Thinking Anglicans

Responding to the recent initiative of the House of Bishops

Andrew Goddard at Fulcrum has published a lengthy analysis of the recent document GS Misc 997 (and the earlier GS Misc 992) in a document titled Civil Partnerships & Same-Sex Relationships in the Church of England: What is happening and how should evangelicals respond?

Colin Coward at Changing Attitude has published some comments on this in How to respond to the House of Bishops initiative on Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Relationships.

Both of these documents contain valuable background information and analysis.

See also extracts from the most recent General Synod Question Time:

Update 10.30 pm

Chris Sugden at Anglican Mainstream has published A response to the House of Bishops’ announcement of a review of its Guidelines on Human Sexuality.

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MarkBrunsonErika BakerDavid ShepherdFr MarkSusannah Clark Recent comment authors
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Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

I disagree totally with Andrew G when he says “Clearly it is neither desirable nor practicable to implement the same form of discipline with regard to all lay Anglicans as to clergy.” Indeed, I think this rather gives the game away. There is no logic to making a distinction between how the laity and how the clergy live ethically, and it is not the tradition of Anglicanism to do so, is it? We don’t preach “One rule for me, another rule for you.” What Andrew really means here is that the Church should merely try to get away with what… Read more »

John
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John

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

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Experience is a vital input in any attempt to explore theologically, and is as valid as ‘theory’. Underlying this is the way revelation occurs, not just at an historic point in time through the inspiration to write scripture for posterity, but from the grass roots upwards, in human experience and encounter, yesterday, today and tomorrow… Therefore, it is vital that any initiative to explore issues of human sexuality theologically should indeed be a listening exercise and a fact-finding exercise, gathering the data of actual experience from real people, real lives, real ministries… and not just some superimposed, top-down theory of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Furthermore, at pew level, more and more people have a brother or aunt or relative or friend who happens to be gay or lesbian or (in emerging experience) transsexual. And they are welcoming. In line with psychologists of integrity, and health professionals, and legislators, at pew level people are reflecting the maturing view of society that you accept a person as a person, and their orientation or gender identity is not a measure of their morality, their work or their loving. Beyond church walls, honest seekers of intelligence and good intent look aghast at what they can see as institutional… Read more »

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

There seems to be a wilful blindness in Andrew Goddard’s writings, where he states: “There are a range of voices here among those who seek to live consistently with biblical teaching. Some testify to changes in the strength or direction of their sexual attractions or seek such changes. Others believe their life will remain one of struggle against their same-sex attractions to those. Some have accepted their sexuality as a form of divine ‘gifting’ or ‘vocation’ and, whilst holding to the disciplines of chastity in singleness are happy to identify as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ Christians. Others reject such identity labels… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

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

And some of them still don’t get it….

Fr John
Guest
Fr John

Simon,

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

Sara MacVane
Guest
Sara MacVane

This week just as Saturday became Sunday at mid-night same sex couples were allowed to marry in the state of New York, This is the largest state in the USA where same sex marriage is legal. Public Registry offices in many places opened up specially on Sunday to accomodate the new law on the first day in was in act, indeed in Niagara the first same sex couple were married in front of the falls at midnight. The Sunday online edition of the NY Times carried several video-interviews of the newly married and their joy was very touching. The Episcopal… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

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

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

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Andrew Goddard’s reaction is typical of the way some influential lay folk think about and treat ministers. It’s typical of the worst kind of mealy-mouth anti-gay sentiment. Like Mark – I think- I’d much rather he and others ) said “We **** hate queers and don’t want them anywhere near our church !” I have so much more respect for this response (though it will be illegal soon) than for the pathetic response of liberals in the Church who have achieved zilch for us gays over the years. Very hard to have any respect for these liberals and how hilarious… Read more »

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

Bill Dilworth
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Bill Dilworth

“accepting of our God given lifestyle.”

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

Lister Tonge
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Lister Tonge

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

David Shepherd
Guest

I take issue with Susannah Clark’s pejorative view of ‘theory’ and the false dichotomy that she tries to maintain between ‘theory’ and ‘experience’. Scripture and tradition are both rooted in experience. Theology has rarely been built on mere theory without the value of praxis. However, any review of the church’s position on sexuality must give as much credence to the recorded history of the church, including scripture, as it does to the experience of any selected minority. Why should we give more weight to current experience and the present impact on Western capitalist societies? We should also look elsewhere within… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

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

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

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

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

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

david rowett
Guest

With regard to David Shepherd’s point, I would imagine that most contributors would find the same issues of sexual morality/integrity problematic for ‘Christian gays’ as they would for ‘Christian heterosexuals’ – promiscuity, the intrumentalisation/exploitation of another, predatory behaviour…. In other words, we would apply the same measure to all. Seems obvious to me, with the obvious proviso that the contraceptive provisions in ‘humanae vitae don’t have a lot of relevance;-) ‘When I were a lad’, one of the reasons offered by some gays of my acquaintance for their somewhat casual sexual lifestyle was that they were denied the stability/official commitment… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

David, Thank you for your response to my post. I will reflect on what you have written. I just want to make one initial observation: about the use of the term ‘lifestyle’. Being gay is not a lifestyle, it’s an identity. Being lesbian is not a lifestyle. Being transsexual is not a lifestyle. And here I feel is where critics of these identities sometimes have a problem: they regard LGBT as a chosen ‘lifestyle’ whereas in fact it’s not. Being LGBT is about being who you are, and one can be gay or transsexual but live a perfectly ordinary ‘lifestyle’… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Hi Susannah,

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

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

JCF
Guest
JCF

So, David S, are you saying

Gangsta Rap is to black people as

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

Because that comparison is both ludicrous and *abhorrent*.

Colin Coward
Guest

David Shepherd, You take holiness of life as primarily being a matter of conforming to certain selected verses of scripture. I take holiness of life as primarily being about immersing myself in love and allowing love and goodness, wisdom and truth to dwell in me and flow through all that I am and do, into my relationships and friendships. Priests and bishops can conform to Biblical texts and traditional teaching with all their might, but if they are, as a result, dry and lifeless, then to me, the essence of what God is about in creating is utterly lacking. Your… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

David Shepherd: yet we read in the dear old 39 Articles, so beloved of Conservative Evangelicals, that the clergy of the Church of England are not to be forbidden to get married. This is deliberately to establish that the clergy and the laity of the C of E are to share the same standards in terms of what is ethical in their domestic lives; in contrast to the Roman Catholic Church, which makes a distinction between the lay and clerical state by demanding celibacy from the latter. It seems to me obvious that in the modern context, this article applies… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

David, I’m not advocating a dichotomy of theology *only* based on experience, or theology *only* based on theory. I said experience was “*A* vital input”… one input among others, but a vital one. An alive one. And I said “*as* vital as theory”… that’s not dichotomy, that’s a tension in search of a balance. I acknowledge that revelation comes through scripture, but assert that it also comes through lived experience. Actually, I tend to think that advocates of an inerrant or literal scripture may sometimes be the ones who are pushing a dichotomy, by suggesting that experience is not really… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Do I think the Church should recognise some people have different views? And have integrity all the same? Yes. That’s why I advocate diversity not division. Variety of responses to revelation, not dichotomy, or superimposed uniformity. Look at me. I have deeply liberal views on justice issues, yet at the same time I am deeply conservative in terms of catholic and carmelite spirituality. And that creates tension. But tension is OK. The key thing is not, should I be liberal or should I be coinservative. The key thing is not those extremes, but, in the tension in the middle, do… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

JCF: I would suggest that you read my comments carefully. I have canvassed for opinions on what constitutes lifestyle, as opposed to identity. I’ve made no attempt to establish an equivalence between black gangsta rap and same-sex marriage. I have expanded on Bill Dilworth’s point that Fr John’s phrasing involved an unfortunate choice of words. Lifestyle has a broader meaning than identity. It is dispensible and less critical to one’s sense of being than identity. The inference in your post regarding same-sex marriage is a ‘straw man’. Colin Coward: It’s strange that you didn’t take up this point about lifestyle… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

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

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

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

Call it rather, a life

and even life

life of great fullness and joy ….

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

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

David Shepherd
Guest

Hi Susannah,

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

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

Have a great communion tomorrow!

JCF
Guest
JCF

“I’ve made no attempt to establish an equivalence between black gangsta rap and same-sex marriage.” You’ve asked, David, what LGBT people would be willing/ought to “give up”—like the black community and gangsta rap. I’m honestly *asking* what you think that equivalence is. EQUALITY is *all* that LGBT people want. Opposite-sex couples may marry, ergo, same-sex couples want that equal opportunity (and for same-sex couples of faith, the equal *blessing* of marriage). I’m just trying to establish, David, if it’s this (attempt to gain) equality which you see as a specific sin to LGBTs. In my humble opinion, the sins of… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David I am very encouraged by your conversation with Susannah. Especially in the light of a previous conversation I had with you, in which I made myself as vulnerable as Susannah did with her openness about her personal situation, but found myself in such an abusive conversation that Simon had to close it down in the end. Can I please ask you to remember that those of us who speak of “causes” are aware that this is often a very one sided conversation? In order to touch people, we need to talk about our own personal lives, something those who… Read more »

john
Guest
john

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

David Shepherd
Guest

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

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, thank you. I’m glad you and Mark get on, he’s a really great guy. And you’re right, this is not the forum to bare your soul, not all the time. But sometimes, you have to, because otherwise, as you say, it comes across as though we’re only wedded to “causes” and people tend to dismiss you if they don’t understand a little of why the cause matters to you. The thing about the Listening Process that never really was, to my mind, is that it is intended to open people’s eyes to the reality of others as human beings… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest
Bill Dilworth

“By comparison, it would be interesting to discover the aspects of the lifestyle of non-Christian gays that would be challenged and condemned as un-Christian and immoral by those who comment here.” Just exactly what lifestyle is that? I’ve known non-Christian gay people who were promiscuous sleazeballs, but I’ve known some who were sane and chaste and kind. Come to think of it, I’ve known Christian gay people who fit into both camps, too – as well as Christian and non-Christian straight people. There simply is no such thing as the “gay lifestyle.” What are usually trotted out as exemplars of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

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

Susannah

David Shepherd
Guest

I’ll send my e-mail address to Simon.

Cheers!

Colin Coward
Guest

David, In reply to me, you wrote: “I invite you to consider Susannah’s positive view of Carmelite spirituality. To some, it’s a meaningful age-old tradition; to others, a cold solitary life that lacks the engagement and vitality needed to reach today’s world. Is it a lifestyle, or identity? Well, for initiates, as ever, it’s an indispensable part of their identity. So, how would you distinguish authentic identity from the effect of personal bias and the employment of poetic language that can have a vague meaning and broad, erroneous interpretation?” You ask me to consider the opinion of outsiders about Carmelite… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Colin, If you’re right about the negative aspects of discussing identity ‘objectively’, then objective, detailed reports like the 12-page ‘Sexual Ethics’ produced by your own organisation must make difficult reading for you. Or is that different? That report applies bold, objective reasoning. It has to, as it partially represents a response to ‘Some Issues in Human Sexuality’. It’s certainly not killing anyone and that’s not because it arrives at a different set of conclusions. I salute Erika, Susannah and John. Brave and respected souls, indeed, for they realise that the listening process can actually work for laity, if not the… Read more »

Fr John
Guest
Fr John

I have just read with interest the discussion on my use of the word lifestyle. Like many of you I respect Susannah who has shared herself with us, and her community life in Christ. May I just say my identity, like Colin is made up of several factors. I am like all a human being, my life story is my own, but it has shaped who I am in Christ. Iam a gay person in a Blessed civil relationship, again another journey in Christ Finally I am a priest,humbled to be called by God in Christ. These several factors come… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, thank you for your kind words. But I must confess that talking is a struggle to me, because like Colin, I try to parse things that cannot really be parsed. I only have this one experience of myself, and although I believe I know myself very well, if I’m honest, I have absolutely no idea which part of me is because of my sexuality, which part because of my faith, which part because of my nature or my upbringing or my life experiences. The lgbt debate focuses on sexuality and so this is what we keep talking about and… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Good gracious me!

Have mercy on me, a miserable sinner!

William
Guest
William

I am not a regular commentator, which helps to some extent, because, as an outsider, my impression on reading through these comments is that a lot of what has been written sounds edgy (defensive) and complicated. For me, as a lay person in a civil union, the standards are clear. Clergy and laity should be treated in precisely the same fashion, otherwise are we acknowledging that in the Anglican communion we possess a “priestly caste”? That, surely, would be a further wrinkle we could well do without on this side of the Tiber. Like other married members of the Church,… Read more »

David Wilson
Guest
David Wilson

Erica I am certain that Jesus loves you as much as he loves me, and as indeed he loves Mother Teressa. His love comes from His character rather than anything particularly worthy in ourselves. As you say, you put yourself up as a light, which basically says, these ways of mine seem natural to me therefore they must be godly. It is my God given “identity”. Jesus does ask that we love Him in return by following His ways (and indeed our Fathers. You put your self up as a light in the belief that you are a true teacher.… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, thank you for your thoughts. But may I point out, please, that you have done precisely what I said I find so difficult and “flattening”? I have written a comment explaining to David Shepherd why it is so hard to parse one’s identity and to talk about sexuality in isolation. It is only a very small, and I’d like to say very ingnificant, part of who I am. And immediately, you home in on sexuality, tell me that you know I’m wrong and ride your hobby horse about desires. I had not been talking about desires. I had been… Read more »

David WiIson
Guest
David WiIson

Erika

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

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David, It is precisely my life. I have been given it as a gift from God and I shall, eventually, be answerable to him. And only to him. Seriously, what do you think I should do. Round up the family and say, darling, girls, I’m sorry but there is this guy on the Internet who believes he knows exactly that God doesn’t like the way we live, however much we know that we’re a pretty brilliant family, so there’s nothing for it, we’ll have to divorce, sell the house, find somewhere else to go. No, really, we have to, because… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest
David Shepherd

Erika, I agree that there’s a need to humanise the debate. Our lives do extend beyond the sum total of our sexual experiences. Nevertheless, in spite of the millions of life stories that could be heard, we still need to make key decisions that aren’t swayed by our sentiments in relation to a particular minority alone, or segment of one. However insignificant it may be to your complete personhood, homosexuality and the current legislation on civil partnerships is significant enough to prompt a major church review. You hope that it will result in a change to canon law that will… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest
Fr Mark

Davids twain: could you keep this all in perspective? The gay issue need not be a big deal for anyone other than gay people, really. All this talking up of the gravity of the Church changing its traditional position on this issue irks me immensely because I have lived through the enormous, very much more epochal, change in the Church’s treatment of divorcees and those who were, when I was a child, said to be “living in sin” (and who nowadays the Abp of York commends). It’s just so silly to have to listen to some opinionated men (and why… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David S, thank you for talking to me and asking questions and for not just making statements at me. I do not wish to interfere in David W’s life. He follows God as best as he can and his experience and his theology have led him to make his choices. They are truly valid for him and they will eventually be judged by God, just as it should be. I personally believe that everyone who can genuinely change his sexuality and live a straight married life has been bisexual all along. I believe that because of the many many gay… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Fr Mark, ‘when they’ve lived through, and accommodated into their Christian lives, all that followed on from the 1960s in terms of attitudes to women and to straight people’s sexuality’ Hopefully, you can enlighten David W and I in respect of our specific accommodations of straight people’s sexuality. It took almost 40 years to resolve the church’s position on divorce from the Root report (’71) to GS Misc 960 in 2010. So, that’s not exactly a snap decision and the HoB statement doesn’t exactly endorse divorce, does it? It does de-stigmatize a specific sub-set of divorcees. Erika, There is still… Read more »