Comments: News and comment on the Bishops' report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships

Them's fighting and kindly words from Marcus Green. Can't everyone see?

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 9:03am GMT

The Ekklesia article raises a good point: "it is discrimination which is wrong, not same-sex love or diverse gender identity." The sin may be the discrimination, not the loving relationship or gender.

The ineffable Archdruid is wonderful again. I particularly love the Ceremony of Not Blessing Things We'd Rather Not Think About, which she/they reprises: http://cyber-coenobites.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/ceremony-of-not-blessing-things-wed.html ... Very apposite with the restoration of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'.

Andrew Lightbown then highlights the farce of suggesting that an informal prayer is somehow less naughty than a formal prayer. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, please note our tone. But at least if we have to tell those LGBT people 'their' relationships are a sin, we can vilify their precious love in a really nice and well-toned way. Because we don't like people thinking we're horrible and nasty, and it's important that we feel nice. Because. Ugh. Well we feel so misunderstood and persecuted by society. We. Are. Nice. People. Really. Let's just try not to talk about your naughty stuff. Especially because it upsets people in Uganda.

Continuing with the hilarity, I moved on to read Ian Paul's article. We must discriminate between gay and heterosexual sex because we need to attract more people into the Church: "we also need to articulate a clear theology of Christian distinctiveness in society as an essential part of missional communication to the world..." a "key feature of a flourishing church." Um. Good plan that, clearly demonstrating to the public that we repudiate their gay relative's relationship, their lesbian colleague's privacies, and that - if our discrimination is distinctive enough, society will think we're 'nice' people really.

Or maybe Ruth Gledhill is more in focus, when she argues that the Bishop's stigmatisation of gay sexuality may scupper outreach attempts to attract young people and the under 30's in our church of geriatrics (among whom I'll magnanimously include myself). As she says, "Millenials and the new teenage generation coming on after might well be more interested in comforting their gay friend who has been bullied than hearing a prelate from an older generation explain why this gay friend should never get married in church." Well quite.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 9:16am GMT

As a trans school nurse, working in a school with trans pupils, and lesbian and gay ones, I am moved by the respect and inclusion and acceptance of so many young people these days. Pretty fricking awesome. Not a theology degree among them, but they get it. They don't have a problem. They like the diversity. They 'get' that we're all just people.

But meanwhile, as the good folk of Husborne Crawley note, under the guidance of the awesome Archdruid, we need to not bless the thing that we need to not mention, but maybe very very secretly (so secretly that God doesn't notice) convince ourselves (if no-one else) that our tone is really really welcoming, by saying a little secret and very informal prayer... because that will make us "distinctive" (as Ian Paul points out) and draw in the crowds, and rejuvenate the Church.

Tone is everything. It's important for us to discriminate between gay sex and heterosexual sex, but we must make people feel good about the discrimination, and realise we're just 'being nice' for their own sake. This will result in 'missional' success, and a distinctive Church.

Yes, society (and especially the younger parts of it) will look in awe and astonishment at their distinctive elders and betters, and start flocking to Church so that they can be discriminated too. Sex is basically dirty and naughty until a man and a woman gets permission from the Church to even have sex at all.

It's such an evangelistic win and strategy for inclusion, tone, and respect... for lives, love, and relationships that are caring, decent, faithful, tender, intimate, precious and often sacrificial... regardless of gender.

'Being nice' can hide the harshness of our dogmatism. And the younger generations will think it's all alright, and people will like us again.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 9:33am GMT

Bad timing by the bishops. A couple of years ago, they might have got away with it. Not now. Not with Trump in the Whitehouse. For now his presidential edicts target refugees. Soon it will be LGBT people, either directly or through Republican nominations to the court. Expect a new federal law allowing all discrimination against LGBT people if it is religiously motivated.

And the world will be watching. In Uganda they will cheer. In Nigeria they will cheer.

In England? Well the liberal papers and TV are going to be full of commentators saying how wrong it is to discriminate, how wrong it is to favour Christians over Muslims, how wrong it is to discriminate against LGBT people.

Into that environment step our bishops wanting to discriminate against LGBT people. They claim it is doctrinal but will happily marry a visibly pregnant woman.... so long as she is marrying a man. The several articles above are the tip of the coming iceberg. And public opinion - or at least most of it - will harden against any establishment seen to discriminate. Susannah is right to say that this is bad for mission, but within the wider context it is devastatingly bad.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 12:24pm GMT

Ruth Gledhill approaches, but does not actually make, the crucial point about any prospect the CofE has in recruiting significant numbers of younger (and I think 30 is a naive view of the boundary: 40, I suspect, is closer to the mark, and possibly 50) people.

The Church of England is, in this report, declaring itself as institutionally and unashamedly discriminatory. It's basically saying "well, there are plenty of groups you can join if you are one of (hushed voice) them, who do (glances around to make sure it's safe) that sort of thing, but if you want to join a nakedly homophobic organisation, we're the only game in town, so come on board!" It is, to use an Americanism, doubling down: instead of being ambiguously discriminatory with signs of change, it's making it perfectly clear that discrimination is the way forward.

So that means if you are thirty and move in circles other than Britain First or the far right more generally, announcing that you are attending a CofE church is like announcing you are joining, well, Britain First. If you already a member you might be able to argue that this report is not enough to force you to leave, but to actually join? I don't think Pete Broadbent and the rest of his "if only gay people could be, you know, a bit less gay about it" closet-builders realise just how toxic homophobia is amongst younger people, and how relationship-ending it is.

So an undergraduate can join he CofE at university. But in doing so, they will make themselves a social leper. Is this the hill that the CofE wants to die on? Apparently, yes, it is.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 2:30pm GMT

The quest for purity: why does 1930s Germany come to my mind? Or contemporary Pyongyang? I note, though, that the birth of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il was accompanied by stars and heavenly singing (birds in his case, I think). As I said in another post, whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must dissolve into gales of hysterical laughter.

Posted by Fr William at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 3:17pm GMT

Susannah - Welby comes from churches which will have hundreds/ thousands of young people attending today. Is it not clear he'd like to see more of that kind of church?

Posted by S Cooper at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 4:40pm GMT

The UK and the US are quickly going to hell in a hand basket, and the CoE bishops are affirming the hate and bigotry that is dragging us all down.

The UK and US are suffering from a collective absence of compassion. The CoE bishops are feeding the beast of hate, alienation, bigotry instead of promoting the Christ like virtue of compassion.

Losers. The worst ever. Let's build a wall against the bishops and make them pay for it...

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 4:40pm GMT

From +David "You will know, as men and women called to the cure of souls, that the tone of a conversation often frames what is heard and said..."

He is so wrong. Martin Luther King has much to say about this. The problem isn't tone, it's that exclusion and judgement = hate. A kinder tone does nothing to heal souls that are bleeding from bigotry. The message that we "you LGBTQI people are not fully embraced as Children of God and our church" will not be lost on suicidal LGBTQI suicidal teens or parents who sometimes cast out their gay children, leaving them to homelessness and the horrors of human trafficking.

The attempt to say that a kinder "tone" is a realistic fix is misguided. It's just appeasement with really evil forces.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 5:09pm GMT

Ruth Gledhill is strongly on target. My Episcopal church in Seattle has long been Open & Affirming, and performed same-sex marriages the moment they were approved. We are a steadily growing congregation with a preponderance of young people among our new congregants, many of them moving strongly into leadership positions. And this year we set new records on pledges!

The young want to worship in a community of acceptance and tolerance, and express themselves as having found a church home they want to bring their children up in. We find ourselves needing child care for the first time in decades.

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 6:17pm GMT

Susannah Clark: there are lots of us 'Millenials' who are primarily interested in what the Bible says, and are confident that mission will never be jeopardised by sticking to God's word. The churches which continue to uphold the 'traditional' standard are not short of young people (or, indeed, young converts). Obviously, that does mean we have to think pretty hard about how to present this teaching to friends who experience same-sex attraction; but we can be confident that God's teaching is good and right.

Posted by Ronald Collinson at Sunday, 29 January 2017 at 10:39pm GMT

"I don't think Pete Broadbent and the rest of his 'if only gay people could be, you know, a bit less gay about it' closet-builders realise just how toxic homophobia is amongst younger people, and how relationship-ending it is."

Broadbent must, Interested Observer, 'cause he's long moved in left-wing circles where homophobia's anathema, and he even fought for (secular) gay rights in the '80s. Which makes his actions since so bizarre. OK, he considers his hands tied by scripture, but that doesn't compel him to impose his position on the rest of the church, and certainly didn't compel him to sign the letter objecting to Jeffrey John's consecration.

Broadbent's just an extreme example of the schizophrenic attitude common among open evangelicals: they're not personally homophobic, and socialize with LGBT people just fine (the open part); yet their evangelicalism drives them to take positions at-odds with their personalities. It's the root of the CoE's intransigence on this issue, and with so many young Christians joining evangelical churches, it's hard to see how it'll be overcome.

Lucy Gorman's powerful piece does, at least, offer some sliver of hope that Anglicanism can one day move past this, and embrace all, regardless of sexuality.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 12:19am GMT

If I understood the Bishop of Manchester correctly in the interview he gave on the SUNDAY programme - this new report now replaces the notorious "Issues in Human Sexuality" report which once prevented Rowan Williams from being appointed Bishop of Southwark in the bad old days when George Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 5:52am GMT

I suspect, James, that the bishops think that "tolerance", ie hating people but overcoming your urge to imprison or murder them, is enough. They feel terribly liberal because they are willing to give LGBTQ people the basic right to exist free from criminal penalty.

The stages of anti-Semitism, and by extension other forms of vile discrimination, were memorably summarised, and I am afraid I do not have my references to hand to give a citation, as "You shall not live like us, you shall not live amongst us, you shall not live". What starts with social shunning then moves to physical exclusion )ghettos) and then to extermination (pogroms, the Shoah). The CofE is boasting of how moral it is by only going to step one.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 7:57am GMT

Yes, Ronald Collinson, and how many of your millennial gay friends are found in your church? apart from the same four or five guys at Living Out, that is, who are always touted around.

Posted by Lorenzo at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:16am GMT

I remember a comparative pew research study last year, to which I cannot link, basically saying that the churches in America have pretty much utterly lost the gay communities, and to me the interesting statistic was the % in each group who consider themselves evangelical protestants. The differential there was 2-to-1 (13 percentage points versus 26 percentage points). Given that the greatest predictor of one’s religion is the religion you grew up in, it would suggest that gays are deserting evangelicalism at a far more significant rate than they are leaving other faiths. That is of course in America, I suspect the situation in the UK is a lot more dire. I cannot think of a single gay friend of mine who is even remotely sympathetic towards Christianity, unless they are clergy themselves.

Oh, and the % of generation x, then y then millennials joining evangelical churches is dwindling constantly, so I don't buy the success story. There are not a lot of millennial like you who are primarily interested in the Bible, you are a dying breed, only declining slower than all others in the church, as more extreme elements always do.

Posted by Lorenzo at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:27am GMT

"The churches which continue to uphold the 'traditional' standard are not short of young people" @Ronald Collinson

Of course there are people in every generation and age group who are willing to accept, embrace, promote, tolerate or just turn a blind eye to a homophobic agenda. Homophobic christianity is acceptable to a small minority. We can hardly be surprised that some of these in y younger generations go to conservative churches. For the people who go to conservative churches, homophobia is not a problem.

For the vast bulk of those whom the Church of England is supposed to serve, homophobia is a problem. And these people do not go to church. Not because they don't agree with liberal christianity. But because the stench of bigotry coming from the conservative churches is so overwhelming and repulsive they'd rather not go anywhere near a church.

If what you want for the Church of England is a tiny rump of fanatical Puritan brethren then carry on. But please don't fall for the delusion that conservatism is an effective mission tool.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:46am GMT

Nothing other than this was to be expected on Justin Welby's watch, since his sole concern appears to be with preserving the supposed Anglican Communion.
However, are C of E bishops required to take an oath of personal loyalty to ++ Canterbury? I cannot think of anything else which would account for the willingness of bishops who are privately supportive of same-sex partnerships, clerical and lay, to assent publicly to such a document as they have produced - unless it be a conviction that "the Institution is more important than individuals" (especially homosexual ones).

Posted by Barry at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 10:48am GMT

My former bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali, regrets that the Bishops' report, whilst mentioning the 'classic Anglican triad' of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, does not affirm the primacy of Scripture. I'm glad it doesn't, because I don't believe in it.
I was taught to think of these three things as the three legs of a stool (the eponymous Tripos on which Oxbridge students were once allegedly required to sit whilst undertaking their examinations). As a Chartered Engineer, I can assure you that if any one of the three legs of a stool is larger than the others, it becomes danegerously unstable and is likely to deposit its occupant in a heap on the floor.
Which is where the C of E finds itself now!

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 12:34pm GMT

Which is why Hooker never referred to a stool. The idea was invented in the 20th century. Hooker spoke of scripture as the first of three divine gifts to which authority was due. A threefold cord. Reason, which meant what Aquinas meant, not John Locke. Reason meant, God's gift in creation to enable us to comprehend his intention, and most especially, his gift of scripture. Hooker lived in an era quite distant from us when it comes to the meaning of the word reason. He sat on no stool.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 4:13pm GMT

"The idea was invented in the 20th century."

Which means it's an improvement on one invented in the 16th. More modern Anglicans have taken Hooker (and Aquinas) and understood their thinking for modern times.

What is it about conservatives and preserving our faith in aspic?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 4:50pm GMT

I note the comments from Ronald Collinson and others about the impact of the bishops’ announcement. Usually episcopal pronunciamentos attract absolutely no attention at parochial level. However, as an illustration of the relative importance of last week’s announcement I attended a church in an old university town yesterday evening where one of the officiating ministers prayed to give thanks that the bishops had decided to “uphold the Biblical and traditional teaching on marriage” and also prayed that they – the bishops – not be guided by “human” notions of what constitutes correct teaching. The youngish man, sporting tattoos, who had sat down next to me, remarked - sotto voce - of the excellence of the prayers, in response to which I flashed my bleakest rictus grin. The church was pretty well packed (even the galleries were full) and, rather inevitably for a university town, it contained a very high proportion of young people. Anyway, even I was surprised by the firmness of the views articulated in the prayers and, after a while, I left, first to a nearby church (where the choir outnumbered the congregation) and from there to a college chapel (where, despite the excellence of the music, I momentarily succumbed to sleep).

Anyway, for the moment, it is the conservative evangelicals who have the numbers and the cash. So I remain confident that the authorities will follow the money, whatever the risks to the esteem in which the Church is held by the wider public.

Posted by Froghole at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 5:24pm GMT

"What is it about conservatives and preserving our faith in aspic?"

Selectively preserving, Fr. Andrew, as their liberalism on divorce attests (recast, of course, as the real biblical position somehow mislaid for two millennia).

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 6:13pm GMT

Ronald, even if the Church attracted 1000s of young people by teaching gay sex is a sin, is that an achievement if at the same time it repels and disgusts 100,000s of young people.

I'd argue that the kind of views you champion would repel 20 decent young people for every 1 you attracted.

Net loss... evangelistic disaster...

Posted by Susannah Clark at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 7:08pm GMT

"Stop talking about sex outside marriage being inherently sinful" I believe Miranda Threlfall-Holmes has put her finger on a crucial issue here, and one that is easily overlooked in the debates and invective surrounding the matters under discussion.

Do the bishops, and do the (especially evangelical) theologians, and do the members of General Synod seriously accept the premise that the only context for wholesome, chaste sexual activity is that of marriage? I believe we must accept that the invention of effective contraception in the middle of the 20th century created an historical watershed; roles and mores that were almost universally accepted before then - even if only in the breach - simply do not apply any more. We can safely assume that a good number of members of the House of Bishops will have experienced sex before their current marriages, and if not, then they will know that this is the almost universal experience of their children and grandchildren. They cannot, with integrity, regard all that sexual activity as inherently sinful.

Once we remove that premise from the discussion, the whole debate becomes a lot easier.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 8:01pm GMT

"I'd argue that the kind of views you champion would repel 20 decent young people for every 1 you attracted."

This may not be the audience to make this point to, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that there is a quotation from the film Spinal Tap for every situation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ6JxAgmxXg

Marty: The last time Tap toured America they were booked into 10,000 seat arenas, and 15,000 seat venues, and it seems that now, on their current tour they're being booked into 1,200 seat arenas, 1,500 seat arenas, and I was just wondering, does this mean the popularity of the group is waning?

Ian: Oh, no, no, no, I just think that their appeal is becoming more selective.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 30 January 2017 at 11:56pm GMT

'The report recommends that the Church adopt a “fresh tone of welcome and support” for its lesbian and gay members, and through “rebuke and affirmation” shed any homophobic attitudes regarding same-sex relationships. 'But it also reaffirms the teaching, recognised by canon law, that marriage is “the lifelong union of one man and one woman”, and suggests that a change in doctrine would have an impact on the relationship between the C of E and the Anglican Communion.' - Hattie Williams -

One really struggles to understand how, possibly, can the Church of England Bishops reconcile their call to 'respect' Gay people in the Church, while yet denying them the only way to affirm the Godliness of their legal marital relationship in a properly-constituted Church Blessing? Does the Church of England have to continue its affinity with GAFCON homophobia? If so, then the Bishops' handling of this problem is the surest way of splitting the ACC

If this seems hypocritical, perhaps we have to learn to live with that.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 31 January 2017 at 1:31am GMT

I read this morning that Irish author, Sebastian Barry, receiving the Costa Book Award, thanked his openly gay son for the inspiration he provided for the winning book. It was written partly from Barry's anger after learning that his son had been subjected to threats from thugs who saw him kissing his partner. (I'm sure it will be a shock to our bishops that such a thing could happen, let alone that they might be held accountable for encouraging it by their gay-hostile policies.) Barry says, "As a father, I'm trying to mobilise the world to stop being in any way prejudiced towards people who are gay, since they are actually incredible instances of human existence and should be revered and emulated rather than in any way feel unhappy."

I discovered that he previously announced his intention of voting Yes in the Irish Equal Marriage referendum, doing so on behalf of his son, who was not quite old enough to vote. He said,“By voting Yes I will be engaging in the simple task of honouring the majesty, radiance and promise of his human soul.” It seems Mr Barry has learned something about human dignity which has completely evaded the bishops.

Posted by Barry at Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 11:07am GMT

The three-legged whatever. In the mid-50s, when the ethos of Ridley Hall was liberal evangelical (as was that of Westcott House), the line was “Scripture, Tradition and Reason, of which scripture is primary because only in scripture do we learn of Christ.” That was it. No elaboration. No ‘sole scriptura’ and certainly no inerrancy nonsense.

We were not that liberal, though. Bultmann was really only talked about behind closed doors and his researches – that hardly any of the sayings and doings of Jesus were ‘ipsissima verba’ or actual events – were not discussed openly.

There was much discussion (= heated arguments) about the pebble thrown into the pool by another thoughtful German, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Who *is* Christ for us today?” Some stubbornly clung to the slogan “Jesus is the answer”, as if a 1st century Jewish mindset could be applied to any 20th century problem, however poorly understood and however spiritually gifted the person holding it. Others of us had a more existentialist understanding of the truth, requiring an up-to-date version to be discovered afresh in every generation. In that, it resembled the science exams we wrote, in which no formula in those days could be used unless we worked it out from first principles.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Wednesday, 1 February 2017 at 11:31am GMT

"We were not that liberal, though. Bultmann was really only talked about behind closed doors and his researches – that hardly any of the sayings and doings of Jesus were 'ipsissima verba' or actual events – were not discussed openly."

This does help explain why, in the decades since, liberal theology's been utterly marginalized within the CoE; and especially why so many of its members are shocked to discover what's uncontroversial at seminaries. There's things that you're liable, to read in the Bible -- it ain't necessarily so!

Posted by James Byron at Thursday, 2 February 2017 at 6:25am GMT
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