Comments: Hereford: more from the Church Times

Dr Fraser is a very intelligent man, I know - but he should not expect many to fall for his arguments here.

My orientation is to have lots of affairs with various women.....shall I satisfy it or deny myself? Orientation is obviously not the same as practice......and orientation is no excuse to ignore the bible.

Dr John was not acceptable to many in the CofE because of his WRITINGS. It does not make sense to make people bishops when they are obviously trying to change the teaching of the church on a particular issue and effectively giving support to those who ignore it.....a bishop (and even a vicar!) is supposed to uphold the teaching of the church (radical idea, I know!)

Mr Reaney was not long out of a relationship....anybody with 10 minutes of pastoral experience would know that the bishop was being wise and also caring by saying maybe it was too soon for Mr Reaney to be giving assurances that he would not enter into another relationship. The bishop's decision was not based on "orientation".

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 8:57am BST

"My orientation is to have lots of affairs with various women"

No, your orientation is to be sexually attracted to women. It is your own human sinfulness that leads you to promiscuously express that orientation. But then you know that , after all the listening and consulting and studying you did.

"It does not make sense to make people bishops when they are obviously trying to change the teaching of the church"
So no Cranmer, then? And no Evos?

"anybody with 10 minutes of pastoral experience would know that the bishop was being wise"

I'm guessing you have less than five minutes pastoral experience.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 12:16pm BST

In defence of NP, it seems clear that the Bishop might have been displaying wise.

I have not so much as met any of the participants in this story but it is at least theoretically possible that people coming out of a relationship overestimate their future chances of celibacy. It's not the sort of thing about which you can make hard and fast rules. It has to be judged from case to case. That seems to me clear in principle, and that is why I am unhappy with the tribunal's decision, even though I'm perfectly prepared to concede that in practice the Bishop might have been wrong.

But then there is no imaginable system which will ensure that bishops always make the right decisions, any more than there is any imaginable set of written rules which will always lead to the right outcome.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 1:23pm BST

The Church of England has no teaching *.

* Except -rather suspiciously -- the lives of lesbian and gay people.

If you contest this, I shall ask you
"What is the teaching of the Church on
* the number and nature of the sacraments
* the ministry
* the nature and means of salvation
* the Godhead
* the person and work of Christ
* Revelation
* the Bible
* the life and ministry of women
* marriage and divorce

If we consult the Reports of the Doctrine Commission, the historic formularies, and the writings of Anglicans theologians and teachers we find there is no Teaching, but a range of positions, hints and suggestions.

Suggested reading :-

DC Reports.
John Stott & John Robinson, David Jenkins & Michael Ramsey, HA Williams & Maurice Wood, Norman Pittenger, Maurice Wiles, Michael Goulder, Michael Baughan & Michael Marshall, Dom Greory Dix & Colin Buchanan.

The BCP and the English Missal. Common Worship & Jim Cotter's prayers.

All Souls Langham Place & All Sints Margaret Street
I rest my case !

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 1:43pm BST

Bang on the button, Giles Fraser.

Posted by Pluralist at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 1:57pm BST

NP, consider this: In 1996, a controlled study of 64 heterosexual men (half claimed to be homophobic by experience and self-reported orientation) at the University of Georgia found that the allegedly homophobic men were considerably more likely to experience more erectile responses when exposed to homoerotic images than non-homophobic men.

NP, a study like this raises the questions: what is orientation as opposed to practice? Would you say that a person who self-describes as straight but gets an erection when exposed to homoerotic films has a homosexual orientation? Suerly that seems daft. Homosexuals are people who have sexual relations with others of the same sex. This whole very modern talk of 'orientation' is irrelavent. Suerly you would agree. After all, the Bible makes no distinction between orientation and practice. So why should the church?

You rightly say that the Bishop's decision was not based on orientation. I agree. What I am objecting too is the use of the idea of orientation to provide (what I would call) anti-gay Christians with a way of saying they are not anti-gay. Of course they are. You are largely consistent on this because you don't mind the fact that liberals think you views morally contemptuous. That's what makes your line better than the Bishop. For he wants to keep in with the liberals by saying he is not against homosexual orientation. He wants to have his cake and eat it. I say he is either against homosexality on moral grounds or he is not. I dislike the use of the term orientation to muddy the waters and to pretend he can have it both ways. I thought you might be with me on that one.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 2:06pm BST

bad mood today, Ford?

-yes, it did make sense for the RC church as an institution to resist people like Cranmer.....unless you want to promote disunity, most organisations (not the AC, I know) do not promote people who are actively trying to undermine the agreed positions of the institution.....it is just not common-sense to do that.

-the fact is that Cranmer et al had strong biblical justification for the changes they wanted (i.e. they were calling the church back from error) .......this is the difference between being a reformer and being a false teacher.

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 2:07pm BST

I am amazed that Andrew Brown supports the bishop in seeking to with-holding posts from well qualified and experienced people, if they are in a relationship. Has he not heard of equal opportunities.

This is anti-gay.

In the long run, it is untenable.

The Church of England has already said that it accepts the right of lay people to enter same gender relationships, and the right of the clergy to go to the registry office to enter civil partnerships.

I welcome the support of liberals and others for the lives and loves of lesbian and gay people. But don't you realise that many of us ,who happen to be gay, find the word 'homosexual' as inappropriate, unnecessary and offensive as the word 'negro' (would be if used).

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 3:11pm BST

Some of us, like LGCM etc., are calling the Church back from error ...

Posted by L Roberts at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 3:13pm BST

Giles,

You miss the point entirely. +Hereford is perfectly correct in saying that orientation isn't the issue, not because he wants to have an excuse to be anti-gay but rather because he recognises that Scripture doesn't treat sexual orientation as a human distinctive worthy of acknowledgement or acclamation (or denigration). The conservative position is very simple - it is sexual behaviour and it's signification that God directly teaches us about in the Scriptures. Arguments of the morality of orientation are beside the point because Scripture, in it's ignoring of the subject, demonstrates that sexual preference is not the matter at stake.

The only possible objection you can have to this is that the authors of Scripture, inspired by God, didn't understand sexual orientation. But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject, leaving us with a clear conflict between his Holy Spirit breathed words and modern sensibilities.

The absence of Scripture on the subject of orientation speaks volumes - it shows very clearly that sexual practice not preference is the indication of holiness (and the reverse).

Posted by Peter O at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 3:26pm BST

"they were calling the church back from error"
And leading us us way too far into the errors of people like Calvin. Substituting one error for another isn't all that great!

"strong biblical justification"

But Biblical authority is not absolute, NP. You simply will not admit that considering Scripture as one very important but not exclusive source of authority is a perfectly valid approach to Christian doctrine, much less that it actually IS the Tradition of the Church. You are so convinced that innovation equals error that you can't even admit the innovative nature of your own beliefs, you have to deny history! You can't even see how people can believe and follow Scripture if they do not have your absolutist approach!

And address the "orientation issue, if you would be so kind. Your orientation is attraction to women. Your sinfulness makes you a tart.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 3:35pm BST

There's a longer and rather better typed version of my views on my blog. It's not that I think that it is right to discriminate against otherwise well-qualified gays: I don't. But the law does -- at least it says that the C of E has a right to discriminate in certain circumstances.

Given that the law is as it is, I think the tribunal made a wrong decision. This does seem to me a case of equal opportunities. I would want the bishop to have the same discretion when it came to assessing whether a straight, divorced priest was going to cause scandal in the future. There is an important principle at stake about the role of Bishops. I know it's not the only principle at stake, but at least it's different from the usual trench warfare.

Posted by acb at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 4:14pm BST

Dear Giles

Thanks for your reply. I am not sure you are right in saying orientation and behaviour are one and the same. Maybe the studies you mention just show that we can all be tempted to some extent?

I am tempted to tell lies, to sleep with various women, to be harsh, to steal etc etc....this is our sinful nature, still at work in us. But these things do not define me.... I have an "orientation" towards them and I do fall sometimes but I repent and fight the temptations....I cannot justify my sins. So, we come back to the question of what is or is not a sin.

Your conversations with Dr Goddard on Fulcrum were interesting because while you both clearly liked and respected each other as people and intellectually, in the end, you could not agree on what the bible said when it came to the practice being a sin (or not as you think.)

Some argue that since respected people like you and Dr Goddard cannot agree, we should keep both views in the AC but the problem for that tolerant view (which evangelicals have lived with for decades although we get no credit for it!) is that TEC has aggressively pushed the AC boundaries in 2003 with VGR and many do not want to accept the fait accompli from them.......so, we are at a point when the AC has to say what church order requires of provinces and also of getting a covenant, as you know.

I am afraid I am like the bishop. I want to say I am not against the orientation but the activity which I believe is called a sin in the bible. I have seen people struggling with trying to be both Christian and also wanting to be active with their partners. I am sympathetic to the person who cannot hold themselves back from activity as I know how strong all our urges are....but I suppose we come back to the same point as always.......is the activity a sin or good, holy and acceptable to God? I am afraid that most of the AC and even most of the CofE is not persuaded that is holy and acceptable to God, even with a Civil Partnership......but we do want to say that all people are welcome to hear God's gospel of grace, the cross of Christ, repentance and faith.

I fear we may never agree on whether the orientation is the same as the activity and, more importantly, whether the activity is holy and acceptable to God.

Posted by NP at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 4:21pm BST

Andrew Brown modestly omits the URL for his further essay, it is
http://www.thewormbook.com/helmintholog/archives/2007/07/27/a_defence_of_the_bishop_of_hereford.html#002083

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 5:11pm BST

"But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later. was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject"

God does things in His own time, not according to our perceptions. He gave the Law, then, when He saw His own time, came Himself to redeem us. By your line of reasoning, this would suggest He was too feeble to redeem us as soon as we had Fallen.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 5:22pm BST

Conservatives need to define "sexual behaviour".

At what point does a purely platonic friendship start to become sinful?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 5:48pm BST


Peter O. I think you misunderstand me. On this point I agree with you 100%. You wrote:

"Arguments of the morality of orientation are beside the point because Scripture, in it's ignoring of the subject, demonstrates that sexual preference is not the matter at stake."

That is my position too. Absolutely. Now it so happens that I take a different line on sexual activity. But that's not what I'm going on about here.

What I want to say is that the orientation/practice distinction is a bit of a con. Either orintation issues in practice - in which case we judge the morality of the practice (and you and I will judge it differently). Or orientation does not issue in practise - in which case, what does it really mean to speak of orientation? I want to ask: can we really be orientated towards something if it never makes itself manifest in practice. I think not. Would it make sense to say I was a mass murderer in orinetation if, throughout my life, I never hurt a fly? Of course not.

I am not having a go at conservatives here - indeed, some have agreed with me and liberals disagreed. I think it perfectly consistent simply to say that gay sex is sinful. What I think is a dodge is to say practice = sinful, orientation: = no problem. I think its a dodge because orientation has to be related to practice to make any sense. My ire is not directed at conservatives here, but those who want to appear liberal by saying they have no problem with orientation - even though they won't employ gay youth workers. They need to have the courage of their convictions and just come out as morally anti-gay.

Homosexuality, as a term, gets its meaning from a form of sexual activity. You disagree with me about the moral weight of that activity. That's different. I am making a point about meaning here. Orientation cannot be isoltaed from practice and retain any real sense. Its telling also that scientists and law makers can't do very much with the concept of orientation either.

NP - you confuse me with Giles Goddard. And I am not saying that orientation and practice are the same. No, simply that orientation makes no sense unless related in some way to practice. They cannot be entirely distinct. Which is why the Bishop's position is, I think, a bit of churchy spin.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 6:14pm BST

NP:".......this is the difference between being a reformer and being a false teacher."

And who is to judge? Oh, I suspect Cromwell thought himself as biblically oriented as well.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 6:33pm BST

"....anybody with 10 minutes of pastoral experience would know that the bishop was being wise and also caring by saying maybe it was too soon for Mr Reaney to be giving assurances that he would not enter into another relationship."

Anybody outside this Big Brother organization called the Church, and many inside it, must be wondering why anyone would be placed in a position of having to inform a bishop about the current or future status of one's love life, period, in order to get a job. In the the company I work for, asking people that sort of personal question is specifically NOT allowed in job interviews. It would be considered a form of sexual harassment. Caring my {anatomical reference deleted}.

Posted by Brian MacIntyre at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 6:36pm BST

"What could it mean to say a person had a homosexual orientation, if he never once had any sort of sexual relationship with a member of the same sex? I suggest it would mean next to nothing."

Oh dear: I find myself in the uncomfortable (and unfamiliar!) position of *disagreeing* with Giles+.

I am a person in the orientation/status he describes. Rather than mean "next to nothing", it merely means---in the time I have understood myself to have the orientation---that I haven't met Ms. Right yet. (Lord have mercy!)

[But when I do, I promise---having met all commitments to God and Church (the latter, as possible)---she and I WILL partake of a "sexual relationship with a member of the same sex". Near constantly. Alleluia! ;-)]

Posted by JCF at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 7:17pm BST

Giles,

I understand what you're trying to say, but if your piece in the Church Times wasn't a dig at conservatives then why did you have to use the language of homophobia?

I still think you're wrong about orientation and practice. I knew very well that I was "homosexual" (for want of a better word) despite eventually years of celibacy. You can't deny what your desires are. And this means also that your analogy of mass murder is a red herring. If someone had a deep temptation to murder (some people are psychotic in this manner as I'm sure you know) are you seriously suggesting that until they kill someone it would be incorrect to label them as psychotic, even if they had confessed these temptations to murder to others? No, the analogy doesn't work. Someone can be tempted to murder without actually murdering someone, but that still makes them tempted to murder. Equally, I can be fully and coherently sexually orientated towards people of the same sex (homosexual) without ever engaging in homosexual practice. Trust me, there are plenty of us about, either currently exclusively homosexual or, as in my case, previously.

Posted by Peter O at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 7:25pm BST

JCF. Because you say 'she and I WILL partake of a 'sexual relationship' you connect orientation with practice - even if only through intention. I am not saying there is no such thing as orientation. Simply that it is not possible to make sense of orientation entirely independent of practice.

Posted by Giles Fraser at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 7:49pm BST

Peter O wrote: "The only possible objection you can have to this is that the authors of Scripture, inspired by God, didn't understand sexual orientation. But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject,"

These same authors of Scripture, inspired by God, thought pi = 3. Does Peter O think that to say otherwise is also to posit a feeble God? One who, foreseeing the Pythagoreans, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to state that pi is an irrational number?

Looks like we'll just have to go with the value of 3 for pi, then, or risk being called atheists and pagans.

Posted by Charlotte at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 8:45pm BST

Where does the Bible say that pi = 3? If you're referring to 1 Kings 7 then I think you'll find http://home.teleport.com/~salad/4god/pi.htm answers that little bit of silliness.

Posted by Peter O at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 9:01pm BST

" Because you say she and I WILL partake of a 'sexual relationship' you connect orientation with practice - even if only through intention"

...which is what the bishop did.

Bingo!

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 9:28pm BST

This is just a bit of political sophistry to paint evangelicals into the corner of being homophobic by saying we ought to be discriminating against anyone who sees themselves as having a homosexual orientation (regardless of whether they do anything about it). It fails on (at least) three levels.

1) Regardless of whether Giles Fraser and Peter Ould (and Sean Doherty for that matter) think the notion of orientation is a modern invention, most gay people do not see it this way at all (apart from the more radical Queer by Choice type theorists, who as far as I can tell are a small minority). So the distinction, even if not cast in terms we would use, makes the relevant point well enough.

2) What the language is getting at (inadequate as it may be), is a distinction between sexual feelings and acting upon them. One need not accept the language of orientation in order to think that there is a moral difference between experiencing a sexual inclination and acting upon it.

3) It is rather counterintuitive to suggest that one has no predisposition to do certain things merely because one does not do them. Experience suggests plenty of counterexamples. What then of celibate people whose sexual feelings are predominantly or exclusively for members of the same sex as them? Or indeed celibate people who are attracted to members of the same sex? According to Dr Fraser they would be asexual beings, a rather bizarre suggestion.

Posted by Sean Doherty at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 10:09pm BST

I am rather taken aback by Andrew Brown's comments. If the Bishop wants to play by the official rule book - then he should be fighting to change those rules so that the CofE does not bring disgrace upon itself by the way gay people are treated (lay or ordained). A wise bishop would work out more indirect, less intrusive and degrading ('humiliated' I think was how Mr. Reaney said he felt) ways of coming to a view re the moral suitability of someone for a job.
Less wise bishops (though better than Hereford!) I know historically have asked direct questions and then put themselves in the clear by saying that the conversation never officially took place, and publicly they would need to follow the rules should any problems arise. People forget that this youth worker was unanimously chosen. I believe the Bishop has done great damage, and continues to do so by not admitting his error. To think +Hereford had a good education at Cambridge, and is a Cuddesdon boy as well. Runcie would be turning in his grave! Not their best produce, this Priddis character...though I guess the poor folk of Hereford will now be lumbered with him. No 'vacancy in see' board will ever agree to him! Kindofironic eh?

Posted by Neil at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 10:50pm BST

Peter O, why are you willing to accept the rather tortured bit of reasoning to which you linked, rather than the plain sense of the inspired Biblical passage? Isn't it that you yourself would find it hard to believe that pi=3? And therefore the Bible must not say so, either.

Shall we move on to the "waters above the firmament," then?

Posted by Charlotte at Friday, 27 July 2007 at 11:34pm BST

"there is a moral difference between experiencing a sexual inclination and acting upon it"

We all agree there is nothing sinful with homosexual orientation.

But:

The Communion Prayer of Penitance comes to mind: "...we have sinned against thee, through our own fault, in thought, and word, and deed,..."

Consider this:

Homosexuality has a unique status - the DEED is sinful, yet the THOUGHT isn't...???!!!

Can you expain this discrepancy?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 3:56am BST

Neil (1) I have no intention of getting involved with the internal politics of the Church of England.

(2) I don't see that invoking Bob Runcie gets you off the hook. He was, after all, the man who barred Ritchie Kirker from ordination.

Obviously, being gay should not in itself bar anyone from ministry; just as obviously, not all gays are suitable for all jobs,and some of them are going to be unsuitable precisely because of their sexuality. Of course the victims of such a policy are going to feel humiliated and demeaned. That's tough. I don't see that it's relevant.

As I have said, all this is handwaving to some extent. I don't know Priddis; I don't know Reaney. I'm quite happy to accept that this may have been the wrong decision. My point is that it should be the bishop who makes those decisions. That has to be the right system, even though it will from time to time produce the wrong outcome, as all systems do.

Posted by acb at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 8:49am BST

Charlotte,

I have a degree in hard sums. Trust me, the page I linked to is a perfectly reasonable (and mathematically acceptable) explanation. It isn't tortured in the slightest. If you're not able to follow a simple piece of mathematical reasoning (or able to accept that bowls have rims) then that is your issue.

Posted by Peter O at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 9:52am BST

As a mathematician by training I have to repudiate the rather eccentric apologetic being advanced above. What Pi is or is not, and whether the Bible defines it correctly, is quite apart from the point. But it is philosophically interesting in the exploration of what a number is, the modern understanding of which would be incomprehensible to the Biblical writers - and would involve such questions as 'what do you want to use your numbers for - measuring, counting, or solving problems' (and some basic training in any engineering discipline where the question is not: what is the exact answer? but how good does the answer have to be? would not go amiss - the passage cited is not going to mislead any practical person)

The relationship between identity and practice, the concept of sin, and the slice of modernity (and mathematics too) which enables us to abstract ideas from practical realities are more pertinent, and I believe Giles Fraser is way good enough a philosopher to know that the way in which he deals with these categories is contested. But I think he is right in challenging a naive approach.

The virtue ethicists, for example, recover the connection between belief and practice - which seems to be rather absent in various forms of secular ideology.

We live in interesting times.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 7:16pm BST

Peter O., let's try again, without the ad hominem, if possible.

Here is my reading of your claim.

Having studied mathematics, you know on non-Biblical grounds that pi is not equal to 3. Therefore, you say that the "plain sense" of 1 Kings 7 must be discarded, in favor of a lengthy explanation involving bowls and their rims, because the inspired authors of the Biblical passage could not possibly have been in error about the true value of pi.

I say it is more plausible to believe that Divine Revelation here accommodated itself to the state of knowledge in the culture to which it was delivered.

With Augustine, Maimonides and many Christian writers, I say it is entirely possible to believe both that the Scriptures are divinely inspired and that they can be in error on matters like the correct value of pi, which had not been discovered at the time of writing. There is nothing new in my position and it does not compromise the authority of Scripture in the least.

Now let's go on to the "waters above the firmament." Are you willing to acknowledge that the "plain sense" of the Biblical passages referring to them conflicts with well-established results in astronomy? I am. Are you also willing to say that these Biblical passages are in error? That they reflect the state of knowledge current in the Hebrew tribes to which this portion of the divine revelation was vouchsafed? Or will you torture their "plain sense" until you make them agree with the current state of scientific knowledge?

In either case, I ask you also to keep in mind that human psychology and human physiology are also empirical sciences. They, too, have results which appear to conflict, from time to time, with passages of Scripture. And, yes, in matters involving human sexuality also.

Posted by Charlotte at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 8:09pm BST

No Charlotte, what I am claiming is that the "plain sense" reading of Scripture leads one to a value for Pi pretty well close to it's actual value. The passage clearly states the dimensions of the bowl which,on careful examination, make perfect mathematical sense.

Posted by Peter O at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 10:00pm BST

Runcie was also the one who ordained Richard Kirker deacon.

Posted by L Roberts at Saturday, 28 July 2007 at 10:46pm BST

But what about the "waters above the firmament," Peter O? How do you explain those away?

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 12:02am BST

This is one of those debates worth chuckling over.

Orientation is not the same as proclivity.

One extreme of puritanism is that even thinking about sex is a bad thing. That's why people used to walk around in rough clothing and beat themselves, they were trying to beat the desire out of their bodies. Them some wise souls pointed out that they were probably satisfying masochistic tendencies, so were in actual fact satisfying the body they were trying to repress.

God help us, if we are to be judged on our sexual fantasies then I am so far condemned that not even Jesus can rescue me. Plus I don't know how many marriages would surive charges of adultery if we had to be help accountable for wet dreams or our sexual fantasies, even if we only have discrete conceivable sex with one lifetime mate.

Then there's the whole thing about people squabbling over who is the bride of Christ. That makes anyone who claims they or their church are the bride an adulterer if they have sexual relations with any human being. And the male ones homosexual adulters... LOL

Sexual drive is different to orientation, some souls are nymphomaniacs and can't get enough, some don't care if they never have it in their lifetime. Most of us are spread towards the middle of the spectrum.

The other thing to be aware of is that some of the puritan Christian teachings on sexuality (particularly for women) is more harsh and unrealistic than the original Judaism.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 12:12am BST

A question for the rest of you, if you would.

Peter O. holds Scripture to consist of propositions about, inter alia, history, astronomy, mathematics, and biology. These propositions are all true, because God would not have permitted the inspired authors of Scripture to err.

Thus, whenever a Scriptural proposition is clearly contradicted by scientific propositions, either 1) Scripture's plain sense must be tormented until its propositions are made to agree with those of science (e.g. pi) or 2) the scientific propositions must be rejected as false (e.g. macroevolution rejected in favor of Creationism).

To my knowledge, this is not a way of reading Scripture that can be called either Catholic or Orthodox. In fact, it is quite recent in origin, dating from the late 19th century, and used to be very uncommon among Anglicans (including Episcopalians in America).

Has it become more common? Is this how Church of England evangelicals read Scripture? Will Scriptural inerrancy in this form be enforced by the Anglican Communion Covenant?

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 12:15am BST

Charlotte said:

"Peter O. holds Scripture to consist of propositions about, inter alia, history, astronomy, mathematics, and biology"

And where did I ever say that Charlotte? Perhaps you'd like to provide us with a reference? This line of attack (saying that I believe certain things without documenting them) doesn't help your case.

I'll respond to your questions once you show us where I said what you claim I believe.

Posted by Peter O at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 8:42am BST

Peter O., these are simple deductions from your own statements.

If you did not think Scripture consisted of propositions about, inter alia, mathematics and human psychology and physiology, it would be of no concern to you whether 1 Kings 7 set the value of pi, wrongly, at 3.

It would also be of no concern to you whether Scripture discussed sexual orientation as well as sexual practice.

In the first case, you could accept the thought that the ancient Hebrew authors of 1 Kings might not know the true value of pi and yet be inspired.

But instead you have a torturous argument to show that the ancient Hebrew authors of 1 Kings did know the true value of pi, several centuries before the Pythagoreans demonstrated it. So the propositional content of the Bible, at least as regards the mathematical concepts it contains, must be of great importance to you. For if the Bible gets pi wrong, how can we trust it on anything else?

In the second case, you could accept that the authors of the Bible did not know everything modern psychology and physiology has learned about human sexuality, while still being inspired of God.

But you can't. Because the inspired authors of the Bible don't mention sexual orientation, you say roundly that there can be no such thing.

Your reasoning is as follows. If there is such a thing as sexual orientation, but the authors of the Bible do not mention it, then, you say: "that line of reasoning posit[s] a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject, leaving us with a clear conflict between his Holy Spirit breathed words and modern sensibilities."

And, Peter O. --

You still haven't explained what and where the "waters above the firmament" are.

And where in the Bible is Australia described?

Posted by Charlotte at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 9:08pm BST

PeterO I had gained this impression of your beliefs too....

Was it something you said ?

Posted by L Roberts at Sunday, 29 July 2007 at 9:18pm BST

Sorry Giles Fraser - I did confuse you with Giles Goddard (which is a compliment!)

I know what you mean about "churchy spin" but still, I do not see you equation of a temptation with a person's identity....we all fight temptations and fail sometimes. Our identity is more than any temptation.

The issue in the AC is all about redefining something as not a sin......and the people ("conservatives") are often accused of rejecting people when they are in fact just sticking to the bible and rejecting the attempted justification of a sin

Posted by NP at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 8:52am BST

"But instead you have a torturous argument to show that the ancient Hebrew authors of 1 Kings did know the true value of pi, several centuries before the Pythagoreans demonstrated it."

A few centuries later, surely?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 9:39am BST

Charlotte,

We keep coming back to whether the link I gave to explain that 1 Kings 7 passage was "tortuous" so let's settle that once and for all. Please demonstrate why the mathematics on that link are incorrect and I'll happily withdraw my defence of that explanation why the 1 Kings 7 passage doesn't argue that pi = 3. All you have so far is that "it's tortuous" without explaining why.

Australia? Where did that come from? I mean Britain isn't described in the Bible. Neither is India or South Africa or King Charles Spaniels. What is your point?

And I'll quite happily discuss the "firmament above" when you start responding appropriately when you disagree with something I link to (i.e. putting a proper refutation on the table rather then "it's tortuous") and you stop tarring me with this "ignorant fundamentalist" brush.

Seriously Charlotte (and L Roberts), this is not a serious debate at the moment. In a proper debate someone puts forward a proposition (1 Kings 7 teaches that pi = 3), someone else puts forward a counter (the link that I published that shows that 1 Kings 7 teaches no such thing) and then if you think that's incorrect you show where that response is wrong (i.e. in this case you show where the mathematics are incorrect or where the assumptions are wrong). "It's tortured" is not really a debate or discussion is it - it's discarding the evidence without refuting it.

Right, let's have some refutation of the "tortured" mathematics of 1 Kings 7 please.

Posted by Peter O at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 12:31pm BST

And as for my arguing that sexual orientation doesn't exist, you really aren't reading what I wrote. I said:

The conservative position is very simple - it is sexual behaviour and it's signification that God directly teaches us about in the Scriptures. Arguments of the morality of orientation are beside the point because Scripture, in it's ignoring of the subject, demonstrates that sexual preference is not the matter at stake.

The only possible objection you can have to this is that the authors of Scripture, inspired by God, didn't understand sexual orientation. But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject, leaving us with a clear conflict between his Holy Spirit breathed words and modern sensibilities.

The absence of Scripture on the subject of orientation speaks volumes - it shows very clearly that sexual practice not preference is the indication of holiness (and the reverse).

Now where in that did I deny that people are homosexually orientated? Rather, what I was writing was that the Scriptures don't view sexual orientation as a key defining attribute in human identity and that to argue that they were ignorant of it is to argue that God was ignorant of it.

Posted by Peter O at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 12:32pm BST

"...the people ("conservatives") are often accused of rejecting people when they are in fact just sticking to the bible and rejecting the attempted justification of a sin..."

Can that be construed as an acknowledgement that sometimes people who advocate for the outcastes are actually just sticking ot the bible? For example John 16:2 where souls will try to put others outside the synagogues but Jesus points out in John 16:3 that such souls know neither Jesus nor God (and thus by inference the Holy Spirit).

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 12:46pm BST

"I do not see you equation of a temptation with a person's identity"

I'm surprised, what with all the "listening" you did!

"The issue in the AC is all about redefining something as not a sin"

No, the issue is about what the definition of that sin, and how it is preached, does to the people defined as sinners. Again, I'm sure you know that after all the listening. I've been saying it for months, as well. See, if you preach your message in a hateful manner that reveals you do not accept the basic humanity of the people to whom you are preaching, then they will not listen to you. If you had listened to them in the first place, you'd know how damaging the MANNER in which you preach your message is, and you'd know how to change the manner, NOT the message, so that the message itself can be heard by the "target audience". That you have not rather puts the lie to your claims of concern for their salvation. Whether or not other people agree with your message is an entirely different matter.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 1:44pm BST

"But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject, leaving us with a clear conflict between his Holy Spirit breathed words and modern sensibilities"

Is that the same feeble God who, not foreseeing our disobedience thousands of years later, was so weak and incompetent that he had to send his own son us to save us from our sins?

The Bible is not a detailed rule book handed down by God, and it says nothing about stable same gender love, just as it says nothing about genetic engineering, the greenhouse effect and global warming.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 4:25pm BST

Simple. It says, by plain meaning:

ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely.

Repeat: completely.

The hindquarters of each were towards the inside. Its thickness was a handbreadth; its brim was made like the brim of a cup

towards the inside. Its thickness was..

This sort of fundamentalism goes nowhere anyway.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 4:32pm BST

I'm interested to hear your view, Peter Ould - you accept the existence of same-sex orientation as a morally neutral attribute - in this you are at odds with Peter Akinola who says it is an "acquired syndrome".

I'm still curious to know what you define as "sexual behaviour". For the mover of an unsuccessful amendment in the recent Covenant debate, the matter boils down to "sexual intercourse". But not all couples engage in this.

Leaving the bedroom out of the equation for the moment, how do you interpret Scripture on Civil Partnerships? Two people of the same gender falling in love? Courting? Holding Hands? Kissing? Embracing? Buying a home together? Wanting to ensure the pension / next-of-kin rights of their partner? Fulfilling a vocation in the Church?

To my mind, the authors of the books of the Bible knew as little about the concept of irrational numbers as they did about the science of sexual orientation.


Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 5:18pm BST

Re: the "Biblical definition" of pi, did the Hebrews have decimals?

Posted by Chris at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 9:43pm BST

Hugh,

I'm not sure I see homosexual attraction as precisely morally neutral. I think it's clearly a desire which if brought to fruition would result in sin, but like all temptation is in and of itself not sinful. I guess one would need to explore the subtle differences between sin and morality - cue an essay on ethics....

But I think on a broader basis I'm moving to a more conservative position on this subject. I would argue that same-sex relationships which are erotic, whether they are fully sexual or not, are unGodly and unholy because they make one place one's self in a position where one cannot signify Christ and the Church.

What I mean by this is that since Scripture clearly states that husband and wife signify Christ and the Church (Eph 5), every time husband and wife have sex (or possibly even simply are together) they speak spiritually of the union between Christ and the Church. A gay couple cannot do that for they speak of Christ and Christ (male-male) OR Church and Church which are not models for the inter-relationship of Jesus and his bride. Rather "Christ-Christ" signifies a God who is not interested in the church and "Church-Church" signifies a world which does not need Jesus.

I think the subtlety of this is that even if you're in a celibate Civil Partnership, you have placed yourself in a position where you cannot signify the union of Christ and the Church because you have so shaped your life to make the possibility of that signification (husband and wife) impossible. A life which is shaped so as to deny the possibility of speaking of what Christ has done (which singleness does not because it still potentially may become that signifier) is one which has ultimately rejected Jesus being at the centre.

Does that make sense?

Posted by Peter O at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 10:50pm BST

Chris asks: "Re: the "Biblical definition" of pi, did the Hebrews have decimals?"

Not to my knowledge, and neither did the Pythagoreans, who demonstrated that pi cannot be expressed as a ratio of whole or natural numbers. In our number system, such a number is expressed as a nonrepeating decimal.

Peter O: I'm concerned about Australia, because, on your showing, if the Bible does not state that a given empirical proposition is true (e.g., that some persons have what is called "same-sex orientation," or that there is a continent in the South Seas called Australia), then that proposition cannot be true. Biblical inerrancy sometimes claims merely that any empirical proposition the inspired authors of the Bible have claimed to be true must be true. However you extend Biblical inerrancy to cover the empirical propositions not stated by the inspired authors of the Bible. Since the inspired authors of the Bible did not state them, they cannot be true.

This worries me, because I think the Sydney Anglicans will be very distressed to learn that their continent does not exist and they have been floating in sea water this whole time. I should be worried about the Americas too, but since most persons of your opinion would like to see the Episcopal Church out of the Anglican Communion anyway, I would think it would only simplify the matter to declare that the Americas do not exist. This also saves you the trouble of removing Canada, Mexico, and Brazil from the Communion, when their time comes. It removes Southern Cone, too, but that is a very small province and might easily be spared. The existence of the West Indies might be fudged, as the Bible does refer to islands, and thus Drexel Gomez could keep his job. But the Sydney Anglicans will be fairly distraught, I am afraid. Are you sure you won't reconsider your position on Biblical inerrancy?

Posted by Charlotte at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 10:51pm BST

Charlotte,
Glad to know that Biblical inerrency allows for the existence of Newfoundland! I can't swim.

And, Peter O., that's a very interesting argument, and was made many years ago about the ordination of women: A woman can't function in persona Christi in the Mass. It has been answered in that regard, I think, and maybe I can apply the same argument here. Surely what is important in the Incarnation is Christ's humanity, not his maleness. Indeed, one could argue that His humanity is only a part of Creation, and that in the Incarnation, God puts on Creation, becomes created, or at least a part of Creation. This last part is not new, I believe it might go back to the Fathers, and is part of the theology of icons. The Orthodox certainly wouldn't use it to justify female priests, but that's a separate issue. We do. Thus, it is the humanity of the priest that signifies Christ, not the gender. Might that not be applicable here?

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 30 July 2007 at 11:27pm BST

Does that make sense? (Peter O)

No it doesn't. Where ever did you pick up these heresies? WO???

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 6:55am BST

"Biblical inerrancy sometimes claims merely that any empirical proposition the inspired authors of the Bible have claimed to be true must be true. However you extend Biblical inerrancy to cover the empirical propositions not stated by the inspired authors of the Bible. Since the inspired authors of the Bible did not state them, they cannot be true."

The Wireless, Aeroplanes, TV, Hospitals....

;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 6:58am BST

From Act to Orientation; a 20th century Development in various translations:
Soft (of textiles), ”sloppy” – from Pater Familias over Misogyny to Inversion.

Vetus latina 2nd Century as changed in Versio vulgata c.1200: …neque molles, neque masculorum concubitores…

Wyclif 1380: …lecchouris or men that done synne of sodom…
Luther 1523: Weichlinge, Knabenschänder (”dirty sins of monks”)
1526/1541: …the weeklingar, eller drengiakiendare…
KJV 1611/1769/1972: …effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind…
Youngs “literal” 1893: …nor effeminate, nor sodomites…
Reina 1569, Valera 1602, revisada 1909: ...afeminados, ni los que se echan con varones…
Louis Ségond 1880 rev. 1910 (Schweiz): ...ni les efféminés, ni les infâmes...
Louis Sécond 1910 éd. Societé Biblique 1968 : ...les efféminés, mâles invertis...
Bible de Jérusalem 1955 rev. 1973 (Dom e. C. Sin): …dépravés, gens de moeurs infâmes…

Erik Gurnes 1968: ...kvinneaktige, gutteskjendere... (Luther, again)

New Life 1969: … or men who act like women, or people who do sex sins with their own sex…

From “Sexual” to “Homosexual” – from Act to Orientation.

RSV 1946/1952 rev. 1959 (Calv. The first Dynamic Equivalence): …sexual perverts…
NEB 1961/1970 (Oxford & Cambridge): ...homosexual perversion...
TEV 1966/1976, rev. 1971/1992 (DE + common language): …homosexual perverts…

CEV 1995: …or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual…

James Moffat, 1913 rev. 1934 (Scottish ”modern” calvinist): …catamites nor sodomites…
Jerusalem Bible 1966 (Roman transl. of BdeJ, Cambridge): …catamites, sodomites…

NAB (Roman) 1971: ...sodomites...
RSV 1965/1972 (Roman version w. imprimatur of RSV 1959): ...homosexuals...
Trad. Oecumenique 1972 (mostly Hugenot): ...pederastes de tout genre...
Swedish State NT 1981 (Riesenfeldt & Palm): ...eller homosexualitet...

New Living Translation 1996: …or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality…

Concept of ”Nature” – from natural to ”unnatural”.

Danish 1526: …blødaktiga og de som synta mot naturen med onaturligt køn…
Danish 1529: …blødaktiga og de som synta mot naturen med menn…
Swedish State 1888/1917: ...de som låta bruka sig till synd mot naturen eller de som själva öva sådan synd...
Norwegian 1930: … eller bløtaktige eller de som synder mot naturen…
Danish 1948: ...eller de som lade sig bruge til unaturlig Utugt, eller de, som øve den...

”Men who lie with men” – a Nordic Sondertradition.

Norwegian 1978/1985: …menn som ligger med menn eller lar seg bruke til detta…
Swedish 2000: ...eller män som ligger med andra män...
Norwegian NT 2005: … verken menn som ligger med menn, eller som lar seg ligge med…

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 7:19am BST

Charlotte,

You wrote:

I'm concerned about Australia, because, on your showing, if the Bible does not state that a given empirical proposition is true (e.g., that some persons have what is called "same-sex orientation," or that there is a continent in the South Seas called Australia), then that proposition cannot be true.

That's the second time in this thread that you've ascribed to me a belief that I don't hold. I'm really not interested in continuing this conversation if you insist in misrepresenting me.

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 7:40am BST

Ford,

I have to say as an Evangelical(ish) I'm much more convinced by the Forward in Faith opposition to women priests then the Reform arguments. I thought the FiF submission on women bishops was a brilliant examination of tradition and patristic theology.

I think the Christ-Church / Husband-Wife link is clearly tied up with the sex of the husband & wife in Gen 1/2 and Eph 5 too much for it simply to be said that it's Christ's humanity that matters. Once you understand that husband/wife signifies Christ/Church then you start to understand why all other forms of sexual union are sinful, because they speak of something different then the union between God and humanity that Christ has achieved.

And if that's so then the sex of the priest as the locus for the ekklesia in the Eucharist is crucially important, for he represents the one half of the union which is complemented by the gathered church.

And you're absolutely right about the theology of the incarnation and icons - the reason you can "draw a picture of God" which isn't an idol is exactly because of the hypostatic union. We settled that theologically over 1000 years ago.

But then I'm just an ignorant fundamentalist who (apparently) only believes in things if they're directly found in the Bible, so what do I know?

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 7:50am BST

'What I mean by this is that since Scripture clearly states that husband and wife signify Christ and the Church (Eph 5), every time husband and wife have sex (or possibly even simply are together) they speak spiritually of the union between Christ and the Church. A gay couple cannot do that for they speak of Christ and Christ (male-male) OR Church and Church which are not models for the inter-relationship of Jesus and his bride. Rather "Christ-Christ" signifies a God who is not interested in the church and "Church-Church" signifies a world which does not need Jesus.'
PeterO.

Well you even do this wonderful witness with the lovely pic on your website Peter. What godliness !

All this fancy theological wriggling is so much wishful thinking / bunk.

Lesbian and gay people & couples just get on with life. Very often caring for other people's children other people's families, other people ill or vulnerable folk --whether in caring 'professions' and jobs ; or caring for our own neighbours, family and friends.

My partner and I when in our twenties took his elderly, bed-ridden grandmother, into our home, so she wouldnt have to go into an old people's home. We cared for her until her death, in our home, and my partner gave up his paid work to care for her full-time.

This is just one concrete for instance, of what I say above. That doesn't show forth Christ in our book ? ! Well we never gave it a fancy theological name --- we were just acting out of love. Doing our best for her.

If only our religious pundits would concentrate on the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount and try to DO the truth, things would be better (if not best).

Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 11:05am BST

I think the Christ-Church / Husband-Wife link is clearly tied up with the sex of the husband & wife in Gen 1/2 and Eph 5 too much for it simply to be said that it's Christ's humanity that matters. Once you understand that husband/wife signifies Christ/Church then you start to understand why all other forms of sexual union are sinful, because they speak of something different then the union between God and humanity that Christ has achieved.(PeterO)

I think you are pushing Paul's metaphors too far over the husband -wife thing (I do love'... mystical union betwixt Christ and His Church...' --so beautiful, But still a metaphor.

Same as 'We are the body of Christ...' is metaphor done to death in the C of E communion service --and clearly more aspirational than factual.

Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 11:13am BST

Peter, regarding your novel proposition that ""Christ-Christ" signifies a God who is not interested in the church" in relation to male-male couplings. You get a double dose of Christ and no institution to contend with! Sounds heavenly! But I couldn't square that with your comment: "one which has ultimately rejected Jesus being at the centre".

It might be helpful to relate theory to specific examples. Indulge me for one moment:

1) Jim and Sally are both 21 year old heterosexual virgins. Jim flirts with Sally at college and they start dating. Soon they fall in love and start making plans for the future. They remain chaste apart from the usual kissing and hugging. After 6 months Sally pops the question (Marriage).

2) Jason and Steve are both 21 year old gay virgins. Jason flirts with Steve at college and they start dating. Soon they fall in love and start making plans for the future. They remain chaste apart from the usual kissing and hugging. After 6 months Steve pops the question (CP).

Can you honestly say that Jason and Steve are greater sinners than Jim and Sally just because the gender of the person they choose to date happens to be the same? Seems a tad unfair.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 11:14am BST

"I think the Christ-Church / Husband-Wife link is clearly tied up with the sex of the husband & wife in Gen 1/2 and Eph 5 too much for it simply to be said that it's Christ's humanity that matters. Once you understand that husband/wife signifies Christ/Church then you start to understand why all other forms of sexual union are sinful, because they speak of something different then the union between God and humanity that Christ has achieved."

I would be curious to see this dated.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 11:22am BST

"But then I'm just an ignorant fundamentalist who (apparently) only believes in things if they're directly found in the Bible, so what do I know?"

You don't seem so to me. I have never met a fundamentalist who could think in representational terms like you do, much less use a term like "hypostatic union". Not that fundamentalists are stupid, just that I've never found that they think this fashion. They're much more legalistic. Now, if the last bit of your statement is correct, that's more typical, I grant you, but just because you have an attitude towards Biblical authority that I consider flawed and innovative doesn't make you stupid, and it's only my sinfulness that would lead me to think so.

I too would like to know the age of your Christ-Church:husband/wife comparison. I know it goes back at least to the English Reformation, likely further than that, but I suspect it has its roots in Byzantine concepts of Church as imposer of Impperial order, not exactly a good basis for theology. What's in Scripture is in Scripture. The uses to which it was put may not be as venerable.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 1:15pm BST

L Roberts,

What I find fascinating in your reply is that you don't actually engage with the Scriptures (i.e. gen 2 / Eph 5). Instead your reply is to condemn "theological wriggling" without demonstrating WHY it is wriggling.

I don't think "Christ/Christ = God not interested in the church" is a novel thought. It's deeply rooted in the mysteries Paul is unfolding in Eph 5. It explains why the scriptural injunctions against non-married sex are what they are.

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 1:37pm BST

Hugh,

I like your questions, but are you arguing with me or God about who are the greatest sinners?

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 1:38pm BST

No, Peter, I'm simply asking you for your view, if you have one, on the two hypothetical scenarios I gave.

In an earlier post, you readily spoke of "desire which if brought to fruition would result in sin", so I merely wanted to find where, in your view, sin begins in the same-sex relationship I describe.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 1:59pm BST

"It explains why the scriptural injunctions against non-married sex are what they are."

Your cross-readings of Biblical confetti is self supported by the glue.

There are no "scriptural injunctions against non-married sex" except in other scriptures...

(Efesians is not by Paul, BTW, rather Bishop Onésimos)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 3:05pm BST

"you don't actually engage with the Scriptures"

I will. I'm out on a limb here, having no theological training at all, but here goes. Genesis 2 speaks of the creation of Woman. Nothing there to indicate a link between Christ and the Church as being like marriage. Ephesians 5 is an instruction as to how wives and husbands are to behave towards one another. Paul compares it with the love of Christ to His Church. I think you are putting too fine a point on this. To equate the gender of the couple with Christ and the Church as you do would seem to suggest that the love of husband for wife is sacrificial like that of Christ for the Church, while that of wives to their husbands is about respect and submission. Most women will tell you the they are called to love their husbands as sacrificially as he is called to love them, usually moreso. Each, surely, is called to show sacrificial love for the other, and that can be done regardless of the genders of the parties involved. Are you also implying that we are called on the basis of gender to express our Christianity in different ways, men sacrificially and women submissively? That doesn't square with Christ in whom there is neither male nor female. Further, Christ sacrificed for us, but we are called to a life that mirrors that sacrifice, so the Church sacrifices for Christ as well, it is what we are called to do. Thus both Christ AND the Church sacrifice for each other. His is to redeem the world in which the Church is called to act, hers is to show the depth of sacrificial love to which God calls us. So, two people of the same gender showing sacrificial love for each other DOES actually reflect the relationship between Christ and his Church.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 4:42pm BST

Goran said,
"Efesians is not by Paul, BTW, rather Bishop Onésimos"

Erika, THAT's an example why I ignore much of what Goran has to offer on this subject...

Posted by Chris at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 5:27pm BST

Hugh,

I think I've become more conservative on the issue over the past few years. Sin begins when one attempts to construct one's life, wittingly or unwittingly, so that it cannot speak of Christ's union with the Church.

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 5:54pm BST

Peter O.

Whatever this is (and I would suggest it emmanates from Colorado) it is not "conservative" in any way but novel, as in innovation.

Making marriage mandatory (which is the consequence of what you say) certainly ditches the moral tradition of the 2nd Millennium, the proclaimed ideal of which was Continence (Abstinence if p.) and Celibacy.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 6:45pm BST

I said Peter O it's a metaphor. You are pushing it too far for me. But then you are interfering in my life. Why don't you get one ?

Posted by L Roberts at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 6:58pm BST

Well fair enough Peter, I won't press you further, although I do think a blanket ban on "homosexual practice" evades the specifics.

More interesting was your posting on your blog about a leaked internal memo sent to you about the Hereford affair. We'll know by the end of August whether there will be an appeal. If there is, it will have to be because of a genuinely disputed legal point, not merely as an exercise in setting precedents for the benefit of the church.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 7:42pm BST

Ford,

Where to start?

The church does not sacrifice for Christ in the same way that he does for her. The way that Jesus laid down his life for the church can NEVER be repeated or equalled by the church. Indeed to try to do so would be a mockery of what Jesus did.

It's very clear the backend of Ephesians 5 that husbands and wives are called to slightly different things. Both (v21) are called to submit to each other. For the wife it is to accept the headship of the husband, recognising that Christ is the head of the church. Husbands however are called to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the Church - that means giving up everything for her. I personally think that's actually a bigger deal then what the wife is called to do, but we'll probably differ on that.

So we have 10+ verses constantly relating husband / wife to Christ / Church. It's not just one verse but a whole section, culminating in the reference to Gen 2:24 which is revealed to be, from the beginning of time, a reference to Christ and the Church.

The clear picture is again and again of two people of the opposite sex submitting to one another in distinct, but significant and significatorial ways. How from that you reach the conclusion that two people of the same sex submitting to one another signifies Christ and the Church beats me, as the issue is not the submission but rather specifically the submission of wife (female) to husband (male) and vice-versa.

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 8:17pm BST

Ford,

Nice work.

I think the bit that's missing is there is an ordering in marriage relationship that we in the West don't like to think about. Male and female have different roles and purposes in marriage. I think (and could be wrong here), gender is almost a spiritual gift in this way. There being no male or female, I think (and could be wrong), is more about Christian unity. So men and woman are to be unified in the Body of Christ and in marriage, but they will contribute to that unity in different ways.

We've allowed gender politics to taint our views of this ordering and I think we've lost something beautiful in marriage. We've also seen far too many men ignore their charge in this passage and focus on the submission part and this is with out a doubt a more damaging error as it can lead to physical, sexual and emotional abuse - a very strong case can be made this is the greater evil of the two.

Yes, my wife and I both sacrifice to each other - and submission is certainly sacrifice. Men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and His love led to the cross. Of course if I do love my wife like that, I only want what's best for her and she can trust me not to harm her. During pre canna my wife stated, "you gotta die for me! If you love me like that, you won't have to worry about submission."

Posted by Chris at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 8:22pm BST

Göran,

Where did I say that I thought marriage should be mandatory? How does what I wrote make marriage mandatory? Can you please engage with what I actually wrote, not what you speculate you think I actually mean when I write something.

Posted by Peter O at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 8:27pm BST

Again, I think you're putting too fine a point on it. You see the crucial issue as the gender of who submits, I see it as the fact of sacrificial love one for another. I don't see how two people who love one another in that sense is such a stretch. Not to justify SSB, merely to say there is another way to look at this particular argument. I didn't mean to imply that the sacrifice of the Church, or us as individuals, could equal that of Christ. We cannot buy our salvation, our self sacrificial love is a mirror of the love of Jesus for us, that's all. I didn't expect my untrained musings to be in any way airtight. I was simply trying to answer this:

"What I find fascinating in your reply is that you don't actually engage with the Scriptures."

It smacked to me of "liberals don't believe the Bible" which we hear so much around here. If I read too much onto your statement, I apologize. I just wanted to show that it doesn't apply to this "liberal" (and I don't think I am one anyway).

Chris,
We aren't that far apart.

Posted by Ford Elms at Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 11:06pm BST

_For the wife it is to accept the headship of the husband, recognising that Christ is the head of the church. Husbands however are called to love their wives in the same way that Christ loved the Church_

Patriarchal and rejected by me. First thing I said to Elena, coming from a traditional even-when-atheistic society, was she pleases herself. I have no "headship" over her whatsoever, nor seek it, neither should we put theological definitions over our relationship - our loves are what they are and bilateral.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 2:45am BST

Ford,

I understand your point that you see in submission the being Christlike, but my point is that the Ephesians 5 passages specifically has a heterosexual aspect to it. You would need to show directly from Scripture that homosexual submission was also Christlike for me to accept that point. Ephesians 5 doesn't actually teach that and that's what I mean by not engaging with the scriptures.

Posted by Peter O at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 8:09am BST

Pluralist says "rejected by me" when faced with direct Ephesians 5 teaching.......so amusing!

OK, Pluralist, since you reject it, we will cross that bit out!

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 9:50am BST

“Sin begins when one attempts to construct one's life, wittingly or unwittingly, so that it cannot speak of Christ's union with the Church.”

Which leaves only marriage man/Christ-woman/Church... Single is only one of them, a couple (2 persons) of the same sex, strangely enough only o n e of them, doubly… (it was a bit unclear as to which, though – perhaps 2 Christs if men, 2 Churches if women?

: - 0

I side with big saint Hugh.

2 Christs – lovely beyond measure,

2 Institutions – sounds like the Anglican Communion in its present shape ;=)

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 11:44am BST

I agree Pluralist. All this comes across as an attempt to use the Bible to justify male "superiority". Different does not equal inferior, of course, but all this talk of male headship just sounds kind of, well, quaint, actually. Sorry, I just keep thinking June and Ward and the Beaver. While I agree completely that men and women are different (I'm a doctor!:-)), traditionally defined gender roles, which is here what Scripture is being used to justify, just don't have much to do with the Kingdom values of justice, peace, and personal holiness, as far as I can see. Still, we have to engage with it somehow. It isn't enough, and it's insulting to those for whom it is valuable, to just dismiss it. I know I did that with the word "quaint". It was a personal perception, not some absolute accusation. Oooops.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 12:07pm BST

"The only possible objection you can have to this is that the authors of Scripture, inspired by God, didn't understand sexual orientation. But that line of reasoning is to posit a feeble God who, foreseeing our discussions 2000 years later, was too weak or incompetent to inspire the writers of Scripture to address the subject, leaving us with a clear conflict between his Holy Spirit breathed words and modern sensibilities."

One of the axioms of modern Scriptural interpretation (i.e. Raymond Brown) is that no text which was unintelligible or unmeaningful to the original audience would have been preserved as Scriptural. It isn't God's weakness, it is our weakness. The NT authors, inspired though they were, still needed to address the concerns of their 1st C. audience in a way that was intelligible to them. We would be just as surprised to find references to Quantum Mechanics in Scripture as we would be to find references to Sexual Orientation.

Posted by ruidh at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 1:00pm BST

"I side with big saint Hugh."

I'm touched, Goran. More often Lincoln Imp (ecclesiastical troll?), but we can aspire to online virtue - it's all for a good cause...

(Is that an auto-ad-hominem?)

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 1:49pm BST

Re Giles Fraser's conundrum:

I think 'orientation' has normally been held to related to desire, hasn't it? If someone has desires in a certain direction, whether acted upon or not, that is their orientation.

But he is absolutely correct to say that there is an inevitable intertwining of orientation and action. For example: desire when fed becomes more greedy; and it can be fed by oneself or by one's society or by both. But that is not different from what the NT (and indeed the Song of Songs) has always taught about the mechanisms of desire.

Posted by Christopher Shell at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 2:21pm BST

Correct. I cross that bit out.

Posted by Pluralist at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 2:24pm BST

Ford,

If Eph 5 is used to justify male superiority then there is an issue, but I would argue there is still an ordering in the relationship. But, that ordering is not the same as traditional gender roles. Proverbs 31 gives an extensive description of the writer's ideal wife and there's plenty in there that challenges traditional gender roles, but you still sense the ordering.

Posted by Chris at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 3:00pm BST

Göran,

Sorry but you're incorrect. Singleness has within it the potentiality of signifying the Christ/Church symbol. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that willing singleness, in rejecting allowing my body to signify sexually something that denies the Christ/Church symbol is also signifying the union of God and the elect. It's as important what you choose not to do as well as what you choose to do.

Ford,

I don't think I'm using Ephesians 5 to justify patriarchal gender roles. I'm actually a strong complementarian, but in that support of complementarity I see distinct significations for both sexes. In my house I tend to cook the meals and clean the house (because I'm based from home), my wife earns far more money then me, but I'm still kephale (but slowly working out what that means in practice). I find the injuction as kephale to love my wife as Christ loves the Church a daily challenge.

Posted by Peter O at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 3:05pm BST

"You would need to show directly from Scripture that homosexual submission was also Christlike for me to accept that point."

Of course you know that can never be. Paul could not possibly have made these kinds of comments about loving, monogamous gay relationships because there were no such things in his day. He assumed heterosexual marriage, so that was the paradigm he used. I would dispute that he thought marriage some kind of icon of the love of Christ for the Church in the way you understand it, however. He also seems to think that celebacy is the preferred thing for all of us, to free us from the family commitments that can get in the way of doing the work of the Kingdom. It seems pretty clear that marriage for him is a sop to those heterosexuals who are unable to control their desires. If you can't control yourself, then marry and be responsible about it and don't go off sleeping with everything that moves and feeling guilty about it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. This doesn't justify gay marriage, of course, but it does suggest to me that these attempts to give marriage some kind of high mystical meaning are a bit over the top and perhaps more about justifying a particular status quo than anything else. You would need to explain away 1 Corinthians 7, especially verse 6 before you can convince me otherwise. Also, vv. 10 and 11 seem to be pretty easily ignored by those divorced, remarried clergy who condemn me for whom I sleep with.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 4:42pm BST

Peter O wrote: "Sorry but you're incorrect."

????

Sorry, but you mix your Ideology with Fact. Facts may me correct.

But I do not believe in your ideology, I reject it as the anti Gospel falsehood it is.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 6:23pm BST

Does "little" St Hugh of Lincoln ring a bell?

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 6:25pm BST

A few verses later in Ephesians 6 is the passage about slaves being obedient to their masters.

If those opposed to slavery contest these uncomfortable verses, we can surely reconsider the patriarchal passages of the previous chapter.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 1 August 2007 at 7:18pm BST

Hugh,

I agree with those words - Christian slaves should be obedient to their masters. I also agree with Paul's words to Philemon, that he should view Onesimus (and all people) as his equal. There is no contradiction between stating that you think slavery is wrong and also instructing slaves to act in a godly way.

Posted by Peter O at Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 10:31am BST

Goran

The persecution of Jews in England in those times bears an uncanny resemblance to the Church's persecution of gays.

Peter

> Christian children all must be, mild obedient good as He.

Doesn't work with Human Rights movements.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 10:29pm BST

Hugh,

It's a children's Christmas song, not a line of Scripture.

And I didn't write it. What's your point?

Posted by Peter O at Thursday, 2 August 2007 at 11:23pm BST

"The persecution of Jews in England in those times bears an uncanny resemblance to the Church's persecution of gays."

So it is. Part of the same package.

Jews, Muslims, Heretics (Cathars but not Valdensians), Sodomitas (especially those married priests, says Lateran IV), Bastards (= sons of married priests), and Lepers.

The excclusion of 6 Phantom-Categories from Society (!) by Laterans II-IV.

The same that are increasingli protected (Lepers not yet) by law after 1945.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 3 August 2007 at 6:42am BST

Point being, Peter, that read in the light of 21st century morality, the verses which condone slavery are an outrage. Slaves who resisted their masters contributed to Abolition.

Equality means equality. Paul was writing in the context of the social norms of the time. We see the institutions of slavery, church and marriage in a different light nowadays.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 3 August 2007 at 8:03am BST

Hugh - you ain't listening....ST Paul was radically in his approach to slavery as we see with Onesimus........more than that, you should know the OT teaching about setting slaves free.

We have slavery today you know....but just to employers and mortgage payments......and St Paul's teaching says we should work hard and honour our employment obligations.

But you do not really care do you? All you want to do is to try and justify a particular sin by trying to discredit St Paul and the whole bible which does not support you in making the special exemption you want to make.

Posted by NP at Friday, 3 August 2007 at 11:28am BST

Hello NP! Thought it was just a few of us left to turn the lights out on this thread!

Forgive me for being selective in my use of Scripture - thanks for putting me right there. Glad to see you are taking a more holistic approach. I was trying to do the same with the whole of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians while neglecting his other writings on the matter.

Reminds me of a letter I saw in the Church Times today finding fault with Dr Stott's address at Keswick:

"...the usual Evangelical pattern: first, decide what you want to say; then locate some suitable verses to support it. Using the Bible as one vast reservoir of proof-texts to justify the particular doctrines we want to promulgate...We can teach whatever we like and claim it to be biblical."

--

You mention mortgages. One of the "special exemptions" allowed by the revisionist Calvin?

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Friday, 3 August 2007 at 1:31pm BST

For the record, I'm of the opinion that this thread has run it's course. I've said all I want to say.

Posted by Peter O at Saturday, 4 August 2007 at 9:30am BST
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