Thursday, 19 October 2017

Hereford Diocesan Synod calls for liturgies after same sex marriages

Updated twice Saturday

The Hereford Diocesan Synod tonight passed the following resolution:

‘That this Synod request the House of Bishops to commend an Order of Prayer and Dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage for use by ministers in exercise of their discretion under Canon B4, being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England in any essential matter, together with guidance that no parish should be obliged to host, nor minister conduct, such a service.’

The voting was

In favour 41
Against 18
Abstentions 4

A copy of the briefing paper approved by the Bishop’s Council can be found here.


The BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewed the Bishop of Hereford, Richard Frith. Listen here: Bishop Richard interview on BBC R4 Today about Diocesan Synod motion asking for same sex prayers (preceded by interview with Susie Leafe of Reform).

Law & Religion UK CofE service after same sex marriage?

BBC Church of England to discuss same-sex blessing

Guardian Church of England to debate blessings for same-sex couples

Telegraph Church of England to debate services for same-sex couples after bishop backs diocese call

Christian Today Bishops under pressure to act as Hereford Diocese calls for official services for gay couples

Hereford Times Church of England to debate blessings for same-sex couples after diocese motion

The Church of England has issued this press release: Hereford Diocesan Synod Motion. The full text is copied below the fold.

There is further comment at Law and Religion UK Hereford Diocesan Synod Motion – CofE Statement.

Hereford Diocesan Synod Motion
21 October 2017

Following the passing of a resolution at the Diocesan Synod in Hereford, a spokesperson for the Church of England said: “We are aware of the resolution passed by Hereford Diocesan Synod calling for the General Synod to debate a motion on services of prayer and dedication for same-sex couples.

“The diocesan synod’s decision does not change the teaching or practice of the Church of England, whether in Hereford or anywhere else in the Church.

“Under the Standing Orders of the General Synod, the motion will fall to be debated at the Synod at a time to be decided by its Business Committee.

“Clergy of the Church of England are unable to marry couples of the same sex and, under the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Statement on Same Sex Marriage, ‘services of blessing’ should not be provided for those who enter into civil partnerships or same-sex marriages.

“It is recognised, however, that there is real and profound disagreement in the Church of England over questions relating to human sexuality and the House of Bishops has recently embarked on the preparation of a major new teaching document on marriage and sexuality.

“We are seeking to find ways forward rooted in scripture and the Christian faith as we have received it and which values everyone, without exception, not as a ‘problem’ or an ‘issue’, but as a person loved and made in the image of God.”


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Categorised as: Church of England

Well done, Hereford!

Recalling their narrow opposition to the so-called Anglican Covenant:

Bishops: 2 for, 0 against
Clergy: 15 for, 15 against, 1 abstention
Laity 21 for, 23 against, 1 abstention

...could sentiment in Hereford Diocese have changed substantially?

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 19 October 2017 at 11:27pm BST

Readers may like to know that the Bishop of Hereford both spoke and voted in favour of the motion.

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 8:54am BST

Without wishing to be a rural-ist, one cannot help thinking that if Herefordshire is ahead of the CofE hierarchy on SSM issues, then the game is up for Welby's triangulation policy. Herefordshire is hardly Brighton, after all.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 9:14am BST

"In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen" - My Fair Lady -

HOWEVER, not so in Hereford. Here, at last, is a Church of England diocese stepping up to the plate on 'The Issue" - the encouragement of Same-Sex Couples to place their relationship under the protection and Blessing of God and the Church.

What a wonderful example to the rest of us in the worldwide Anglican Communion who are still poised on the brink of fully accepting the fact that Gay people need meaningful relationships - just like our heterosexual sisters and brothers. Bravo!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 9:20am BST

Does this mean that the motion will have to be brought before GS and voted on?

Posted by: Andrew Lightbown on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 10:25am BST

Interested Observer,
What is 'Welby's triangulation policy'?

Posted by: Fr Rob Hall on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 11:38am BST

Looks like at least a couple of archiepiscopal bloody noses are looming on the horizon, given the current composition of the General Synod. And, if this gets to GS, how long before certain bishops are being 'encouraged' to vote 'the right way'?

Posted by: Will Richards on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 11:58am BST

Time for other Dioceses to see if they can follow suit. Otherwise this might grow mould in the General Synod’s Business Committee for a long long time.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 12:10pm BST

Interested Observer,
purely anecdotally - I believe rural parishes and are frequently more tolerant and accepting than the much more polarised churches in towns and cities. When there is little choice for worshippers, it's less easy to gather in like-minded bubbles and minds can change more easily.

In my sexuality talks to Deanery Synods, I frequently discovered that representatives from rural parishes were much more affirming or genuinely questioning than those from the towns.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 12:44pm BST

Whoever drafted the motion and the briefing paper did a good job. It doesn't pull its punches, but is very well balanced and this is the sort of leadership that is needed if we are to move forward from the current impasse.

'...being a form of service neither contrary to, nor indicative of any departure from, the doctrine of the Church of England...'. This is the tricky part and I agree with the briefing paper that it is possible to draft liturgy in such a was as to make this possible, but that is best done by experts and commended.

I just wonder how long it will take to get to be debated.

Posted by: Ann Reddecliffe on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 2:57pm BST


while an understandable sentiment, can I just suggest it is a little unfair on the Business Committee. They are not free of any standing orders, rules , commitments and procedures when it comes to deciding business: just ask the chair!

Graeme Buttery

Posted by: Graeme Buttery on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 3:06pm BST

"Welby's triangulation policy"

Ignoring the interests of LGBTQ people by implying that anyone who supports LGBTQ rights is racist, or at least insufficiently anti-racist, because African churches don't like it.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 3:22pm BST

This is not intended to be off topic, but Gregory Baum has died. His life and his theological contributions on issues of sexuality are a testimony that dissidents can effectively challenge what often appears to be the impregnable fortress of church power politics. He certainly is evidence that the demand for change against all odds is just not going to go away.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 3:55pm BST

Ref "Ruralism".

If Hereford is anything like my experience of Church life in Wiltshire and Dorset, then a significant proportion of the active church members could not be described as "rural". They will have have spent a large part of their adult lives working and living in London, or the Armed Forces, or other reasonably high powered jobs, and then downshifted to country life late in their careers.

Perhaps such people have the broad life experience, mixed with the wisdom and independence of mind, that (hopefully) comes from age, which would lead to them supporting such a motion.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 4:21pm BST

"Welby's triangulation policy"

Delaying sacraments for people in England because he wants a smooth Lambeth Conference with the Global South.

In other words, putting international theopolitics (and his own positional interest) ahead of the pastoral needs of his English flock.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 4:48pm BST

apologies is if I misunderstood!
I thought there is someone who decides on the order of importance of motions and when they should be tabled.

If that is wrong, I'm really sorry!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 4:53pm BST


Thanks for the link about Gregory Baum. In my opinion it is very much on topic.

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 5:37pm BST

"If the motion is approved, it will be experienced by others as a rejection of faithfulness to Scripture, and may lead those who hold the traditional position to feel unwanted in our diocese."

Interesting how this is always couched in terms of "faithfulness to Scripture" when in fact it is about faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus.. who condemned sexual immorality in no uncertain terms.

Posted by: RevDave on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 8:25pm BST

Interested Observer,
"Ignoring the interests of LGBTQ people by implying that anyone who supports LGBTQ rights is racist, or at least insufficiently anti-racist, because African churches don't like it."
That sounds like a former American bishop I knew?
"How can you argue about GLBT people when there are so many souls to save in Africa?"

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 9:47pm BST

This is just so cool! Yay for lgbt acceptance - any time soon peeps!

Posted by: Emma Slingo on Friday, 20 October 2017 at 9:51pm BST


Have you mistaken Jesus' gentleness with 'sexual sinners' - especially 'the woman caught in adultery', who could have - by the Jewish Law - been stoned to death? On that occasion, Jesus challenged her judges (self-righteous Pharisees) to throw the first stone - if they were without sin. In this instance, at least, Jesus was countermanding the demands of the Scriptures!!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 2:18am BST

"Interesting how this is always couched in terms of "faithfulness to Scripture" when in fact it is about faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus.. who condemned sexual immorality in no uncertain terms."

But who never explicitly defined same-sex relations as immoral...

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 4:05am BST

"when in fact it is about faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus.. who condemned sexual immorality in no uncertain terms."

Actually no, Jesus did not condemn me and my wife or any other LGBTQI people. He did condemn the religious leaders who would use the law to abuse vulnerable people, and He said "don't judge," in no uncertain terms. Scripture doesn't say what you want it to say. We all have to be careful about creating God in our flawed and bigoted image, when we are actually called to see the Image of God in all people. All people.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 7:43am BST

Hi Cynthia, Pat and Ron,

Jesus loves sinners, absolutely! He loves me!! And He forgave people who sinned - like the woman caught in adultery. And it's absolutely true that He didn't enforce the *punishments* prescribed in the Old Testament - instead He fulfilled the law, by dying for us sinners, so He could forgive us! But Jesus did always uphold the same personal morality that we read about in the OT - just read through the Sermon on the Mount if you don't believe me.

When He taught that "... out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person." He and His Jewish hearers would have understood "sexual immorality" to include all those sexual behaviours condemned in the Old Testament - including same-sex sex. And that is what the New Testament writers thought He meant too (eg 1 Cor 6:9-10, 1Tim 1:10 and Jude 7). What else could He have meant (in context)?

ps By sexual immorality He didn't just mean same-sex sex, of course, but any sex outside male-female marriage - Jesus even condemned lust as adultery! (Which is rather pertinent given the sexual harassment of young good looking people by [usually] powerful men in the media and film industry).

Posted by: RevDave on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 3:54pm BST

Our thoughts and prayers are with the good folk, including their Bishop who have passed the Hereford resolution.
From the Scottish Episcopal Church we wish them well in their endeavors. Perhaps they might find inspiration by logging on to the Communicant of the Edinburgh Diocese for this past week, and read the sermon given by the Bishop of Edinburgh at the wedding of two fine male Christians of the diocese in St John's Church Edinburgh.
May the Church of England move forward together in this moment in welcoming same sex weddings, of loving, caring Christian folk.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John E Harris-White on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 6:40pm BST

RevDave, I find your interpretations flawed. But worse is the fact that you feel that you are authorized to judge in God's place. How you twist Jesus' message of liberating love for a quasi-superstitious checklist for salvation is one of the great mysteries. It must be comforting to cling to those "truths," but some of us see a greater truth. And it is reinforced in our personal prayer, worship, and experience of God's Grace. In light of my experience of Grace and love from my Creator, your attacks on my being are ridiculous. It doesn't help when you say "I'm a sinner too." God has created a diverse world, and science backs up that I am created as I am. My being gay is how I'm created. My marriage and faithfulness is a choice I made as a follower of Jesus. Issues of being are not the same as actions, which may or may not be sinful.

We all participate in sin. The fossil fuels that we consume hurts vulnerable people (many human rights violations are involved in the fossil fuel and mining industries). The resulting climate change is hurting vulnerable people the most. War, greed, exploitation, inequality are sinful. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, are all sinful. Why these sins, rather than your checklist? Because they are examples of injustice, i.e. they are devastatingly hurtful. Talk about the woman adulterer? In some settings, women who are raped are/were considered adulterers. We don't know the story of that woman, but we know that women had very little agency. Except, of course, for rich women like Mary Magdalene.

Jesus tells us that we can discern true prophets from false ones by the fruits of their labor/teaching. This is a great way to discern what is sinful or not, what is just, or not. A sin checklist is no substitute for reason, compassion, and discernment. (Though in the cultural context, the checklist might be more revealing than outside the cultural context).

About divorce, Jesus said something about allowing it because of the "hardness of men's hearts." The Acts of the Apostles and Letters are a constant expansion on the "Law" and what it really meant. Do gentiles need to be circumcised, do they have to follow the dietary laws (no, but please don't eat food that's been offered to pagan gods...), can I baptize that eunuch? These were all discernments made on interpretation on the teaching of Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit. This process continues today, that's why we Anglicans include "Reason" in our three-legged stool of discernment. We are not fundamentalists where often the letter of the law can violate the spirit of the Law.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 7:07pm BST

Fr Ron, he did go on to say "Go thy way and sin more!" as well.

Posted by: Richard on Saturday, 21 October 2017 at 7:52pm BST

Re: Simon Dawson, no problem. Baum has been described with a number of adjectives, prophet is the one I like best. His work on Maurice Blondel is incomparable. Here is a link from a more "mainstream" religious site, National Catholic Reporter. Baum will be one of the folks I will be giving thanks for the coming All Saints/Souls/Reformation Sunday Feast.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 3:54am BST

Richard - a question for you:

Do you think that Jesus died only for sins that had already been committed? Or is he the one and only propitiation for all sins that will ever be committed? If only for past sins, then are we all doomed! But, if for our sins, past, present and future; then are we all blessed. I believe that it is our faith in Christ's redemption that saves us,. not our protestation of our own sinlessness.

It is the knowledge of Jesus' redemption that is at the heart of the Gospel- the Good News. Jesus did warn us not to judge our neighbour, lest we, ourselves fall into even greater sin. We ourselves are never accountable for the redemption of the world. That is God's gift - in Christ.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 8:59am BST

Strikes me, RevDave, that your argument on same-sex sexual relationships being included in the NT check-list is less than watertight.

It starts by assuming that the OT texts reference what we mean by gay relationships and then, by arguing that Jesus was bound by the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus e silencio condemns them. I know such an approach has been used to insist on Davidic authorship of the psalms (Mark 12.36) but largely quietly dropped even in very conservative circles. We also know that Jesus does not always consider himself bound by HB texts.

We can, of course, choose to believe that Jesus would oppose C21 style same sex relationships. But the argument you advance really gets us nowhere new. Does the Bible condemn LGBT relationships as we understand them? The answer which pops out at the end, as always, depends on the a prioris we feed in at the beginning. Unless, of course, David did indeed pen poems about the Babylonian exile and temples yet unbuilt. After all Jesus seems to say so, doesn't he?

Posted by: David Rowett on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 3:24pm BST

Hi David & Cynthia,
It is Jesus, not me, who came up with that "quasi-superstitious checklist" that I quoted. So it's not me who is "judging" when I quote what He said.. or me that you feel is "attacking your being".

And it is not me who is "assuming" Jesus would comdemn same-sex sex "ex silencio". His Jewish hearers would have assumed it - as is rather confirmed by Paul, who had been a Pharisee before he 'saw the light', repeatedly condemning same-sex sex.

And neither of you addressed directly the fact that it is *same-sex sex* that is said to be sexually immoral - not *same-sex love or relationships*. As you know Jesus had especially close relationships with several people - male and female: "... Jesus loved Martha and her sister [Mary] and Lazarus" and there was "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John) too. The common factor is that, like Jesus, all these people were unmarried.

David, Cynthia, If Jesus and His Apostles believed that some behaviour is sexually immoral, as Jesus said: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you"?

Posted by: RevDave on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 6:00pm BST

ps David, this thing about challenging Jesus saying "David said" when He quotes psalm 110 is a little ridiculous. Psalm 110 starts "Of David. A psalm"!!!!!!

Posted by: RevDave on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 6:02pm BST

The word Jesus uses, translated over-broadly as "sexual immorality" actually has a far narrower meaning: harlotry. Jesus pairs it with "adultery" in this passage so as to convict married men who sleep with an unmarried woman -- who would not be guilty of "adultery" under Hebrew (or Roman) law. If "harlotry" included all forms of sexual misconduct, Jesus would not have needed to mention "adultery."

It is unlikely the term he used applied to male same-sexuality (though such a claim is often made) and definitely does not apply to female same-sexuality, which is not forbidden by Torah.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 7:02pm BST

RevDave, there are problems with the argument you are trying to make. Quoting Leviticus is not helpful, unless we are also going to avoid eating pork and shellfish. It seems naive to place faithful same-sex relationships in the frame of the denunciations of assorted vices you refer to in 1 Cor. and 1 Tim. They are not the same thing at all. If I remember rightly, some of our bishops recently pronounced that marriage has been the same throughout recorded history. You don't need to be much of a historian to know that that was nonsense. Even 100 years ago, marriage was quite different from marriage today. I do take the Bible seriously, but we have to use reason, and some common sense, in interpreting it. As I see it, Jesus was recommending faithfulness in sexual relationships, but I don't see any condemnation of same-sex love in the Gospels. I am not educated in theology. I am a grandmother and I know a bit about relationships.

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 7:43pm BST

Fr Ron, funnily enough I think the Lord died to save us all from all our sins. That doesn't mean I think it wise to forget for the sake of an argument that he left the woman caught in adultery in no illusion that he condoned her sin.

Posted by: Richard on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 8:31pm BST

So RevDave, it's sola scriptura... and lots of guesswork about what Jesus and his hearers and the NT writers must have thought because that's what people thought back then. I mean if Jesus was just a conventional 1st century Jew, if we fill every gap in the Biblical record of his teaching with 'what a pious first century Jewish person would have believed' what's different about Christianity? What was the point of Calvary?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Sunday, 22 October 2017 at 8:35pm BST

Thank you all for pointing out the egregious flaws in RevDave's interpretation/recreation of Scripture. I fear that he is deaf to intellectual engagement with what is actually written, in Hebrew and Greek, and in the context of those texts. But thank you for trying. Because even though I've studied the texts (at least in the Greek, I have no grip on Hebrew), it is affirming and comforting to me, a gay person, to hear religious leaders challenge the positions of those who make the wild leaps and assumptions as RevDave. "I'm only quoting Jesus" when Tobias et al., can prove that RevDave has misquoted Jesus.... Thank you!

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 7:29am BST

I heard an interesting sermon last week (along with my co-editors here at TA). The occasion was the celebration of a saint who had remained a virgin through several marriages before becoming a nun. How does that celebration of virginity play out in other centuries and other cultures? Clearly virginity was prized above marriage by the church.

I have read elsewhere questions about how it played out in the 19th century -- a wife who refused to obey her successive husbands, refused to sleep with them, refused to perpetuate their dynastic lines: clearly a wilful disobedience of the principles of "Christian marriage" as understood by our predecessors until quite recently.

It's just a small piece of evidence of how our understanding of "marriage" changes through the years: from one man and several wives; from complete obedience in all things by wives, including acceptance of physical chastisement (which we would call assault); from wives whose primary role is to be mothers and who are primarily defined as the wife of their husband rather than individuals in their own right; from marriage as dissoluble only by death; from ostracism from society and from church of those who were divorced; from the legality of divorce but no acceptance of remarriage while the ex-spouse was still living; and so on.

Nearly all these steps on the slope were held to be essential to "Christian marriage" at one time (not the polygamy).

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 10:40am BST

Thankyou for that, Simon Kershaw. And there was the Deceased Wife's Sister business, not all that long ago. I have a friend whose grandparents fell foul of that rule - and I think that was in the 20th century!

Posted by: Flora Alexander on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 4:27pm BST

"That doesn't mean I think it wise to forget for the sake of an argument that he left the woman caught in adultery in no illusion that he condoned her sin."

Public Service Announcement about the "woman caught in adultery:"

Women had very little agency back then. In some cultures, rape is considered "adultery" on the part of the woman! And where exactly is the man in that story?

This is where simple-minded sola Scriptorum is NOT the whole truth. Focusing on "her sin" was not the point of that story. Insisting that the crowd not judge, not be hypocritical, and not inflict violence on the basis of their judgments is the point of that story.

So what role are you playing in the modern story of "conservatives" inflicting great psychological violence on gay people?

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 5:13pm BST

There's a scholar of marriage, Stephanie Coontz, who argues that our concept of marriage has changed so fundamentally that same-sex marriage isn't unexpected. Once we de-gendered marriage to the extent of letting people choose their own partners, and then once we allowed that men and women could be equal within marriage, then the historically gendered nature of marriage was gone. These concepts were foreign to cultures 2000 years ago, so really, the BIble says nothing about our modern conception of marriage.

l have a very traditional view of marriage, even though my spouse and I are of the same sex. Indeed, I am deeply conservative on the subject. Being married has been the greatest gift in my life. Isn't it sad that conservatives and liberals cannot come together in the common ground of seeing committed, faithful marriages as a Good Thing, regardless of the sexuality involved, and promote a culture of fidelity and constancy?

Posted by: IT on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 5:27pm BST

Thank you, Cynthia.

Surely the point of the story of the "woman taken in adultery" is that all of the characters in it (except Jesus) are sinners. Only Jesus is competent to render judgment, and he chooses not to condemn. It is deeply ironic that this gospel passage is so often turned on its head, with emphasis on the woman's sin rather than the sinfulness of the whole crowd (and their compunction when that sinfulness is called to their attention). The need to forgive rather than to judge is a constant refrain in Jesus' teaching.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 9:01pm BST

Thanks, Fr Andrew. I think it was James Barr a generation ago who lamented the ability of many Christians to turn Jesus into little more than a teacher of the Hebrew Scriptures, albeit with a bit of supernatural oomph thrown in. End result is to turn Jesus into a hallmark for a conservative reading of Scripture rather than in any sense a doctrinal, cultural and theological trail-blazer.

Preaching yesterday on the Tribute Gospel, I observed that it said a lot about God's ability to break into systems which thought themselves watertight and blow them apart with an unexpected - and uncomfortable - observation....

Posted by: David Rowett on Monday, 23 October 2017 at 10:05pm BST

There's a great danger when reading bible stories that we put ourselves in the place of Jesus. He's allowed to judge, he's allowed to talk about sin - because he's the one to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden.
We are not like that.

When we read those stories - we are in the place of the women taken in adultery or in the place of those who accuse her.

There is no other role for us.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 at 12:02pm BST

Re: Erika, "There is no other role for us."That view would make making sense of the Pauline corpus, not to mention prophetic reflection on social issues, very challenging.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 at 1:31pm BST

Hi Tobias, are you saying that by "πορνεῖαι" (porneiai - the plural of πορνεία) Jesus was condemning harlots ie prostitutes?!!

And does the translation: "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, *prostitutions*, thefts, false witness, blasphemies etc" sound right?

English Bible translations, since at least 1599, have rendered it as "fornication" (or, more correctly "fornications") until quite recently when it is usually translate "sexual immorality" ie a general term for illicit sexual liaisons - not just prostitution. Of course in the late middle ages harlotry was used in a much broader sense than prostitution - to mean "loose, crude, or obscene behaviour; sexual immorality; ribald talk or jesting," from harlot + -ry." So there may be an ancient English translation that uses harlotry but I'd be interested to know which?

Anyway, I have Ulrich Luz's three volume commentary on Matthew (Prof Luz taught at Göttingen University and then at Berne, and has been president of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas). He translates it as "fornications" too and points out that the text in Matthew 15 is exactly reminiscent of the second tablet of the Decalogue. - ie pointing back to the personal moral behaviours condemned by God in the Hebrew Scriptures. But that doesnt make Jesus "little more than a Jewish teacher of the law"! He isn't teaching the Law but fulfilling it. His death fulfilling the OT animal sacrifices, and His call to changed heart-attitudes fulfilling the Laws moral teachings. Hence Jesus starts *out of the heart* come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Interestingly the Catechism of the (Roman) Catholic Church uses unchastity as the general term and has the categories: lust, masturbation, fornication (unmarried genital acts), pornography, prostitution, rape, incest and homosexual acts. Patheos also says something along those lines "Fornication is defined as sexual intercourse between people not married to each other. Biblically, fornication has a little wider definition. It can refer to prostitution or promiscuous behavior or indulging in unlawful lust by either sex."

Posted by: RevDave on Wednesday, 25 October 2017 at 9:59pm BST

A veritable catalogue RevDave, but none of it related to covenanted faithful relationships.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 25 October 2017 at 11:16pm BST

And still, there's no evidence of condemnation of same-sex couples by Jesus.

πορνεία is typically a form of prostitution. There are lots of texts that write about what it does and doesn't mean and how Strong's got it wrong. Trying to twist it into "homosexuality" is highly problematic. It twists better into "idolatry."

If you are going to make the case that sex outside of marriage is the problem, then the remedy is to marry gay people so we aren't "sinning."

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 25 October 2017 at 11:44pm BST

Simon, you fail to name the female saint who valued her perpetual virginity and after several chase marriages became a virgo intacta nun?
Do please reveal all then perhaps she could become the Patron Saint of the Thinking Anglicans blog?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 26 October 2017 at 6:53am BST

RevDave, no, what I am saying is that Jesus is expanding the range of condemnation (NOT present in the Hebrew law) that classifies "a married man having sex with an unmarried woman not his wife" as adultery. Under the Hebrew law, such a man would not be considered an adulterer.

Obviously Jesus is also including harlotry (prostitution as the "simple" meaning of porneia) as well, which may explain the plural; though we know from other portions of the Gospel that Jesus tended not to judge the prostitute as harshly as the "john."

There is also a possibility that porneiai is here being used purely in the figurative sense for "idolatries" -- which is the other principal usage; cf the "whoredoms" of Jezebel, 2 Kings 9:22 -- the only instance of the plural in the LXX), language reflected in the later Christian community in Revelation.

What you cite here from other scholars rather rather supports my argument that "fornications" or "harlotries" is a better translation than the vague "sexual immorality" -- which is a suitcase into which one may pack anything one likes -- rather than discerning what Jesus intended.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 26 October 2017 at 3:18pm BST

Several interesting comments: Re: [John?] 7:53 ff, leaving aside the problems with the textual transmission, and taking the text in isolation, it is interesting to note that it does not state that Jesus is "sinless" ( I know, I know).

First, If one reads backward from the text one might conclude that Jesus is making the point that no one, INCLUDING him, is sinless with reference to the law, " Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..." which Jesus does not do here and which seems the point of the story, and "neither do I condemn you" which reinforces this view.

Second, we do not have Jesus unmediated here, but Jesus mediated by a writer of some sort. So, it is not Jesus but a view of Jesus that is presented.

Third, the story does not condone sinful behavior "Go, and do not miss the mark another time..." but reflects a hierarchy of values, i.e. a misdemeanor pales by comparison with the hypocrisy of religious teachers who are in positions of power, life and death power. One could add that the pericope is a microcosm of Jesus' own fate at the hands of hypocrites.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 27 October 2017 at 4:44am BST

Fr David wonders which saint I alluded to. That is left as an exercise for the reader, but given the date of the comment and its reference to the previous week, the calendar of the BCP should make it pretty easy to determine :-)

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Friday, 27 October 2017 at 11:03am BST

My first is in Welby but not in Rowan.....
As a correspondent on Cranmer reports that he can't remember ever hearing a sermon on idolatry - I must hold my hands up and declare that I have never heard a sermon on the former virginal Abbess of Ely.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 28 October 2017 at 7:13am BST

"rather than discerning what Jesus intended."

I am afraid it is not this simple, Fr Haller. RG wishes to remind you that "it is not Jesus but a view of Jesus that is presented."

The "real Jesus" and what he "intended" is not available to us.

Posted by: crs on Saturday, 28 October 2017 at 9:07pm BST

Hi Cynthia and Tobias, prostitution alone is not a reasonable interpretation of πορνεῖαι in Jesus' sin list. Firstly because it is in the plural "fornications" - ie a range of types of fornication (not just the type you pay for) and secondly because πορνεῖα (singular) is used all over the New Testament for various forms of sexual immorality - eg in 1 Corinthians 7:2 it is talking about society, in chapter 10 it refers to Israelite men sleeping with pagan women, in 2 Cor 12:21 it is general too: "sexual immorality and debauchery", so too in Gal 5:21, Eph 5:3, and Col 3:5.. need I go on? Anyway I seriously doubt that your knowledge of Bible interpretation can shake a stick at Luz?

It is also true that fornication/porneia is used *figuratively* of idolatry but again, if that were the intended meaning in every case why would Paul use both fornicator and idolater in his well known sin list in 1 Cor 6:9-10: "... do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral [πόρνοι] nor idolaters [εἰδωλολάτραι] nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

Posted by: RevDave on Saturday, 28 October 2017 at 10:03pm BST

Dear RevDave

You are absolutely correct.

I sometimes wonder--as a scholar of Hebrew and Greek--if the real question to puzzle over runs something like this:

"If were to be shown that πορνεῖα includes conclusively homosexual relations, would it really matter for your view of things?"

I think the answer would be No.

Posted by: crs on Sunday, 29 October 2017 at 12:41am BST

And still, RevDave, you haven't a shred of evidence that committed same-sex relationships are sinful. My wife and I are not engaged in sexual immorality and debauchery. It is you who is hanging your bias on words that don't actually support your biases. "Obviously these Greek words mean what I want them to mean" is not evidence.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 29 October 2017 at 6:56am GMT

Re: CRS, as you no doubt know Raymond Brown has an article on this text. [ The Story of the Adulteress: A non-Johannine Interpolation in The Gospel According to John, pp.332-38. Vol. I Anchor Bible 29 ] I review Brown each time this text comes up. I did before posting above.

See Brown's comment, The Meaning of The Story i.e. "Its succinct expression of the mercy of Jesus...Jesus as serene judge...the sinful woman confronted with the sinless Jesus..."

So Tobias Haller's comment on Oct. 23 appears to be part of a consensus formed by excellent company.

Notwithstanding, I stand by my insouciant comment. As a preacher I refrain from saying 'Jesus said' and opt instead for 'the gospel tells us' or 'according to John' and such like. Some who use the phrase Jesus says ( or intends) may mean the same.

I think it helpful from a preaching perspective to test one's assumptions brought to the text.

The impeccability of Jesus is a construct well grounded; but in this instance the imagination catches a very human Jesus replying with a "who am I to judge", and by extension 'who are you to judge', rejoinder.

The hook is a woman who has been made a
scapegoat for a shared indiscretion, her pal-amour let off the hook, a patriarchal caste targeting her with deadly gender based violence, along with an attempt to discredit a political rival.

So, it's not simple. Right you are. What's your take on the story?

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 29 October 2017 at 4:21pm GMT

RevDave: porneia has a range of meanings. The one I believe Jesus is emphasizing in the citation, is: "a married man having sexual relations with an unmarried woman" -- a behavior which would not be classed as "adultery" under Hebrew or Roman law. There are a number of texts pairing "moixeia" and "porneia," to condemn what we would consider adultery in the modern sense of the word (as opposed to the Hebrew legal meaning). (cf Hebrews 13:4)

The problem with your analysis appears to be the "dictionary fallacy" -- that a word with a range of meanings must mean "all" of those things whenever used, in "any case." On the contrary, a word with a range of meanings usually means only one thing in a given context. Porneia (and its related words) can mean prostitution, adultery by a married woman, resort to prostitutes (including by a married man), non-commercial sexual relations between a man and an unmarried woman (which is porneia in the Hebrew legal sense -- with the concern that it limits the marriage prospects of the woman, who is thereby "a harlot"), and (figuratively) idolatry. Discerning which meaning makes sense in any given citation is the challenge for which the usual tools of interpretation are at hand: context, comparison and contrast with other passages, knowledge of the cultural background. (CRS, this is the best we have to determine anything like "original intent" -- always an asymptote, though not a lost cause, in my opinion.) None of the citations RevDave provides require any other meaning than the range I cite, and certainly some vague catch-all is pointless in such a list. (By your standard the citation from 1 Cor 6:9-10 would make a distinction between pornoi and arsenokoitai -- needless if the latter were included in the former. Note that pornoi can have a narrow meaning as "whoremongers,")

If you look at how the word is used in the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures, you find a similar range of meaning, but not in the texts concerning male same-sex activity.

CRS, you offer an interesting hypothesis; but having yet to be shown, you lack a present definitive answer. What makes me wonder is why some are eager to extend or maintain the range of meaning in this particular direction in the absence of evidence supporting such an extension.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 29 October 2017 at 6:50pm GMT

"What makes me wonder is why some are eager to extend or maintain the range of meaning in this particular direction in the absence of evidence supporting such an extension."

That is the question, indeed. Thank you, Tobias.

At my church today, a fairly new member spoke on what it meant for her and her partner/wife to be fully accepted at our church. It was a beautiful witness to love and the fruits of the Gospel of the radical love of Jesus, as exemplified in TEC and our acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQI people (as opposed to tolerating us). The fruits of exclusion?

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 30 October 2017 at 1:42am GMT

Cynthia replies to RevDave, " haven't a shred of evidence that committed same-sex relationships are sinful."

The questions raised by a contemporary understanding of the human sexual response are simply not within the horizon of biblical writers dominated by a patriarchal sexual binary. Indeed there are other ethical problems that are not within the horizon of ancient biblical writers such as climate change and a modern market economy.

One is happy to sit in the audience as experts in biblical languages slug it out. It is a sideshow--albeit an erudite one. There are instances where consulting texts first and working "upwards" is helpful, e.g. 'Christology'.

However, contemporary insights based on new knowledge make the biblical horizon as starting point problematic. Better to analyse the phenomena and then proceed to questions about shared values in the tradition.

In this the week of the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation, modern Christians must assert that not all problems can be solved sola scriptura.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 30 October 2017 at 1:58pm GMT
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