Sunday, 27 February 2011

Civil partnerships in churches: Archbishop speaks

Updated

Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports in the Sunday Telegraph that Archbishop says the Church will resist Government moves on gay marriage.

…Dr Rowan Williams has refused to be drawn on the issue publicly, but has broken his silence to tell MPs he is not prepared for the Coalition to tell the Church how to behave.

He told a private meeting of influential politicians that the Church of England would not bow to public pressure to allow its buildings to be used to conduct same-sex civil partnerships…

And in more detail:

…Challenged by Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kempton, to explain what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union, he said that the Church is welcoming to homosexuals and permits its clergy to enter civil partnerships.

However, he stressed that it would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage and said that it would not be dictated to by the Government.

But Mr Kirby said that the Dr Williams’s comments threaten to alienate homosexual churchgoers and would give rise to accusations that the Church out of touch with society.

“I hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one sided,” he said.

“Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.

“Obviously it is a difficult issue for the Church, but it has many gay men and women who want to be treated the same way as everyone else.”

Doug Chaplin has written a detailed analysis of this story on his blog, see A politician’s PR, or, stitching up the Archbishop. And I have commented there.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:41am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation
Comments

How long do we have to put up with this archbishop. He has done a complete about face from his position prior to his appointment. Does he really believe that anyone will accept that the church is welcoming and inclusive when we deny to gays the same rights we offer to non gays.

Posted by: RonWilson on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 9:38am GMT

"However, he stressed that it would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage and said that it would not be dictated to by the Government."

He actually said that? Someone as complex as Rowan William spoke of "weakening" the teaching on marriage rather than "changing" or "altering" or "adapting" it?
And he really had not understood that the Government would "allow" churches to be used for gay partnership celebrations but would not "dictate"?

Can someone confirm that this has been reported correctly?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:42am GMT

Bit of anti-gay backbone in the Archbishop? And so soon after Nicholas Okoh came a-calling? Some coincidence.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 12:46pm GMT

I think it is important to allow the Church to lag behind the State on this. It always has - I think the Church of England has opposed the majority of reforms of the law on homosexuality (section 28 repeal, equal age of consent) and only gave the most luke warm support to goods and services and employment protection and indeed civil partnerships.

This is therefore unlikely to change and because of the Communion - the Cof E can hardly make unilateral decision making when criticising other provinces for doing so.

To be fair other churches have tended to lag behind the state as well (e.g. in Scandinavia). So I am not worried about the C of E being 10-20 years behind on this. Other churches and religions may be readier earlier and some already are.

So I am not worried about the Church being behind the times. I also think it is better that the C of E acts in a co-ordinated way than splitting off into different bits. I know people are impatient but it is better for the Church to act as a whole unit even if there are many who want the church to go faster.

It is far more important that the State complete its business and open marriage to same sex couples in the civil sphere and give the church time to adapt and catch up in its own time and way.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 1:06pm GMT

I'm not at all sure that left to a desire to act together the CofE will EVER catch up. On women priests and women bishops the reactionaries have not, and will not change. They have dug their heels in and want their tail to continue to wag the dog.

I don't see the issue of gay marriage going any other way. If the Archbishop insists that the CofE will not change its mind on this one it will be the liberal conscience of the church that is silenced - and our GBLT brothers and sisters who will continue to suffer.

I vote for change now - because change tomorrow will never happen!

Posted by: Drew_Mac on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 1:28pm GMT

Mr. Nelson, I find it interesting that you stand ready to ask many, many people to sacrifice their equality and dignity in service of your (and Rowan Williams’ and, apparently, GAFCON’s). How does one come to the place where he feels confident in asking or telling others to sacrifice for another “10 to 20 years”?

Posted by: Priscilla Cardinale on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 1:40pm GMT

A Lambeth spokesman said:
“The Church of England is opposed to all forms of homophobia and would want to defend the civil liberties of homosexual people, and to welcome them into our churches.”
I do wish the church could at least be honest about itself - in what ways has the church opposed all forms of homophobia? It has struggled hard to ensure its legal exemptions from equality legislation so that it can discriminate against LGBT people in all employment forms, not just clergy, it has opposed in Parliament most improvements in the civil liberties of LGBT people and calling gay relationships sinful and refusing to bless the most significant relationship anyone can have is hardly a warm welcome.
Whom does the Church think it is kidding with its blatantly untrue assertions that is is not homophobic?

Posted by: sjh on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 1:52pm GMT

Perhaps, being on the other side of the pond, I am not properly informed, but I was of the belief that the proposed act would merely permit those denominations who wished to to perform same-sex marriages in their houses of worship...that it does not force any religious group to do so.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 1:55pm GMT

“Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind".

Actually the Church has been left behind and is now in a position where it is dangerously disconnected from the people whom it aspires to serve.

But the Archbishop should know better than to say never. It is a dangerous position to get yourself into. The Church will change its mind on this as it has done on many other things which once seemed to threaten its integrity and teachings. Its only a few years ago that initially a blessing and more recently a remarriage of divorcees in Church was a life or death issue. Now it is a position on which a minister can act largely on his/her own judgement. The battle is already lost, we now just have to deal with the smoke and noise.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 2:32pm GMT

Just wait for all hell to break loose when they try to discipline a priest who conducts a church service - which will not be long coming?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 3:36pm GMT

Here's the event to which reference is made in the original news article
http://www.tonybaldry.co.uk/2011/02/16/tony-baldry-hosts-lunch-and-q-a-session-with-archbishop-of-canterbury/

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 3:50pm GMT

In response to an earlier direct question I would simply state that I'm not asking anyone to delay and if the option was open I would prefer the action of the church of Sweden which as I understand it has full marriage equality.

The C of E has got itself into a position where forward movement is unlikely in the current time frame.

Personally I blame the collective leadership of the C of E and indeed the communion that have led us to this point.

I still think it is important to press on towards civil marriage equality. I think other churches will - some are already - become full participants in the 21st century. The C of E will sadly take a long time to come to terms with the modern world.

I don't support GAFCON. I'm not totally sure who they are or what they stand for but it doesn't sound good.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 5:19pm GMT

Richard Ashby says: 'Actually the Church has been left behind and is now in a position where it is dangerously disconnected from the people whom it aspires to serve.'

'Dangerously disconnected'? I'm not entirely clear that it's a priority to Jesus that his Church be completely in step with the moral and ethical positions of society at large.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:03pm GMT

Once the Covenant is approved, assuming the House of Clergy doesn't stop it, then the Church of England will have a special role in not carrying out same sex blessings and not having equality in ministry because of the need to police the Covenant via its head person, the Archbishop of Canterbury. So it won't be about 10 or 20 years, but the speed of Uganda.

We Unitarians want to start offering our services now, and what is done can no longer be anything to do with the Church of England. If it wants to freeze up, that's its business, but not to impose such on any denomination or faith that wants to marry same sex as well as both sex couples. Let's get the law thoroughly changed and then see if the C of E wishes to maintain a nonsense of being established - established but out of kilter with what it thinks it is established with.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:07pm GMT

Given the track record of the current government in foisting half-baked policies on the nation at large, any individual or institution which lags behind government policy is probably doing the right thing.

Without a verbatim quote from the famously nuanced Rowan Williams, it's hard to comment on this with any accuracy. Most of the 'detail' is Mr Kirbys comments, rather than Rowans actual remarks.

Posted by: David Keen on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:15pm GMT

The Church of England has NOT spoken on this matter. Rowan Williams may have. (Unclear)

Since when have archbishops of Canterbury 'been' the Church of England ?

The parishes and PCCs and ministers will not wish to be dictated to.

Shall those of the equality integrity be given our own flying bishops -who afterall may be short of work soon, when the Anglo-Papalist integrity leaves for the Ordinariate.

No wonder church attendance is dwindling when so many of us are so unwelcome or uncattered for on so many occasions.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 8:30pm GMT

Rowan Williams is someday going to make a fascinating subject for a biography. The smartest, most spiritual and perhaps the most liberal man to be enthroned in Canterbury, he has been forced by what he sees as his obligation to preserve the church universal into a conservative, removed from the social consensus of the people of England, willing to turn Lambeth and the Communion into a faux-curia run by bishops. I hope he has been granting ongoing private interviews to a suitable biographer. It is unlikely that someone without access to his thinking during these years is going to be able to write a subtle and accurate account.

Posted by: Andrew on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 10:45pm GMT

I echo Pat and Lapin's questions.

I can't help feeling that the ABC is addressing what is NOT happening (that the government will "force" the CofE, even by-law-established, to perform CPs), in order to DISTRACT from what IS happening (CofE throwing around its Established Power, inc. in the House of Lords, to deny OTHER faith communities from performing CPs).

As ever: the BULLY plays "VICTIM". Good Lord deliver us!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:18pm GMT

"'Dangerously disconnected'? I'm not entirely clear that it's a priority to Jesus that his Church be completely in step with the moral and ethical positions of society at large."

If the "moral and ethical positions of society at large" ARE "moral and ethical" (i.e., GOOD), I'd say it's *mortally* dangerous, Tim!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:27pm GMT

What saddens me, is that the Archbishop seems to be saying that same-sex relationships - within the community of the Church - cannot even receive the 'Blessing' of the Church; which seems to beg the question of how he can see such relationships as viable, while at the same time denying them the Church's Blessing.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:30pm GMT

" I'm not entirely clear that it's a priority to Jesus that his Church be completely in step with the moral and ethical positions of society at large." - Tim Chesterton -

Jesus did though castigate the Pharisees for the religious obfuscation which dictated preeminence of Law when what was needed was Love. They hated that so much they wanted him crucified.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 27 February 2011 at 11:37pm GMT

To Ron and JCF: I'm not making any comment on the current controversy, I'm just saying that it is not automatically a bad (or 'dangerous') thing for the Church of Jesus Christ to be out of step with the mores of society at large. In fact given the metaphors of salt and light that Jesus uses, it might be a good thing. Salt is only useful to meat when tastes different. If it loses its saltiness it gets thrown away (I heard that a couple of weeks ago...).

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 12:27am GMT

"I'm not entirely clear that it's a priority to Jesus that his Church be completely in step with the moral and ethical positions of society at large."

Yes, but it's surely a priority to Jesus that His Church acts morally and ethically from a position of justice?

Keeping up with the times is a bad reason for gay equality. That's right.

But being just as we understand justice by the moral and ethical precepts of our time is a priority.

And not abusing St. Paul's words by deliberately underplaying the bits that remind us that following no legal code can ever bring us salvation must be a priority too?

I can't believe this has become such a doctrinal dividing point. I really regret that this marginal issue - important to me, but marginal to the core of Christian faith - has become the cause of so much broken communion. And if you don't agree with that, then there's a lot more that divides us than homosexuality.

But it's OK. Your Evangelical grandchildren will attend my lesbian great-grandneices' Catholic church wedding. And they'll see this stuff on TV documentaries and wonder how people ever believed that treating gay people this way was ethical.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 1:07am GMT

Millions of Anglicans all over the world would agree with and support the Archbishop of Canterbury on this. As for what will happen in 10 or 20 years time, nobody can forecast, not if there is a God who rules and reigns over the nations here and now.

Posted by: CP36 on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 1:58am GMT

@ Tim Chesterton: "'Dangerously disconnected'? I'm not entirely clear that it's a priority to Jesus that his Church be completely in step with the moral and ethical positions of society at large."

Oh? That didn't seem to be a problem in the Middle Ages.

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 2:26am GMT

The ABC stated "he would not countenance the weakening of the Church's teaching on marriage and it would not be dictated to by the Government" ?? Excuse me, but I believe it is still the teaching of the CofE that divorced people with living spouses should not be remarried. I recall a number of years ago this same ABC presided at a "blessing of a civil marriage" (immediately after a visit to the registrar's office to be civilly married)that had such semblance to a "wedding" that it was widely reported as such in the press. The groom was the Prince of Wales and the bride was a divorced woman with whom he had a public adulterous relationship.

Am I the only one to see the hypocrisy? Well, to gay people it is yet another example of why Christ is not to be found in Church.

Posted by: Kahu Aloha on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 6:33am GMT

Simon, I'm surprised. Not a single dissent of liberal consensus? Oh well, there's always the Guardian's CIF.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 8:45am GMT

Yes - and he'll be involved in the marriage of two people who have been living together for some time - but see, they're ROYALS, not the hoi poloi like you and me.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 1:12pm GMT

I think certain players have watched one too many "Yes Minister" episodes and developed the art of saying complex sentences which in and of themselves have no meaning.

To Love or not to Love, that is the question.

Not who to love, or how to love, or when to love, or why to love, or what at price.

Let GLBTs have loving nurturing relationships. It does no harm to others who also love. Love in one relationship does not take away from love in another relationship. In actual fact, those who love create "virtuous circles" that inspire love in others.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 1:17pm GMT

The CoE lost its right to speak of "weakening" marriage when George Carey and many of the other so-called "orthodox" decided to treat adultery as a mere faux pas.

Posted by: JPM on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 2:24pm GMT

Gerry said, 'But it's OK. Your Evangelical grandchildren will attend my lesbian great-grandneices' Catholic church wedding.'

Gerry, those who know me will know that I have myself attended the lesbian wedding of a family member a lot closer to me than your great-grandneice - and spoken at the reception as well.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 3:34pm GMT

"Millions of Anglicans all over the world would agree with and support the Archbishop of Canterbury on this."

And you know this how? Can you cite a statistically viable survey of Anglicans worldwide to back it up? Or are you merely taking at face value the statements of unelected primates from certain provinces?

All of which simply ignores, of course, the fallacy that numbers indicate righteousness.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 3:43pm GMT

"I'm just saying that it is not automatically a bad (or 'dangerous') thing for the Church of Jesus Christ to be out of step with the mores of society at large."

Tim, this is something conservatives are right to remind us. Unfortunately, on this issue, we've missed the boat as far as *leading* society - history will remember the United Church in a more courageous light than us - and now the best we can do is play catch up. As someone for whom the counter-cultural nature of the Summary of the Law is at the heart of Christianity's appeal, I do regret this - it would have been nice if we'd done our job by witnessing to the dignity of our sacraments (regardless of who enters them) *before* public opinion saw it that way. But there's nothing to be done now. Certainly there is no use retaining a doctrine that has consistently proven so toxic and destructive to so many Christian lives, homes, and families for the *sake* of going against the grain.

Posted by: Geoff on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 4:40pm GMT

Let's not forget that relationship that Williams and Carey blessed took place at the same time they were both condemning Gene Robinson.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 5:35pm GMT

Father Ron

Of course it wasn’t just the pharisees that hated Jesus. Mark 13.13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." Jesus love to the people - and the Pharisees - was to tell them that they were all fallen sinners and needed a saviour - not in condemnation - but in calling them to repentance and bring them into fellowship with God - and on the cross, actually paying the penalty. Most of the people hated Jesus because he called them all sinners.

The biblical view of love also involves obedience to the father's ways. With only our flesh this is impossible, but Jesus has sent His Spirit to those who believe and trust in the Son, to sanctify our ways.

The problem with the pharisees was that they themselves had no love for the Father, because they did not obey the commands they preached, nor have mercy for the people.

Surely Jesus was not saying abandon the law: Matthew 23.3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. As a Christian you are under the law of Christ - which means He pays the price and there is love and mercy.

So what matters is God's truth on same-sex activities - I do not mean same-sex friendship - even very close and personal friendship. Isn’t truth also part of love? 1 John 3:18. So why seek the world's opinion on God's morality and align yourself with the world. You are called out of Egypt, not to align yourself with Egypt.

It is interesting Jesus own view of scripture Matthew 4 : Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]” . I find it interesting that Jesus found it more important to tell us to live on every word that comes from the mouth of God than to mention that the world was actually round.

Posted by: DAvid Wilson on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 5:43pm GMT

"Millions of Anglicans all over the world would agree with and support the Archbishop of Canterbury on this."

And you know this HOW, CP36? Because their unelected Purple Primates say so?

Spiritually-healthy Christians (inc. Anglicans), wherever they are, look to live their OWN marriages faithfully---they don't obsess over someone else's!

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 7:25pm GMT

If parliament no longer can dictate to the Church of England ..its time to disestablish this minority church, which no longer baptizes even a fifth of the babies of England.

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Monday, 28 February 2011 at 9:07pm GMT

>>And you know this how? Can you cite a statistically viable survey of Anglicans worldwide to back it up?

By Anglicans, I mean the ordinary people who are memebers of the Anglican Communion. I base my estimation on the fact that the majority of Anglicans worldwide are Low Anglicans or Evangelicals. Primates don't necessarily know what is going on at ground level. My question is, if God is really in the Church, what does he think about same sex marriage? Unless one can be sure that God thinks it is okay, it is not worth the trouble fighting for the right to get married in a Church. The problem these people have is real and I doubt the Church has the knowledge to solve complex problems like one's sexual orientation. The Bible doesn't deal with complex problems. But I think the Church will loose its credibility if it were to bow to external pressures. But within the Church, Anglicans have always been involved in debates and should continue to do so.

Posted by: CP36 on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 2:10am GMT

David Wilson,


You're still presenting *your* truth as God's Truth.

Jesus spoke of words issuing from God's mouth long before there was a New Testament, therefore, long before there was a Bible as you would recognize it. The words from God's mouth are living words that require discernment.

You are welcome to your views, but you will have to accept that they are not absolute truth.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 5:23am GMT

"I have myself attended the lesbian wedding of a family member a lot closer to me than your great-grandneice - and spoken at the reception as well."

Maybe you even paid for the honeymoon: sending one bride to Paris, and one bride to Tahiti! O_o

[I kid, I kid, Tim: Mazel Tov to your family member's wedding. :-)]

*****

"So what matters is God's truth on same-sex activities - I do not mean same-sex friendship - even very close and personal friendship. Isn’t truth also part of love? 1 John 3:18. So why seek the world's opinion on God's morality and align yourself with the world. You are called out of Egypt, not to align yourself with Egypt."

So why are YOU aligning yourself w/ Egypt, DavidW? Being the SLAVEMASTER, imposing your hypocritical (and unBiblical!) attitude of reducing same-sex SPOUSES to "same-sex activities", when you would never reduce opposite-sex spouses to "opposite-sex activities"?

God comes to overthrow EVERY system of slavery, DavidW. Lookout, Pharoah!

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 7:51am GMT

" Most of the people hated Jesus because he called them all sinners."
- David Wilson on Monday -

It was only the Scribes and Pharisees in this instance;

Jesus - speaking to the woman caught in adultery:

"Where are your accusers (Pharisees) now, do they condemn you? Woman, No! Jesus: "Neither do I!"

- hardly a condemnation! I do wish you'd use ALL of the Bible when you champion its legalism.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 9:48am GMT

I'm convinced that the holy homophobia the Archbishop protects under his skirts is dying. The younger generations (including young evangelicals) have no interest in pursuing this campaign any further. It will probably die out with a generation that still clings to it. More likely, homophobia will be laughed off the stage with the hypocrisy and foolishness of so many of its champions.

Another champion of the Plain Meaning of Scripture gets caught with his pants down in New Orleans:

http://www.fox8live.com/news/local/story/Controversial-Rev-Grant-Storms-arrested-on/etD-dlb0MEm6gsQyWVmVnA.cspx

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 2:17pm GMT

Agreed, Ron.

Of course, I did not initiate this comparison with the sin of adulteress, but what does 'Go and sin no more'(John 8:11), in His next breath, mean? That she went back to finishing off what the Pharisees had so rudely interrupted (John 8:4)?

With those words, Jesus may have lifted her sentence, but He did not declare her illicit relationship innocent. On the cross, her amnesty (and ours) was secured at great cost to Him.

Amnesty is not affirmation.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 3:45pm GMT

"With those words, Jesus may have lifted her sentence, but He did not declare her illicit relationship innocent. On the cross, her amnesty (and ours) was secured at great cost to Him.

Amnesty is not affirmation."

I remember a very vivid lesson in the "plain meaning" of Scripture from my childhood. Many very earnest Bible believing Christians quoted to me the story of Ham from Genesis as proof that the separation of the races was ordained by God and proven in Scripture. Indeed, they had a point. Also, the defenders of slavery had ample ammunition in proof texts when they defended the "peculiar institution." It was the Abolitionists who had to defend their position with either scarce proof texts, or with novel interpretations of familiar passages.
The late Peter Gomes always pointed out that Scripture can be used to defend a lot of positions that we would assume to be indefensible today.
When I was a very young man coming to terms with my own sexuality, with the growing conflict between what I was told and what I was actually experiencing, I remembered all of those pious segregationists and their proof texts, and I wondered what else might be "proven in Scripture." That insight pointed the direction toward self-acceptance and acceptance of my own kind, and also rescued the Gospel for me from all of those who believe that Scripture is a science textbook and a legal contract, and who claim a copyright on the Gospel.

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 5:46pm GMT

You have talked about this being a justice issue. But surely there can be no justice if there is no love for God. And love for God is following His ways, rather than the flesh - though it is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The Christian Life involves being born again into New Life and actually godly living and not following the instincts of the flesh. Do the activities of a same-sex couple in the bedroom actually constitute Godly living? The same obligation apply to an opposite sex couple. Please give me a scripture that shows that God actually blesses same-sex sex coupling - where does he show that it is His Godly way. Jesus asks us each to live Him, dying for own self, as He did, and living for others. You need to live.

Posted by: david wilson on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 6:01pm GMT

"Please give me a scripture that shows that God actually blesses same-sex sex coupling - where does he show that it is His Godly way. Jesus asks us each to live Him, dying for own self, as He did, and living for others. You need to live."

Quod Est Demonstratum

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 6:46pm GMT

David W: please do not be so presumptuous as to judge what other people do in their bedrooms. It's really not your business to be so concerned about it, if I might put it bluntly.

And this "please give me a Scripture that says..." request is rather bizarre. Do you refuse to go and vote in elections because no-one can "give you a Scripture" commending democracy (though the NT does enjoin obedience to Caesar, i.e. autocracy!)?

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 8:19pm GMT

"He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'" Mark 10:11-12.

"If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." Leviticus 20:10.

So under the plain meaning of scripture, shouldn't we be stoning the divorced and remarried?

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 10:06pm GMT

"The Christian Life involves being born again into New Life and actually godly living and not following the instincts of the flesh. Do the activities of a same-sex couple in the bedroom actually constitute Godly living? The same obligation apply to an opposite sex couple"

- David Wilson, on Tuesday -

Well, David, congratulations1 You may be the only living Christian who is able to trumpet the fact that he is sinless. Don't forget, though, that Jesus said this: "I did not come to call the Righteous, but Sinners" - of which most people living are a part.

If you claim to be other than the rest of us, one wonders why you haven't been assumed into Paradise already? It must be very difficult to calim to be righteous, when the rest of us are still subject to the Fall of Creation - which Jesus has already taken care of - not by our fulfilment of The Law, but by his Righteousness.

We do the best we can in the cirumstances of life that God has given us. We can no longer live by the Law (St.Paul)) but only by grace! Rememember; Jesus seems to have been more tolerant of sexual 'sins' than the sin of hubris - pretending a righteousness that is not ours to attain to.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 1 March 2011 at 11:49pm GMT

Well, we've all been here before with the 30-odd year re-marriage debate. The indissolubility of marriage in the Anglican Church was overturned by the moral consensus approach to theology, but only after the emphatic statements of Christ against divorce were re-interpreted as out of character and equivocal.

Paul had to wrestle with the post-conversion validity of heathen marriages: an issue that Jesus did not address directly in His answers to Jews on divorce.

The apostle was no conservative: quite happy to dispense with the most fundamental Jewish initiation rite for his new converts. Yet, he was hindered by Christ from fitting his marital theology into a relaxed consensus derived from the wider society.

Paul's revelation from Christ echoed and maintained consistent position on the indissolubility of marriage to a fundamentally different Gentile audience and in a completely new context. The prohibition against divorce was re-iterated to him by the Lord: 'Let not the wife depart from the husband' (1 Cor. 7:10). How unprogressive!

Depressingly, Paul even declared that a sacramental quality is imparted to these mismatched marriages might have been left for dead: 'For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.' (vs. 14)

In contrast to this method, we are now given assurances that the correct interpretation is to apply the consensus on ethics derived from the wider society in order to overturn any challenge arising from the ‘plain meaning’ of canon law or the scripture upon which it is based.

Any interpretion apart from this is declared a literalist imposition of personal views on others. Yet, the apostle's contextual interpretation sustained Christ's declaration on divorce as applicable beyond its initial Jewish context to Gentile converts as well. How should we describe his approach in today's terms? Consistent, but restrictive? Invalid? Too literal and opinionated?

What does 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone' (Eph. 2:20) really mean, if we only pay lip-service to the apostle's recorded contextual approach to scripture?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 12:38am GMT

David Wilson,

The fact that same-sex couple find and have life in their relationships, and have it abundantly *shows* that God blesses their relationships. They live. Does that bother you so much? Would you prefer they were miserable?

Your presumption to stand as authority on what is or is not God's Will for another is arrogance, the sin of Pride.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 5:30am GMT

David S: "Well, we've all been here before with the 30-odd year re-marriage debate."

No: the point is that though there is disagreement amongst Anglicans over whether divorcees should be re-marriable in church, no-one has hyped up that particular issue to communion-breaking point.

One has the right to ask why remarrying divorcees, counter to the plain sense of Scripture (as also ordaining women, counter to the plain sense of Scripture) is not treated as something to get everyone's knickers in a twist about, so to speak, whereas "the gay issue," uniquely, in the whole history of Anglicanism, seems to be?

To me, it's obvious that the gay issue upsets, principally, a certain sort of (and age of?) man with particular psychological, rather than theological, issues.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 11:59am GMT

"What does 'built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone' (Eph. 2:20) really mean, if we only pay lip-service to the apostle's recorded contextual approach to scripture?"

What if Scripture might be something other than a legal contract? Perhaps it is what it says it is, testimony; testimony to the workings of God in history. It is the Muslims who believe that God wrote their scripture (some Muslims believe that the Quran is so holy that it is uncreated, with God from before the Creation). Ours was written by mortals, divinely inspired and witness to divine things, but by mortals nonetheless with the inevitable limitations that come with mortality. The Biblical authors inevitably brought the experiences and preconceptions of mortals to their testimony. As anyone who has ever sat on a jury knows, people who saw the exact same thing can have sharply differing understandings of the event.
The Bible is the touchstone of our faith because it is the testimony that we have inherited. It is not God's oracle like the Quran. Our Lord does not feel bound to follow any script we might write for Him. He continues to act in history as He always has. He gave us our wits to find our way in this world, and to find Him. He wants us to be His loving children (with all that implies; consider your relations with your own children), not His frightened obedient automatons.
The God I read about in the Bible demands justice. I chose to be gay in exactly the same way that all the Davids on this thread chose to be male. My gayness is every bit as sinful and pathological as their maleness. A God who demands obedience to a Bronze Age law code written by a nomadic pastoral people 3000 years ago would be a monster, a Moloch unworthy of our worship. A just and loving God acts justly and lovingly. A just and loving God meets us where we are and accepts us as we are just as we fully accept those we truly love, like our own children.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 12:08pm GMT

I agree with your point as it relates to Anglicanism, Fr Mark.

I find this inconsistent stance hypocritical, especially on the part of Lord Carey who was at the forefront of those advocating church re-marriage of divorcees.

Counterlight: Your premise is built on an equivalence between the expression of sexual orientation and gender: 'I chose to be gay in exactly the same way that all the Davids on this thread chose to be male.' Gender is chromosomally determined.

You appear to be saying that the expression of sexual orientation is as chromosomally determined as my gender, or the melanin level in my skin. Following your point, would a just and loving God demand that I defy a chromosomal characteristic? To this question, you rightly say the answer is no. He might simply place safe boundaries on that expression. To which you might also answer: 'And that's all I'm expecting my church to understand and accept'.

I am working through your reasoning, but the only problem I have is with your premise. No need for science, there. You combat the alternate view as suspicious (comparison with justifying slavery) and arrive at a sympathetic consensus endorsing the chromosomal view of sexual orientation and its expression. As a testimony of fallible men, the Bible is open to contradiction in a way that exonerates your view.

Of course, contrary to this, you might also assert that a 'just and loving God' may contradict Himself by encouraging us to defy our God-given chromosomal gender for a psychological one, as with transgendered persons.

In fact, as long as you feel that He's agreeable towards a life-long pre-disposition, then that's love and a basis for church doctrine. That doctrine overrules that testimony of fallible men, the Bible, and the terrible and unworthy God that I describe as urging us to question premises on all sides thoroughly as a basis for change.

Concerning your example, I am always ready to be generous towards my kids. I actually hate being the 'bad guy', but it does them no favours to contradict myself.

Yes, I have to accept certain characteristics as part of growing up and others as a natural part of puberty. However, I won't assume that a repeated behaviour (however time-honoured) is genetic, simply because they claim it is. I'd look to incontrovertible genetic evidence. It wouldn't be 'just and loving' to do otherwise. For that might encourage them to be 'obedient automatons' of wilfulness.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 2:35pm GMT

David S "I find this inconsistent stance hypocritical, especially on the part of Lord Carey who was at the forefront of those advocating church re-marriage of divorcees."

I agree, of course. But my Lord Carey was able to become ohso flexible and accommodating regarding remarriage of divorcees because of his own close to home experience of the matter. His theology developed to fit in with his lived pastoral reality, I suppose one could say charitably. If Lord Carey had a child who was gay, I imagine his theology would have come under a similar imperative to develop with that sensitivity in mind too... and that's probably all there is to it, really, despite all the high-flown appeals to eternal laws in Scripture (but only in those areas where it is convenient to oneself to hold such a view).

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 4:18pm GMT

But there is neither choice nor pathology in gayness. The consensus of scientists now going back 40 years (and further if you care to look) says that homosexuality is a natural variation as is left-handedness and red hair, and no more pathological than those.
So which is more binding on me? My own experience? My reasoning? That collective reasoning and consensus that is all intellectual endeavor including science and theology? Or a Bronze Age document whose pronouncements on this matter appear to be more and more arbitrary and unjust as the evidence piles higher and higher?
And if this particular arbitrary regulation is everlastingly binding on all humankind, why this one and not the rest of the regulations in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Why are we wearing clothes of mixed fabric? Why do we not kill our disobedient children? Why do we not join the extremist Muslims in stoning to death the adulterers among us as Scripture commands?

A Jewish friend of mine tells the story of the rabbis faced with the impossible command that the disobedient child should be put to death. No parent in their right mind would ever do such a thing. So, the rabbis decided that a truly disobedient child never really existed.

A just and loving God would demand that where there is gross injustice (say for example in the treatment of gays and lesbians by too much of the Church), that injustice should be confronted and challenged, even to death. Hardly my idea of a permissive teaching. Indeed, all conservatives seem to be convinced that this is simply a matter of permission. It is no such thing. The reason so many people who are not gay are embracing the cause of their gay friends and family is because the gay-hostile teachings of so much of the church offend them, not their sense of permission, but their deepest sense of what is right and fair. They've embraced the teaching of Christ that tells us that we shall know who is the righteous tree and who is not by the fruits that they bear.
One tree bears the fruits of bigotry, hypocrisy, hatred, and violence. The other bears the fruit of love, acceptance, courage, and community. I'll take the pragmatic witness of the righteous fruit over the pronouncements of abstract law and doctrine every time.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 5:04pm GMT

"Counterlight: Your premise is built on an equivalence between the expression of sexual orientation and gender: 'I chose to be gay in exactly the same way that all the Davids on this thread chose to be male.' Gender is chromosomally determined."

This is a common canard, but it betrays a category confusion: Counterlight didn't say anything about genetics: you yourself introduced the concept. Counterlight likened sexual orientation to gender in terms of voluntariness, not aetiology. Conservatives seem to think the liberal argument relies on a genetic explanation for sexual orientation, and that the lack of scientific consensus on such an origin somehow mitigates the problems in their case.

Okay, so it's not genetic. That's great: what are those of us who are gay supposed to do with this information? You seem to think if it's not genetic then it must not be ephemeral, malleable, or somehow less "real" - a curiously physicalist attitude in the context of Christian moral theology. Even if my sexual orientation was wholly determined by early environmental factors, there's still nothing to be done about it now.

So, yes, you impose reasonable limits of expression - hopefully the same ones we impose on everyone - fidelity, exclusivity, an expectation of permanence, a commitment to mutual care, and an openness to the gift of children where applicable.

But to suggest that in fact there are no reasonable limits within which a conscientious gay person can live who seeks God's will in their sex lives as in the rest of their lives. This leaves us with the same three outcomes: a) the person by happy coincidence is one of the minority of Christians with a genuine vocation to celibate chastity (NB: this does not automatically equate with a homosexual orientation!), b) the person pays nominal fealty to the party line, succumbs to occasional temptation in a casual and loveless setting, and for his duplicity is rewarded with church membership in good standing, or c) forced to choose between her family and the Church, she chooses the latter. These are the ugly, flesh and blood consequences of your argument. By their fruits ye shall know them, and their fruits testify against them. And none of them is affected a whit by the aetiology of sexual orientation, whether nature, nurture, both or neither.

Posted by: Geoff on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 6:30pm GMT

Counterlight - your are right - I didnt choose to be male. Unless you dont have xy chromosome you are also male (I presume you are anatomically male).

As to whether I chose my sexual confusion - I presume this is the psychological issues you were referring to Fr mark. I had a lot of psychologoical/abuse issues from childhood, so to what extent I sub-conciously rejected my masculinity, I wouldnt like to say. If fact I have never had a date, let alone a relationship - though I have been described as having moviestar looks = though there were attempts. You might say what does it matter to you - clearly I have an experience and an opinion and I do care. I also have a friend who after 18 years of marriage, left his wife because of his sexusl feelings. I do care deeply about him. My own experience leads me open to the idea of there being a spiritual dimension. Obviously scientists can have no view on this.

However I do believe Jesus has great love for homosexuals and - as for me feel he says I will heal you with my love. And as for my genetics I feel He says those are with me.

Posted by: David Wilson on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 9:48pm GMT

I am 7 years into a relationship that is marriage in every respect except legal recognition. We have a household together. We both have careers, belong to trade associations, I belong to a union, and we pay taxes. We also vote regularly. We've been through sickness and health, for richer and for poorer together.
Thanks be to New York City's registered partnership law and anti-discrimination laws, we share a health insurance policy.
Ours is a mixed marriage. He's an anti-clerical agnostic and I'm a church-going Episcopalian.

I consider myself to be very fortunate and even blessed.

Heal me of what now?

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 2 March 2011 at 11:34pm GMT

Apparently, the comparison with the Davids maleness was only a metaphor for the involuntary. Yet, so much fruitless research into finding the 'gay gene'. Curious.

You may feel it is your mission to unhinge the church from its apostolic roots in the Bronze Age document that you have derided. Others have tried and failed, but that won't stop you trying.

Voicing strong argument in opposition doesn't make you or I into victims of hate, or violence. Disagreement is not bigotry. So what fruit are you on about in this instance?

I may disagree with you, but I reason through your arguments carefully and with the respect they deserve. If you are not persuaded to see the validity of scripture in establishing the complete scope of supernatural transformation that is possible under the New (vs. Old) Covenant, then throw it away as far as you can and join a sect. Plenty have the same dim view of scripture.

If the 'ugly, flesh and blood consequences' of Christ's sacrifice have only prompted you to look with contempt on giving the same to Him, you can forget the paltry and 'nominal fealty to the party line'.

That's religiosity. While we Anglicans may be good at it, it really doesn't work.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 1:29am GMT

"I'd look to incontrovertible ... evidence."

I hear this line (ultimatum?) all the time from the neo-atheists (or "anti-theists"), re God.

I find it kind of annoying: whoever said that ONLY "incontrovertible evidence" determines what True & Beautiful in life?

Because you are (obviously) not one of those anti-theists, David S, I want to know why this particular subject demands "incontrovertible evidence" category? [FYI, morphological sex---nevermind the social construct "gender"!---is NOT purely "chromosomally determined". Don't take my word for it---ask a developmental biologist for "incontrovertible evidence"! ;-/ And Wot Geoff Said.]

*****

@David W. I honor your plea for healing. I just hope you will accept the kind of healing God offers (which may well include "dates" and "relationships" via a sexual orientation which stays fixed as it is now)

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 4:44am GMT

David Wilson,

Again, this is *your* experience and *your* evidence - no less anecdotal than ours.

What this says is that, while you cannot live a life comfortably and spiritually in a homosexual relationship, others *can*. You can dismiss those who disagree with you as having no spirituality, or religious conviction or relationship to Christ, but you still have no convincing evidence that what you believe applies beyond your own personal experience.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 9:19am GMT

" I suppose one could say charitably. If Lord Carey had a child who was gay, I imagine his theology would have come under a similar imperative to develop with that sensitivity in mind too." - Fr. Mark, on Wednesday -

Mark, I believe you've hit on a very important understanding of how any 'straight' person has to accommodate the circumstance of one of his own family - certainly a son or daughter- being gay.

The Bishop you have talked about, who had a son who divorced his wife, was seemingly compelled - by reason of his own family's cohesion - to consider the distinct possibility of divorce being within the permitted scope of Christian behaviour - or, at least, forgivable.

I believe that if this bishop of the Church had a son or daughter who was gay, he would have had to think again about his inherited prejudice against gay people. This has been proved time and time again in the lives of people I know very well. And I suspect it can be true of a bishop as well as of any clergy-person in the Church.

Of course, there is an alternative. The bishop could have ostracised the son or daughter of his loins, and avoided the call of Jesus to 'Love'.

However, it is probably a lot harder for macho Church males to overlook the 'sins' of their heterosexual children, than to overlook the imputed 'sins' of their homosexual ones.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 9:57am GMT

David W,
As for healing, start with yourself.

David S,
I'm puzzled as to why you feel so very strongly that Christianity stands or falls on the Biblical pronouncements on homosexuality, which are very scarce in the whole of Scripture (only 6 passages last I recall).
As I recall, the Scripture has a whole lot to say on issues of social justice, especially toward the outcast and the poor (an aspect of the Christian religion that is largely ignored in the USA these days). Our Lord says nothing about homosexuality in the Gospel, but says a lot about hypocrisy and about acting justly toward all of our neighbors, the righteous and the wicked, and not just toward our own kind.

As for "looking with contempt upon the blood and flesh consequences of Christ's sacrifice," quite the contrary. A lot of people like me have lived them. As for being despised and rejected of men, walking the bloody Via Dolorosa, and finally dying in agony before a jeering crowd, who would know that better than gays or lesbians these days? I've known more than a few who've walked that path in the most literal way imaginable all the way to the bitter end in a medical examiner's van to the morgue. Ask Harvey Milk or Fanny Ann Eddy or David Kato or the 32 men who died in the Upstairs Lounge fire in New Orleans in 1973 about "blood and flesh consequences." I've felt that rejection in my own flesh several times. On those occasions when I've had to join my brothers and sisters in facing down today's Scribes and Pharisees, I do so knowing that Our Lord has walked with us all in the suffering that we've each borne, that He has died with those we love who have died, and waits for us in the end with His Resurrection. He walks with us and He is behind us pushing us forward.

If I feel contempt for anything, it is for the golden idol which people have made out of His image, transforming His liberating Gospel into another imperial cult and spiritual enforcer of the Established Order.

The Christian religion is written in the pages of a Bronze Age book, but the Christian Faith is written in the flesh of all of His faithful people.

Posted by: Counterlight on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 12:13pm GMT

Counterlight

I dont think that is actually living in the New Testament sense, that is just "life", any non-Chrisitian can give a similar story. A question occurs to me: why do you light?

Posted by: david wilson on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 12:57pm GMT

Interestingly this week, scientists announced that they had used gene therapy to address an alleged genetic disposition to binge drinking in mice. But even if there is a biological mechanism for binge drinking, it hardly proves that it is moral or the maker’s intention. Science has nothing to say on morality. God has made clear in Scripture that our ways are our ways not His ways and our thoughts not His thoughts and we learn His ways from following scripture and the 24/7 godly compassionate life modelled by Jesus. There is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

Geoff/CJF - nothing to be done about it now? But Jesus is the God of the resurrection, indeed a normal part of Christian Life is the renewing of your mind. (indeed I have found that my dream life has been significantly cleaned up by the Lord)). If God cannot affect homosexual desires how can He affect any desires – including binge drinking?

Geoff – you seem to say the solution is that we should simply follow our ways in our sexual desires – in that it is only fair, although many people lead full and satisfying lives, whilst deigning themselves – indeed dying to self - my lack of a relationship has increased the time I can both spend with the Lord and serving Him in various ministries.

Again I will make the point again than I am daily aware of failings, but the issue for a Christian is trying to adopt a godly lifestyle rather than godless lifestyle (24/7). Again I will say that 100% sinlessness should not be required to express a view on the morality of certain action just because it happens to differ to that of other posters

Posted by: david wilson on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 6:01pm GMT

"Yet, so much fruitless research into finding the 'gay gene'. Curious."

STRAW MAN, David S.

The research biologists looking into the possible biological origins of homosexual orientation never looked for a single "gay gene." [Being scientists, they are going to look WHEREVER the evidence takes them. And it's taking them in a number of FRUITFUL directions.] It those who believe that homosexual "attraction" is NOT biological, and that the "attractions" are mutable, who have locked onto the "fruitless research into finding the 'gay gene'" talking point.

Are you just going to continue to spin us, or are you interested in actual dialogue?

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 7:16pm GMT

That's my whole point, JCF, the expression of sexual orientation is not deterministic. If you can add other factors into the mix, why not add a good dose of addictive heartfelt desire? Why not say that we can all be surprised by and respond instinctively to affection WITHOUT recourse to the determinstic language that brands any challenge as the sexual orientation-equivalent of racism. And of course, you can build consistent church doctrine on mere instinct.

My main contention (as has been revealed by the comments in this thread) is that what you may describe as mutually beneficial and loving same-sex relationship requires, when challenged, the selective consignment of the written apostolic witness and the chief record of Our Saviour's passion to the Bronze Age. Not even a contextual approach to New Testament theology has been tolerated.

Clearly, you can't dance around these uncomfortable New Testament verses without condemning the validity of the written historic witness to Christ's act of redemption and His witness to the church's raison d'etre.

Anyway, I fancy giving this a rest and joining a protest outside of Christian and non-Christian places of worship across London. Might carry a placard in saying 'God loves us all, so why should religion hate gays?'. Who's up for a bit of real (vs. Armchair) Christianity? Action Anglicans!

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 3 March 2011 at 9:04pm GMT

"That's my whole point, JCF, the expression of sexual orientation is not deterministic."

But that's not MY point, DavidS! I'm saying that the lack of (*your* phrase) a single "gay gene" (which no research biologist would look for in the first place, because EVERY biological function is more complicated than a single gene!) does NOT mean that sexual orientation ISN'T "determined".

ALL EVIDENCE points to sexual orientation being IMMUTABLE (at least in males. As always, females are Yet More Complicated! ;-/). You may not like that state-of-the-evidence, but it IS the current fact.

And ALL EVIDENCE points to variety in sexual orientation being a HEALTHY variation, ala handedness. IT IS NOT LIKE ALCOHOLISM, or other PATHOLOGICAL addictive behaviors, and it pisses off ("angers") LGBTs AND our beloved straight allies to suggest that it is! STOP doing that now, DavidS! >:-(

"what you may describe as mutually beneficial and loving same-sex relationship requires, when challenged, the selective consignment of the written apostolic witness and the chief record of Our Saviour's passion to the Bronze Age"

False again. The "written apostolic witness" NEVER ADDRESSES a "mutually beneficial and loving same-sex relationship". To stretch the ambiguous Clobber Verses this far, BREAKS Scripture into meaningless word-salad. Hardly "Read, learn, mark and inwardly-digest"!

[As far as whether sexual-orientation *relationship* discrimination is equivalent to racism, as ever I'll let *Mildred Loving* have the last word on that. She thought it was---that's good enough for me! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mildred_and_Richard_Loving]

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 12:29am GMT

"But even if there is a biological mechanism for binge drinking, it hardly proves that it is moral or the maker’s intention. Science has nothing to say on morality."

This is a non-argument. No one has claimed science has anything to say on morality. Homosexuality is morally neutral, until proven - and Scripture cannot do that - harmful. You keep raising the straw man of "following your sexual desires" when that is not what proponents of gay marriage are positing - they are positing living in the same chaste and committed manner with their partners as heterosexuals do with theirs (moreso, I would hope, given the disastrous record of heterosexual marriage). If you are going to make the claim that simply entering into a same-sex marriage is mere carnal desire, then the same is true of heterosexual marriage. You are, in fact, devaluing marriage by such an argument.

You cannot show that homosexuality is immoral or harmful, merely that you feel it is so for you. God is the God of the living, and living people are telling you that God has, in fact, blessed their homosexual relationships. Your faith doesn't trump theirs.

You claim concern for the homosexuals you're addressing, but you refuse to listen to their own experience which, frankly, makes a lie of your claims *for them*. It is, therefore, clear that your concern is for yourself rather than others.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 5:43am GMT

" indeed dying to self - my lack of a relationship has increased the time I can both spend with the Lord and serving Him in various ministries." - David Shepherd -

David, what makes you think that your abstinence from sexual activity makes you any more 'loved' by God than Mary Magdalene - who may have 'known' the love of many men?

God loves every person God has created. We only have to study the life and words of Jesus to be convinced of that. I don't know whether you are what the Church might term a 'Religious'. If so, then some of us have shared that life-style, and found ti wanting - feeling that the love we have in our hearts is being stifled - rather than celebrated by our enforced celibacy. Many a monk, nun or Roman Catholic priest could bear testimnoy ot this - as I have shared with some of them.

The gift of sexuality is a gift and not a curse - to be avoided at all costs. THer right use of that gift is, of course, important - to God and to those whom we choose to love.

I suggest you read Matthew 19, verse 12, and contemplate who Jesus might have been speaking about when he mentions 'eunuchs, who are so from their mother's womb.? - These are different from 'eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the Kingdom (monks, nuns celibate priests)
The very fact that this may be the only mention by Jesus of persons unable or not disposed to pro-create, opens up the possibility that such persons may be L,G,B or T.

Ther question about such people might be - did God intend them to subvert their natural sexuality? - giving them no positive choice of using it in a wholesome relationship?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 10:43am GMT

Father Ron has wrongly attributed David Wilson's comment to me.

JCF: I specifically referred to the 'expression of sexual orientation', not the orientation itself. Other gay contributors have asserted this distinction that you have ignored. Your emphatic statements about EVIDENCE have not been accepted as scientific authority.

In reference to scripture, I am specifically addressing statements made by Counterlight on this thread about the validity of scripture: 'a Bronze Age document whose pronouncements on the matter who pronouncements appear to be more and more self-serving as the evidence piles higher and higher'. This is the selective consignment of scripture to the Bronze Age, when challenged, to which I refer.

Be precise about my statements from now on. Don't waste my time or yours in these errors.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 1:14pm GMT

"My main contention (as has been revealed by the comments in this thread) is that what you may describe as mutually beneficial and loving same-sex relationship requires, when challenged, the selective consignment of the written apostolic witness and the chief record of Our Saviour's passion to the Bronze Age."

You could spin this round and say that slavishly following Romans 1 on a textbook-level reading requires, when challenged, setting aside the clear witness of mutual benefit and love in the families your reading of it condemns. In any case, the fact that Counterlight's argument reduces the esteem of the NT in your eyes hardly means that any argument for same-gender unions must necessarily do so. Plenty of us gays believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, the book of the church and history of our salvation and all that jazz. We simply are aware that to condemn families headed by same-gender couples requires a lot more biblical sifting and twisting - of Our Lord's command to judge them by their fruits (Mt 7.16), not to impose burdens that we ourselves could not shoulder (23.4), and his warning that his teaching on marriage would not be universally applicable (19.11). For some reason, you consider it a greater assault on the text to iron out a bit of Paul to fit this repeated threat of dominical teaching than to do the reverse as you do and set aside wide swathes of the Gospel to vindicate a narrow reading of a throw-away line by Paul.

Posted by: Geoff on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 5:26pm GMT

"This is the selective consignment of scripture to the Bronze Age, when challenged, to which I refer."

So tell me what this ancient document has to say about electro-magnetism or atomic structure or social contract or the global economy? Those things have altered the world far more profoundly than any issue of what two young men like to do with each other on a Saturday night. Those enormous things seem to me to be a far greater challenge to the very idea of transcendence which is at the heart of all religious life.
The pre-industrial world that Scripture describes doesn't exist anymore. Could it be that Scripture is something other than a law-book or God's oracle? Could it possibly be that our understanding of it is, and always was, malleable? Our understanding of Scripture changed as our circumstances have changed. Far from diluting or weakening the message of Scripture, that adaptability saved it and strengthened it for ourselves and for the future.

I remain puzzled as to why you see the very idea of two people of the same gender happy with each other, sexually and otherwise, to be such a threat. If sexuality is so evil, then why did God make it? It seems to me that some form of the binary division of one-celled creatures, or sprouting buds that drop off and form new individuals like hydras would be a much cleaner and more efficient way to reproduce than the mess of sexuality. After all, not all reproduction is sexual, and not all sexual activity in animals and plants is for the sake of reproduction. Indeed, asexual reproduction is so much "purer."


Why do you find this issue to be so very threatening? Why do you imagine that the entire Christian religion collapses because two women fall in love, get married, pay off a mortgage, and live as incompatibly and happily as anyone else who has ever married? How does this threaten you and your faith?

Posted by: Counterlight on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 6:54pm GMT

"A question occurs to me: why do you light?"

And what is it about my life that threatens you, closet brother?

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

Posted by: Counterlight on Friday, 4 March 2011 at 9:08pm GMT

Geoff:
Nothing that I have presented contradicts your scriptural assertions. You're happy to put a milder spin on Counterlight's disdain for scripture because it serves your cause to defend each other to the hilt.

I have condemned no one. When Christ challenged the Sadducees, or the loveable Rich Young Ruler (was His insistence on 'one thing you lack' nit-picking?), it wasn't to condemn them. By their committed choices, they were self-condemned: 'and this is the condemnation that light is come into the world, and men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil'

That's why it's easier to consider the more specific pronouncements like Romans 1 as outdated and only relevant to temple prostitutes of Paul's era. How strange that the pronouncements that you quote are not just relevant Christ's immediate first-century audience. It also addresses those who oppose your ideas on same-sex marriage.

I'm happy to give you the last word on this thread, rather than set a comment thread record. If you are recalcitrant, to reply is a distraction from those who aren't.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 7:41am GMT

Sorry, David Shepherd. So many Davids on this thread, I get confused. I do rmember though one other David who loved a man - even more than he loved women (and he loved a few) and that was King David, in his relationship to Jonathan.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 5 March 2011 at 10:32am GMT

I'm fond of quoting Brecht's play, Galileo, in which the astronomer begs the authorities of the day to look through his new telescope to see the moons of Jupiter (things in the heavens that didn't revolve around Earth, contrary to dogma). Ah, no, they responded, we have no need to look through your glass -- our books tell us what is in the heavens. Or, I think it was Francis Bacon who said, We must consult the book of God's work as well as the book of God's word.

The Davids in this discussion seem to dismiss people's actual experience in favor of their favored texts -- or tendentious interpretations of those texts. When it comes to the Bible, we're reading current concerns into a text in which those concerns are simply absent, along with notions of physics, geology, biology, and so forth. The Bible writers assumed a flat earth, a domed sky, and universal heterosexuality, and we know better nowadays.

The trouble with giving authority to supposed scriptural proscriptions of same-sex actions is the tendency also to take the implied description of the banned act as authoritative. But whatever the writer of Leviticus means by "lying with a man as with a woman," that's not what gay men do -- they desire relationship with the same sex, not a substitute for a woman. And where Paul supposes that some men have "left the natural use of women," gay men do not desire women -- their natural desire is for another man. Whatever the Levite or Paul had in mind -- temple prostitution or Greek slave boys or whatever -- it doesn't matter. Their assumptions don't fit the experience of gay men today. It's tendentious to take a lovely prohibition that appeals to you and try to fit it to situations where it doesn't apply. (Some have suggested that the scripture writers would have condemned homosexuality if they'd known about it, but the Holy Spirit didn't quite let them.)

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 12:40am GMT

A big problem in the church is the presence of so many people with sexual hang-ups. Back in the 1980s, I heard estimates from priests in the know that one out of three ministers of all denominations were homosexual -- many of course, repressing their feelings and trying to live conventional lives. The closet gives a very distorted view of sexuality. One's desires become a matter of shame, one learns to repress one's feelings, one may unknowingly project one's unlived desires onto others, and blame THEM for what one feels. It's a nice feed-back loop in church -- shame, guilt, confession, finding acceptance of one's "weakness" so long as one keeps it private and doesn't disturb the majority's obliviousness of the sexual variations amongst it. But break out of that, find love and relationship according to one's own nature, and one experiences freedom and growth impossible in the closet.

For the record, I was a devout child and worked in adulthood to promote historic churchmanship; I married and had a family, my fiancée and I trusted that faith and friendship would suffice if the sex thing didn't work out. It was a struggle, and only made me and my family unhappy. After my wife opted out of being my social life preserver in favor of a life on her own, free of a needy but unresponsive spouse, I met a guy who flipped all my negative experiences to positive and who's been at my side for nearly three decades now; we contribute to the community as a couple and lead constructive lives. I don't have much patience for those who refuse to deal with experience outside their books. The moons of Jupiter revolve all around you nowadays -- if you'll only look.

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 6 March 2011 at 12:42am GMT

First, the evidence is compelling that there is a strong genetic component to sexuality. Is it a single gene? no, of course not. Neither is height, weight, or handedness. Thus, we don't expect perfect correlation in twin studies, for example. And nor is it the only contibution, but it is significant.

Second, even chromosome identity is not absolute...there are indeed biological women with XY chromosomes.... for example, if they have androgen insensitivity syndrome! There are also men without a Y chromosome, thanks to a rare translocation. Biologists know better than to speak in absolutes. Would some others could learn that.

It would be as well if people who do not understand biology, science, and genetics, do not use misconceptions about these subjects to support their religious views. We saw that with the conservative theologians in the TEC Bishop's "theology committee" with equal lack of success. Stick to scripture, folks.

If you are interested in more about the genetics of sexuality,here are some resources.

http://gaymarriedcalifornian.blogspot.com/p/genetics.html

http://nymag.com/news/features/33520/

Oh, and why do I get to deliver you a lecture? I'm a professor of genetics. It's what I do for a living.

Posted by: IT on Monday, 7 March 2011 at 5:57am GMT
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