Saturday, 7 May 2016

Opinion - 7 May 2016

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons Religion News Service Fifty proven ways to revive mainline churches [and six common pitfalls to avoid]

Kelvin Holdsworth The Seven Actual Marks of Mission

Theo Hobson The Spectator The BBC should commission a Christian version of Woman’s Hour

Ian Paul Should we ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner’?
[in response to the article by Simon Butler linked to here last week]

David Ison ViaMedia Right or True – Discerning the Difference

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 11:00am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion

Kevin's comment about the huge attraction of a good music ministry seems so right to me.

I am essentially Carmelite and contemplative in my spirituality, so obviously it's not like I need music and noise in every church I go to.

However, I also have feelings and emotions that long to connect with my God in heartfelt ways, and I think that holds true for so many people.

We carry all kinds of burdens and emotions - many of which we don't even know are there - and the amazing thing about music is that it can bypass the controlling mind and go straight to the heart.

In opening our hearts and singing, we can engage with God emotionally and encounter God, in a way where God touches us, and can crack open our feelings, sometimes long locked up.

It's so important that leaders of music ministry are gifted. I don't mean musically brilliant (though that helps) but Spirit-sensitive and Spirit-led.

We had a music leader called Heidi Longworth and she was the most amazing music leader I have ever known. I'm convinced she drew scores of people to our church. She had the ability to 'listen' and not just perform.

Although my spiritual homelands are the vast and silent spaces of the contemplative realm, I also love heartfelt praise and worship, expressed in singing with others, and feeling the Spirit among us, the presence of God.

That makes going to Church something to look forward to. It can also be the means to encounter and touch and healing and change.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 11:21am BST

With reference to Ian Paul's "hate the sin" article, if the Bible is fallible (one example: Noah's Ark carried all the animal species in the world; another example: man-man sex is wrong) and to be read and understood in the context of its authors, rather than being imposed on people as an infallible document...

...then there can be a real problem with claiming to "love the sinner but hating the sin".

Because, at that point, what the person is doing is only loving *part* of who a person is. However, sexual orientation is integral to who a person is, and its hugely significant - it's them... the way they love and express devotion and commit and care for a partner of the same sex.

So, in short, the mantra Ian is writing about may be deeply problematical. It is re-writing who the person ought to be, and loving that person, shorn of an essential, precious and lovely part of who they are. A kind of lobotomy.

That is a sort of conditional love - because it has inbuilt non-acceptance of the whole of who that person actually is.

It is saying, "We know better how you ought to live, who you ought to have relationships with." In short it can be a kind of patronising love, on the patron's own terms, potentially making themselves feel better in the process, because, let's face it, calling gay sex sin in this day and age in the UK is kind of embarrassing and feels bad.

We're running the risk of judging others, if we 'hate' their perceived sin. What if it isn't sin? What if we're wrong? And besides, the real challenge isn't to be some kind of moral arbitrator, but to open our own hearts up to love and grace, and simply accept that this is how another human being exists, and is, and loves... and celebrate what's precious in their lives... and pray for their flourishing and journey with God.

We don't have to judge, or 'hate', at all. We do, however, need to let go to God, and open our hearts to love... so the "love the sinner" bit at least is worth something, though maybe we're the sinner more than them (who knows?), and maybe the sin in question isn't even sin at all, but precious, decent, wonderful, caring, sacrificial, devoted and lovely.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 12:29pm BST

Re: "love the sin, hate the sinner."

There simply is nothing sinful about committed gay relationships, especially when entered into covenant, as allowed by some churches. The Bible doesn't actually say so, depending on which translation or scholar one is referring to.

Whether or not Jesus "hated sin," is pretty irrelevant in the public realm. He certainly took issue with those who used judgement against others on the basis of "sin," perceived or real. Ian points this out really well, actually, but then goes off on different conclusion.

I find the phrase questionable in theology. It's lacking in love, as it lacks respect for LGBTQI people as also being created in the Image of God. It insists on a quasi colonial-spiritual right to judge others and use that judgement for the purposes of exclusion. It's harmful as it attacks the very being of LGBTQI people, which leads to many nasty by-products.

Jesus summarized the Law for us, "Love God" which I'm pretty sure means loving the Creation that He/She declared "good." And "love your neighbor as yourself."

So I would like to see the phrase "love the sin, hate the sinner" replaced with "howdy, neighbor!"

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 8:05pm BST

" One perspective on the history of the Church has been its journey into truth promised us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14-16), a journey which is not yet finished. Truth is not at root a set of propositions, but a Person; not found alone, but through encounter in time and space; not a closed system, but the living way along which we walk into a mystery."
- Dean of St. Pauls -

And it is, surely, this journey 'into all the truth' that is dismissed by those who think in terms of 'Sola Scriptura' - as though the Holy Spirit has nothing new to tell us about human gender and sexuality - amongst other things.

Gos has gone up with a merry noise, Alleluia! He has gone up with trumpet sound, Alleluia!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 10:22pm BST

Kelvin, as we say in North America, that's a home run!

Thank you for writing it!

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Saturday, 7 May 2016 at 11:59pm BST

The problem is, surely, with calling homosexuality sinful, rather than with the concept of hating sin but loving sinners.

Would anyone here have a problem with hating murder, rape, and other actions universally regarded as wrong? I don't. What I find unjustifiable is lumping loving relationships in with harmful, life-destroying acts.

Right now, the phrase is inextricably bound up with sexuality. Maybe it can be cut loose, but if so, it's gotta be used in other contexts, and by people who unequivocal affirm gay relationships.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 12:56am BST

Ian Paul's response to Simon Butler's excellent article is just not good enough.

My response to Ian Paul is to quote Dane Julian on the phenomenon of Sin and the Love of God"

"Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well. All manner of things shall be well!" This indicates God's response to the reality!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 1:45am BST

Suzannah 'if the Bible is fallible (one example: Noah's Ark carried all the animal species in the world).' The fallibility of the Bible is something you regularly assert. But Noah's Ark as an example of this? You have got me very curious.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 7:44am BST

Kelvin Holdsworth lists The Seven Actual Marks of Mission and already I've forgotten some of them. I do remember no. 3 - something to do with a sense of humour. So important on so many occasions in church. And no. 7 - ethos, ethos, ethos. Sounds a bit like Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi. But seriously, the characteristic spirit of a community should attract all and welcome all.

Posted by: Pam on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 8:05am BST

David, it never happened, so yeah!

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 4:23pm BST

David, the Noah narrative is a superb myth and archetype - it is truly profound - but along with the whole creation narrative and plenty of other narrative 'events' in the Pentateuch it is wholly improbable (not to mention it is scientifically illiterate at a systemic level on several fronts). It just didn't happen. It was wrong and incorrect if taken as fact for all time. Instead it needs to be read in its own context, as a product of its own community (who, ironically, probably took it mostly as campfire myth and dreaming themselves, rather than the factuality of modern inerrantists).

This thread is not really the place for me to expound in more detail, because of de-railing, but suffice to say (on the subject in hand): just because man-man sex is viewed as a sin by a community 2000 or 2500 years ago, does not make that an eternal and immutable truth for all people and all societies.

Since the Enlightenment, it has been pretty suggestive to honest truth-seekers, that the Bible has more integrity and authority if it is understood as the sincere expression of views reported within people's contexts (with all their limits). That has not subverted the profound truths of the biblical writers. But people are prone to ossify the bible and its modern-day teachings, as if it is set in stone for all time, like some automatic writing beamed down from heaven, a kind of celestial e-mail.

There is a reasonable case for asserting that God, in the process of history, has been showing that the Bible deserves to be read a different way... not in the very modern fundamentalist way of reaction to secular threat... but by seeing the bible claims unravel in the face of science... to a sufficient extent to see that as a precedent and principle. If Genesis is fallible (and at a narrative level apart from myth it is)... if God did *not* order the slaughter of the Canaanite children... if even the events of Exodus may in part be foundation myths...

... then maybe God is pointing out to us, that we need (in our time in history) to read the Bible more honestly and intelligently, recognising social and religious contexts, recognising limits of understanding, recognising that the narratives may be fallible, but that places even more emphasis on conscience, Spirit, personal moral responsibility, and (of course) opening up to the love and grace of God.

If Noah is a ludicrous factual car crash, if the slaughter of Canaanite children was not actually ordained by God but by victors who control their narrative, if maybe, even the Exodus narratives are creaky... then... why not assertions on man-man sex? Why should we be afraid of reading the Bible in its contexts and with its limits?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 5:24pm BST

David Runcorn, picture gathering two of every living thing, even the littlest living things that creep upon the earth (insects, bacteria,etc.). Now picture a ship that can contain them all. Wont fit. In fact we can't even count them all. New ones are coming up all the time. The ark is a metaphor, not a model boat with two wooden lions, two wooden oxen, etc. Yet we have folks in Kentucky who think the story is literally true and they're building a ark to prove it's possible.

Posted by: Tom Downs on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 5:28pm BST

Before we hate the sin, perhaps a better understanding of what sin is, would lead us in a more productive direction.

Sin is destructive. On one level, something that demonstrably hurts my neighbor - theft, assault, lying, unfaithfulness - could be characterized as sin.

Or (and?) we might characterize sin as something that separates us from God.

Committed, loving same-sex relationships are the opposite of these things: they harm no one, sometimes even inspire others by the richness of the relationship; and as I have personally witnessed, they can bring us closer to God through joy, gratitude, and through living life more fully.

We are, I think, called to a new understanding, and in that understanding there is no room or reason to brand same-sex relationships as inherently any better, or worse, that heterosexual relationships: both are capable of great love and growth, just as both are capable of the opposite. But to call one "sinful" and the other not, is pure nonsense.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 8:04pm BST

Re: "love the sin, hate the sinner."

Thank you to Cynthia and James Byron for their comments.

I find the phrase insufferably sanctimonious. Condescending as all get out: "I think you filthy homosexuals engage in deviant atrocious behavior, ...
But I love you anyway! Ain't I grand?"

It's never used for any other group of people. And, people with that attitude invariably target GLBT people.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Sunday, 8 May 2016 at 8:49pm BST

"Ethos, Ethos, Ethos" reminds me of nothing more than Mr. Blair's "Education, Education, Education" mantra. What a mess our politicians have made of that over the years. The latest Minister to be in charge of that Department - Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for U Turns in Education, continues the long tradition of political meddling. Isn't it about time that "here today, gone tomorrow" politicians (to quote Sir Robin Day) were simply to "butt out" - stop interfering and not only let "Kids Be Kids" (I think that's a trendy new way of describing what used to be called "Children") but also to allow "Teachers to Teach"!

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 5:47am BST

peterp 'It's never used for any other group of people'. Actually it is. It has been around as a pastoral phrase in some parts of the church for a very long time. But I agree that its inadequacy as a pastoral slogan is totally exposed by the present context of same-sex relationships and the church.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 7:13am BST

Susannah and others. Thank you. Yes Susannah it is all about the original context and also what kind of literature is being used - and for that reason I am more cautious about the language of 'fallible' or 'wrong' to describe it. Tom. Greetings. Relax - I do not take Noah's Ark literally. If some do in Kentucky fine - but they have not yet joined in TA threads to my knowledge. James. I think to simply say 'it did not happen' is to approach the text in the same way that literalists do - and so to make the same mistake.
Well this is all an aside- thank you for indulging me. All that we are saying about the OT here starts from prior convictions about what kind of text we believe it to be and therefore how to read it for meaning, if such is even possible. But if we were to continue I would want to explore our understanding of revelation and inspiration and therefore authority in relation to the Bible. I find the assertions of human fallibility and error here are so to the fore I am left why wondering how God finds space to join in - and how we late comers to the debate can be so sure our understanding is any clearer.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 9:14am BST

On TA which is generally supportive of LGBTI people and issues, I am surprised Kevin Holdsworth's emphasis on singing hasn't been criticised. For women who were forced to go through a male puberty, congregational singing in a service is a nightmare. Many, particularly those who transition young, can walk into church and nobody will know their history. That's important given the prevailing prejudice still, and vital if one day they wish to marry in church. But perhaps no more than 1 in 50 can maintain that if they have to sing. And in too many churches singing is parts of the service not just hymns which forces a choice of outing oneself or not participating in parts of the liturgy.

Mission is being inclusive and understanding what that means. Singing, particularly of any parts if the liturgy, is not inclusive and should NEVER be associated with mission.

Posted by: Trans woman on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 10:36am BST

I think the biggest problem w/ "Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin" is the "the": it suggests a link of specific "sinners" to specific "sins" ["I hate Joe the Banker's Greed. I hate Fat Franny's gluttony." (to leave the "same-sex = sin" argument aside)]

I'm fine w/ (per Jesus) hating Evil, but the problem w/ "hating sin", becomes this tendency to link sin w/ sinners (and strangely, these "sins I hate" NEVER turn out to be my own!)

Hate Evil, but LOVE EVERYONE. (Hating "sins" only to be done w/ a mirror!)

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 12:04pm BST

David Runcorn,
looked at it from a literal point of view, none of us can ever be sure that our understanding of God is correct.

But we're not approaching this as a scientific question. We're approaching all of Scripture with our minds, our hearts and our souls, seeking a closer relationship with God. And in that context, I believe it is possible to discern, not what is right or wrong for any individual, but what is allowed and can be encouraged in principle.

I would also strongly caution against our often voiced fear that we might get it wrong after all.
We're far too timid in our engagement with God at times.
He's not a stern judge in the sky trying at every corner to trip us up.
If we get it wrong - then we get it wrong. That's all there is. We'll either discover it for ourselves or future generations discover it and change their interpretation again.

One of the guiding principles of our interpretation should be love over rules, compassion over certainty.
And if our own instinct prompts us to forbid something that has no negative impact on anyone, we should apply our instinct to our own lives only and, as far the others are concerned, be prepared to err on the side of compassion.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 12:51pm BST

In my youth I was much taken with Gnosticism and personal gnosis. I have come to realise that I was trying to form God in my own image rather than accept I am made in His. I increasingly trust the Bible as a gift from God, given in infinite good faith. Fallibility is hard to reconcile with such a gift. Do I think God would try to mislead me? No.

As others have said, the issue for same sex relationships isn't about the meme of hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner. It is that some Christians think all gay sex is a sin. Others say the Bible is fallible and we should ignore the teaching on gay sex.

In truth, I suggest an increasing number of Christians recognise that neither extreme view is right. Some gay sex (cottaging for example) is sinful; unselfish, loving gay sex within a marriage is not. I suggest that should be using the wholly trustworthy Bible to help us recognise the boundaries between the two.

Denying the Biblical teaching that gay sex is a sin seems to me as bad as an attitude that all gay sex is a sin. We need to move beyond the binary of statements like hate the sin but love the sinner.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 1:35pm BST

Re: Noah and his ark.
The Bible needs to be understood in its context, in its time. How the Universe (if such a concept existed back then) was conceived by the Biblical authors is wildly different from how we conceive it today.
From chapter 1 of Genesis, the Biblical Universe can be seen as a flat Earth floating on water, with a hemispherical dome (the firmament in some translations) separating the watery heavens* from the Earth.
Think of an inverse water globe with the water on the outside, radiating outward in all directions.
In such a Universe, it would be quite easy for God to have flooded the whole Earth.
But, today, shouldn't we study the Bible for its moral or theological teachings? Not for its geological, astronomical, zoological information?

*The Hebrew word for "heaven" or "heavens" is "hashamayim". "Ha" is the equivalent of "the". "Mayim" (a plural form) is "water". So, the root syllables in the Hebrew word for "heaven" is "water". Further, Genesis chapter 1 taks about God separating the waters from below the Earth from the waters above the Earth. Hence, IMO, water radiating outward in all directions.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Monday, 9 May 2016 at 6:54pm BST

Hmmm. Maybe we all need to be a lot more careful about the sort of language we use. Like others here, I find the phrase "hate the sin but love the sinner" trite and insufferably sanctimonious, but I cannot seriously question the theology behind it. Adopting an existentialist anthropology as Simon Butler seems to want to do would be disastrous. It is also a much more challenging imperative than it sounds when it comes from the mouths of many Christians: to put it bluntly, we often seem to be much better at hating sin than we are at loving sinners. So anyone who uses the phrase needs to examine themselves pretty closely (God have mercy). And yes, the phrase does need to be cut loose from the debate about sexuality, where the core issue is whether certain acts or relationships are sinful at all, an entirely different question from whether sinfulness itself is to be abhorred. It certainly doesn't help that when many Christians use that particular phrase, it's clear that it's the gays they are talking about. In that context, how can it not sound smug?

"Fallibility" is another word that I think we should use carefully. Even talking about the "fallibility" or "inerrancy" of scriptures makes a lot of assumptions about our relationship to the text, and about our authority to sit in judgement on its truthfulness. Perhaps it is safest to say that while Scripture itself is always infallible, its human readers are fallible indeed (and so the text that we encounter is never perfectly Scripture - or not unless enlightened by the agency of the Holy Spirit). My point is that if we even start using the language of 'inerrancy' or 'fallibility' we have already ceded a large part of the argument to the evangelicals who want to defend a certain view of scripture on their own terms. There are much bigger questions about how we read - for instance - the story of Noah's Ark or the sexual laws of Leviticus that begin with what a text is and how it is created and what sort of truth, if any, we are to assume it has and how much is accessible to us. We should not allow these rich and provocative questions to be impoverished by the plodding and presumptuous language of 'fallibility.'

Posted by: rjb on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 1:27am BST

As a heterosexual woman who is totally committed to an inclusive church (inclusive of the fat and thin, the dark and blond, the Asian, African, European, etc. etc. etc. as well as all of us wherever we are on the spectrum of sexuality) the only definition of sin that I know is that it is a falling short of the glory of God. And we all do that. How dare we ever accuse other people of sinning? I can accuse myself, but not other people. In particular, how can we ever say that a committed faithful loving relationship can ever be a sin? David Runcorn is absolutely right: the slogan 'hate the sin, but love the sinner' has been around for a very long time. I wish I knew who/how it started. But it has always seemed to me to be a phrase which we use to point the finger at somebody else who we consider to be a sinner, but we forget that when we do that we have four fingers pointing back at ourselves. I was very convicted some years ago when a committed Christian friend of mine entered into an adulterous relationship. Adultery was something that I had always thought of as an action which was 'always' wrong. However, I then discovered my friend had been in a very abusive marriage and had suffered from domestic violence for many years. That was when I realised that it was not up to me to judge the actions of other people. Given that we are ALL sinners, let us just 'love the sinner'.

Thank you Susannah for your very perceptive comments on a number of posts in TA for which I have been very grateful. I always look forward to your insights.

Posted by: Anne Lee on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 8:14am BST

Replying to the person who said she found singing in church a problem, first of all: it is really valuable to share first-hand experiences of what transition actually feels like, being on the receiving end of a Church that has significant concerns and sadly some considerable antipathy to people who are trans, gay, lesbian, bi- or various kinds of non-binary or gender non-conforming.

For groups of people who are too often erased or marginalised, actually hearing their own voices is incredibly instructional, and trans presence on Thinking Anglicans is really valuable for that reason, specially as it is a site that often champions inclusion.

On the point about singing (and you may notice I have already expressed how precious I find it in worship): Having a voice that sounds incongruent to one's gender, and potentially 'outing' a trans woman, is indeed a problem. The woman loses the joy of sharing in relaxed and heartfelt singing with other people, not wanting others to turn and stare, or question her gender identity. Because I value singing so much, I agree that is a real loss, and can accentuate the problem the Church often has with gender identity issues.

And it does have a problem. Some people in church will be lovely, and just take a decision not to care about the gender thing, and just love you as you. But others can create an unpleasant feeling, because even if they are 'accepting' in a formal sense, they dislike a trans presence because (a) it subverts their biblical conventions (b) it threatens to subvert (and arguably liberate) their children's faith values. Such people may wish the trans woman or trans man (or gay couple or lesbian couple) would just go away.

Having said all that, I don't agree that singing should be curtailed for inclusion's sake. I regard singing as a fundamental aspect of our humanity, a way given to us for relating to God. And things in the interests of the community as a whole can't always be stopped for the sake of individuals, even though I agree that you've identified a problem most cisgendered people wouldn't even have thought about.

To an extent, though people who transition rarely 'ask' for the huge pain and distress of gender dysphoria - it is not a casual 'lifestyle choice' - nevertheless when people do take the decision to transition, I think part of that process involves a sense of taking responsibility not only in a bold self-determining sense, but also in recognising there will be difficult consequences for that decision to transition.

I think, in all kinds of ways, churches should be made far more trans-friendly and gay-friendly, to the extent of recognising trans and gay people as gifts to the church with special insights. However, personally, I wouldn't want to strip everyone else of the deep pleasure (and touch of God in worship) that singing offers them.


Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 9:09am BST

Hate the sin and love the sinner is a lie. Only God is perfect enough to separate the two, no human is, and it is the height of arrogance to claim that it is possible for any human, especially humans who arrogate that ability only to themselves and their mindset.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 9:32am BST

I think there's a simple solution to the singing problem for the transgendered.

My elder son is a terrible singer. In the words of the old saying, he can't carry a tune in a bucket. Therefore, he either sings very softly in church, or mouths the words. If anyone is rude enough to notice, he simply explains his lack of musical ability.

I see no reason why a transgendered person could not do the same.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 11:20am BST

No I don't like 'love the sinner, hate the sin' either .... but what kind of relationship it is that is not concerned enough for another's welfare to warn, or challenge when we sense the need. Not to do so is not loving. That is not the same as presuming to 'play God' in the lives of others, some kind of policing or an arrogant claim to personal perfection.
The NT church had clearly thought this through. An example would be the gentle guidelines offered in Gal 6.1 - 'if anyone is overtaken by a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness ... taking care that you yourselves are not tempted'.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 12:12pm BST

David Runcorn wrote: "It has been around as a pastoral phrase in some parts of the church for a very long time."

I don't think (not to speak for peterpi) anyone is actually suggesting it's literally never used in any other context, but it's become a well understood dog-whistle.

Posted by: Geoff M. on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 12:55pm BST

Like Susannah I am glad to see Trans woman contributing to this site. In response to her concern about the possibility of singing in church outing people post-transition, I'm aware that there seem to be many more cis gender women singing tenor these days, as well as cis gender men who chose to sing soprano (there have always been plenty of cis gender male altos). I didn't realise I could sing in a high register until I transitioned. The human voice is fairly malleable and there could be a lot of potential (and fun) in creating opportunities for trans women to discover their singing voices, church being one.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 1:08pm BST

My take on Kelvin and the singing issue is that he seems to be promoting inclusion but not delivering inclusion for trans people. Other churches promote inclusion but not same sex marriage: how can a married same sex couple worship together if a church doesn't recognise their marriage?

The music issue isn't just relevant to gender reassignment. My local cinema offers autism friendly movie screenings. Among other things, I think they avoid a lot of music. Have you ever seen a church advertise regular autism friendly services? Some possibly are autism friendly but they aren't advertised as such and tend to be tucked way at less popular times of the week such as a Wednesday morning.

Inclusion is difficult. It involves inconvenience and sacrifice. It is challenging. It means talking to minorities to discover their needs and changing practices to accommodate them. Inclusion isn't about offering a special needs service at odd times; it is about ensuring that the main Sunday services are fully inclusive.

We need to move away from equality and inclusion meaning women priests and gay men. Inclusion is so much broader than that.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 2:15pm BST

Jesus is the real authority, as far as I am concerned, and he allows (and instructs) us to hate our own sins to the extent of excision or amputation. At the same time he is equally clear about not judging the sins of others. So yes, hate the sin that resides in your own heart, and love the sinner -- that is, yourself -- in order to love your neighbors, knowing them to be no worse sinners than yourself.

The sanctimonious sentiment in "love the sinner, hate the sin" is a false gospel.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 4:33pm BST

"Perhaps it is safest to say that while Scripture itself is always infallible, its human readers are fallible indeed" - rjb

I am surprised there is even a discussion about the preposterous concept of scriptural infallibility on this site. Surely no 'thinking' anglican can entertain the idea? Rjb (above) refers to "human readers". As opposed to what? Cats? Hippos? The concept of infallible scriptures has caused untold misery by those convinced of their own certainty against those of whom they disapprove.

Posted by: Fr DavidH on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 7:29pm BST

Kate, if believing the Bible to be fallible is an "extreme view," there's a heckuva lot of extremists out there!

Is believing any text to be fallible an "extreme view," or is the Bible alone among texts?

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 8:15pm BST

I'm getting a bit lost with this thread as I've no idea what a cis is - I don't like nonsensical titles anyway - too much like these PR buzz words that grate on the ear. I also couldn't care less who comes through the church door on a Sunday morning because our numbers are falling so much that new blood is readily welcomed; they put more brass on the plate, and more people to help. Treat a person as you would like to be treated yourself was what my mum used to tell me, and if they are a prat you'll soon find out. Moving onto singing; nobody's singing could be worse than mine, even when the organist does his best to drown me out. As somebody once said to me 'you are a bloody awful singer but you sound beautiful to God'.

Posted by: Henry Dee on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 8:52pm BST

FrDavidH I think you have missed the fact that the discussion here has been about the idea of scriptural fallibility.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 10:39pm BST

I found myself sitting next to the Abp of C in mufti at Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral a year or so ago. When the precentor said at the end "We sing hymn no xxx"he said " Not me!"...He doesn't sing much at all....nor Pope nothing much to worry about.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 9:22am BST

@Henry Dee

Google has this handy definition. It was the work of a moment to find it: "Cisgendered - denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender."

If Christina Beardsley wants to take up your crticism of her use of the word, I'll leave it to her to do so.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 9:31am BST

James, you are misquoting out of context. I identified a range between two points. Inguistically those two points are the extremities of that range.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 10:29am BST

The reason fallibility matters to me includes the problems that arise when groups of Christians claim the Bible is infallible.

If you look at the visceral condemnation of lesbian and gay sexuality in many Provinces of the Anglican Communion, the justification for that condemnation is so often "biblical authority". Go visit the GAFCON site.

Although we can be nuanced about the nature of texts, lesbian and gay people face marginalisation because so many Christians take the bible texts in such an infallible sense: "The Bible is the Word of God and is always right."

Biblical infallibility is a very real issue in our Communion - on the basis of infallibility, gay lives get dreadfully diminished.

We do not have to idolise the Bible. We can read it critically like we do with others... the trouble is, so many people seem terrified of even one verse being wrong... the first leak in the dyke mentality.

Behind that cleaving to scripture being always right, is perhaps the fear that if one bit is fallible or mistaken, then how do we know Jesus even rose from the dead or was God? So defence of scriptural infallibility is driven by fear of collapse, fear of the whole thing unravelling.

The thing is... we love God, not because of an infallible Bible, but because we meet God (in various ways) and are touched by God's amazing love and grace. If we have that love and amazing impact in our lives, then we really don't need the Bible to be infallible at all.

The Bible is so so profound. It records the attempts of fallible humans (yes, fallible like you and me) to express the encounters they have had.

Anyone into contemplation knows that words trail off in that attempt. But in reading about other people's encounters, it is amazing how the Spirit of God can open our hearts and minds to our own encounters. It is not Biblical accuracy or complete knowledge that counts, but the way the Bible operates as a conduit, a portal, for the living God.

A deeply contextual reading of the fallible Bible actually enhances the Bible: it makes it more real.

Or we can insist on infallibility, in which case the persecutions will go on. Because the bulk of Christian condemnation of LGBT lives is based on the claim that the Bible is always right.

God have mercy.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 11:24am BST

We should be cautious when discussing Biblical "infallibility" because the term means different things to different people. It is, for instance, different to the concept of inerrancy.

However, over the past several months we have seen the problems which occur when the Bible is assumed to be incomplete or fallible. GAFCON have been basing their position on "traditional teaching" and resolutions made by the Lambeth Council. They are relying on secondary teaching and documents rather than on the New Testament which, I believe, undermines their position. This is made possible because so many of their liberal opponents see the Bible as fallible. Essentially GAFCON, in my opinion, are advancing arguments using liberal techniques which then go unchallenged because so many liberals don't believe in Biblical infallibility.

Personally I am not fully decided but Biblical infallibility is the only bulwark against heresy I can see, which means that an assumption of Biblical fallibility would, for me, fail the fruit-of-the-tree test because it is an assumption which so easily leads to heresy.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 1:17pm BST

Mr Runcorn: The very idea of the fallibility of scripture is so obvious to any thinking person there seems little to discuss. Any alternative is absurd.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Wednesday, 11 May 2016 at 6:05pm BST

I've been contemplating LTSHTS. In the US, it is only used against LGBTQI people. The English have a tendency here to kick it around and see if it works in other settings, so I've been kicking it around too. It doesn't.

I've been thinking about my interactions with criminals. People who have served time for crimes mentioned in the Bible. Certifiable sinners, I guess some might say.
When volunteering in a homeless shelter, some of the guests are inevitably going to be criminals, some recently released from jail. While there, you don't judge, you just do the job of getting their services, acknowledging their humanity and their being as a Child of God. It's a safe and easy setting for that.

Yesterday I ran into a different sort, someone in my own social class recently released from prison, having done time for a very disturbing crime. A saintly man hired him to work in a specialty shop and I had to go there for business. On the way out I forced myself to greet him by name and acknowledge him without revealing my extreme discomfort. I didn't absolutely have to or want to, but there's Jesus...

A lot ran through my head and my heart in that situation. Even there, LTSHTS is just completely inappropriate. Others have better articulated how sanctimonious it is. If the sinners are monsters, we have a justice system for them. If they made mistakes, they need a chance to do better. If they are sick, that is the work of doctors, therapists, and God.

We live in a broken world, God calls us to participate in healing it. We don't heal it by throwing around more brokenness, and LTSHTS is just that. There's something very efficient about God's economy. The currency is love, it isn't a transaction, it's freely given, it goes far beyond the personal, and judgement slows it way down. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there it is.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 12:37am BST

Henry Dee,

"cis" is used by some to mean the opposite of "trans."

It derives from Latin, where "trans" can mean "across" with a sense of movement, and hence "transgender" would relate to moving across genders.

Another meaning of "trans" is "beyond" or "the other side of" with no sense of movement. The opposite of this meaning of "trans" is "cis" meaning "this side of" or "near," again with no sense of movement. The classic example would be Transalpine Gaul and Cisapline Gaul - which, seen from the perspective of Rome, respectively mean "Gaul beyond the Alps" (France) and "Gaul this side of the Alps" (Northern Italy, which had a Celtic population in the later centuries BC).

So "cisgender" is incoherent as a word - what could "this side of gender" mean?. It rests on bad Latin, and it doesn't mean the opposite of "transgender." As someone who would be called "cisgender" I find it offensive and pejorative, because it's accusing me of being incoherent, and it feels like a stick to beat me with.

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 10:47am BST

What is 'biblical authority'? Because GAFCON's whole case rests on restoring it.

They take the view that the Bible is the authority to be obeyed, and they regard some Provinces as failing to obey what the Bible says. In short, GAFCON takes an elevated and traditionally Protestant view of the Bible, as the ultimate authority by which to live our lives.

Implicit in this is the view that the Bible is right, and so should not be contradicted. It is right, and inerrant, and therefore if it presents man-man sex in a negative light (which it does) then man-man sex should be prohibited.

GAFCON berates the Instruments of Communion for failing to enforce biblical discipline, based on the Bible's inerrant truth. What the Bible says is infallible and for all time. In their most recent statement, GAFCON says:

"The recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia has again highlighted the inability of the current instruments to uphold godly order within the Communion.

"We are of one mind that the future of the Anglican Communion does not lie with manipulations, compromises, legal loopholes, or the presentation of half-truths; the future of our Communion lies in humble obedience to the truth of the Word of God written."

And there it is: obeying an inerrant Bible, a flawless Bible, is the basis and mandate they claim for outlawing gay sex, and branding it sin.

Justin Welby seems to agree, and see that as the normative reading of this Bible that must not be regarded as fallible or negotiable.

The Bible is right because the Bible says it is right. Not even a letter should be changed. So goes the argument of those who regard it as inerrant.

And the outlawing and marginalising... and in some Provinces outright persecution... of gay and lesbian lives goes on.

But what if the biblical authors were fallibly writing from inside their own cultures or religious communities, inside their own time and the limits of its knowledge? What if they weren't actually right on this issue?

Because many people believe the Bible was wrong about Adam's ancestors (or lack of them), about Noah's Ark and a worldwide flood that destroyed all life, and maybe about God wanting the slaughter of Canaanite children.

So why can't it be wrong, too, about what it's authors say about man-man sex? If the Bible is not infallible, then LGBT lives are maybe being marginalised for no good reason. Because in the end, we still have God, and God is love, and gives us grace and conscience, and the Spirit to help us exercise it, instead of delegating so much decision-making to the Bible, and imposing that on people's decent lives and devoted relationships.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 12 May 2016 at 10:49pm BST

Susannah, I think you are confusing inerrancy and infallibility.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 13 May 2016 at 10:59am BST


The issue of the authority of the Bible is not just a Gafcon matter. Our case too rests on how we read, interpret and obey scripture. The CofE 'professes the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Bible and set forth in the Catholic Creeds'. When you hear the word authority used of scripture you seem to assume this can only mean the narrowest form of literal, infallible, coercive reading. I do not understand why. I seek to live in 'humble obedience to the truth of the Word of God" but that is not for me 'an inerrant Bible, a flawless Bible'. Yes it is true that one corner of the church thinks like that. Kick 'them' all you like but they have yet to appear on these discussion threads. I am still seeking to explore here what a positive submission to this unique revelation might look like and require of us.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 13 May 2016 at 12:15pm BST

The deep problem with the "hate the sin/love the sinner" response to ethical issues is that it allows the would-be hater/lover to rest comfortably in a position of moral superiority.

From that position, the world comes in "either/or" terms, hate is justified, and the beholder finds himself in the position of the Pharisee in Luke 18:10, thanking God that he is not like other men.

The Bible is a rich, complex collection of works, told from many different perspectives over centuries of time, often repetitive and contradictory in its narratives and its conclusions, always reflecting human ideas about how things work and what things mean.

One claim that does seem to be consistent throughout, however, is the claim that we are all in this together, and that "God be merciful to me a sinner" is the better position to take.

Posted by: jnwall on Friday, 13 May 2016 at 1:27pm BST

Just a gentle reminder:

sic (sic erat scriptum) is used to indicate to the reader that any errors or apparent errors in quoted material do not arise from errors in the course of the transcription.

"Favor" is perfectly accurate non-British English. When you use quotation marks, you have indicated to the reader already that the spelling belongs to another.

The first Pentecost solved this problem by allowing every nation to hear the marvelous works of God --"spelled" as they liked best -- in their own language.

May God bless the Anglican Communion in its length and breadth and heal its divisions; and make it a fervent witness to his marvelous works.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 14 May 2016 at 7:15am BST

""Favor" is perfectly accurate non-British English. When you use quotation marks, you have indicated to the reader already that the spelling belongs to another."

Hang out the bunting! I agree with cseitz.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Saturday, 14 May 2016 at 8:18pm BST

I wave the white flag of surrender, Christopher. I was feeling playful and teasing, but the internet doesn't always communicate mood very well.

In reality what matters to me is content, not spelling.

And yes, Pentecost... and the church drawn all together in one place. Blow, Spirit, blow! And may we always try to understand each other, and know God's love among us.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 15 May 2016 at 8:28am BST

Sic erat scriptum means nothing more than the emphasis of an exact quotation. As Susannah was reproducing the original spelling, her usage was correct. I don't know why she is getting a hard time - it seems undeserved to me.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 15 May 2016 at 6:23pm BST

Laurence has kindly responded to Henry's comment and Bernard has used the historical example of trans and cis that I've used myself in presenting to an audience that has little or no knowledge of transgender people. I've tended to understand cisgender people as those whose gender identity is 'on side'/close to/near to their assigned gender, and transgender people as those whose gender is 'further away' from their assigned gender, inadequate though these metaphors are. The terminology for gender variant people has been and still is evolving; much of it originated in clinical practice and was offensive to gender variant people to begin with, then later adopted with pride as 'reverse discourse'. Cisgender is a fairly neutral term to me and I was trying to avoid less helpful terms, such as 'natal women', so I'm sorry to read that Bernard felt that it was a stick to beat him (or anyone else) with. That was not my intention. My post was in response to a concern about singing in church and its possible impact on trans women.

Posted by: Christina Beardsley on Sunday, 15 May 2016 at 10:24pm BST

Kate--except that it doesn't.

Sic is used to designate errors, not in a reproduction/transcription, but in the original.

In this case there was no error of spelling, but a spelling of non-British English.

'Sic' is beginning to migrate into territories it was not intended to cover -- one sees it used on blogs now, e.g., to point to a view one doesn't agree with. Once this happens, the entire point of the term--having to do with spelling errors reproduced in transcription, and left to stand as written--is forfeit.

But of course, the Day of Pentecost solved all that.

(I found the reference to 'surrender' a bit curious, as well as the idea that this was intended as humor/humour...there goes my spell-checker...)

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 16 May 2016 at 11:05am BST

No, sic is not used to designate errors but to reaffirm that a quotation is strict when some aspect of the quotation (usually spelling) might cause doubt. The reader might then identify a mistake but that is an action of the reader not something done by the writer who uses sic. Wikipedia gives a great American example to highlight this

"The House of Representatives shall chuse [sic] their Speaker ..."

There's no suggestion of a mistake in the Constitution, but many writers when quoting it prefer to indicate that the transcription is error free as shown.

It is like the recent discussion on the meaning of receive. It is usually best to take a word as having its literal, precise meaning unless the context indicates clearly a broader meaning was intended.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 7:33am BST

No one would claim there is a 'mistake' in the Constitution.

The example is one in which the reader is likely no longer to be acquainted with the spelling of the time. So it looks like a misspelling but in fact isn't in the context of the time autrefois.

This is not the case of 'favor'. There is no doubt that all readers know this is the non-British spelling of a word. So to mark it with 'sic' is an incorrect usage of the term.

AS indicated by the person who used it, she was being 'playful and teasing' and not as per your example of 'chuse.'

Do you doubt her explanation? This seems like an odd elongation of a topic already concluded.

But I suspect this topic

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 4:47pm BST

Tobias Haller remarked above that "(t)he sanctimonious sentiment in 'love the sinner, hate the sin' is a false gospel."

Popular "pieties" of this type can and often do create confusion about the Gospel. Another one I often think of is that famous saying of (I think) Benjamin Franklin's, "God helps those who help themselves."

Anyone who's been around same sex households can see for themselves that they bear the same risk and share of sinfulness as well as potential for holiness as any other household configuration. Those who have not been blessed to be invited into such households might better reserve comment until that has been rectified. It's just not that hard to see the similarities, as the behavioral sciences have now been telling us for over four decades.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at 5:10pm BST
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