Comments: a way ahead for the CofE?

The early part of the article seems to be trying to set up the issue as a geographic one. That is self-evidentially not the case. The disagreement is in no way Africa v North America with the Church of England somehow caught in the middle as the honest broker.

And as for this:
"The C of E has already made the decision for itself. Homosexuals, whether "active" or not, are welcome to be communicants and full members of a congregation. The clear implication is that their condition is natural and unchangeable."

This is blatantly untrue.

Posted by Neil B at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 4:47pm BST

Well thanks loads to the Rev. Dr. Edwards - apparently somebody with great experience of the CoE and who inhabits a position somewhere on the mixed middle spectrums - for finally speaking up so clearly. His ABCD thing is rather akin to what I had earlier imagined the Archbishop of Canterbury would be so capable of saying. Though, alas, apparently not.

The only thing that tasks me very much in his views (as a reader from afar) is the tone he unwittingly or knowingly adopts when he mentions gay discretion. It makes him sound like he still cherishes the bad old days when LGBTQ folks were supposed to be sneaking around with knowing nods and winks, like a Monty Python routine. But gee, the author says he is almost 80 years old, so why should he not prize all the old sneaks? I suspect we are partly dealing with an inter-generational thing.

The simpler notion, entertained by many believers: Queer folks in love, with Jesus, and/or with each other, and/or with their children - well they are hardly likely to be asked by Jesus to stay so silent, so invisible, so very hang dog about being alive and in love. If they shut up, the rocks will cry out to any and all who bother listening on that other mystical wavelength.

If you listen you can even hear the cries of the violently repressed Queer Folk who still have to survive in a Global South nation that prizes its sneak, and its innate rights of cruelty, as keys to its gospel.

Still, it is reassuring to read that the author as an Anglican leader has no desire to peek through bedroom keyholes to see if consenting adults are really doing this or that. He wants no less to see me making out, than I probably want to see him making out. I suspect these shifts in the formerly delicate balances and alliances of sneak, with privacy, with social discretion, with implicit legitimizations of passing violence - are sorted differently across the different generations. Though I did have several great aunts as a child who were quite outspoken and bawdy in their feisty take on what it meant to be women in their day. God bless 'em, it turned on light bulbs for me to hear little old ladies talk as if they had ever loved. Their stories enriched my boyhood, even in coded terms, so that I could begin to grasp the human body as celebration, as feast, as welcome.

Of course the author and I get along much better when he talks about all the good things we may learn, from both African and North America, at the same time as global contemporaries. Why - Even North American may be learning a shared lesson with and from Africa, to the extent that putting yourself in good conscience on the line at home in your own Anglican province for your following of Jesus is the most orthodox sort of Christian witness?

Africa is still telling us, via the bishop's wife speaking at Lambeth 1998 to Richard Kirker: We don't have any gays in Africa, sir, because when we find one, we hunt him down and kill him. North America is telling us, We have gay parents with children in our parishes, and we stopped hunting them down a few decades past, though admittedly even all believers are not uniform in agreeing with that restraint.

I do so hope the archbishops all around the planet get a chance to read this article. It is a far more serviceable working paper than many sections of the failed Windsor Report, and certainly helps us put resolutions from Lambeth or Dromantine in their proper institutional places. Thanks for all your common prayer, common reflection, and advice, dear Primates. We will consider what you say. Of course, none of you are legislating for any Anglican believer, anywhere.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 4:53pm BST

I agree with Neil B's comments about the ex-Very Rev's Southwark's piece. Nothing new said, just another attempt to frame the current crisis in the liberal paradigm in the run up to GC2006 in June, reports from the [still strangely silent] ABofC's commission, the issuing of invites to Lambeth 2008 and the next GS meeting in July.

I love this for instance: "For long, the vessel in which this experiment was conducted was supplied by English nationalism, the British Empire, or the English-speaking culture, but always there was a hope that the result would benefit the universal Church that is the continuing Body of the Christ who cannot be divided." And I thought the crisis was brought about by rejection of previously held moral and theological *beliefs* by ECUSA, not the fall of the British Empire (which the US left 230 years ago Mr Edwards!)

And as for: "The C of E has already made the decision for itself. Homosexuals, whether "active" or not, are welcome to be communicants and full members of a congregation. The clear implication is that their condition is natural and unchangeable." This is clearly rubbish. If you read the CofE Bishop's recent report "Issues in Human Sexuality" or go back to the last Synod resolutions on sexuality. There is no consensus that homosexuality is natural - GS said that homosexual genital acts were not compatible with Scripture and should be met with calls to repentence! And folk can and do find that they can change their sexuality (in both directions). Some testimony to the Canadian Hose of Bishops is available here: http://www.zacchaeus.ca/HOB.HTML

Posted by Dave at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 7:24pm BST

It seems to me that the ECUSA is being punished for refusing to 'play the game' in the way most English Bishops are adept. Unfortunately, nods and winks are not a generational response in England but continued practice today. 'Having a blind eye' serves most Bishops well when they can espouse continued support for the 'church's traditional teaching' when approached by the media or conservative evanglicals. These Bishops know very well what the real situation is in terms of the numbers of gay clergy both celibate and more importantly non-celibate. After over twenty years as a priest I know this from my own experience and from that of dozens of colleagues. It is shameful that ECUSA is being left to take the rap for being more honest about what is actually going on. On a political point, I would say that conservative evanglicals and their allies in England too know the real situation on the ground - but they do not want to create too many ripples because it is essential that the Englich church be firmly ropped in to the conservative agenda to give their cause legitmacy, greater influence and power. They have already boxed in Rowan Williams - and once ECUSA is expelled (the real wish of the conservatives) they can gradually begin purging the C of E. This story is going to run for many years yet.

Posted by AlaninLondon at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 7:24pm BST

Here, here. Or, perhaps, hear, hear. At last, someone who speaks with wisdom, and not as the scribes. The world Fr. Edwards describes is not ideal, but at least it is compassionate and endurable.

Posted by John Wall at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 8:07pm BST

"Thanks for all your common prayer, common reflection, and advice, dear Primates. We will consider what you say. Of course, none of you are legislating for any Anglican believer, anywhere."

Well said, Drdanfee!

Sadly, many 'reasserters' are blissfully unaware that Lambeth Conference resolutions have no legislative function for the AC, but, rather, are expressions of the minds of the bishops gathered in conference. Nor do primates' meetings legislate for the rest of the Communion, no matter how pompous the demeanor of some of the primates and metropolitans.

The two trains are on a collision course and there is, unfortunately, no way of stopping them. The Bible-wacker 'purists', whether in the Global South or in the U.S. or in the U.K., will not accept a middle ground (for them 1 Cor. 5 represents an absolute standard!), and will not rest until all sinners have been excluded from the Church. Why should inclusive Anglican provinces reverse course? Today, we would be excluding Gays and Lesbians and tomorrow divorced and remarried persons unrepentantly 'living in sin'. What next? Enforce St. Paul's extreme positions with regard to the role of women, who are to submit to their husbands and fathers. How about slavery? St. Paul was ambivalent about slavery as an institution.

As an Anglican/Episcopalian, I have always valued the "broad tent" of traditional Anglicanism, which the Bible-wacking evangelicals want to destroy. Let them depart in peace!

Posted by John Henry at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 8:14pm BST

Neil
Would you care to explain which bits of the quote you cite are "blatantly untrue" and explain why you think that. I imagine that Dr Edwards is referring to paras 23-25 of
http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr5605.html
Simon

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 11:33pm BST

Could it be the massive unproven jump of logic that “their condition is natural and unchangeable” follows from the earlier part of the statement?

Or, could it be that the HoB statement you imagine he is referring to was badly discredited from the word go and carries no legal or moral weight since the Bishops themselves are divided over it and are not committed to enforcing it - not to mention its widespread rejection at a local level?

Or, could it simply be the equating of a HoB statement with a “CofE decision” even though the legislature has been denied the opportunity to debate it?....

Take your pick.

Posted by Neil B at Wednesday, 26 April 2006 at 12:24am BST

Compassionate and endurable? Oh yes. Keep the blessing of same sex committed loving relationships behind closed doors and task gays to exercise 'discretion.' There is a word for that, and the word is 'closet.' No thank you. Been there, done that, paid the emotional and moral price of living a lie so as not to offend the salacious curiosity of others. No thank you, Not going back.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 26 April 2006 at 1:00pm BST

Thanks all for some good contemplative postings so far (thanks for the link, Simon). At one point Alan B wrote "On a political point, I would say that conservative evanglicals and their allies in England too know the real situation on the ground - but they do not want to create too many ripples because it is essential that the Englich church be firmly ropped in to the conservative agenda to give their cause legitmacy, greater influence and power. They have already boxed in Rowan Williams - and once ECUSA is expelled (the real wish of the conservatives) they can gradually begin purging the C of E. This story is going to run for many years yet."

This is the still to be more fully contemplated issue. If we can not keep the communion together (which the conservatives have stated they will not accept unless the liberals submit to their religious authority and become silent repentant sinners to be "re-educated" from the pews). Where will liberals go in ultra-conservative dioceses and do not want to listen to sermons of hate week in and week out? Where will conservatives go if they are in liberal dioceses where they fear being corrupted by sin through sermons of tolerance and inclusion week in and week out?

In that sense, fence sitting is doing neither side any good, nor will it protect parishioners who feel that they are either being bullied or corrupted.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 26 April 2006 at 5:43pm BST

Neil
I can understand that you personally disagree with those three statements, and probably more besides.

Leaving aside the issue of whether it follows from Dr Edwards' previous remarks, do you believe that in any cases at all it is true that sexual orientation is natural and unchangeable?

Simon

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 26 April 2006 at 8:45pm BST

Simon

I look forward to hearing Neil's reply. I've been thinking about this whole tolerance thing overnight, because one comment in the article started my cognitative juices flowing. Namely, that a lot of current GLBT material puts Christians off, but that peeking through keyholes to ensure purity is even more repulsive.

My contemplations were along the lines of when Moses was called by God to take the Israelites through Exodus for 40 years. If the people at the start of the journey had to write to defend themselves, or articulate what they stood for. They would have failed abysmally (they didn't even have the 10 commandments at that point). Thus God called the Jews to be His people BEFORE they "deserved" to be called his people.

Similarly, the offer of hopsitality and tolerance is not based on what the GLBT are now, but on what they COULD be. Like the Israelites in Exodus, they have to come to terms with issues such as narcissism, hedonism, self-defence, prayer, self-control, compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, endurance, reverance...

Just as we are exhorted to bring out the best in ourselves and peoples of other faith, so too are we exhorted to bring out the best in GLBTs. One crucial element to that is to exhort them to meet the same standard of sexual reverance as heterosexual souls - which is an exhortation to celibacy or life-long monogamy.

In the continuum of human development, some souls are strongly homosexual, the vast majority heterosexual, and there is a gray area of souls not sure which way they really go. When they were dismissed and rejected many of these souls simply had sex with whatever would present itself. What we are now trying to do is encourage them to aim for monogomous life-long relationships and make a choice of working with ONE soul (of whatever gender they choose). This elevates them beyond rutting beasts in the field.

One of the reasons "free speech" is so important, is that they need time to find the vocabulary to distinguish what is narcisstic/destructive from what is reverential. They need time to educate themselves and each other.

Being intolerant snipers does not bring them into a more reverential state of consciousness. Further, because of the tendency of neo-facist regimes to use homosexuals as early fodder for training an elitist intolerant violent culture, they need to be protected. Roughly 3% of any population is sufficient training grounds for violent regimes, and thus that training grounds must be monitored and protected. If we can not protect the "least" of us, then how can we presume that we have the wisdom or strength to protect the "best" of us? Thus in protecting GLBT, we train our societies to show compassion, mercy, hospitality, tolerance.

Those who embrace this will also gain a more sophisticated vocabulary that distinguishes between predatory behaviours and self-destructive behaviours. We will become wiser in attributes such as probity, natural justice, hospitality (in the sense of being in the world but not of the world), and compassion. Ironically, we will become better at "tough love" because we will be attacking and describing predatory behaviours rather than the baby per se.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 26 April 2006 at 10:55pm BST

I am not at all convinced Simon. I think the burden of proof for this must be on others. I have heard a lot of assertion – but seen no convincing evidence.

The New Testament in particular has an expectation that sexual practice is reserved for heterosexual monogamous marriage between one man and one woman and that everything outside of that is considered wrong (ie is sin) and is a result of the fall – which is why sexual immorality of all sorts is condemned alongside other sinful practices resulting from the fall.

Equally the call to holiness leads those in Christ to repent of all their sin and desist from wilfully committing that sin and I see no reason why that should not include homosexual practice alongside all other sin. So unless I am presented with convincing evidence I believe someone who has homosexual feelings is called to control them just like any other temptation which it would be wrong to give in to. So no, not "unchangeable" and no not "natural" in the God-given sense of natural. Even if the gay gene weren't a myth, it wouldn't help resolve this because it could easily have been effected by the fall.

I am not claiming heterosexual "superiority" in any way for myself or anyone else. I am a sinner who is tempted in many ways just like the rest of the human race. There but for the grace of God go I. There is no hierarchy of sin and in the sexual realm any practice outside of marriage is just as wrong as any other sin. But it is nevertheless still sin. Yet God’s grace is sufficient for all.

(I am very conscious that I am saying nothing new and your readers are probably all completely conversant with this position?!.... Am simply answering your question.)

Posted by Neil B at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 12:19am BST

I would go beyond 'natural and unchangeable' to say the wide range of sexual identites is to be accepted as another of God's diverse gifts. Just as God did not chose to make a single skin color or type of flower -- God rejoices in variety and calls us to do so. What, to me, is the greater challenge and more important quality is honesty -- honesty within ourselves and between ourselves. How can I grow to be the person God created me to be? How can I not only be true to myself but make it safe for others to be true to themselves?

Posted by Columba Gilliss at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 12:20am BST

I couldn't help being bemused about the question of suitable sexual practice. Maybe I am being mischievious, but it brought back overtones of the Victorian era where women were not meant to enjoy sex and were meant to lie down and think of England. There are also elements of the Calvinism or other puritan strands that saw sex as a burden of sin that worthy souls were meant to overcome.

Has anyone done an analysis of the cultural parallels where earlier Christians passed judgment on the suitable sexual activity of married heterosexual couples, and how some Christians seem to be passing similar judgments on homosexuals now?

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 9:12am BST

Thanks very much Neil.

My question though was about "orientation", and whether you believe it is "natural and unchangeable". I don't think you have answered that.

To me, this is kinda in the science domain, not the theology one, like heliocentricity of this universe, and Darwinian evolution. Both of which were seriously questioned by Christians as being contrary to what the Bible was then generally believed to teach. But are now generally accepted by most people. And certainly by most British Anglicans.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 10:12am BST

the Fall does NeilB regard this as a datable event?

Posted by Perry Butler at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 10:12am BST

One might say "The presence or absence of sexual orientation is in the science domain - what you do with it and why is in the theology domain", if this did not imply too strong a dichotomy between the domains. The gay gene debate has something but not very much to do with theology. Few human beings seem to have a natural inclination to sexual fidelity (homosexual or heterosexual).

The phrase "contrary to what the Bible was then generally believed to teach" acknowledges that the heliocentricity of this (part of the) universe and Darwinian evolution are not "contrary to what the Bible is now generally believed to teach". So I presume, Simon, that by "generally accepted", you do not mean to say that British Anglicans generally accept that "the Bible got it wrong" but that it is now generally accepted that many had misread the Bible on these matters.

To my mind the more significant dividing line is between those who are keen to understand and obey all that Christ says through Scripture (and seek to determine what Christ says through Scripture with the help of reason and tradition - not a peculiarly Anglican thing but common Christian sense, I may add) and those who might quite cheerfully say "the Bible got it wrong" or seek to determine God's word for them by seeing where their inclinations lead them. (This is not to deny the existence of a grey area.)

This also relates to the question: How can I know what it means "to be the person God created me to be"? Is it simply about "being true to myself" and upholding the kind of values we can all agree on like being honest and compassionate, helping others and not unnecessarily harming them?

Posted by Thomas Renz at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 2:16pm BST

Dear Thomas - No it cannot be simply about 'true to yourself', though how ghastly to think people can be bullied and frightened by a so-called Christian culture which is judgemental and bigoted (granted unwittingly in some cases and through ignorance, but the effects are nevertheless serious and we shall all have to answer for our actions). What it means to be the person God created me to be might be to proclaim liberty to captives, maybe to set the downtrodden free, possibly to bring glad tidings to the poor...or maybe to focus on the agenda set in Matthew 25. There is plenty of positive stuff for gay girls/boys and straight boys/girls to be getting on with, and grow into the person God created them/us to be.

Posted by Neil at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 6:53pm BST

This conversation and virtually all talk about heterosexuality and homosexuality focuses on personhood as essentially established by a particular set of affections. Then the Scripture and Tradition are drawn in on the conservative side to show that only certain sexual acts are permitted. But surely Scripture has more in mind than sex when it speaks of persons. Marriage is certainly more than the correct anatomical arrangements which may lead to children (though for years the church held this to be the major factor in marriage). Marriage is about intimacy and companionship of which one central part is sexual expression. When, therefore gays and lesbians are denied sexual expression (thus upholding St. Paul) they are in fact being denied intimacy and companionship. Certainly they may wish to find such companionship apart from sexual activity, as may heterosexuals. But that should be a choice, as it should be for heterosexuals. What is being argued is that on the basis of Scripture a group of people are being denied the normal means to self-giving partnership and human communion. I find it hard to believe that at heart this is what Scripture intends. If you assume we are created in the image of God, that is the Trinity of God, then it follows we were created not to be alone nor simply to practice correct sex, but to enter into human companionship and self-gving relationships mirroring the reality of God. Thus to deny this to a particular group of persons would then consititute heresy, for it is a denial of the Trinity.

Posted by William R. coats at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 8:18pm BST

Biologist friends at the university where I teach say that searching for 'a' gay gene ignores the complexity of genetic determination of traits. Very few things are turned off/on by 'a' gene. Rather, a number of genetic markers, often influenced by the presence or absence of other body chemicals, act - or not - in complex relationships to result in particular characteristics.

The ad hoc analogy that I often use - handedness - turns out to be better than I knew. What I ask people is when they decided to be right or left handed, and, if you force a left-handed person to use her right hand to write, do you get a right-handed person, or a left-handed person writing poorly with the right hand?

A colleague who has done research in handedness says that there is no one genetic marker, although handedness is to some extent a familial trait, and therefore likely has a genetic componant. It is also linked with the occurance of other traits and some other congenital conditions. I am sorry I didn't save her email with scholarly references.

To return to handedness - in many cultures the left hand is regarded as unclean, and of course, the Romans knew it was 'sinister.'

A final question:
When did each of you Thinking Anglicans decide to be right or left handed? Straight or gay?

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 8:50pm BST

Thomas Renz wrote: "Few human beings seem to have a natural inclination to sexual fidelity (homosexual or heterosexual)."

Since this statement is absolutely contrary to my experience as a human being and as a priest, I wonder whether it does not in fact come very close to being the real subject matter here...

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 9:33pm BST

At the very least, thanks to modern empirical data, we have to seriously consider that Gay is Natural in at least four senses of the word.

Do your homework, online and elsewhere, and you can readily find out what I mean if you really want to know. You can start with Professor John Corvino in a lecture via streaming video, at: http://www.lib.wayne.edu/services/media/lectures/corvino.php Yes he is gay. He teaches philosophy and moral philosophy at Wayne State U. in USA. Readers can also get a book he has edited, from Rowman & Littlefield, titled Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science, and Culture. There is also Professor Gregory Herek's site in the psychology department at UC, Davis: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/index.html.

You can ask a research psychologist (or even a research librarian) to help you search in any good empirical database, like PsycInfo, ERIC (freebie), or one of the online medical databases.

If you really want to find the data, you will find that we have indications to disconfirm much of the received negative view, and indications to orient us towards emerging alternative views in which straight is not innately privileged over all. All of this startling newer data, published over the past five or six decades of careful research, is exactly the occasion when we might provisionally conclude that we are beholden to rethink our old negative religious claims about LGBTQ Folks, if we even care to bother.

Warning. In order to actually review this data, you will have to temporarily bracket much of what you may sincerely believe or think is traditional, negative common sense about queers if you still pledge allegiance to those orthodoxies. Even then, I doubt you believe that oral sex causes crop failures or stillborn cattle. Why not? Christians in the Middle Ages simply knew that was true. If that could change, why is the rest so absolutely forbidden to be affected by modern empirical inquiry?

The continuing foundational test of this new fangled positive Queer Living among followers of Jesus is NOT the ability to coerce or conform believers who don't want to touch being gay with a ten foot pole, for all the old, familiar reasons. The main foundational testing that we are doing is the real, daily, good lives of positive Queer Folk, opening up towards all the excellence and decency that somebody can manage. Our current situations in church or society continue to be burdened with great pressures of prejudice and presumptive inequality. Our stories continue to be shouted down by the loud and simply awful, nasty lies that other people like to repeat about us. You know what I mean - all about how filthy, dangerous, and defective we are, both as human beings, and particularly as followers of Jesus.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by drdanfee at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 9:49pm BST

This is an excellent discussion. Simon, I liked the way you worked to your point - it was too good to comment on at the time.

The other issues about what is inherited/biased have now come up more for discussion. This is a red herring that has been used to stall the discussion for decades. Actually, the postings about left- and right-handedness parallel the discussion in some ways. What the postings overlooked are those people who are ambidextrous (equally able to perform either left- or right- handed tasks). Educationalists can tell you that such souls often have a harder time learning, as do lefties who are forced to use their right hand. When I was a child in Australia, teachers were still teaching children to use their right hand and there would be the odd child (e.g. my best friend) who was strongly left-handed who would then use their left hand. By the time I was a young adult, they were doing activites with the littlies when they started school to determine whether they were naturally left or right handed and then sorting them accordingly. (They had worked out that strongly left handed children's learning was hampered by being forced to be right handed). Most of us would know people who are a little bit of each e.g. there are those who write with their right hands but play tennis with the left hand. A similar parallel exists in the sexuality continuum.

Which brings me back to the point that it is not so much the orientation of our sexuality that matters, but HOW we manifest that sexuality. Columbia's posting included: "How can I not only be true to myself but make it safe for others to be true to themselves?" Reverential sex involves being true to yourself but also respecting "the other". This distinguishes it from narcisstic or exploitative sex (e.g. rape, use of drugs, immature intellect: a soul with the mental age of a nine is not capable of adult reasoning and therefore can not give fully informed consent because they simply can not comprehend some of the concepts).

Simon's point is quite valid, there have been times in history e.g. Galileo where the new paradigm was attacked as a threat to the sciptural authority of the bible. Eventually, it became clear that the issue was not the state of the universe, nor the religious text, but the limitations and inertia of the current priestly castes' interpretations. To continue in this line, if unfolding revelation and interpretation are biblically incorrect, then we are all heretics for forming Christianity (and breaking away from the Jews) or Protestants (and breaking away from the Catholics). Anyone who argues against unfolding understanding is on the wrong foot unless they are an ultraconservative Jew.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 10:07pm BST

"I am not claiming heterosexual "superiority" in any way for myself or anyone else."

Of course you are, Neil B.

In your view, heterosexuals are able to enjoy (physical) spousal love, without sinning. In contrast, homosexuals are not so able.

If that's not a case of superiority/inferiority, I don't know what is...

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Thursday, 27 April 2006 at 10:54pm BST

Simon: It may have been buried in other text but I think this is pretty clear: “So no, not "unchangeable" and no not "natural" in the God-given sense of natural.”

Perry Butler: I’m not aware of being able to date the fall in history, no. Can you?

drdanfee: Neither of your links (above) work.

JCF: is * that * superiority? Wow! I think you have a different understanding to me of the English language. So a single person who has no sexual partner is really in the pits then? You must really pity them! Yet the Apostle Paul doesn’t agree. Where in Scripture does God define someone by their sexuality? Where do we get this idea that unless my sexual preference is satisfied I am incomplete or “inferior”?….

Posted by Neil B at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 1:30pm BST

I'd like to comment in particular about "ABCD" - as well meaning as Dr Edwards might be, I do hope this "middle ground" is NOT seen as the way forward for the AC.

I wonder that God might grieve that any prayer might be offered in "secret", so as not to offend.

I don't wish a blind eye on any bishop. I don't think this is a gift from God.

To accept gay and lesbian people at the Table, like "non Anglicans and other people we know nothing about" must be offensive to any sense of community, not to mention the repeated calls at Lambeth to listen to the gay and lesbian experience. It says we can accept them, even though they are not "of us". It says we can accept them, even though we do not want to know them.

No, this is not the Anglican way forward. I hope.

Posted by Paul Bunnell at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 3:43pm BST

I have fixed the links drdanfee supplied (final full stop was the cause of the problem).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 5:16pm BST

Dear drdanfee, the difference between some strange popular beliefs in the middle ages and the current debate on same-sex sex (and some other liberal favoured sexualities) is that the latter is clearly and consistently condemned by writers of both the New Testament and the Old Testament, as well as the Church throughout the last 2000 years, and the by far the majority of all churches in *all* parts of the world today !

The basic reason for this is that God wants to make us into the people He wants us to be, not into the people we want to be.

God did not "make us like we are" - as some people claim to justify themselves. We are all born with a tendency to "sin", and we all develop less than perfectly - through the effects of other people's, and our own, "mistakes".

Posted by Dave at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 6:03pm BST

Random thought regarding the standard line Neil used above: "The New Testament in particular has an expectation that sexual practice is reserved for heterosexual monogamous marriage between one man and one woman and that everything outside of that is considered wrong (ie is sin)." I'm having a forgetful moment; where does the NT legislate "one man, one woman" apart from the Pastorals' injunctions on priests and bishops being the husband of only one wife? That is, point me to where the NT condemns polygamy for the laity... Not that I'm arguing for it myself *at all*--I just want to make sure we're not importing cultural assumptions willy-nilly.

Posted by Derek at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 6:19pm BST

Neil B's comment "So a single person who has no sexual partner is really in the pits then? You must really pity them! Yet the Apostle Paul doesn’t agree." is a bit too simplistic. Paul encouraged celibacy as it made it easier to focus on God's work (1 Corinthians 7:28). But he didn't ask people to deny their sexuality, and in fact where they had strong sexual drives, Paul's exhortations were for them to take a spouse and relieve their sexual urges e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 7:31-40.

As an aside, I've been contemplating Paul's writings regarding the role of women and sexuality over the last few weeks. Part of me wonders if we are not partly reading what Paul would see worthy in a woman if he were to take a wife, and then his considerations on why he did not take a wife.

These cogitative juices were further encouraged by this article posted yesterday: http://www.algemeiner.com/generic.asp?ID=162

In a nutshell, this article explains that only a kohen is authorised to declare a potential leprosy blemish as impure. It talks about why in terms of the divine blessing imparted to the priets from the line of Aaron/Levi. But it also talks about the importance of the kohen's character. A kohen hostile to a congregation is to refrain from blessing them lest they block the blessings. Plus only married Kohen were "charged with the responsibility of serving G-d in the Jerusalem Holy Temple". They suggest this is because marriage teaches them practical selfless love.

I just loved this paragraph and couldn't help but ponder our own recent debates: "Now we will understand why the Torah allows no one but the Kohen to diagnose another human being as suffering from an illness that renders him or her severely impure and requires them to separate from the community. The Torah is imparting to us a critical lesson: Before you diagnose another person as being spiritually ill and deserving temporary isolation, you must make sure that your heart if filled with love toward this person. For it is only then that your diagnosis and rebuke will build, rather than destroy, this person's character, and it is only then that you will no doubt search for every possible way to rehabilitate this wounded soul."

As an aside, I could not help but wonder if some of the early Jews hostility might have been caused by the bachelorhood of Jesus or his apostles, and a fear that their "immaturity" might cause their "blessings" to be curses. Of course in the early church days, no one would have gotten too far into this discussion. The Christians were grieving, the Romans were oppressing, the Jews were suffering and there weren't the intervening kilometres to hinder acting out strong emotional outbursts. (We can not reach out and touch "the other" through our internet discussions...)

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 7:07pm BST

Neil thank you for your answers to my question. I am sorry I did not spot your specific response when I read your first answer.

Just to get my mind entirely clear:
I asked:
...Do you believe that in any cases at all it is true that sexual orientation is natural and unchangeable?
and your reply was:
I am not at all convinced Simon. I think the burden of proof for this must be on others. I have heard a lot of assertion – but seen no convincing evidence...So no, not "unchangeable" and no not "natural" in the God-given sense of natural.
I then added my comment that:
To me, this is kinda in the science domain, not the theology one, like heliocentricity of this universe, and Darwinian evolution. Both of which were seriously questioned by Christians as being contrary to what the Bible was then generally believed to teach. But are now generally accepted by most people. And certainly by most British Anglicans.
You confirmed your earlier response (again my apologies for not recognising it) but you didn't add anything in response to my additional remarks. I don't know whether that is because you don't dispute them, but no doubt you will let us know if not.
But what I am left wondering is whether we even have a common understanding of the term "sexual orientation". When I used it above, I did not mean homosexuality, I meant orientation. When I use that term I mean it to encompass heterosexuality as well.
Can you see why I am having difficulty with your answer?

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 9:18pm BST

Thomas Renz asked:
So I presume, Simon, that by "generally accepted", you do not mean to say that British Anglicans generally accept that "the Bible got it wrong" but that it is now generally accepted that many had misread the Bible on these matters.

Thomas, your presumption is correct.The first sentence of your second paragraph is also a correct interpretation of what I think and was seeking to say.

I'm a little puzzled though as to why you introduce such a contentious phrase, as I don't think either David Edwards or anyone else has used it here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 9:30pm BST

What is "God-given sense of natural"?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 28 April 2006 at 11:06pm BST

You are right, Simon. Probably few commentators on Thinking Anglicans would be entirely comfortable using the phrase "the Bible got it wrong".

And yet the sheer absence of reference to sustained, serious Scriptural exegesis is remarkable. "Some Issues in Human Sexuality" was meant to be a study guide - what happened to the study? The report’s tendency is to claim that the weight of scholarship supports generally traditional conclusions. In my judgement, this reflects accurately contemporary biblical scholarship.

Those who advocate a change of policy/doctrine with regard to homosexual activity will need to show either (A) that the report misrepresents biblical scholarship or (B) that biblical scholarship is misguided on the exegesis of the pertinent passages or (C) that biblical scholarship is irrelevant to the task at hand.

(A) should be demonstrated by sifting the full range of contemporary biblical scholarship to discern the balance of opinion, citing a dissenting voice or two is insufficient.

(B) requires that an alternative, reasonable interpretation of the biblical text is put forward; to accuse the report of proof-texting because you don't like its conclusions will hardly do.

(C) seems to have become the default option, as if the fact that biblical scholarship is not unanimously agreed (never has been, never will be) means we can interpet the text as we like.

So I grant that "thinking Anglicans" do not attribute falsehood to Scripture. Nor would many want to declare Scripture altogether irrelevant. And yet I have been involved in too many discussions in which Scripture was sidelined or has been treated to such appalling exegesis that it made me think that there must be quite a few Anglicans who do not believe that we discern God's guidance through prayerful study of Scripture.

(Now we could rewind an earlier discussion: We agree that Scripture does not condemn homosexual orientation. We disagree about the significance of this for its condemnation of homosexual activity. But this is not the thread for it.)

David L. Edwards manages to pack in quite a few activities in his ABCD offering "a way ahead for the CofE" but listening to Scripture is not explicitly part of the package, suggesting that it is not very high up on the agenda. I suspect this is because David L. Edwards has given up hope that we might come to an agreed understanding of Scripture on these issues.

But whether we can tolerate this particular lack of agreement (we do not agree on many other issues of Scriptural interpretation) may depend on whether we have sufficient faith in each other's willingness to submit to the witness we find in Scripture. It is the breakdown of this trust which seems to me more significant than the fact that the discussion is about sex. This is what I was trying to get at, rather ineptly, in my earlier post.

Posted by Thomas Renz at Monday, 1 May 2006 at 2:01am BST

Thomas ; I think the basic divide is far greater than that. More and more, liberals are questioning the authority of the Bible, not just its interpretation.

What is needed is a recognition that the Bible is no more than a book, purely the work of men, of their time and culture, who may well have been inspoired by their faith to write - but that's as far as it goes in terms of inspiration. I do not believe that words are inspired.

John Spong and Sea of Faith appear to me to make far more sense than anyone currently in charge of the Anglican Communion!

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 1 May 2006 at 3:01pm BST

Thomas
Sorry for the delay in responding on this one. I must say I think any lack of enthusiasm shown for SIHS is more to do with its appalling literary style than due to its content.

Regarding your A B C argument above, I'm not sure I accept the premises that your list exhausts the possibilities, but never mind that. I want to comment about your option C. I really really don't understand how your comment:

"that biblical scholarship is not unanimously agreed (never has been, never will be) means we can interpet the text as we like."

relates to the possibility that

"biblical scholarship is irrelevant to the task at hand."

If it were irrelevant, than why would it matter whether it was unanimous or not?

Obviously, I must be missing something here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 6 May 2006 at 3:21pm BST
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