Thinking Anglicans

Good Disagreement: David Ison writes for Accepting Evangelicals

Accepting Evangelicals has today launched a new section of its website, titled Good Disagreement.

This includes an article of the same title, by the Dean of St Paul’s, David Ison.

A pdf version of his article is also available. Here is a short extract, but you need to read the whole piece:

…And in the light of Reform’s response, there are also questions to be asked about the whole enterprise of ‘Shared Conversations’. Reflection ‘in the light of scripture’ brings in two of the classical Anglican markers of theological authority, the Bible and Reason, to which should be added an awareness of and exploration of Tradition – which requires a serious engagement with history which is not necessarily present in the heat of the debate. Further, the idea that there can be ‘safe space’ and a ‘safe environment’ for people to be vulnerable about their sexuality could only be true where those with power relinquish it. How reasonable is it to expect gay ordained and lay people, in a Church which discriminates against and condemns the expression of their sexuality, in a wider British culture which only very recently has begun to be more open about sexuality and where homophobic bullying and even murder are still current, let alone a world-wide culture in which homosexuality is in many places punished by imprisonment or death, should make themselves vulnerable to those who may want to exclude them? Will heterosexuals begin the discussion by sharing their struggles and experiences with their own sexuality, including those of their sins and shortcomings which might open them to the charge of hypocrisy, the loss of their reputation and authority, and possible disciplinary action? After all, far more damage is done in and to the Church by misbehaving heterosexuals than by gay people.

Personally, I think that the idea of ‘Shared Conversations’ is a positive initial step, but one which is unlikely on its own to have the kind of buy-in which is necessary to make a sufficient difference to how the Church engages with the issues around sexuality. A process which requires its participants to truly hear, and even be vulnerable to, one another, requires rather more investment of time and will than appears likely to be given at present through what is proposed for these conversations: they are a beginning rather than an end – which is one of the reasons why Reform are reluctant to participate, as they imply more beyond them. But, as the group discussions in General Synod about the ordination of women as bishops helped participants to really begin to meet those with whom they disagree, so these conversations have the power to do the same: whether that leads to change, and what that change would be, will be a further question…

But that’s not all. Ruth Gledhill has interviewed David Ison for Christian Today and her article is titled Dean of St Paul’s David Ison calls on CofE to consider gay marriage. There is a video recording of the interview linked at the bottom of that page, and there is a transcript of the text also provided. Her report for Christian Today begins thus:

The Dean of St Paul’s has called for the Church of England to consider what accepting same-sex marriage would mean for the future.

The Church of England is seen by many as “toxic” and “oppressive” because of its stance on women and gays, he said. Some gay Christians had even committed suicide because of the pressure of being told they had to be celibate.

Dr David Ison says today: “We need to consider what the acceptance of same-sex marriage in the Church would mean in reality, and how it would be understood in relation to the theology of Christian marriage and the chequered history of that institution, as well as contemporary social practice around sexuality.”

Dr Ison, who was brought up in the conservative evangelical tradition but changed his mind about homosexuality after meeting gay Christians at university and witnessing first-hand the damage done by the traditional teaching, added: “We are in a situation where because of its views about women and about gay people, the church has been seen as toxic or oppressive.

“That breaks my heart, that that should be the case, when the church is there to bear witness to freedom, life and hope in the world. Let’s see what we can do to change that…”

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9 years ago

“Although [Dean Ison] admitted that passages in the letters of St Paul were against homosexuality”

A concession that neither I, nor (more importantly) outstanding Biblical scholars (e.g., Tobias Haller) would be prepared to accept. I *get* Dean Ison’s heart is in the right place, but his brain is still too much indoctrinated “conservative Evangelical”, IMO.

Father David
Father David
9 years ago

Will Accepting Evangelicals and the Dean of St. Paul’s be using their influence and lobbying power to ensure that the well know Anglo-Catholic – the Dean of St. Albans is enabled to break through the Rainbow Stained Glass Ceiling and is given the Diocesan Bishopric he so justly deserves?

9 years ago

Father David,

I sent my little letter (headed ‘serious allegations against our archbishops’) to half a dozen church dignitaries. Three bishops whom hitherto I have esteemed have not replied. My esteem is under strain. I’ll give them another prod (from a Northern Irish Prod!).

Father Ron Smith
9 years ago

I am very impressed by Dean David Ison’s openness to the LGBT community. As an acknowledged Liberal Anglo-Catholic, I am more than pleased that my Evangelical friends in the Church of England can exercise some compassion for those whose lives are often blighted by the apparent indifference of the Church. Gospel ‘Good News’ seems often to have been preferentially offered to ‘straights’ and denied to ‘gays’ – through no fault of their own. We are ALL sinners, but also ALL redeemed, by the love and mercy of God in Christ.

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