Comments: Sexuality news and comment

Given that the talks appear to be designed to entrench current teaching and shut down any possibility of changing it (instead of debating a change in policy, LGB Anglicans are expected to learn to "disagree well," i.e., not make a fuss about suppressing their sexuality for life), talk about an own goal. It's a special kind of fanaticism that can't even see when it's winning.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 12:55pm BST

James, I am so sorry that you feel like this. You say 'given that the talks appear to be designed to entrench current teaching and shut down any possibility of changing it.....'. Surely the point is that what is going on now are not 'talks' but 'conversations'. Conversations when we listen to each other and try to understand each other. Conversations can indeed change minds. My mind was changed as a result of a number of conversations as well as wide reading. We now know so much more than we did about sexuality, its biological and psychological factors and insights. We need to have the courage to really engage with the subject and be prepared to change our minds if our hearts and heads discover new understandings, as well as new ways of thinking and doing. My prayer for these days is that everyone listens in an attitude of love and grace and that everyone is prepared to change their minds, in whichever direction, if as a result of new information they are able to see and understand things differently, It won't be the first time the 'Church' has changed its mind: think, for example, contraception or divorce or gender. Perhaps as a result of the conversations there will be a clear consensus that there should be no change. But whatever the outcome I pray that it will come from hearts and minds renewed and with greater knowledge and understanding of each other. We are all human beings made in the likeness of God. We are all followers of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we will all be recognised as fellow human beings who are struggling to make sense of any new information we will be given.

Posted by Anne at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 3:07pm BST

James if the conversations were so designed and intended, how do you account for the fact that it is (only) conservatives who are unwilling to take part? They seem to be quite clear that the intention is the exact opposite.

Whereas the majority complaint seems to be that the conversations have *no* objective at all.

I haven't met anyone on the ground who thinks as you do.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 3:11pm BST

The really odd thing about all of this is that the hard line "Evangelicals" choose this point at which to make what seems a last stand. There are plenty of things about which Scripture is unequivocal, but marriage is not one of them. This is demonstrated by Jesus himself, who overturns one part of Scripture concerning marriage (the law given by Moses, but presumably from God, concerning the writ of divorcement) in favor of another -- a creation ordinance to permanence (not heterosexuality, by the way). If one part of Scripture can be set against another, on dominical authority, then on this exact issue "Scripture" presents a mixed message.

After all, what if the Levitical prohibition on [some] male same-sexuality was also given "for your hardness of heart" and the same principle of permanent fidelity overrules it? Jesus seems to favor opening doors rather than maintaining obstacles.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 3:25pm BST

My heart goes out to David in the Church Times -- and ALL the Davids, Dewis, Dafydds, and the Marys and Mairs.

But who cares about them, and more to the point, - FOR them ?

'Sure, spout your views from your armchair, sat next to your loving wife.' This isn’t just an intellectual matter .

David's 'story' is a terrible indictment of the cruelty and impotence of the Church.

It implies that he will not end his own life, but there are many ways to terminate one's life, many ways to waste and drain away down the decades. The loss of psychic energy, creativity and resiliance over years of living in a closet- not to mention the toll on physical and mental health.


What a sad, terrible waste and loss.

Who is taking responsibility for this ?

'They either say, ‘Wait, this is all fine, come and join our liberal side;’ or they say ‘No, it’s wrong.’ And you know what? It has so few implications for them — for any of the people in positions of influence. Their lives aren’t going to change as a result. Sure, spout your views from your armchair, sat next to your loving wife. This isn’t just an intellectual debate that needs to be settled, for me. It has huge outcomes for my life. I’d love the consensus to change on this, I’d love people to say that we, the Church, have been getting this wrong, but it’s a dream.”

There are, and have been many, many Davids down the decades and centuries....

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 4:30pm BST

In James' defence, I think it's fair to say that the actions of the Primates, and the collectively sanctioned actions of the English bishops, have not exactly been even-handed during the period that the 'Conversations' project has been running.

Rather than approaching the 'Conversations' period with an open agenda, this period has been characterised by a Pastoral Letter threatening (and imposing) sanctions, and a Primates meeting that tried to impose sanctions too.

This lends weight to the impression that the leadership agenda might be partisan, and set on imposing a uniformity rather than the right of diverse and conscientious expression by local priests and PCCs.

With that kind of background activity going on, it is not unreasonable to speculate that these leadership parties want to hold the traditional line on human sexuality.

So yes, the likely next phase will be further delay, and kicking the issue ahead into the long grass, with a little fine-tuning to avoid mutiny if possible, by allowing for certain 'blessing' type liturgy, that may not even own the term 'blessing'. The situation for gay and lesbian ordinands and priests is unlikely to be significantly altered, nor deviation accepted by local churches.

I agree with others that the process itself is an opportunity and potential opening for grace - but grace for what? Grace to remain in celibate loss of sexual intimacy, with all the diminution that implies? Grace to lie, by hiding sexual relationships? Grace to deny members of the public equal access to sacramental marriage? Grace to be part of an organisation that sanctions people for love? Grace that discriminate and causes offence to many decent truth-seekers and neighbours?

The grace itself will hopefully be at work, at the deeply personal level, but the politics of power and control is a different matter - and a lot seems invested in placating conservatives, and damage limitation, which, however, may do even greater damage in the future, and is damaging people's precious lives and love in the here and now.

How long do lesbian and gay people have to wait? Another ten years? A lifetime? Meanwhile, Higton still holds sway. In the end, words need to trail off, and give place to conscience and action. The bishops and archbishops need to be called out, and resisted, and that means local priests and churches having the courage to put justice first.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 4:51pm BST

Of course James is correct.

How would the conservatives have felt if the House of Bishops had said, "Theologically the church should recognise and conduct same sex marriages. We will hold three days of shared conversations so that evangelicals can share their experiences. It is presently unclear whether their views can be accommodated and if people don't feel that they can accommodate them after these conversations that will be good disagreement. We might consider, but are not yet committed, to some sort of pastoral accommodation which would allow evangelicals to worship in the Church of England but their beliefs are contrary to Anglican tradition so full acceptance of them as members of the Church is unlikely. "

The whole process of shared conversations is passive aggressive othering which casts LGBT+ people as supplicants.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 7:42pm BST

Simon, I agree that the conversations have no objective, which is, of itself, the objective: they're a delaying tactic.

It's possible that they may lead to a fundamental change in teaching, but with the bishops united around 'Issues ...,' that appears unlikely in the extreme.

As for the ultra-conservatives walking off in a sulk, well, they're purists, that's what purists do. There's no liberal equivalent of con-evos. The pragmatic "open evangelical" conservatives are staying exactly where they are.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 9:08pm BST

Please forgive me for focusing on a trivial issue when such important matters are under discussion, but can anyone think of a precedent for a request at General Synod level for clergy NOT to wear clerical collars?
I know there has been much debate over the decades about the significance of clerical dress, including when collars should be worn, but an official request not to wear them is a new one on me.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 9:38pm BST

Are the so-called "hardliners" as intransigent about divorce (which Jesus specifically addresses) as they are about same-sex love - which Jesus doesn't allude to?

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Monday, 11 July 2016 at 11:20pm BST

In the light of URC's bold pastoral measure - to allow parishes willing to support Same-Sex couples in their Christian pilgrimage by facilitating the exchange of Marriage Vows before God and the local congregation - they are surely outstripping the State Church of England in their desire to disciple ALL people into God's loving Kingdom.

No doubt the general public - if they are at all interested in the Church of England's attitude towards the reality of Same-Sex Marriage - will again be set to wondering about the relevance of the C. of E. in today's world.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 2:13am BST

If the 'conservatives' want to absent themselves from the 'Conversations' being conducted in camera by the General Synod then surely, by this action, they are saying they see no part in continuing their relationship to the governing body of the Church of England. This seems very much like the hubris of the GAFCON Primates, who have refused to share the Eucharist with some of their colleagues.

With no agreement, there can be no fellowship. This is generally called 'schism'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 2:21am BST

We asked the church for bread, and they gave us not perhaps a stone, but still more "listening" and "conversations." But it is not listening, if it is listening to answer rather than to learn; nor is it a conversation if one group has made up its mind.

Perhaps just give LGBT's the stone, and be done with it.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 2:47am BST

Daniel Berry, yes they/we are. Within the Reform movement you would probably find a majority of churches which would not permit divorce at all. The rest would permit divorce in the very limited circumstances found in the New Testament, eg adultery. As one example, they would not find many (if any) divorced ordinands, clergy, wardens, PCC members. You would also find them equally 'intransigent' about sex before marriage. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea at TA, but there is a lot more consistency in the Reform constituency than they are often credited with here.

Posted by NJ at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 7:43am BST

There is a little more I'd like to add.

It's recognised that these conversations are not about everybody ending up with the same view of human sexuality. That's obvious, and the process is more about listening than converting.

Since people are going to continue to disagree theologically, the main goal of the 'Conversations' is not "Who is right" but "How can we achieve good disagreement?"

However, the bishops and primates really have not modelled a convincing example of 'good disagreement' during the period the conversations process has been carrying on.

It is not 'good disagreement' to sanction people with different views to your own. It is not 'good disagreement' to impose a uniformity on everyone, yet that's what the leaders have tried to do. It's not 'good disagreement' to impose your conscience on someone else's conscience. And it's certainly not 'good disagreement' to misrepresent other people, as the Archbishop did after the ACC gathering a few months ago.

The problem with the actions of the bishops and archbishops collectively is that they not only model 'bad disagreement' but also skew the process, by taking sides and actively punishing other members of their Church for their conscientiously-held views. That's a bit like negotiating with someone, with a gun pointed to their head (or at least, with a gun conspicuously evident, for dealing with dissidents later).

That is the impact of the bishops' so-called 'Pastoral Letter' and the 'consequences' set out at the Primates' Meeting.

And that is 'bad disagreement'.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 8:09am BST

The concern that James and Kate and others have raised in this thread, is that while we are all being exhorted to listen (which is good), the signs and indications are that there is a continuing agenda to appease conservative opinion; and to impose conservative opinion; and (in my opinion) to oppose true unity in diversity - which would involve respecting all parties' consciences, and finding unity not in uniformity but in Jesus Christ.

The outcome is therefore likely to be continued delay, which in real terms means the continuation of a skewed and partisan control of the Church along conservative lines on human sexuality.

And that means inevitable pain and hurt because, as Laurence movingly points out, this rigid dogma is not just about theological abstract theory... it is about our actual lives, because this is who we are, and how we live, with the same longing and decent desire for intimacy, love and commitment as heterosexual people.

And delay in changing the sanction-framed politics of the Church (as imposed by its leaders) means perpetuation of hurt, not to mention alienation of the public, who are astonished and dismayed by the Church's intransigency and institutionalised discrimination of gay people... because they live gay lives. Who others' lives are we supposed to live? This is not theory, it is our lives... our tender love, our most precious relationships... part of the whole of our humanity, part of the whole of what we have to offer and to give.

Good disagreement needs actions and not just words: it needs a resolve to empower people's lives and ministries, even if they are different to our own. It should not involve threatening sanctions or the crushing and domination of other people's consciences aka 'I disagree, and you must do what I say.'

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 8:10am BST

" ‘I’d love the consensus to change, but it’s a dream’." - Church Times Comment -

For the young man concerned, it might rather be a nightmare.One wonders how many other young Evangelicals who happen be intrinsically gay have been inhibited from celebrating their true selves by the prejudicial attitudes of those with whom they share common worship?

Older members of the Church will readily recognise the dilemma of this young man, whose reality as a same-sex attracted person has had to be submerged under the camouflage of their seeming adherence to the sexual 'norm' in society. This dangerous double-life can bring untold suffering to anyone who has been brought up to believe that homosexuality really is an abomination and that LGBT people are the scourge of society not fit to belong in Church.

Until the Church really makes the decision to understand the etiology of human sexuality and to deal with people according to their God-given sexual identity, people like this young man - who is obviously devoted to the God he believes in and works for - will continue to be spiritually and psychologically disoriented and disillusioned with the Church they serve.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 10:20am BST

NJ...no Reform congregations are split on divorce , and it reflects a fissure within evangelicalism as to biblical interpretation. Its the fundamental flaw in sola scriptura and led to my conversion to the Catholic Church. there has to be a definitive interpretation.

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 5:12pm BST


"It is not 'good disagreement' to sanction people with different views to your own. It is not 'good disagreement' to impose a uniformity on everyone, yet that's what the leaders have tried to do. It's not 'good disagreement' to impose your conscience on someone else's conscience. And it's certainly not 'good disagreement' to misrepresent other people, as the Archbishop did after the ACC gathering a few months ago."

I don't agree with the bishops that good disagreement is an acceptable outcome but you have correctly pointed out that their conduct is, any any event, not compatible with good disagreement.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 12 July 2016 at 6:00pm BST
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