on Saturday, 19 June 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Shunning and Cruelty in the Justice System of the Church
David Runcorn ViaMedia.News LLF: Building the Bridge as We Cross It …
David’s article should be read by Anglicans up and down the land. He homes in on the ‘bridge’ that needs to be built, into the future. It may be a bridge that some people find fearful, but perhaps it needs communities of courage to get it build and go across. And David seems to suggest that, in answer to the question “Who will lead the way across the bridge?”, the answer may in considerable part be, “Well, people living out their faith in their communities… you, me, living in community… maybe it is our own communities who need to show… Read more »
Mr Runcorn’s sincere plea to make LLF work is fair enough as far as it goes. It might work if some of the evangelical constituency of which he is part accepted that being nice and reasonable is the way all bible-believers behave. The ascendency of conservative evangelicalism in the CofE is unlikely to concede ground to “revisionists” who want their brethren to “to grow and flourish in the gifts and roles that are theirs.” What if these gifts and roles are perceived to be “unbiblical”? LLF is basically a reasonably pleasant, middle-class activity in which bible-believers are invited to be… Read more »
So Father David, if you believe, in truth, and in conscience, and your community believes too, that the ‘bridge’ needs to be built to the future… . Will your church where you are priest, and you yourself, be “the emergence of biblically discerning and pastorally confident local Christian believers and communities, responsible and flourishing in the vocations that are theirs”? Will you lead the way, and be part of grassroots leadership, exercising “the freedom of the whole people of God to imagine ourselves in radically new and adventurous ways”? . Because to draw on David’s article (and take it perhaps further than he would take… Read more »
Having been ordained nearly five decades, Susannah, I’m not now in a position of Church leadership to promote any of the ideas you propose. I do, however, agree with every one of them. Hopefully, the next generation of liberal clergy will do as you wisely suggest. If your proposals were enacted it would be far more effective than hours of tedious discussion at LLF for those who like that sort of thing.
Father David, thank you for your courteous reply. After posting my last comment I regretted it as I felt I had been quite brusque. I honestly meant nothing personal to you (we have never met) but I think I was writing a bit out of frustration. Sorry.
I think it’s not necessarily the case that the grass roots lacks willingness or is content as you say elsewhere in this thread to ‘cower’. I think it’s more a case of not knowing what to do. There would be a good deal of willingness to stick necks out if a) there were concrete and obvious steps that could be made (rather than vaguely symbolic gestures) and b) there was a simple and clear agenda, centrally organised, that supportive churches knew other churches in the network were following, a sort of ‘Five marks of allyship.’ But practical, doable not vague… Read more »
As a former member of the opposition, I perhaps take a more pragmatic view. It seems to me that there are a few options:
Have I missed any? Because I’ve racked my brains and can’t think of any other.
How about, 4) things shrink down to such an extent that the subject gets changed because it has to, as simple survival becomes the main concern.
Christopher it isn’t really a ‘subject’ in that way though, is it? Those, like yourself, who are opposed to any change, prefer to think of it as a subject so that you can solve and dismiss it. But in fact it’s part of the essence. The Church is the people of God seeking the kingdom of God. Some of those people are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, intersex. Human sexuality isn’t a problem to be solved. That’s why I think David’s approach the right one. The problem – the subject – to be solved is whether there is salvation outside of… Read more »
Andrew, You have such clear views of ‘my position’ that I enjoy reading how you will move past it. Bon courage! May your vision come true and flourish.
Oh Christopher if I’m wrong then I apologise and I’m delighted that you would like to see a change in the C of E in matters of human sexuality. May your wish come true and flourish indeed!
The two main joists in the CofE are the studied ability to muddle along and the unusual longevity of the reigning monarch, whose role as supreme governor makes the establishment character of this ecclesial body without analogy. A good ecclesiologist would likely conclude that the first is showing more rot than previously and the second is under God’s time stamp, and so it would be very surprising—especially in the consumer West—for the CofE to end up immune from the declensions characterizing all other regions of Christianity. That likely means some form of 2, though perhaps with more than one grouping.… Read more »
Christopher I’m not at all sure how your comment above is a reply but thank you for the points you make. I stand by my point earlier that the real theological subject is whether there is salvation outside of the Church. The joists that you allude to are symptoms rather than causes, and I maintain that the cause is the theological subject, and not the incidentals. Your own ‘position’ on the matters raised by LLF is fairly well known is it not? You initiated the (now defunct?) Anglican Communion Institute. It was clear in its conservative theological position about the… Read more »
Salvation outside of the church is the main issue? There goes another muddle. “Church”: Do you mean the CofE? One sincerely hopes there is salvation outside of the CofE! Do you mean “outside of sacramental Christianity”? In the highways and byways of jolly ole’ England? This seems strangely like protestantism’s hopeful card outside the deck. “Salvation” — what in the world does the word mean in your frame of reference? Salvation from what? Nothing else to do? Boredom? Being adrift? In this kind of world you are of course entitled to make your “joists” your own personal “is there salvation… Read more »
Christopher: you seem fixated on the C of E. Decline is evident in Churches all over the West. I do define what is meant by Church and salvation further up this thread but happy to recap. It is the people of God seeking the kingdom of God. I’m certain I don’t need to recap on the origins of the phrase ‘no salvation outside of the Church’ but once it became clear that the kingdom wasn’t the exclusive property of those who kept certain humanly dictated strictures then Church began to lose its appeal – at least in the West. I… Read more »
Rather than being seen as the Church putting restrictions on God’s grace, “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” can be understood as a corrective against individual notions of salvation. My salvation should not be possible in isolation from that of Andrew Godsall, Christopher Seitz, the gay man who lives in my street, the woman who refused the Sacrament because she felt I was being partisan over the Brexit Referendum, and so on. As Elizabeth Templeton wrote in her 1993 book The Strangeness of God, “Sooner or later I am going to have to work out how I am going to get to… Read more »
Indeed Allan, we are all in union with each other if we are in union with Jesus Christ. Our true and eternal unity comes not from uniformity but through our union in Christ. And as someone who believes God’s grace may extend further than many Christians like to suppose, there could be some considerable surprises. Or, perhaps we ourselves are surprises, dressed in rags as we come before God, and yet so very very loved.
“[W]e are all in union with each other if we are in union with Jesus Christ”. Susannah, this is fine as far as it goes, but it can become a get out clause for further divisions in the Body of Christ. What price catholicity, crucially episcopacy and eucharistic sharing? As C R Seitz suggests below, the C of E’s hold on its Catholic identity is up for grabs as it is.
Individual salvation has no biblical basis. At issue, rather, is the character of Christ’s Body the Church, not an abstraction over against it. If the CofE loses its claim to catholic identity — and that seems up for grabs at the moment — the Church will not cease to exist.
BTW, I didn’t realize my comment would be taken as an isolated response to you. I meant it in response to the wider question of the CofE’s future.
It would be interesting to know what Dr Seitz proposes to steer Anglicans through the issues relating to human sexuality. Apart from simply changing the subject, that is.
I’m not changing the subject. The subject is the severe decline in the CofE and how it might survive.
It is not popular to say here at TA, but far behind that is ‘steering through issues of human sexuality.’
I doubt they can ‘be steered through’ and I doubt equally their putative resolution would make the more significant subject–turning around the decline, stark financial realities, maintaining and filling church properties–disappear.
Just ‘changing the subject’ does absolutely nothing to help countless numbers of LGBT+ people. If this was merely an academic’s theological problem, then it could maybe be sidelined, but we are talking about the lived experience, and discrimination, and marginalisation, and distress of huge numbers of people. For the Church to simply put up with its harmful status quo, shrug shoulders, and say ‘just move on’ would be pastorally inept. In terms of the survival of the Church, do people not realise that many stop attending (or never start) because the Church’s status quo on sex and gender is so… Read more »
We were inclusive at the church to which I belonged as a member of clergy.Then came a new vicar who made in my opinion inappropriate comments to a same sex couple. Then it started to go downhill and it was so sad
Did the PCC call him/her out on it? I think inclusion is a resolve and conviction of a whole church community. Once the community knows where it stands on the issue, there should be no turning back.
By then the PCC had been filled with people who wouldnt challenge him. To challenge him was to become isolated as I discovered to my cost.
Nick Bundock’s piece at Via Media is very helpful on this subject.
Another reason why inclusion has to be mandated
Nothing like mandated inclusion!
I recommend reading the Nick Bundock piece Christopher. It shows how a move from exclusion to inclusion goes.
I thought Jesus mandated inclusion….?
Those lovely words: ‘Come unto Me’.
Oh precious saviour!
Of your options, I would prefer No. 2, Tim
It is certainly realistic, FrDavid H. If one holds the conevo view of Holy Scripture, nothing will convince you to change your mind and accommodate the impure. I hold that theology and scriptural interpretation are subservient to biology, and that we are all on a spectrum of sexuality with the possibility of movement on that scale, so all I can do is roll my eyes at those who are certain they know the Divine will. LLF is for the chatterati.
‘It is certainly realistic, FrDavid H’
Read the wording of #2 carefully. It does not say what you obviously think it says.
“Wishing to God the other side would leave” may not result in an actual split. However, a mass exodus of, say, supporters of LGBTQ people might result in Con Evos having the Church to themselves. That would solve their problem.
Once again, read the wording carefully. I see almost zero chance of either side leaving. ‘Wishing the other side would leave’ is not the same thing.
I agree, Tim. Both sides wishing the other would leave isn’t going to make them leave. But I can’t see what point you are continuing to make.
‘If one holds the conevo view of Holy Scripture, nothing will convince you to change your mind and accommodate the impure.’ ‘Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But Peter said,… Read more »
4 LGBTIQ+ people overcome the abusive, prejudiced, homophobic, transphobic teaching and culture of the Church of England and live according to the transformed lives we have achieved in secular society and model our understanding of radical Christian inclusion.
Hmmm… not sure about that, Tim. Sadly, that is often the case, at the extremes. But it can be possible to ‘live and let live’, recognising that both polarities have faith and conscientious views, and for Colin’s ‘4’ to be lived out at the level of many local church communities. Personally I think that’s the way to go. Colin may not agree, but I don’t think you can force a church community to go against what it sincerely believes. So I advocate grassroots radical inclusion and affirmation of LGBT lives, where that is the conscience and conviction of a local… Read more »
Colin says ‘4 LGBTIQ+ people overcome the abusive, prejudiced, homophobic, transphobic teaching and culture of the Church of England’. In other words, win a victory over that teaching. But how is such a victory to be won? I’m afraid that, for both sides (because the conservatives want to win a victory too), the default position seems to be ‘Carry on doing exactly the same things in exactly the same way, hoping for different results different results.’ ‘The same things’ being ‘Yelling at each other’ – in other words, #1. But what you are describing, Susannah, is not ‘overcoming’ but ‘ignoring’… Read more »
Tim, my expectation is that, in the end, the bishops will opt for a version of the ‘Scottish solution’ and call for unity in diversity, with respect for the right of conscience one way or the other. . I believe they have about 6-12 months to set that solution in motion, but beyond that I believe radically inclusive and gay-affirming churches should network and live out their own ‘de facto’ reality. . The outcome of LLF HAS to be a time-framed itinerary to allowing those churches that wish to, to celebrate and affirm gay and lesbian sexual relationships. . Otherwise,… Read more »
I hate that because essentially we get into “Our parish is fine. I am OK so I am not going to do anything” territory. That’s not Christianity as I know it.
Susannah, I really appreciate your thoughtful response to my proposal that ‘LGBTIQ+ people overcome the abusive, prejudiced, homophobic, transphobic teaching and culture of the Church of England and live according to the transformed lives we have achieved in secular society and model our understanding of radical Christian inclusion.’ I agree with your that “you can’t force a church community to go against what it sincerely believes” but I don’t think belief many local church communities hold a strong, conscientious, convicted belief in the “radical inclusion and affirmation of LGBT lives.” All the evidence I have from local churches and from… Read more »
Dear Colin, just before the pandemic broke I had collected a list of 500 C of E rectors and primary priests who indicated through their church websites and FB pages, or through signatures on petitions, that they wanted more inclusion of LGBT people. I truly believe that the churches are there. I suspect that also goes for many in their particular churches too. I do not believe the bishops will be willing to create a sweeping new ‘status quo’ that makes radical inclusion compulsory in all churches. But having now sent over 500 emails to bishops, and from their replies,… Read more »
I know that it will be intoned that numbers are irrelevant. Let’s not forget that the Scottish Episcopal Church represents well under 1% of the entire population of Scotland and the downward trend shows no signs of reversing. The CofE exists in a much larger total population, it enjoys the benefits of being the Established Church, and it finds itself in the same position in terms of membership, demographics, and downward slide. Count me not among those who believe squaring a circle on LGBT issues is going to touch a much bigger problem, much less resolve it. A collective of… Read more »
”A collective of churches that agree about LGBT issues is quite likely to happen. Why wouldn’t it? “
it already has happened. The ACNA was specifically formed as a group of churches who agree about LGBT issues. They even claim to be Anglican! So there is somewhere for those to go who want to be assured that they are *pure*.
Trust that God will fix it
…to which God will reply, “I sent you three boats and a helicopter…”
You have missed out one important group of people. It is not just two sides like in a football match. There are three groups of church members to consider.
There is a small group of anti-gay campaigners, a small group of pro-gay campaigners, and much larger centre ground grouping of ordinary Christians who do not get involved in the debate and who nobody ever considers.. We should ask this centre-ground majority group what they think?
My centre ground friends and former parishioners have moved on. They’re not interested in church politicking and have better things to do with their time and energy. Although I am more invested than that, it is certainly my direction of travel. The hypocrisy of Smyth and Fletcher and their homoerotic abuse sums up the silliness of the con-evo position for me. These two men were the poster boys of the con-evo movement and yet they were abusing young men. ‘By their fruits Ye shall know them’.
You are right Simon. I think if you asked most parishioners of the Church of England if they wanted to leave the Church of England over the issue of human sexuality… the vast majority would prefer to stay in the Church, and get on with everything else about parish life, and helping the community, and worshipping God. . It’s the absolutists that risk the schism of the church, and some will schism, but the great centre of the Church of England don’t want that schism, they don’t want to leave the Church of England. They just want to be Christians.… Read more »
Susannah, I agree with everything you say but for one word. You use the phrase “radical LGBT activists”. If we are asking for what the silent majority agree is entirely reasonable and sensible, how can that be “radical”. This is my entire point in writing that article. Thirty years ago our arguments may have been radical. But we need to realise that the world has changed, and now those same arguments are mainstream, even inside the church. The discussion we should be having is not over the morality of LGBT relationships. We are beyond that. The world has moved on.… Read more »
Thanks Simon, . I think the jury is out with regard to LLF. I think we shall have to wait and see a little longer. If the outcome of LLF is that the two ‘sides’ understand each other better, but the default that ‘gay sex is sin’ remains in place, then the whole process will have been proved to be disingenuous. There has to be more to the resolution than that. The arguments for and against gay sex have been pretty well understood for over 50 years and the Church of England has gone over and over the arguments. .… Read more »
Thanks for a very helpful article Simon. And I quite agree that there are more than two sides. I would actually add a fourth after your third – the ones who have a firm personal view on the subject, but don’t see it as an issue they want to split the church over. This was my position for over a decade. Actually, it probably still is my position, I’ve just changed my point of view from traditional to affirming. But I still don’t want to splt the church over the issue; I have too many dear friends who disagree with… Read more »
Thanks Tim. That is my position as well.
And I am very happy with your choices Tim and Susannah. Some of us choose to be loud and assertive to stir things up. Some of us choose to maintain relationships, to facilitate conversations across the divide.
I have come to believe that both approaches are necessary working in tandem. Neither approach, by itself, will achieve the change that I think we all want.
Agreed. Thanks Simon.
Thank you Simon also from me for your very helpful article. I was reminded of the similar conversation that went on about the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant almost a decade ago now. The article that Diarmaid MacCulloch wrote in the Guardian after it was voted down in the C of E is a helpful reminder of how the middle ground felt about things and how the fearful House of Bishops might be encouraged
My sabbatical in 2011 involved interviewing Anglican clergy in Australia, New Zealand and San Francisco about the proposed Anglican Covenant. The consensus was that the Archbishop of Canterbury ought to stop meddling. It wasn’t just rejected by English dioceses but by many other provinces too.
Again, I don’t recognise that approach in the Bible. Jesus did, and spoke for, what was right without worrying about how it might impact organised religion. I think one of the reasons we have been stuck in this mess for so long is the tendency of liberals to seek compromise rather than having the strength of their convictions.
In terms of realpolitik, Kate, how are you proposing the Church of England is going to be turned into a Church that imposes mandatory affirmation of LGBT people and their sexuality and gender? . Not trying to be snarky, but I honestly think you’d need a magic wand. People just don’t agree. So I don’t think your position is realistic. I think demanding an absolute and mandatory new default will (a) just be rejected by bishops; and (b) would just be rejected by countless churches, because the Church is divided- FACT. They don’t all agree with you. . Respect for… Read more »
Kate Jesus did indeed speak out. But did he ever do so in support of same sex relationships?
Personally, I think it’s clear that Jesus’s words, if accurately reported, sanction sex only inside marriage. . Of course, that begs the question: in a society where marital relations are affirmed between two men or two women, would Jesus have regarded that as sex inside marriage too? . My wider difficulty is that, quite honestly, I don’t think the Bible approves of two men having sex together. The harsh prohibition in the Old Testament is never directly contradicted in the New Testament, and I’m willing to bet that early Christians did NOT think it was okay for men to have… Read more »
The Church of England has indeed been reading ‘the Bible in the context of love’ for many years now with regard something Jesus did very strongly speak about- divorce and remarriage. This is the right thing to do. If only it would be consistent in this. . We don’t really know what the attitudes of Jesus time towards same sex relationships were- the evidence, even biblical is minimal. I always find it odd that if Jesus isn’t reported as having spoken about a subject we just assume that his views mirror the religious conventions of the time. Odd because, the… Read more »
The disciple Jesus loved?
Or the affirming way Jesus reacted to the Centurion and his boy, and it is entirely possible from what we know of Roman custom that this was a same sex loving relationship which the Jews, including Jesus, would have been aware of.
The centurion’s ‘servant’? The young man running away naked in Mark?
The point about all the above examples is that we simply have no way of knowing what, if anything, lies behind the text records. We are simply not told. The beloved disciple clearly implies a loving and deeply personal relationship. The disciple is not named. More is concealed than revealed – and I suggest that needs respecting. But in none of these examples is Jesus found directly, openly and clearly supporting/affirming same-sex relationships.
Nowhere is Jesus found teaching human genetics, biology and a psychiatric understanding of sexuality. He probably assumed the earth was flat and was made in 6 days. Why are his views on our contemporary understanding of such matters relevant?
“But in none of these examples is Jesus found directly, openly and clearly supporting/affirming same-sex relationships.” . You’re setting a high bar here. Jesus does not unequivocally ‘‘directly, openly and clearly’ mandate heterosexual marriage or else celibacy. He talks about divorce. He rocks up at Cana. Elsewhere he’s pretty disparaging of the whole marriage / family circus. How dare we demand direct open and clear support for Non heterosexuals when we don’t for heterosexuals? Surely what we do when Jesus has not been ‘direct open and clear’ about something (which given the changeability, complexity and diversity of human life and… Read more »
David, did Jesus ever speak out against same sex relationships?
Red herring/irrelevant comment alert.
I’d also caution against the idea that he was a flat-earther – plenty of evidence that the ancients had worked out (eg from the shadow of the earth on the moon) that the world was round (by which I don’t mean a planisphere).
It’s been suggested that the ‘flat earth prejudice’ may be traced to an early C19 US novelist, part of that strange movement which sought to elevate the status of the then ‘modern and progressive’ by denigrating the level of scientific sophistication of earlier people.
Re LLF, there is not much mention on this thread of the House of Bishops (HoB) or the General Synod (GS). The ball is in the HoB court to bring something to GS in 2022, based I hope on what dioceses feedback on their experience of engaging with LLF. At the same time, the GS elections this September will be contested primarily based on the same-sex marriage issue. It will be the most closely fought election since 1990. The new balance of opinion on the issue in the House of Laity and House of Clergy will be quickly tested, and… Read more »
I am sure that you’re correct in your analysis of the realpolitik but how sad that the bishops don’t try and lead the church into a more inclusive way, but just go with whatever the GS ballot boxes deliver. This failure of leadership is perhaps why the CofE is on its backside.
I suppose Fr Dean it is because the bishops are themselves divided on this and many other issues. Previous issues, remarriage after divorce and women’s ordination took enormous time, much argument and resulted in messy solutions. I can’t see this being any different, possibly more intractable. And as Dr Seitz has reminded us it is being played out against a background of severe numerical decline and massive financial problems.
Your analogy with remarriage after divorce and women’s ordination is apt. As is your reminder that both issues were played out in a smoother season.
Perhaps the tortuous progress and the messy solutions explains the severe numerical decline. Quite what will be left of the CofE when it eventually concedes the humanity and equality of LGBTQI people I shudder to think.