Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Bishops attack equality legislation again

The former archbishop, Lord Carey has written a letter to the current prime minister, David Cameron. This is reported in a news article by Tim Ross under the headline Only half of Britons say UK is a Christian country. The text of the letter itself doesn’t appear to have been published yet.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, Lord Carey said Christians were too often “ridiculed” and dismissed as relics of “a bygone age”.

“Notwithstanding its vast and varied contribution to our society, there appears to be a suspicion about the validity and value of the role that the Christian faith plays in our national life,” he said.

“This has been highlighted by the spate of recent instances in which ordinary Christians who have sought to manifest their Christian faith in the workplace and have allowed their Christian conscience to direct their public service have fallen foul of new employment practices and then discovered that rather than protect them, the law has sided against them.”

Lord Carey suggested that recent legislation was unclear on where the balance of rights fell between different groups. One particularly contentious subject has been the clash of rights between homosexuals and Christians.

“Whatever the explanation, this situation needs urgent review and action from government,” he said.

“It is a remarkable state of affairs that, in such a short space of time and in a country that has been so shaped by, and benefitted so significantly from, a Christian foundation, those who hold traditional Christian viewpoints, in common with millions across the globe and across history, can suddenly find their position labelled discriminatory and prejudiced and then discover that it has effectively become a legal bar to public service.”

Earlier, on a BBC radio news broadcast, the Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt also criticised the legal system. Again the Telegraph has the story, see Bishop of Winchester: legal system discriminates against Christians by Rosa Prince.

Bishop Scott-Joynt told the BBC’s World This Weekend: “The problem is that there is a really quite widespread perception among Christians that there is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service.

“Probably for the first time in our history there is a widespread lack of religious literacy among those who one way and another hold power and influence, whether it’s Parliament or the media or even, dare I say it, in the judiciary.

”The risk would be that there are increasingly professions where it could be difficult for people who are devoted believers to work in certain of the public services, indeed in Parliament.

“Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.

“Judgement seemed to be following contemporary society, which seems to think that secularist views are statements of the obvious and religious views are notions in the mind. That is the culture in which we are living.

“The judges ought to be religiously literate enough to know that there is an argument behind all this, which can’t simply be settled by the nature of society as it is today.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 11:54am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

"Lord Carey said Christians were too often “ridiculed” and dismissed as relics of “a bygone age”."

Oh really? Why ever would people think that?

"One particularly contentious subject has been the clash of rights between homosexuals and Christians"

Oh - that's why. I bet a lot of people actually know that "Christians" and "homosexuals" are not mutually exclusive categories.

I realize the second quotation is probably not Lord Carey, but the writer Tim Ross. Still,if that's the level of discourse, no wonder people might think Lord Carey and his friends are old fuddy-duddies.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 12:49pm GMT

I'm getting very tired of how people like Lord Carey hijack the term Christian.

But I do wonder about all their colleagues who never seem to get up and challenge them publicly after outbursts like this.

Where are the Christian bishops who don't define themselves by this nonsense and who are willing to stand up and reclaim the label "Christian" before the public genuinely believes that we're all like that?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 1:16pm GMT

It is bizarre when people like Lord Carey, who live in privilege and power, want to be thought of as victims. Strict adherence to some pieces of Christian tradition will foreclose some career paths. Someone who embraces the pacifist part of our tradition would be "discriminated" against in regard to military service. It isn't a question of discrimination, but of professional standards. The ominous court cases Lord Carey alludes to are nothing more sinister the demanding a standard of professional conduct from certain professionals. Lord Carey is right in suggesting that religious convictions must be lived. But that isn't a "get out of jail free" card with regard to professional standards. It means that you can't honestly agree to take a job in a field where your convictions require a breach of professional conduct. Lord Carey's sense of privileged entitlement seems to tell him that he should be allowed to have it both ways: strong convictions and no price to be paid for them.

Posted by: SW on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 1:47pm GMT

It's humorous enough when, in my own country, where Christians far outnumber every other religion, where there has never been a non-Christian president, where Christmas is a national holiday, Christian leaders claim "discrimination" every time they are challenged to follow the dictates of a totally non-discriminatory law.

It is beyond belief, however, that such goes on in a nation with an established Christian church, whose head of state is head of that state, whose leaders sit--by right--in its parliament.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 2:30pm GMT

Perhaps if George Carey didn't consistently conduct himself like a ridiculous relic of a bygone age . . .

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 2:36pm GMT

I hope there is video tape of those B&B owners demanding a marriage certificate from their opposite sex guests...

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 2:56pm GMT

SW
"Lord Carey's sense of privileged entitlement seems to tell him that he should be allowed to have it both ways: strong convictions and no price to be paid for them."

There is always a price to pay, only that Lord Carey is asking gay people to pay the price for his convictions instead of paying them himself.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 3:04pm GMT

Scott-Joynt is about to retire and Carey is long since retired. The current and next generations of Church of England bishops have learnt from their mistakes. No-one has more than a limited time in the public discourse and a missionary church has to choose its message. Homophobia was the wrong choice. For the consequent loss of credibility and influence suffered by the established church, such as Carey and Scott-Joynt may take their share of responsibility, but now we must live in the present and look to the future and these men may hope that their successors do better than they did.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 3:05pm GMT

"He (Carey) warned that reforms introduced under Labour promoted “tolerance, equality and fairness” at a cost of eroding Christianity as the foundation of British culture and society." (from the Telegraph article)

Hmmm - so he admits that Christianity is incompatible with tolerance, equality and fairness. No wonder people are turning away from the church.

In the end it is all about whether Christians are allowed to discriminate against gay and lesbian people. That of course is ok, indeed moral, in their eyes. Should it be the other way round then they start throwing their toys out of the pram big time. Of course no-one is suggesting that those who think gay sex are wrong should do it. But that is not enough, they have to stop others from doing and impose their morality on others. That is discrimination, nothing to do with liberty of conscience, something they wish to deny to others.
Unfortunately you cannot have a dialogue with these people, because they are right, and every one else is wrong and immoral and unchristian, so the only option is to freeze them out of the debate.

Posted by: sjh on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 3:09pm GMT

The 3 posts by Cynthia Gilliatt, Erika Baker, and SW are some of the finest I have ever read. Please read them and then read them again. Talk about game, set and match!

Posted by: Dallas Bob on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 3:19pm GMT

I meant "whose head of state is head of that CHURCH..." of course

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 4:37pm GMT

I am disgusted that people like George Carey and the Bp of Winchester persist in identifying homophobia as an attitude essential to someone's Christian identity.

These are people who claim to worship the God who insists that justice roll down like the waters and righteousness like a mighty stream, a God who commands that we regard those different from us not as strangers but as fellow children of God, a God who welcomed outcasts to dine with him, who said that when we care for the least of these we show our love for him.

Have these people no shame, no sense of common human decency? Christians ought to be on the front lines insisting on "tolerance, equality, and fairness" for all, not whining about some pretend discrimination.

Why, oh why, do the leaders of the Church of England not speak out against this rank and appalling arrogance?

Posted by: jnwall on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 4:39pm GMT

The talk of Christians as victims in England gets tiresome. No wonder the likes of Lord Carey and Bp. Scott-Joynt are seen as relics. Look to the Christians in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and the Philippines if you want to see persecution. Look and be ashamed of your moaning.

"One particularly contentious subject has been the clash of rights between homosexuals and Christians."

Lord Carey, what about Christian homosexuals? Have you no care and concern for the gay and lesbian members of the flock?

Posted by: Grandmère Mimi on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 5:07pm GMT

O dear, O dear, O dear. Lord Carey still sawing away, urging us to replace empirical facts about queer folks with legacy dogma and prejudice - all negative as read by Carey? - disguised as conscience and as sacred revelation.

The only reason, really, that anybody thinks following Jesus of Nazareth today involves/requires prejudice/discrimination to unfairly burden queer folks is? That Lord Carey and other outspoken traditionalists keep preaching that this is necessarily the closed, categorical case. Once a slave, always a slave; once a userer, always a userer; once a king divinely appointed, always a king? - so saith the Lord?

Then to add intellectual collective insult to citizenship injury, Lord Carey claims that all of this sea change has been spurious, silly, and way too sudden to be anything other than a passing (ungodly) fad. Decode all that? - and one quickly realizes Lord Carey prides himself on not doing any of the particular homework or study which indeed explains why and how we have changed our minds as citizens, and as believers.

Lord Carey reads a flat earth in his scriptures, period.

But truth be told, it is a good many of our legacy flat earthisms about queer folks that are passing? Lord Carey says he will keep his special, closed conscience. He loses credibility by refusing to do the homework. Period.

Lord Carey does not have some innate categorical right as citizen and believer and bishop to impose his flat earthisms on everybody. Many of us have bothered to study the research, bothered to examine the ins and outs of law or public policy, and O goodness, actually bothered to make daily life friends with the queer folks who thrive so competently, so warmly in our work teams, neighborhoods, and gasp, also in our local worshipping congregations.

I would urge Lord Carey to get an empirical clue; urge him to actually get to know some real, alive, thriving, competent, ethical queer folks - but he would then accuse me of undue-unfair kneejerk prejudice against him.

What to do? One may pray for flat earthers; but one is still not advised to automatically put them in charge of the airport landings and take offs?

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 7:50pm GMT

Unfortunately for Lord Carey, Christianity, and particularly the CofE version is a minority interest now and no amount of posturing about 'persecution' is going to change that. Indeed, his obsession with homosexuality just adds to the impression that he and Christians in general are completely out of touch with the world as it is.
See http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-belief-surveys-statistics/british-social-attitudes-survey

And this is rather good too. Pat Robertson says that the snow is 'God's way of punishing those who were going to do something gay'.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andy-borowitz/pat-robertson-snow-is-god_b_801755.html

Fruitcakes all. (Oops, am I allowed to say that)

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 7:55pm GMT

As a gay Christian (and very active member of his church), presumably our former Archbishop thinks I don't exist?

Mind you, it IS pretty funny to hear him fulminate about being persecuted and not listened to - from his bench in the House of Lords.

Posted by: Chloe on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 8:46pm GMT

Some of us have had to endure on the BBC news tonight an outburst from a representative of 'Christian Voice' apropos Elton John and his partner's acquisition of a child via a surrogate mother. For what came across wasn't an intelligent discussion of the ethics of surrogacy but the 'children need a mother and a father' mantra.....

Posted by: david rowett on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 9:10pm GMT

To those wondering why Carey's erstwhile colleagues haven't spoken out to disagree with him, it's worth pointing out that a few have in the past, including Rowan Williams:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/apr/04/rowan-williams-christian-suffering-easter

Posted by: Chloe on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 9:37pm GMT

Badman has nailed it on the head - the Church of England, once you pierce through the comfort blanket of establishment and televised enthronements of the Archbishop of Canterbury - is a missionary church. It operates in a country where, although 70% of the population claim to be Christian on the census, it would surprise me if half could say the Lord's Prayer.

In this context, would you say the best way for a retired senior prelate and member for life of the Upper House of Parliament to re-evangelise the English people would be to:

a - go back to first principles, and lead a simple life of teaching, celebrating the sacraments and sacrificial service to one's fellow man, or:
b - lobby for guest house owners to be allowed to pick on a small minority - one which is no longer particularly disliked by most people - in quite a nasty way. Because that's "Christian" and "orthodox".

If you answered, b, I'd suggest you look at how these islands became Christian in the first place, because if Patrick, Wilfrid and their like could tolerate holy well and saints days mysteriously co-incident with pagan festivals, I'm sure a retired Archbishop of Canterbury could cope with two blokes sharing the next bedroom to his in a guest house when he takes the air at Bognor Regis.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 9:48pm GMT

"Look and be ashamed of your moaning"

Thank you, Grandmere Mimi!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 9:50pm GMT

badman: "Scott-Joynt is about to retire and Carey is long since retired. The current and next generations of Church of England bishops have learnt from their mistakes."

I'd like to think that too, but unfortunately the article by the recently-appointed Bishop of Truro on the thread below would appear to indicate just the opposite.

(He says in the Telegraph, if I recall correctly, that gay couples can make good adoptive parents; but that marriage is all about children, and therefore closed to gay couples; that civil partnerships are quite different from marriages, but that the Church can't bless them because it would be destructive to marriage in some mysterious way to do so; that the Church cannot accept civil partnerships, and that therefore no non-Christian gay couples should be permitted non-church civil marriage... or something equally illogical, all of which shows that nothing has been learnt, I would suggest.)

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 9:56pm GMT

Might it be possible to start a 'Not in Our Name' campaign for Christians in Britain feeling misrepresented in a fairly serious kind of way by Lord Carey and +Winchester?

Posted by: Judith Maltby on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 10:35pm GMT

I reminded why it is important to work for tolerance within the Church. Secularists with power may be fighting intolerant Christians by requiring a free-from-faith litmus test for public servants, and who can blame them? Perhaps Christians should heed our most important commandment to love thy neighbor and remember that violence only begets violence.

Posted by: D. Henry on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 10:42pm GMT

Yes, most of these comments will find a comfortable place in the liberal heart, but the fact is that these bishops and their strange lawyer friends have found willing partners in the media and their propaganda has taken hold of many.

What is more shocking is how few bishops are willing to stand against this veil of half truths, outright deceit and stirring up fear that has strong parallels to anti Jewish/Roma/Moslem rhetoric found elsewhere ..... There are those in certain quarters - the Ekklesia think tank - who do recognise the real danger lying behind this drip drip fearmongering - but mostly silence.

Such evil may well prevail if good people say nothing.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 28 December 2010 at 11:15pm GMT

Try living in Baghdad - + George - then you and + Michael might just begin to know what real persecution of Christians feels like!

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 6:05am GMT

I have to echo Martin Reynolds - reading these posts made me feel increasingly like a chorister being preached to by his fellow-choristers. Why is it that "our" moderate views have so little traction in the wider church, most of whose members, I would imagine, agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Carey?

The challenge is not the antediluvian Archbishop, per se. It is that "Christians", generally, are nasty, bigoted people, whose hearts and minds have not been won over by the missionaries of a loving, fulfilling God.

Posted by: William on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 8:51am GMT

Chloe,
yes, some have spoken about Christian suffering in the context of Easter.
But that doesn't quite have the same effect as someone with integrity jumping up the minute Lord Carey spouts hatred against gays from the benches of the House of Lords and saying loud and clear that this is not how most Christians think and believe, that this is not what Christianity stands for.

This is not about someone occasionally making a weighty speech, this is, as Martin Reynolds rightly says, about every day bishops who "are willing to stand against this veil of half truths, outright deceit and stirring up fear",
loudly, clearly, frequently.

That good men remain silent dismays and discourages me more than a few homophobes making noise.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 9:02am GMT

Oh William, I'm not nearly so pessimistic. Firstly, I believe it simply isn't true that the majority of those in the CofE's pews would agree with Carey and Scott-Joynt. Stonewall's regular attitude surveys, for instance, show that people of faith are accepting of homosexuality, often more so than those without faith. Love Thy Neighbour was their report on this, and makes interesting reading:

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/love_thy_neighbour.pdf

According to their report Living Together from 2007:

'More than four in five people and 83 per cent of ‘people of faith’ are in favour of protection from anti-gay discrimination in areas including health care and social services.'

'Eighty four per cent of religious people disagree with the statement, ‘homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances’.'

'More than four-fifths of ‘people of faith’ say they would be comfortable being friends with a lesbian or gay man – they have almost as many gay friends as people with no declared religion. The majority of religious people (64 per cent) say they would be comfortable if their local religious representative was gay.'

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/living_together.pdf

It all rather raises the question of precisely what Carey and Scott-Joynt think they're up to, or how they think their views represent anybody at all.

Posted by: Chloe on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 9:47am GMT

And in the 1st century, who was more bigoted (as measured by several liberal comments on this page) than that out-of-step Torah-basher, John the Baptist?

Imagine how he hijacked Jewish morality for his own ends and imposed his warmed-over Pentateuchal views of marriage on Herod Antipas and Herodias (who only wanted to declare their mutual love to each other and the world). Jews everywhere must have felt misrepresented.

What the Herodians needed was an Equality Act, but fortunately beheading was just as effective in shutting him up!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 10:50am GMT

William, I think in most Anglican British congregations, most people have no problem with other Christians being gay and in relationships. They certainly do not in the congregation I now attend, or the one I belonged to before, or the one I was part of for a short time while looking for a 'church home'. I admit to being in Scotland of course...

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 10:58am GMT

I am a gay Christian (Anglican) surely bishop Carey and his likes with their views and outburst are “Not Speaking in My Name” Equality and Human Rights for All in and outside the gospel.

Posted by: Davis Mac-Iyalla on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 11:14am GMT

William,
I think most Christians are deeply involved in their parish and not interested in wider church politics. My own parish is quietly inclusive without anyone making a big fuss about it. They hear someone like Lord Carey speak and shrug and get on with whatever they're each doing for our parish life.
Many of them are elderly retired people, they're not activists, they're not church politicians. They just live out their faith as best as they can in their daily lives.

That may not be as helpful for the national church as we would like it to be, but it is not a sign "that "Christians", generally, are nasty, bigoted people".

We are not all called to rise up and speak up. That should initially be the task of our leaders, especially our bishops who don't actually agree with where the church is drifting and with how it is being represented.
Too many of them still believe it's enough not support the bigoted voices and haven't understood that they, too, share a responsibility in where the church is going.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 11:44am GMT

Simon,
in yesterday's Times Ruth Gledhill wrote a good piece about Liberals having to stop playing victims. She makes the point that Jeffrey John himself apparently once said it wasn't right that the Archbishop should shoulder the whole weight of speaking out against conservative forces, where were the liberal voices battling on his side? It's not enough liberals being disappointed in him if they did nothing to support him when it mattered.

I'm addressing this to you because of a basic question: bearing in mind that we cannot link to Times articles any longer, are we still allowed to quote excerpts of them and to which extent? Presumably, I could not reproduce a whole article here, but could I quote whole paragraphs?
What is the legal situation?
Thanks

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 11:48am GMT

That is a nice, if brief, letter. Where are the Cof E clergy, including bishops, who will speak out against Lord Carey et alia? Silence in the face of hatred and bigotry is tacit approval.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 12:50pm GMT

From the Stonewall Survey:-

'More than half of the population thinks that public prejudice is caused by religious attitudes' - That's more than the tabloid press.

60% of respondents thought that gay people are most likely to conceal their sexual orientation in the religious sector. That's higher even that in the sports, a notoriously homophobic arena

And the reason why?

'In general, older white British men are least likely to support legal equality for lesbian and gay people. They are more likely to believe that anti-gay prejudice is not an important issue and should not be tackled'

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 1:57pm GMT

Cynthia: "Where are the Cof E clergy, including bishops, who will speak out against Lord Carey et alia?"

There are some clergy doing their best... but the powers-that-be get mighty displeased with those who rock their gerontocratic boat, so anyone who speaks out in the C of E has to have a means of earning a living independent of episcopal control.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 2:17pm GMT

To this American, it looks as though the Church of England liberals and moderates are suffering from Hyacinth Boo-kay Syndrome when it comes to dealing with Lord Carey.

You don't know how to deal with him. He's just too brash, too outrageous, breaks too many rules, can't see the consternation he's causing. You can't bear to lower yourselves to his level and can't see how you can stand against him if you don't. So, as Ruth Gledhill suggests, you confine yourselves to muttering that someone -- the Council? the Archbishop? -- ought to do something about that dreadful nuisance and sink back into your armchairs, glowering.

This is not a problem Americans tend to have, which might be why you persist in the fantasy that the Americans are going to ride in and save you. And sorry: it is a fantasy. We don't have the power to do it.

Meanwhile, the Church of England becomes, more and more, Lord Carey's church, and not yours.

Get a backbone, people!

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 2:27pm GMT

I think (as some other posters have already said) people need to take a deep breath and calm down.

Carey and Scott-Joynt do not speak for the broad mass of Anglican churchgoers in this part of the world, even if they think they do. Even people who are personally conservative on the matter - and churchgoers tending to be somewhat older than average, many are - tend to be much too polite to say anything to their fellow parishioners, or indeed their Vicar. Some people may not like these aggressive homosexual lobbyists Carey is always banging on about (not that they know any in person), but those two *nice* young men who do the coffee after the Parish Eucharist are usually delightful and quite different to all that.

I appreciate that I have for my entire adult life been a worshipper in liberal catholic parishes in big cities, and therefore may have an unduly optimistic view on this stuff. But I honestly don't think so. Remember that Evangelical parish in Chelmsford Diocese where the parishioners - mostly card-carrying Evangelicals - ended up in open revolt at their Vicar because of his particularly mean-spirited monomania on the subject of homosexuality? As I see it, that's closer to where the Church of England really is on the subject of teh gay.

Now, if only all those Bishops who tell you in private that they really agree with you but are bound by the appalling Issues in Homosexuality would get off the fence and show a bit of leadership...

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 3:23pm GMT

“The judges ought to be religiously literate enough to know that there is an argument behind all this, which can’t simply be settled by the nature of society as it is today.”

Actually, even many of us who are religiously literate are beginning to clue in that, for all that "traditional marriage" advocates protest that they *have* an argument, they are much less keen on actual expressions of said argument. Over at the Anglican Journal we have a 40-comment thread in which "reasserters" have done what they do best - reassert over and over again that the "liberal" view is incorrect without giving any answer to its objections or arguments.

We used to talk about engaging with those who "faithfully disagree" with us. I'm beginning to have doubts about the sincerity of the disagreement, however. "Faithfully-held" opinions revise themselves in light of new evidence. "Reasserters" on the other hand seem committed to revising the evidence (Biblical, linguistic, historical, and otherwise) in order to fit their thesis, and stuffing ballast into the holes poked into their model rather than abandoning it favour of one that makes sufficient sense as to render such contrived rationalizations unnecessary.

Posted by: Geoff on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 3:29pm GMT

Erika
The Times should be treated exactly the same as any other publication which does not happen to be available on the web. Quote it as necessary.

This page may be helpful
http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p09_fair_use

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 4:07pm GMT

...and what proportion of the planet say the UK *SHOULD* be "Christian"?

My path has been leading me around the borders of the field, the past few years (theologically) and months (practically) - and the more I read homophobic bile misidentifying itself as Christian, the more tempted I am to jump out of the game altogether.

Posted by: Tim on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 4:08pm GMT

From the British Social Attitudes Survey:- Those self described as members of the Church of England consist of 23% of the population (40% in 1983). 49% of this group never attend services; only 8% of people who identify with the CofE attend church weekly.

This would seem to indicate that the number of weekly attenders at CofE services is no more than the number of Gay and Lesbian people in the country. Some Christians have recently said that the small number of Gay and Lesbian people does not require their inclusion in Equality legislation. So QED why do Christians require special legal protection?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 4:37pm GMT

It is good to see these words from leaders of the ex-gay movement seeking forgiveness from all lgbt people and our families

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDiYeJ_bsQo

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 5:44pm GMT

Simon--

A bit off-thread perhaps, but shouldn't your advice be rather "The Times should be treated exactly the same as any other publication. Quote it as necessary."

According to American copyright law, the fact or non-fact of web-publication has no bearing on the ability to quote according to the doctrine of fair use. Is British law different?

Posted by: Christopher (P.) on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 7:58pm GMT

Dear All! The results in your British Social Attitudes Survey are similar to the ones done here in Portugal, traditionally a quite conservative Roman Catholic country. No question: anywhere else people are leaving their "stablished" Church.
The problem is that it seems that the current head officials of both RC and CofE don't care about it and worse, they seem to have unadjusted agendas to the needs of common adherents in the pews, apart some good inclusive CofE bishops and clergy and one or another open minded Catholic priest and apart that CofE is indeed a bit better than RC Church in general even perhaps between the conservatives...
But you say: Oh, but in US, TEC is different... But TEC is not a stablished Church!... They had to learn how to live in a world where they have no power. I humbly think that the unique thing they should perhaps do to have more people is, perhaps, open a bit more their methodology. Things like use some modern or ecumenical modern music, sharper services, and so on... But the essential is done: To do what Christ said "Judge not that you be not judged"!... But it is very difficult to the ones that had lots of power in the not so distant past... And for the ones who fear to loose the little power they have now... Homophobia is one expression of that situation... I hope things will be better when the generation moves...
Have a good 2011!...

Posted by: Pensamento Positivo on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 at 9:45pm GMT

>> Lord Carey warned that reforms introduced under Labour promoted “tolerance, equality and fairness”

One almost wants to say what India Knight said in March 2010: "Holy Father, I can stay no longer in this Church of Disgust."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/india_knight/article7078888.ece

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 3:42am GMT

"Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on."

- Michael Scott-Joyntt (+Winchester) -

Regarding the last sentence of this statement attibuted to MS-J; in the same way, I suppose he and Bp. Carey might consider inherent homo-sexuality as an optional 'add-on' to one's personal attributes?

I wonder if a review of their episcopal pension expectations would help these people to recognise that they are no longer (or, in MS-J's case, not for much longer) 'in charge' of the Church and that their ad hoc statements are only further damaging the mission of the Church - not only to those who are intrinsically LGT or B, but also the millions of people in the UK whose faith does not happen to fall into the category of sexist or homphobic?

One cannot but remember - in another context - a certain monarch who asked his courtiers "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest", but with nothing like the moral justification that could obtain in this instance. Neither a retired bishop, nor a soon-to-be retired bishop, has an inalienable right to exercise an authority that should remain with his/her successor.

It really is amazing that someone like the Bishop of Winchester (a one-time 'Advisor' to the American lobby group A.C.I) should continue to air, in a public broadcast, his disrespect for other citizens of the UK who do not happen to share his faith group. This does absolutely no good for the freedom of Christ in the Gospel.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 5:58am GMT

Thank you, David Shepherd, for proving - ONCE AGAIN - that it *is* indeed about conservative hatred and ignorance, coupled with a narcissistic martyr complex.

Good job! Bet God's so proud!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 6:15am GMT

"Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them."

He is absolutley right. YOU live them, you don't force others to live them.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 8:38am GMT

I must admit that I'd always taken John the Baptist's thing with Herod as being more about power abuse than anything else - the sexual equivalent of 'only little people pay taxes'? It goes with 'soldiers be content with your pay' for example. Herod can afford to flaunt moral conventions because he's Herod.

To see John as another Back to Basics campaigner misses the point, doesn't it? The people hold that John is a prophet, whereas the powerful seem threatened by him - which rather undermines a simplistic, 'John's a get-back-to-yer-Bibles moral tub-thumper'. DS' comment seems a little vacuous.

Posted by: david rowett on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 9:41am GMT

@Chloe and Erika, thank you for your delightful reponses!

Just a small caveat, if I may - Anglicans are not the sole representatives of Christendom (and not necessarily the nastiest - a point made by someone else, above).

In addition - unfortunately - personal experiences belie (but do not trump) the research by Stonewall.

Firstly, this means that Messrs. Carey and Scott-Joynt are reaching _beyond_ Anglicans for support.

Secondly, over years I have found in forums other than Thinking Anglicans - that about one-third of respondents will be open to a pro-gay stance. That hasn't changed markedly over time - although it will [fingers crossed].

I am a cradle Anglican in love with my denomination as it was, say, in the 1960's, but my experience of most Anglicans I meet is often quite unsettling, and other types of Xian - with whom I do not share a denominational understanding - frequently frighten me.

Currently, I am "safe" in MY own parish church - after rather a rocky time when Gene Robinson was consecrated in far away PECUSA. But I am NOT always safe in my diocese, province, or communion or among the remaining two billion Xians "out there".

Posted by: William on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 11:06am GMT

William,

I think we also need to take into account how people respond to lgbt people in real life.
I know a number who, theologically, don't approve of my life and a number who harbour a sense of personal moral superiority strongly supported by a yuck factor when considering what other people might get up to in their bedrooms.

But that doesn't mean that they will shun me in church or be rude to me in public.
Just as I know very well who they are and yet I don't shun them and am (I hope!) not rude to them.

In church we might pray side by side, in public surveys and on blog we'd be strongly opposing each other.

Of course I wish things were different, but I don't mind the ones who can behave politely and with true Christian charity towards me. In some respects, I admire them for their genuine tolerance.

And I am not sure that Carey et al really do speak for these people.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 11:23am GMT

Obviously, I wrote tongue-in-cheek. What is simplistic is to routinely apply a shop-worn 'power politics' dichotomy to biblical exposition just because the outcome resonates with favoured modern-day political causes.

Are you suggesting that if Herod's motive was love for Herodias, rather than power abuse, John's reaction to this breach of the Levitical code would have been significantly different? How can your educated guess (read, subjective conjecture) about Herod's motives supercede the written explanation?

By your lights, I've clearly read, 'For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”' far too literally. According to you, the marriage might be lawful, if only his motives were free from swaggering chutzpah. Now that vacuous!

How can your presumption of the Herod's motive carry more weight than the actual violation that scripture cites?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 11:51am GMT

David
you have now completely lost me.
Are you saying that because John the Baptist criticised something immoral we should not be allowed, ever, to revise in the light of science what is moral today (and which has nothing to do with the story you quote), and that we should therefore not have Equality legislation?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 1:54pm GMT

Oh dear, David.

Should we avoid eating all those things like shrimp, crab, lobster, clams and mussels, which are explicitly an abomination (like, you know, nudge, nudge)?

As an observant Jew, Jesus didn't eat them.

Bah! humbug! Keep up your smörgåsbord Christianity. Pick out the things you don't like and plug away at them.

Posted by: William on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 5:13pm GMT

Erika,

In this comment thread, the blanket condemnation of Lord Carey's position by the pious is delivered with arrogance, rather than humility. It deserves to be challenged. I have not suggested that we should not have equality legislation, only that it could easily be hijacked to target even the slightest dissent of liberal opinion.

John the Baptist did cite Herod's marriage as an infraction of the same Levitical code that clearly condemns homosexuality. Yes, times have changed, but I am only advocating consistency.

Let's either dispense with all marital proscriptions as outdated, or retain the biblical framework. This is vastly better than selectively revising in favour of homosexuality because it's 'relevant'.

As for the idea that morality is actually revised in the light of science, we all know this is more driven by custom than an outcome of the scientific method.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 6:29pm GMT

David,
Lord Carey's view is criticised here not because of whatever biblical principles he may base it on but because he is trying to get the Government to apply his religious view to people of all faiths and none. That is a massive attempt at abusing his position.

That's the crucial thing here. I don't care one fig why Lord Carey believes what he does (although I do think it is dishonest of him to present his views as though they were the only views Christians could hold).

But in a democratic country where an elected Government is charged with making laws that apply to all citizens I strongly object to being told that one person's religious opinions should somehow govern my personal life.

And no, I do not show humility about it, I defend the democratic principles of the country I live in with pride.

The state is charged with providing equal service to ALL its citizens and not to discriminate against any just because some individual's religious views seem to require it.
That is a principle worth upholding.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 7:14pm GMT

David Shepherd: "Let's either dispense with all marital proscriptions as outdated, or retain the biblical framework"

Both Michael Scott-Joynt and, if I recall correctly, George Carey, were leaders in the push within the C of E to allow church remarriage of divorcees... but don't let that interrupt your advocacy of "consistency."

Posted by: Fr Mark on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 7:23pm GMT

David Shepherd

Are you really suggesting that the framework for sexual morality set out in the Books of Moses be retained in its entirety, for instance that a married man should be able to sleep with as many unmarried women as he wishes but have his wife tortured if he feels jealous, even if he has no good cause (Numbers 5.11-31), and that an unmarried woman who is raped should be required to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22.28-29)?

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 7:43pm GMT

The "biblical framework" for marriage is what exactly? King Solomon, perhaps -- "Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines." (I Kings 11:3)

Posted by: dr.primrose on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 7:56pm GMT

[quote]In this comment thread, the blanket condemnation of Lord Carey's position by the pious is delivered with arrogance, rather than humility[/quote]

That is a subjective judgment. It is not, I think, "arrogant" to be offended by remarks made by a "Lord." [God, wouldn't I rather be the Most Reverend than Lord Anything!]

Yes. Equality legislation could easily be hijacked - Churches might be given exemptions - Oops! That's happened already.

John the Baptist did cite Herod's marriage as an infraction of the same Levitical code that clearly condemns eating lobsters. I for one am not persuaded that you are advocating consistency.

Truth be told - the nature and intention of the relationship between any two persons are at stake here.

As I am sure you know, Xian teaching is that the spouses are the ministers of the sacrament at their own marriage. Neither the Church, nor Lord Carey, nor the vicar around the corner can be minister of the sacrament for them.

It is not gender-dependent, has nothing much to do with Herod and is consistent and coherent with the faith of the fathers.

Posted by: William on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 8:38pm GMT

"As for the idea that morality is actually revised in the light of science, we all know this is more driven by custom than an outcome of the scientific method."
- David Shepherd -

Might it rather not be more true to say that attitudes to morality are changed, rather than morality itself? Only in this way can one begin to understand the phenomenon of conservative attitudes to social and scientific revelations about the mystery of human sexuality, which are defensive of an out-dated definition of the objective *morality* involved,

And if that sounds a bit convoluted; then perhaps you would settle for the fact that standards of 'morality' can be very subjective.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 30 December 2010 at 11:00pm GMT

Erika,

He's in a fantasy world where everyone is out to get the poor-poor-me, all-besieged conservatives because they aren't allowed to beat the hell out gays in public.

Don't waste your time. What good is it to talk to someone who deliberately compares a man's murdering his brother to get that brother's wife to two people who find each other, fall in love, and share a mutual sexual relationship?

Do you think you'll sway someone like that?Impossible.

Do you think there's compassion to be reached in someone who defends Scott-Joynt and Carey - people who view tolerance, equality, and fairness are horrors to warn people of?
None.

When a conservative plays Devil's Advocate, remember who they're advocating and move on.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 4:59am GMT

"In this comment thread, the blanket condemnation of Lord Carey's position by the pious is delivered with arrogance, rather than humility."

Oh, says WHO???

When has His Lordship not said something not dripping w/ heterosexual privilege (chiefly, the privilege to DEFINE the Bible as anti-LGBT, when it emphatically is NOT, and can only be MADE so, by those w/ ARROGANT homophobia)?

Bottomline: I am uninterested in the criticism "you're arrogant!", when what I'm doing at the time is saying "Get.Off.Of.My.Neck." to someone standing on it.

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 6:54am GMT

Mark
You're right, of course. There are people whose views are unlikely to change and certainly I won't be the one to change them.
But this is a public forum and those views deserve to be challenged. Who knows who reads them, who knows who wonders about possible counter arguments.

A lot of the things the extreme conservatives say sounded outlandishly ridiculous when they first started and our liberal CoE would never countenance them. So we all settled into perfect slumber and look where it got us.

Not that my small voice will make a difference, but the principle is there. Unless people speak out again and again, wherever they find themselves, the Carey's of the world will win simply because they have the tenacity to battle on.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 8:19am GMT

What has changed in morality is an increasing emphasis on the results of the actions. Thus we see that disrupting the marriages of other people creates misery, but faithful same sex relationships create growth, stability and joy. People learn how to become more unselfish through their medium. And Jesus himself advocates knowing good and evil from the fruits they bring.

Posted by: Rosemary Hannah on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 9:00am GMT

Erika,

'Lord Carey's view is criticised here not because of whatever biblical principles he may base it on but because he is trying to get the Government to apply his religious view to people of all faiths and none.'

Lord Carey's representations should have identified a broad spectrum of belief from conservative to liberal. if you've read the full text of his letter, please share the link with us all.

Still, he did identify one minor part of that spectrum as Christian and its adherents as falling foul of recent legislation.

Of course, as evidenced by this comment thread, some contibutors consider every thing short of a full-blooded liberal position on homosexuality in the Anglican Communion as non-Christian and therefore undeserving of representation. How inclusive!

Apparently, in our democratic society, we should only make representations on behalf of the majority. Oh, and when liberals espouse a minority cause.

I have not disagreed with Equality legislation.

So in answer to you (and the 'really clever and challenging' polygamy and dietary arguments), let's dispense with all marital proscriptions in the Bible (apparently not just the Old Testament, I'm told) as outdated.

What's the danger in completely dismantling all of these prohibitions as remnants of bygone biblical religiosity and an unfair imposition on our democratic and largely secular society?

I forsee a wonderful 'Brave New World' ahead. Isn't it exciting? Happy New Year!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 10:18am GMT

"Let's either dispense with all marital proscriptions as outdated, or retain the biblical framework" says David Shepherd.

WARNING - silly conservative non-sequitur approaching!

What David Shepherd is saying is that if we allow to people of the same gender to get married, then we might as well get rid of the entire framework of marriage. That's presumably what people like that mean when they start banging on about the next step being people marrying their pet dog or their neighbours' children.

But that's not actually what most liberals are saying. What most liberals are saying is that the traditional framework is a good and Holy basis for a Christian life, and therefore it is quite wrong to exclude people from it because they happen to be attracted to people of the same sex.

David, you don't want to abandon the traditional concept of marriage and neither do we, so why the attempt to create a silly elephant trap that's oh-so-clever in a kind of public school sixth former way? Mostly, this blog is read by people who know what they think on these issues and why, so wouldn't it be better if we tried to have a grown-up conversation?

PS - I'm not sure that the conventional view of marriage as held by Anglican Churches is actually very biblical. And that's probably a good thing, unless you are into polyamory and murder. I'm not sure where people get the idea that Jesus "who are my brothers?" Christ and Saint "it is better to marry than to burn" Paul had such a high view of marriage and the family either.

PPS - you do realise that the "Christian" (sic) view of homosexuality is now so uniformly reviled that the English Defence League - the modern day revival of Oswald Moseley's Blackshirts - uninvited Koran-burning Pastor Terry Jones from speaking at their rally because his views on homosexuality might offend their gay members?

Yes, that's right American readers, England is so liberal on homosexuality that their equivalent of the Michigan Militia comes over all sensitive and metrosexual on the subject of gay rights. England is one of the best countries in the world to be gay in; and it's this society that nitwits like Carey and the appalling Scott-Joynt want to evangelise by walloping gays over the head with their croziers.

It will make zero difference to my rights as a private citizen, or how I worship in my own parish, but the damage it does to Christ's Kingdom on these islands does distress me.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 12:19pm GMT

DS - I presume you are aware that John Calvin locates the significance of John's actions in this passage in a refusal to let the powerful off the hook? 'We behold in John an illustrious example of that moral courage not to hesitate to incur the wrath of the great and powerful as often as it may be found necessary'?

Not that I often quote THAT JC of course!

Posted by: david rowett on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 3:47pm GMT

"I am uninterested in the criticism "you're arrogant!", when what I'm doing at the time is saying "Get.Off.Of.My.Neck." to someone standing on it."

Bravo!

Posted by: Counterlight on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 8:34pm GMT

David,
"Of course, as evidenced by this comment thread, some contibutors consider every thing short of a full-blooded liberal position on homosexuality in the Anglican Communion as non-Christian and therefore undeserving of representation. How inclusive!"

Fancy that, liberals aren't happy when people use the banner of inclusivity in order to push through an exclusive agenda and claim their supposed right to discriminate against gay people.
Who'd have thought it!

You may not have read properly, but this is actually not at all about the Anglican Communion, this is about a member of the House of Lords writing to the elected Prime Minister in order to obtain preferential treatment of his views.

David, I don't care about anyone's "position" on homosexuality, Lord Carey's, yours or anybody else’s. What you do and think in private is up to you.

What I do care about is people's arrogant demand that their position is given pride of place and that their position should give them the right to discriminate against me.

Why ever should it? What makes them more equal before the law than me?

You people really will need to grow up.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 9:34pm GMT

You are very kind as always Erica - but I am worried about David entertaining such sinful thoughts,about gay people, in private.

I expect it will all come out in the wash...

happy new year one and all ! :)

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 10:01pm GMT

I wonder how the gay couple themselves felt, and how humiliating and degrading it might have felt, to be refused to stay at the B and B... a bit like saying to someone, go away, you're black.

The point of the legislation is that, as a nation, we are recognising that people should be able to go to a B and B, or hold hands in the street, or visit a restaurant, without the fear that someone will discriminate against them, and with the right to expect that they will be treated the way others expect to be treated.

The legislation is protective, and discrimination still hurts as much, whether it's carried out by a Christian or an agnostic.

As for a Christian who in all conscience opposes gay people sleeping together, well clearly, running a B and B may not be an appropriate career path for him. And if that involves sacrifice, then it is surely small beer compared to all the martyrdom many Christians face, and the sacrifice we are taught to expect as Christians.

The law should not be subverted by islands of discrimination, allowed as exemptions. Besides, the real threat to heterosexual morality is not 'the gays' but heterosexuals themselves.

As Christians, we need to take account of our own conscience and conduct, but not police other people's.

There is really no great campaign of discrimination against Christians in the UK. There is just some Christians resisting the social tide and legislative desire to afford the same rights to black as to white, to female as to male, to gay as to heterosexual.

I wonder, in the case of this B and B, if I, as a transsexual woman wanted to stay overnight with a partner... would my partner have to be female? or male? or wouldn't I even be allowed to stay at all if the Christian concerned viewed transsexualism as a sin against God? I haven't a clue.

But I really don't want to live in a country like that.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 31 December 2010 at 10:27pm GMT

Erika,

You are right, of course.

Someone might actually interpret the surfeit of words in this conservative nonsense as constituting an actual argument.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Saturday, 1 January 2011 at 5:11am GMT

It's unfortunate, but many ordinary parishioners that I've spoken to don't fit into either the liberal or conservative camp. Neither do they want to be patronised with intellectual arguments.

For some, their ideas of faith and propriety are first explained by well-meaning parents and priests. Beliefs (even hurtful ones) are received, rather than exhaustively reasoned on a Master's course. Quite a few won't mind them being challenged with respect.

And yes, my evidence for these people is anecdotal and not the basis of an extensive weighted survey.

What many are looking for (perhaps in vain), is a clearly enunciated explanation of how much and how far does the biblical record have an impact on the Church's current position on key institutions, such as marriage, if at all. By what/whose authority is this altered? What should they make of the deep divisions on these matters in the church?

I really do sometimes think that all of these marital prohibitions(not marriage itself) can become more a hindrance than a help in today's socitey, especially if it descends into pick-and-mix by episcopal edict.

I support equality legislation.

I'm off. Let the back-slapping torrent of intellectual disdain continue. No, I'm not a 'martyr', just expecting more of the same, in spite of the above explanation, since old habits die hard, don't they?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 1 January 2011 at 6:05pm GMT

David
if you're genuinely interested in finding theological answers to your questions, there is a huge corpus of theology and literature out there.
Ask Simon to give you my email address and I can send you a list that would exceed the 400 word limit allowed here.

Or start looking at the websites of LGCM and Changing Attitude, they have a list of references too.

As a civil partnered woman I, for one, would be delighted if we stopped patronising each other with intellectual arguments and started seeing the humanity in each other, discovered what we share rather than what separates us.

I'm sick to death of being treated as an intellectual or theological problem rather than a person like any other.

If you really want to get away from that, I'm fully with you.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 1 January 2011 at 9:28pm GMT

David,

sorry if I misjudged you. If you want a genuine answer to a genuine question, as a layman without so much as a Saturday seminar of formal theological education, I'd guess I'd say to someone who wasn't sure what to think something like this:

The Church's position on marriage, love and sex has developed continually over 2000 years. It would shock most people today to know until just how recently the Church still saw love as having very little to do with marriage.

Even before the arrival of The Pill, the Anglican Churches at least, were rapidly reducing how important they saw procreation as being to marriage, and increasing how important they saw love and compatibility as being to marriage.

The Pill changed everything. Undoubtedly, it allowed the sort of commercialisation and cheapening of sex which had always existed in the odd seedy corner to hit the mainstream. I doubt any Christian argues this is a good thing. But the flip side of that was it increased the space in which people can have sensible, mature and open conversations about sex, relationships and love. This is a very good thing. It isn't very long ago that wife beating, marital rape or some types of child abuse were not seen as being particularly serious matters. They now are, thank the Lord, and I don't think that can be explained without the radical change in the balance of power between men and women that The Pill brought, and the way The Pill undermined patriarchy.

Then there was the economic emancipation that reliable birth control brought to women - perhaps even more important in the Global South than in the West; arguably the pill has transformed Asia and Latin America more than Europe or North America. But in the West, we also had societies with historically unrivalled degrees of personal freedom and material wealth. Those are places where people start asking serious questions about how men and women should relate to one another, and how they actually do. And then naturally people began to reassess how they understood homosexuality.

Increasingly, people in the West see homosexuality as a natural and reasonable thing to do. Most people see sexual orientation as innate and immutable, but even if they didn't, they would still see little reason to disapprove of homosexuality. As the negative consequences of coming out - for most people - began to disappear, more people came out and suddenly many people found that some of their closest friends, best work colleagues or most devout fellow parishioners were gay or lesbian. And we entered a virtuous cycle, from my point of view anyway. For the first time people were able to form an honest assessment of gay relationships - most people found the best as wonderful as any heterosexual marriage; plenty were poor, but then so are plenty of marriages.

However, the Church has been slower to take part in this change than the rest of society; because about the time all this was going on, the number of people going to Church collapsed. Not necessarily for the same reasons, although doubtless we could argue forever about that! But they did collapse. The Church lost a generation, and then a second, and by the end of that the Church was dominated by people aged 70 and over. Having grown up largely before the Great Western Cultural Revolution, they were often less comfortable with the changes. Not universally so - and many older gay men and women found the first place in their lives where they could be comfortable about who they were was in their churches, mostly among other old people. But the tendency is still clear; many of our churches are virtually devoid of 18-45 year olds, who work, socialise and study quite happily with gay people, and who find the Church's official position on the matter quite repellent.

And now the Church (at least the Church of England) has backed itself into a position where it has an official policy on homosexuality strikes most people outside the church as judgemental, unloving and bigoted. And so the Church has put itself in a place where it can only lose a 3rd, 4th, 5th generation and so on until the end of time.

And that's why I get so angry about all this. Yes, to some degree that's because I'm a gay man. But it's more because of the number of non-believing friends - mostly heterosexual - who hold our homophobia (as they see it) out as a protective shield ensuring they never have to consider the claims of Christianity seriously. Personally, I value the Church too much to watch it commit suicide because of its senility.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 1 January 2011 at 11:26pm GMT

Gerry Lynch: "Personally, I value the Church too much to watch it commit suicide because of its senility."

Hear, hear. Me too; thanks for posting this.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Sunday, 2 January 2011 at 9:31am GMT

Thanks for your candid responses. Misjudgment is actually my forte (ask the Lord about me), so I shouldn't think I'll be outdone by any of you.

I'll think, I'll re-read and keep learning to love.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 2 January 2011 at 10:49am GMT

David
I'm sorry if I misread you all along.
Lord Carey is one of the most strident homophobes I know, and if a new contributor to this forum seems to align himself with him in his first post it rings all alarm bells for me.

The principal problem is that you have to have somewhere to explore your questions. I am delighted when people do that!
But to me, they very often sound like: "Ok, now tell my why I should accept that you are a moral being. The bible clearly tells me that you're not, so are you saying we should chuck the bible and accept your immorality? Or do you actually think you are able to make a case for your moral status?"

It's not what you're saying, I know. At least I hope it isn't. But it's always what I'm hearing first of all.

So maybe with a new baseline, we can start this conversation again?
And because it is likely to be off topic in terms of this thread, do contact me privately if you like.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 2 January 2011 at 2:13pm GMT

David,

we may not always see eye to eye, but you're clearly one of the good guys. I'll say a wee word to the man upstairs for you.

Good night.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Sunday, 2 January 2011 at 10:05pm GMT

I, personally, see great hope in the too-ing and fro-ing of the past few arguments on this thread. I'm thankful to God that there still are people who are open to the inclusivity of Christ in the Gospel: "Judge not..." and "Love one another" - these are not bad precepts to live by.

Deo Gratias! for God's great Love and Mercy!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 3 January 2011 at 5:06am GMT

" "Judge not..." and "Love one another" - these are not bad precepts to live by."

Neither are " . . . if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

And, "Whoever is not with me is against me."

Too lax is as bad as too judgmental.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 at 6:36am GMT

So it didn't end in tears after all! Now God be thanked, as Fr Ron suggests!

Too lax, too lax, too lax! Here we _could_ go again, Mark.

I think it helps to say these words ... a lot ... no matter how conservative or liberal you are:

"O Jesus, I have promised To serve thee to the end; Be thou for ever near me, My Master and my Friend: I shall not fear the battle If thou art by my side, Nor wander from the pathway If thou wilt be my guide."

Then lax (however defined) kind of looks wrong, doesn't it?

Posted by: William on Wednesday, 5 January 2011 at 7:54am GMT

"I shall not fear *the battle* . . ."

NOT

"I shall bake a lovely sponge for the tea."

Allowing right-wing reactionaries to hold our faith ransom and call themselves "Christian" is lax, lazy, irresponsible and cowardly. Some things are worth fighting for.

Of course, I understand if some feel it's asking too much of them.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 4:48am GMT

William
"Then lax (however defined) kind of looks wrong, doesn't it?"

Yes, if you're talking about faith.
No, if you're talking about politics including church politics.
Unless you are, say, the father of a gay boy who committed suicide because of bullying and because your church preaches that he was a sinner, could be cured, must never live a normal live etc., while your former Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to persuade your Government to allow him to continue to treat you badly, you have no right to say "just focus on Jesus and never mind the conservatives".

We are not called to ignore evil and to tell the oppressed that they should just focus on their private faith and be happy.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 6:11am GMT

Erika,

I still haven't managed to locate Simon's e-mail address on this site. I would like to continue an open dialogue with you. The following remarks are based on further observations of comments made on this thread.

I still worry that it's all too easy to 'call down fire from heaven' by writing off anyone who is 'guilty by association', ignorant or obstructive to the specific cause, whether liberal or conservative. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about any reluctance to enforce equality legislation.

There are numerous biblical examples of people who managed to change and overcome the assumptions of their origins, prior religious affiliations and occupation, e.g. Saul's conversion, the Centurion's exceptional faith, Zacchaeus's unexpected restitution of his ill-gotten gains.

Jesus rarely gave up the 'lost prodigal' approach, providing added insight and appealing to the higher angels of our nature, rather than simply distancing Himself from us with the threat of moral sanctions. Yes, He lost patience with those who blatantly dismissed His message, but the Pharisees had discredited many miracles before that happened.

Peter chose to disown the Gentile Christians out of sheer cowardice and he was rebuked by Paul (Galatians 2:11). At no time did Paul assume that Peter was not a Christian. But Peter was dangerously weak. This is borne out by Christ's own perception of him ('the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak').

So, can we distinguish the irredeemable (- I hate that word) wolf-in-sheep's-clothing conservatives from the genuine, humane, inquiring type (if you think they exist)? I hope so.

I consider and I hope I am treating you as an individual with a variety of political stances on different issues. It would be entirely wrong of me to assume that you approve of lowering the age of consent to 14? That would be based on an unfair assumption that your sexual orientation necessitates full agreement with Peter Tatchell's agenda.

I am not aware of the broader LGBT agenda, but where are you at odds with it? What aspects would you consider un-Christian and publicly decry as evil?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 2:13pm GMT

Erika's stirring words put me in mind of one of my favourite saints:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Daniels

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 4:39pm GMT

David,
you can contact me at erikablagdonlake@btinernet.com
This thread will soon move into the archive and it will be quite hard to continue to talk through it.

Guilt by association - no, of course not, and I apologise if I have given that impression.
On the other hand (and by means of explanation, not excuse!) there is a kind of shorthand at work on forums like this.
Comments have to be relatively brief and to the point, and there is no time to give long personal histories. People who have commented here for a long time know each other quite well by now. They can see if someone is joking, has an off-day, is uncharacteristically critical or even insulting etc.
Generally, we make snap judgements, and yes, association plays a part. If someone says something positive about Gene Robinson, you mentally place a tick into the "he's one of us" box. And if he aligns himself with one of the worst homophobes you do the opposite.

And as this thread has the title "Bishops attack equality legislation again" and you align yourself with the bishops - well, what conclusion is one to draw, initially, but that you support their view on equality legislation?

Is lowering the age of consent a topic? I’m actually in 2 minds about it. I’m originally from Germany where the age of consent has always been 14, it’s how I grew up and it seems natural. In this country it’s 16 and looking at my teenage girls, that seems appropriate. But talking to the girls and my German nieces it is clear that the actual age teenagers first have sex seems to be pretty much the same in both countries. So to me, the whole thing is one of those British "Oh my God it's about sex" storms in the moral teacup.

As for and LGBT agenda – well, I’m civil partnered, so I’m not at odds with it, I support it fully. But, actually, I support nothing other than holding gay and straight to the same moral standards and giving them the same rights. Again, I’m not sure that that is what you mean by the rather loaded word “agenda”?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 7:10pm GMT

Just looked on wikipedia. I didn't realise that the word 'agenda' was so politically charged.

Sorry for any offence caused.

Dave

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 8:02pm GMT

"I am not aware of the broader LGBT agenda, but where are you at odds with it?" - David Shepherd

Does anyone have any idea about Mr. Shepherd's so-called "LGBT agenda"?

Is there some manifesto which I have missed, or perhaps were there some theses nailed to an obscure cathedral door by an LGBT ueber committee?

Or might there have been an LGBT global convention which the mainstream press did not cover well?

Your guidance would be appreciated.

Posted by: Jerry Hannon on Thursday, 6 January 2011 at 9:26pm GMT

Dave
The word agenda itself is neutral, but in a political context it is often applied with a more sinister meaning.

We speak of asking for lgbt rights, those who oppose us warn darkly of an lgbt agenda and there is talk of some kind of thin end of the wedge. The underlying implication is just what I mentioned in a previous post: that we are somehow intrinsically immoral and that we are asking the intrinsically moral straights to accept our immorality. And once you accept that, where do you stop? There are still people who mention homosexuality, bestiality and paedophilia in the same sentence without a sense of shame or wrongdoing.

Gene Robinson once famously replied to endless accusations of having a sinister agenda that his agenda was Jesus!

As you asked in you subsequent sentence what aspects of this agenda I would consider un-Christian and publicly decry as evil, I assumed your were also thinking of this agenda in terms of something containing evil that ought to be decried.

I'm personally not terribly fond of decrying anything and pointing out evil. There's this story about motes and specks in people's eyes and this command not to judge.

But you're right, I will stand up and decry the evil of oppression and of some groups of people considering themselves to be inherently more moral than others and therefore more worthy of political representation. This kind of bullying is evil in my mind and does need to be rooted out.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 7 January 2011 at 4:05pm GMT
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