on Wednesday, 19 July 2023 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Theo Hobson The Spectator The Church of England is on the brink of a crisis
Morwenna Ludlow ViaMedia.News Giving Up Sex? What Macrina Tells Us About Choosing Celibacy
Morwenna Ludlow’s piece is fascinating about celibacy in those early centuries of the Christian church. It seems to be been a choice very much in the Hindu model – embracing celibacy and the religious vocation in the later part of adult life, after a couple of decades of a different but equally valid vocation, marriage and the production of wealth and children.
It is not that the way of a disciple was open to a select few, but open to many, but only after they had carried out their duties to family and community.
Or the hydraulics fail?
Exactly – there is a difference between moving into a celibate religious vocation late in life with maturity and experience and (being honest) a possibly reduced sex drive, and moving into a celibate religious life, as a lifelong vow, in one’s late teens or early twenties.
Some people may be called to the latter, but I think very few. I think there is wisdom in the first option which the Christian church seems to have forgotten, but I would argue it was around in the culture within which the early church grew.
What about the many people who just never find a partner?
Yes indeed, SA. As Basil Fawlty said, “another avenue of pleasure that’s been closed off” (1:19 ff here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTibvNMIwkY). We weren’t designed to live this long.
It’s perfectly possible to be thoroughly miserable from a young age if you follow the advice of some happy-clappy celibates, Some gay Anglicans think God forbids avenues of pleasure for the whole of one’s wretched life! https://www.livingout.org/resources/stories/16/vaughan
Oh yes. I know some poor deluded people of that ilk. Some of them grow up. Even when I was a child in repressed rural Methodism I always thought when “the word of the Lord” was shoved down my throat that “that was then, this is now”. I refuse to believe what I’m told if it flies in the face of evidence. I’m a proudly cafeteria Anglican. Like you, I find most people who self-identify as “Christian” not to my taste. Why do most of them pronounce it “krizchun”? It’s pathognomonic.
My problem with living out is the way they link sexual orientation and celibacy but I wonder if you think that celibacy itself is wrong?
No. Some celibate people are perfectly happy and fulfilled. The Living Out brigade teach that being gay is wrong, so impose misery on themselves and those daft enough to listen to them.
In my opinion celibacy for somebody with a vocation for it is admirable, but that should be a free choice, and such people are quite rare.
It depends on the motivation. To go towards celibacy as a vocation is fine. To enter celibacy because one’s primary motivation is to move away from a potential same-sex relationship is a very different, and much more questionable, matter.
Even Jesus himself said “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given”.
“In my opinion celibacy for somebody with a vocation for it is admirable, but that should be a free choice, and such people are quite rare.” Is it rare? Lifelong and/or at a young age it probably is these days but I suspect it’s not uncommon as people get older. One thing that concerns me about both the conservative position and the liberal one is the implicit expectation that most people want to be sexually active. In what is increasingly an elderly church, that might not be the case. I think more should be done to encourage those who are… Read more »
Kate, thanks for taking time to explain your position. I think we are in quite a lot of agreement. I still think it is rare to find a person who is suited to a life-long vow of religious celibacy taken in mid teens or early adult life. But such a life is very different from someone who, at a certain stage in life, moves into a period of singleness and celibacy, and who finds it exceptionally healthy and congenial, But who may have enjoyed a marriage or active sexual relationship before that period, and might enter one again later if… Read more »
Thank you Simon.
Theo Hobson’s piece as ever contains much insight sadly clouded by inaccuracy and sweeping generalisation. Among the latter, Evangelicals also are themselves split on this set of issues and many do not want differentiation – whatever that means- Some are campaigning for change. Then further we do not have alternative episcopal oversight – we have extended oversight. What the likes of CEEC want looks like alternative oversight. That ups the stakes and is effectively a split.
Theo is very accurate in pointing to the bishop of Dover’s comment as significant.
Theo Hobson is right that the C of E has been sold a myth that it has a special responsibility to the Anglican Communion. The splits in the Communion are splits within provinces. Every province must work on its unity. Bishop Rose is right – unity is not agreeing to disagree and institutionalising that. That is everlasting division. Unity is a commitment to keep talking and disagreeing to agree, with the humility to recognise that we all have something more to discover. If we have ‘conservative’ bishops we will never be united.
I think the key is to realize that none of us knows everything–indeed, that our very humanity precludes that possibility. And not knowing everything–especially about the will and nature of God–we must admit that each of us knows a little of it all. Thus, rejecting someone’s insight because it does not agree with our own is to reject a little piece of what we might know of the Almighty.
Pat, what an absolutely wonderful comment!
Anyone reading Morwenna Ludlow might want to also read Kate Lister in iNews on Viagra https://inews.co.uk/opinion/foreplay-vanished-viagra-changed-sex-older-women-forever-2478126 While totally different articles and writers coming from very different starting points, the two articles dovetail in several ways. One, perhaps, is that many older women have settled happily into a life of actual or near celibacy and Viagra can take that option away. So perhaps – before Viagra – celibacy in later life as described by Ludlow was still fairly common, but no longer needed the excuse of a monastic vocation. (It worth noting that a) people vary so there is no ‘normal’… Read more »
Theo Hobson needs to investigate to see whether the CofE banks with Coutts? We need to know before its accounts are cancelled for being ‘politically exposed’.
According to their latest annual reports, both the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners bank with Lloyds.