Lecture at St John’s Nottingham

Here it is, the video of the lecture I gave on Thursday at St John’s Anglican College, Nottingham.


Post Gay – A Lecture at St John’s Nottingham, 6 Nov 2008 from Peter Ould on Vimeo.

Posted in PostGay, Sexuality, Theology, Video Tagged with: , , , , ,
  • Jon

    Amen.

    I think you are way ahead of where most people will ever be. Not even the most vehement, straight, heterosexuals in the Church might ever get this kind of stuff.

    Why don’t you do–and post–more lectures of theory like this?

  • Jon

    One more thing, I am a bit wary of what you said about the importance of things like culture, race etc. to God–but not sex/gender. I think human beings have run far and fast with such distinctions and to this day we have a hard time coming back from the brink.

    Even today, there are people who believe that anti-miscegenation laws are derived from the Bible (even though God gave Miriam leprosy at least in part for her attitude on this).

    Just as an aside, great sermons on this can be found here:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/48_Racial_Harmony/

    He also has sermons about sexuality if you care about it too.

    Anyways, in short I am wary of implying that God is at all impressed with my ancestry or that it is important to him beyond His love for variety in creation. Too many problems still stem from this.

    • Jon,

      I think what I’m arguing is that it is right to identify within the ecclesia those differentials that the Scriptures say exist. That doesn’t necessarily endorse them (for example Gal 3:28 recognises the existence of slaves in the church, but even a cursory reading of Philemon shows that Paul is opposed to slavery). I think you could validly do a “theology of slavery and servitude”, not as an excuse for it, but as an understanding of the experience. This goes for sex/gender distinctions (male and female). The same cannot be said for a “gay theology” and that I think is the point I’m making.

      Thanks for the Piper link. Piper rocks. Piper can stay!!!!

      • Jon

        Okay, I understand now.

        Peter, I am not so sure where this is going anymore. People don’t seem to believe in things like original sin anymore or the idea that human beings are flawed at their core (like you mentioned); and thus human’s “natural” morality is hopelessly flawed.

        Jesus has to come soon, because people have truly elevated themselves (and particularly their feelings) to the status of God; and many people openly state that it is God who has to fit their “natural ideas” about morality and not the other way around.
        I’m sure you’ve heard things like this before: “Would you want a God who didn’t validate your most treasured feelings?” “I couldn’t love a God who created me like this and then denied me the opportunity to live the way I truly felt.”
        (The Man created you! Are you listening to yourself?!)

        You know, until you posted that part of your thesis the other day I never really got what rebellion was about. It really is about “knowing good and evil” as if we were gods ourselves! You do not know how much of an epiphany that was. I really appreciated that.

        I also do not think people understand who God is. I really do. I think people have lost the capacity to imagine that God is larger than this world and exists outside of space and time and that his vision is far sharper than 20/20 and in more than three dimensions. And also that mere human logic based upon what we think are “facts” is often laughable in its results. We don’t know three-quarters of the “facts”.

        The idea that my immediate suffering as someone with SSA is not the be-all and end-all of true reality was one of the greatest burdens lifted off of my shoulders. God knows and God cares and he has a plan for me no matter how bad things may be or how badly I wish I did not have SSA; and I too felt free the day I decided that God would reign supreme and that if he wanted me to remain this way forever, I would have to acceot and trust His wisdom.

        I will not say that my story parallels yours; although I will say that I find women more attractive now than I have before (and I am not really trying either). I am not sure where this is going–although I do want a family; but whatever God decides I know that when all is said and done I will be thanking God for His providence and will know that what He determined was best was best.

  • Thanks for posting this, Peter.

    I finally got a chance to listen to the entire thing, and note that the really “sexy” part doesn’t come in until about 49 minutes.  (Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.)

    As I think I mentioned to you once before, I first thought of this (in particular, the bit about the Holy Ghost) around 1988 or 1989, and shared it only with a few people, who didn’t know what to make of it.

    I think you are on absolutely the right track, and urge you to keep on!

    Yours truly,
    Paul

  • I appreciate what you had to say in this video, it helped me clarify a few things in my own mind.

  • winston

    Peter, I wonder how the women in the room heard your particularly male description of intercourse as an image of Jesus, the giving of the Spirit and the believer or Church.  It is one of the most patriarchal, phallocentric understandings of God and his relationship with the believer that I have ever come across.  You may be post-gay, but you are certainly not post patriarchal.  However, I have to say that your near divinisation of the male organ to be not dissimilar to many a gay man’s view of it – maybe, not that post-gay after all?

    Also, I wonder if a logical outworking of your thought is that contraception has to be wrong?

    • Winston,

      I think if you assume that penetration is somehow always an aggressive, domineering act then you would obviously come to the conclusion you have drawn.

      As regards contraception, I think you would certainly come to the conclusion that the destruction of a fertilised egg would be wrong (for reasons of signification of the work of Christ). I think I’d have to think through a bit further whether contraception itself would be an issue, but you might be guilty of making a good point here!!!!!

      • Winston

        Peter, what about oral sex, and masturbation as well?

        • What about them Winston? You seem to think that I was being highly reductionist in my example of penetrative sex, as though I was leaping to the conclusion that that was the only valid form of sex between husband and wife. Nothing could be further from the case – I am quite comfortable with all kinds of sexual activity, I was just highlighting the example of penetrative (conceptive) sex as illustrating how St Paul is actually making a profound point in Ephesians 5.

          I strikes me that those who reject the penetrative model of sex as being significatorial for Christ and the Church on the grounds that it is in some sense aggressive (for example Adrian here) are doing so on the basis that it is somehow a patriarchal act in and of itself. That however seems to me less an argument against the signification of the act of penetrative sex and more to do with a rejection of penetrative sex per se. One wonders what they do in bed instead and how they ever came to have children?

          • winston

            However, it seems to me Peter that you make so much of the penetrative act as reflective of the relationship of Christ to the Church that me that one is left with the question why would one want to do anything that detracts from such a God ordained process? Particularly, if the oral sex was stand alone and did not lead to penetration.

            It seems also to me that if God directly wants us to make a link between penetrative intercourse and something of his own relationship with human beings, it would follow that what one does sexually in other ways with the penis ought to reflect back to the initial link.  How could it not?  So, how does a penis in the mouth of one’s wife connect back to Christ and his Church?

            With regards to patriarchy, I think something of my original accusation was something to do with your undue attention to the penis as representing Christ’s action in the world.  I am not too concerned with the aggressiveness of the act, women can be aggressive too – it is interesting thought that you associate aggressiveness in sex with men in your rebut on patriarchy, when I am concerned with your dualism with regards to penis-egg, life-death, Christ-Church.

            By the way, I still await your comments about contraception.

            Pax, Winston.

            • I wonder whether once again you are being too reductionist. The uniqueness of the penetrative act is that it is (to the best of my knowledge) the one sexual act that will deliberately lead to procreation. All other forms of sex don’t deliberately, and if you take the physical procreative act to be symbolic of the regenerative act of the Spirit within the believer, an action which is available because of the union of Christ with his Church, then it doesn’t necessarily follow that that means that oral sex (for example) is bad. So oral sex becomes another way of displaying the union of the two (if that kind of thing works for you) and yet it is not itself a procreative act. So one might argue that of all forms of sex in marriage, procreative sex is the form that *most* signifies the union of Christ and Church, but in fact all forms of affection and sexual contact still do so because it is the togetherness of husband and wife that is important, rather than the specific sexual act.

              My rejection of the allegation of aggression was aimed at Adrian’s article (which I linked to) and not necessarily to your comments.

              You do make a good point about contraception. I’m going to need to think about that and come back to you. I certainly don’t think you could argue that oral sex is OK but at the same time say sex with condom wasn’t.

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  • Blair

    Peter,

    2 quick problems with your reading that only the male can signify Christ and only the female the church:

    1) Gal 3:28 – “there is no male and female” – the text is in the present tense and surely doesn’t only apply to the ‘end times’;
     
    2) Surely the way you’re reading it implies that only the male can take any sexual initiative? If the union of Christ and church is a free, gracious gift of God, not due to human initiative, then following the way you’re using the analogy, only the male could have any initiative in the union of male and female? If this comment is valid, how do you square this with the reality of women taking the initiative in partnership and sex (…I’m trespassing somewhat beyond my experience… :) ).

    in friendship, Blair

    • Hi Blair,

      i) In context we can can see very clearly that the backend of Galatians 3 is very clearer a soteriological text. The argument Paul is making here is that when it comes to being saved there is no hierarchy between sexes, races or otherwise. What that would then lead us to understand is that Ephesians 5 is about the complementarity of the sexes, so that while we see a clear signification of the saving acts of Christ for the Church in marriage, we cannot (and indeed do not) read that as implying that somehow men are superior to women. We simply signify different things (and honour God in allowing ourselves to signify different things).

      ii) This is a good question (you do ask good questions Blair which really help me flesh out my thinking). I think I would want to respond by firstly pointing to my answer above about the hierarchial / complementarian distincton. But then beyond that I’d want to explore how my wife and I (for example) interact. A few nights ago she was all over me in bed (she tends to do it just when I need to fall asleep – grrrrrr). Now, was her desire for me entirely spontaneous and independent of my desire for her? Or was it born out of knowing that I desire her equally and that she has a long established sexual relationship with me? Once again, I think I’m picking up themes that Rowan Williams outlines in “The Body’s Grace”, but I’m being careful to maintain them within the clear sexual distinctiveness model that Scripture gives us for sexual relationships.
      In the same way, when I prayed this morning (Celebrating Common Prayer is SUCH a useful resource), did I wait first for permission from Jesus, or was my worship this morning born out of a long established relationship, initially begun by him, where I have learnt more and more of his interest in and care for me, and where I have developed my relationship with him and thankfulness for his saving work in my life?
      Our relationship with Jesus is an ongoing organic thing, but just because Christ is the one who continually brings things to life doesn’t mean that that which has been brought to life cannot express its affection to its saviour, to glorify him and enjoy him forever?
      Anybody for a spot of Teresa of Avila?

    • As an adjunct, as I’ve explored this picture more and more this week in response to some useful critique, I’m amazed just how the sexual signification model actually holds up when we have a robust view of Scripture and assume that it MUST fit together or else be useless.

    • Blair

      Peter –

      am very short of time but just wanted to say thank you for your responses.

      Very briefly I’ll risk guessing that you could read Gal 3 more radically – i.e. isn’t it saying more than that “there is no hierarchy between sexes, races or otherwise”: that all these identities are secondary to our baptismal identity? If so, doesn’t that put a question against the claim that what each sex signifies, is ‘fixed’ and absolute so to speak?

      Don’t have time to respond to (ii) – will do when I can…

      in friendship, Blair

      • Blair,

        Yes, but then you would have to somehow integrate that with the Ephesians 5 text which makes a very clear *distinction* between the two specific partners (and their corresponding sexes) in marriage. I believe that my exegesis manages to do that simply and profoundly in a manner that the critique of my interpretation of Eph 5 based on a “levelling” reading of Gal 3 is unable to do.

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  • Fay

    Do you happen to have a written copy of this lecture?
    Thank you

    • I’m afraid not Fay, but if you look on the top of the right hand side menu on this site, you’ll see links to key posts on sexuality which cover the same ground.

  • Peter, I’ve been meaning for a while to post and thank you for this lecture, from which I’ve greatly profited. Back at the turn of the century (!) Bishop Richard organised learning days for Oxford clergy on homosexuality. I went to one at Cookham. The format was a presentation from someone representing LGCM (I don’t remember the guy’s name) and one by Martin Hallett of TFT. It was all very illuminating because, quite honestly, I hadn’t really thought through anything much about the subject since a year 3 essay for ethics at Wycliffe! But what shocked me was that I went expecting the first speaker to be really put together and transparent, and I suppose he tried to be, kind of, but Martin came over as someone of real depth, honesty and put-togetherness about this, as well as caring about its Biblical dimensions. I’ve not forgottemn the experience, and it made me question radically the whole anthropology that lies behind the way the so-called gay issue is usually framed. I can’t see the underlying assumed anthropology as being in or of God, and this misframing gives birth to a string of false antitheses where justice is pitted against love, for example, where Biblically the first claim of love is justice. All I mean is “ask a silly question, you get a silly answer.” Christians then fall out over the various silly answers on offer, as they are stacked up against each other, and worse, against traditional Christian teaching. Welcome to a crazy place. I think you might be opening for us all a bit of a way forward. Thank you so much for taking a can opener to the underlying assumptions; and for your rigorous honesty about your own story, which is a rare resource to the rest of the Church. It reflected for me the same qualities I experienced in Martn’s, and has got me thinking afresh again. If the rules are that everyone’s voice is entitled to be heard and respected (and surely those are the rules), surely we ought to be especially respectful (good Benedictine principle) of the voices that don’t simply conform to type… They could well be showing u the way out.

    • Thanks for your kind words Alan.

    • Blair

      To Bishop Alan – should probably ask you this on your own blog, but couldn’t find a post about Peter’s lecture there: have you come across the work of James Alison, and that of Gareth Moore? Would also be interested to hear you expand your comment that you “can’t see the underlying assumed anthropology as being in or of God”, as I’m not totally clear on what that means.

      Peter – thanks for your answer to (ii) above. At the risk of sounding ungracious, I’m not sure that what you’ve said totally backs up your argument. When you say, “was her desire for me entirely spontaneous and independent of my desire for her? Or was it born out of knowing that I desire her equally and that she has a long established sexual relationship with me?” I can see it’s the latter, but it doesn’t follow from that, that what each sex signifies is fixed and inherent.

      Another question about your reading of Eph 5 – does it mean that men are called to greater self-giving than women, or even that they’re capable of greater self-giving? I ask given that Paul says husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, but wives are not given the same injunction. Also, does your reading mean that the ‘meaning’ of being male and being female is fixed and inherent (just to check out the last sentence of the above paragraph)?

      Re your comment about Eph 5 and Gal 3:28 – not sure how to integrate the two, to be honest. Noticed last night something I hadn’t before – that both texts are closely echoed in Colossians. Not sure if that means anything, though the context might illuminate things further. But I guess my problem with your exegesis is the way you use it to argue that same-sex unions are invalid, idolatrous – I’m not sure that that follows from an injunction about marriage – and that it seems to me you’re pressing the male/female, Christ/church analogy further than it will go.

      Have written these commetns in haste as my ‘net access is limited at the moment – sorry if I’m distorting what you’ve said.

      in friendship, Blair

      • Blair,

        Thanks for your continued debating points. Can I approach them in reverse?

        Firstly, your reference to Eph5 in your last substantive paragraph shows, I believe, a fundamental mis-perception of what I am suggesting. You write:

        and that it seems to me you’re pressing the male/female, Christ/church analogy further than it will go

        I think I need to point out that I am NOT making (nor is the text) a “male/female, Christ/church analogy”, I’m making a husband/wife, Christ/church analogy. This is vitally important because the Ephesians text is not simply about the sex of those involved but their specific relationship. That means that to compare Eph5 to texts like Gal 3:28 and to assume they are speaking about the same combination (male & female) is not to make the correct comparison. This has led you, I think, into confused thinking about what I am and am not saying.

        To your second paragraph to me – I think it might be reasonably argued that within marriage husbands (I’m sorry to labour the point but Eph5 is not about men and women per se) *are* called to a greater giving of themselves, which is highly contrary to our natural selfishness (or at least it’s contrary to my natural selfishness – other husbands can speak for themselves). I don’t think there’s anything in the text that implies that we should be more capable of such self-giving, and indeed all the best anecdotal evidence might suggest the contrary.

        I’d be grateful if you could rephrase your critique in your first paragraph to me in the light of the discussion being about husbands and wives, not simply men and women. I think that might make things a bit clearer for both of us.

        In Him,

        Peter+

        • Blair

          Hi Peter,

          thanks for that – you’re right to say that you’re “NOT making (nor is the text) a “male/female, Christ/church analogy”, I’m making a husband/wife, Christ/church analogy”, and that I didn’t make a disctinction between husband/wife and male/female, which does need making. You’re also right that one can’t compare Eph 5 and Gal 3:28 and “assume they are speaking about the same combination” – although given that the Galatians text is about male and female, and Eph 5 is about husbands and wives, maybe the Galatians text has wider and deeper application?

          So I think I was reading a bit too hastily above! But I think I could still question why, if Eph 5 is about husbands and wives, it necessarily follows that same-sex unions are verboten, given that the text does not address them – is there not a danger of making an argument from silence here? It might also be questionable why wives are called to a (for want of better phrase) ‘lesser’ self-giving – the complementarian thing you spoke of previously might put a question against that, perhaps?

          Must go…

          in friendship, blair

          • Blair,

            Well if it’s an argument from silence you want, then why not polygamy from Ephesians 5?

            I’m not sure I’d want to use the word “lesser”. “Different” is a much better word.

            • Jon

              I’ll say lesser. Gladly.

              I think (and if you listen to Dennis Prager he mentions the same thing from time to time) that women do not have to be reminded or even commanded as much to give to the relationship.

              Men, by nature are most often very content to be selfish with their emotions and singular in their aims (sex).

              I think this selfishness does often play itself out in popular gay culture, where sexual gratification’s paramount importance dramatially decreases monogamy for example. (The important factor is the male, not the gay. Two compound the effect, so it is more pronounced.)
              It also plays itself out in the context of sex therapy where it is very common for women to complain that sex has been rushed (little thought to intimacy) and that the experience afterwards is even more alienating (“He just rolls over and goes to sleep!”)

            • Blair

              Hello Peter,

              “why not polygamy from Eph 5?” – well, I don’t think it’s relevant. It’s not polygamy that you’re using Ephesians 5 to argue against. As an aside I’m not sure that polygamy is that close an analogy with same-sex relationships – the latter aren’t intrinsically about more than one partner (or about more than one partner at all for most campaigners, as you’ve noted yourself a couple of times), and the former aren’t condemned in Hebrew Scripture (the “one flesh” of Genesis 2 was -  I’m taking it – not taken to mean one partner only…).

              On the self-giving within marriage thing – you said, “I’m not sure I’d want to use the word “lesser”. “Different” is a much better word”. I brought in ‘lesser’ because you previously said that you “think it might be reasonably argued that within marriage husbands (I’m sorry to labour the point but Eph5 is not about men and women per se) *are* called to a greater giving of themselves”. I was taking that to mean, a greater giving of themselves than their wives are. And, granted, that’s one way of reading the Ephesians text – comparing 5v22 (and 24!) with 5v25 suggests that husbands are called to greater self-giving.

              But further up this thread you also said: “The argument Paul is making here [i.e. in Galatians 3] is that when it comes to being saved there is no hierarchy between sexes, races or otherwise. What that would then lead us to understand is that Ephesians 5 is about the complementarity of the sexes, so that while we see a clear signification of the saving acts of Christ for the Church in marriage, we cannot (and indeed do not) read that as implying that somehow men are superior to women”. I think I’m using a lot of words to make a smallish point really – that these two arguments are in tension. I think you’re right that Eph 5 can’t now be read as implying men are superior to women – but if so it can’t then be argued that men are called to greater self-giving within marriage, surely?

              in friendship, Blair

              • Hi Blair,

                Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, but I’ve been busy here and have also had some back problems. Quick first trip to the osteopath this morning and things sorting themselves out slowly.

                I think we do need to ask “why not polygamy?” I don’t think your argument from silence works because it opens us up to all kinds of interpretations which simply don’t exist in the text. I mean, Jesus never condemns child sexual abuse, but we aren’t going to surmise from that that such a practice is *therefore* OK.

                I’m going to take your last point be reiterating that Gal 3:28 is a soteriological point (as can be seen clearly from the context) whereas Eph 5 is about function. It is therefore quite reasonable to hold to a reading of Eph 5 of functional and significatoral differences between the roles of husband and wife, whilst at the same time happily affirming that soteriologically we are equal in front of God. So you could if you wanted to argue that husbands are called to greater self-giving in marriage than wives, though Jon above makes the useful point that that may be no bad thing!!!

                • Blair

                  Thought I’d better respond here Peter – goodness knows why you’re apologising, and look at the gap between your last comment to me, and this one!

                  Re your first paragraph: I still don’t see the relevance of polygamy, or child abuse, to be honest. I see what you mean in saying, “I mean, Jesus never condemns child sexual abuse, but we aren’t going to surmise from that that such a practice is *therefore* OK” – but all I was saying above was about your argument re Ephesians 5, and whether it can be used to say that same-sex sexual relationships are inherently idolatrous. I accept this may not be my strongest argument against this point of yours, but still…

                  Re your second paragraph: I think one thing would be, granted that Galatians 3 is a soteriological text – but if it’s true that salvation is now, then surely the text applies now, and can’t be ‘relegated’ to the end times (is that an unfair reading of what you’ve been saying on this thread?). Another thing would be: you say, “So you could if you wanted to argue that husbands are called to greater self-giving in marriage than wives” – but can this be done without holding that men are superior to women (if they have a greater capacity for self-giving)?

                  Hope I’m not misreading what you’ve said…

                  in friendship, Blair

                  • Blair,

                    The answer to your second question is a very simple “yes”, in the same way that just because Scripture calls all of us to chastity doesn’t mean that everybody unmarried gets the “gift of celibacy”.

                    • Blair

                      But Peter, if the answer’s ‘yes’, one response could be, ‘how’? How can husbands be called to greater self-giving than wives yet not be superior to their wives by dint of a greater capacity to give of themselves? Surely to say ‘yes’ is to hold that husbands are called to a greater self-giving, yet don’t have the capacity to do so – ie, an impossible calling?

                      in friendship, Blair

                    • Blair,

                      Why should husbands be presumed to be more capable in order to be called to do something different to their wives? I think you’re creating a really convoluted moral theology if you assume that just because we are called to do something we are automatically gifted especially for it. For example, I think it’s pretty clear that we are all called by God to no commit adultery, but are you seriously suggesting that everybody who gets married needs to have some kind of spiritual gift of never ever fancying anybody but their spouse in order to make such a command in any sense valid?

                    • Jon

                      Blair
                      December 1st, 2008 at 12:47 am
                      But Peter, if the answer’s ‘yes’, one response could be, ‘how’? How can husbands be called to greater self-giving than wives yet not be superior to their wives by dint of a greater capacity to give of themselves? Surely to say ‘yes’ is to hold that husbands are called to a greater self-giving, yet don’t have the capacity to do so – ie, an impossible calling?
                      in friendship, Blair
                      ———————————–
                      I think we need to abandon this language about “calling”. It confuses far too many people–particularly people who use it frequently in my humble opinion.
                       
                      Besides we are not “called” to do anything in our own capacity anyways. As the parable shows, the same rules (wages) apply to all the “labourers” regardless of how different their labour situation is.
                       

  • Excellent Peter.  It’s so refreshing to hear others thinking outside the box.  We need to set up a time to talk on the phone :).

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  • Blair

    Hello good people.

    Peter, taking your first question – you’ve modified the words to “called to do something different to their wives”; whereas it was “called to greater self-giving”, in the phrase you used above. I wasn’t trying to create a “convoluted moral theology” (and hope I haven’t without wanting to), but taking it that if we’re called to do something, we’ll be given the capacity to do it. That’s not the same as saying that we’ll be “gifted especially” for it or that it’ll be easy and there’ll be no temptations on the way. So no, I’m not “seriously suggesting that everybody who gets married needs to have some kind of spiritual gift of never ever fancying anybody but their spouse” – not least because a command (like the one not to commit adultery) isn’t the same as a calling to something, I’d suggest.

    Jon – i may well be confused, and perhaps out of my depth. To be honest I’m not sure that the parable of the labourers in the vineyard applies here, but that may be unfair. And at the risk of getting further out of my depth I think the language of calling has some good in it and could be worth holding on to… eg God is said to call all things into being (…wondering where I’m getting that from now…), so ‘calling’ might be said to have to do with creation. Perhaps linked to this, ‘vocation’ maybe isn’t simply about finding a role, but about the (re)creation of a person…?

    Hmm, may not have clarified anything there…

    in friendship, Blair

  • Blair

    Hi Peter,

    just wanted to attempt another comment on this thread, hopefully sounding less tedious than I did above.

    It occurred to me that when we were debating about Rowan Williams’s essay ‘Knowing myself in Christ’ (from Timothy Bradshaw, ed., The way forward? – but you probably remember that), I quoted the bit about same-sex desire being a mark of disorder and asked if you agreed or not  (wish I could recall what thread this was on). If memory serves you replied that you felt same-sex desire was a mark of disorder. What I wondered was, does that fit with the paradigm you’re talking about in this lecture? If I’m understanding rightly, you’re wanting to shift us away from thinking that moving towards heterosexuality = moving towards God – away from getting hung up on ‘how gay am I?’, if you like (!). I can see there’s positive things about that (eg not discouraging people who don’t see any change in their sexual attractions). But I’m not sure that this shift in thinking, fits with saying that same-sex desire is a mark of disorder.

    OK, no less tedious then.

    T’other thing I wondered was, does the thing about only the husband signifying Christ, and only the wife the church, have any bearing for you on the debate about the ordination of women?

    in friendship, Blair

    • Evening Blair,

      As to your first question (on homosexuality as a disorder) I think I would still broadly say that homosexuality *is* a disorder, but at the same time I’m very clear that the Scriptures don’t talk about sexual orientation. If anything in my position has shifted it’s that I’m more relaxed about where the nature/nurture divide is on sexual orientation development then I was say two years ago. I think the evidence is increasingly showing us that there is for most people some form of biological component to their sexual orientation, and that therefore some people might not find sexual orientation change an easy thing to accomplish/experience. That’s why I think I want to move gently away from that bi-polar view (gay or straight) as I don’t think it’s what the Bible says we should be focussing on and neither is the journey along that spectrum as easy for some as it may be for others.

      As to your second question, the answer is an emphatic “yes”.

      • Blair

        Hello Peter,

        taking your second response first: given that much of the C of E is pro the ordination of women (and given the decision about consecrating women to the episcopate), following your argument that would mean the C of E should also be pro same-sex sexual relationships, shouldn’t it? I know I’m being a bit provocative, but given that you apply your argument based on Eph 5 to same-sex relationships and the ordination of women, doesn’t that mean accepting the former must follow acceptance of the latter?

        Thanks for your thoughts on the first question (and indeed for giving time to answering any of my comments). I feel a bit unsure about how to respond, because part of me wants to say ‘you’re contradicting yourself’ – for if homosexuality is a mark of disorder, that surely goes with the first model, the one you’ve called ‘the false paradigm’, and doesn’t really fit with the one you’re wanting folks to move to. On the other hand, (a) I’m aware that I’m sitting here picking over what you say and that you make yourself vulnerable (even if only a bit) by publishing your journey and thoughts, in ways that I don’t as my thoughts etc aren’t open to your scrutiny in the same way. In addition (b) I realise, as I think I said above, that you’ve at least one very good reason for advocating a shift from the one model to the other (“neither is the journey along that spectrum as easy for some as it may be for others”).

        One other thing – you said above, as you’ve said before, that you’re “very clear that the Scriptures don’t talk about sexual orientation”. In any modern sense, clearly that’s true – but I wonder what your thoughts are on Romans 1:24 (and first half of v26)? Verse 24 begins, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…”. If the references to same-sex sexual acts in Romans 1 are to be read as straightforwardly applicable to same-sex sex now, isn’t the same true of those references to same-sex sexual desires ? Granted as I say, that that’s not talking about sexual orientation in a modern sense – but isn’t it ‘the nearest thing’ in Scripture to that? Romans 1 doesn’t seem to make the ‘acts / orientation’ distinction. I think I got this from Gareth Moore OP (A question of truth) but i may have mangled it and don’t have the text to hand just now…
         
         
        in friendship, Blair

  • Robert Simpson

    Peter, on the ordination of women subject,  do you think there is any difference in the acceptability of women as priests and women as bishops?  I seem to remember from other posts that you are not very enthusiastic about the latter but I don’t remember your saying anything about the former; however, I suppose that might be just because the latter question is more topical at the moment.

    • Robert,

      I don’t think there’s really much theological difference in opposing women priests and women bishops. I think though there’s a huge danger in characterising the opposition to priesting women as being a denial of the call to ministry that some women genuinely do have. Those of us who are opposed to women’s priesting are opposed on the grounds of headship (so where does the buck finally stop) and sacramental representation (can a woman truly be the locus of the community at the Eucharistic Table). There are other aspects of ordained ministry that women are more than capable of doing and indeed have obviously been called to do, and should be encouraged to do.

      Blair,

      Can I respond to the meat of your comment later this week? Too tired at the moment to give it the thought it needs.

      Peter+

  • Tim Wright

    Hi Peter,

    Really appreciate you affirming that no one is gay. I have been saying this for years. I find that one of the ways that satan uses to undermine the authority of God is to change the vocabulary. Before abortion was popular, their was a baby in the Mothers womb, now it is a fetus. Its the same thing wit the gender situation. There are male and female, thats it. No there are many variations because of genetic abnormalities. No one can change their sex. If they were to check someones DNA, it would either be male or female no matter how much hormones they are injecting to fight their identity. They would be able to clearly say that this person is a female or male but trying to suppress their sexual identity.

    I am not sure if you are familar wit the work of Robert Gagnon from the USA. He is the undisputed evangelical authority on this issue. Here is brief clip from a seminar that can be ordered from the States.

    http://www

    Cheers

    Tim

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for you comments. I think we need to be careful when we say “no-one is gay” to clarify what we mean by that statement. What we are talking about is a Biblical anthroplogy that simply doesn’t categorise people that way. At the same time, it is abundantly clear that there are very many people who experience same-sex attraction and that as a result of that they establish a “gay” identity which *is* an operating anthropology for them, even if there is no substantive biological support for the sociological construct.

      • Tim Wright

        Hi Peter,

        I agree that we need to be clear in these terms, but society would want to dictate what they perceive to be the reality when in fact it is not the reality. We as the church need to be clear and speak from the Bible as the authority. The Bible is the authority on this issue and we should not be intimidated by the words of man. We do say this from a position of humility and shalom. An example would be when the body of Christ  abrogates all the power and authority that Jesus gave them and acts like government has their power and authority. We have the power and authority that comes from Jesus because we belong to him. I hope I am not sounding too arrogant and insensitive.

        My best friend wrestled with same sex attraction and he is more emotional, spiritually and physically whole than ever before and is happily married with three kids.

        The church in the west seems to have lost the plot. 2 Tim 1:7 is our posture in society. Bless you

        Tim

  • Peter, I have had another look at this.

    I was wondering; would you think it safe to say that because the union of man and woman is somewhat of a representation of the character/nature of God (since maleness and femaleness to an extent are “in his image”), that the sexual union of a man and a woman is more than just an act but actually a statement about the nature of God?

    And this every time someone commits adultery, hey are not only “hurting their spouse” but they are (in the sexual act) actively blaspheming against God’s name? (Saying that God is unfaithful to His church).

    Or in the case of a gay male couple, disparaging/denying the relationship God has with the church?

    Following on from this I had the impression that non-marriage sexual unions create a false image of God and are thus in fact idolatrous by definition.
    Is this what Paul was talking about in Romans 1 (changing God’s truth into a lie and worshiping the creature more than the creator)?

    Anyways, I guess I as hoping for your opinion on the matter.

  • Peter,

    Thank you for this wonderful, lucid lecture. I came across your website a while ago. Then I came across it today. I am a student a North American theological school and a LGBT affirming organization organized an event themed "Homosexuality and the Black Church."

    The panel discussion were gay-affirming and there wasn't any room for disagreement. Listening to your testimony and theological reflection is refreshing. This is much needed theological anthropology. May the Lord continue to bless you, your family, and your ministry.

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