Thinking Anglicans

More on same sex marriage and on the Pilling report

The Church Times article by Will Adam which was previously subscriber-only is now available to all: Breaking the rules on gay marriage.

PICTURE the scene: the Bishop’s post is being opened, and among the invitations, job applications, and clerical outfitters’ catalogues are three troubling pieces of correspondence.

The first is from the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, informing the Bishop that an ordinand in training, who is in the process of looking for a title post in the diocese, has entered into a same-sex marriage.

The second is a letter of complaint from a group of parishioners that the Vicar of X has just used the form of service for prayer and dedication after a civil marriage from Common Worship: Pastoral Services to bless a same-sex marriage in church.

The third is from the churchwarden of Y to say that the Rector has just come back from holiday with the news that the trip was a honeymoon, and a new (same-sex) spouse has moved into the Rectory.

What is the Bishop to do?

This week’s Church Times carries a report by Madeleine Davies headlined Bishops start quizzing their clergy.

Gay clergy have this week been describing the ramifications of the pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage, issued by the House of Bishops last month. Bishops have begun meeting gay clergy, at least five of whom are reported to be planning to marry…

And there is a report in the Camden New Journal Two Camden vicars to defy Church of England ban on blessing same-sex marriages.

…In what could become a test case, the Rev Anne Stevens, of St Pancras New Church, in Euston, and Father Andrew Cain, of St James’s in West Hampstead and St Mary’s in Kilburn, will campaign for the law to be changed.

Blessing services will be offered at St Pancras church, with prayers and thanksgiving at St James’s, when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 comes in on March 29.

Under the act there is a “quadruple lock” that prevents the marriages or blessing the marriages of gay couples in the Church of England.

More Camden churches are expected to follow their lead with a letter signed by local clergy due to be released next week…

Andrew Symes has written at Anglican Mainstream Same sex marriage – are we allowed to pray about it? Try to ignore his comment about the weather.

There is a very interesting exchange of views about the Pilling report between Sean Doherty and Malcolm Brown.
See A Response to the Pilling Report and then A response to Sean Doherty’s KLICE Comment on the Pilling Report The latter explains quite a lot about how the report was written.

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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

The answer to Andrew Symes’ question “are we allowed to pray about it” would be a clear “yes, but it looks like people don’t want to, or only in private”.
Presumably, God won’t ignore prayers just because they’re not public and visible, so there should be nothing to stop Andrew to pray whatever he believes he needs to pray for.

John
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John

There’s a great piece by Matthew Parris in today’s ‘Times’ on gay marriage, in which he pays handsome tribute to the decency of ‘the British people’ in getting things to where they are now. Why is this relevant to this site? Because it demonstrates yet again that opponents of gay marriage are bound to lose – which includes the equivocal C of E Establishment.

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

Reading Malcolm Brown’s redaction history of Pilling leaves any reasonable person thinking: what a completely mad enterprise to embark on in the first place. The aim was to deal with SSM without taking sides. We know from my surveys with YouGov that Anglicans are split about 50:50 on allowing SSM. We also know they are split on politics (albeit with a lean to the right). Now imagine setting out to write a report which lays out the ground on politics without taking sides, as a prolegomenon to ‘facilitated conversations’ aimed at ‘reconciling’ right wingers and left wingers and reaching some… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Andrewe Symes’ remark about the connection between the state of the weather and the Church’s acceptance of the LGBTI community, seems more like the utterances of the loony fundamentalist in the U.S., who blamed HIV/Aids for all sorts of weather problems there.

When will the ‘Mainstream’ loonies realise how ridiculous they sound to people who have minds to understand the realities of life as it is lived in this present day and age? Their ‘Slipstream’ theology is certainly awesome to contemplate. Sadly, though it captures the imagination of the doom-sayers of our world.

The Rev'd Mervyn Noote
Guest

Did Andrew Symes really say that the purpose of his praying on the first day the evil gays can get married is to “do business with God”? I’m not sure how that’s compatible with the idea that God is sovereign over creation. I thought Christians were supposed to do what God wants and not the other way round. But it seems Andrew thinks this is subject to a bit of businesslike negotiation. I was relieved to note that he isn’t “saying that gay marriage is worse than atrocities in Syria or starvation in Sudan”. I was in some doubt about… Read more »

etseq
Guest
etseq

Was he serious about the weather being a sign from God? I guess so because he also blamed the bad economy on “sin” – we usually here that kind of nonsense from the hardcore fundie calvinists in the US. That kind of crazy talk reminds me of Jim Jones…

etseq
Guest
etseq

Also, I have to say Malcolm Brown’s summary of the science reminds me of creationists contending that the science on evolution is “debatable” and “biased by funding” Almost all of the major biological studies have been funded by grants from the NSF or similar federal sources in the US. If he really believes those sources and scientists are “biased” towards gays, well that tells you alot about the state of the Church of England. Honestly, does he think that the pseudoscience put out by NARTH or the old freudian theories from 30 years ago have any scientific merit?

James Byron
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James Byron

Couldn’t agree more with Linda about the madness of Pilling’s mandated neutrality. This reached its nadir when the report equated the Core Issues Trust with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. We’re entitled to our own views, not our own facts.

To draw a well-worn but still illuminating comparison, imagine if the 1960s Episcopal Church had issued such a report on segregation. If would rightly be denounced. Diversity has limits.

robert ian williams
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robert ian williams

Of course the real question is how did God order authority in his Church. I acn’t see that this botch is the way his Holy Spirit would guide his Church. Maybe thats why I couldn’t remain Anglican.I need an infallible confirmation for what I believe, and if there isn’t one, Christianity has no real claim on my soul.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The piece by Will Adams is excellent in pointing out how uncharted are the waters, but I think also reveals that he probably spends his time with nice people who are generally reluctant to make waves in the unplumb’d, salt, estranging seas of this issue. A legal dispute about same sex marriage amongst employees of the Church of England could have several different venues, but ultimately would end up at an employment tribunal or the chain of appeals that proceed from there. A priest marries, a bishop attempts to discipline them, the priest is either dismissed (ie, it end up… Read more »

Turbulent priest
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Turbulent priest

Various bishops have said that the point of the facilitated conversations is to try to find a way of disagreeing more amicably. The conversations will take place in an atmosphere of rapidly changing social perceptions, with equal marriage no doubt becoming even more widely acceptable. In addition, within the church there will be the unedifying spectacle of protracted legal cases arising from botched attempts at “discipline”, and also increasing levels of defiance and disobedience. The differences between this issue and the women’s ordination one are sufficient that the idea of finding a way of differing amicably is, as Linda says,… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“I need an infallible confirmation for what I believe, and if there isn’t one, Christianity has no real claim on my soul.” – Commenter –

Oh dear. Bang goes St. Paul’s theory about faith being the substance of things hoped for – not seen!
If Faith depended on the infallibity of Church Leaders, We would have lost the plot ages ago.

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“Some people say this is a “second order” issue” For most churchgoers and people who wish the church well, it is: they are more concerned about justice, poverty and equality. For a smaller number of people it is personal, in that it affects themselves and their friends and family, and for them it is first order. For a small handful of obsessives like Andrew Symes, it is the single defining issue of our times, more important than war and starvation. Unfortunately, the CofE believes that appeasing Andrew Symes is more important that justice, peace, poverty and equality. It isn’t a… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“I need an infallible confirmation for what I believe…”

Since the only source for such confirmation would be another human being, I don’t see how that’s even possible.

James Byron
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James Byron

There’s zero chance that gay relationships will become a “second order issue.” Thanks to Paul’s words in Corinthians, those evangelicals who oppose homosexuality are convinced that it’s a “salvation issue.” In their eyes, if they agree to disagree, they’re allowing people to burn in hell.

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Interested Observer gives another good analysis of why the Church of England would be very foolish to pursue a priest who marries. The argument that they must either discipline all or none is well made, and I would add that the apologies some bishops have already made would not bode well for any hearing. On another thread I argue that the Anglican Communion is over, the train wreck is reaching a point where no amount of discipline on marriage will overcome the welcome for civil partners. Nearly everyone in he UK struggles to recognise how a civil partnership as presently… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

“… the Evangelicals are tottering …” On the contrary, they’re bankrolling the church. They have numbers, key positions, and the Global South. Above all, they have conviction. The liberal habit of keeping their heads down and waiting for social pressure to do the job for them won’t wash this time. This won’t fix itself. Loathe the idea as they might, if liberals care about gay people, we’re gonna have to fight. As we should have in 1987. In 1991. In 2003. In 2010. The brute truth is that evangelicals have fought for their beliefs and we betrayed ours. They’re better… Read more »

Nathaniel Brown
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Nathaniel Brown

Or perhaps the bad weather is visited upon the UK because people like Symes refuse to recognize the equality of their LGBT brothers and sisters? I seem to remember that Sodom was destroyed because the Sodomites refused to give hospitality to strangers.

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

“Since the only source for such confirmation would be another human being, I don’t see how that’s even possible.”

Read Luke 22… Simon Peter confirming the brethren with an UNFAILING faith, as determined by Our Lord himself.

God’s plan so beautifully clear in embryo, that at Chalcedon the bishops shouted ” Peter has spoken through Leo.”

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

The article from the Church Times about bishops quizzing their clergy contains an unremarked but striking admission of where this is going to end: “[My Bishop] was with HR, and I was with a union rep.” A Human Resources department and a union rep? Those are the sort of people you make sure are present at initial meetings of processes that can end with dismissal, so that you can’t be accused of procedural irregularities when it gets to the tribunal. Clearly, Sharpe v Worcester has had an effect, because once you have an HR person, with that name, you have… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

I assume the reference to bad weather is a reference this:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-25793358

James Byron
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James Byron

You’re right, Interested Observer, it’s suicidal. The church’s idea of cultural diversity appears to be the embrace of seppuku.

dr.primrose
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dr.primrose

Today’s (Sunday’s) Los Angeles Times contains an article, written by Anglican priest, about how anti-Gay American evanglists are marketing their “hate” (his word) abroad — http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-kaoma-uganda-gays-american-ministers-20140323,0,2345261.story#axzz2wouzPkpG

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

I agree with James Byron about the strength of the opposition to allowing any concession on the Guidelines. I think that part of the reason that the opposition to women bishops collapsed so quickly is that opponents decided to regroup, realising that the same concerns were better shunted into a battle against SSM. The SAME concerns? Yes because this is still a battle to preserve ‘traditional masculinity’. The give away is that the idea of the ‘complementarity of men and women’ is being used (again) as the bottom line of the arguments put forward against SSM by FAOC and the… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

To put it concisely: if the patriarchs don’t win this battle over SSM they will be emasculated (sic) far more effectively than they have been over women’s ordination.

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

Andrew Symes article it seems to me to be largely handwringing about ‘what to do’. There is something profoundly pathetic if it is true that evangelicals are playing down the idea of a day of prayer on 29th March because they will be seen to be ‘negative’ or ‘sending out the wrong message’. They seem to know that they have lost the plot, that they are regarded as either irrelevant or incorrigibly homophobic or both and that the best thing to do is to stay silent. (Reminds me of racists who while still holding their unpalatable views now know better… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“Evangelical” in the comment above was meant to refer to the wider Church community, I was casting my eye around the surveys of young Evangelicals in the developed countries and it seems they are “tottering”. Roman Catholic youth who are very conservative on abortion and liturgy are almost all comfortable with gay equality.
Sorry not to be clear.
I am not sure if younger UK Anglican Evangelicals are following this trend. Perhaps others can say ……?

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“Opponents of homosexuality loathe it because it is unmanly.” In many cases I agree, Linda. The visceral homophobia of Nigeria and Uganda (and a great many British and Americans) is all about male dominance. As Richard Holloway phrased it with ferocious but illuminating bluntness, so far as a patriarch’s concerned, “Men fuck. Women get fucked. Q.E.D.” This savage framework, obsessed with dominance and submission, views gay men as traitors to their gender (lesbians are largely ignored). It’s complicated by evangelicals who don’t think like this, evangelicals who genuinely oppose gay relationships because a few verses in the Bible condemn homosexuality.… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
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Linda Woodhead

Martin, you are right that young Christians of all churches and hues are following the trend in favour of SSM. And alongside age, gender is the other big factor – women more in favour than men. It’s a myth that younger Christians, including churchgoers, are not liberalising on personal morality.

But they (the young, women) are of course not the ones calling the shots in the CofE. If they were, we would not be in this mess.

Those most opposed to SSM are 50s+ males, especially those who take their authority from religious sources. Remind you of anyone?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Linda,
I wonder whether it really will get nasty. Since Pilling I have been fascinated to see how the conversation on evangelical blogs has changed and become much more nuanced and controversial.
So far, the CoE hasn’t actually been debating homosexuality at all at any meaningful level.

But if the facilitated conversation really takes off and if people do start to talk properly, it could just as well be that the dam will burst, a few furies will leave the CoE and the official prejudice against gay people will simply collapse with a little squeak.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

One thing that really does worry me is what would happen if it did get really nasty and if those lgbt people who are currently still acting with as much Christian love as they can muster finally get so angry that they start outing bishops.

There is a distinct difference between the two debates. There are no closeted women, none who lead hypocritical lives while pretending not to be women.
That changes the internal dynamics of the situation considerably.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

James Byron says (of ‘open evangelicals’ like me), ‘their belief in biblical authority has driven them to advocate a homophobic position’.

When I was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, I was required to make the following statement: ‘I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God containing all things necessary to salvation’.

Sounds like belief in biblical authority to me. But it was not my evangelicalism that required me to state that belief, it was the liturgy of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Daniel Berry, NYC
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Daniel Berry, NYC

Perhaps the reason younger people have less difficulty with SSM – or homosexuality generally – is because for them it is a clear that sexual attraction is not chosen, but is an ontological “given” for gay persons. Therefore it doesn’t fall under the rubric of “morality,” so isn’t comparable to, for example, abortion.

Anyone who believes homosexuality to be, in itself, sinful, hasn’t bitten that bullet. Deliberately to “choose” to be gay would arguably be insane, considering the high price exacted for it historically and currently. For those unclear about that, simply consider the case of Uganda.

Daniel Berry, NYC
Guest
Daniel Berry, NYC

Going further with my previous posting, use of the bible as a science book has been a bugaboo of Jews and Christians for quite some time–though, I believe, more so for Christians. We’ve abandoned (after many a long struggle, but one which seems again to have reared its head here in the US) using the bible as an astronomy, archeology, cosmology, geology, medical or anthropology text. Crossing the frontier of abandoning using it for a social or behavioral science text remains before us. Otherwise reasonable, intelligent people continue to trip on that transition, persisting in fighting the centuries-ago battle waged… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Yes, I laughed through gritted teeth, Linda! So, the battle, you say is going to be very nasty. And what might be the outcomes we are looking for? As I reflect on James Byron’s assessment of some Evangelicals from the Fulcrum leadership team, I wonder if we have not already moved considerably towards seeing this as adiaphora? It was Tom Wright who saw this as the essential first step and what I was perhaps clumsily saying above is that (with the exception of the Orthodox) there seems to be a consensus building that might say that it is a matter… Read more »

Commentator
Guest
Commentator

Can we please stop calling Andrew Goddard and Tom Wright ‘open evangelicals’? FULCRUM is not open,it subscribed at its outset to the St Andrew’s Day Statement. Bishop Tom Wright does not think that homosexual couples deserve the use of the word ‘love’. A careful reading of FULCRUM would show how difficult it is to put any distance between its position on the issue of homosexuality and that taken by ANGLICAM MAINSTREAM. Their position on the ordination of women may differ but not on homosexuality.

dr.primrose
Guest
dr.primrose

Yesterday (Sunday) I posted a link to a story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, written by an Anglican priest (from the name, Kapya Kaoma, apparently African) concerning “How anti-gay Christians evangelize hate abroad: In the countries where American evangelicals market their culture wars, persecution follows.” I included the link but the comment did not appear and apparently went into spam. He says in part: “The vitriol that has fueled U.S. culture wars for so long is now being exported, and some of our most ardent culture warriors are finding a far more receptive audience abroad. *** “In March 2009, while… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

” ‘I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God containing all things necessary to salvation’.” – Tim Chesterton –

Yes, Tim. You are quite right about this.

However, Holy Scripture also contains thing ‘not necessary for salvation’, and it is precisely these ‘things’ that are being contested in today’s Church

Father Ron Smith
Guest

There is so much to think about in the comments on this thread. Firstly, Daniel Berry’s excellent reminder of the almost blind following of the biblical commentary on matters that have been proved fallacious in our modern scientific world. Secondly, Martin Reynolds’ realistic assessment of the situation vis a vis the Global South’s move towards schismatic withdrawal from the Communion. Thirdly, Dr. Primrose’s discovery of the underground movement by American Fundamentalists in Africa (especially Uganda), offering resources to local Church and Government agencies to wage war on homosexuals. What more evidence does one need of the practical advantages of the… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

‘I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God containing all things necessary to salvation’. That the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation does not mean, conversely, that all things in the Scriptures are necessary to salvation. For instance, the Scriptures (in the same book that many translate as condemning homosexuality) also condemns the eating of shellfish and of pork. Do you eat shrimp and bacon? It condemns the eating of meat and dairy products in the same meal. Do you enjoy the occasional cheeseburger? It calls for a “year of… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Once again: Whether we agree with one another on specific issues, or not, we are One in Christ. It is only, ever, in Christ that we have union and communion. We are not One because of agreed or imposed uniformity. We are not One because we all share exactly the same theology. We are One in Christ, whether in our fallibility we agree or not. Therefore, unity is a given if you are a Christian, but we all variously live in disparate and different communities, cultures, and traditions – responding in ministry to the real lives and needs of local… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Yes, Pat, believe it or not, I do understand what a responsible hermeneutic looks like. Like most evangelicals, I use it all the time. Nor was I particularly interested in getting into an argument about shellfish, bacon, the year of Jubilee, or verses referring to homosexuality.

The point I wanted to make was simply to protest against the idea that evangelicals have some weird view of biblical authority. We don’t. Our view is exactly that expressed in the formularies and liturgies of pretty well all the Anglican churches around the world.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

Pat says”For instance, the Scriptures (in the same book that many translate as condemning homosexuality) also condemns the eating of shellfish and of pork. Do you eat shrimp and bacon? It condemns the eating of meat and dairy products in the same meal. Do you enjoy the occasional cheeseburger?” Response: There is a distinction between the moral law ( eternal) and the ritual law revisable)…our Lord declared all foods clean, but as regards moral issues, through his Apostles ( he that hears you, hears me) he continued the ban on homosexual sex and other issues, and he also tightened laws… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

Erika, you are right that a big difference between the SSM struggle and that over women’s ordination (besides fact the latter took over a century to win) is that there have always been gay men in the highest positions of the church. Continuing with the parallel with women one might predict that gay clergy will marry first and become acceptable (will there be ‘alternative oversight??) but gay bishops will not be allowed to marry. But whillst it’s highly unlikely that a married gay man or woman will be appointed bishop under the present system, existing bishops might decide to marry.… Read more »

Linda Woodhead
Guest
Linda Woodhead

Robert Ian Williams, a couple of problems with what you say about Leviticus. First. Forget shrimps. Why ignore Lev 18:18 on marrying your deceased wife’s sister but take 18:21 a few verses later on lying with a man as sacrosanct? I would seriously like to hear an answer to that, because I keep asking and no-one will answer. Second. The salient distinction is not just ritual v moral law, but purity laws v moral laws. I would say the opposition to same-sex relations is about purity (social boundaries/in-out groups) rather than morality, because the objections I hear to homosexuality are… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“he also tightened laws for baptized christians, like divorce and polygamy.”

That’s presumably why the CofE refuses blessings, marriages and, indeed, appointment as bishop to people who are either divorced or are married to people who are divorced, I take it.

The CofE’s position of divorce has changed radically. Claiming that as an example of immutable moral law is simply counter-factual.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Linda,
what worries me is what will happen if the hypocrisy should be blown away and if it became open who had simply paid lip services to the current CoE policy yet taken an active part in creating it.

There is a level of dishonesty about the lgbt debate that did not exist in the women priest debate.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente
Guest
Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

The problem, Mr Williams, is that the distinction between moral and ceremonial commandments made by the articles (among many places) is not biblical at all. ‘for whoever keeps the whole law but fails in on one point has become accountable for all of it’ (James 2.10). Ask any Jewish child. The Rabbis certainly never saw any such divide, indeed they generally taught that the hukim (decrees of the great King, the commandments for which no discernible reason can be found) are to be kept as virtuously as the mishpatim, the other, morally obvious commandments.

peter kettle
Guest

Linda W: Way back, I think there were some unpredicatble moments in the women priest business: the question of women ordained abroad not being allowed to minister here led to the formation of the St Hilda Community (where they were welcomed until the then Bp London kicked us out,) but the community itself became a really fertile garden of inclusive liturgy – and priesthood. Erika B: actually, there might be some closeted women in this debate, but at least women are not invisible! I sat through a deanery chapter last week with, I suspect, at least 25% gay membership, and… Read more »

Iain Baxter
Guest
Iain Baxter

“There is a distinction between the moral law ( eternal) and the ritual law revisable).” This is the problem – there is no such distinction. There is NO SUCH THING as “moral” or “ritual” law in the Bible. Law is law. The only way of dividing the two is to choose which laws you think are eternal, so it becomes a circular argument: this law does not apply now, therefore it is a ritual law, therefore it does not apply now. When Peter saw his vision and was commanded to eat, he then went and met with Gentiles in their… Read more »