknowledging that we are probably very nice people actually? And answer the question, what is not "beneficial" about homosexuality that is not a direct result of the oppression of gay people or a reaction against that oppression? You're the one who keeps making references to some vague harm homosexuality does, well name it instead of trying to pretend you "hate the sin, love the sinner". No-one has believed anyone who uses that little canard in quite some time.

"I don't have a 'religion'"

And how is your "reality not a religion" any more "real" than the "reality not a religion" that is Buddhism? The Buddha was all about reality after all, and posited no supernatural force whatsoever. That alone says that it is more about reality than Christianity, with its mystical transformation of Created things, like Bread, wine, people, and on and on. There has to be a lot of supernatural, unprovable aspects in order for Christianity to make sense: the existence of God, that a person can be both God and a human being at the same time, that there is some sort of breach between human beings and this "God" that no-one can prove, and that this breach necessitated this unprovable "God" becoming a created thing, that as a result of this humans can achieve union with the Divine. What part of these things is "real" as opposed to matters of faith? Given that the supernatural and mystical aspects of Christianity are far more attractive to me than any social justice message that can be derived from them, we're obviously not going to agree. Frankly, I can't understand what the attraction of Christianity is to someone who is as suspicious of the mystical and supernatural as you seem to be.

Posted by: Ford ELms on Friday, 28 November 2008 at 6:23pm GMT

"I have never met, and will never meet, someone who denies that homosexuality is a cultural reality. Or, simply, a reality tout court. What *isn't* a reality? Of course, one can name unicorns and dodos. But the world is full of things that exist. What has their existence got to do with whether they are good, bad or neutral?"

After God completed his Creation, he pronounced it "good". Homosexuals are a part of that Creation, and have been--if we accept current scientific evidence--since its very beginnings. How then can they be other than "good"?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 28 November 2008 at 8:43pm GMT

I have been experiencing technical difficulties in posting on Fulcrum, so am grateful for this opportunity to respond to Dr Kings' piece about the 'hidden agenda' behind my letter to the Church Times in support of the Jerusalem Declaration. His comments did make me sound like quite a shady character - a clerical Arthur Daley for the blogosphere! May I respond as follows?

1). A comment posted on Thinking Anglicans is hardly hidden.

2). The letter in the Church Times was in response to their news story about NEAC5. I didn't want to repeat what I'd already said on Thinking Anglicans. It would have made the letter too long.

3). Regarding parish share, the concrete suggestion I made in a later post here on Thinking Anglicans was that orthodox net-giving churches in dioceses should publish a list of net-receiving parishes in which they have confidence.

4). Dr Kings cited Sydney Diocese and the Church of England in South Africa as being the prime movers behind FCA. Whilst I am absolutely with them in supporting the Jerusalem Declaration, I am not a supporter of Sydney's move towards non-presbyteral celebration of the Lord's Supper, on the ground that this undermines the unity of orthodox Anglicans behind Jerusalem. Also, whilst I supported the Southwark ordinations involving CESA at the time (writing a letter of support in the Church Times), I now believe that support to have been ill-judged. Anglican ordinations, being public events, should be publicised well in advance in the dioceses in which they take place.

Sincerely in Christ's service,

Julian Mann
Oughtibridge Parish Church
www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk

Posted by: Julian Mann on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 8:29am GMT

Hi Pat-
So you think everything in human behaviour is good?

Hi Ford-
When did I say that I was suspicious of the mystical and supernatural? For all you know, my definition of 'reality' could include plenty that is mystical and supernatural, along with much else.

CS Lewis used to think 'hate the sin, love the sinner' was convenient sophistry, until he realised that there was one person he regularly treated thus: namely, himself. And he (quite wisely) was not about to stop regarding himself in this way. If we then apply 'Do unto others...'.
I would in addition be extremely surprised to meet any parent who did not apply 'hate the sin, love the sinner' to their own child. You might beg to differ? -I would be interested to see. Far from being sophistry, this principle is universal common sense.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 9:17am GMT

"3). Regarding parish share, the concrete suggestion I made in a later post here on Thinking Anglicans was that orthodox net-giving churches in dioceses should publish a list of net-receiving parishes in which they have confidence." - Julian Mann -

Julian. Whatever is an 'orthodox net-giving church'? Is this some sort of Greek or Russian Orthodox supplier of free deep-sea fishing gear?

M<ny of us on this site would take exception to your use of the word 'orthodox', if you are presuming to describe those who are trying to high-jack the title of Anglicanism, in order to create a different form of religious entity from that which most of us recognise as our historic Scriptural, Traditional and Reasonable Faith stucture, in the Church which is in communion with the See of Canterbury.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 10:13am GMT

Christopher:

No, only the parts that are innate at birth. I am fully convinced that an inclination to prefer same-sex partners is such. God created homosexuals...why would he create something "not good"?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 11:28am GMT

Hi Pat-
Precisely my point. You speak of things being 'innate at birth' which are not even remotely present in babies and young children. You must know that that this genetics/environment thing is what the whole dispute is about, simply because the facts are not so clear as you make out. I.e. should we describe homosexuality as something primarily constitutional, something primarily behavioural, something primarily learnt, an acquired disorder, an acquired neutral habit, or what? And whichever of these it is, it still remains something we can choose or not choose.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 1:37pm GMT

"When did I say that I was suspicious of the mystical and supernatural?"

In so many words, never. But the things you say about Scriptural historicity, your insistence that God be provable, your obvious inability to accept that science does not, cannot, include the concept of God, all this and much more reveals in you a need to give some sort of concrete, almost scientific, credibility to the faith. You have an almost knee jerk reaction against the idea that God is outside human provability, for instance, and with the way I behave, I should know about knee jerk reactions. I have tried to explain to you before how the things we say express more than what is encoded in the words we use.


"there was one person he regularly treated thus: namely, himself."

And applied to one'sself, it is admirable. But, do you honestly believe that Peter Akinola wants to jail for five years those who would speak out against the oppression of gay people because he "loves the sinner"? We're not talking about parents disciplining their children, we are talking about sanctimonious "Christians" hiding their hatred of adults they do not even know behind false piety. I am not your child for you to bring to heel. Christopher, you have said you find homosexuality disgusting, or did you use the word 'revolting', that it is repulsive. You have shown clearly that for you sexuality has to be regulated or it is dangerous, and implied the infringements of those laws deserve punishment, and you have alluded to some "harm" that will befall society if gay people are allowed to go untreated/unpunished/accepted. What is that harm you fear? You have been given concrete evidence of beneficial gay relationships here, yet you persist in seeing relationships such as mine as some sort of threat to sociey. Why? Answer the question, what is harmful about homosexuality that is NOT a product of the oppression of gay people by society or a reaction against that oppression by people who refuse to be walked on? Show the harm.

Posted by: Ford ELms on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 2:49pm GMT

Julian Mann's proposal looks like the thin end of a very unpleasant wedge. Not content with refusing to allow his parish share to support Dr X down the road who is a member of Sea of Faith, or Fr Y who is a dangerous sacramentalist and 'worshipper of Mary', will he also demand to withold funds or even selection procedures from the ordinand from Fr Y's parish? Will he want moneys to be withheld by ABM from theological courses which are perceived as liberal or unsound? And, from one on the cusp of retirement, perhaps he would wish for pensions to be withheld from those who have spent 40 years ministering to their parishioners (not just the Elect among them) on the grounds that they are not sound on the apostolic authorship of 2 Peter?

Where is the line to be drawn?

Posted by: cryptogram on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 3:32pm GMT

"Precisely my point. You speak of things being 'innate at birth' which are not even remotely present in babies and young children."

Most psychologists, psychiatrists, and pediatricians would disagree with you. Or do you reject science that supports things you don't believe?

"You must know that that this genetics/environment thing is what the whole dispute is about, simply because the facts are not so clear as you make out. I.e. should we describe homosexuality as something primarily constitutional, something primarily behavioural, something primarily learnt, an acquired disorder, an acquired neutral habit, or what? And whichever of these it is, it still remains something we can choose or not choose."

Really? Can YOU choose or not choose to be attracted to women, Christopher? If the shoe were on the other foot, and men marrying women was forbidden, would you be willing to forgo a lifelong relationship with the woman you love on the same basis as men who love men or women who love women--because it was a "choice"?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 3:53pm GMT

"should we describe homosexuality as something primarily constitutional, something primarily behavioural, something primarily learnt, an acquired disorder, an acquired neutral habit, or what? And whichever of these it is, it still remains something we can choose or not choose."

Christopher, you make much of respecting objectivity, logic, and reason. Well, modern scientific study is showing quite clearly that homosexuality is NOT something we can choose. Being sexually active certainly is a choice, I grant you, but, as I said, those who would kill us really don't care if we are virgins. +Akinola does not want, after all, only to jail those gay people who have sex, he doesn't even want to only jail gay people, but anyone who is nice to us. Do you seriously think that he would accept a group of celibate homosexuals? Come on, Christopher, many GAFCON parishes support these so-called "Ex-gay" ministries, showing pretty clearly that they don't want gay people just to be celibate, they want them to at least pretend not to be gay, thereby protecting the sensibilities of these oh so pious Christians, and they don't care how many they drive to suicide in order to get their way. So, your question is well on the way to being answered. Mine however, is not. What harm is there in homosexuality that is not a product of the oppression of gay people by society or a reaction against that oppression by people who are no longer willing to skulk around in shame and fear?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 29 November 2008 at 5:05pm GMT

Christopher,

I think you need time to chill out and look around you to see if you might even know one single homosexual person whom you could speak with on a personal basis. Ask them whether or not they have any memory at all of actually making a choice to be a homosexual.

Whne you pick yourself up off the floor - having learnt that most gays, on account of their being rejected, initially, by parents and former friends who 'find out' that they are gay, would rather be other than they are - then, as someone has suggested on this site, put the question the other way around: to yourself. Did you logically and consciously choose to be a heterosexual (if indeed you are one), or did you gradually come to understand which of the sexes you found to be attractive - sexually?

Most gays I know would much prefer to have been fashioned differently. However, having discovered the truth about themselves, they long for society to accept them as they are - without prejudice. I believe it is one of the tasks of the Church to affirm who and what they are, and to encourage them into making good choices in their partnering relationships - using the same parameters as one would use with heterosexuals.

Your understanding of homosexuality is so very last century that it needs to be brought up to date - so that if any of your own family turn out to be gay, they might not suffer the same mis-understanding and opprobrium you seem to want to dish out to other gays - who simply want to be absorbed, most of them, into 'normal' society.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 1:31am GMT

In reply to Cryptogram, one of my objectives as the minister of a net-receiving church is by God's grace to increase our parish share. We currently pay £18,500, less than half the cost of our ministry. As an Anglican in the Reformed tradition, I see myself as called to serve the whole parish.

The parish system works well when it allows Gospel ministry in UPA parishes that wouldn't otherwise be able to afford their ministry.

The system does not work well when it props up churches that are not being energetic in proclaiming the Gospel of salvation from God's righteous 'wrath and indignation' against us through the 'full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction' his Son Jesus Christ made on the Cross for our redemption (note those are quotations from the Prayer Book, so they express the doctrine of the Church of England - see Canon A5).

The system also does not well when it bankrolls clergy who are having sex outside of heterosexual marriage, who are abusing alcohol or who are denying key tenets of the Gospel, eg Christ's death in our place for our sins, his bodily resurrection, his personal return, and his call to repentance and holy living.

Posted by: Julian Mann on Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 8:21am GMT

I take it, Julian, that that is "Yes" to all the questions.

Posted by: cryptogram on Sunday, 30 November 2008 at 12:43pm GMT

A friend of mine - who is far far cleverer than me - has deconstructed Crypotgram's contribution as follows:

"Cryptogram's reply (in addition to hiding behind the cloak of internet anonymity) is so full of bad rhetoric that replying constructively is like plugging a sieve.

Amongst the fallacies I detect:

Ad hominem - Mann is the kind of person who would deprive someone of their pension
Straw man - erecting a false view of what Mann has said so as to make criticism easy
Ad misericordiam - the appeal to pity, 'I am almost retired and my pension would be threatened'
Ad populum - an appeal to the crowd (who on Thinking Anglicans is going to criticize a critic of Reform?)
Poisoning the well - using loaded language ('an unpleasant wedge') before you even get to the argument

Above all, he has simply - if this is the whole of his reply - ignored what you have written and attempted a kind of 'reductio ad absurdum' based on his own caricature."

Over and out from me for the time being. Thank you to Thinking Anglicans for your hospitality.

With all Christian good wishes,

Julian Mann

Posted by: Julian Mann on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 9:24am GMT

"the Gospel of salvation from God's righteous 'wrath and indignation'

So, it's God we are saved from, is it? God is the enemy. Not bondage to sin and death, not the results of the Fall, no it's God's wrath. God is so angry that only a bizarre act of infanticide/suicide can calm Him down? See, many Christians don't necessarily see it that way. Oh sure, there's penal elements to the story, of course there are. You can't expect that a myth based upon disobedience to God would not contain such elements. But to suggest that the purpose of th Incarnation was to provide a suitable innocent victim so that God could be bribed to let us get away with our crimes is, to me, near blasphemy. You would do well to read some Orthodox sources. I think you'll find that the concepts behind atonement are far more complex, and less disrespectful to God, than the image of the angry punisher you seem to adhere to. Let me ask, given that there are several different aspects to the Atonement that have been meditated on, preached about, and prayed about for centuries, why is this one aspect so attractive to you above all the others, so much so, in fact, that if a parish is not "energetic" in preaching this "Gospel" you seem to think they are unworthy of support from the rest of the Church? Is preaching this "Gospel" the only kind of evangelism you can think of?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 12:28pm GMT

hi Ford-
How could anyone 'insist that God be provable'. The things that are and are not provable are not going to become any more or less so merely because someone insists. It reminds me of King Canute. No - what anyone would insist is, rather, that belief in God or belief in anything else be *proportional to the evidence*. I.e. it should have no relation to wishful thinking. Why would belief in God be different in this way from belief in anything else? (I am speaking here, as I think you were, abour belief in God's existence. I know that 'pistis'/belief/faith etc. is a complex biblical network of concepts, but that is a separate question.)
The harm that is to be avoided is:
(a) an increase in unwelcome statistics (those frequently mentioned: life-expectancy, STD rate, abuse rate, promiscuity rate) which is both predictable and actual and stems from the fact that if something is viewed as normal behaviour it will increase. You repeatedly mention Cameron; I repeatedly say forget Cameron and look at the patterns of consensus elsewhere. And, together with that:
(b) an inevitable chaoticising of Christian family morality with myriad ramifications. The acceptance of homosexual behaviour is but one of the closely interrelated fruits of the divorce of sex and marriage which has been the root of so many other ills (indeed, perhaps, *most* of our current family-related moral/social ills). One cannot, practically, allow the dissolution of the Christian model in one way (homosexual behaviour) and also deny it in all the other harmful and negative ways (cheapening of marital vows, o.k.ing of extramarital sex, etc.). For that reason, these things all go together and have a common root.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 12:29pm GMT

Hi Pat-
Who can accept a phrase like 'most psychologists...and paediatricians'? That is a vague appeal to authority (ie fundamentalist) rather than a presentation of evidence (ie thinking). The basis for our discussion must be their reasons for thinking this, insofar as they do. It can't make sense for you (or for Ford) to write as though the genetics/environment issue has already been solved.
I was unclear on the matter of 'choice' - it was homosexual *behaviour* that I was referring to.

Hi Ford-
I omitted the most important point in my and others' opposition to homosexual behaviour, namely the question of how hygienic it is, even if it were natural (which is also in doubt). Hence you will repeatedly find trad Christians making a firm distinction between orientation and practice.

Hi Fr Ron-
If my understanding of homosexuality were last century that would be in and of itself neutral, neither good nor bad. Before any proper debate begins, it must be acknowledged that fashionability (oh! you're so last century) is no criterion for truth. The criterion for truth is accuracy. But it is revealing if some people are apparently so dsperate to be fashionable and to avoid being uncool or stick in the mud. Such a concern of theirs could easily get in the way of objective assessment of the evidence, for fear that they might come out with (horror of horrors) a minority or even (worse horror) 'old-fashioned' position. Fashions change all the time anyway, but how fashions are relevant to any of this beats me.
-I hope I am not caricaturing your position. There is one place where you are caricaturing mine, namely where you talk about whether or not I know any gay people. First, since you and I don't even know each other, how is it possible for you to speculate on this? Second, we are talking not of people but of behaviour. Third, people's so-called 'objective conclusions' can be fatally damaged by being too influenced by the nature of their peer-groups.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 12:43pm GMT

If smoke is being blown, it is, ISTM, from Oughtibridge.

Let me ask the questions again, directly and without so-called rhetoric.

- Would Julian withhold subvention through parish share from an anglo-catholic parish whose theology he rejects? That is a crucial question in the GAFCON context as there were anglo-catholics involved in GAFCON
- Would Julian withhold funds from the training of ordinands from parishes with whose orientation he disagrees?
- Would Julian withhold funding from ordination courses which he perceives to be heterodox by his criteria?
- As pensions are now partly funded through parish share, would he favour withholding parish share because some is paid in pensions to those whom he regards as heterodox?

They are perfectly straightforward questions which follow from any decision to refuse to pay the assessed parish share, because, like taxation, it is not hypothecated. If one were to say that "65% of the parishes in this diocese are not preaching the true gospel, therefore we will only pay 35% of our assessed parish share", it would impact far more widely than on the stipends of Dr X or Fr Y of my original post. Do think it through.

cryptogram (lowercase)

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 12:47pm GMT

Christopher:

I thought it needed no additional verbiage to be clear that the opinions of scientists--and the people I referred to all fit the category--are based in scientific evidence, as published in peer-reviewed journals...the gold standard for scientific inquiry for nearly two centuries now.

As for "choice"--would YOU choose not to follow the inclinations of your heart and your body, if heterosexual practice were the thing that is considered "unclean"? Further, if you accept that homosexuals' orientation is not a choice--is, therefore, within them from birth (or soon thereafter, which amounts to the same thing)--I have to ask:

Why would a loving God give any of His creations such an intense longing that He then forbade them to act upon? Is this Yahweh we're discussing? Or the African Trickster god? Or Loki?

BTW--many heterosexuals indulge in the same "unhygienic" activities as homosexuals. Is it wrong for them, too? Oh--and what's unhygienic about what lesbians do?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 5:59pm GMT

Pat
"As for "choice"--would YOU choose not to follow the inclinations of your heart and your body, if heterosexual practice were the thing that is considered "unclean"? Further, if you accept that homosexuals' orientation is not a choice"

We've been here before, and Christopher revealed that he actually did make a choice, so he clearly believes everyone can.
It's got all the characteristics of someone who is bisexual but doesn't understand bisexuality, fears he might be gay, withdraws into fierce heterosexuality.... and henceforth believes that it's an easy moral choice for everyone.

You won't change his mind, it's set in concrete!
This "conversation" really isn't going anywhere....

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 1 December 2008 at 8:08pm GMT

"I omitted the most important point in my and others' opposition to homosexual behaviour, namely the question of how hygienic it is, even if it were natural (which is also in doubt). Hence you will repeatedly find trad Christians making a firm distinction between orientation and practice."

You seem to be basking in the delusion that homosexual behavior is synonymous with a specific sex act. It is not. Different people express their sexuality in different ways.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 12:01am GMT

"belief in God or belief in anything else be *proportional to the evidence*"

Either give me one piece of concrete, objective evidence that God exists, or admit you are an atheist.

"in unwelcome statistics"

You have never given any objective evidence for decreased life-expectancy. You have only ever cited Cameron, and one other poorly constructed study. What "consensus"? Who are these scientists lining up to condemn homosexuality? No such consensus exists. But you don't know how to read a scientific study, so are easily led to believe falsehoods by those whose political agenda trumps their scientific integrity.

"STD rate"

Unsafe sex spreads STDs, not a particular orientation. That's why AIDS is a HETEROSEXUAL disease in Africa. By repeating this, you are adding to an environment where the fastest growing group of HIV+ people in the West is heterosexual teenagers, because they believe they can't catch HIV because they are heterosexual. Please stop.

"abuse rate'

This is a new one. Abuse of whom? Each other? Prove it! Children? A lie!

"promiscuity rate"

You don't know the straight people I do!

You have not said one thing that is not unsubstantiated or a stereotype , and reveal an alarming ignorance of infectious disease dynamics.

"One cannot, practically, allow the dissolution of the Christian model"

You see dissolution, I see extension. How does blessing a lifelong monogamous relationship "chaoticize" Christian family morality? And "allow"? Just who do you think you are "allowing" to do anything? Society will do what it will do, Christopher, and it is paying no attention to a Church it thinks is irrelevant and oppressive. We don't "allow" society to do anything, Christopher. I think it was our biggest mistake to ever try.

"even if it were natural (which is also in doubt)"

No it isn't in doubt, Christopher. I could respect your position more if it were based on anything approaching reality.

"some people are apparently so dsperate"

But, Christopher, you are so desperate to make homosexuals appear sick and dangerous that you are repeating falsehoods and stereotypes against us! You have abandoned objective assessment for vague references to some "consensus" and make untrue statements about gay people. You can't point this finger at others when you are so manifestly guilty yourself.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 12:07pm GMT

Billy-
Yes, correct. The behaviour that people usually (not *entirely* incorrectly, according to the research I have seen, tho' the picture is changing and diversifying) imagine to be standard homosexual practice is something that has always been intrinsically dubious/borderline from a medical/hygienic point of view whatever the genders - even between two lifeliong faithful partners. Likewise oral intercourse is, according to the most recent reports I have seen (2007), medically risky if (on average) more than two successive partners are involved (again: whatever genders). After which, I suffer from a failure of imagination as to what options remain, let alone what wholesome options. However, if one took away the above two, it will be agreed that one would be taking away a substantial proportion. The essential point is that the convenient 'Don't ask don't tell' ''principle'' is useless and immoral wherever unhygienic practice is staple practice.

Erika is not right: most people including me find no act of will at all is involved to make one fancy the opposite gender!

Pat crazily (but in accordance with the way cirrent English language pushes and directs him) sees what we call 'homosexual' and what we call (or have only very recently called) 'heterosexual' as two terms on the same level. The vast majority of cultures and times would scratch their heads at a term like 'heterosexual'. .'Heterosexual' as opposed to what? Hence they have felt no need for such a term. Why should we see our own culture as superior in this way? Purely because we cannot think outside it? The whole (I use the word crazy advisedly) idea of heterosexual practice being considered unclean...would result in the human race dying out if it were followed through. What you call 'heterosexual practice' is no more nor less than where we all come from, and that conclusively authenticates it - as though authentication were needed.

If everybody followed the inclinations of their hearts and bodies, as Pat recommends, a lot of sin would take place - even more than now, when people sometimes restrain their natural inclinations. That is just human nature - and (as humans) we all know it. So isn't it futile to pretend we don't?

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 12:27pm GMT

"most people including me find no act of will at all is involved to make one fancy the opposite gender!"

However, for around ten percent of us, no amount of effort of will can make us fancy the opposite gender. And read Erika's post above yours. Practically everything you say bolsters that impression, Christopher.

And your comments to BillyD are telling. First, we've seen the "research" you read, Christopher, at least the small amount I, after at least a year, managed to goad you into producing. It was not credible. What's more, the argument we had at that time showed clearly that you do not have the ability to assess the reliability and accuracy of published information. Just because it makes it into print, even in the pages of reputable scientific journals, doesn't make it true. Second, what are we to say of your statement that oral sex is unsafe if more than two are involved? Do you assume all/most/the majority of gay people are having group sex on a regular basis? Or that none of us are monogamous? Your assumptions about gay people really are off the wall! Third, your focussing on the mechanics of particular sexual acts reveals a lot about what you actually think loving human relationships ARE, Christopher. I can assure you that there are many gay people who do not do what you call "dubious" even among lifelong partners. And people are continually trying to make people like you see that there is more to a relationship than sex, yet it seems that's all you can see, and then only in the most distorted terms, supported by yet more dubious "research" that you never seem willing to cite.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 4:32pm GMT

Christopher
I apologise, I clearly muddled you up with someone else.

A small number of people is solely attracted to the same sex as they are, and you fear that acceptance of it could eradicate the world population?
You have no idea about what these people do in bed other than your imagination, but you know that it's unclean?
The same practices you refer to are well established heterosexual practices, yet you don't campaign loudly against them in that context?

Clearly, that your mind is set in concrete and that no reasonable argument gets through is in no doubt, and that this conversation isn't getting anywhere is in no doubt either.

But you'd better get used to it, Christopher. We are here, we will not go away, we will not allow people like you to push us back into the closet, we raise families just like you do, we go to church, we pray, we mix with the likes of you in society. It's really time you got a grip on it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 6:41pm GMT

"The vast majority of cultures and times would scratch their heads at a term like 'heterosexual'."

So much to be irritated by! The majority of the world's cultures and times would have shaken their heads at the idea of washing before you eat. Don't forget, Jesus Himself scoffed at the idea. What is your problem with the idea that we can learn new things, even in areas like human sexuality? Is it just that you will only accept new knowledge if it goes along with what you already believe?

Your point here, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that heterosexuality is normal, while homosexuality is nothing more than a category we moderns have dreamt up, in effect elevating a defective development, and we'll leave aside what the defects might be, to the status of "another type of normal human being", is that correct? That gay people are defective, and that we ought not to call that defect by a name that makes it appear normal? But your previous comments have shown you are not qualified to make that judgement. You cannot assess the validity of a scientific study, you are unaware of modern research in biology that shows homosexuality to exist in numerous non-human species. You reduce gay relationships to particular sexual acts for which you voice great abhorrence. You seem to be unaware of the sexual behaviour of most heterosexuals, while decrying "promiscuity" and a decline of morals in society. Even more broadly, you are unaware of violent crime statistics in the Western world, which has, in times past, led you to claim that violent crime is on the rise when it is in fact falling in most Western democracies, and has been for quite a number of years. All this gives the appearance that you are only willing to entertain that information that goes along with your preconceived notions and fears. This disqualifies you from saying what is "normal" or "abnormal" in this area, Christopher. You have every right to claim that in your understanding of Christianity, or in the type of Christianity you practice, about which you have also been very tightlipped, homosexuality is believed to be sinful, against God's plan, and should not be celebrated. You do not get to support that with reference to pseudoscience and propaganda.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 6:52pm GMT

"The whole (I use the word crazy advisedly) idea of heterosexual practice being considered unclean...would result in the human race dying out if it were followed through."

So would monasticism. What's your point?

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 at 8:00pm GMT

Several points again:

Hi Billy-
The point is that monasticism is an admirable way of life, whereas considering 'heterosexual practice' unclean is barking, since it is where we all come from in the first place. Thus your two cases are not comparable.

hi Erika-
I quote 'You fear that it could eradicate the world population'. Three errors here: (1) Fear is an emotion whereas the point I am making is a logical one. (2) Billy's point was not a point about the acceptance of homosexuality but about the rejection of heterosexuality. The latter would undoubtedly wipe out the world population if it were followed through. (3) There is absolutely no chance of its being followed through, hence none of us has anything to 'fear' in this regard.

You are absolutely right that the same practices (give or take different gender) are found among heterosexuals. That, again, was not my point: my point concerned where hets and homos differ, not what they share. My point was that there is much less scope for healthy practice among male homosexuals, since they are denied the no.1 main and fundamental sexual practice: ie sex itself. It follows that, on average, their practice will be less healthy. The central point is: heterosexuality itself has never had an intrinsically unhealthy or borderline-healthy practice as central and staple. Homosexuality has had (a situation which would be impossible if homosexuality were good and natural) - and (moreover) intrinsically so, since every other practice apart from this unhealthy one falls short of full intercourse and one-flesh unification anyway. Either homosexuals cannot have full bodily union, or they must be resigned to being unhealthy. No positive option is therefore available.

Your final para is unworthy of you: it can be summarised as 'it happens, therefore it is right'. From your adoption of this principle I conclude that robbery, murder and fraud etc are also right. 'Live with it' is precisely what the powerful say to the powerless. They think they don't have to provide rational justification, because they will just do what they want anyway. Surely you don't believe that.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 at 12:32pm GMT

Hi Ford-

As no-one can accept (a) simple dismissal of multiple research papers, let alone (b) unevidenced dismissal, let alone (c) wholesale dismissal of *all* the arguments of *all* of them, we cannot but get specific & take papers one at a time.

What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of International Journal of Epidemiology 26 (1997) 657-61 on life expectancy of Canadian homosexuals? - and why am I wrong - if you do think I am wrong - to treat such research seriously?

Your 'defective' point is interesting. But it puzzles me, since surely each of us is admittedly defective in multiple ways. It is thoroughly normal to be defective, and abnormal not to be. I myself reached adulthood unable to drive a car or work the simplest electronic gadget. Pretty hopeless, I guess - yet each of us will have similar stories. The cure for this is simply to mature in those ways one is as yet immature - rather than simply becoming set in one's ways.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 at 12:45pm GMT

"International Journal of Epidemiology 26 (1997)"

An article about mortality from AIDS? What does that have to do with anything? AIDS is not caused by homosexuality. By that argument, we should talk about decreased life expectancy for African heterosexuals as being because of their heterosexuality. Again, Christopher, an alarming ignorance of infectious disease dynamics and epidemiology. This article, at least from the abstract, says that people with HIV/AIDS live shorter lifespans than those who do not. Not surprising. It focusses on gays because that was where the epidemic first came to light, and such studies may help us understand the various factors that may make the disease impact different in the gay community, like for instance the impact of homophobia on access to treatment. Your assumption that this article supports your claim that gay people have shorter lifespans is incorrect. How much other data do you also misunderstand, misinterpret, and misuse?

"mature in those ways one is as yet immature - rather than simply becoming set in one's ways."

So I'll grow out of it if I want to, is that it? What is the evidence for such a bizarre claim? And this continual argument that "we are all sinners" and "we are all defective" is getting tiresome. Yes, indeed, we are all defective, that's what the Fall is all about. But your assumption is that homosexuality is a defect like, say, greed, shows a basic lack of understanding of the issues. Let's be honest, people aren't tied to a fence, pistol whipped, and left to drown in their own blood because they are, let's say, selfish or envious, now are they? I doubt you fear for your life because you can't drive. I don't think any major cleric, Anglican or otherwise, wants to jail for five years both you and the person you had to get to set up your VCR for you.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 at 1:50pm GMT

Christopher
"Your final para is unworthy of you: it can be summarised as 'it happens, therefore it is right'."

It's more a case of: more and more people recognise that it happens, that it is not unhealthy, that is is as moral or immoral as heterosexuals can be, that it is part of nature, that it's moral value depends on the individuals, not on the sexuality per se.

I know you will never accept that and you resort to more and more convoluted arguments about what healthy sex is about...., but what you say flies in the face of what science and society are recognising as truth.

It is because it is true, moral and just as valid as your relationships that it will continue. And it is because of that that you will just have to get used to it.

You can continue to have different views, but you have no influence over my life, my children's lives, my friend's lives. You can sit on the sidelines feeling morally superior and tut-tut all you like. Reality is - we're here, we are not disordered, not unhealthy. We are active members in all levels of society. We have the same legal rights and responsibilities. Your ill informed tirades will not change any of that.

You really really ought to get your head round this.
It won't be many more years before this kind of anti intellectual anti gay rubbish is seen as malicious as anti black slogans used to be.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 at 3:10pm GMT

"The point is that monasticism is an admirable way of life, whereas considering 'heterosexual practice' unclean is barking, since it is where we all come from in the first place. Thus your two cases are not comparable."

You are correct. In my haste to score a verbal point, I misread your comment. My apologies.

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 at 3:21pm GMT

Hi Ford-
As I remember, the article dealt with gay men in general, not just those infected by AIDS. So it is not an article about mortality from AIDS but an article about mortality full-stop. The reason AIDS was mentioned in the title was that AIDS was the giant background factor. But the figure of 8-20 years difference would have been much increased had the sample been limited to AIDS sufferers.

You are quite correct in my view to note the African male parallel. There is something equally unhealthy about the latitude and pedestal given to males in some countries. This is a case of social unhealth manifesting in behavioural unhealth: exactly the same as the way that social presuppositions change behaviour in the case of homosexuals. I find the two cases strongly parallel.

You say that the claim (not a controversial claim for a Christian, surely) that we are all sinners and defective is getting tiresome. How does that make it any more right or wrong? Things don't become less true (or indeed more true) by repetition.

I think that you are quite correct that the older we get, the more we get set in our ways, and the harder it is to change. Particularly if we are affected by formative experiences at formative ages. But that says nothing whatever about whether or not it would be good or moral for us to change. That is a separate issue. Physical age and moral development are two quite different things.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 12:31pm GMT

Hi Erika-
Far from being convoluted, my points are as simple as can be. (1) The male and female genitals are made for each other, as confirmed by the mechanics of conception. There is no parallel 'confirmation' within what is called 'homosexuality'. (2) Within the nearest homosexual equivalent it clear that the fit is less natural or exact - nor is it part of any larger confirmatory biological mechanism. (3) Even if there were, this practice would remain borderline-healthy, with no healthy similar alternative available - unlike with faithful heterosexuals. (4) Hence, homosexuals have no claim to 'one flesh' either a) by physical fit or b) by the confirmation of a jointly-produced child. (5) In the case of lesbians - again for biological reasons - there can be even less claim to one flesh or physical union. (6) When you speak of things being 'natural', it has repeatedly been correctly said that all sorts of things both good and bad are natural. The term 'human nature' is indeed often used as a synonym for 'sin'. (7) Because my position is logically based, if the logic is faulty or changes, my position also changes. I have no idea whether I will still hold the same position in one or ten years. Surely you don't want to be one of the opposite crowd, those who choose a position and say 'that is my position and I am sticking to it' - you can see that such a stance woudl be fundamentally dishonest. Anyone's position must be based on evidence/reason alone, and if new evidence/reason emerges, what then?

'Reality is - we're here'. I am amazed at this statement of yours. Who has ever denied that you are here? Which of us (for that matter) is *not* here? How is being here directly related to being right?

Re: your final para: You are treating the main question (genetics vs environment) as having been already solved - which as we all know, it has not been. People are red, yellow, black, brown or white for genetic reasons, not even remotely for environmental reasons. Whereas identical twin studies show (to date) that not only are environment and choice significant factors in becoming homosexual, they are somewhat more significant than genetics.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 12:45pm GMT

"the article dealt with gay men in general"

the opening sentence of the abstract is:

"To assess how HIV infection and AIDS (HIV/AIDS) impacts on mortality rates for gay and bisexual men"
I have requested the original article from our library for confirmation.

"I find the two cases strongly parallel."

Yet you do not claim that African men die 20 years earlier than non-Africans simply because they are African, nor do you seek to misrepresent scientific data to make the point.

"Things don't become less true (or indeed more true) by repetition"

I believe in the Fall as an explanation of the existence of evil and human failures in the world. Conservatives always trot out the idea of our human defects as justification for their position WRT gay people. Yet they have no problem blessing other human failings that are surely also a result of the Fall, they have no desire to split the Church over Her acceptance of usury, for instance, or remarriage after divorce. It's not the statement so much as the hypocrisy of those who use it, and yes, I know, we're all hypocrites, but we don't all try to elevate that hypocrisy to Christian orthodoxy.

"no healthy similar alternative available"

Reveals a lot about what you understand sex to be, Christopher. It's all about penetration on the premise that this is how we become "one flesh"?

"Because my position is logically based, if the logic is faulty or changes, my position also changes."

No, it isn't, and no it doesn't. It's obviously a cobbling together of whatever you can find to support your bigotry. You don't know how to assess published scientific data, you don't understand how scientific inquiry is carried out, nor even what a scientific theory is. You also refuse to acknowledge when you are patently wrong, so I have little hope of your position ever changing.

"not only are environment and choice significant factors in becoming homosexual, they are somewhat more significant than genetics."

Reveals your lack of understanding of twin studies and homosexuality in general. It would be logical and honest to admit you are wrong on this point. You have gay people telling you it's wrong, the weight of credible scientific evidence says it is wrong, yet you persist in this claim of "choice". How is this logical, reasoned, or scientific? And I'm still waiting for that one credible piece of evidence for the existence of God. And could you explain how faith can be called faith if it's based on evidence?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 1:32pm GMT

Christopher
“(1) The male and female genitals are made for each other, as confirmed by the mechanics of conception”.
This merely states the obvious – only straight sex can result in babies. So what?
“(2) Within the nearest homosexual equivalent it clear that the fit is less natural or exact “
This made me giggle. You’re wrong, you know.
“(3) Even if there were, this practice would remain borderline-healthy, with no healthy similar alternative available - unlike with faithful heterosexuals”.
There is nothing unhealthy about faithful sex. All the recent examples you gave were about people with several partners, which has nothing to do with sexuality per se.
“(4) Hence, homosexuals have no claim to 'one flesh' either a) by physical fit or b) by the confirmation of a jointly-produced child.”
One flesh is a religious concept, not a scientific one. As with all religious concepts, there are many different ways of interpreting what it means. Re-read Tobias Haller.
“ (5) In the case of lesbians - again for biological reasons - there can be even less claim to one flesh or physical union”.
Again, you made me giggle. And again you’re wrong.
“ (6) When you speak of things being 'natural', it has repeatedly been correctly said that all sorts of things both good and bad are natural. The term 'human nature' is indeed often used as a synonym for 'sin'.”
Quite. But nothing you have said so far shows that homosexuality is bad (scientifically) or immoral.
“ (7) Because my position is logically based…”
If only!
“Surely you don't want to be one of the opposite crowd, those who choose a position and say 'that is my position and I am sticking to it' “

You’re talking about me and my life here. Of course I will not change my mind. You’re talking about my deepest love, my security, my best friend. Get over your silly physical imaginings of sexual acts and get with what this is actually about. Change my mind – really!!
“Re: your final para: You are treating the main question (genetics vs environment) as having been already solved “

It actually makes no difference, Christopher. We cannot make babies together, but that’s true for many straight couples too. Promiscuous sex is potentially dangerous. That goes for both sexes. If that’s all your argument is based on, you really are battling windmills.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 2:41pm GMT

"One flesh is a religious concept, not a scientific one."

Notice, though, the mechanistic understanding: people become "one flesh" when tab A fits into slot B. There are in Christian history many couples who preserved their virginity after marriage. I guess they weren't actually married. I've always found it funny that our legal system considers a marriage only to be valid if it is consummated. By that argument, Joseph and Mary weren't married. It's almost Gnostic as well, this separation of physical and spiritual. Now, I know there'll be heated denials and convoluted avoidance of the issue, but Christopher obviously feels there is something dangerous about physical sex if it is not constrained by Divine/Moral law of some sort, that the physical can only be redeemed if attended by the spiritual, and that latter is, as far as I can see, obedience to Law. This is not surprising, given what I believe is his Evangelical background, though he has been quite cagey on this point, and might be a RC for all I know. All the same, it is a pretty anti-Incarnational stance. I believe redemption is about the restoration of all created matter to its original state, not a means of bribing a corrupt judge to get away with my crimes, so I tend to shy away from anything that even hints of Gnosticism, and this does more than hint.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 4:05pm GMT

"Because my position is logically based, if the logic is faulty or changes, my position also changes. "

Frankly, I think that you are mistaking "mechanistic" and "logical".

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 4:49pm GMT

Hi Ford-
Wow - a pretty comprehensive critique of me from different angles. I almost expected it to end: 'And while you are about it, kindly explain why you support Hamilton Academicals. Eh?'. Not that I do, of course.

In the case you are talking about, the man and wife are one 'spirit' as opposed to one flesh, which after all is the more important thing. The word 'flesh' is a very specific word. There are different aspects to marital union, of course. A wedding is not *primarily* the joining of 2 bodies, nor is a wedding night *primarily* the joining of 2 families.

You are wrong about the biblical term 'one flesh'. Paul uses it in 1 Cor. 6 in such a way as to leave no possible doubt that he is referring to sex. (This is confirmed by the fact that this is also the means whereby the joint-product of a baby comes about.) I would see sex as physical marriage. Hebrew thought is very concrete.

I didn't have an 'evangelical background'. If there is an evangelical dimension to my Christianity (as there is with every Christian, since 'evangelical' is nothing but the adjective corresponding to the noun 'gospel'/'evangel'), then that is by conviction as a result of weighing of alternatives.

My worldview does not separate physical and spiritual and I have indeed written a dissertation on this years ago. However, they are conceptually distinct however one precisely envisages the overlap.

You'll agree that the article, as I said, assesses the life-expectancy of all gay men (gay men in general) within the sample, not just those with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is the factor which makes such a study especially relevant.

I was surprised by your reading of the twin studies, as it seems to go against the tide. Could you go into more detail about specific studies?

Thanks.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 6:42pm GMT

"Notice, though, the mechanistic understanding: people become "one flesh" when tab A fits into slot B."

Yes, I always giggled at my catholic girlfriends who saw nothing wrong with oral sex before marriage because it didn't actually mean they had had sex at all!

"but Christopher obviously feels there is something dangerous about physical sex if it is not constrained by Divine/Moral law of some sort,"

Well, a. he doesn't say that but uses pseudo-science to back up his views. And b. although I do not see it in legalistic terms, I actually agree that there is something inappropriate about casual sex. It demeans both partners, which is why we should do everything to encourage stable relationships for all couples.

If you don't help one group of people but push them into hiding and self hatred, you can hardly complain if they largely don't form lasting healthy relationships.

And if you on top of that blame them for all the ills of modern society and the failings of heterosexuals, you have an astonishing double standard at work. The one has to be helped, the other has to be suppressed, and all for the good of the majority - whatever that may be, Chritian it aint!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 5 December 2008 at 7:38pm GMT

"If you don't help one group of people but push them into hiding and self hatred, you can hardly complain if they largely don't form lasting healthy relationships."

Exactly!

"your reading of the twin studies, as it seems to go against the tide."

Twin studies indicate that there is more to sexuality than just genetics. I have never denied it. But that's a far cry from saying we choose to be gay.

"the life-expectancy of all gay men"

I doubt that, but there is a bigger question here. Are you claiming that gay people live shorter lifespans just because we are gay, or are you asserting that being gay means we engage in dangerous practices that shorten our lives? Each position contains a whopping logical flaw.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 11:40am GMT

Hi Erika - in answer to your 2 comments:

(1) Only straight sex can result in babies - so what? So: this practice receives biological confirmation of the first order, in direct contrast to...(you get my point).

(2) Point two follows from point one. There is no way that a non-biologically confirmed (fruitless) act is going to provide as good a fit as a biologically confirmed (potentially fruitful) one. Millennia of evolution would take care of that. Even if one act were even slightly more popular than the other, that would mean that evolutionarily a better fit would result. But when one act is the most fundamental possible and the other is fruitless and very far from universally practised - well, you get the picture. That is even before we enter into health questions.
(3) There is nothing unhealthy about faithful sex, but there is something intrinsically borderline about anal intercourse, which is in any case not what is normally meant by the word 'sex'.
(4) You wish! One flesh is a concept deriving from documents produced in particular historical contexts, and it means whatever it was likely to mean in the context of the culture, the times, and the passage in which the phrase appears. What is meant by the term 'religious concept' anyway? I have never read Tobias Haller, and I am sure I am the poorer for it, though not if this fundamentalistic unquestioning pluralism is a sample of his thought. I am sure it cannot be.
(5) Who cares if you giggle? Debate is not about remaining cool and hip and unembarrassing, it is about being accurate. 'One flesh' is in origin a biblical phrase and is not used in the contexts you want it to apply to - indeed, that would be directly ruled out by the biblical ethic.
(6) Homosexual practice being bad or good depends primarily on assessment of the relevant statistics and studies - tho' also on common sense. In my experience people enter into it, in the vast majority of cases, without ever assessing these.
When you say 'Of course I will not change my mind!' you are committing the one unforgiveable of anyone who indulges in debate. The debate does not even begin if that is one's presupposition, so one cannot be said to have taken part in it.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 1:09pm GMT

On Erika's more recent comment:

Blame homosexuals for all modern ills? For the credit crunch? For the Mumbai bombing?

Self hatred can be a result not of persecution but of justified guilt. All of us sin. Those who sin and do not feel guilty are called psychopaths. Conclusion: Every healthy person feels guilty in cases where this is justified. They also know a remedy for the guilt; and they also fill their lives with more positive things so that the guilt does not take them over. This aspect of sin and human nature is what is missing from your analysis.

It does matter very much whether people treat the genetics/environment question in a one-way fashion. To do so is simplistic and dishonest. Honest people try to arrive at an accurate percentage for different factors: genetic, environmental, etc. (always supposing that there is any etc.: 'volitional', maybe).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 1:15pm GMT

"One flesh is a concept deriving from..."

"One flesh" is, as far as I can tell, a metaphor, not some technical term having to do with what fits where.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 7:36pm GMT

"there is something intrinsically borderline about anal intercourse, which is in any case not what is normally meant by the word 'sex'."

Intrinsically borderline? What does that mean? And what IS normally meant by the word "sex", Christopher? And why the obsession with anal sex?


"(6) Homosexual practice being bad or good depends primarily on assessment of the relevant statistics and studies - tho' also on common sense. In my experience people enter into it, in the vast majority of cases, without ever assessing these."

Accurate assessment of the relevant statistics, Christopher, something you have shown yourself utterly unwilling to contemplate. And your last sentence is just laughable. Before coming out, I assessed such things as the risk of rejection by my family and friends, the risk of violence, the risk of ostracisim by my parish family, in short the risk of loss of all my social supports and perhaps my physical wellbeing, if not my life. That the latter risk was far more acute coming from people who spouted the kinds of things you do did tend to distract me from putting together a dossier of information to more successfully counter people like yourself who latch on to whatever bad science they can find, and misrepresent whatever else they can, to paint me out as, at best, a damaged human being and not capable of normal human relationships, or more likely subhuman, and imply that my being gay is something I should be blamed for since, I chose to be this way, and even if I didn't, I chose to seek out a long term monogamous relationship which necessarily implies sex. That they then do the innocent act with their "We're all sinners, we're all broken and imperfect" conveniently leaving out the bit at the end "but you are far more imperfect than us, so much so you deserve no respect, have no dignity, and even lies about you are acceptable as long as they confirm our stereotypes." You do see how your last statement reveals your attitude to gay people, right? Or are you still going to argue that serious debate does not include subtext?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 8:11pm GMT

"Every healthy person feels guilty in cases where this is justified."

Indeed. And I should feel guilty because I chose not to hide and lie, is that it? If I had found some woman who would either believe the lie that I was attracted to her, or would overlook my obvious lack of sexual interest, then I would not need to feel guilt? Lying and deceit are not things I should feel guilty for? Or am I condemned either way: for being honest about my sexuality if I choose to be so, or for lying about it if I choose that route? I guess my other option would be to acknowledge my sexuality and remain celebate. Because I would be sure to find affirmation from my fellow Christians, right? Pull the other one!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 6 December 2008 at 11:48pm GMT

This off topic exchange has gone on long enough.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 8 December 2008 at 10:50pm GMT