Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 11 May 2019

Rodie Garland Church Times Mental health needs communities
“More funding is welcome — but churches still have a part to play”

Marcus Green The Campaign For Equal Marriage in the Church of England Ribs to Go
“the use of Genesis 1 in the discussions about marriage”

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church IICSA on Chichester – some comments

Richard Peers Quodcumque – Serious Christianity Safeguarding in the Church: have we got a mental block?

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Susannah ClarkKateCRSRod GillisTim Chesterton Recent comment authors
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Kate
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Kate

I believe in equal marriage. I don’t believe that Genesis is a problem. But I don’t think anyone reading Marcus Green will change their mind. He fails, to my mind, to make a single convincing point. He tries to claim Genesis is symbolic, poetry. But read like that in no way diminishes the traditionalist argument.

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

The whole point of a literalist argument is that it is literal. And in Jesus of Nazareth’s day, the seven days of Creation was THE explanation for Jews. So I agree with you about Marcus Green’s argument. He makes a great argument, for people already thinking that way.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I think it is more than that. The arguments on both sides are being presented mostly by people who believe that marriage is “a good thing” and either are married or want to be. The thing is that Jesus was clear: most of us shouldn’t marry but there is a derogation for special circumstances. The implication is that celibacy should be the common state for Christians. Again, most of those presenting arguments almost certainly aren’t celibate and don’t want to be.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“The implication is that celibacy should be the common state for Christians.”

I’ve read any number of books where the author states that early Christians were SO convinced Jesus of Nazareth was coming back soon, and the Kingdom of God was SO near at hand, that celibacy was indeed the preferred state, since there would be no need of procreation in the Kingdom. Over time, the Christian community realized that marriage was necessary after all, if the community was to continue.

Kate
Guest
Kate

The community should continue through mission rather than procreation

CRS
Guest
CRS

Kate can lead the charge for this for LGBT+ advocates. It is a sure fire way forward.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I have three children. They are all committed Christians. One does aid work. One works in a Christian-based community with desperate needs in Africa. Admittedly the third one is earning a living in a commercial field. But they all belong to Christian communities. Would it be better if they’d never been born and I’d remained celibate?

Mission and procreation are not mutually exclusive. Sexuality and procreation can enrich and deepen life and spirituality.

If people feel called to be celibate, that’s special in its own and different way. Most people don’t.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

The “Shakers” tried that. It was a dismal failure. “Shakers were celibate; procreation was forbidden after they joined the society (except for women who were already pregnant at admission). Children were added to their communities through indenture, adoption, or conversion. Occasionally a foundling was anonymously left on a Shaker doorstep.[40] They welcomed all, often taking in orphans and the homeless. For children, Shaker life was structured, safe and predictable, with no shortage of adults who cared about their young charges.[41] When Shaker youngsters, girls and boys, reached the age of 21, they were free to leave or to remain with… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest

Kate, I don’t think this is primarily about convincing any strong opponent. Conservative evangelicals have been spending years setting their own framework for the sexuality and gender debate. They have drawn an ever decreasing circle of what hermeneutics they will allow. It’s time to break through that and to reject the narrow framework. It’s time to say that literalism is a childish way of approaching Scripture. I don’t think anyone is expecting to convince any genuinely conservative person. But this debate will eventually be won or lost in General Synod. And our eyes have to be on voters there, especially… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

It is clear that he doesn’t believe in literalism. He is marginally more successful in those arguments, but still far from convincing. But, even if one accepts a premise that he has successfully argued against literalism, he still fails to advance successful arguments against the use of Genesis to support heterosexual marriage. He argues that Genesis is poetic symbolism. The problem is that the symbolism in Genesis is very strongly of a difference between men and women and of (sexual) partnerships between men and women. Indeed, Genesis is at least as strong symbolically in support of heternormative marriage as it… Read more »

David Runcorn
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David Runcorn

Kate Greetings. I am struggling here. Are you saying Marcus should have been arguing against heterosexual marriage in Genesis? (in fact there is no ‘marriage’ in the garden itself – the narrator reminds readers of something already present their community- ‘that is why’). But a story of the origin of the human race the story surely needs to start with a man and a woman? I think that the story stresses likeness not difference though – bone of my bones. And the ‘one flesh’ is an expression of a wider community partnership, relating and belonging. Nor is any other kind… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Even if one accepts all of Green’s arguments, he still misses the biggest points. In the original Eden there was only Adam and Eve. The fact that Adam and Eve were companions says nothing about whether Brian and Charles would also have been companions had they also been there. Eden was an idealised environment of two people and there is no justification for extrapolating to more complex social situations. The ideal state, if Genesis is read literally, isn’t that men only pair with women, but that the Earth is inhabited only by one man and one woman who per force… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

I can only speak for myself, Kate, but I believe that sexuality is a gift in which we can deepen our understanding of God, and it is a consecrated gift, a gift in which God is involved, and – indeed – (and I realise there are those who would disagree) I believe that this gift of sexuality can disclose to us a deeper sense of the God who loves us and (I believe) desires us. Sexuality comes from the mind of God. I don’t see it as simply a practical provision of God, but I see it as a disclosure… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Firstly, the discussion at hand is Genesis and that identified the Fall with the sexualization of Adam and Eve’s relationship. Secondly, what is the Biblical basis for the position you are advocating?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Kate, Genesis does not identify the Fall with the sexualisation of their relationship; it was the Church Fathers who later did that. What did happen at the Fall was that Adam and Eve became ‘ashamed’, or embarrassed, at being naked. Before they had been naked and not ashamed. The command to ‘go forth and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it’ comes in Gen 1, straight after the creation and before the Fall as recounted in Ch 3. And after the Fall God says to Eve, ‘I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,’ which implies there had been at… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

1. There is nothing inherently bad about sex, sexuality, and sexual relations. Sex, per se, is not the consequence of sin. It is the consequence of genes. The Fall is not real. It’s not an event. Because the people who are supposed to have fallen were mythical and did not actually exist as first humans. They were descended from earlier species. To the extent that the concept of the Fall feeds into our attempts to understand truths about ourselves, it is a rationalisation for why people sin – that they rebel against God I suppose. But sexuality is not rebellion… Read more »

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Susannah is talking complete sense as usual.

Kate
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Kate

“I don’t really seek a Biblical basis for sex.”

Discussion becomes impossible once someone asserts that their own knowledge of God, not the Bible, is what matters

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

“Discussion becomes impossible once someone asserts that their own knowledge of God, not the Bible, is what matters.”

Why? I am not expressing something that other people do not believe as well: that sexuality is a gift from God that can deepen and enrich Christian discipleship.

We can consider bible texts, and I have (for 40 years), but we still have to try to make sense of what we understand and believe.

The Bible is not the only source of Christian insight and experience, and it’s certainly not the only source of knowledge.

John N Wall
Guest
John N Wall

No, I’m sorry, this is really wrong. Long before we hear about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the snake, we are told, in Genesis 1: 27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” So God gives to Adam and Eve the same command that he gives to all living things, to “Be fruitful, and multiply.” And, there is no indication here at… Read more »

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

Following up on John N Wall’s points, do we believe that ‘be fruitful and multiply’ is so very important? If we do, why aren’t we all in the Quiverfull Movement? (https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/books/q-and-a/a41047/growing-up-quiverfull-interview/)

Isn’t that all about living in an underpopulated world with no ‘social security’ other than having children to look after one in one’s old age? Which takes us again to the Big Question: if that doesn’t apply any more, what about the rest of the Hebrew Bible?

Kate
Guest
Kate

That’s not consistent with the text. Adam doesn’t “know” Eve until Genesis 4.1, well after the Fall. Moreover, in Genesis 3.16 God says clearly that a woman’s sexuality shall be her curse.

As to “be fruitful and multiply”, Eve was created from Adam’s rib, with no sex involved. That’s the method of procreation before the Fall. That’s how many plants for instance procreate. There is nothing in the text to suggest that the original intention was sexual reproduction.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Why does our view of sexuality have to be consistent with the text? What Fall? They didn’t exist. This is a story. A myth. It doesn’t have to be literalised. It doesn’t have to be interpreted in a precise order. The Bible is not a text from God. What we have here is a story, but I totally don’t understand why humans only had sex *after* the non-literal sins of non-literal and non-existent characters in a story. I’m afraid, when you argue ‘Eve was created from Adam’s rib, with no sex involved. That’s the method of procreation before the Fall…… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I meant to write: ‘the Bible is not a text message from God’…

It’s not a verbatim email.

It’s people struggling to make sense, as we too struggle to make sense. At the very least, the bible is not all literally true, and is sometimes written within the parameters of culture and bias and limited science.

It is also, I hasten to add, a deeply profound set of writings, capable of opening our minds and hearts at a deeper level than the literal.

That remains true, even if some parts of the Bible get things wrong.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Adam doesn’t “know” Eve until Genesis 4.1’

Even if you take this as a literal story (which I don’t), this phrase ‘and so and so knew his wife, and she bore him a son’ appears the OT when it is quite clear that it is not the first time the couple in question had ‘known’ each other (see 1 Samuel 1.19). The ‘knowing’ is of interest because of its connection to the conception of the child in question, not because it was the first time they had sex.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

A little after midnight… I had gone to bed, and I was trying to explain to my wife what we’d been discussing about sex. And my wife, being sometimes anarchic, comes out with: ‘So when Jesus showed up at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, and turned about the equivalent of ten barrels of water into wine, he wasn’t celebrating the wonderfulness of sexuality, but was just trying to organise a piss up? And make everyone so drunk they wouldn’t be able to do it anyway?’ And although, she being butch and I being more delicate, I wouldn’t have phrased… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

No. In Luke 20:34—36, Jesus says something very different: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage,and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” He couldn’t be clearer that marriage is part of the Fall, the Fall being that which separates the Earth from the Kingdom of Heaven. He acknowledges that marriage does happen but… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Kate, as I belong to a convent fellowship and actively explored becoming a nun, I assure you I accept and give thanks for those individuals who have a specific call to celibacy. I wanted to be celibate myself. I wanted nothing more. To be given to God. Because I know, in my own life, what it is to be taken by God. I had said to God, ‘I am willing to be celibate.’ But on the verge of becoming a novice, I realised the woman who is now my wife actually needed my love, my covenant, my tenderness, care and… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

One thing I’m absolutely sure about is that the most powerful tool God has used to transform me into the image of Jesus over the past forty years has been my marriage. Marriage has knocked the rough edges off me, forced me to be less selfish and self-centred, taught me about a life of love and service to others, given me a prayer partner and an honest, no-holds-barred disciple to walk with, someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth when I need to hear it. Marriage has been a means of grace for me. I have absolutely no doubt… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

The Miracle at Cana has nothing to do with people getting drunk, although sadly it’s sometimes depicted in that way. Isn’t the real point that Mary told the servants to do as he tells you, and that she was (or is) saying the same to us? The water into wine is secondary, although it was a sign of Jesus’ divinity.

CRS
Guest
CRS

Thank you for speaking something sane. For all the worry about ‘literalism’ it does raise its head with progressives, viz., everybody drinking to excess and having a raucous tilme, a ‘piss up’ — which of course the actual plain sense never says. Jesus calling his own mother ‘woman’ is likely meant as an allusion to Eve, as most sensitive exegetes see. (The only other time is at the Cross). Jesus is making all things new, a new creation, via a new Eve. Why this is now a springboard into private sexual details, which frankly I doubt anyone wants to know… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Richard Peers’ comments, in response to the book by Rosie Harper and Alan Wilson, just make commonsense. His analogy with the situation for Head Teachers in schools is well made. It’s the basis of how I have felt about safeguarding in the Church. Having worked in schools, both as a teacher and a nurse, for over 25 years, it just seems obvious that where safeguarding issues arise, the concerns should be exported from the institution to impartial and professional external agencies. This has multiple benefits: it protects the potential victim from an establishment’s pressure, or slanted response; it protects the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re: the Marcus Green article, better to challenge the suppositions of the literalists. The Creation story is a wonderful myth–but a myth notwithstanding. The writers/organizers of the myth could not comprehend, as we do, the continuum of the human sexual response as theory. Genesis is irrelevant to the debate over same sex marriage in the church. We must insist on this. See e.g. Aquinas, “That rib did not belong to the perfection of the individual in Adam, but was directed to the multiplication of the species. Hence it will rise again not in Adam but in Eve, just as the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

To take the early books of Genesis as immutable literal fact is like picking up a telescope and looking down the wrong end. Instead of everything looking bigger, everything looks smaller. The whole point of myth is that it communicates at a deeper level than straightforward mental control. It connects at a deeper layer of consciousness. And as such, I find Genesis superb. The narratives in Genesis resonate. And they reach deep into spiritual experience. It is like the experience of storytelling around the campfire: as the flames lick and flicker, as the stars overhead are strung like a necklace,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

I like the idea of the campfire story. We hear the story from Genesis, in the beginning. Then we hear the story from Plato,”Formerly the natural state of man was not what it is now but quite different.For at first there were three sexes, not two as at present, male and female, but also a third having both together.” -Symposium (W.H.D. Rouse translation).

Kate
Guest
Kate

You are making the same error as Marcus Green in his writing. You both are saying that Genesis is Myth not literal and we should reach for the core meaning not literal facts. The literal facts are things like the man being called Adam and the woman Eve, that God created everything in seven “days” although until he created Earth there was no such thing as a “day”. The core meaning is that God had an original intention as to how Adam and Eve should have related to God and to each other but, after becoming sexualised, fell from that… Read more »

Matthew
Guest

Hi Kate, I’m not convinced by your reading of Genesis, I think the fall narrative gives an origin myth of sexual shame, sexual inequality and pain in childbirth, but not of sexuality as such. I think the pre-fall creation gives us an origin myth of sexual difference and sexual procreation. However I think you have a stronger case in your reading of Jesus and Paul.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“Science is, however, just another belief-system and using it as a metric against which the Bible is measured is incautious.” Science is not a “belief-system”. It is a system designed to develop theories as to how the world and all that is in it operates…and to test those theories in experiments to see if they match what happens in the real world. Newton developed the theory of gravity in the 17th Century…and Einstein tested it in the 20th Century against new observations, resulting in the revised theory science now uses. One does not “believe” in science. One either accepts it… Read more »

CRS
Guest
CRS

It will be very interesting to see how so-called progressives get to be the ‘winners’ and then abide one another on each others’ terms. We are watching the beginnings of that, all under a rubric of ‘thinking’ — as if that kind of self-congratulatory cliché really discloses anything truly meaningful.

Have a pleasant end of the day.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

A few short months ago, I directed a production of “Inherit the Wind”. (If you’re unfamiliar with the play or the movie, I recommend them.) This entire discussion reminded me of one of the lines delivered by the defense attorney, Henry Drummond (based on the real-life Clarence Darrow): “Darwin moved us forward to a hill top, where we could look back and see the way from which we came.But, for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.” I note that Drummond is not saying we must abandon the lessons that… Read more »

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

If we could “abandon the pleasant poetry of Genesis” perhaps the Anglican Communion wouldn’t be so riven with divisions over sexuality. Believing that the Bible was somehow “written” by God, instead of fallible humans, some Anglicans adopt such fixed fundamentalist positions instead of acknowledging our understanding constantly changes. In the modern world of genetics, biology and other sciences, non-believers only laugh when we cite Mr & Mrs Adam as the basis of understanding our origins and human nature. What unique insight does the author of the Genesis myth have that we don’t? Human insight and ingenuity define how marriage and… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Great comment. I don’t believe the Bible was “written” by God. I believe like you that it was written by fallible human beings like the rest of us, who were trying to express meaning and understanding, on the basis of individual and communal encounters with God. We do the same thing. Understanding does change. As you mention, “genetics, biology and other sciences” have dramatically changed our understanding of the world we live in, raising challenges about the earlier understandings. It’s alright for people to get things wrong. The problem is if we don’t accommodate change. Then we, or our faith,… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The Christian religion has been obsessed, and often repressed, in the area of sexuality. (E.g. the championing of celibacy as a superior lifestyle , the institutional child abuse, misogyny, the exclusion of women from ministry and authority, the excommunication of divorced persons, the stigmatizing of common law relationships, the systemic persecution and stigmatizing of sexual minorities) The sexual revolution, begun in the previous century, gave voice by way democratic advocacy and new scholarship to those made strangers and outcasts both in their society and in their churches as a result of the church’s obsessive need to control sexuality–often with little… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

“The Christian religion has been obsessed, and often repressed, in the area of sexuality. (E.g. the championing of celibacy as a superior lifestyle… misogyny, the exclusion of women from ministry and authority)” …etc I couldn’t agree more, Rod. And not just the Christian religion, and acknowledging that God also tried to work in people’s hearts, like Paul’s, to assert no male and female etc. But Paul was a conflicted character. Elizabeth Johnson, in her book ‘She Who Is’, analyses the way Christianity has implicitly diminished women through religious history, and sometimes been a negative factor in the struggle for the… Read more »