Sunday, 6 January 2013

Yet more on the civil partnerships decision

The BBC reports on a Mixed response to CofE decision to allow gay bishops.

Emily Dugan writes in The Independent that a Fresh storm hits C of E after move to allow gay bishops.

Barbara Ellen writes in The Observer that Gay sex is in the closet, but don’t blame the church.

Victoria Wright in The Independent has these useful Dos and Don’ts for gay Bishops in the Church of England.

On BBC Radio 4 yesterday Norman Russell and Peter Selby debated the issue on the Today programme, and later Giles Fraser and Lynette Burrows debated it on the PM programme (between 17 min 23 sec and 24 min 20 sec).
And this morning there was Richard Harries and Michael Lawson on the Sunday programme (between 34 min 28 sec and 43 min 32 sec).

Jerome Taylor writes in The Independent that the Primate of Kenya hits out at Church of England lifting of gay bishop ban.
The primate’s full statement can be read on the Anglican Mainstream website.

Alan Wilson writes A chink in the walls of Kafka’s Castle?

For Ekklesia Symon Hill writes Gay bishops: C of E offers crumbs from the table
and Savi Hensman writes The Church of England and gay bishops – has sexuality policy shifted?.

Taylor Carey writes for Lay Anglicana about Men in Pink: The Church of England’s Gay Bishop Decision.

Carrie Pemberton writes No sex please, we’re gay British bishops.

Archbishop Cranmer writes that Homosexuality is an issue blown out of all proportion.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 6 January 2013 at 2:58pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Heard Archdeacon Lawson say this morning that the problem is that since everyone knows that civil partnerships are sexual no bishop who says that he is celibate will be believed. Ask before this is all about sex, and evangelical prurience.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 6 January 2013 at 3:31pm GMT

All those who think the announcement has been 'slipped out' ought to subscribe to TA. We knew about it more than a week ago.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 6 January 2013 at 3:35pm GMT

I often wondered what ever happened to those guys who wrote the Monty Python stuff. Obviously, some of them went on to have careers as policy writers for the church.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 6 January 2013 at 5:58pm GMT

Could there not be a discussion about what Scripture actually says about homosexuality and what it does not? These people talk as if it's clear that "Scripture condemns homosexuality." It most certainly does not, not in any way we can accept.

Leviticus can only be accepted if we stone adulterers, people who work on the Sabbath, people who misuse incense, and people who eat shellfish... Would that we heeded Leviticus on removing the debts of the poor every 7 years. Sodom was about justice.

In Greek, those supposed NT references to homosexuality do not stand up. Many scholars believe they refer to things like temple prostitution. They most certainly do not refer to loving same sex relationships, anymore than adultery refers to loving heterosexual relationships.

Why doesn't anyone in the field of journalism challenge the supposed "common knowledge?" It is way past time to expose the bigotry for what it is, ignorance. It is creating God in our bigoted image rather than seeing the image of God in all people.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 1:09am GMT


'Leviticus can only be accepted if we stone adulterers'. You confound the guilt of a prohibited behaviour with the penalty. It's clear from Christ that the guilt of adultery was actually extended to include the exercise of sexual desires outside of the boundaries of marriage (Matt. 5:28). If the guilt of adultery could remain a sin in the NT ('Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more'), why not other Levitical sexual prohibitions, especially those denounced by the apostles?

You also limit the NT homosexual proscriptions to temple prostitution, when there is no indication of this qualification. In fact, in Romans, Paul refers to the universal outworking of divine retribution as the basis for a universal need for salvation, for both Jews and gentiles: 'The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness' (Romans 1:18).

Paul charts the universal moral decline of all human society as the outworking of the active principle of divine judgement. Men and women continue to be handed over to their rejection of the divine order revealed through nature. They ultimately love self-government: to do as they please. Paul identifies the final symptoms of that rejection. This is the outworking of divine wrath: patent disregard for functioning under divine order. Reprobation has a greater impact than just temple prostitution.

If anything, Paul is clear that it is not just part of Gentile history. Any first-century Jewish convert to Christianity would know it was the history and experience of his own people. This is why Paul can challenge such a Jew in the next chapter: 'You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.' (Romans 2:1) Without Christ, we are all capable of anything.

So, Romans 1 shows the universal pattern of human moral decline that we all participate in, but from which Christ can recover us. However much we can claim to devote our human love towards those who love us, without Christ, we enshrine and justify the self-serving actualisation of our desires as more important to us than following God's revelation of divine order.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 11:03am GMT

@ cynthia "Could there not be a discussion about what Scripture actually says about homosexuality and what it does not? " Good question.

The NT writers know nothing about human sexual orientation in the contemporary sense. And, there is the further question about how much biblical exegesis alone can contribute to a discussion of contemporary ethical problems. Better to focus on the range of transcendent values found in a variety of Scriptural texts, both the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian renewed Covenant.

Example: The kingdom of God language is a metaphor for the ideal community. A range of values such as love, compassion, fidelity, peace, justice, are operative in the quest for an increasingly authentic community. It is our task to ground what we we know about the human condition in our time to a strata of transcendent values. Trying to establish a morality by mimicing a long past social context based on marginal texts simply guarantees that many among us will suffer from prejudice and ignorance.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 3:46pm GMT


But without disagreeing with your interpretation of Romans ("all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God"), your comment actually leads one to endorse Christian same-sex marriage, as calling on Christ's participation to help and assist us in our self-giving of one to the other, and to avoid the "self-serving actualization of our desires." Sauces, gooses, and ganders, so to speak.

Posted by: Paul Theerman on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 5:57pm GMT

Now that the Clobber Verses have been elevated to the rank of of Most Basic Essentials of the Christian Faith along with Belief in the Incarnation and the Resurrection, Institutional Christianity will die.
Demonization of same sexuality fails all the tests of evidence, experience, reason, and justice, and deserves to be thrown in the dust bin with slavery, the subjugation of women, and the Ptolemaic cosmos (all once defended by the churches as necessary for salvation).

The stone of homophobia that the builders should have rejected has now become the chief cornerstone of historic institutional Christianity. Upon this rock, the Church will wreck itself.

Christianity is now all about policing sex lives and trying to rationalize and impose legal regulation on that one area of life that not only resists rationality and law, but can turn around and conquer them. Charity, hospitality, social justice, generosity, trying to live life consistent with the concept of an all loving self-sacrificial God simply fall by the wayside.

A church that enshrines homophobia as a central tenet will end up marginalized in wilderness compounds along with the last true believers in racial supremacy or a flat earth. At that point, such a church will be dead to all but its most fanatical believers.

Such a church should die.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 6:08pm GMT

Thanks for addressing this. Rod, your methodology makes a lot of sense to me. Father David, your points are interesting, and I can see it in the big picture, but it hardly responds to loving same-sex couples. I really don't see that Paul is talking about that at all. I'm sure you've studied the Bible in Greek, as have I. It's a bit rusty right now and I'm too lazy to whip out my Greek Bible (OK, I'm recovering from surgery, not lazy). But one of the words in Paul actually does seem to refer to the practice of temple prostitution honoring a pagan God, it was part of a fertility rite. The other word was unclear. But given the lack of clarity, given that it hardly seems to refer to a loving SS couple, it is a real stretch to condemn and exclude people. We don't condemn and exclude people for most other sins (that aren't illegal). Of course, your final point was Paul's prohibition against judgement.

I don't have a problem in believing how corrupt we are. Until the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the sick cured, we obviously live in a fallen world. And we all participate. I would say that discriminating against and oppressing women and LGBT persons is part of the fallenness.

Because I'm in TEC, the evidence before my eyes is open, loving gay couples who exude the love of God and bring blessings to the church. Are often the first to work on outreach ministry to the poor and lend a hand to those in need. The Witness is too powerful to ignore. And too powerful to use strained translations and interpretations from the Bible to continue to oppress.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 6:37pm GMT

Re counerlight "Such a church should die." A church that dies to itself is actually pretty theology. Bravo.

Raising the Christian community to new life requires that Christian ethics be done in an ethical manner. Official voices articulating a Christian ethic have a responsibility to be aware of what is at stake. Promoting attitudes that are opressive, stigmatize, traffic in ignorance, and ignore the benefits that "memory reason and skill" produce in the humanities and social sciences is irresponsible. In giving shape to a Christian ethics, the Christian ethicist must behave in an ethical manner--do no harm.
As long as the church thinks it has nothing to learn from inter-disciplnary consultation, its theology will remain impoverished.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 6:41pm GMT

According to the actual text of Romans 1, Paul is condemning homosexuality resulting from idolatry. Paul says that the "wicked," although they knew God, did not honor or give thanks to God, and "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animal or reptiles." (vv. 21-23, NRSV).

"Therefore" ("Dio" in Greek), "God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity" (v. 24) because (again) they worshiped a creature rather than the Creator (v. 25).

Paul then continues with another causative phrase related to the previous discussion of idolatry. "For this reason" ("Dia touto" in Greek), "God gave them up to degrading passions," meaning at this point men and women having sexual relations with members of the same sex (vv. 26-27; I don't think the NRSV translation in quite accurate here but this is the gist of it).

Paul then continues in v. 28 with further comments about the results of people of failing to properly acknowledge God, i.e., people who worship idols rather God.

The context of the text is idolatry and Paul's condemnation of same-sex relations caused by idolatry in the first century Graeco-Roman world. Using this text to condemn people like Jeffrey John and Gene Robinson -- whom, as far I know, have never been accused of being idol worshippers -- seriously misuses what Paul actually said here.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 7:07pm GMT

No-one should expect the Pilling group to come up with anything progressive or even credible.

It is made up entirely of men. No women.

It is made up entirely of married people. No single people.

It is made up entirely of people aged over 45. No young people.

It is made up entirely of straight people. It contains no-one who is divorced, single, widowed, gay, bisexual, trans, young, childless or in any other way facing the sort of challenges which human sexuality poses to those who are not ageing happily married men. Joseph Pilling is 67 and has been married to the same person for 44 years; Michael Perham is 65 and married to the same person for 30 years; Keith Sinclair is 60 and married to the same person for 23 years; Jonathan Baker is 46 and married to the same person for 20 years; and John Stroyan is 57 and married to the same person for 22 years.

Before these members were even appointed, the House of Bishops has announced that they must work "in the context of the Church of England’s teaching on same sex relations as set out in the General Synod motion of November 1987” - the notorious Higton resolution, now over 25 years old and reactionary even for its own time - and that “It will also be consistent with the approach taken by the Anglican Communion in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998” - of non-blessed memory.

A group with this composition, and committed in advance to the Higton resolution and Lambeth 1.10, is not going to help the Church of England, let alone anyone else, with anything except the views and experience of those who already have the benefit of long and happy marriages, approved and celebrated by Church and State. And even then it will suffer from not having any women members and from its stiflingly conservative terms of reference.

Posted by: badman on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 7:39pm GMT

'your comment actually leads one to endorse Christian same-sex marriage'

If the scripture can continue to denounce adultery, why not other sexual prohibitions? Why should homosexual acts be the exception?

I find it strange that some liberals can claim, in one breath, that there are significant and relevant examples of subtly acknowledged homosexual orientation (David and Jonathan; Jesus and John). They claim that homosexual unions were embraced by the early church. In the next breath, they assume that NT writers who founded the same church knew 'nothing about human sexual orientation in the contemporary sense' and that this makes the prohibitions irrelevant.

Of course, we could also insist that they knew nothing of the widespread and complex reliance of our society on banking finance, high-risk borrowing and investment in the contemporary sense: a reliance that allows a privileged minority to plunge our economy into ruin and yet consider themselves 'too big to fail'. That doesn't stop our churchmen from censuring the banking community and the government for institutional bail-outs. They can happily recite clobber verses about covetousness and the love of money. Suddenly, the first-century text has immediate applicability to a contemporary issue.

The approach is selectively self-serving at best.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 8:55pm GMT

Re David Shepherd's comment, "Suddenly, the first-century text has immediate applicability to a contemporary issue." Nail on the head.

Contemporary controversies simply cannot be worked out with appeals by either party to the "immediate applicability of ancient texts". Genuine respect for anceint texts, regarded by many of us as sacred, means respecting both their insight and accepting their limitations. All texts have to be "mediated by meaning" to use an old Lonerganian expression.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 January 2013 at 11:10pm GMT


I think you have slightly misread the TOR that the HoB issued in their statement of July 1st last year.

Your penultimate paragraph suggests that the terms of the review of the Church of England's approach to sexuality in general (and in the light of the listening process) is constrained by the the context of the Church of England’s teaching on same sex relations as set out in the General Synod motion of November 1987” and that it will "be consistent with the approach taken by the Anglican Communion in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998”.

In fact, this paragraph relates to the Sodor and Man review of the 2005 guidance on Civil Partnerships - which has now already reported to the HoB and whose deliberations have resulted in a removal of the moratorium on the appointment of gay men in CPs to the episcopate.

The Pilling review itself is not constrained by quite such circular logic. It is charged to "draw together material from the listening process which has been undertaken within
the Church of England over the recent years in the light of the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution. The House wishes to offer proposals on how the continuing discussion within the Church of England about these matters might best be shaped in the light of the listening process. Our intention is to produce a further consultation document in 2013."

So I don't think we should give up hope that Pilling will produce a repeat of Higton at this stage. You may prove to be right. But it is not predetermined by the Terms of Reference of the Group.

Nevertheless, all your other points about membership stand! Time will tell as to whether the Pilling Group itself has taken the time and trouble to involve people who are not white, male, heterosexual and married in their deliberations. We will, perhaps, find that out when they report. What is certain, however, is that no one who does not fulfil those criteria will be involved in the writing of the report.

Posted by: Jeremy Pemberton on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 12:16am GMT

In the NT, Paul does not restrict the societal descent into idolatry to just graven images. At least, no more than Christ restricts adultery to the external act. He warns of: 'covetousness, which is idolatry' (Col.3:5) So, the decline into homosexual acts could equally affect a society (like ours) that has been overtaken by worldly greed. The cause is the elevation of our adulation of physicality beyond the bounds of divine order.

I'm surprised that you would restrict the depiction of any sin to its ancient overt externalised expression, especially when Christ challenges us to internal purity.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 6:25am GMT

Excellent points, Counterlight! Scapegoating seems to be the big trope for Christian fundamentalism.

Liberation theology starts from the experience of the marginalized and says they should not have to justify themselves to straight or straight-acting white males.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 7:30am GMT

Badman: "No-one should expect the Pilling group to come up with anything progressive or even credible.

It is made up entirely of men. No women.

It is made up entirely of married people. No single people.

It is made up entirely of people aged over 45. No young people."

Thank you for this very helpful comment, badman. I hadn't really been aware of the composition of the group, but it is really astonishing that anyone could think that, with the best will in the world, a group with such a narrow direct experience of the reality of human relationships between them should make recommendations that apply to people in very different situations.
As someone who was divorced after a very difficult first marriage and is now remarried (to a wonderful man) , I have long felt that no one ought to be allowed to offer opinions on marriage who hasn't been through a ghastly one! If all I had to go on was my second, very happy marriage, I wouldn't have a clue about the despair, misery and sheer gruelling hardship in an unhappy one, and my experience in those dark times was that advice from the happily married was very often trite and useless. They meant well, but they had no idea of the reality of my life, and probably couldn't have done unless they had been through something similar. Their advice was all too often trite and useless, like someone trying to treat a broken leg with aspirin.
That is surely even more the case for straight people trying to consider what life might look like if you are gay - how do I know what it is like unless I am prepared to listen to (and believe)what gay people tell me. While an individual is always likely to be restricted in their perspective by their own experience, a group can at least cover some more bases, and it is a great shame (and very puzzling) that this seems not to have happened in this case.

Posted by: Anne on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 8:33am GMT

"If the scripture can continue to denounce adultery, why not other sexual prohibitions? Why should homosexual acts be the exception?"

I note that adultery is specifically prohibited (all by itself) in one of the Ten Commandments. The Levitical verse is something of a government regulation--"here is how a violation of this commandment shall be punished."

There is no similar prohibition of same-sex activity in the Ten Commandments...only the Levitical "regulation". This leads me to believe that it represents an addition by man to god's commandments.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 11:33am GMT

David, the text of Romans says what it says. It expressly deals with worship of created things, not God. You don't offer any other interpretations. In other contexts, like the example you note, idolatry can mean other things. But that isn't what Paul was talking about in Romans.

Actually, my theology doesn't accord with your last statement and I'm surprised and disappointed that you would say things like that.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 6:08pm GMT

Your interpretation limits the guilt to Gentile idolaters. The reason that Paul can in Romans 2 indict the Jews who condemns converts from overt idolatry is because it is hypocritical: they have succumbed to the same temptation in a less overt way: 'And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?' (Rom. 2:3)

How would a Jew be considered by Paul to do the same things as those in Romans 1? Were they temple prostitutes too? Or was the same principle at work in the Jewish variant of that idolatrous ethos?

Well, Paul probes them rhetorically: 'Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege*?' (Rom. 2:22) *hierosyleis - rob temples, which involves covetous misappropriation.

Your narrow interpretation fails to encompass this.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 10:57pm GMT


Thank you for responding. But I am confused by your response. I am glad that scripture condemns adultery, because adultery is wrong! But the judgment that it is wrong is not simply because it is condemned in scripture. For example, I would not necessarily uphold its wrongness on the basis of the 10 commandments, as some commentators point to that prohibition as against one man poaching another man's property. Not supportable today, in any way.

What does support an ethical rule against adultery is the rich and repeated language that compares the love of God towards his people to a faithful marriage. Clearly God favors faithfulness and trust in relationships, and marriage as a sign of that mututal faith, and adultery is utterly incompatible with that.

Scripture is not an ethical rule book; it is a path to God and to discerning God's will in the world. (Emphasis on discerning.)

Posted by: Paul Theerman on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 at 11:57pm GMT

The text in Romans 1:21-28 discusses persons who worship created things rather than God and makes no limitation to Gentiles or to temple prostitutes. Other Biblical verses may, with various degrees of sucess, be used to interpret those verses of course. But the ignoring the actual text seems to make those interpretations problematic.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 12:44am GMT


Really? What you've said, could be said of incest.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 7:58am GMT

Dr. Primrose:
I haven't ignored the actual text. Paul is clear that the concomitant sexual behaviour (described in your words: 'God gave them up to degrading passions," meaning at this point men and women having sexual relations with members of the same sex (vv. 26-27)') is a judgement of reprobation from God. Paul claims the process is a universal and active principle: 'against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men'. The Jews are equally guilty.

So, what you haven't explained is how same-sex activity becomes morally neutral, instead of the demonstrable result of reprobation described in Romans 1, only because our society differs from the guilt of Greco-Roman Gentiles by embracing a less overt variant of idolatry, known as covetousness. If the Jews aren't exonerated in Romans 2, neither are we.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 8:46am GMT

Re Romans 1:26-28 etc. Let's note first of all that post Shoah Christians cannot take Paul at face value here, as the last word, that this text presents Christians with a host of intellectual challenges of which sexual morality is the least of our worries.

But let me ask this question. Who is the “they/them”, who is the “autous” Paul is referring to when he writes “ God gave 'them' up to degrading passions...”? Are “they/them”, for example, faithful contemporary Christians who love God, who have embraced the Gospel, who are “in Christ Jesus ”, and who as GLBT persons, enter into a caring and faithful sexually expressive covenant relationship? I think not.Approaching this text from the perspective of an old fashioned “revealed morality” embedded in verses is largely irrelevant in terms of finding viable credible ethical solutions to current issues.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 2:48pm GMT

Hi Rod,

Let's leave the holocaust out of this. All Paul concludes is that, without Christ, both Jews and Gentiles are no better than each other before God: 'What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;' (Rom. 3:9)

In your second paragraph, you assert, via a rhetorical question, a congruence between the revealed New Testament apostolic gospel and homosexual expression, when that is the very premise under examination. Are they congruent? It is a logical fallacy called 'begging the question': petitio principii.

You simply present the two in one sentence as a congruous 'fact', only to discard the relevance of the only test of that congruence: the scripture itself.

Please, no more logical fallacies. I'm happy to leave it there.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 9 January 2013 at 4:01pm GMT

Hi David.

You avoided answering my question. Who are the “they/them” Paul is describing in Romans 1:26-28? Paul is describing ancient pagans out side the church in the ancient world and behavioral phenomena. Paul could not have anticipated a church in the modern world dealing with complex issues of sexuality as we now understand them, nor could he have understood human sexuality in the manner in which it has come to be understood in the multidisciplinary age of our time.

Salvation and the Jewish-Gentile question are the major themes of Romans. Just as post Shoah Christians can no longer read the major thesis of Romans the way Paul's initial audience read it, likewise we can't make simple correspondences between Pauline contextual exhortation and a modern comprehensive view of sexual ethics.

The Scripture is indeed not the only criterion. Historical developments and a responsibility to new knowledge play equally dynamic roles.I'm not begging the question, I'm broadening it. One looks to short hand in order to post.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 10 January 2013 at 1:00am GMT
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