Thinking Anglicans

Conservative reactions to General Synod debates

Updated again 22 July

Here’s a round-up of responses from people for whom the recent General Synod debates and voting were not welcome news.

First, an article that was written before the synod, but as the author is not only a General Synod member from Oxford diocese, but also a member of the new Pastoral Advisory Group, it is of interest: Sam Allberry wrote Same sex relationships: should we just agree to disagree?. Here’s a sample of his answer (but read all of it).

…The fate of homosexual people

Paul is very clear that the “unrighteous” will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11). Among the very various examples of unrighteous behaviour he lists is homosexual practise. Paul is delivering a profound warning: those who do not repent of such behaviour will not enter heaven. Eternity is at stake. To say the issue does not matter is to say that the eternal destiny of people does not matter. This is not the case with secondary issues like infant baptism or women’s ordination…

The Chair of the GAFCON Primates, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh in his July letter wrote this:

…False teaching is restless and relentless, and the Church of England itself is in grave spiritual danger. It is much to be regretted that there has been far more concern about alleged ‘boundary crossing’ than about the contempt of God’s Word that made a missionary bishop necessary. In fact, the Bishop of Edinburgh, who has strongly supported the Scottish Episcopal Church’s adoption of same sex ‘marriage’ was invited as a guest of honour to the Church of England’s July General Synod meeting.

Although the Church of England’s legal position on marriage has not changed, its understanding of sexual morality has. Same sex relationships, which were described by Lambeth Resolution I.10 of 1998 as ‘incompatible with Scripture’ now receive approval at the highest level. For example, Vicky Beeching, a singer, songwriter and activist who advocates homosexual marriage was honoured with the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer award for Worship in a ceremony at Lambeth Palace…

Rob Munro a General Synod member from Chester diocese, wrote a long reflection for Church Society entitled Radical Christian Inclusion…? which includes this:

…Shifted Middle. In previous synods, the non-aligned middle, the roughly 1/3 of synod who don’t self-identify as either conservative or radical, could usually be relied on to be social conservative, to be slow to bow to the pressures that political correctness has always brought. No longer! It was clear that an unqualified inclusion agenda is now seen as the mainstream. Ten years ago, the LGBTI lobbyists were clearly only a vocal minority; today, if you speak out for the previously received biblical understandings you are made to feel like the minority. The radicals have the confidence that their stories now resonate with more people; conservatives speak with the fear we will be misheard or misunderstood – that disagreement on the sexuality issues for theological reasons will be heard as whichever phobia it can be labelled as…

Susie Leafe a General Synod member from Truro diocese, who speaks for Reform wrote an even longer reflection which concludes:

…In the space of four days, the General Synod of the Church of England have, in effect, rejected the doctrines of creation, the fall, the incarnation, and our need for conversion and sanctification Instead we have said that we are ‘perfect’ as we are, or as we see ourselves, and that the Church should affirm us and call on God to validate our choices. No wonder we do not want to proclaim Christ’s unique identity and significance for all people.

We have chosen to understand the world through secular reports, unconscious bias training, the teaching of other religions and the results of polls and media headlines, rather than the unchanging word of God.

Paul warns us what happens when we do this in Romans 1:28: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave then up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”

But God does not abandon his people. In his mercy, just a week before this Synod, Andy Lines was consecrated by ACNA, as a missionary bishop to Europe by 11 Primates (leaders of Anglican provinces) and 3 Archbishops. This had been requested by the Gafcon Primates Council, who represent the vast majority of the Anglican Communion. Don’t fear – we are not alone – but decisions will need to be made.

Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream wrote: Synod supports ban on ‘conversion therapy’ – what it means. His conclusions:

…There is now an area of incoherence in the Church of England’s doctrine that even the most radical adherents of ‘plural truth’ philosophy will not tolerate for long. Those who have same sex attraction are told they cannot change, but they also can’t get married or have their relationships blessed in church. Is it now surely a matter of time before the Church of England decides that while it can’t deny LGBT orthodoxy (sexual orientation is innate and unchangeable, trying to alter it is harmful), it can and must deny and change bible based doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman and homosexual practice is sinful, because these teachings are ‘harmful’?

This decision on ‘conversion therapy’ was not made for reasons of Christian theology. It was made on the basis of fake science (as many of the articles here demonstrate), fear of the LGBT lobby and the dreaded “Tim Farron question”, and emotional manipulation by apostate activists within the church leadership. The governing body of the main church in the land has capitulated to powerful ideologies in secular culture, the ‘stoicheia’ of Colossians 2:8, providing no protection for those who wish to be obedient to God’s word and resist those ideologies, serving people in love and calling them to repentance and faith in Christ.

The consecration of a ‘missionary Bishop’, ministering to faithful Anglicans outside the official structures, has surely come at the right time. We will need several more.


Ian Paul has asked Is Synod competent? A sample of his reasoning:

…There are several reasons why these two motions should never have been debated. The first and most obvious is that both issues will certainly be addressed in the teaching document that the Archbishops have commissioned, so the motions are trying to short-circuit a wider discussion. The second is that both take the form of false binaries; essentially they say ‘Do you agree with me—or do you hate gay and transgender people?’ No matter how faulty the wording, failing to pass either motion would not have looked like good PR, and there would have been howls of protest from various quarters. In the voting, it was evident that the bishops were acutely aware of this, and taking both motions by a vote of houses (so that they had to pass separately in each of the bishops, clergy and laity) which would normally make it harder for a motion to pass, in fact made it easier, since the bishops could not afford to be seen to be the ones who were blocking.

The third reason was the poor wording of both motions. The PMM talked of ‘conversion therapy’ but used this as an ill-defined catch-all which made proper debate very difficult. Every single speaker, including those who proposed and supported significant amendments, agreed that any form of forced or coercive treatment of people who are same-sex attracted (whether they are happy with that or not) is abusive and must be rejected. But another part of Jayne Ozanne’s agenda is to have significant movements in the Church, including New Wine, Soul Survivor, HTB and Spring Harvest labelled as ‘spiritual abusive’ and therefore illegal. This is why the motion was seen as a Trojan horse. Her motion was also asking Synod to ‘endorse’ a medical opinion, and a controverted one at that, which is simply not within Synod’s competence to do so. But suggesting that Synod ‘does not have the competence’ to express a view is like holding up a red rag to a bull (or any colour rag—bulls are colour blind). In the end we passed an amended motion that ‘endorsed’ a different medical view—but few had read the details, still less understood the issues within it, and such endorsement is meaningless except as tokenism…

Chik Kaw Tan, General Synod lay member from Lichfield diocese: Fundamental shifts in the General Synod

..Loss of giants in the House of Bishops
I respect the faithful orthodox bishops who are quietly working behind the scene to ensure Biblical teachings are adhered to. Yet I lament the loss of some of the true giants that I had the privilege to know when I first entered Synod. One can immediately think of Bishops Michael Scott-Joynt and Michael Nazir-Ali. A present bold figure and rising star is Julian Henderson of Blackburn but we need more orthodox prophet-bishops to speak to our times.

Not without sympathy, I think there are now many Christians, Synod members included, who have chosen the path of self-censorship. It is increasingly difficult to be counter-cultural and it is telling that our own church leaders are avoiding making any statements that will cause conflict with the LGBT lobby in society, and even within Synod itself. Who are the prophets of our times in the Church of England? Where are the Elijahs? Certainly not our archbishops, one of whom was conspicuous by the absence of any contribution in the two major debates on sexuality and the other notable by his support of the LGBT-inspired motions. This has raised serious concerns about the future of our beloved church.,,


  • Jeremy Pemberton says:

    Interesting to read A Symes’s take on “LGBT orthodoxy”. This is that “sexual orientation is innate and unchangeable, trying to alter it is harmful”.

    AFAIK this is not in any way LGBT orthodoxy. We don’t yet know the reasons (NB plural) for people’s sexual orientation. It is clear that they are complex, probably have some genetic component, and almost certainly some epigenetic factors, and may be influenced by social factors as well. We also know that for some people there is some fluidity, but that for most people their sexual orientation *feels* innate, and is certainly not either originally consciously chosen nor is it alterable at will. So some people will find that they are more bisexual than at first they thought somewhere along the journey of life, and some will find after a period of homosexual experimentation as young people that they settle cheerfully into a heterosexual life.

    Others for social/cultural/religious reasons will have tried to fit within a prevailing orthodoxy of sexual orientation – i.e. that being heterosexual is good and anything else is bad, but more and more those people find somewhere along the pathway that this becomes unsustainable, and they emerge into the world as gay or lesbian or bisexual with a huge sigh of relief. One of the things that so many of those people say is “How wonderful it is to be myself, at last!”

    But most people have a strong sense of their sexual identity that never changes, and the evidence is that whatever our makeup in that regard, it is both futile and very frequently damaging and dangerous to try and “change” people’s “innate” sexual orientation – whatever that may be. If you don’t have a dogmatic conviction about the goodness and badness of the range of entirely normal variety in this regard, then you wouldn’t ever want to think about trying to change people in this way. You don’t have to have a dogmatic attachment to “innate and unchangeable” sexual orientation. We cheerfully welcome the diversity of human experience in this most personal and most complex of areas of human life. But unlike Symes et al. we think it is ok to live with that variety, and it is all part of the rich tapestry of God’s creation. You just don’t need to try and fix what ain’t broken.

    So Symes is all wrong (as usual) about the great LGBT conspiracy – there isn’t one. We don’t need to try and force an orthodoxy on everyone else. That is what he likes to do.

  • Interested Observer says:

    Symes has obviously been studying the more unhinged end of conservative Islam, because the technique of accusing your opponents of being apostates is straight from their playbook. Although rather less effective, given apostasy from the Church of England means having to find your own weak instant coffee, rather than a risk of being killed.

    The vision of Symes saying that he and his friends are unable to “serv[e] people in love” would be funny were it not so pathetic. There is nothing of “love” in Symes’ vision of Christianity, or indeed of society. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always…there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of Andrew Symes’ Christianity, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

  • Kurt Hill says:

    More Pietistic fretfulness over personal “holiness” and “purity” issues from Symes et al. This is what English Anglican “Evangelicalism” has been reduced to…At one time it was concerned about great moral issues such as abolitionism. No more; now it’s only concerned about about sex (and miters, I guess).

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  • Let them at it. Let them do what they will. We’re all on a spectrum. The gonads of the early embryo can develop into either testes or ovaries. The female is the default setting. Very rarely an individual may have an ovary on one side and a testis on the other, or a gonad may contain both ovarian and testicular tissue. The ovary stays more or less where it started, but the primate (apes not archbishops) testis descends into the scrotum. Undescended testes. In a sense, are a reversion to a more female state.The clitoris and penis both develop from the same embryonic precursor. Penile congenital anomalies are surprisingly common and can be regarded as varying degrees of reversion to the female anatomy. The scrotum and the labia majora develop from the same structures: the scrotum is the two labia ‘sewed’ together (you can see the ‘seam’. Every adult male prostate gland contains a vestige of the precursor of the uterus. Every adult female has structures that in males develop into the tube conveying spermatozoa from testis to penis. I could go on. If a man admires Micheangelo’s David, or a woman admires a Rubesesque lady, does that mean that they are queer? I’m pretty sure we’re all on a spectrum and that there is no such thing as entirely one thing or the other. There is psychological evidence for this too. Who cares any more?

  • FrDavidH says:

    It is sad that the likes of Sam Allberry chooses to live his life according to a naive and totally wrong view of scripture. Being same-sex attracted, he must find it a constant struggle with guilt to obey the rules his god has written because a fictitious woman ate an apple in an imaginary garden. This is a completely different religion from the freedom and joy Jesus brings to set us all free. Is it not time the Church of England declared that this repressive religion of these evangelicals is not Christian?

  • Edward Prebble says:

    Thank you, Jeremy, for your beautifully worded refutation of Symes’s argument. There is one point he makes, though, that is absolutely right.
    “There is now an area of incoherence in the Church of England’s doctrine…those who have same sex attraction are told they cannot change, but they also can’t get married or have their relationships blessed in church”.
    The more we (and here I would include the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia) inch toward acceptance of LGBTi people as being the blessed folk that God created them to be, the more we are faced with the incoherence of our practice.

  • robert says:

    Very interesting that the Rob Munro piece talks about the bishops ‘staying really quiet’ but doesn’t mention at all how the bishops overwhelmingly voted – in favour of the motions!

  • John Wallace says:

    Sam Allberry’s reading of I Cor 6, like so many conservatives who are anti-gay, is a masterpiece of dissection. He sieves out all the sexually related ‘sins’ but ignores the others. What about the greedy, what about the drunkards. By his interpretation, those who have trouble with moderating their intake of food and drink are also damned as are the ‘revilers’ – from some of their comments, a good number of conservatives fit this label.

    Similarly, when they invoke the OT on this subject, it is very selective. You either take on the whole Levitical dietary and social prohibitions which worked well for a nomadic desert tribe (so no prawn cocktails or polycotton shirts for these people) or realise that the law is fulfilled as we are under grace – and grace ‘God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense’ as I once heard Jim Packer define it like love surpasses law.

  • rjb says:

    I think I agree with Jeremy Pemberton: there is a vast difference between saying “conversion therapy is likely to do a lot more harm than good” and saying “sexual attraction is fixed and innate and in no way malleable.” I suspect that many people – perhaps most – actually find that there is a certain amount of fluidity in their sexual and romantic attractions.

    And it seems we are living in a culture where there is increasing awareness of this; to the point where the old fixed categories of ‘sexual orientation’ (and the interminable search for the aetiology of homosexuality) are increasingly beginning to look a bit irrelevant. Many people of my generation and younger don’t feel the need to identify as ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, and don’t think that these categories are central to our identity.

    If the hundred-year-reign of homosexuality is indeed coming to an end – and I for one think that it would probably be a good thing – then this will cast a lot of our theological debates about sex in a slightly different light. What does it mean if we don’t see ‘homosexuals’ as a distinct category of persons but instead as one end of a spectrum of erotic subjectivity that we all sit on, and which people may move across over the course of their lifetimes or even from one day to the next? What does it mean for Christians if everyone is a bit queer (except the Archbishop of Nigeria)? Can we carry sexual ethics beyond identity politics? And will we have to wait until the church is dragged into the twentieth century before we can drag it into the twenty-first?

  • To my evangelical brother Sam: On your blog post you make a great deal out of accurate biblical interpretation, which i applaud. I couldn’t help noticing, therefore, that in discussing a passage about who can and who can’t enter the kingdom of God, you commented: ‘those who do not repent of such behaviour will not enter heaven’.

    But Paul doesn’t mention heaven. He talks about ‘entering the kingdom of God’, and we have it on Jesus’ authority that the kingdom of God is about earth, not heaven (‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as in heaven’).

    I note that Paul’s list also includes ‘idolaters’, ‘the greedy’, ‘drunkards’, ‘revilers’ – and that the context suggests he would also include Christians who take other Christians to secular court. So are you saying that an alcoholic who has tried to quit but failed ‘won’t go to heaven’? Or a materialistic churchgoer? Or someone who reviles others in a blog post? (there are a few candidates for that judgement in the comments section of your blog post!)

    Brother, you and I share a desire to be faithful to scripture as well as pastorally sensitive and supportive. I’d appreciate your clarification as to how to interpret this difficult passage.

  • Jo says:

    I think it’s possible to go too far the other way and claim that sexuality is completely fluid. Yes, for some people their sexuality may evolve over time, and that makes conventional labels hard, but the thing about a spectrum is that it does have ends. Regardless of what you think of Kinsey, the two ends of his 7 point scale were complete heterosexuality and complete homosexuality. I frequently come across claims (usually from anti-gay campaigners) that “everyone goes through a phase of being attracted to people of the same sex” and think: really? Speak for yourself!

  • FrDavidH says:

    Could Tim Chesterton please explain what “being faithful to scripture” actually entails? Since he disagrees with Sam Allberry’s exegesis, what is the point of arguing who is being subjectively ‘faithful’? Quoting scripture at each other is futile and totally pointless. This is why evangelicals are so irrelevant in the modern age.

  • Fr Andrew says:

    “I think it’s possible to go too far the other way and claim that sexuality is completely fluid”

    Way to go Jo. Imperfect thought it is, with the Kinsey scale most research finds almost everybody at 1 or 7. Sexual orientation is complex with many components: behaviour, identity, desire etc. By far the most fluid is behaviour- many people experiment at various times (I even experimented with other-sex behaviour when I was an adolescent- just a phase obviously): but the desire component (who one desires regardless of how one behaves) which in a sense is the ‘core’ part of orientation seems to be the least fluid.

    There is quite a bit of science around to back up the ‘Orthodoxy’ (minus of course the conservatives’ paranoid conspiracy fantasies) suggesting a general lack of fluidity in sexual orientation. Of course, it really doesn’t matter whether our orientations are fixed or fluid: hetero- homo- bi- pan, whatever there is no hierarchy of right or wrong there.

    I’m with Rod Gillis on the futility of fine-tooth combing the articles here. To be perfectly frank, if it wasn’t for the fact that our bishops seem to have ever-open ears for the poison these conservatives spew, the obvious response to these articles is Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • crs says:

    “If the hundred-year-reign of homosexuality is indeed coming to an end – and I for one think that it would probably be a good thing – then this will cast a lot of our theological debates about sex in a slightly different light.”

    I’d be curious how this judgement is received here at TA. And perhaps rjb could answer the questions he poses, or give his own nod. How does ‘marriage’ work if the fluidity is the ground reality?

  • T Pott says:

    Sam Allberry’s article is a masterpiece of its genre, a biblical conjuring trick. He quotes 1 Cor 15 verse 3 to prove some things are of first importance, and others are not. This is an introduction to verse 4 in which Paul tells us exactly what is of first importance (not, as it happens, sex); but Sam directs our attention quickly away. So the reader knows that Sam has it on St. Paul’s authority that some things are of first importance; we now look to Sam, not Paul, to tell us what they are.

    Curiously he contrasts gay sex with infant baptism, a matter on which apparently it is fine to receive in fellowship those who differ. St Mary’s Maidenhead, where Sam was a pastor, belongs to the extreme “it’s all about us – keep out the riff raff” school, and according to its website will not even “explore” the possibility of baptizing a baby unless the parents attend their particular church for 6 months.

    It is just fine, apparently, to obstruct baptism, but failing to join in the condemnation of homosexuality is unacceptable. Well, Rev 2 20 proves it (unless we actually read it of course). If the citizens of Maidenhead disagree and just want their babies baptised, will their views be accepted. Probably it is fine for Evangelicals to disagree with others, but it is not fine for others to disagree with them. Why? Because some things are of first importance and others are not, it says so quite clearly in 1 Corinthians 15 3.

  • I have just returned from an ordination service at which we were reminded of the church’s faith as ‘uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures’ and which we are called to ‘proclaim afresh in every generation’. I would expect such a church to give priority to the reading, study and exploring together of scripture – what it teaches and reveals for the life of faith and discipleship. I assume FrDavidH does this as part of his ministry? So I am puzzled when he scorns other ministers for attempting to do the same. Except that Tim and Sam are evangelicals and FrDavidH does not try to hide here (and elsewhere) his apparent loathing of a tradition which he routinely caricatures and mocks.
    He declares Evangelicals are not Christian; that they should be cast out of the (real?) Church; that their view of the bible is simply wrong and their understanding of the gospel hopelessly flawed. All of which sounds oddly close to the way GAFCON/Conservatives are talking about the rest of us doesn’t it?

  • Thank you David Runcorn.

    I would add that I want to be faithful to scripture because of my Anglican ordination vows, which in the (rather liberal catholic Canadian) Anglican ordination services I went through included a statement that ‘I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God containing all things necessary to salvation’.

    I do not believe that statement commits me to fundamentalism, but I do believe it commits me to the view that the Scriptures are in some sense a revelation from God. If that is true, I think faithfulness to that revelation (as focussed and interpreted by Jesus, of course) is a rather important thing.

  • ‘Conscience is our guide, whatever trappings we might choose to clothe it in’.

    Rod, if that’s true, then Sam Alberry’s conscience is just as good as yours or mine. Who’s to decide? What about (to use a rather contemporary Canadian example) those whose conscience was formed in families committed to violence and terrorism? What is their guide to be? Are they to educate their conscience somehow? And if so, where is the standard to be found?

  • ‘This is why evangelicals are so irrelevant in the modern age’.

    That’s the sort of sweeping statement that I’d expect of an ideologue. It reminds me of Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Why Religion Poisons EVERYTHING’.

    The fact is that a fairly large section of the ‘modern age’ apparently finds evangelicalism very relevant. I’ve been to St. Mary’s Maidenhead (as one of my best friends and his family are members there). The place is packed to the doors for three services on Sunday, mainly with younger people, and they’re currently worshipping in rented space while they enlarge their building. So, baptism policy notwithstanding, they are apparently succeeding in attracting people and helping them grow, not just as occasional sacramental consumers but as committed Christians and churchgoers. And I assume that they are rather useful to the income of the Diocese of Oxford as well.

    Given the fact that we’ve recently spent quite a bit of time on TA debating the earth-shattering subject of mitres (and, by extension, other robes originally modelled on the official clothes worn by Roman magistrates 1800 years ago), I think we’d better be careful making pronouncements on what sort of Christianity is ‘irrelevant in the modern age’.

  • We do not need to demonise one another’s consciences. The true challenge is the call to love and grace, and loving one another. As one of the Sisters of the Love of God wrote recently, “Unity is not a matter of choosing one above the others; it is a matter of changing our hearts.”

  • FrDavidH says:

    Thank you, Rod Gillis, for the quote from Noam Chomsky. He illustrates better than I how people who inform their consciences mainly from scripture can often reach diametrically opposed conclusions, often simply to reinforce their prejudices to the detriment of other people. A packed Church can sometimes preach hateful words to those who are young and vulnerable. Happily, such places are unlikely to commend themselves to the wider, unchurched populace who are subject to equality law (unlike the CofE).

  • FrDavidH says:

    David Runcorn: I would simply reiterate what T Potts writes above: “Probably it is fine for Evangelicals to disagree with others, but it is not fine for others to disagree with them” Or as Fr Andrew (above) succinctly puts it “our bishops seem to have ever-open ears for the poison these conservatives spew”.

  • RevDave says:

    FrDavidH said “… Sam Allberry chooses to live his life according to a naive and totally wrong view of scripture. Being same-sex attracted, he must find it a constant struggle with guilt to obey the rules his god has written…”

    FrDavid, given that the only *rules* about same-sex sex are found in the Hebrew Scriptures, didn’t your god give the OT Law to the Jewish people? The Jesus of the NT certainly thought He did.

  • FrDavidH says:

    RevDave; I’m personally not bound by the Hebrew Scriptures since I’m a Christian, not Jewish. Jesus fulfils the Law through Love. If Sam Allberry wishes to live by Jewish rules and regulations, that’s up to him.

  • Rod: I voted Green in the last election.

  • William says:

    ‘I’m personally not bound by the Hebrew Scriptures since I’m a Christian, not Jewish.’

    The heresy of Marcionism – you need to read more Tertullian Fr David.

  • Kurt Hill says:

    “Rod: I voted Green in the last election.”–Tim Chesterton

    Right on, Tim! So did I!

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  • Jeremy says:

    William, do you observe each of the 613 mitzvot?

  • Bernard Silverman says:

    Sam Allberry’s piece is explicit: agreeing to differ is not an option. This makes these issues different from the women’s ordination/consecration issues where from the very start it was explicit that those opposed were indeed trying to seek a way to differ amicably.

    Both Mr Allberry and his colleagues, and those who have written above, view this as being a discussion about gospel imperatives, but the conclusions they reach are incompatible. So, dispassionately, all the shared conversations and discussions seem doomed to failure from the beginning, and can only be the source of greater unhappiness. .

    Dispassionately, would it not be better to have some serious discussions about what (hopefully amicable) separation would look like? Rather like Brexit, perhaps. Of course resource issues would have to be part of that, but hopefully they would be seen in proportion. And if such discussions led to the view that separation would lead to an abyss that nobody wanted to fall into, then that too would be a constructive outcome.

  • crs says:

    We are obviously in very bad shape when our choices are “observe 613 mitzot” or “I am a Christian the the Old Testament belongs to Jewish people.” This is so intellectually flat earth as to make one wonder why anglicanism has any serious future.

  • FrDavidH says:

    Why on earth would any Anglican decide his gay sexuality is sinful on the basis of Jewish Law? Only someone who believes the earth is flat!

  • Fr Andrew says:

    “The heresy of Marcionism”

    So St Paul was a Marcionite? It didn’t seem to me that Fr David was suggesting a dualistic universe or that the OT God was evil and the NT good: but that Christians were not *bound* by the Old Testament, which, has been pretty much an orthodox view from Galatians onwards.

    Marcion may not have seen himself as bound by the OT: it doesn’t mean that all people who believe themselves not to be bound by the OT are Marcionites. The need here is less for reading Tertullian and more for dipping into an introduction to basic logic.

  • FrDavidH says:

    Dr Silverman’s suggestion of ‘separation’ has much to commend it since it might create a much needed sense of harmony in the divided Church of England. The number of evangelicals with views like those of Sam Allberry is pretty insignificant. They just make the most noise. Their departure might leave everyone much happier.

  • Laurie Roberts says:

    This may be of interest in providing some historical context for our thinking, here.

    (Not for the faint of heart)

    Was the state and its culture more ‘conservative’ or would we furnish some other maker for the operation of soceirty in general, and the law in particular ?

  • Jeremy says:

    crs, I asked the question (of William) because there is obviously quite a lot of room between strictly Orthodox Judaism and Marcionism.

    If that is your point, then I agree with it. It is also Fr Andrew’s point, or part of it.

    Fr Andrew makes a logical argument that seems quite valid.

  • JCF says:

    Either these positions (“Conservative reactions”) die out—though we may pray for conversion!—or the Church does. Beginning in the Global North, but move *inexorably* around the globe. Not because of “unbiblical” attitudes—but because of *GOSPEL* values.

  • William says:

    There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament. Ceremonial law points to Christ and is fulfilled when he arrives whereas the moral law remains the same for ever. This is why Jesus states clearly that he came to fulfil rather than abolish the law.

  • FrDavidH says:

    William: ” I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat”. (Leviticus 26:27–29 KJV).
    Is cannibalism a law which has been fulfilled and one which all anglicans should observe?

  • Caelius Spinator says:

    I feel a little timid wading into this conversation, given that crs is a professional exegete of both the OT and the NT.

    However, I think the general theological rationale that has guided mainstream reconciliation of OT ethics with NT ethics is: (a) Is this commandment intended to differentiate Israel from the nations? or (b) Is this commandment intended to help Israel imitate/participate in God’s holiness?

    We see this division made in the NT in various ways. The most obvious way concerns food. At a certain point, it seems unlikely that certain foods are more holy than others. Jesus, as far as we know, maintains the outward adherence to the dietary laws but eats with people who likely do not. And he teaches that “it is not what comes into your mouth that defiles you,” which is a rather bold shakefist at Leviticus. In Acts, Peter’s realization that all foods are clean enables him to directly interact with Gentiles. And let’s not forget I Timothy, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”

    We see this also with circumcision.

    At the same time, Jesus clearly promotes other commandments of the Torah. He opens his ministry with Isaiah’s proclamation of a new Levitical jubilee. If you see Jesus as a lefty, you also are making a certain reading of the OT. (It’s fascinating reading what American conservatives make of OT concerns about economic justice. A typical argument reads like a series of logical pretzelknots to me.) He takes the demands of the Ten Commandments and focuses them on inward attitudes rather than the mere avoidance of outward acts. But ultimately this position is consistent with the prophetic landscape, especially of Isaiah and Joel. that God’s holiness would someday be imitated/participated in at the level of the human heart, so that even unwitting offense would be avoided.

    The debate (when accusations of prejudice or apostasy cease) is whether male-male sex is in the first or second category. The NT record is typically interpreted to place male-male sex in the second category. Such interpretations inevitably ignore the parallels between Isaiah 56:4 and Matthew 19:12…or the interest of the eunuch in Acts 8 in “Second” Isaiah. And I doubt the new teaching document from the bishops is going to address these passages in any depth. Or explain where same-sex relations between women are explicitly forbidden.

  • RevDave says:

    FrDavidH said “Why on earth would any Anglican decide his gay sexuality is sinful on the basis of Jewish Law?”

    FrDavidH, well an Anglican who had read his BCP would know that ” … THE Old Testament is not contrary to the New” and “… Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.”

    That’s certainly what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, and His Apostles too in their moral teachings!

  • MarkBrunson says:

    Oh, good. We’ve gotten to heresy and the argument of “What I want you to obey in the Old Testament applies, what I don’t want to doesn’t.”

    Pray God there will soon be an official schism and we can be rid of one another.

  • JeremyB says:

    “There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament.”

    That may or may not be true, in and of itself.

    But as you describe it, this an interpretive position.

  • William says:

    William: ” I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat”. (Leviticus 26:27–29 KJV).
    Is cannibalism a law which has been fulfilled and one which all anglicans should observe?

    Obviously scripture does not promote cannibalism. This verse refers to certain terrible events which actually happened later on and which are documented by the Jewish historian Josephus. It is a direct consequence of the sins of the people and the chastisement of God; a prediction rather than a command.

  • Well, well … there we were thinking it was only those ghastly evangelicals who argued and nit-picked over ‘correct’ views of the bible and called people heretics who disagreed.

  • crs says:

    Caelius, Thank you for your careful comment.

    In Acts 15 the laws enjoined on gentiles are those in Leviticus that apply to the ‘sojourner in the midst of Israel.’ So appropos your point, there are in point of fact laws given to Israel that God intended for them and for the sojourner, both. The decisions made in Acts 15 are made on this basis.

    One can of course reject this logic. One can say that the Jewish Christians who observed this fact within the one Torah were wrong. But even the gentile Christians who followed them tried to understand the deeper logic and follow it. The western text of Acts therefore has ‘do no murder’ for ‘no meat strangled’ and the love commandment. But the underlying logic is untouched.

    Again, one could conclude that these moves are just wrong and we are neither James nor early Gentile Christians and what did they know about X or Y about which we know better.

    My strong hunch is that the latter logic is now predominant in most western anglican contexts, and at places like TA.

    grace and peace.

  • Kurt Hill says:

    It is sad, truly sad, what English Anglican Evangelicalism has devolved into. It has followed in the footsteps of American Episcopal “Evangelicalism,” a trend that has arisen time and time again only to crash and burn. By absorbing the character of the Protestant Pietism of the “sectaries” who have historically outnumbered us here, these “Evangelicals” have fostered schism after schism down the centuries. That transformation of Evangelicalism into Pietism is now unfolding in European Anglicanism.

    I think that one can make the case that Anglican Evangelicalism in America began in the first half of the eighteenth century as a High Church movement under Colonial era priests such as John and Charles Wesley. Early on these High Church Arminians, influenced both by the Manchester non-jurors as well as by the Unitas Fratrum, broke with the Pietistic Calvinists; people like George Whitefield.

    Certainly during the eighteenth century, it was Whitefield who typified the American religious obsessions with personal “holiness”, “purity” and “election” which are such trademarks of the most vociferous “Evangelicals” (i.e., fundamentalists) in the US today. Now such traits apparently have become hallmarks of “Evangelicalism” in the UK, too. Sad, truly sad.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  • FrDavidH says:

    No, Mr Runcorn. Quoting selective scripture doesn’t work.

  • crs says:

    “It is sad, truly sad, what English Anglican Evangelicalism has devolved into. It has followed in the footsteps of American Episcopal “Evangelicalism”” — with respect you haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

    And yet you continue to drone on about “evangelicalism” like it is a kind of singular garden hedge.

    This is so intellectually vapid that one wastes time trying to make sense of what you are saying before one might consider a response.

  • Fr Andrew says:

    “There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament’ @William.

    Really? Care to point out where the index is for this? Does one come in red print and one in blue? I thought the problem was that we were Marcionites…

    This difference is one only seen since it was convenient for Protestants to do so to avoid having to do stuff they didn’t want to once the started declaring Scripture as the only revelation of God. (hence RevDave’s quip from the. 39 Articlezzzz) . But the mora / ceremonial is a categorisation we impose on the text- it certainly isn’t there in the original (to the extent that there is such a thing). All of the injunctions are about ultimately about holiness. TO divide them into ‘ceremonial’ and ‘moral’ is as meaningful as ‘one relating to humans’ ‘ones relating to animals’ ‘ones relating to tents’.

  • Jeremy says:


    When we google the phrase “sojourner in the midst of Israel” there are two, count them, two results.

  • crs says:

    Having taught students on the widest denominational spectrum all my life, when you make your pronouncements from Brooklyn NY I feel like I am in some strange, half a time zone, narrow band-width.

    Terms like “Calvinists” and “evangelical” function for you like shibboliths. Serious Reformed folk do not think of themselves as “American evangelicals” tout court any more than do Missouri Synod Lutherans or old style LCA Lutherans. I have taught any number of Reformed students (your “Calvinist”) whose real orientation has ended up being Catholic. So too Catholic Lutherans, like patristic scholar Robert Wilken or systematic theologians R Hütter or Bruce Marshall. English evangelicals include Gerald Bray and Oliver O’Donovan, amongst many others, neither of whom are devolved “American evangelicals” as you apparently mean that (a species of pietism on your map).

    The Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology produces the journal Pro Ecclesia – arguably one of the finest, ecclesiologically serious theological journal today. The reformed scholars Scott Swain and Michael Allen have published “Reformed Catholic.” Are they “evangelicals” – well, in the same sense as the Catholic popular thinker Scott Hahn is, or the reformed scholar Hans Boersma, or the Catholic scholar Reinhard Hütter. None of the above may know what a fiddle back chasuble is, but all of them think of themselves as evangelical catholic theologians.

    You use the term “evangelical” as a kind of bogey word to describe things you viscerally do not like but intellectually do not really know much about. You “loath” them and assume this is a self-evidence. So to “devolve” this only magnifies the confusion exponentially. It is also terribly uncharitable and confusing of any serious debate.

  • Geoff M. says:

    “There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament.”

    No, the distinction seems to be a Reformation conceit. It’s certainly unknown in Judaism. Br Tobias Haller has done some great writing exposing Christianity’s total lack of any consistent approach to the Tanakh (including the cringey appropriation, now common mostly among certain Presbyterian sects, of “Sabbath” to refer to the Lord’s Day).

  • Kurt As someone happy (in a non tribal sense) to own the word ‘evangelical’ I simply don’t recognise your description of my tradition in the UK. This is mainly because you seem unaware that the Anglican evangelical tradition in the UK is no one thing. It is diverse. It is also in significant transition. It is facing big challenges – like everywhere else. So which part it are you lamenting? There is a very conservative wing of it – is that it? In other ways evangelicals have never been more part of the mainstream church – open and committed to being part of the whole.

  • Is synod competent? Well, clearly synod is made up of people with different levels of expertise and competence. But, the role of synod is to come to an educated judgement. This it did, just as juries (who may also be thought of as lacking in competence), parliament and other bodies do. After debate and discussion a decision is arrived at on the basis of the evidence provided and the quality of the argument. It seems that synod in the two recent votes found the evidence and arguments of those proposing the motions more compelling than those who spoke against or who tabled amendments. Silly old synod!

  • RevDave says:

    JeremyB said ” “There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament” is an interpretative position”.

    Jeremy, it is *the stated position of the Church of England since its founding*… and reflects the interpretative position Jesus had (read the Sermon on the Mount for instance)!

    Kurt, it is not an “Evangelical interpretation of the OT” from the 18th century evangelicals…
    it is a direct quote from the 39 Articles -ie 16th century.

  • Jeremy says:

    RevDave, when you have located where in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus identifies which specific ceremonial laws from the Hebrew Bible may be disregarded, please let us all know?

    As for the 39 Articles, Article XIX states that “As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred; not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.”

    I trust that no one thinks that the Church of England, alone among all churches, has not erred.

  • Crs says:

    Ger or sojourner two times in the OT. Hardly. Get a new search device.

  • Fr Andrew says:

    it is *the stated position of the Church of England since its founding* @RevDave

    Interesting. I didn’t think St Augustine of Canterbury had left us a guide to hermeneutics.

  • JeremyB says:

    “No, the distinction seems to be a Reformation conceit.”

    This would make sense. With the Reformation, and the publication of Bibles in the vernacular, the Church would have needed to develop an explanation for why it had been disregarding the Law of the Hebrew Bible for a millennium.

  • Jeremy says:

    crs, I wasn’t searching a concordance for the word “sojourner.”

    I was searching the internet for the phrase that you used in quotes, as though you were quoting something or someone else.

    Seems as though you weren’t.

    If you were quoting your own translation of a passage of Scripture, please let us know which passage, so that we may evaluate your translation and your interpretation.

  • crs Thank you for your warm and informed defence of the depths and riches of the wider Evangelical tradition in the church. Much as I value TA it is not the place I generally go to for informed and appreciative reflections on this varied tradition. Like you (I think) I owe it a great deal and pray for its continued place within the profound challenges of our times.

  • Caelius Spinator says:

    Thank you, crs. That seems to be a reasonable explanation for the outcome of the Council of Jerusalem.

  • William says:

    “There is a difference between ceremonial and moral law in the Old Testament.”

    “No, the distinction seems to be a Reformation conceit.”

    I am amazed that a matter that was definitively settled within the lifetime of the apostles is questioned and disputed on this website.

  • Kurt Hill says:

    Well, Dr. Seitz, your response of 6:40 is certainly more welcome than your comment at 5:08. At least you are engaging with me as one hopes you would engage with any student who offers a differing opinion in class—and I know it’s a very provocative opinion at that. Thank you.

    One of the things I value about Thinking Anglicans over the years is how it has provided me with an education in the diversity of Anglican views. I learn so much from people who post here—Dr. Seitz, and other Anglican conservatives, included. Over the years you folks have helped to motivate me to learn more about Anglican history and belief. I realize not everything I write here is going to meet with everyone’s approval. I do my best to back up my statements with empirical evidence that I can point to—even if I don’t actually footnote my comments.

    On the other hand, I’m sure that sometimes I am way off target, and it’s good to know that TA people have the patience to argue me out of a misguided viewpoint. So, I can also thank folks like David Runcorn, Tim Chesterton, John Sandeman, Peter Carroll, etc. I have learned a lot from them, too.

    Perhaps I am projecting my interpretation of the rather sad history of American Anglican Evangelicalism onto our UK sisters and brothers. Dr. Seitz apparently thinks I am. And, to be perfectly candid, for some time now I’ve been wrestling with possible reasons why American Anglican Evangelicalism has never seemed to be able to stabilize itself in TEC, but rather tends to break off and become part of the broader Evangelical Protestant community. (In TEC there is an historical pattern of Evangelicalism arising, becoming somewhat influential, and then leaving in schism.) I have some ideas why this might be so. But perhaps Dr. Seitz—and David Runcorn et. al.—are right to say my hypothesis has been too incoherently stated. I’ll see if I can refine it a bit this summer…

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  • crs says:

    “…rather sad history of American Anglican Evangelicalism.”

    If you asked someone 50 years ago what was the center of what you call “AAE,” the answer would have been Virginia Seminary. It didn’t decline. It accommodated liberalism in various forms. It now has a massive war-chest in trust funds and is the stand alone largest TEC seminary. It “stabilized itself” stunningly.

    Indeed I know of no examples of breaking off by institutionally demarcated “AAE.” The post civil war Reformed Episcopal Church looks by the standards of american evangelicalism hopelessly anglican and traditional and anti-pietistic as you mean the term.

    It would be far more accurate to say that pietistic evangelicalism in quasi anglican form is Methodism — a church body vastly more strong and populous than the TEC counterpart, whose average parish size is under 60 and average age about the same. So to speak about breaking away and fizzling is all but incoherent. The main body itself is fighting for survival altogether, measured against american religious supermarket footprint. Mormons are twice the size of TEC, which has declined as a body by 30% over past decades, and which was not ever large to begin with.

    “In TEC there is an historical pattern of Evangelicalism arising, becoming somewhat influential, and then leaving in schism.”

    As a term, “TEC” is about 20 years old. But leaving this aside, just what do you mean about the Protestant Episcopal Church of the US, given the above?

  • Jeremy says:

    “why these two motions should never have been debated. The first and most obvious is that both issues will certainly be addressed in the teaching document that the Archbishops have commissioned, so the motions are trying to short-circuit a wider discussion”

    The alternative perspective would be, of course, that the Archbishops’ three more years of “wider discussion” is an attempt to kick this issue into the long grass, until after Sentamu retires and after Lambeth 2020 takes place.

    Were I a Synod member, I wouldn’t stand for it. Nor, I suspect, will Jayne Ozanne. What issue will she choose next?

    Synod has found its strength and its voice. Give equal marriage in the Scottish Episcpoal Church a year or two. I expect the Church of England may tire of stories about faithful CofE members running off to Greta Green to get hitched.

    Perhaps Synod should opine on whether same-sex marriages celebrated in Scotland may then be blessed in the Church of England. Or on whether it is right for the children of same-sex couples married in Scotland be baptised in the Church of England.

  • Petro says:

    Ian Paul I do wonder if you know what you are talking about in regards to conversion therapies. Having gone through this (which doesn’t work – I tried very hard!) and also was exorcised and nothing happened. Please remember you are discussing real people in real situations. I am very open to a discussion with you, Please remember you are not talking theory but about God’s chosen people .

  • The list of prohibitions the Apostles chose (at the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council) to impose on Gentile converts in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia may well relate to a somewhat allegorical understanding of those Gentiles (in the church) as analogs for resident aliens (in the land of Israel), as the latter are governed by Torah regulations. The list includes practices that would be tolerated under Gentile law; it being reasonable to expect the Apostles had no need to forbid things already forbidden to Gentiles under their own law — one reason to see the “Western” reading as including “bloodshed” as a misreading.

    Of course, this list does not include all of the things required by the Torah of resident aliens. (Yom Kippur observance, Lev 16:28-29, or the requirement for circumcision for participation in the Passover — though both of these too may have been “spiritualized” to the church as the “new Israel.”)

    There is also some question as to the scope of “porneia” — there being no obvious need to forbid Gentiles from the various Levitical incest prohibitions as Gentiles regarded incest with horror. Were the Apostles thinking of male homosexuality — tolerated under Gentile law in some circumstances — or simply harlotry of any sort, also tolerated by Gentile law? One might very well think that.

  • crs says:

    The essays of Bauckham, Bockmuehl and others on Leviticus in Acts 15 are required reading.

    It is not an “allegorical” reading: gentile Christians are considered sojourners in the household of Christian Israel, according to the ruling.

    I have my own presentation of the reading in Figured Out (Westminster John Knox, 2001).

  • Yes, Dr S., I have read the essays you cite, including your own. I should perhaps have said “typological” rather than “allegorical” to be strictly precise.

  • crs says:

    Yes, Bauckham’s essay is very good at pointing out wider types being adduced in early Christian reading (pillars = apostles; called by the Name = baptism, etc).

    Sadly, the term “allegory” has become difficult to use in the modern period because it has become synonymous with fanciful, without rule, anti-historical, etc. David Dawson and others have fought bravely to clarify how typology and allegory overlap at certain key points but the modern mindset is occupied with historicism to such an extent it is probably a difficult climb for most.

  • CRS, it is good to agree on something! 🙂 I was using allegory in the older patristic sense (or as in Galatians 4.24f) where the overlap with typology is considerable; but the latter is more applicable in the present case.

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