Comments: Covenant and Calling: Towards a Theology of Same-Sex Relationships

"... it is clearly a framework which can see the faithful and permanent love of a non-procreating couple as an expression of the love of God, and that sexual expression not leading to procreation can be a physical expression of that covenant relationship. This would apply as much to same-sex as to heterosexual couples." - Jeremy Fletcher -

Well, this observation alone would commend the book to anyone who believes that God is present in ALL loving relationships. Can't wait to read it!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 9 November 2014 at 10:40pm GMT

Sorry, Mr Song. You have missed the bus. No amount of speculating about 'covenented relationships' is going to change the fact that by lamentably failing to embrace civil partnership the Church has only itself to blame for now being presented with the challenge of equal marriage. The Church has a choice between rejection, which will confirm its inherent homophobia, or full acceptance, and the prospect of fulfilling the generous inclusve mission of its head. There is now no middle course.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 9 November 2014 at 10:54pm GMT

Um, the same-sex horses have long since galloped off, joyfully, for the pasture called "Marriage". Offering them a shiny new coat of paint to the barn is just Too Little, Too Late.

[But it does look like an interesting book. Lots of academic (Meaning #4. "Scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world") books are.]

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 9 November 2014 at 11:09pm GMT

Well, your review intrigued me so much that I just bought the Kindle edition, Jeremy, so when I've read it I'll let you know what this person who 'comes from a conservative position' makes of it. Cheers.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 9 November 2014 at 11:14pm GMT

Of all the myriad of points I would like to make about this, a question first.
How would the covenanted relationship deal with married same sex couples who want and do have children?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 8:58am GMT

" What he proposes is a third possibility, equal in status to both marriage and celibacy: ‘covenant partnership’ "

Any two people can sign any piece of paper they want, and they can throw a party to celebrate signing that piece of paper. If they can get a vicar or similar to sign it as well, so much the more joyous.

None of that alters the fact that in most of the developed world, same-sex marriage is either straightforwardly legal, or will shortly be. Society is not going to recognise some bizarre lash-up which is another "marriage but not quite" to skirt around the theological hangups of a few Christians. People who want to get married will be getting married. People who don't want to get married won't be. People who want to stop other people from getting married will be ignored. The ship has sailed.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 9:47am GMT

I found the book thought-provoking and it made some valuable points, though I did not agree with everything in it. I suppose it depends on whether people are interested in what marriage is and, if it is (or could be) a good thing, why.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 12:46pm GMT

This is just a book-plug, isn't it? I didn't realise you could do that on TA. Otherwise I agree entirely with IO.

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 2:18pm GMT

I have not read the book, but I look forward to studying it shortly. I can speak from some personal experience of a church-based same-sex covenant.

Back in 2001 my partner and I asked that we be allowed to mark our relationship in some way in our church. The rector and archdeacon both agreed (in less politically charged times) and we created a service based on the idea of covenant and blessing. The two of us were to make a covenant with each other; a covenant witnessed by God and our friends and family. And we were to ask God and our friends and family to give their blessing to that covenant.

We actually used the rainbow covenant as a symbol, with a bit of liturgical face-painting

http://www.simondawson.com/blessing/blessphot.htm

It was a wonderful, joyful day, and the knowledge that David and I made solemn verbal promises to each other in church has been the bedrock of our relationship. Our subsequent civil partnership was a secondary, but legally useful, process.

So I can't answer the question about how a covenant as proposed by Jeremy Fletcher would relate to either Civil Partnership or marriage. But I can say that there is something incredibly powerful in the idea of a covenanted relationship, and making verbal promises to one another in church. A church marriage is itself a covenant. But of course under the present legislation that is an option only available to opposite gender couples.

Posted by Simon Dawson at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 3:10pm GMT

I don't think the book reviewer is proposing anything, rather the book author, Dr Song, is.
And the review is certainly not a book-plug.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 4:01pm GMT

Erika, I think the author is hazy on the status of relationships where there are children of whom only one partner is the biological parent (applying equally to male-female couples where the man could not have children so donor insemination was used, or indeed widows/widowers remarrying). In my view he over-emphasises the centrality of procreation to marriage in Christian tradition. But he flags up interesting ideas about partnerships and the Kingdom of Heaven.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 4:33pm GMT

Unacceptable and outdated. No separate and unequal solutions are acceptable. We are not second class Children of God.

The idea of "procreation as the raison d'être" for marriage became mostly extinct in the 1960's. Even so, as Erika points out, plenty of LGBT couples have children. The idea of positioning these children in a separate and unequal status, or stigmatizing them in any way whatsoever, is absolutely immoral.

There's a ton of literature on this. CoE is decades behind. This proposal is not new ground. It's just more insult by people that would have LGBT people, and our children, continue to carry the burden of injustice for the comfort of conservative straights. Sorry, that is immoral.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 4:47pm GMT

Thanks Jeremy for the helpful early (in my case, pre-) view of Robert Song's new book. I've ordered it and am looking forward very much to the read, partly encouraged by your review. My reaction to your summary (and I stress not yet to the book) is that I wonder if it does not see eschatology too one-sidedly as a blessing and a common hope with no dark side, no note of judgement which robs it of any challenge to cheap grace in all its forms.
Both sides of the discussion agree whole-heartedly that being dragged along reluctantly (kicking and screaming - and infighting) by a rapidly shifting secular consensus is no place for the church. Of course the proposed solutions are radically divergent: either let's get out ahead or let's stick to the well-worn paths. From the comments so far it feels, sadly, as if Song will fall between the two stools.
I look forward to the read and thanks again.

Posted by Mark Bonnington at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 5:44pm GMT

He and other evangelicals ought to have been doing this thinking 20 years ago. But they didn't and maybe they couldn't. As a result they are really the 'left behind' and apart from the committed few the debate is over in society and indeed in much of the church. Christianity as an excluding religion has had its day and has no future except in a few exclusive ghettos. This is irrelevant now.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 6:50pm GMT

I love the way people are dismissing this book without actually reading it. I'm fairly sure i won't agree with everything in it, either, but I'll wait 'til I've read it before I express an opinion on it.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 10 November 2014 at 6:52pm GMT

All of this seems to beg the question of - whether there are couples around today who live together, have children, and do not seek the 'blessing' of either secular or religious marriage? Such people may look at the divorce statistics and wonder what is the benefit of a piece of paper, when their commitment to one another in love gives them all they need to live out their loving monogamous relationship.

Our daughter and her partner are one such couple. Do we treat them differently from the rest of our family? NO!. Does God treat them differently?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:17am GMT

Thanks Savi.
This review makes a lot of non-procreation as a starting point for having a separate institution also for straight couples who want to remain childless.

If that's the starting point, we're in for trouble.
People who may not want children when they marry nevertheless end up having them later. Married people end up not having children.
Gay couples have children.
In second marriages people marry without wanting joint children although they may each have their own already.

The second question is whether the CoE will from then refuse marriage to straight couples who admit they’re not planning to have children and offers them to come back for a CP-blessing after they’ve had a Registry Office wedding? Because how else can this arrangement be open to straights? Presumably, it will be compulsory only for gays, straights may still opt for marriage instead.

And after all of that, you end up with marriages and covenanted partnerships that are completely indistinguishable from each other.

Based on this review only, because I haven’t read the book: This may be a nice conversation starter for people who still think they can make choices on behalf of gay couples. But that’s about as far as it goes.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 9:50am GMT

Tim,
presumably, the review was to give us an idea of the thrust of the book and its key arguments.

If that's the case, it's perfectly acceptable to say that, based on the review, it doesn't look like it's worth rather a lot of money.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 11:11am GMT

Robert Song's book is not prescriptive about answers, Erika, and recognises the point you made: 'What if a heterosexual couple who had embarked on a covenant partnership then decided they wanted to have children? Or if they had embarked on marriage and then had decided they wished to be childless?' He flags up a series of possibilities at the end, including thinking of marriage as a form of covenant partnership.

I think it is useful for theologians to keep addressing such questions as the significance of lifelong committed relationships within the broader context of salvation in Christ. In addition many Christians think of marriage/partnership as sacramental, others as an extremely important covenant between humans reflecting in some way the faithfulness of God, and I believe it would be a sad day if it were regarded as irrelevant or even offensive to reflect thoughtfully on the theological meaning of any sacrament or covenantal bond.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 11:13am GMT

In the acknowledgements of his book *Strangers and Friends* (1995), the late Michael Vasey thanked Robert Song as someone who not only believed in the book but who had "gone to great lengths to support and help me in the writing of it." I read and commented on Robert's own book in manuscript and am thanked for doing so, and he pays tribute to Michael's crucial influence as well. Before denouncing Robert's book, I suggest that people read it first. It is one thing to know you are right on a given topic, it is another thing to produce cogent and compelling theological arguments that are persuasive to large numbers of readers and that may help change the mind of an institution or a society.

Posted by Rob MacSwain at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 11:51am GMT

The usual argument against forbidding marriage to opposite-sex couples where one party is a post-menopausal or otherwise infertile woman is that miracles can happen, and therefore such a marriage is "open" to procreation.

I've never heard of a vicar forbidding marriage to a woman who has had a hysterectomy, bilateral oophorectomy or similar, so presumably the scale of the miracle is quite substantial. In which case, why can't the same potential for a miracle make lesbian women "open to procreation" as well?

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 1:47pm GMT

'...I'm fairly sure i won't agree with everything in it, either, but I'll wait 'til I've read it before I express an opinion on it.'

So easy to say when this issue is for you, not an issue, but a subject - an academic subject.

Meanwhile, millions of us (continue) to be born, to live with little chuchly help, and die.

Sobering stuff.

should I / we 'contribute'

'Towards a Theology of Complacency & Neglect' ?

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 2:34pm GMT

And there was I this past sixty odd years, thinking that marriage is a covenanted relationship.

Posted by Laurie Roberts at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 2:40pm GMT

What does think book think gay people with adopted children should do?

Posted by CRW at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 4:08pm GMT

Essentially, how would that read if the topic was race instead of orientation? It would look dreadful and everyone would rightfully denounce it as racist.

That is exactly the moral level of this book, as presented in the review.

There isn't any "different" treatment that is just. And it is particularly unjust to the most vulnerable, children.

Some may regard my view as politically radical. I regard the homophobic view as radically indifferent to the plight of children, and radically blind to the moral issues. I don't find it to be respectable theology. I think we can well imagine what Jesus would have to say about societies' treatment of the vulnerable, all the vulnerable, including LGBT people and their/our children.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 4:36pm GMT

For me there's this sense of weariness when people earnestly debate various ways of blessing various conceivable forms of partnerships.
I'm sure it's all worthy and it helps people to discuss gay relationships a bit longer and feel terribly constructive about coming up with third, fourth and fifth ways.
But please... A little realism? We are getting married now just like any other couple. Do people really believe that this fight will be over until the church accepts that and treats us completely equal to others?

By all means, have more intermediate books and debates and resolutions. But don't kid yourselves that this can be put to rest until a straight marriage is a gay marriage is a marriage.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 6:40pm GMT

"I believe it would be a sad day if it were regarded as irrelevant or even offensive to reflect thoughtfully on the theological meaning of any sacrament or covenantal bond."

It's great to reflect on the sacraments and covenants. It is immoral to relegate a class of people to different treatment regarding those sacraments and covenants. It has a clearly harmful effect on children.

Again, there is such a tendency here to subject vulnerable human beings to abstract argument while ignoring the moral issues.

Does England not have any theologians writing on morality and ethics in regard to the issues of exclusion and injustice? I'm not an academic (but I'm almost married to one!), I'm not a theologian, but I'm a graduate of TEC's Education for Ministry (EfM). Moral facts that must not be ignored:
1. Homophobic bullying is a leading cause of LGBT teen suicide.
2. In the US, something like 40 percent of homeless youth are outcasts from their "religious" parents' homes.
3. Something like 25 percent of these homeless kids are subjected to sexual abuse on the streets.
4. Children in stable homes with same sex parents fare as well as children with straight parents.
5. Those children (with LGBT parents), however, are vulnerable because they do not have the same legal protections as children of straight parents.

Everyone needs to get with the program here on the real costs of exclusion, who suffers, and why they suffer.

In the face of suffering, Mr. Song and folks are going to talk about second class covenant relationships? This is decades behind!

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 6:52pm GMT

"'What if a heterosexual couple who had embarked on a covenant partnership then decided they wanted to have children? Or if they had embarked on marriage and then had decided they wished to be childless?'"

This is angels on a pin stuff.

No-one, outside a few obsessives with approximately zero traction in either the church or society more widely, has the slightest difficulty with married couples not having children, and the idea that they are not really married is hardly a mainstream concern. I guess that if you are one of those obsessives you don't have the emotional skills sufficient to care, but not a few people marry intending to have children but then find that they cannot, and live in constant pain as a result.

Are "Christians" now going to heap more pain on the already anguished and tell them that not only are they childless, but their marriage is invalid as well? Dress that up how you like, it fails on the grounds of basic decency, and people making that argument don't get to pretend they are simply kicking theological balls around; they're just being vile to real live human beings, and do not deserve to be given a pass. Should women who have hysterectomies divorce? Men recovering from mumps? Testicular cancer? Should people who have divorced because of the pressure of infertility further abjure re-marriage? Especially as, generalising somewhat, it's precisely the people who will talk about the invalidity of childless marriages who also shout loudly about the evils of IVF?

If this is the sort of unfeeling, hurtful nonsense that "Christian" ethics leads people to, then it is no wonder that the voice of the church is not listened to by society at large. If you want to extend a view that homosexual marriages are lesser in their worth, that is your right, but you're going to look like the people on the wrong side in Loving v Virginia. But if you want to further extend that to deny the validity of marriages of heterosexual couples who do not, for whatever reason, have children, you don't just look hateful, you look completely unhinged.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:01pm GMT

To continually label all those who oppose same-sex marriage (which is not authorised here in Australia)as "homophobic" does not help the cause of those who support it. Opponents here range from the conservative PM, Mr Abbott and the former Labor PM, Ms Gillard, to the liberally minded Primate of Australia, the Archbishop of Melbourne - and myself as an ordinary, ancient, C.of E. chaplain, theologically radically liberal (but admittedly culturally conservative).

Posted by John Bunyan at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:20pm GMT

I would be very surprised, Cynthia, if a theologian who wrote a theological reflection on ethnicity which tried to apply a just and consistent approach to both ethnic majority and minority people's experiences was instantly condemned as racist without even bothering to read what he had written.

It might be argued that every right-thinking person knows exactly what marriage is and why it matters to Christians, but I keep meeting people (even among those who are also LGBT and supporters of equal marriage) whose views are not identical to my own, which have developed over the years. I found Robert Song's book unexpectedly thought-provoking. However I think it will be particularly important in getting some people thinking more deeply whose current views are quite 'conservative', by taking a biblically rooted but unusual approach.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:40pm GMT

"To continually label all those who oppose same-sex marriage ...as "homophobic" does not help the cause of those who support it." John Bunyan

Other than the fact that it's a label you don't want attached to yourself, in what way is it unhelpful?

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:47pm GMT

We are continually being told that we cannot use the word homophobia to describe attitudes and actions by churches and their leaders who are opposed to giving LGBT people equal rights in society. Not even in the church, note, but in society. This, of course, includes their opposition to equal marriage.

Homophobic behaviour is behaviour that either directly or indirectly does harm to LGBT people. By that measure the Church of England has a fairly severe problem with institutional homophobia. The sooner its leadership faces up to this, the better. Bleating about it not being helpful is not going to make the fact of the homophobia some of us have to face from the institution and its leaders go away.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:52pm GMT

Calling it something different won't stop it being homophobia.

Posted by Jo at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 8:53pm GMT

'So easy to say when this issue is for you, not an issue, but a subject - an academic subject.'

Laurie, since you don't know me from a hole in the wall, that's a very big assumption to make.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 9:53pm GMT

I'm sorry but yes, that ship has sailed. If you are opposed to marriage equality you are homophobic. I'm sorry if you don't like the term but you can't hold these views and object to the term. There was a time when it was permitted in polite society to hold reactionary views on race. And I remember people just forty years ago complaining about being called racists. But their objections had no weight. By all objective measures they were racists. Similarly in this age the denial of marriage equality to a class of people because of their sexual orientation is a defining feature of homophobia. One can't hold those views and object at this term. If your belief system harms others (as homophobia and the opposition to marriage equality does) then one has earned the term. I say this in all Christian earnestness and I could not care less how many politicians one cites: being labelled a homophobe is a strong call to repent and return to God. It is never too late to change and return. We all must repent of many things. Homophobia is for some people a real challenge akin to racism and antisemitism. It is a Christian duty to call it out and oppose it.

Posted by Dennis at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 10:12pm GMT

"To continually label all those who oppose same-sex marriage (which is not authorised here in Australia) as "homophobic" does not help the cause…"

Homophobia and racism are equally sinful. Ignoring the harm caused by homophobia on vulnerable people, most obviously on children, is far less OK than calling homophobia what it is.

Are you going to have a separate covenant for bi-racial couples? No! Are you going to stigmatize their children with a second class covenant? No!

That's where Western society is now, for the most part. Not that we've solved the racial issues, we most certainly have not. But I would say that racism and homophobia are in the category of the sin of not recognizing ALL people as created in the image of God and not loving ALL of our neighbours as ourselves.

We are not going to repent of those sins by glossing over them and naming them more politely. We certainly are not going to repent by wiggling out of the truth of the real suffering using layers of "academic" excuses…

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 11 November 2014 at 10:20pm GMT

I loved the link with Simon Dawson's Partnership Blessing, contained in his comment, above. I suggest that anyone who feels God may deny Same-Sex Blessings might just tap into the link - and reflect again.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 8:22am GMT

According to the Collins English Dictionary, homophobia is 'intense hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality'.

So, sorry, but I am not automatically homophobic because I have a certain view of what marriage is. Rant about it all you like, but a 'phobia' is a fear. And I'm sorry, but calling me a homophobe does not 'encourage me to repent'. What it actually does (when I encounter the label used ad nauseum, on threads like this) is to cause me to ask myself, 'Honestly, why do I bother?'

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 12:48pm GMT

..the review is certainly not a book plug...

Maybe. What about the colour picture of the cover, name of publisher, ISBN, number of pages and retail price?

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 1:55pm GMT

Savi,
"What if a heterosexual couple who had embarked on a covenant partnership then decided they wanted to have children?"

Is he actually suggesting that straight couples should not get married?
Or that they get married in a registry office instead of having a church wedding, and then have a covenanted partnership service in church afterwards?

Why would they do that? Does Dr. Song imagine there are straight couples who want to be legally married but who don't believe they're as married in God's eyes as another couple, and therefore would prefer a separate partnership arrangement in church?

Because with gay people, you could at least theoretically say "Civil Partnered = covenanted partnership".
But there is no straight equivalent to civil partnerships, so people would have to want to be married yet not married... .

Is this as ludicrous as it sounds from the review?

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 1:59pm GMT

Tim - you have provided us with a splendid example of the etymological fallacy. Words mean what they come to mean in the context in which they are used - not what they might be assumed to mean from their etymological foundations. Collins focuses on human feeling, but you will note that on here, and frequently in other places, homophobia means, according to those people who are on the receiving end of anti-gay prejudice, words or actions which result directly or indirectly in harm to LGBT people.

In other words, by their words and actions homophobes are identifiable. I don't care if they feel an intense hatred or fear or not; if they behave or speak in ways that will bring harm to LGBT people their behaviour is homophobic.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 2:35pm GMT

As I've noted many times in the past, the root of at least part of the problem is the linkage of procreation with marriage as an essential character rather than (in some but not all circumstances) a possible outcome. Ultimately this is a category error. One could, for example, on the basis of Genesis 1 as well as science, argue that the sex difference is intrinsically linked with procreation -- but marriage is a moral and human act.

The novel concept of "open to procreation" isn't really a helpful addition to the debate -- and in the long run reflects a kind of utilitarianism. Does it render any couple who choose not to have children "unmarried"? Although it could be argued that marriage is the best locus for procreation, that is not the same thing as saying that marriage exists "for" procreation: it actually exists for any number of other things, whether procreation happens or not.

Far more helpful is the focus on the covenant of marriage, which is not based on outcomes. The marriage vows are unconditional, not contractual.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 2:46pm GMT

Robert Song clearly does not suggest that same-sex couples and their children should be stigmatised with a 'second class covenant', Cynthia. Indeed he does not rule out the possibility of celebrating marriage for same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples, raising the possibility that marriage, while dating back to ancient times, may have 'become something new in Christ.' I acknowledge your indignation that LGBT youth are sometimes rejected by 'religious' parents - but if one condemns books such as this which might help to change the minds of such parents, and maybe offer the young people themselves a different way of looking at the Bible and tradition, I cannot see how this helps.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 3:13pm GMT

"So, sorry, but I am not automatically homophobic because I have a certain view of what marriage is. Rant about it all you like, but a 'phobia' is a fear. And I'm sorry, but calling me a homophobe does not 'encourage me to repent'. What it actually does (when I encounter the label used ad nauseum, on threads like this) is to cause me to ask myself, 'Honestly, why do I bother?'"

If you care about suffering and the moral and theological issues that cause it, and you are a Christian, then you might feel compelled to "bother."

I would suggest that there is some fear involved in withholding human rights and full inclusion in the church from people. Protecting the sacrament of marriage from what? It comes down to God's Grace. If God has already bestowed her/his bountiful Grace on a gay couple, then what is the point of withholding the sacrament, the outward sign of an already active, inward Grace?

The idea that God has bestowed less Grace on me and my partner of 23 years than on straight couples is insulting. Deeply insulting. More insulting than being called homophobic, because we've been materially and spiritually harmed by this hate. And it is hate. If you are on the receiving end, it is somehow clearer.

Adding to that… There is no getting around the fact that the second class message is morally problematic in that that message is used to inflict suffering.

Jesus tells us that we can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor. That is so useful. The fruit of homophobia is teen suicide, depression, bullying, "religious" parents making outcasts of their LGBT children, various hardship from discrimination, and hate crimes.

A "rant?" Again, insulting to all who have suffered. The LGBT people who have been murdered and their families. The LGBT teens who've been bullied to the point of suicide, and their families. The LGBT teens who are homeless and subject to sexual abuse on the street because their "religious" parents threw them out of their homes. Yes. Let's not "rant" and bring any unpleasantries to the well heeled people who feel not only entitled to their homophobic positions, but entitled to enforce that policy and inflict those messages on others. Wow.

We all need to be aware of the impact that our positions, our votes, and our consumer habits have on the vulnerable. I think that's what Jesus was saying to the Pharisee's. We don't need a separate and unequal covenant. We simply need to treat all of God's Children with equal justice and dignity.

Tim C., I've been terribly hurt by exclusion and discrimination, and I'm a Witness to extensive hurt (try being in the Arts during the time of AIDS). My Witness is not a "rant." It is Witness.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 4:04pm GMT

'"religious" parents making outcasts of their LGBT children'

Feel free to ask my LGBT children if I've made them outcasts. Email address supplied on request - email me privately at timchesterton@outlook.com.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 4:26pm GMT

I don't know why Tim sometimes doesn't explain himself very clearly, maybe he thinks it ought not to be necessary.

Tim is the one and only person I know who is genuinely not sure about the theology of gay marriage but who is nevertheless fully inclusive of gay people. It's not a front, it's not a pretence. Any tension inherent in that position he bears himself and does not transfer it to gay people.

Tim, you probably don't realise just how few of you there are. Those of us who spend a lot of time on TA are likely only ever to have met people who say "I'm not homophobic but conservative in my views ..." and then expect gay people to accept lesser positions in church.

People on TA who have known you from way back will know your opinions and are able to assess your contributions here better.
But these days, you comment little and not always expansively. It's very hard for those who don't know you to understand your almost unique and truly amazing way of questioning lgbt theology.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 4:31pm GMT

Erika, you have a point. However, I'm just getting weary of it all, and I would probably be best to stay away.

And Cynthia, I am bothered, truly, I am. I'm just tired of having people tell me that the steps I've taken are not enough.

However, this is not about me, so I'm done.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 4:59pm GMT

"Feel free to ask my LGBT children if I've made them outcasts"

But you'd refuse to attend their weddings, presumably? Or are you one of those flexible anti-marriage types, who only want to deny it to people you don't know?

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 8:31pm GMT

Tim may have left the thread, but this issue remains (helpfully illuminated by Erika):

"I have a certain view of what marriage is"

Don't we all?

Some of us may wish housework to be equally shared, others divided by radically different percentages. Don't get us started on sex! [Is it really a marriage if there's "bed death"? Can there be too much?] Etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Many of us have known couples where we think "why don't they pack it in---they're obviously so unhappy together". Conversely, we see "the Ideal Couple" divorce, w/ painful regularity.

...but none of our "certain views of marriage" are germane to this thread, are they?

It's about whether it's moral (much less legal) to ****DENY**** "marriage" (on the basis of identical sex chromosomes) to certain couples.

All else is euphemism. [But if (for example) Tim does not deny, yet still has theological doubts---well, that's between him and his conscience, isn't it. None of our concern, and God's peace be w/ him (them).]

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 12 November 2014 at 10:01pm GMT

"Feel free to ask my LGBT children if I've made them outcasts."

Under no circumstances did I say or imply that ALL LGBT children are outcasts. What I said is that in the US, about 40 percent of homeless teens are LGBT teens who were cast out of their particular "religious" homes.

It is an appalling statistic, but it hardly accuses all parents of throwing out their children! My own parents were awesome and two generations ahead of the curve.

What I'm saying is that exclusion causes suffering. The message of "other" and "less than" has always exposed the scapegoat du jour to vulnerabilities. There is a link between the exclusive language of religious leaders and suffering on the street. CoE likes to make a cold, bloodless, academic exercise out of it, and I'm here to speak the truth of the suffering of many, but certainly not ALL.

Those who believe that some separate covenant (based on procreation, really?) won't continue to stigmatize people, are naive.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 3:26am GMT

I'm sorry, Tim, but no. Once again we are supposed to play nice and polite about homophobia, to not stand up against the very real and painful evil of homophobia that has scarred so many of our lives, and the lives of countless generations before us, to protect the feelings of yet another straight person? You have feelings about our marriages? Who gave you that right? Who? Tell me. And who gave you the right to be hurt over this when we don't make straight evangelicals and their comfort the center of this discussion? And you don't like the term homophobia? Try living under it through vile sermons, watching friends drink and drug themselves to death to wash down the vile self hate they were taught in church. Try living through the poison many of us were fed for decades until we said enough. You don't like the term homophobia? Well I have a lifetime of personal reasons for not liking homophobia. Learning to accept myself meant learning to not care what people think about me and my marriage to my husband. If you don't like the term homophobia well I can think of a few others but I won't share them here. But before you leave us to go ponder the theology of our marriages please spend a moment pondering why you even have a say in this matter. Christian clergymen have a long and ugly history in this matter. Before you get to share your angst over the decisions and experience of our lives start by explaining to those of us who have suffered enough under Christian clergymen why yet one more of them even gets a vote on this. I'm sorry if I'm not recognizing and celebrating how far you have travelled on this topic. Because when it comes to our lives and our homes it's what the straight religious good people think that matters. You are tired of this? I don't think you know what being tired of this issue really feels like.

Posted by Dennis at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 4:56am GMT

"…I cannot see how this helps"

I second Tobias Haller here. Using procreation as a means of defining or "exploring" marriage is a tired old road. Pretending that this is the first time that an academic has used the Gospel to reflect on LGBT inclusion is bizarre and at least two decades out of date.

Maybe it is some crazy dance that the conservatives need to do… But ultimately, Martin Luther King was right when he admonished moderates for asking the vulnerable to continue to carry injustice for the sake of the comfort of the already comfortable.

My relationship is filled with the Grace of God and is my best evidence of the Incarnation. There's really not much that I'll accept from an academic in Durham, UK or Durham, North Carolina that in any way diminishes my relationship, that separates it from others, or calls it less than what it is, sacramental marriage.

I don't know the theological orientation of Mr. Song. I was raised Greek Orthodox and I'm Anglo-Catholic. Marriage is first and foremost a Sacrament, and yes, it is a covenant relationship. Sacraments are the outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible, Grace. God has Graced us already, regardless of what anyone says. The only thing left is for the church to recognize and celebrate God's Grace.

The idea that God would withhold Grace until academics like Mr. Song pull it together is rather ludicrous.

I guess that if one isn't Anglo-Catholic, and the sacrament really doesn't mean a whole lot to one, then there probably is a lot more to say. But it just sounds so twisted, tortured, and old.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 5:08am GMT

Interested Observer,
"But you'd refuse to attend their weddings, presumably? Or are you one of those flexible anti-marriage types, who only want to deny it to people you don't know?"

Is that a prejudiced accusation or a genuine question designed at getting a conversation going?
I'm beginning to understand why Tim finds TA a threatening place.

Maybe you should contact him privately on the email address he gives below and have a real chat.

All I can say, having known Tim on TA and and in person for many years and counting him as a very dear personal friend, that he has never denied marriage to anyone, that he has never refused to attend a wedding, and that any theological conflict is entirely limited to within himself.

There is no negative prejudice, there are just genuine questions.
If we can't tolerate that without shouting someone off TA and out of our conversations, then I don't have a place here either.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 12:28pm GMT

Dennis,
I suggest you use that email address too.
From the little Tim has said here you have absolutely no idea about what he thinks or does.
Your diatribe against him is completely unwarranted and only based on what you imagine he might have meant.

Is that tone really acceptable on TA now?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 12:31pm GMT

"By all means, have more intermediate books and debates and resolutions. But don't kid yourselves that this can be put to rest until a straight marriage is a gay marriage is a marriage."

Erika's statement here is by far the best.

I think, Savi, that your efforts at fair mindedness are admirable. But if the review accurately reflects the book, then Erika really nailed it. I would just add weariness, as this argument feels like I just traveled back two or three decades in the Tardis.

And I'm sick and tired of these bloodless theologies of anything that ignore the actual suffering surrounding the topic.

About those parents who are making outcasts of their LGBT children: an academic book is not likely to help them. Protective laws and the Good News of Jesus Christ Proclaimed for All is the prescription. The Good News is simple and direct radical love.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 4:11pm GMT

"So, sorry, but I am not automatically homophobic because I have a certain view of what marriage is. Rant about it all you like, but a 'phobia' is a fear. And I'm sorry, but calling me a homophobe does not 'encourage me to repent'. What it actually does (when I encounter the label used ad nauseum, on threads like this) is to cause me to ask myself, 'Honestly, why do I bother?'"

If you care about suffering and the moral and theological issues that cause it, and you are a Christian, then you might feel compelled to "bother."

I would suggest that there is some fear involved in withholding human rights and full inclusion in the church from people. Protecting the sacrament of marriage from what? It comes down to God's Grace. If God has already bestowed her/his bountiful Grace on a gay couple, then what is the point of withholding the sacrament, the outward sign of an already active, inward Grace?

The idea that God has bestowed less Grace on me and my partner of 23 years than on straight couples is insulting. Deeply insulting. More insulting than being called homophobic, because we've been materially and spiritually harmed by this hate. And it is hate. If you are on the receiving end, it is somehow clearer.

Adding to that… There is no getting around the fact that the second class message is morally problematic in that that message is used to inflict suffering.

Jesus tells us that we can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor. That is so useful. The fruit of homophobia is teen suicide, depression, bullying, "religious" parents making outcasts of their LGBT children, various hardship from discrimination, and hate crimes.

A "rant?" Again, insulting to all who have suffered. The LGBT people who have been murdered and their families. The LGBT teens who've been bullied to the point of suicide, and their families. The LGBT teens who are homeless and subject to sexual abuse on the street because their "religious" parents threw them out of their homes. Yes. Let's not "rant" and bring any unpleasantries to the well heeled people who feel not only entitled to their homophobic positions, but entitled to enforce that policy and inflict those messages on others. Wow.

We all need to be aware of the impact that our positions, our votes, and our consumer habits have on the vulnerable. I think that's what Jesus was saying to the Pharisee's. We don't need a separate and unequal covenant. We simply need to treat all of God's Children with equal justice and dignity.

Tim C., I've been terribly hurt by exclusion and discrimination, and I'm a Witness to extensive hurt (try being in the Arts during the time of AIDS). My Witness is not a "rant." It is Witness.

Posted by Cynthia at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 6:21pm GMT

As an intrinsically homosexual person, After a long secular career and in middle age, I entered into a religious order (Anglican) with the full knowledge of my sexual status being known to the Superior. During my time as a Novice, I discerned - with the help of others - a call to ordination, for which I was advised to leave my Community and enter theological college.

After gaining my L.Th., I was made a deacon and, before being ordained priest, informed my bishop of my status as being 'Gay'. Thankfully, he did not see that as being an impediment. In my first parish, I met a young widow (with two children) with whom I developed a non-sexual relationship of mutual benefit. She knew of my patent inability to provide further children, and we agreed to marry on that basis - with the approval of my bishop.

We have enjoyed our marriage - without the benefit of conjugal relations, but with the benefit of a shared Faith in God - for 31 years. My step-children know the situation, and we have a happy family relationship, which we believe God was a willing witness to in the Eucharistic Celebration.

I have never 'begotten' children, but God has given me 2 of them, together with 3 grandchildren.
I am truly blessed!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 13 November 2014 at 8:35pm GMT

I'm not sure that my "tone" was wrong or that what I posted was a "diatribe." I posted what I believe to be a truthful reflection of the discussion on marriage equality. Perhaps if Tim has a problem with what I said he could state it to me directly. I have no desire to move this discussion from a public to a private forum. For too many years this conversation has been pushed out of the public to the private where beliefs that harm others have flourished. The fact that there is a public disapproval for beliefs that deny the full personhood of others (including opposition to marriage equality) is an important element in change. Public disapproval is uncomfortable but it has played a large role on the social progress we have made in the past fifty years. The denial of marriage equality isn't a random intellectual exercise. It harms real people. In society and in the church there must be a public, not private, calling to account for this if we are going to rectify the problem.

Posted by Dennis at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 12:28am GMT

Thank you, Fr Ron, for witness (that word again) to your gloriously peculiar Imago Dei---blessings to you and yours!

Well, "in all things, charity", TAers. Many hurt feelings around here---all of us laboring to communicate via the less-than-perfect medium of a discussion board, around issue(s) that hit some of us VERY personally. Just a reminder to TRY to See Jesus (queerly!) in each other. Pax et Bonum!

Posted by JCF at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 12:56am GMT

"So, sorry, but I am not automatically homophobic because I have a certain view of what marriage is."
"I would suggest that there is some fear involved in withholding human rights and full inclusion in the church from people."

This is the problem. How did we get from one statement to the second?
Where does the first sentence say anything at all about withholding anything or wanting to withhold it?

Not being sure of something does not automatically mean refusing it or even wanting to refuse it.

Maybe a helpful second stage in the conversation would have been "Are you saying that rights should be withheld? If not, what did you mean by your comment?"

We make far too many assumptions about what people mean when they comment.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 9:27am GMT

Dennis,
you are making far too many assumptions and you make them very forcefully.

One person says they are not sure about the theology of gay marriage.
From that you immediately deduce that they “expect you to play nice and polite about homophobia, not to stand up against the very real and painful evil of homophobia that has scarred so many of our lives, and the lives of countless generations before us and to protect the feelings of yet another straight person.”

You accuse Tim of having feelings about our marriages and that he has no right to that.
Who told you anything about feelings?

You say that we don’t make straight evangelicals and their comfort the center of this discussion.
Who said we should? Do you even know whether Tim is evangelical?
Whether he wants his thoughts and questions to be the centre of the discussion?

You say he should try living under homophobia through vile sermons, watching friends drink and drug themselves to death to wash down the vile self hate they were taught in church….
How do you know he hasn’t done that?

You say the denial of marriage equality isn't a random intellectual exercise.
Where has Tim denied marriage equality? I can be unsure about abortion and still support a woman’s right to choose. Why does not being sure about marriage theology immediately mean anyone is denying anyone’s rights?

I could go on.

One single line and you heap a whole pile of assumptions on Tim – and then wonder why he doesn’t feel like talking on TA any longer, but offers people his email address so they maybe can get a real conversation going in a less loaded forum?

You write that you posted what you believe to be a truthful reflection of the discussion on marriage equality.

But you didn’t say that. You directed your comments at Tim personally. You gave no indication that you were commenting on the general state of the discussion of marriage equality in the CoE.
As a general comment you would have had a point.
As a forceful personal criticism of views you just happen to assume someone holds your posts are way off the mark.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 11:25am GMT

"One person says they are not sure about the theology of gay marriage."

To be accurate, they described themselves as an "opponent" of gay marriage.

"Opponents here range from ... and myself".

"Opponent" is a long, long way from being "not sure about the theology."

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 12:55pm GMT

I have been encouraged by my friend Erika to make a full statement of my views and experiences. I am reluctant to do this, for several reasons. First, this post is not about me, it’s about Jeremy Fletcher’s book review. Second, although my daughter is okay with me talking about her, I’m not comfortable with constantly bringing her into the discussion on a public forum she has no interest in joining. Third, my views are in some ways rather tentative; I have been cursed with a constitutional inability to be absolutely sure about very much. And fourthly, quite frankly, no one else here has been asked to do this, despite the fact that I’m not the only evangelical who comments on TA.

Nonetheless, here we go.

Am I English? Yes and no. I was born in England, but moved to Canada at the age of 17 and am now 56. I gave up my British passport some years ago, and am now a happy Canadian.

Am I an evangelical? Yes, although not all evangelicals would so designate me. However, in recent years I have also been strongly influenced by Anabaptist/Mennonite Christianity.

Am I a priest? Yes. I served in the Church Army in Canada from 1978-90, was ordained a deacon in the Diocese of the Arctic in 1990 and a priest in the Diocese of Athabasca in 1992. Since February 2000 I have served as rector of St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Edmonton.

Do I believe that marriage is a sacrament? No; I take the historic Anglican position that there are two dominical sacraments, and that the other five ‘are not to be counted as sacraments of the Gospel’ (Article 25).

Have I campaigned against same-sex blessings/same-sex marriage? Yes. I was until about 2005 a member of Anglican Essentials in Canada and I was also one of the leaders of a conservative group of clergy here in the Diocese of Edmonton. It will not take you long on Google to find documents signed by me to this effect. None of them however are less than nine years old.

Part Two forthcoming...

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 4:56pm GMT

Do I have LGBT family members? Yes. My oldest daughter has been in a same-sex marriage since August 2009. She and her wife also have a son, my only granddaughter.

Did I attend their wedding? Yes. I did not walk her down the aisle, for the simple reason that neither she nor her bride asked their parents to do so. My wife and I did, however, give a speech at their wedding reception.

How do I get along with my daughter? Very well. People who hear about us tend to assume that (a) we must have trouble getting along, or (b) she must have persuaded me to accept her views. We take a mischievous delight in confounding those assumptions. However, if you think that her ‘coming out’ must have had a seismic effect on my thinking, you are correct.

Have I ever denied anyone marriage? I don’t understand the question. I am not in a position to deny anyone marriage. I live in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. I am a member of the Anglican Church of Canada, where same-sex marriage is currently uncanonical (although this may change after our next General Synod). I am a priest of the Diocese of Edmonton, which is currently in the process of producing prayers of blessing which can be used in church after a civil same-sex marriage ceremony. And as an evangelical Anglican, I am a member of a tiny minority in the Anglican Church of Canada which has virtually no power or influence.

If I were allowed to do so, would I officiate at a same-sex marriage? I do not think so. Despite all my discussions with my daughter and others, I have not yet been persuaded that the term ‘marriage’ can be applied to a same-gender couple. I am aware of the rather elastic nature of marriage in the Bible, but it seems to me that the controlling text in the eyes of Jesus is Genesis 2:18-25, reaffirmed by both Jesus in the gospels and Paul in the epistles. The elasticity does not, in my view, extend to the gender of the couple. However, I continue to ponder this.

Why don’t I use the term ‘equal marriage’? See above.

Part Three forthcoming...

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 4:58pm GMT

If I was permitted to do so, would I officiate at the blessing of a same-sex union? I think so – at least, I am leaning toward a yes answer on this one, thanks to the good examples of a number of same-sex couples known to me.

Are there LGBT couples in our church? Yes. There used to be two, but one seems to have slipped away, although we’re still in touch. And yes, the other couple is my daughter and her wife.

Are they involved in ministries in our church? My daughter was a Sunday School teacher until she had her son. Since then, she’s been rather preoccupied.

How well are they accepted in our church? You’d have to ask them. My perception is that they are strongly supported, but I may be wrong.

How can I welcome same-sex couples in our church if I don’t believe in same-sex marriage? I think that’s called Anglican diversity. In case no one has noticed, it’s rather demanding to be an Anglican.

How do I feel about the ordination of women? I enthusiastically support it. I should add that I am glad to be a member of what I believe to be the first diocese in the Anglican Communion to elect its second successive female bishop. And for the record, when Bishop Jane was ordained a priest I was the preacher at her ordination service.

Do I want alternative Episcopal oversight (given the fact that my bishop and I disagree about gay marriage)? No. I am, after all, an evangelical Anglican, and anyone who knows the slightest bit about evangelical history will know that we evangelicals have a long tradition of being in disagreement with our bishops. I don’t understand why the current generation of evangelicals seems to have forgotten this.

How come Erika Baker and I are such enthusiastic friends? Well, to be honest, neither of us really knows! I think I can speak for her too when I say that we both consider our friendship to be a small miracle, totally against the odds, and one that has brought a lot of blessing to both our lives.

Part Four forthcoming...

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 5:00pm GMT

Do I want to enter into discussion on this public forum about any of the above items? No. I’m quite sure that any argument I could make would be answerable by others here, and their answers would then be answerable by me (and possibly others), and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. I know the subject is an important one, but in my view it’s very difficult to discuss outside the context of a friendship based on trust. Quite frankly, I haven’t got the time to participate fully in such a discussion. Also, the nature of the TA forum, where comments do not appear immediately but are first vetted and then posted in clumps, means that someone like me can show up suddenly and find eight different comments responding to something I have said, probably all of them referring to me as a homophobe, the moral equivalent of a racist, with no feelings for the people who are personally involved in this issue and have suffered so much etc. etc.

I think that’s it. I now look forward to similar full statements of views and experiences from the rest of you.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 5:01pm GMT

Tim has sent me a copy of what he wrote for TA so I'd just like to add one comment. He may not know why we're enthusiastic friends, but I know why I have become friends with him. From the beginning Tim genuinely listened to what I said and always replied thoughtfully, accepting points he hadn't thought of before, been persuaded at times, firmly held his ground at others. The conversation was always very real, very respectful. I've always felt listened to and safe, even where we did not agree.
He never once saw our conversations as a battle he had to win and he always affirmed my life choices and recognised my faith.
If everyone was that genuine in their engagement with others our churches would have no problem with gay people any longer.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 14 November 2014 at 7:10pm GMT

Thanks, Tim, for your open candour. I think one Anglo-Catholic now understands you better.

Also, thanks, JCF, for your Blessing! Honesty really is the best policy for us Christians.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 15 November 2014 at 5:16am GMT

Tim Chesterton wrote, "Rant about it all you like, but a 'phobia' is a fear."

I must once again interject that this canard is not true: a phobia is an aversion. It may or may not entail an emotional reaction of fear. Hydrophobic molecules do not have "feelings" about water; they simply avoid it.

If Tim is "unsure about the theology" of opposite-sex marriage, then he may have a leg to stand on. If not, he is differentiating in a way that most gay and lesbian people (Erika clearly excluded) would consider to be heterosexist (a term less prone to derailment than homophobia). Tim has said that he would "probably" not officiate at a SSM (presumably including his daughter's) if asked. Whatever label he likes to use, to any gay prospective congregant, his words speak for themselves.

As a 20something Anglican, it seems to me that some still don't understand how over this issue is.

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 2:11am GMT

Geoff,
I personally really regret that the church didn't sort its lgbt equality out before we talked about equal marriage.

I can't be the only lgbt person who knows a number of straight people who are genuinely welcoming and affirming but who haven't yet got their heads round marriage equality. Not because they want to keep gay people in a separate place but because they are still working through what marriage means when one is faced with examining it in more depth than one has ever done before.

I don't think it helps the debate to lump everything from wanting homosexuality criminalised, throwing your own children out if they're gay to not being sure whether marriage can include gay people under the term of homophobia or heterosexism.

I personally prefer to encounter individuals, see how they engage with the gay people they know, how genuine they are in their affirmation.
That there may still be some aspects they're not 100% sure of isn't so terribly important.
Especially not when there are gay people themselves who aren't sure that marriage applies to lgbt people.

If you lobby against marriage equality I have a problem.
If you happily attend same sex weddings while not being entirely sure that these marriages are the same as straight marriages I might disagree with you. But calling you heterosexist would be overstating my case.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 10:53am GMT

I think I'd also like to say that we're too quick in fitting someone into a firm slot and don't allow for change being a process rather than a jump from 0 to 100.

While I was still married a priest once said to me that she was dreading the time a gay couple would ask her for a blessing because she just did not know how she would respond, her own thoughts not being remotely clear on that yet.
A few years later, after my Civil Partnership, the same priest approached me and proactively offered to bless our relationship if we wanted a blessing.

Someone who "probably" would not officiate at a same sex marriage is different from someone who is absolutely convinced that gay relationships are immoral and knows that he would "definitely never" officiate.

The only thing we achieve by labelling both "heterosexist" or "homophobic" is to close down the conversation.
A real shame when we know that over the years more and more people have changed their minds.
Should we not try to make that process as easy as possible?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 12:00pm GMT

I attended the book launch this evening. Very C of E - St Chad's chapel, Durham. Packed house. Liberal Anglicans present (e.g. Joe Cassidy), but also radical Evangelicals, Orthodox (spear-headed by Andrew Louth), Methodists, URC, Quakers, Reformed Jews, et al. Oh, so Anglican - but its graciousness I do still love. Poised performance by Robert Song, in which he rhetorically distanced himself from 'left' and right'. But actually his position emerges as very liberal, e.g. he thinks children for same-sex couples entirely Covenantal. And his starting-point - the Jesus-event changes everything and human beings thereafter are always in a here-and-now and an eschatological situation powerfully hollows out appeal to Genesis as unchanging divine blue-print. Interestingly and encouragingly, several representatives from Durham's King Church - ueber Evanglical - asked questions which were either open or affirmative (the latter of which I pursued in private conversation). So I think this book may well do serious good. I note in passing the interest in it of Mark Bonnington (above), who runs King's Church, but/and is a very well-trained NT scholar who is always focused and intelligent in academic seminars.

Posted by John at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 8:34pm GMT

"I don't think it helps the debate to lump … under the term of homophobia or heterosexism."

Some forms of heterosexism are more insidious than others, it's true. But I would echo Laurence on the question of "helpfulness."

"If you happily attend same sex weddings while not being entirely sure that these marriages are the same … calling you heterosexist would be overstating my case."

I'm not sure what "the same" means here. I'm sure no two marriages are "the same." But if someone is unsure that a same-sex marriage *is* a marriage, and has no comparable uncertainty about other marriages, then no, you would not be overstating, just using the word to mean what it means.

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 10:55pm GMT

To expand a bit, I certainly know admirable people of integrity at various places in their discernment, who are wrestling with it honestly, and seeking to conform their mind to Christ's inclusive will, not "campaigning" or posting their ruminations on the internet and roping in their gay family and friends as evidence of their fair-mindedness.

To use a parable more removed from the present context, in the 1960s in the United States a small group of southern Episcopalians formed a body called the "Anglican Orthodox Church." They were alarmed at the social justice "turn" the mainline churches had taken through organs like the WCC (which itself played into their anticommunist fears of a "world government").

In the view of the AOC, the Episcopal Church had been hijacked by racial activists who were trying to enlarge the Gospel, making resistance to segregation an article of faith. After all, many good and respectable Episcopalians favoured “separate but equal”. Surely the Episcopal Church could not say they were any less faithful Christians for that? And yet they were, and it did, as we all recognize now (including the AOC, which still exists and is careful to play down its original raison d'être).

I appreciate that for many, the impulse to inclusion cuts both ways, and empathize with the desire to affirm people where they are. But someone needs to add a note of realism. The clergy who signed "A Call to Unity" were not raving racists: they were the "nice" whites who supported integration, but pleaded for patience. But history has not remembered them so kindly. You may find it unhelpful to recognize the broad spectrum of forms systemic heterosexism takes (and I certainly would not equate Tim or the many priests of good will I have known with similar views to Putin). But we do no one any favours by pretending that their grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be so generous. I am not without empathy for those who struggle for conscience’s sake, including those with lingering scruples about marriage equality. But they must realize that for those of us of a certain age, the debate is over.

Posted by Geoff at Monday, 17 November 2014 at 10:57pm GMT

John,
thank you for this. Your line "e.g. he thinks children for same-sex couples entirely Covenantal" has finally made me realise what I have been finding so odd about the mood of this thread.

We’ve seen a firm shift in the conversation from liberals vs evangelicals to within the evangelical sector. That is huge progress and it’s end game, because once that battle is won, the game is over.

But it doesn’t actually feel like progress. What it does feel like is being the lead character in Groundhog Day, the only one who changes while those around him are condemned to repeat the same thing over and over again.

We’ve had the conversation about convenantal partnerships 10 year ago before Civil Partnerships came in. And it is really odd to see church progress meaning that evangelicals are now talking about them – just as we are getting married! With the same seriousness and with literally the same arguments we made had 10 years ago.
I wonder if we went back through the archives here, whether we wouldn’t find exactly the same debates on TA. We could write the script. And yet, for them, it’s all new.

And now we watch this, open mouthed, and like Geoff completely bemused that people seriously still have these talks.
10 years ago our hearts were in it. We engaged robustly with conservatives here who were often incredibly rude.
Now, we’re so frustrated with this progress in the church that we don’t recognise it as progress and get really cross with someone quietly supporting but not 100% signed up to marriage equality like Tim.

It IS progress in terms of the church.
But our response here makes it clear that the debate will have a different dynamic from when we had it 10 years ago. Our patience seems to have run out, we’re not even recognising the conversations as progress but as an intensely frustrating step back in time.


Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 8:54am GMT

Geoff
"But they must realize that for those of us of a certain age, the debate is over."

That's all very well.
But I assume you are a member of the CoE. If so, you are in a church that does not yet bless civil partnerships never mind accept equal marriage.
You are in a church in which a legally married priest can be disciplined and denied a secular job.
You’re in a church in which young gay evangelicals can expect all kinds of sanctions for coming out without even being partnered, from being taken off the coffee rota, being removed from all positions of leadership, being denied baptism, being kicked out of the church and often being abandoned by their conservative evangelical families.
This debate is not remotely over, much as we'd like it to be.

If you are calling for realism, then let's be realistic about where we are!

If you are trying to shut up people like Tim and relegate them to their private circle for these discussions, what on earth are you going to do with those who are still actively lobbying against us in the CoE? Who are still holding the power? What’s your answer to the conservative evangelical gay kid who loves her church but wants to be accepted in it as she is? What do you say to the young man who has been asked to leave the only church he’s ever known and felt safe in?

Realism means looking at where we are. And acting accordingly.
This conversation is not going to be over because we declare it to be so, but only when it has run its course.

The only choice we have is whether to be constructive participants or whether to shout everyone down from the sidelines and let the debate continue without us.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 10:44am GMT

I'm not married because my partner, who as a result of disagreement over this issue may not be my partner for very much longer, refuses to marry because he believes marriage is for heterosexuals.

He thinks civil partnership is a perfectly acceptable alternative. I think it's an insulting consolation prize with a definite second class status. It's like the US Deep South in the 50s: separate drinking fountains for whites and coloreds and separate store entrances blow the notion of "separate but equal" right out of the water.

As we can't agree on this and I'm not going to hang around forever waiting for him to change his mind, it looks as though our relationship is going to crash and burn. And all because people like Robert Song write books telling gays to be satisfied with Uncle Tom status.

Well, I won't play the role of Uncle Tom for anyone. When I finally do marry, it will be a real marriage, not some ersatz and watered-down alternative dreamed up to keep those uppity gays quiet.

Posted by Etienne at Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 11:45am GMT

"I wonder if we went back through the archives here, whether we wouldn’t find exactly the same debates on TA. We could write the script. And yet, for them, it’s all new."

Yes. As I've said elsewhere, reading some of these arguments, including the review of Song's book, is like I've entered the Tardis and come out a decade or two ago.

Meanwhile, a lot of people have moved on, many without the church.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 5:24pm GMT

"But I assume you are a member of the CoE"

You would be mistaken in that assumption (at least post-1955 when we ceased to be "the Church of England in Canada" - and the year of my parents' birth), but most of the rest of what you say holds. It is certainly not, however, to the credit of the Church. I face a great deal of bemusement on a daily basis among other queer youth owing to my forbearance of such an equivocal institution.

I am, as I hope I have been clear, certainly not trying to "shut up" the likes of Fr Tim. But I am also an Anglican in a diocese where no distinction is made between those married in "one shot" and those who have exchanged vows civilly and then blessed ecclesiastically. That in itself is, to many of my peers, a sufficiently compromising position.

I suspect that the unique position of establishment in England creates much of the cultural difference. Indeed it struck me in an entirely different context a couple of years ago during the 'Occupy' protests, when the American Episcopalians unequivocally cast their lot in with those overturning the money-changers' tables, the CoE circled the wagons on behalf of the establishment, and the Canadians typically tried to chart a median course which pleased no one.

Posted by Geoff at Friday, 21 November 2014 at 8:37am GMT

"during the 'Occupy' protests, when the American Episcopalians unequivocally cast their lot in with those overturning the money-changers' tables,"

Apparently, Trinity Wall Street is very proud of their "bathroom ministry," keeping the loo open to all in need. It costs them $500,000 per year. That's just slightly under the budget of my parish for a whole year!

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 21 November 2014 at 7:17pm GMT
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