Saturday, 17 May 2014

homophobic bullying in church schools: more coverage

Updated Sunday afternoon

See the original article on the publication of the report last Monday here.

The Church Times reported on this twice, first on Monday with Welby launches anti-homophobia schools guide and then in the paper edition on Friday with Church schools urged to stamp out anti-gay bullying.

And there is a leader comment (scroll down to second section)

Beware of bullies

THE new church guidelines about homophobic bullying are to be commended, as much for their existence as their content. After years of clumsy official statements (e.g. Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998), it is good to read: “Pupils may justify homophobic bullying because: they think that homosexual people should be bullied because they believe homosexual people are ‘wrong’; they do not think that there is anything wrong in bullying someone because of their sexual orientation; they do not realise that it is bullying. . .” The authors, throughout, seek to separate bullying from the ex­­pression by Christians of a neg­ative view. Bullying is defined tightly: insen­si­tive use of language, direct abuse, and physical harm. But if the definition were widened to in­­clude discrim­inatory be­­haviour, persistent condemnation, and the scape­goating of gay marriage for “under­mining” Christian marriage (unmarried cohabitation, divorce, and serial marriage being a few elephants in this room), surely the Church would find itself in detention. We would not pick out one group of children to hector persist­ently about a sensitive area of life. Why treat adults in this way?

This leader is discussed further by Colin Coward in Church Times nails the challenge to homophobia in the Church.

LGCM welcomed the report with this press release: LGCM warmly welcomes the Cof E guidance to combat homophobic bullying. The last paragraph reads:

This is certainly a step in the right direction but as the document states itself in a quote from a teacher in a CofE school:
‘Whilst welcoming this initiative, the CofE’s own institutional homophobia and the theological/moral confusion behind it is a big problem!’ [report page 26]

John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph Welby tells Church schools to teach respect for gay and lesbian relationships

The Pink News interview is covered in yesterday’s article.

Today, Deborah Orr has written at Cif that The Church of England is homophobic, despite Justin Welby’s trendy-vicar act

…Presumably, he thinks “homophobia” is being personally rude and aggressive to gay people because they are gay, but that asking them to kindly observe the “heterosexuals only” sign is fine, as long as one is polite about it. He is wrong. He and his church discriminate against people because of their sexuality, so the Anglican church is homophobic. Since it’s an established part of the state, the state is homophobic. In part. It’s all a bit of a curate’s egg.

The idea we’re all supposed to accept is that the Church of England is an innocuous purveyor of spiritual pomp and circumstance, unifying state, crown and church with tradition, ceremony, and most importantly, great outfits, accessories and interiors. Otherwise, all the prelates are off helping their communities as well as they can, marking life and death’s big occasions, organising fetes and occasionally mentioning to the government that poverty is miserable. Quite where fighting against the development of a secular morality that seeks to protect the rights of all responsible citizens fits into this is hard to say.

Of course, the Church of England would probably be happy to go with the UK flow, self-preservation having always been its primary concern, were it not for the fact that it wants to preserve its worldwide communion just as much as it wants to preserve its 26 undemocratic places in the House of Lords.

Can it really be right that we have to accept a homophobic established church trying to vote down progressive legislation just because that might upset its really homophobic members overseas? The rest of us have had to come to terms with the fact that the days of empire are over, and also that they might, just might, not have been all they were cracked up to be. Why the Anglican church believes it can and should defy that logic is a mystery that surely can’t endure much longer.

Update

The BBC Sunday programme carried a discussion about the report, featuring The Revd Jan Ainsworth and Bishop Alan Wilson. The item starts at 35 minutes, 45 seconds into the programme. This is worth a listen.

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Comments

Not all bullying is homophobic, but all homophobia is bullying. QED, Justin.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 18 May 2014 at 4:48am BST

I thought the interview with Bishop Alan Wilson and the Revd. Jan Ainsworth worth listening to - as were the other items on the BBC programme.

However, most notable is the distinction drawn - by both the BBC interviews and Deborah Orr's article - between what the Archbishop Justin Welby has said about the presence of homophobia in Church schools (which, presumably, he finds abhorrent) and the extant culture of the Church of England which seems to militate against the Blessing of monogamous same-sex partnerships.

Is this just another incidence of the classical "Anglican Fudge"?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 19 May 2014 at 2:11am BST

A teacher speaks: "The worse bullying in schools is actually between teachers.Some of the worse bullies I have met were head teachers"

Homophobia is still present in schools, but less so then when I was a pupil. Many heterosexuals are the butt of homophobia, as it is still used to belittle people.

Whilst I do not agree with name calling, I do not agree that children should be told that a boy or girl of thirteen who experiences same sex attraction is gay. I find many in the gay lobby simplistic and bigoted on this.

Posted by: Robert ian Willaims on Monday, 19 May 2014 at 6:54am BST

"Many heterosexuals are the butt of homophobia, *** as it is still used to belittle people.

Whilst I do not agree with name calling, I do not agree that children should be told that a boy or girl of thirteen who experiences same sex attraction is gay. I find many in the gay lobby simplistic and bigoted on this."

*** Hello Robert! The asterisked clause shows that there is great complexity in the bullying. And I'm sure that no LGBT people, children or grown ups, feel comforted because heterosexual kids are bullied with anti-gay epithets!!!!

I don't believe the "gay lobby" is being simplistic. I think that you and many other heterosexists are only start to wrap your minds around the problem, and some of YOU have not perceived the complexity! We are keenly aware that using anti-my-personal-being statements against others is a very deep and painful problem. It will be a fine day when a boy is called a "fag" and he says "and your ridiculous and hateful point is...?"

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 19 May 2014 at 5:04pm BST

"I find many in the gay lobby simplistic and bigoted on this."

I find those who deem LGBTs seeking their God-given (AND civil) equality a "gay lobby" to be . . . well, y'know.

RIW, do you seriously believe that a gay identity arises because someone is TOLD (with whatever intent) that they're gay? That a youth in 21st century UK or USA (etc) falling in love w/ another youth of their same sex will have NO idea what this means, unless someone imposes a "you're gay!" on them? Can you really be that naive?

[NB: I'm not discounting a possible bisexual identity for such youth, BTW.]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 at 8:14am BST

I'd be surprised if anyone simply "told" any child that they were gay.
Rather, if a child of whatever age begins to realise they fancy other people, and if they have a crush on someone of the same sex, they need to be given all the information they need to put their own emotions in context.
For some, that will simply mean having a crush on someone of the same sex, for others it will be the first awareness of their own homosexuality.

The other thing proper sex education and a firm anti bullying policy does is to provide straight kids with the tools they need not to to judge and condemn their classmates who might be different.
And, finally, it helps those who might be bullied because their parents are gay.

Our own secondary school has just signed up to the Stonewall anti bullying initiative. It's a great school in which young people have felt able to be openly out as lgbt, have long term same sex relationships or follow a same sex crush and then revert to a heterosexual relationship.
And those who live in same sex families don't feel the need to try and pretend otherwise.

That's what it's about.
But it only works if the message is genuinely welcoming and inclusive, not if it's just "we won't bully you but that doesn't make you or your parents right".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 at 9:54am BST

"The authors, throughout, seek to separate bullying from the ex­­pression by Christians of a neg­ative view."

This is essential for the debate within a school (just as it is within the church) if we want children to grow up to be well reasoning adults (or 'Thinking Anglicans'). When simply speaking against or taking a contrary view is immediately decried as distressing, offensive, hostile and therefore, in this case, homophobic bullying there can be no discussion or learning because one point of view cannot even be stated.

As Christians we are facing into a day where we as a group will face 'Christophobia' on a daily basis, particularly if we hold to orthodoxy (the virgin birth, the resurrection, existence of heaven or hell, life everlasting, the Holy Spirit, etc.) . We should, with this in mind, set the example by treating others as we wish to be treated even though our views or beliefs are not acceptable. For this reason the 10 points are well constructed considering how the church yet considers sex outside marriage (and that limited to one man and one woman) contrary to God's will for His people.

Posted by: Andrew F Pierce on Tuesday, 20 May 2014 at 11:43am BST

JCF

Adolesence is a very painful and confusing time. Many people experience a crush on some one of their own sex, but that doesn't mean they are homosexual. Hence my concern about stereotyping and simplistic " diagnosis."

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 at 10:21am BST

"As Christians we are facing into a day where we as a group will face 'Christophobia' on a daily basis"

Oh get over yourself. The only people who seriously believe that Christians are "persecuted" in the UK are the likes of the Christian Institute, who are desperate to circle the wagons and create an illusion of oppression. The only response you'll get to this argument is uproarious laughter.

"We should, with this in mind, set the example by treating others as we wish to be treated"

Ah, Christianity, where the only reason to behave decently is in order to protect your own position? Wouldn't it be ethically sounder to behave decently because it's, well, decent, and not simply out of self-interest? Your argument appears to be that while Christianity is in the ascendent, violent homophobia is OK, but now the balance of power is shifting slightly you should stop it, just in case?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 at 12:18pm BST

"Hence my concern about stereotyping and simplistic " diagnosis.""

Robert, stop your concern, rest easy, there is no need for it. Sexuality is a spectrum and young people will find what works for them, they will find who God created them to be and the loving partner that makes their lives whole. They are not going to "choose" because of a bully or a "gay lobby" (Good Lord!!!).

There was an amusing comedy show in the US where everyone who "converted" a person to the "gay lifestyle" (an insanely stupid phrase) got a toaster. It was hysterically funny, because it's so far from the truth, and yet not so far from the perception of some very out-of-touch people.

It's OK to be out-of-touch. It isn't OK to be out-of-touch and insist on using the out-of-touch point of view as policy that actually impacts real people.

CoE is way out-of-touch. The cognitive dissonance between the leaderships homophobic policies and what they say about LGBT bullying won't go unnoticed by sharp young minds. But at least it's a start in protecting children, and I applaud it as a start. Which makes this the only time on TA in which I've expressed one of the more moderate views.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 at 6:22pm BST

"Many people experience a crush on some one of their own sex, but that doesn't mean they are homosexual."

True. They could be bisexual, or ---via intimate trial&error--- even discover they're straight.

"Hence my concern about stereotyping and simplistic 'diagnosis.'"

My concern is every bit as serious (or moreso) that these same-sex "crush"-experiencing youth are being pressured to state that they're NOT gay/bisexual.

That's the difference between us, RIW: I think that, whatever the ID of sexual orientation (gay, bi, straight), it's MORALLY NEUTRAL/EQUALLY HEALTHY/EQUALLY GOD'S GOOD "ORDER". You, following Ratzinger et al, find a gay or bisexual identity "disordered". And (TBH) I don't want you imposing this prejudicial "diagnosis" on vulnerable (to prejudice!) youth.

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 1:27am BST

Cynthia, Sexuality is a gift from God, and he sets the standard. Original sin has distorted sexuality and its all the more important to listen to God. otherwise we do so at our peril.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 7:20am BST

But no-one is asking anyone to state anything about their sexuality. Where is that idea coming from?
The point is simply that schools should ensure that children are not bullied, either on the basis of their assumed sexuality or their stated one.

A decent anti bullying policy will extend to teachers not being bullied for being gay or suspected of being gay.
And it will protect children who live in same sex families.

None of this should be remotely contentious.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 8:58am BST

Dear Robert. So out of touch with the real world. Celibacy may also be a gift from God, but not many choose to receive it. And here is where the rubber hits the road,at what point does one decide which gift God has bestowed on one, personally? And what if that gift is to be intrinsically Gay? Does that make God's gift invalid, do you think? Inconvenient, maybe. But definitely not invalid. Unlike celibacy, to be hetero or homosexual is not a choice.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 12:27pm BST

Ron you always erect straw men and misrepresent what I am saying. In Roman Catholic theology if a person has predominately homosexual orientation, then they must remain chaste. Homosexuality is not seen as a gift, it is a cross to bear like being born blind. However if individuals triumph over this adversity, they will be rewarded richly, in this world and the world to come. Many Anglicans would also identify with this theology as well.

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 7:08pm BST

Mr Williams, there was no original sin. History shows no original state of perfection, followed by a Fall. It shows a long development of awareness, manipulative skill, and language in our specie of animal. We are what we are, building on what we have been. When you call on us to listen to God, it seems to mean, listen to you channeling your idea of God. I think listening to Erika Baker has exactly the same import -- she, too, speaks from a tradition and meditations upon it. All communications from God have come from human beings, interpreting their experiences. Any quotation marks are spurious. I think it was Francis Bacon who implored us to study the works of God as well as the words of God -- the works can be agreed upon (science); the words, never.

Posted by: Murdoch on Thursday, 22 May 2014 at 7:25pm BST

"Cynthia, Sexuality is a gift from God, and he sets the standard. Original sin has distorted sexuality and its all the more important to listen to God. otherwise we do so at our peril."

Yes, Robert, it is a gift. My partner is an incredible gift to me. God was generous and loving in putting us together and sustaining us for 23 years. God set for us a standard of loving and supporting one another, which helps us in our ministries.

I can't imagine why anyone would think that they can speak for God against LGBT people when the evidence of God's abundant blessing is so obvious.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 2:03am BST

I see that Mr Williams can claim not to be personally channeling the voice of God, but echoing his tradition's doing the same. However far you go back, it's still human beings deciding what their God would say. Probably based on conventional wisdom of the time, which may not be wisdom in our day.

I was taught Mr William's theology -- that homosexuality is a cross to bear and a temptation to be resisted. This led to forty years or more of guilt, shame, repeated repentance. Yes, you get the satisfaction of pastors and authorities assuring you that you're doing the right thing -- but you're left alone, smothering yourself and the talents you might use in the community. (And any rich rewards in the world to come are theoretical, the same pablum offered the poor in lieu of relief from poverty.)

The night I discovered that I wasn't resisting sex but refusing opportunities to love, my life flipped from negative to positive. Temptations became opportunities; my desires had constructive outlets. I found I could live rather than repress. Thank God fewer and fewer Anglicans are identifying with a theology of sin and repression. I hope Mr William's chosen tradition will recognize the real world of sexuality soon. Its witness has been severely warped by sex-negative teaching for far too long. (Repressions tend to be expressed, but in destructive ways.)

Posted by: Murdoch on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:31am BST

And this, Robert, is why Catholic theology continues to fail through its arrogance.

I'm sorry. I know you are not a purposefully cruel person, nor are you able to understand the position from which we are taking you to task, but there it is. You are simply wrong, because the theology is wrong. The theology you present sounds far too much like what men want God to think. If God sets the standard, then it involves being alone and self-created. If you are speaking of Bible stories, those were written by men out of their memories of various oral traditions. Paul of Tarsus? Just a man. Quite liable to err in his judgment. I would also say that you are setting up a straw-man - sexuality is sexuality. Either you are saying sex is a gift, or you are saying it is a burden. A gift with requirements is no gift, but a burden laid on someone unwillingly. If that's the case, you've made the argument that God is unjust.

You may argue the same, so I see absolutely no point in continued engagement in this. You refuse to change your belief, we cannot change our reality. Fortunately, we also are not bound by the Roman Catholic church, nor are you bound by any of ours. This is a subject on which there can be no harmony, so it is mutually destructive to keep re-visiting the argument.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 5:31am BST

Murdoch,
"The night I discovered that I wasn't resisting sex but refusing opportunities to love,"

a brilliant comment and a fantastic sentence, thank you!

Mark,
I've never found it particularly helpful to argue with Roman Catholics on the internet. Unlike people you meet in real life, very few dare have their own thoughts, most defer uncritically to the Magisterium as their faith requires. That also means that they will be required to change their minds if the Magisterium ever changes its own views of the matter.
The moment a Catholic pronounces about sex from on high you might as well save your breath.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 8:33am BST

Interested Observer -- "Your argument appears to be that while Christianity is in the ascendent, violent homophobia is OK ..." What in my comment led you to this conclusion?

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 11:24am BST

MarkBrunson -- I hope you don't mind my commenting on your conversation with Robert ...

In my experience every 'gift' comes with a cost. The first burden is deciding whether or not to accept it and from there it becomes a matter of what other things we forgo to enjoy it.

On the theological points you raise: when we can no longer accept the testimony of scripture we are left with nothing but individual opinion and that is no theology at all because no one can be wrong or right. Also, if God's standard is 'alone and self-created' then he is essentially no god at all and he is useless to us. I'm sorry if my thoughts are intruding where I am not welcome.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 11:39am BST

"The first burden is deciding whether or not to accept it and from there it becomes a matter of what other things we forgo to enjoy it."

Indeed. This particular gift comes from God and what we have to forgo to enjoy it is the approval of an ignorant church. That is a burden, it is true, and one we're hoping to change.

But the alternative would be to throw God's gift of love and companionship back into his face. Now that would be truly unthinkable. Because God matters more than the church does.


As for no longer accepting the testimony of scripture - maybe you should do some reading.It's not as simple as claiming that there is an obvious scriptural position vs purely personal opinion. That's by now quite a disrespectful view considering the very serious pro-gay theology there is.
You could start here: http://bishopalan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/resources-for-your-very-own-pilling.html

And add Tobias Haller's Reasonable and Holy to that collection.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 1:19pm BST

Cynthia -- your point "I can't imagine why anyone would think that they can speak for God against LGBT people when the evidence of God's abundant blessing is so obvious." is really hard to address because it is is so personal, but I think it does deserve comment ...

We are bombarded with conflicting messages from people who say they are speaking for God--both for and against LGBT people. Generally they couch their position as 'being prayerfully led by the Spirit'. The 'dissonance between what the Spirit says to one person and then to another makes it clear the Spirit is a really confused person ... or we are somehow really confused. Our Atheist friends love to abuse us with this.

Surely we have every reason to accept and affirm both Christ and the testimony of scripture that reveals Him to us. We also have every reason to believe that we are called to use whatever gift we have been given to share the gospel. We must also trust people will respond to that gospel no matter how imperfect the vessel(and in this case I refer specifically to myself). No one need know my personal struggles, my weaknesses, my personal insecurities and pain but, if any of these become public knowledge, although the revelation may change opinions of me it does not change the gospel. For me then to think that in blessing his gospel that God is somehow affirming me as his vessel, that, I believe, is a mistake ...

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 2:03pm BST

Andrew, it really depends on your theology. Some are expressing gayness as "a cross to bear." I challenge that theology. I essentially challenge it on the basis that a. God's Creation is Good, b. that that goodness includes all of God's children (LGBT, male/female, all races, etc.), c. that I recognize no human being as capable of excluding me, et al., from the love of God, d. that Jesus' harshest words were for the establishment for using the Law to exclude people (And there's the OT as well, Woe to those who make unjust laws and oppress the people, etc.), e. Jesus says "love your neighbor" and I believe he meant ALL our neighbors.

I know that Rome built up a whole theology of original sin as well as a piety that seems to involve ticking personal boxes to avoid sin, rather than looking at sin as oppressing others, personally and corporately… But I don't buy it. I do not buy that Rome's theological constructs come from anyone but Rome and for Rome. God gave us eyes to see, and the result of injustice, oppression, and exclusion is the disgrace.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 3:27pm BST

Erika -- "That's by now quite a disrespectful view considering the very serious pro-gay theology there is."

I have had a look at the report. I don't see how the view I expressed is disrespectful to anyone in light of it. Is it disrespectful merely to hold a differing view? Is it disrespectful to challenge someone about a view they hold--to ask them to justify it? I'm afraid you will need to be more specific about this if I am to consider my position. I think being challenged--if we're willing to consider compelling arguments--helps us either affirm, adapt or recant on a position. What I read in the report, by the way, is that an argument is not compelling just because of numbers for or against it, just due to the passage of time or because of a powerful desire for it to be compelling ...

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 4:20pm BST

Cynthia, I appreciate your challenges and I agree with them to a point. I agree God saw his creation and pronounced it very good but I also see how that good thing allowed itself, even chose to be corrupted. For this reason I cannot even see myself as good except through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. The goodness, conferred by grace through faith, does not make all my thoughts and actions good or pure but does at least grant me forgiveness (in which I rest fully even though I sin constantly 'in thought and word and deed') (I might be a little harsh on myself here, at least in quantitative terms of sin). I agree that no human can exclude you or me but I accept that I may--and it is my choice--exclude myself. I agree the law can be used to abuse but it can also be used to fairly rebuke and to encourage. I also agree I am charged to love ALL my neighbours and that oppression--should I define it as abuse--is a sin. The question is, is this my personal 'theology' or is this the Word of God (and is there a difference)?.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 5:01pm BST

Andrew,
it is not disrespectful to have a different view.
But it is disrespectful to suggest that people who have a different view are ignoring scripture and just follow their personal opinion.
That is how I read your sentence "when we can no longer accept the testimony of scripture we are left with nothing but individual opinion".

We do accept the testimony of scripture. We just interpret that testimony differently and come to a different conclusion.

That is legitimate and there is enough good theology to support alternative readings.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 7:43pm BST

Only this month the Catholic Church canonised a Pope who wrote the most beautiful explanation of human sexuality. His theology of the body is well worth looking at and studying.

Posted by: robert ian Williams on Friday, 23 May 2014 at 9:04pm BST

"Is it disrespectful merely to hold a differing view?"

Yes!!! Of course. For you it is a "view." For us, it is our being. And discriminatory policies and actions are attacks on our very being and our well being. For conservative straights, it's losing an argument, which is not the same thing as losing jobs, suffering depression, and being bullied (leading to horrific rates of LGBT teen suicide).

When you look at the fruits of your "view," versus the fruits of actually treating all people as God's Children, it becomes much clearer. Teen suicide? Depression? Economic hardship from lost jobs? Hate crimes? Those are the fruits of your "view." People deny it. But the church, and society, have been dreadfully misogynistic, racist, anti-semitic, etc. It really ought to cause anyone to question whether the scapegoat du jour really stands up theologically.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 12:02am BST

"The question is, is this my personal 'theology' or is this the Word of God (and is there a difference)?."

To this I point you to what Erika says. It is offensive to imply that the view of justice and acceptance is "personal theology" and not supported by Scripture. There is plenty of liberating Scripture, that's why it's called The Good News. There are plenty of excellent theological writings in support of the liberating view. And the liberating view supports my experience of God.

It is indeed offensive. I get, Andrew, that your personal piety is completely wrapped up in the Roman expression. Fine. It becomes offensive when it is used to define my relationship to God and used to undermine our human rights, inclusion in the church, and general well being, and that is precisely what those arguments do.

I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church of my father, I'm now in the Anglican Church of my mother, and there's a strong dollop of Celtic Christian thinking from her side as well. The Roman view of God and all that original sin stuff is an interesting anthropological study as a philosophy powered by empire. I don't buy it. While I don't mind if some people believe it and live their lives within that framework, I balk when it is forced on others. That is oppression and I don't see it as consistent with the life and teachings of the loving Christ.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 1:06pm BST

Erika, I appreciate your pressing me on this. To better explain myself let me put it this way. On this issue there are two polemical readings (or interpretations) of scripture. While it is possible both can be wrong it is not possible for both to be right. What is important is to 'rightly divide that word'. I have a sincere interest in understanding it correctly. For example, are we are saved by grace, are we are saved by works or both. I don't care which answer is right but I do care to live within the right answer. If I have heretofore lived by the idea of works but someone is preaching grace do I change my belief because grace makes my life easier? The same stands for the issue of baptism, for the issue of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts and sexuality. My point is that if I reject an interpretation simply because it doesn't fit the facts of my existence then scripture is replaced with my opinion. On a similar note I have asked atheists 'Would you become a Christian if I could prove to you it is true?' I do this to understand them as a person. If they say 'No!' I know they are not interested in truth but just in pleasing themselves. If they say "Yes!" then their soul is worth the argument no matter how difficult they make it for me. My experience on this question is that middle is willing to go either way while those occupying the two ends are like the atheist who says 'No!' even to the truth. Now we must ask why this is so.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 9:06pm BST

Cynthia, not to personalize this, but how do you know how much by 'being' is invested in my 'view' or vice versa? There may be more at stake for those holding the conservative view than you might think. Many of the 'conservative straights' I know have a much broader concern that simply losing an argument. There is also the point that many, rightly or wrongly, sincerely believe it is a matter of life and death as opposed to a simple misunderstanding of right and wrong ...

I don't understand your point on the 'Roman expression' ... are you saying the back trails of all traditional or orthodox views lead to Rome (as in Roman church) or is this alluding to the idea that all homosexual activity in Rome was abusive and that is the idea that has corrupted the thinking of the church or perhaps all of the above?

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Saturday, 24 May 2014 at 9:20pm BST

The question is to what extent religious doctrine contributes to the bullying of kids in school. An institution which is, at best, ambivalent about same-sex couples and their famiies is part of the problem. Welby has already failed as a moral authority. Fortunately, Parliament refused to cave in to the C of E and the Roman Church when it passed the marriage equality bill. It is an overall good for all families to be treated equally.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 1:05am BST

"There is also the point that many, rightly or wrongly, sincerely believe it is a matter of life and death as opposed to a simple misunderstanding of right and wrong …"

Yes, Andrew, it is a matter of life and death. LBGT people get killed for who they are. They get beaten and killed in places like the US, the UK, Uganda, etc. LGBT teen suicide is all too common. I know of only one death on the "conservative straight" side, the conservative French guy who committed suicide at Notre Dame. In the US states where there is legal equal marriage and churches doing Holy Matrimony for gay couples, no "conservative straight" has died. While I appreciate that you say "many, rightly or wrongly," but it has to be said that that belief seems delusion and the reverse of the truth of what is actually happening. How exactly is a "conservative straight" even impacted, other than perhaps having to be polite to actual gay couples?

"if I reject an interpretation simply because it doesn't fit the facts of my existence then scripture is replaced with my opinion."

Maybe it means that that there's a problem with your interpretation of Scripture. Have you tried multiple translations, studied the Greek, and read theologians who come to vastly different views of the very same texts? Even if you do all that, Paul says we can only know in part.

Your words here point a view that includes original sin, a Roman concept that is not universally accepted, though it did make its way into some Protestant strains:
"I cannot even see myself as good except through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." ... "We must also trust people will respond to that gospel no matter how imperfect the vessel (and in this case I refer specifically to myself)."

I'm not saying that human beings are perfect. I'm saying that we have a choice to listen to the better angels of our nature and that sin is not our default. Sadly, given so much liberating data in Scripture, I'm coming to the conclusion that the excluders are making a choice to interpret Scripture in a hurtful way. This has clearly happened in the case of slavery, anti-semitism, misogyny, burning witches, etc.

Most of all, I think of sin in a very corporate, OT, way. Sin is injustice, sin is not caring for the widows, the orphans the sick, and the poor. Sin is living a lifestyle of consumption that exploits and hurts others.

I wake up in the morning and make a ton of decisions in my work that are of little moral consequence. But I drive my Subaru, consuming fossil fuels that cause wars and are creating climate change that is disproportionately catastrophic for vulnerable populations.

Are we sinners? You bet we are! We are awful sinners. But not because of who we love, it's because of who we don't love enough.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 2:45am BST

Adrian,
"My point is that if I reject an interpretation simply because it doesn't fit the facts of my existence then scripture is replaced with my opinion."

Yes. I absolutely agree with the principle of this.
What I don't agree with is the traditional interpretation of the "facts".
And that's where I have to press you again to consider that there is no set of clear facts on one side of the debate vs. purely personal opinion on the other.
That is to miss the status of the theological argument.
I would like again to refer you to my link. It is not a link to the Pilling report itself but a link to a blog post from Bishop Alan Wilson who offers a list of books of sound pro-gay theology from a variety of angles.

Like he, I am often mystified by how little those who believe in a clear view of Scripture have actually read on this subject.
And so if you are genuinely interested in truth, or in the possibility of arriving at a "true" reading of Scripture, I would strongly recommend you engage with what these people have said before dismissing it as mere personal opinion.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 1:11pm BST

On the other hand, if we blindly accept scripture and do not question either the writers or their motives, what are we actually worshipping?

I've never bought the argument that, without the Bible, everything collapses. That makes the Bible God. It is like a report - this is how I experienced God. Does that make it a truth? Yes. Does that make it Truth? Not necessarily. I often wonder what modern Christians would've said of those who claimed the faith before a canon of Scripture was established: were they simply deluded, not real Christians, because all they had was stories and personal experience?

If God is not directly experienced, that, I believe, is the true hallmark of empty faith. If you want to talk about the responsibility of gifts . . . !

As for the responsibility of sexuality and gifts - it is only responsibility if it is a gift freely taken up. Sexuality is imposed. You're still left with a God who is neither loving nor just, if you try to argue the traditionalist line. Sorry.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Monday, 26 May 2014 at 5:21am BST

Erika,

I agree the argument is pointless, which was the meaning of my final remarks that continued engagement was pointless.

Indeed, having had so many years of contact with fellow Christians, I've come to believe the whole conversation, the entire subject, largely pointless and that the outcome is hopeless. Like the psalmist, I have come to the point that I say there are none who are good, no not one, and we are on the way out as a civilization and there is no hope for humanity. Even here, in Christianity, where we might transform ourselves then the world, we argue angels on pinheads and tell comforting stories of "acts of kindness" that mean nothing in the expanding darkness. We huddle against it, pretending that we are somehow winning. We might've made, at least, some repository of knowledge and light, but, we squandered it on arguing, and now it's too late.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Monday, 26 May 2014 at 5:32am BST

Well put, Erika.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 at 11:08pm BST

Erika, I did focus on the report ... now I will check out the books mentioned in the blog. Thanks, Andy

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 30 May 2014 at 3:44pm BST

Cynthia, I understand completely types of abuse heaped on people who are somehow 'different' and agree that any abuse meted out by a Christian is inappropriate but we'll have to get another opportunity to explore this I think.

On the "How exactly is a "conservative straight" even impacted, other than perhaps having to be polite to actual gay couples?" -- this is a very good question we again will have to work out in another thread ... Thanks for your thoughts.

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 30 May 2014 at 3:51pm BST

Mark, I've been working through "The Question of Canon: ..." by Michael Kruger. He is taking a good look at the points you make here. One of the mysteries we have to work out is how God is personal without his being subjective. I am perplexed how the Holy Spirit can tell one person (as we're on the topic on this thread) same-sex marriage is ok and another that it's wrong. That, by the nature of God, has to be impossible ... perhaps we can take it up on another thread. Andy

Posted by: Andrew F. Pierce on Friday, 30 May 2014 at 4:13pm BST
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