Comments: Responding to the recent initiative of the House of Bishops

I disagree totally with Andrew G when he says "Clearly it is neither desirable nor practicable to implement the same form of discipline with regard to all lay Anglicans as to clergy."

Indeed, I think this rather gives the game away. There is no logic to making a distinction between how the laity and how the clergy live ethically, and it is not the tradition of Anglicanism to do so, is it? We don't preach "One rule for me, another rule for you." What Andrew really means here is that the Church should merely try to get away with what it can in terms of bad treatment of its gay members. Clearly, the laity are not going to submit to being interrogated about and judged upon their closest loving relationships, whereas the clergy (the stipendiary clergy, at least) are less able to escape.

The logical position of Andrew's constituency is to subject partnered gay lay Anglicans to the same degree of censure and exclusion as the clergy: if it's wrong, it's wrong for everyone, surely. But of course "C of E hates and rejects all its partnered gay members" doesn't make for the kind of unnuanced headline even Conservative Evangelicals would like to read, or that the rest of the Church would tolerate. The occasional throwing of honest clergy under buses, done as discreetly as possible, is an altogether more tolerable practice for them all, though...

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 26 July 2011 at 8:51pm BST

It's all ludicrous. The proportion and absolute numbers of people who 'object' are declining rapidly, and sooner or later, even the House of Bishops, even Andrew Goddard, will fall into line. But of course in the interim what a waste of time and of people's feelings and of jobs and careers. Outsiders must feel we are completely mad. And some of my (unbelieving) gay friends are radically hostile to the C of E. They're right. The sheer portentousness and detachment from reality of AG's musings are also ludicrous.

Posted by John at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 7:07am BST

Experience is a vital input in any attempt to explore theologically, and is as valid as 'theory'. Underlying this is the way revelation occurs, not just at an historic point in time through the inspiration to write scripture for posterity, but from the grass roots upwards, in human experience and encounter, yesterday, today and tomorrow...

Therefore, it is vital that any initiative to explore issues of human sexuality theologically should indeed be a listening exercise and a fact-finding exercise, gathering the data of actual experience from real people, real lives, real ministries... and not just some superimposed, top-down theory of sexuality and gender.

It needs to be a collaborative exploration, acknowledging integrity in diversity, and the living reality of seeking Christ in diverse lives, finding unity in Him, not in our sameness, or a top-down imposed orthodoxy or covenant.

So exploring a way forward for the Church of England, to actually handle this diversity on issues of sex and gender, needs to be rooted in experience and grace at work in people's lives. We need to examine lived experience, and reflect upon that experience, and the gifts discovered in that experience.

As Sandra Schneiders once wrote: "Instead of testing the validity of experience by its conformity to theory" we should also "test the validity of the theory by its adequacy to people's experience."

Sex and gender are issues which need the whole gospel to be read in totality (not proof texts) and lived out in experience, devotion, service, fruitfulness, commitment.

People's lives and ministries continue to be stifled, not by any different degree of sin to anyone else, but by legislative constraints because of the person they love, or the gender by which they identify.

While Christians of good faith may hold differing views on these issues with integrity, and love and serve God, the reluctance of the Church to recognise and acknowledge diversity in the lived experience of Christians' lives, and attempts in some quarters to impose constraints on others, instead of living with differences but living in union in Christ... results in a diminution in lives, a diminution in ministries, and an implicit 'othering' of churched and unchurched alike, because of the marginalisation that occurs institutionally on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

And yet gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians are part of the Church, and rightly part of the Church, and may well (and do) bring gifts to the Church - and besides, are 'people' in Christ, equally able to love, to commit, to be faithful, to serve.

This is actual experience.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 7:42am BST

Furthermore, at pew level, more and more people have a brother or aunt or relative or friend who happens to be gay or lesbian or (in emerging experience) transsexual. And they are welcoming. In line with psychologists of integrity, and health professionals, and legislators, at pew level people are reflecting the maturing view of society that you accept a person as a person, and their orientation or gender identity is not a measure of their morality, their work or their loving.

Beyond church walls, honest seekers of intelligence and good intent look aghast at what they can see as institutional discrimination on grounds of orientation or gender identity... because of dogmatism and theory that seems divorced from actual experience and normality in actual lives.

The Church is always engaged in mission, and if we want to truly engage - and not alienate people by discriminations that society has moved way past (as it moved on issues like racism) - then it seems vital to me that the exploration of these issues of sexuality and gender should focus on actual experience, the evidence of Christians who are (or know othere who are) LGBT and active in the life of the Church... the Church we each belong to, different as we are, and in which no person should be marginalised or alienated ('othered') because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their gender, the partner they faithfully love, their class, their queerness, their transsexual psychology, their age, their different kind of brain... or whatever difference most of us have in one form or another.

Are we prepared to love? To serve?

Mission is far more likely to flourish in a context of true diversity, full and true acknowledgement of our differences, but also our striking likeness... in each needing the grace and love and welcome of Christ. How much more attractive is a Church like that, a welcoming Church, a Church that finally comes to terms with the experience of people's lives in a world not blighted by 'the gay agenda' but by greed, selfishness, violence, poverty, disease and loneliness.

The threat to marriage is not 'the gays' but ordinary heterosexual infidelity, human selfishness, media sexualisation of human love, lust, indifference, disappointment. LGBT Christians share this capacity for sin, but they do not constitute the reason marriages fail, or hearts get broken. Heterosexual relations are at least as much a threat to Christian life, and yet, in all cases of human lives, there is also prospect and promise, and the God of all grace who knows us, loves us, invites us each to live our lives within the ever-welcoming household of the Trinity.

Susannah Clark

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 7:44am BST

There seems to be a wilful blindness in Andrew Goddard's writings, where he states:

"There are a range of voices here among those who seek to live consistently with biblical teaching. Some testify to changes in the strength or direction of their sexual attractions or seek such changes. Others believe their life will remain one of struggle against their same-sex attractions to those. Some have accepted their sexuality as a form of divine ‘gifting’ or ‘vocation’ and, whilst holding to the disciplines of chastity in singleness are happy to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ Christians. Others reject such identity labels based on sexuality sometimes describing themselves as ‘post-gay’. Only by recognising and relating positively to this full range of Christian approaches can evangelicals contribute constructively to wider church discussions."

He has missed out those many evangelicals who see their gay sexuality as a God given gift, refuse to be celibate, and who believe that current church teaching on sexuality needs to change, in the same way that teaching on slavery changed centuries ago.

There are happily, actively, gay evangelicals, just as there are actively gay bishops. What chance for the listening process if we can't even acknowledge that the people we need to listen to most actually exist.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 8:36am BST

I vividly remember in 1991 a senior clergyman in my diocese telling me how wonderful it was that "Issues.." was more relaxed towards same-gender relationships amongst the laity. He was surprised at my reaction: that to me it made lay people "less than" the clergy.

And some of them still don't get it....

Posted by Stephen at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 10:08am BST


Thank you for your contribution, a well timed correction to the misunderstanding between christians. My awareness of my sexuality grew in a interdenomination youth fellowship, and involved many Baptist, Methodist .Whilst working in London, I met a very devout young Jew, who was like myself accepting of our God given lifestyle. Please who ever you are dont put people in boxes, we all , whatever our denomination or faith are, like nature. Gods children, a rainbow

Posted by Fr John at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 11:38am BST

This week just as Saturday became Sunday at mid-night same sex couples were allowed to marry in the state of New York, This is the largest state in the USA where same sex marriage is legal. Public Registry offices in many places opened up specially on Sunday to accomodate the new law on the first day in was in act, indeed in Niagara the first same sex couple were married in front of the falls at midnight. The Sunday online edition of the NY Times carried several video-interviews of the newly married and their joy was very touching. The Episcopal Church doesn't have a rule about whether same sex couples can marry in church or not, so at least one bishop (and perhaps more) in the state of NY has said that to him the new law is an extension of civil rights. Minorities should not be discriminated against because they are minorities. Blacks couldn't marry whites in half the states of the USA when President Obama was born. In those states it was considered 'natural' to prohibit that, and maybe even 'God-given', today we see it as discriminatory, as indeed it was. One day, God-willing, we will look back on all this hullaballoo in the same way. I should add that the Governor of NY is a practicing Roman Catholic, Andrew Cuomo, and he not only signed the law, but worked hard to convince the state congress to pass it.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 1:34pm BST

"Clearly it is neither desirable nor practicable to implement the same form of discipline with regard to all lay Anglicans as to clergy."

And yet, that is precisely what a number of diocese or individual parishes do.
This is most definitely not just about gay priests but about how the whole church treats all its lgbt members.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 3:01pm BST

Andrew Goddard's reaction is typical of the way some influential lay folk think about and treat ministers.

It's typical of the worst kind of mealy-mouth anti-gay sentiment. Like Mark - I think- I'd much rather he and others ) said "We **** hate queers and don't want them anywhere near our church !" I have so much more respect for this response (though it will be illegal soon) than for the pathetic response of liberals in the Church who have achieved zilch for us gays over the years.

Very hard to have any respect for these liberals and how hilarious Goddard should turn out to be one himself !

Also not protestant either, as the division of ministers and others he seems to envisage, is not protestant in the least !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 27 July 2011 at 6:58pm BST

It is quite quite insane - it is like looking at some nightmare world, quite unrelated to the world in which I live. The sad thing is that the church is painting itself into a corner from which it will find it hard to emerge when it finally wakes up to the sane world the rest of us live in. Though I do wonder, if, in view of the stupidity over women bishops, if there are pockets where the nightmare will continue.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 8:00am BST

"accepting of our God given lifestyle."

That seems an especially unhappy turn of phrase. Trying to convince the right that sexual orientation is something a little deeper than a "lifestyle" is hard enough without the same term cropping up in our own vocabulary.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 5:34pm BST

When Tradition and Reason are ignored, Bible=God and there is nothing further to say. Revelation = magic. Q.E.D.

Posted by Lister Tonge at Thursday, 28 July 2011 at 11:54pm BST

I take issue with Susannah Clark's pejorative view of ‘theory’ and the false dichotomy that she tries to maintain between 'theory' and ‘experience’. Scripture and tradition are both rooted in experience. Theology has rarely been built on mere theory without the value of praxis. However, any review of the church's position on sexuality must give as much credence to the recorded history of the church, including scripture, as it does to the experience of any selected minority.

Why should we give more weight to current experience and the present impact on Western capitalist societies? We should also look elsewhere within the Anglican Communion and beyond. We should recognise the broader historical experience of the church, expressed through scripture and tradition and guided by the Holy Spirit, who can transcend time itself.

The word 'lifestyle' does betray a broader objective, than just the acceptance of sexual orientation. For many, an acceptance of sexual orientation should entail a wholesale adoption of an entire lifestyle within the church and that anything less would be discriminatory.

I disagree. Lifestyle is not completely God-given, since it involves choice. For instance, there are many aspects of my own black culture that I refuse to espouse on moral grounds. They are not central to my God-given identity and they are lifestyle choices. If a white person voices their disapproval of black gangster rap because the homophobic and misogynist lyrics are un-Christian and immoral, I don't accuse them of racial discrimination. As a Christian, I'm willing to break ranks with others of my race over this, who view me as unsupportive of the black culture.

By comparison, it would be interesting to discover the aspects of the lifestyle of non-Christian gays that would be challenged and condemned as un-Christian and immoral by those who comment here.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 7:59am BST

Although holiness of life is enjoined upon all, scripture itself makes a distinction between elders and laity. Christ Himself singled out those who exercised doctrinal and pastoral authority over the Jews in first-century Judaea: "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. "... "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” (John 9:39, 41)

Paul echoes this in his withering attack on those ordained and claiming the insight and gifts to teach and lead others: 'Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?' (Rom, 2:17 – 21)

The acceptance of a calling to lead others in the church carries an inherent claim of knowledge that the laity have not made. We should exercise greater forbearance towards those who make no claim to the gift of instructive insight. 'That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.' (Luke 12:48)

When you become an ordained minister of the gospel, you are entrusted with much. It is a solemn charge and much more will be asked. i.e. more demanding accountability. As Paul said of his own apostolic calling, 'Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel.' (1 Cor. 9:16)

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 8:11am BST

"By comparison, it would be interesting to discover the aspects of the lifestyle of non-Christian gays that would be challenged and condemned as un-Christian and immoral by those who comment here."

We've had this conversation, you might want to trawl through the archives.
But, simply - precisely the same lifestyles we believe to be immoral for straight people. There is no difference between the two.

It doesn't get more complicated or convoluted than that.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 11:36am BST

With regard to David Shepherd's point, I would imagine that most contributors would find the same issues of sexual morality/integrity problematic for 'Christian gays' as they would for 'Christian heterosexuals' - promiscuity, the intrumentalisation/exploitation of another, predatory behaviour.... In other words, we would apply the same measure to all. Seems obvious to me, with the obvious proviso that the contraceptive provisions in 'humanae vitae don't have a lot of relevance;-)

'When I were a lad', one of the reasons offered by some gays of my acquaintance for their somewhat casual sexual lifestyle was that they were denied the stability/official commitment offered to heterosexuals via the marriage ceremony. I don't hear that argument these days.

Posted by david rowett at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 12:15pm BST


Thank you for your response to my post. I will reflect on what you have written.

I just want to make one initial observation: about the use of the term 'lifestyle'.

Being gay is not a lifestyle, it's an identity. Being lesbian is not a lifestyle. Being transsexual is not a lifestyle.

And here I feel is where critics of these identities sometimes have a problem: they regard LGBT as a chosen 'lifestyle' whereas in fact it's not. Being LGBT is about being who you are, and one can be gay or transsexual but live a perfectly ordinary 'lifestyle' : shopping, brushing my teeth, visiting my elderly relative, befriending a neighbour.

In this sense of the word 'lifestyle' it is possible to lead a very Christian 'lifestyle' while being LGBT.

Being lesbian, gay, bi-, or transgendered is not some chosen hedonistic lifestyle. It's who you are as a person. One part, an integral part, of who you are.

It's about identity, and respecting people's identities, not about lifestyle. Having a gay relationship with a partner, loving them, caring for them, being faithful and tender... is a way humans express their identities, just as it is when heterosexual partners do the same.

The lifestyle 'tag' suggests a selectivity, some kind of "Ooh I think I'll choose gay" but if one actually listens to the actual *experience* of people and their lives, that simply isn't how it is. It's much more a reluctant recognition that, even if it involves social stigma, this is who I am.

I am pretty sure that as a transsexual woman I can lead a similar 'lifestyle' to my nursing colleagues who may be lesbian, gay or heterosexual and cisgendered.

Whereas a heterosexual neighbour may lead what seems to others, an outlandish 'lifestyle'.

Being lesbian and gay involves the same challenge and call to love others as being heterosexual. We all wake up. We all get dressed. We all brush our teeth. We all do our washing. We all go to work. We (on the critical care ward) all serve our patients. We all maybe meet up for coffee, or go shopping. We all go home tired after work. We all cook supper. We lead shared and similar lives. Our lifestyles are defined by what we do in the totality of our ordinary, normal daily lives.

I happen to be transsexual.

I would never, ever, have chosen to be.

It is NOT a lifestyle choice.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 1:56pm BST

Hi Susannah,

I respect your gracious response and thank both you and David Rowett for your honest insights. Clearly, there is not and should not be one definitive answer on behalf of all gay people.

I should note that it was Fr John who used the term 'lifestyle' on this thread. I simply challenged it, as it represents a danger in becoming part of a broader objective for change in the church.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 7:56pm BST

So, David S, are you saying

Gangsta Rap is to black people as

Same-sex marriage is to gay people? [a "sinful lifestyle" to be rejected]

Because that comparison is both ludicrous and *abhorrent*.

Posted by JCF at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 9:26pm BST

David Shepherd,

You take holiness of life as primarily being a matter of conforming to certain selected verses of scripture.

I take holiness of life as primarily being about immersing myself in love and allowing love and goodness, wisdom and truth to dwell in me and flow through all that I am and do, into my relationships and friendships.

Priests and bishops can conform to Biblical texts and traditional teaching with all their might, but if they are, as a result, dry and lifeless, then to me, the essence of what God is about in creating is utterly lacking.

Your two posts create the same feeling in me - orthodox, and inviting deadness.

I reiterate what Susannah as said in reply to you. Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender isn't a lifestyle choice, it is my identity, the core of who I am as a person and the image of God in me.

I'm not sure what you're asking for, David - conformity to your particular version of what you think God requires according to your reading of the Bible? I'd take this seriously from those who claim to be traditional and orthodox if for the past 60 years they had been campaigning for heterosexuals to be disciplined and held to account for their diverse Christian patterns of life.

Posted by Colin Coward at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:06pm BST

David Shepherd: yet we read in the dear old 39 Articles, so beloved of Conservative Evangelicals, that the clergy of the Church of England are not to be forbidden to get married.

This is deliberately to establish that the clergy and the laity of the C of E are to share the same standards in terms of what is ethical in their domestic lives; in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, which makes a distinction between the lay and clerical state by demanding celibacy from the latter.

It seems to me obvious that in the modern context, this article applies to gay clergy and laity too. In the Anglican tradition, the clergy have lived as their people live, and indeed that has been a distinguishing feature of Anglicanism, and probably a key reason why continental European-style anti-clericalism never took off in England. Our clergy have always been deeply connected with the society which they serve, and all the more sane and balanced for being so.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:14pm BST

David, I'm not advocating a dichotomy of theology *only* based on experience, or theology *only* based on theory.

I said experience was "*A* vital input"... one input among others, but a vital one. An alive one.

And I said "*as* vital as theory"... that's not dichotomy, that's a tension in search of a balance.

I acknowledge that revelation comes through scripture, but assert that it also comes through lived experience.

Actually, I tend to think that advocates of an inerrant or literal scripture may sometimes be the ones who are pushing a dichotomy, by suggesting that experience is not really revelation, and that it all comes down to a text that everything has to be subordinate to.

However, history suggests that human experience sometimes creates a tension that requires us to rebalance theology, and critique scripture or the way scripture has been handled.

Take evolution and the origin of the human species. There is little credibility for the biblical assertion that Adam had no ancestors, or that death only started when humans first sinned (dinosaurs etc had been dying for millions of years before that).

Experience, based on unfolding science, needed to be listened to, and understanding of text needed review. Up to that time, most Christians pretty much believed the Genesis events literally - including Noah - ans even Paul seems to, since he bases female subordination in some contexts on the fact that Eve sinned first, notwithstanding the likelihood in modern understanding that she was not a literal identity at all, though without evolution and scientific knowledge, Paul probably thought she was.

Similarly, the idea that God literally mandated the ethnic cleansing of the Canaanites, thus sanctioning the possibility of war crimes in the right circumstances, and clearing the Israelites of responsibility... would, in the light of biblical criticism and the experience of terrible war crimes in our lifetimes, render the 'theory' in need of review, in order to be read with more integrity... in the light of the whole gospel, not just the history written by the victors.

My point is not to create a dichotomy, but to point out that experience, too, has a voice... which may be the voice of God for our times.

And that revelation continues to unfold.

In the lived lives of real people.

There is already 'de facto' minstry by LGBT Christians in the Anglican Church.

Gay and lesbian priests are already doing fantastic work, and living out lives of service. So are transsexual priests (I know two personally). And gay and lesbian Christians are everywhere in the Church. As a transgendered woman becoming an Anglican nun, life will just carry on. She will just be a nun. She will pray. She will try to love her neighbour. I know bishops in gay relationships. In the US, there are lesbian bishops too.

You know what? These countless lives lived out are *part* of the tradition you talk about, because tradition is living, not dead.

(continued later)

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:30pm BST

Do I think the Church should recognise some people have different views? And have integrity all the same? Yes.

That's why I advocate diversity not division. Variety of responses to revelation, not dichotomy, or superimposed uniformity.

Look at me. I have deeply liberal views on justice issues, yet at the same time I am deeply conservative in terms of catholic and carmelite spirituality. And that creates tension. But tension is OK.

The key thing is not, should I be liberal or should I be coinservative.

The key thing is not those extremes, but, in the tension in the middle, do I meet with God, do I seek to devote to God, and be given to God, and to live and serve in response to God.

So, in our Church, what I think precedes is: is a person meeting with God? Are they given to God, and carrying out ministry? And in that vitality and aliveness, we find the continuing and living tradition. There are also those like Carmelites such as me, who treasure age-old tradition too. There should be unity in our diversity, not efforts to suppress or curtail ministries, but - even where we disagree - to believe in the unity we have in Christ.

There is no dichotomy when we are one in Christ.

Instead of using controlling theologies to corral Christians into a uniformity, perhaps we might observe how Christians forge theology through the lives they lead and active ministries, whether a person is black, or female, or young, or gay, or whoever they are.

I maintain my point: that the Church needs to listen more to the lives and experiences of many and varied Christians, and acknowledge ministries are shaped regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and that revelation maybe continues and shows the need for refinement of balance between past tradition and present lives and knowledge.

And if you don't agree? Then you still have God, and you still have ministry, and in fact, just getting on with it is mostly what we're called to.

But to discriminate against a person's ministry because they are actively gay... or because they are a woman... or transsexual... is likely to alienate the very people we are trying to reach for God. It's - sort of - disgusting.

But I recognise the reasons, out of perceived loyalty to God, and in integrity of faith, a person might think that way.

And there is still unity, even in a diversity where we don't find everything about each other attractive, because in all eternity we can only, ever, be One in Christ.

So in the tension and the balance I refer to, which I feel, even within myself, we need to learn to co-exist, while focussing not on polarities but on our living Christ, His presence, our vocation, and the ministries of love.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 29 July 2011 at 10:34pm BST

I would suggest that you read my comments carefully. I have canvassed for opinions on what constitutes lifestyle, as opposed to identity.
I've made no attempt to establish an equivalence between black gangsta rap and same-sex marriage.

I have expanded on Bill Dilworth's point that Fr John's phrasing involved an unfortunate choice of words. Lifestyle has a broader meaning than identity. It is dispensible and less critical to one's sense of being than identity. The inference in your post regarding same-sex marriage is a 'straw man'.

Colin Coward:
It's strange that you didn't take up this point about lifestyle with Fr John, since he first employed it in that earlier turn of phrase.

Presumably, Fr John's comment didn't impart that 'dry and lifeless' feeling left in you by my own posts to this thread. Even if those feelings are your own arbiter of authentic spirituality, they don't hold any sway beyond your pressure group. Even Paul lacked the enticing words of man's wisdom when he tried to describe how the brutal Roman execution of Someone viewed as a rabble-rousing demagogue would transform the universe forever. If I err, I do so in good company. So, 'must try harder' is not a valid response to your adverse comments.

I invite you to consider Susannah's positive view of Carmelite spirituality. To some, it's a meaningful age-old tradition; to others, a cold solitary life that lacks the engagement and vitality needed to reach today's world. Is it a lifestyle, or identity? Well, for initiates, as ever, it's an indispensible part of their identity. So, how would you distinguish authentic identity from the effect of personal bias and the employment of poetic language that can have a vague meaning and broad, erroneous interpretation?

Fr Mark:
The 39 articles are not a set of magical formulae guaranteed to corner evangelicals into self-contradiction.

The clergy are in public roles of leadership. As such, they should be 'examples to the flock'. Paul counted that role worthy of public monetary support, if done well, and public censure, if not (1 Tim. 5:17 -20). Who would subject every member of the laity to this sort of responsibility, reward, or discipline? That would be impractical and undesirable.

The discipline of those who take up leadership roles is instructive for the whole congregation, rather than at odds with the discipline of the laity.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 10:20am BST

'Lifestyle' is when I go to any lengths to colour co-ordinate my Schnauzer and my salon carpets !

The imperatives of heart and loins are rather a different matter !

As for, falling in love and settling down till death us do part - it would be superficial and stupid to call that a 'lifestyle'.

Call it rather, a life

and even life

life of great fullness and joy ....

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 12:54pm BST

David, thank you for the courtesy you have extended to me, even in the midst of some fairly lively discussion and debate. That means more to me than winning or losing the argument to be honest. On the calling - vocation if you like - to Carmelite spirituality... I'd say that concerned 'identity' surely. I believe God calls and creates us - and keeps calling and creating us - to be the unique individual we may become in Christ, with a unique plan and purpose for each of our lives.

And the call to Carmelite spirituality (for example, but it surely applies to so many other callings) seems to me to be concerned with identity in Christ.

The Carmelite 'lifestyle' undoubtedly supports that calling into identity and wholeness.

But if the lifestyle was stripped away, I believe the identity would still be there.

Thank you for your interesting dialogue. May the God of grace and love continue to bless you and those you love and share with and serve.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 9:21pm BST

Hi Susannah,

Thanks, in turn, for your kind words. You are one of the few on these comment threads who has tried to engage as a person, rather than as a precious cause.

I am intrigued by your walk and path to God. I would be happy to learn more about your spiritual journey. So, dispensing with the boredom of 'church-speak', let's be friends!

Have a great communion tomorrow!

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 11:24pm BST

"I've made no attempt to establish an equivalence between black gangsta rap and same-sex marriage."

You've asked, David, what LGBT people would be willing/ought to "give up"---like the black community and gangsta rap.

I'm honestly *asking* what you think that equivalence is.

EQUALITY is *all* that LGBT people want. Opposite-sex couples may marry, ergo, same-sex couples want that equal opportunity (and for same-sex couples of faith, the equal *blessing* of marriage).

I'm just trying to establish, David, if it's this (attempt to gain) equality which you see as a specific sin to LGBTs.

In my humble opinion, the sins of LGBTs are the *same* sins as those of other peoples (Yes, there are even gay people into gangsta rap! O_o) Efforts to gain equality---as w/ other peoples before us---are not among those sins.

Speaking only for myself, I hope that you, too, have a great communion.

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 8:23am BST

I am very encouraged by your conversation with Susannah.

Especially in the light of a previous conversation I had with you, in which I made myself as vulnerable as Susannah did with her openness about her personal situation, but found myself in such an abusive conversation that Simon had to close it down in the end.

Can I please ask you to remember that those of us who speak of "causes" are aware that this is often a very one sided conversation? In order to touch people, we need to talk about our own personal lives, something those who are not lgbt never have to do.
What for you is an interesting and robust debate is for us the core of our being. What for you is a genuine question is for us the demand to explain, yet again, why we would want to be considered to be moral beings just like you, and often to be judged wanting. In conversations like this, it feels that we are forever on trial and that straight people are forever questioner, judge and jury in one.

Susannah has displayed an enormous courage here and I am delighted she has managed to touch your heart.

Please carry some of that new awareness of the realness of people and of what these conversations mean to us into future threads.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 10:58am BST

This has been a good conversation. Susannah's meditations are often inspiring. David plays a straight bat.

Posted by john at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 12:33pm BST

Hi Erika,

Yes, I've noted a change in the dynamic. You remember that on a previous exchange that I wished you a great Sunday service. Mark Brunson and I have had heated exchanges, but the last ended with warmer words, but no lack of genuine passion on each side. I tried to find out how he's doing, you know, beyond all this discussion. This is not the place to bare your soul, but he's so passionate about God, never giving anyone an easy ride because he knows the rough territory that holiness in this world entails.

JCF, who flames on every comment, is on fire too. The kind of guy you always want in your corner.

Missed anyone? Well, what a motley bunch we are, eh?

Of course, you're a moral being. Yet, in the comment thread that you mention, we all crossed lines of decent interaction. I just sounded like the same old, same old. To some, I probably still do.

Still, my heart is not as hateful as some might think.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 1:23pm BST

thank you.
I'm glad you and Mark get on, he's a really great guy. And you're right, this is not the forum to bare your soul, not all the time. But sometimes, you have to, because otherwise, as you say, it comes across as though we're only wedded to "causes" and people tend to dismiss you if they don't understand a little of why the cause matters to you.

The thing about the Listening Process that never really was, to my mind, is that it is intended to open people's eyes to the reality of others as human beings and to get to know them. It has nothing to do with trying to persuade people that we're right but with just getting to know each other better.
Once you do that, you can no longer just "condemn" someone out of hand and conversations become gentler.

If you ever want more of a background conversation, Simon has my email address or you can find me on Facebook.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 4:56pm BST

"By comparison, it would be interesting to discover the aspects of the lifestyle of non-Christian gays that would be challenged and condemned as un-Christian and immoral by those who comment here."

Just exactly what lifestyle is that? I've known non-Christian gay people who were promiscuous sleazeballs, but I've known some who were sane and chaste and kind. Come to think of it, I've known Christian gay people who fit into both camps, too - as well as Christian and non-Christian straight people. There simply is no such thing as the "gay lifestyle."

What are usually trotted out as exemplars of this lifestyle, AFAICT, reflect the attitudes of a fraction of the gay population. I also suspect that this perception of gay people is seriously out of date in many cases, and goes back to ideas of gay behavior gleaned from movies like _Cruising_.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 5:55pm BST

I'd also value staying in touch, David, but not sure how to contact you


Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 31 July 2011 at 8:13pm BST

I'll send my e-mail address to Simon.


Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 12:21pm BST


In reply to me, you wrote:

"I invite you to consider Susannah's positive view of Carmelite spirituality. To some, it's a meaningful age-old tradition; to others, a cold solitary life that lacks the engagement and vitality needed to reach today's world. Is it a lifestyle, or identity? Well, for initiates, as ever, it's an indispensable part of their identity. So, how would you distinguish authentic identity from the effect of personal bias and the employment of poetic language that can have a vague meaning and broad, erroneous interpretation?"

You ask me to consider the opinion of outsiders about Carmelite spirituality.

You invite me to reflect that a Carmelite initiate would consider their vocation an indispensable part of their identity. You are inviting me to consider two different dimensions of identity. I have an identity as an Anglican priest, as a gay activist, as a man in a civil partnership. Various signifiers make up my identity and these may or may not be life-giving to me and others.

I have a core identity, as a human being created, because I am a Christian, by God in the image of God. This identity is the core of my being, my emotions and feelings, my intuition, my mind and intellect, my body and physical experiences, my relationships and interactions with the world around me. Our core identity is a complex matrix. If we lose a grasp on our identity, insanity beckons. Many people never explore their identity or self-question who they are. LGB&T people of my acquaintance have delved more than my heterosexual friends into reflecting on their own identity. As a result, they often have a more conscious awareness of their sexuality and of their spiritual relationships in prayer and contemplation.

There is nothing vague, broad or erroneous about my identity nor of my many LGB&T friends. It is internal and intuitive, the core of who I am. To question how I know who I am or whether the self I know is authentic is to ask a potentially deeply disturbing and destabilising question, whether the person is gay or straight.

I do, as you suggest, distinguish my "authentic identity from the effect of personal bias and the employment of poetic language." I have great clarity about the difference between the two.

I think you want to take the discussion into a life-deadening mode, in which we are invited to talk "objectively" about gay identity or lifestyle or experience. Such an invitation is life-denying and with a passion I will not allow myself to be taken there. My energy, my passion, my love and wisdom and thirst for justice and truth are what give me life, and I will not be killed by anyone, let alone a Church, that wishes to deny me fullness of life in Christ.

Posted by Colin Coward at Monday, 1 August 2011 at 1:09pm BST


If you're right about the negative aspects of discussing identity 'objectively', then objective, detailed reports like the 12-page 'Sexual Ethics' produced by your own organisation must make difficult reading for you. Or is that different?

That report applies bold, objective reasoning. It has to, as it partially represents a response to 'Some Issues in Human Sexuality'. It's certainly not killing anyone and that's not because it arrives at a different set of conclusions.

I salute Erika, Susannah and John. Brave and respected souls, indeed, for they realise that the listening process can actually work for laity, if not the clergy! I'm not trying to suck the life of God out of them, as your remarks suggest.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 7:21am BST

I have just read with interest the discussion on my use of the word lifestyle.
Like many of you I respect Susannah who has shared herself with us, and her community life in Christ.

May I just say my identity, like Colin is made up of several factors. I am like all a human being, my life story is my own, but it has shaped who I am in Christ. Iam a gay person in a Blessed civil relationship, again another journey in Christ Finally I am a priest,humbled to be called by God in Christ. These several factors come together by Gods grace, and make up my identity, which is my lifestyle.

Posted by Fr John at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 10:31am BST

thank you for your kind words.

But I must confess that talking is a struggle to me, because like Colin, I try to parse things that cannot really be parsed.

I only have this one experience of myself, and although I believe I know myself very well, if I'm honest, I have absolutely no idea which part of me is because of my sexuality, which part because of my faith, which part because of my nature or my upbringing or my life experiences.

The lgbt debate focuses on sexuality and so this is what we keep talking about and what we keep trying to explain. It's not necessarily deadening, although it seeks to define me in a very singular, flat manner that ignores the whole complexity of the person that is me.

I have not choice but to answer people's questions according to how they are being asked because that is where my enquirers are and it's no good me wishing they were somewhere else.

But it is reductionist and it can be frustrating.
I, for one, will be glad when we have settled the question of sexual identity and can just get on with the fullness of life.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 1:33pm BST

Good gracious me!

Have mercy on me, a miserable sinner!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 2 August 2011 at 6:52pm BST

I am not a regular commentator, which helps to some extent, because, as an outsider, my impression on reading through these comments is that a lot of what has been written sounds edgy (defensive) and complicated.

For me, as a lay person in a civil union, the standards are clear.

Clergy and laity should be treated in precisely the same fashion, otherwise are we acknowledging that in the Anglican communion we possess a "priestly caste"? That, surely, would be a further wrinkle we could well do without on this side of the Tiber.

Like other married members of the Church, I believe that my union is a lifetime commitment and that it excludes intimate relationships with other people while it endures. Divorce and adultery are not options. I also believe my "partner" and I are the ministers of the sacrament of our union: we made vows to one another, with the intention of contracting a sacramental union.

I have reached the stage now that if the ABC or the Pontiff in Rome, or Andrew Goddard or David Shepherd don't like it, well that's just hard lines. It's between me and our Father in Heaven.

I'm in communion with you. If you don't want to be in communion with me, that's terribly sad, but there's nothing more I can do about it. We've talked it to death.

The Holy Spirit will assuredly help us as a Church to get things right in God's good time.

Have a great communion, you all (and if I didn't wish that for each one of you, what kind of Xian would I be?)

Posted by William at Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 4:57am BST


I am certain that Jesus loves you as much as he loves me, and as indeed he loves Mother Teressa. His love comes from His character rather than anything particularly worthy in ourselves.

As you say, you put yourself up as a light, which basically says, these ways of mine seem natural to me therefore they must be godly. It is my God given "identity". Jesus does ask that we love Him in return by following His ways (and indeed our Fathers. You put your self up as a light in the belief that you are a true teacher.

What I feel uncomfortable about is not only what Scripture says but also the pastoral experience of those with similar desires or tendencies (in my own personal experience and friends). As one example, I now have a friend who was a gay atheist activist with no church background. After a theophany he was basically felt the Lord told him to leave his boyfriend. (He kept waking up with the Scripture Romans 6). He then would dream of being inside churches, so he decided to look for a church, only to find that the churches he visited were the ones he previously dreamt of. He finally settled on a church and approached the vicar to explain his position. The vicar it turned out was actually a celibate homosexual (having ceased an active gay life as a theology student) and was now a vicar with rather orthodox views. These experiences obviously colour our view of scripture interpretation. For example, where people would argue that Romans 1 does not apply to the homosexual situation because they are naturally homosexual. So for one it is the consequence of the fall and for someone else it is their blessing from God and an integral part of who they are.

Our god-given identity is in Christ and not in our desires (whch the bible describes as deceiptful).

Posted by David Wilson at Wednesday, 3 August 2011 at 12:56pm BST

thank you for your thoughts.
But may I point out, please, that you have done precisely what I said I find so difficult and "flattening"? I have written a comment explaining to David Shepherd why it is so hard to parse one's identity and to talk about sexuality in isolation. It is only a very small, and I'd like to say very ingnificant, part of who I am.

And immediately, you home in on sexuality, tell me that you know I'm wrong and ride your hobby horse about desires.
I had not been talking about desires.
I had been talking about being a complex person with much much more that shapes me and makes me who I am than sexuality.

But many people are completely incapable of seeing me in any other way than through the lense of sexuality, sex and their personal Christian views about those issues.

I meant it - I can't wait for the day this whole pathetic debate is over and I can get on with living my life to the full without people trying to pull me back to that single issue.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 8:53am BST


I am sure you will agree that it is not our life. We are asked to pick up our cross and lose our own life and follow Him.

Posted by David WiIson at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 5:56pm BST

It is precisely my life. I have been given it as a gift from God and I shall, eventually, be answerable to him. And only to him.

Seriously, what do you think I should do. Round up the family and say, darling, girls, I'm sorry but there is this guy on the Internet who believes he knows exactly that God doesn't like the way we live, however much we know that we're a pretty brilliant family, so there's nothing for it, we'll have to divorce, sell the house, find somewhere else to go.
No, really, we have to, because although we are pretty sure we know that God want for us, this guy who has never met us knows best and he just won't let it rest and he won't allow God to sort it all out with us afterwards, he insists that we have to follow his idea of God now.

Really? Do you think you might get a grip on reality?
I know what I'm doing. You think I'm wrong.
Let's leave it for God to judge, shall we?

Let's drop this whole silly conversation, let's people lead their lives as they believe is right for them, let's stop tearing ourselves apart over this nonsense, and let's God be the final judge.
Wouldn't that be lovely!

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 7:22pm BST


I agree that there's a need to humanise the debate. Our lives do extend beyond the sum total of our sexual experiences. Nevertheless, in spite of the millions of life stories that could be heard, we still need to make key decisions that aren't swayed by our sentiments in relation to a particular minority alone, or segment of one.

However insignificant it may be to your complete personhood, homosexuality and the current legislation on civil partnerships is significant enough to prompt a major church review. You hope that it will result in a change to canon law that will endorse homosexual unions as equivalent to heterosexual ones. You hope it will declare the physical same-sex union that results to be whole-hearted endorsed and encouraged by God and his ministers of the marriage sacrament as equivalent to the physical joining of a lifelong heterosexual union. Oh, and for the church to declare that this is entirely consonant with scripture and church tradition.

While I have carefully read your posts, it now appears that you have accorded very little weight to the equally valid experiences of other homosexuals that David Wilson has outlined. They are just not your experiences. Do they count for nothing?

Without balance, giving all homosexuals a fair hearing and, dare I say the 'life-quenching' word: objectivity, it's all too easy for the church to discount the broadest possible range of experiences, and succumb to vociferous pressure groups who have seen past success in their use of lobbyist PR tactics.

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 8:13pm BST

Davids twain: could you keep this all in perspective? The gay issue need not be a big deal for anyone other than gay people, really.

All this talking up of the gravity of the Church changing its traditional position on this issue irks me immensely because I have lived through the enormous, very much more epochal, change in the Church's treatment of divorcees and those who were, when I was a child, said to be "living in sin" (and who nowadays the Abp of York commends).

It's just so silly to have to listen to some opinionated men (and why are they always men?) shaking their beards gravely at the mention of the gay issue when they've lived through, and accommodated into their Christian lives, all that followed on from the 1960s in terms of attitudes to women and to straight people's sexuality. It doesn't make me want to be a part of the Church when I read such illogical nonsense day in day out, frankly; yet we live in a time when Christians should be grateful that anyone wants to come along at all.

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 8:59pm BST

David S,
thank you for talking to me and asking questions and for not just making statements at me.

I do not wish to interfere in David W's life. He follows God as best as he can and his experience and his theology have led him to make his choices.
They are truly valid for him and they will eventually be judged by God, just as it should be.

I personally believe that everyone who can genuinely change his sexuality and live a straight married life has been bisexual all along.
I believe that because of the many many gay people who have had miserable lives trying to live up to the expectations of the church and who have either failed or have suffered tremendous personal hardship.
Their experience is valid too.
And I believe that because, as a bisexual, I know that I can make choices that my straight friends cannot make. I could no more make them gay than I could make a genuinely gay person straight.
The experience of straight people who have never felt a flicker of sexual interest in a person of the same sex surely also counts as an experience of immutable sexuality for most of us.

As I said in my previous post – the only genuine and honest conclusion I can draw is that this has to be one of those issues where ever gay person has to make their own choices. And it really really doesn’t matter what straight people think about that.
I would go as far as to say that a straight person who has never experienced sexual feelings for someone of the same gender has no right to lecture those who have, because, to be frank, they do not know what they’re talking about.

There is enough very good pro-gay theology around to allow this conclusion. To deny the theology and to deny the hugely positive experiences of same sex love that people testify to is no longer a credible response for anyone who actually knows gay people and the blessings God brings to their lives.

Shall we let God be the judge when the time comes?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 4 August 2011 at 9:03pm BST

Fr Mark,
'when they've lived through, and accommodated into their Christian lives, all that followed on from the 1960s in terms of attitudes to women and to straight people's sexuality'

Hopefully, you can enlighten David W and I in respect of our specific accommodations of straight people's sexuality.

It took almost 40 years to resolve the church's position on divorce from the Root report ('71) to GS Misc 960 in 2010. So, that's not exactly a snap decision and the HoB statement doesn't exactly endorse divorce, does it? It does de-stigmatize a specific sub-set of divorcees.

There is still a review. There's still a debate. The House of Bishops will still determine the true doctrine for the church. Just as Changing Attitudes intends to weigh in on the proceedings, so do others, rather than simply capitulate to liberal orthodoxy.

Discernment isn't mere capitulation to liberal, or for that matter conservative orthodoxy.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 1:49am BST

Mark is most definitely *not* a great guy. He's unpleasant, selfish, childish and lazy.

But . . .he's honest. I'm generally not hesitant about bearing my soul. Gettin' me to shut up is the trick!

David Shepherd, I usually remember to include a URL with my comments - that's my blog. I have thrown a few people out, but only those that have genuinely set off my "abusive" meter, which I've come to trust. I can think of very few here who've done that, and none of them would lower themselves to talk directly to me, in any case. YOU are most certainly not one of those people.

If I rage, or weep, I generally do it there, because that "public" space is my "public" space and doesn't interfere with others' messages or discussions, but I don't try to hide what I'm feeling. It is often confusing to people who haven't come to know me well, as it isn't a "theme" blog - as all things are related to and speak in some way of God and the Universe, I treat all things as equally worthy - book reviews, jokes, very low jokes, movies, anime, daily life, my excessively poor writing. All these things are, in some way, how God speaks to me, and how I find reflection to speak back to others of Him.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 5:39am BST

yes, there is still discernment, which is why I am participating in this conversation.

But, you know, up to a point, it doesn't really worry me what the church might discern. All of us happily married lgbt people know God in our lives and that he blesses us and our families abundantly. A hierarchical church decision against that cannot possibly change our lives.

To me, this is really only about whether we have a place in the church, because we already know ourselves to be loved, held and blessed by God. If we genuinely believed that he did not approve, that would be different. But what the church does or doesn't recognise is only of secular importance.

Don't get me wrong, I hate to see the church marginalise itself and turn even more into a conservative club that is of little interest to the over 90% of nominal Christians who don't ever come to us anyway.
But if that's the way it goes, then people like me will lick our wounds and move on.

Oh, they will be wounds, because we love our faith and the conventional expression of it in church. We are still just about hanging on by our finger tips because we find it extremely important to our own lives.


Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 10:03am BST

But if the church really continues to take Jesus' judgement seat and does not allow us to live our lives as we know we must live them, we will move on, we will find other ways of living with God.

We can lose the church, we cannot lose God.
We can live with losing the church because it can only tie us closer to the heart of our faith.
It will be hard but the lives of countless others who have left the church in despair before us yet who have not lost their faith, point the way.

The church should, for its own sake, stop being obsessed by sex and concentrate on love. It should, for its own sake, see the love in our relationships and tolerate the sex if it cannot approve of it. It should look for the fruits of our lives and, having recognised them, follow Jesus’ statement that it is by our fruits that you can tell us.
Come to my house, David, stay with us for a while, live our daily lives with us, see the fruits of our lives. And then discern.
Discern for your own sake, though. Because I have already discerned for mine and I am very certain of my path and my walk with Christ.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 10:03am BST

"Hopefully, you can enlighten David W and I in respect of our specific accommodations of straight people's sexuality."

Well, there's my sister's Wedding that was combined with the Baptism of her first child.

There's the re-marriage in church of divorcees left to the discretion of the individual priest.

There's the recent royal marriage of a couple who had been openly living together for a number of years.

There's the blessing of the second marriage of Prince Charles who has had an affair with the women who is now his wife before and during his previous marriage.

I'd be happy with that level of official accommodation for my own relationship!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 11:32am BST


Most of my friends have homosexual desires, so my views are not as a result solely of my own experience. They have the same issues as everyone else. The same risk of jealousy, envy, anger e.t.c. I certainly expect a long conversation with Jesus - you might expect it to be about asking people to think about why they live - do they live for Him - and ask themselves whether these truely are God's ways. However I expect it to be more about how much more often I should have told homosexuals that Jesus loves them but calls them to follow His Father's ways. He who does not walk in the light does not fellowship with God, even if in his deceiptful heart he thinks he does.

May our Lord Jesus Bless you Erika and your family

Posted by David Wilson at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 12:52pm BST

David W: but the irritating thing about your comment here is that you seem so sure of what God wants for the rest of us.

Why not just concentrate on doing what you think God wants from you, and leave the rest of us in peace to do likewise? Respect our choices, please.

Posted by Fr Mark at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 3:43pm BST

How the righteous like to deny the true love of God in Christ.
I come back again to Faber's wonderful hymn There's a wideness in God's mercy. especially verse 5. Go and read it! then pray for that same mercy, you who stand on your holy unstable preaching stool.

Posted by Fr John at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 4:41pm BST

Well, David
" However I expect it to be more about how much more often I should have told homosexuals that Jesus loves them but calls them to follow His Father's ways. He who does not walk in the light does not fellowship with God, even if in his deceiptful heart he thinks he does."

You shall not judge.
You shall not be a stumbling block.
The accusers response in the story of the woman taken in adultery.
The story of the pharisee and the tax collector.
The story of motes and specks of dust.

I could go on and on and on.

Are you quite sure that the deceited heart is mine, not yours?
Are you quite sure that Jesus will ask you about the sins of others, not your own?
That spiritual arrogance is my problem, not yours?
Are you quite sure that you can discern, without being able to look into people's hearts, who walks with God and who doesn't?

And all that just because they're gay and don't hold with your interpretation of what that means?

As David Shephard reminded us here before - just because a belief is seriously held doesn't mean it's right.
That goes for all of us and a little more humility might be in order.

And, for Christ's sake!, please, leave the judging to God. It is his perogative.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 5 August 2011 at 9:35pm BST

David Wilson,

Have you considered that God might ask you why you thought so much of yourself that you took it upon your conscience to speak your experience as universal? Your experience as God's will? Why you felt that He was so weak that He couldn't direct people in more than one direction, or speak to them, Himself?

The problem is, you really make no self-examination, here. For instance:

"Most of my friends have homosexual desires, so my views are not as a result solely of my own experience."

That *is* YOUR experience. You cannot have your friends' experience, nor can you - any of us, indeed - know anything outside our experience.

Most of my friends have *no* homosexual desire, and the majority have had failed relationship after relationship, live miserable, sex-starved lives, drink, self-medicate, are depressed, while I am rather content, despite my disadvantages socially, financially and genetically.

So, does it follow that all gay men are better adjusted? That all straights, therefore, are miserable and clearly driven by impure and unnatural sexuality?

No one is questioning your *experience*, simply your universal application of it, especially as God's Will.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 4:35am BST

Many past comments on this site have invoked Christ's assurance 'by their fruits you shall know them'; and then point to the outcomes of their exemplary lives and laudable service to the church as proof of divine endorsement.

Peter validated the experience of the first disciples by citing the prophetic authority of OT scripture. For all of the varying personal accounts here, scripture tests their validity, self-affirming rationalisations don't. Are David W's experiences upheld or denied by scriptural authority?

Paul said, 'What fruit had you in the things whereof you are now ashamed, the end of those things is death'. Fruit, then, also refers to the predicted final outcome under prophetic scrutiny, rather than the interim benefits of a satisfying domestic arrangement. Scripture provides that scrutiny.

I am reminded of Christ's parable of the wheat and darnel. Both grass varieties, like members of the Anglican Communion, are fairly difficult to distinguish in earlier development without scrutiny. However, the fruit of bearded darnel induces the relaxation of self-critical faculties. The fruit of the wheat provides body-building sustenance with no detriment to alertness.

I believe that God's purpose is to forbear, in this situation, rather than to debate each issue tirelessly. 'Let the wheat and tares grow together'. In other words, wait for the full effects of lost self-scrutiny to manifest themselves, or not. This involves respecting choices by allowing people to harden their resolve in pursuit of them. 

We should both challenge and test all views (even our own) in order to protect ourselves and others. However, grace does not impart complete the wholesale dismissal of opposing views, especially when scripturally based. As Paul said, 'I exercise myself to have a conscience void of offence'. 

Our frequent discussions have also been a source of self-examination for me. In contrast, I do note the unwillingness of several commenters to give even partial credence to the means by which I could thoughtfully arrive at an opposing view. I also note the lack of any attempt to qualify support for those who concur with your stance on sexuality, but blatantly consign scriptural authority to the dustbin of history to do so.

We're both clear on each other's stance, so I'm happy to reciprocate your offer of mutual hospitality.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 12:28pm BST

I don't use Scripture because we both know that both sides can fling verses at each other and that it achieves nothing.
The real problem is that we do not generally have the same approach the our reading of Scripture, so the conversation often falls at the first hurdle, that what I take to be biblical is rejected by those who oppose me because of their more literal approach.
If an appeal to Scripture alone could settle the matter for good, it would already have done so.
I just take it as read that there is theology to support both sides and we don't need to re-hash it here to support every argument we make.

I don't know by which means you personally might come to a different view on anything that matters to you.
I generally find that people change their hearts first and then the theology suddenly follows. This simply isn't an issue where pure logic applies but it is hugely emotional and touches the core of our souls.
So all I can offer is a reading list, should you want one, and my personal experience.


Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 5:24pm BST


As for self-examination. Yes, of course I have done that. Extensively and prayerfully when I started my relationship with my wife.
But it is also a deeply personal journey not suited to public consumption on this forum.
And it is a journey that has an ending. I have come to the conclusion that my relationship is not only acceptable to God but a gift from God, something I thank him for with immense gratitude every day of my life.
I no longer query it, I am not constantly torn in further self-examination about it. I just live it and am thankful.

That's all I can offer you, David. I'm not out to persuade you of anything, I'm simply offering my story.
I'm offering the thought that Christ is at the centre of my being, at the centre of everything I do. And that I genuinely believe my path to be a God-guided, grace-filled path to where I need to travel.
I believe that love is more important than sex and that we should lose out obsession with sex which only mirrors the obsession with sex in the society around us.
I believe that my life bears fruits in the here and now and that these can be seen in my family, my children, my friends. That is my lived answer to those who forecast moral doom and a lowering of public standards if gay relationships are accepted.

Ultimately, mutual hospitality is the only place where the solution can be found. It’s the only place where people meet each other as complex beings not as “issues”. It’s the only place where people can talk together, laugh together, cry together, make mistakes together, learn together.
And where they can agree to live with difference and to love each other despite the difference and no longer feel they have to “win” a battle.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 5:24pm BST

Erika: "The real problem is that we do not generally have the same approach the our reading of Scripture, so the conversation often falls at the first hurdle, that what I take to be biblical is rejected by those who oppose me because of their more *literal* approach."

Quite. But you're too kind.

It is our duty to believe and trust in God. In what part of that duty is there room for the belief that God's revelation of his Grace and Will ceased when some old men with beards closed the Canon? None!

Clearly, we can find all things necessary for salvation in the Bible, but the Bible is not the all-encompassing and last word of God. To behave and believe as if it was, is to deny that the Holy Spirit is continually working in our lives, and that God's revelation continues to unfold. It is to argue the death of God. It is a heresy and an abomination.

Bible-*believing* Xians are just that. Idolators. Heretics. And THEY are dictating the discussion. Pfui!!

Posted by William at Saturday, 6 August 2011 at 7:43pm BST

Sorry to have been out of touch for a while and David S, I will ask Simon if he can forward your e-mail, as you suggested. I am mostly in bed, here in convent, recovering from my recent surgery (and healing well so no worries there).

I have read the continuing thread here and I am aware that Christians of good faith can hold very differing views on LGBT issues.

To be honest, while this is the case, the world around us moves on and without doubt the general population is far more accepting of gay or lesbian love than they were... 10 years ago, 25 years ago, 50 years ago.

Quite simply, the average person in the pews probably knows more and more friends or relatives with someone close to them who is gay or lesbian, and while church hierarchy seems reluctant to acknowledge this publicly-embraced legitimacy, the average person is much more open to gay relationships and their love and intimacies.

In this context, and because I believe the state is right to press forward with a new default for marriage, I have submitted an e-petition under the new e-petition system launched this week. This says that any petition with 100,000 signatures may be raised in Parliament.

I have called for equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of their gender or orientation. Anyone who wants to can sign it here:

(Please pass on if you would.)

While the Church agonises over this issue from decade to decade, the State is getting near to moving on, and creating a clear legal status for marriage, available for all people.

Then if some Christians don't agree with gay or lesbian marriage, they will have an option: don't marry a gay or lesbian partner. But the State default will make marriage open to anyone.

I believe this is right because the tenderness, fidelity, care and commitment of two people deserves honouring with the loveliness of marriage, and its legal status, whether people are gay or not.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 8:52am BST

No. The belief is that God's revelation continues to unfold, but not to contradict previous revelation, as contained in the bible, which as a record of prophetic revelation, is the principal source of Christian doctrine.

This was how the early Church 'idolatrously' resolved and reasoned through the issue of Jesus' messianic claims and dispensing with circumcision for Gentiles (Acts 17:11), rather than mistaking their personal views, or the zeitgeist for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 10:17am BST

"The belief is that God's revelation continues to unfold, but not to contradict previous revelation"

True. But as anti-lgbt people can claim that their view supports previous revelation and pro-lgbt people can also claim that their view supports previous revelation, both using different theology, we're back where we started.

Nothing will release you from the responsibility of making up your own mind, if only to decide which school of thought you attach yourself to.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 6:43pm BST

Nothing but grace can square this circle. The theological approaches lead with logical inevitability towards opposite viewpoints on gay sex.

The only generous solution is for both 'poles' of opinion to agree they differ, then assert their unity in Christ (because in Christ we are all one whether we like it or not) and agree to a relationship where, in diversity of opinion, we are one in Christ.

Then if a priest in good conscience believes (s)he should not carry out gay and lesbian wedding services, let a different priest conduct the service, who does. And if someone does not believe in gay marriage, let them choose not to marry a gay or lesbian partner. That's fine. They can have a heterosexual partner.

But the only mature way for Anglicans to handle these poles of opinion is to agree that we differ, but we are one in Christ.

Don't tell other Christians, with different theologies, that they *have* to conform, and thereby interfere with other people's private lives and loves. Just live your own life.

But keep on loving God and loving your neighbour, and showing enough respect to recognise that a friend with an opposite view can *also* love God and love her neighbour.

And so we all love God and co-exist.

It is the only sensible way.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 7 August 2011 at 10:31pm BST

I have problems signing this petition. After I signed it I was sent an email with a link to confirm my email address, but clicking on that only took me to the main petition page. I then tried to fill the fields in again but was told that the email address had already been used to sign the petition.
I then tried to follow the link in the email again but it had become invalid.

Not sure if I signed it now or not?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 August 2011 at 12:01pm BST


I noticed that it says on the main petition page that it closes on the 5th August?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 8 August 2011 at 12:03pm BST


The site is not well-designed. I had the same misgivings, but when I saw that the signature count had gone up by one, I thought it was OK

August 2012

Posted by John Roch at Monday, 8 August 2011 at 6:43pm BST

Hi Susannah,

It's for the State to decide, after hearing representations on each side of the debate, whether civil marriage and civil partnerships should be merged into a single institution. However, I think that proponents of gay marriage would have to prove the actual harm caused to civil partners by the existence of another institution that accords them the same rights.

In the religious context, surely, this issue involves more than working out whether the ceremony itself can be conducted by a consenting priest. The real difference, at this stage, is that homosexual unions have not been accorded a moral equivalence to Christian marriage. If they were equivalent, our bishops would accommodate their blessing as endorsed by God within the form of the ceremony.

For this reason, although we've seen scope for pastoral/parish discretion in the anglican church, but I don't think, within an episcopal polity, that decisions regarding the moral nature of marriage will be left to the consciences of individual priests, or parishes. You could, of course, challenge the whole idea of episcopal polity with congregational independence, but that's another matter entirely.

How do matters of personal conscience work within the Carmelite order? Which elements of its discipline could you decline without being considered to have effectively left the order?

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 8:30am BST

Thank you for signing it, Erika and John. I am not sure what happened there, Erika, but if it rejects a resigning with your email then I'm pretty sure your signature must be registered. I don't know who has signed the petition - it seems that info is not accessible - but as John points out, it's due to run until August next year.

I just wish I could think of ways to get the petition more widely disseminated, because I believe many people would sign it, but just don't know about it.

Anyway, thank you again for your interest.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 9:07am BST


I am trying to be honest with you. This is the light I have. We are called to be a light - clearly you think you are. But your light is not without consequences as you seek to persuade people to follow you.

Indeed I have a good friend who left his wife of 18 years after listenening to some gay friends. However he is honest enough to admit that he has now found that those gay friends he thought loved him actually had little love for him. He now wishes he had not left his wife. He had a real love with her that he has not found in his other friends who want to move on to other partners.

Posted by David WIlson at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 1:03pm BST

I'll forward it on via Facebook.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 1:31pm BST

Another thought - it seems its OK to be a light if one is consistent with Erika but not if your witness is different - I am met with accusations of judging - if that were true it would be impossible to preach, rebuke or witness to people on the same grounds. You may hate my witness. As for my friend who left his wife, it is not that he thinks the homosexual life is God's way - he does not, but his reaction was: well I feel I have to do this (having suffered from years of mockery from sectors of the gay communuity). Curiously I had a dream of him in which a statement of his life was set out and a voice said your friend received a word from the Lord last night, your friend is living with a cold prescence. I was actualy due to meet him the following week and when I explained about the dream, he asked when I received it. He explained that he had engaged in sex for the first time the night before but had since broken up as he came under conviction. The cold presence was his love for Jesus - which had gone cold.

Posted by david wilson at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 2:00pm BST

Hello David,

Thank you for your continuing thoughtful comments.

With regard to present polity in the Anglican church in England, you are undoubtedly right: there is no equivalance acknowledged between heterosexual marriage and formal gay and lesbian partnerships.

However, the Episcopal Church in the US is also Anglican, and I agree with the direction they are moving in, which I believe will result in church-sanctioned equal marriage in the end. In fact I find them inspirational.

Whether church hierarchy in England is willing to embrace marriage for all or not, I still believe the State (which is not a religion and therefore is not answerable to Anglican theology) should proceed with equal marriage for all... and more and more people agree. I believe it will come.

My position with regard to Carmelite tradition and my vocation is something I don't want to discuss in this public space so I will e-mail you separately. Suffice it to say, I believe in authority, and I believe a community is bigger than just 'me'.

God be with you.


Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 10:08pm BST

David S "I don't think, within an episcopal polity, that decisions regarding the moral nature of marriage will be left to the consciences of individual priests, or parishes."

It is so with the remarriage of divorcees in church, though - a much bigger matter, being a question of binding vows pronounced before God, and something about which Our Lord himself spoke directly, unlike the gay issue, on which he said nothing.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 9 August 2011 at 10:54pm BST

Fr Mark:

Re-marriage in church is not completely decided by pastoral discretion (there are stringent criteria that must be satisfied). However, this does not detract from the important point that you make about the lack of an equitable marriage policy. As there is more direct NT revelation regarding Christ's prohibitions of divorce and re-marriage, church policy should reflect it.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 1:03am BST

David W
"Another thought - it seems its OK to be a light if one is consistent with Erika but not if your witness is different - I am met with accusations of judging"

And there I was thinking that I had acknowledged that your approach is right for you and that all I wanted is for people to accept that mine is as God given and right for me.

The only "consistent with Erika" I ask for is that you give up this ridiculous insistence that MY ways have negative consequences that I have to live with, while yours are shrouded in holiness and need to be forced onto the rest of the world.

I say again and for the last time.
Let CHRIST be the judge. You simply do NOT have that power of discernment.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 8:14am BST

David W,
and as for your friend who left his wife for another man - many straight men leave their wives for other women. And many straight women leave their husbands for other men. And a large number of them end up regretting it.

This is called giving in to temptation and has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality and the issue of stable, faithful and lifelong same sex relationships we are talking about here.

You are not helping your cause by misrepresenting what we're asking for. Whatever you think it might be, license for adultery is isn't!

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 10 August 2011 at 12:01pm BST

"And there I was thinking that I had acknowledged that your approach is right for you and that all I wanted is for people to accept that mine is as God given and right for me."

Which is what I was saying, as well.

Do you remember my writing this, David Wilson:

"No one is questioning your *experience*, simply your universal application of it, especially as God's Will."

You are still doing it, btw - using anecdotal evidence as proof of God's universal Will and Truth. You are not a martyred witness, here, except by continuing a pointless "crusade" to present your "light." You have done that, been shown that others disagree, while respecting your right to believe what you do, and you respond by refusing to accept that and making the same claims again and again.

Let me clarify for you, David Wilson:

We understand your point of view, some, I'm certain, share it, but most here do not. Your light has been unveiled, we've shined ours back. We don't accept your light for us, you don't accept our light for us. That's the whole of the conversation.

Now, even if it sounds cruel of me, I have to tell you that any continuation of this on your part is NOT witnessing, still less some sort of spiritual humiliation, but mere exhibitionism.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 11 August 2011 at 5:04am 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.