Comments: Guidance for parents of gay children

Excellent booklet by Gerry Lynch. Nice also to be able to put a face to another TA commentator.

Posted by John at Thursday, 19 May 2011 at 2:01pm BST

The booklet takes a balanced approach and reasoned tone. changing Attitude is a small group but they are doing important work. I hope that this fairly high-profile launch will give them a boost; & I hope a lot of people in the CofI, especially clergy, with read the booklet.

Posted by Fr Levi at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 12:50am BST

Congratulations to author Gerry Lynch on his recent booklet which advises parents what to do when their son or daughter admits to them that they are Gay or Lesbian. This effort on the part of a Church of Ireland member to publicize the difficulties encountered by parents of Gay or Lesbian children, and how to deal with the 'problem' is a notable first attempt to come to grips with something that may be more wide-spread than religious organisations are willing to admit. The booklet take seriously the fact that homosexuality is a reality, and that the Church needs to accept the fact, and deal with it pastorally.

Congratulations also to Bishop Michael Burrows (C.of I.) who intentionally promoted this important pastoral initiative for use in the Church of Ireland. Perhaps this will encourage a few timid bishops in other Provinces of the Anglican Communion to do likewise.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 7:02am BST

Concerning scriptural prohibitions, Gerry Lynch states 'while it is clear that all of them condemn violent, exploitative, promiscuous and lewd sexual activity'.

Paul declares in Romans 1 that the vastness, age, discernable order and enduring sustenance of the universe remain evidence of the only true God's transcendent supremacy and providence. Whatever we know of those times, his actual description explains the outworking of universal justice upon *all* men for ingratitude, rather than a specific condemnation of particularly violent or exploitative, promiscuous or lewd sexual activity.

He does use the Greek 'phusiken chresin' - natural function, and 'ekkaio' - passionate desire. We can argue about what he meant, or whether he was right, but I'm not sure why the correct rendering of this passage particularly avoids sexual relations that are without violence, mutually agreed and deliver intense satisfaction to those involved.

You can have all those things and still be 'para phusin' (Romans 1:26).

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 11:23am BST

Question: does PFLAG [Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays] or soemthing like it exist in England? They have lots of useful publications and support networks.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 4:04pm BST

Mr Shepherd, it is important when dealing with texts to be a bit more precise about what is being said. Romans 1:26 speaks of πάθη ἀτιμίας / degrading passions, and "para phusin" is used in reference to whatever the women in question were doing, or what was being done to or with them. If the latter (which is how Augustine viewed the text in question) there is no indication that this was something mutually agreeable, but rather something endured or suffered -- a "pathe" because the men have abandoned the "natural use of women" and chosen to treat them in this way -- and then each other; which Paul further notes as a punishment.

More importantly, if you continue reading a few verses further in Romans, Paul is clearly talking about a society that is completely collapsed. This is not to suggest Paul didn't see the sexuality to which he is referring (women being used for sex "alongside nature" or Greek pederasty) as disordered and morally wrong. The question is teasing apart one aspect of this complex and applying it to an entirely different situation and circumstance.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 6:05pm BST


Thanks for your response. While I respect your Greek erudition, in the interest of precision, I did not write 'mutually agreeable'. By *mutually agreed*, I meant consensual sex, that Romans 1 does not merely condemn 'violent, exploitative, promiscuous and lewd sexual activity'.

Isnt 'pathe' ia judgement upon the descent into idolatry, rather than relating to non-consensual activity.

I'd be interested in your take on 'para phusin'.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 20 May 2011 at 8:06pm BST

It's Haller, Mr. Shepherd, not Halley.

His "take" - as both a theologian and biblical scholar and member of a religious order - has been well-expressed in an equally-well-publicized book, mentioned several times in the Anglican blogosphere.

And, yet, it is those who are gay or gay-friendly who only "read what suits their agenda."

You may see much of his "take" at

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 4:58am BST

The article begins by addressing parents of LGBT children, thank God my child is not transgendered as there is nothing for me here. Such a parent would be more confused than ever.

Posted by clairejxx at Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 8:25am BST


Hopefully, Tobias Haller's writing are more worthy of study (as 'Thinking Anglicans' participate in each debate by sharing the informing works of authors) than a certain 'Hannah who I've never heard of, nor care to know more about'. You know who I mean, don't you?

In contrast, I'll read his full thesis, if need be, and try not to be dismissive. As Nicodemus rightly said: 'Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?' (John 7:51)

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 9:07am BST

Mr. Shepherd, I don't see anything in the text about "agreement." Rather there is language of "use" and "passion" (in the sense of being under the control of an alien force, not simply "emotionally charged" -- the Greek carries with it the notion of something "suffered" or what we might call a "compulsion").

Para phusin is used in this text only in reference to the women. As the word is used to refer to the sexual organs themselves in some texts, as are "use" and "vessel" -- in particular in reference to women -- Clement of Alexandria and Augutsine of Hippo both understood this passage as referring to women whose husbands made use of the "alongside organ" rather than the appropriate and "natural" one. John Chrysostom, in spite of the text not saying "women with women" as it does of the men, thought otherwise and that it had to do with lesbianism. Contemporary scholar Berandette Brooten comes down on that side. I disagree because it seems unlikely to me that when Paul refers to the men "abandoning the natural use of women" and turning to each other "in the same way" / "similarly," he would have seen lesbian and male same-sex acts as "similar." The primary categories of sexuality in the Mediterranean world, including Jew and Greek, at that time and for some time before and after, were based on penetration, not gender. This is why even Leviticus frames its prohibition as "the layings of a woman" -- as it is in this view a woman's role to be penetrated (the plural, according to the rabbis, referring to the two means or "ways" in which a woman might be so treated.)

Now, I only answer this because you asked. This has wandered very far indeed from the topic -- which concerns how parents of LGBT children might engage with that reality in our present day. It seems to me that Paul's concern with the reality he addresses in Romans 1 -- first-century idolatry -- has little to do with our present circumstances.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 21 May 2011 at 3:19pm BST

Once again, I appreciate your detailed response.

Concerning relevance, Gerry Lynch explains that parents of LGBT children 'may fear that their son or daughter is destined to a lonely life of exploitative relationships followed by a Christless eternity.' (page 2)

He then declares on page 7, that St. Paul's 'tirade'(sic) in Romans 1 can be argued in a manner that contradicts those fears. So, I'll leave it to you to judge whether a discussion of the relevance of Romans 1 is very far off-topic, whether it should remain the preserve of clerical academia, or warrant plebiscite debate in this forum.

There is a danger in not recognising that Paul sees divine wrath as a continual active principle: 'is being revealed from heaven'. As an active principle, it is relevant to today's world, especially as we see the same results around us.

As you're aware, Paul explains that his readiness to declare the gospel is energised by its unique efficacy in placing men on the 'right side of God's justice', the righteousness of God, thereby escaping the otherwise universal principle of wrath.

Since we all sin and God's wrath, as described here, is upon 'all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men', it does seem strange that your understanding of that principle appears to make women the victims of male exploitation, rather than joint perpetrators.

Paul's description of retributive justice blames man's descent into idolatry on a departure from natural revelation. The judgment is simply to hand mankind over to a full rejection of the natural order. Even, if the final state of affairs involves coercive sex, this does not preclude a steady decline (as with all societies) from that which is consensual.

Your position 'the Greek carries with it the notion of something "suffered" or what we might call a "compulsion" does not rule out a consensual relationship.

Psychologists cite the following qualities in compulsive co-dependent relationships:

1. A *consensual* investment of self-esteem in the ability to influence/control feelings and behavior in self and others in the face of obvious adverse consequences; (emphasis mine)
2. assumption of responsibility for meeting other's needs to the exclusion of acknowledging one's own needs;

Some might even call this self-sacrificing commitment 'love' and might entertain marriage. It takes scrutiny to think otherwise.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 9:40am BST

Well, Mr. Shepherd, if you really do leave it to me to judge, I do think a detailed discussion of Romans is beside the point. All Mr. Lynch has observed is that it is possible to read Romans 1 as a condemnation of "decadent, maybe orgiastic, behaviour in certain cities of the Roman empire, not to committed long-term same-sex relationships." I do not see how your initial comment, or anything since, relates to that, except to offer a different reading of the passage. Obviously more than one reading is possible, as I have tried to make clear. Whether this orgiastic behavior is a result of a failure to recognized God "naturally" or not, it is orgiastic behavior (as part of a complex of total depravity) that Paul is referring to; he is not addressing monogamous same-sex relationships between Christians. (He likely would have been negative on those too, but that's not what he is saying in Romans 1).

Where I lose track of your point is in your raising the issue of "consensual" as consent does not make something that is morally wrong acceptable. And as you point out "exploitation" can be consensual -- or so the psychologists say.

Consensual or not, the picture drawn in Romans 1 is of promiscuous and orgiastic behavior (note the plural for all of the "participants.") This is a fairly standard Jewish anti-Gentile "tirade" after all. (See Wisdom 13-15).

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 11:08pm BST

'a certain 'Hannah who I've never heard of, nor care to know more about'. You know who I mean, don't you?'

Mark may know I don't - or hope I don't. But this sounds remarkable like a personal dig at somebody.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 22 May 2011 at 11:52pm BST

@Rosemary: The reference was to Walton Hannah, an author cited on another thread dealing with Freemasonry:

No relation, I hope.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 8:54am BST

I agree that consent does not make something morally wrong acceptable. However, it establishes a closer resemblance between the behaviour Paul describes and our era than some would care to admit.
1. God's retributive justice (that hands men over to their desires), is an active principle, even today.
2. That retributive justice continues to allow mankind to follow their wilful self-excusing abdication from normative consensual relationships to adopt a range of sexually indiscriminate behaviour, including gender-indiscriminate sexuality (even though consensual).
3. Paul charts the full moral decline. The orgiastic excesses represent the full-blown symptoms. That does not preclude same-sex relationships: a significant part of the progression described in 2.

As for 1st century idolatry, Even today, men 'worship and serve the creature more than the Creator'. In the church, the worshipped image is a philosophy that demands a partial compromise with secular morality at the expense of devotion to God's revealed will.

Let's move on.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 4:59pm BST

Ah, no I do not know of him. My interest in Freemasonry goes as far as The Magic Flute and no further.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 6:02pm BST

Since we're talking about Irish graciousness here, perhaps we might all salute the extraordinary - and maybe now normal and normative - graciousness exhibited by the Queen even I might concede her a capital in this context) and her Irish hosts last week. They are very gracious, Irish RCs (most of them). We all need grace. We all have a duty to extend it to our 'opponents'.

I never thought I would applaud a Sinn Fein member. Yet, some years ago now, Mary McAleese, President of the Republic, attended one of the two C of I cathedrals in Dublin and took communion. The following week she was denounced from practically every RC pulpit in the land (north as well as south). The following Sunday she attended the other C of I cathedral in Dublin and took communion. Not a squeak from RC pulpits in the following week. Those were grand gestures of reconciliation and mutual forebearance (incomprehensible to the likes of 'John Bowles' or 'William Tighe'). Not incomprehensible to many Southern RCs I personally know, who think, like me, that those were grand gestures.

Seems to me that there is a lesson here somewhere ... I leave it to more sagacious commentators to tease it out ...

Posted by John at Monday, 23 May 2011 at 7:37pm BST

curious to know why there are two CofI cathedrals in Dublin.

Posted by Malcolm French+ at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 5:33am BST


Mary McAleese is not a member of Sinn Féin, she is a member of Fianna Fáil. The idea that Sinn Féin could win the Irish Presidency is still risible (about as credible as UKIP supplying the next British Prime Minister).

Posted by Gerry Lynch at Tuesday, 24 May 2011 at 3:06pm BST

Mr. Shepherd, you are of course free to move on, but I cannot go in the direction you chart because I think it to be entirely mistaken. The notion that Paul would have equated the "order of nature" with the "moral good" is disproved by his arguments in the rest of Romans, where "against nature" is used approvingly (and note, it is not used disapprovingly, but descriptively, in Romasns 1). For Paul, the Good is supernatural. It is difficult for moderns not to read talk of "nature" except through the lens of Rousseau -- but Paul is not Rousseau.
It is precisely because the Gentiles have mistakenly exalted the creation over the creator that they have fallen into idolatry.

In our current day it is the heterosexualists who have exalted "the natural" or "the created order" to a place of idolatry, explicitly so when they state such theses as "the image of God in humanity is incomplete without both male and female." This novel teaching dates back to Karl Barth.

Salve et vale.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 25 May 2011 at 2:51pm BST


Thanks you for your correction. Stupid of me. I stick by the rest, though.

Glad you personally found a decent C of I church St George's) where you have evidently been well appreciated.


Posted by John at Thursday, 26 May 2011 at 9:03pm BST

In order to set the record straight, I am not a deist. My position has neither denied the transcendence of God, nor supernatural inspiration and divine intervention in human affairs.

However, it is one thing to recognise God as set apart from all His creation, His every act demonstrating infinite condescension. It is quite another to engage in a form of dualism that tampers with the created physical 'order of nature' as inherently unsatisfactory. It is not the work of some inferior demiurge.

Paul's preaching, as recorded in Acts, explains his insight regarding God's testimony through nature: 'for He did us good, in giving us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.' (Acts 14:17). Rhis is a far cry from the assertion that 'For Paul, the Good is supernatural'. Here is Paul reminding his Gentile audience of God's beneficence through natural providence. It's hardly idolatry to echo Paul in praising God for that discernible order for human sexuality as well.

Christian justification and sanctification are focal issues for the remainder of Romans. The revealed truth in nature cannot save us. It may testify of God's goodness, but it is supernatural grace and divine intervention that recovers us from sin.

Nature, as described later in Romans, only relates to our physical humanity as the occasion of sin. The body itself is not inherently evil. Nature relates to the moral ineptitude of our humanity apart from grace: fixated on sense experience and at war with the Holy Spirit, i.e. the flesh.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 27 May 2011 at 8:56pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.