Civil Partnerships and the Proposed Changes

I’ve been asked by an Anglican organisation to provide a summary of the proposed changes in the law and their possible implications. Here’s what I’ve produced, but if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Civil Partnerships and the Church of England

Civil Partnerships were introduced in the UK in 2005. The Civil Partnership Act (“the Act”) allows two people to register a Partnership as long as they are not related (the same degrees of relationship which prevent marriage). In almost all aspects Civil Partnerships confer the same legal benefits and responsibilities as marriage. The one crucial difference however is that the Act makes no assumption that a Civil Partnership will be sexual in nature (and indeed there had been some debate as to what technically might constitute “consummation” in such a relationship). As we will see shortly, this difference to the understanding of marriage has been crucial in the Church of England’s response to Civil Partnerships.

The English House of Bishops produced a pastoral statement to respond to this change in the law. The key parts of that statement were:

  • A recognition that since Civil Partnerships were not intrinsically sexual, clergy could enter into one provided they gave assurances to their Bishop that their relationship was not sexual.
  • Since a Civil Partnership could be sexual and since the doctrine of the Church of England was that sex belonged within the marriage of a man and a woman, clergy were not permitted to bless Civil Partnerships. Appropriate pastoral responses could be made (see for example this sample order of service which it is argued is acceptable) but as might be expected this is a matter of contention.

The Current Marriage / Civil Partnership Law in England

It is important to realise that the United Kingdom is actually made up of four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. England and Wales for the large part share the same legal system. Scotland and Northern Ireland have different legal systems which although similar, have some differences.

  • In England and Wales marriages can be solemnized by a Church of England (or Church in Wales) priest or deacon (deacons have a legal entitlement to marry but most Bishops do not permit their deacons to do so as a marriage involves a blessing), a Quaker officiant, a Jewish Rabbi (Quakers and Jews have particular forms of marriage that are formally recognised by English and Welsh law), some other authorised person in a religious building or a state registrar. This means that if you want to get married in a non-denominational church often you must either first have a civil marriage or have a registrar present at the marriage in the church.
    If you have a marriage in a non-religious building you cannot have any religious content in the ceremony.
    English and Welsh law recognises marriage in the Church of England (or Wales) as being an alternative form of marriage governed by Canon Law whereas civil marriage (including Quaker, Jewish and other religious marriages) are covered by Civil and Common Law.
  • In Scotland marriages can be solemnized by a minister of the Church of Scotland (this is the Presbyterian Church which is the state church, not the Episcopal Church of Scotland), a clergy person of another religion that is recognised by the Scottish Office (the government department responsible for Scotland) or a state registrar. Unlike England and Wales, Scotland does not recognise marriage in the state church as a separate way of getting married subject to its own laws.
  • In Northern Ireland marriages can be solemnized in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), most of the Presbyterian Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, a synagogue or a Quaker meeting house. Other religious groups tend to get a civil marriage done before a religious ceremony.

Civil Partnerships can be registered in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are separate sections of the Act of Parliament covering the three different legal territories, but to all intents and purposes the law is the same. The only place you can register a Civil Partnership is in a registry office or in a non-religious building that is registered to have Civil Partnerships and Marriages. You cannot have any religious content during the ceremony.

The Proposed Changes

The proposed changes are only for England and Wales. The proposal is that religious buildings will be allowed to register to permit a Civil Partnership ceremony to take place. There would also be a lifting of the ban on religious language in a Civil Partnership ceremony (and in civil marriages). The change would be permissive rather than prescriptive, meaning that churches and other religious buildings would need to opt into these changes rather than opt out of them. A church would not be forced to host a Civil Partnership, but many organizations (like the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews) would welcome such an opportunity.

Possible Problems for the Church of England

It is very clear that the Church of England will continue to forbid their clergy to bless civil partnerships. However despite this, a number of issues are still to be sorted out.

  • Large numbers of English vicars and rectors have what is called “Freehold”. They hold the local parish property in trust for the parish and are de facto owners of the church they minister at. It is unclear whether a Bishop would have the legal authority to prevent a freeholder registering his church as a place where Civil Partnerships can be celebrated.
  • If a freeholder manages to successfully register an Anglican church as a place where Civil Partnerships can be celebrated, a registrar could then be invited to conduct the ceremony (which could be combined with a service similar to the one above). The freeholder would not be conducting the ceremony but such a ceremony would still take place in the church. It is unclear whether the Bishop would be able to discipline his priest in these circumstances.
  • A Church of England priest who is also a Civil Partnerships registrar (for example, a non-stipendiary clergyman working for his local council) may be able to lead such a ceremony in a religious building (whether Church of England or otherwise) that has religious components within it (including, crucially, a blessing). It is unclear whether the Bishop would be able to discipline his priest in these circumstances.
  • There is a concern that the changes in the law may move from being permissive to being prescriptive (i.e. in a few years time it may become an offence to refuse to host a Civil Partnership ceremony in a church if you are willing to host marriages).

Because of these issues it is likely that the Church of England will seek clarification from the Government as to what the implications of the proposed changes will be and in particular to address these and other issues directly in the legislation.

Summary

Remember, these are proposed changes and are not yet law or even beginning to pass through the British Parliament. However, if they happen then as we have seen above there are a number of issues for the Church of England which it will seek for the government to clarify.

Some have argued that this is one more step along the road towards permitting gay marriage, but such a move, given that the English Marriage Act of 1949 officially recognises the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer as the way that marriage is enacted in the Church of England, would require either disestablishment of the church or a substantive change to the Prayer Book in order to happen.

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  • Sue

    "given that the English Marriage Act of 1949 officially recognises the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer as the way that marriage is enacted in the Church of England, would require either disestablishment of the church or a substantive change to the Prayer Book in order to happen."

    Or a change to the English Marriage Act?

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      You couldn't have a Marriage Act that allowed everyone else to marry two people of the same sex but permitted the Church of England (and Wales) to discriminate. The courts would have a field day given the other rights to marriage in the parish church that people have.

      In order to permit gay marriage a fundamental fracture of the Church of England / State relationship would have to occur (or a change in the doctrine of the CofE, but I can't see that happening).

      • Sue

        I don't see why not. The Church of England is exempt from certain aspects of Equality Law, isn't it, (otherwise it would have had to have allowed women bishops and actively gay bishops by now), nor are churches compelled to marry divorcees – even though "everyone else" is – if by that you mean the civil registry offices. So the church is permitted to discriminate at this moment in time, why couldn't that continue?

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Two things:

          i) The Book of Common Prayer states that marriage is a union of a man and a woman. If that remained then the law of the land would state that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. Permitting "gay" marriage in state registries but not the Church whilst allowing "straight" marriage in both institutions would cause an irreconcialiable contradiction.

          ii) The Church of England's exemptions are to do with the "employment" of clergy. As the Reaney / Priddis case demonstrated, even senior lay employees are possibly not subject to the exemption. Certainly, the current exemptions would not cover a gay couple coming off the street asking to be married.

          • Sue

            Peter, on Jan 20th 2011, you wrote in a post replying to my comments,

            "For example the last sentence of your first paragraph above is factually incorrect. A cp does NOT afford the same rights and protection as marriage. If you think otherwise, please demonstrate so."

            But in your post above you seem to have changed your mind/ understanding as you write,

            "In almost all aspects Civil Partnerships confer the same legal benefits and responsibilities as marriage."

            Please forgive me if I do not place unlimited faith in your understanding of English law.

            There would be a contradiction undoubtedly, but you cannot assume that contradiction would be "irreconcilable". I think you assume that there is no way around something when it seems illogical to you. However the basis of the law of the land is not the thoughts and perceptions of the Rev Peter Ould.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              i) A is not the same as B

              ii) A is almost identical to B

              No logical inconsistency whatsoever. Both statements of mine that you quote are factually correct. Marriage and Civil Partnership do NOT provide identical legal rights and responsibilities but they are very similar. A very clear (and very important) example of the differences is that non-consummation is not grounds to dissolve a Civil Partnership. Civil Partners do NOT have a responsibility or obligation to form a sexual union with their partner, whereas marriage partners do.

              Can I suggest that you are nit-picking because you don't like the fact that in England "gay marriage" would require a fundamental constitutional shift? Perhaps you should detail for us your proposed amendments to the 1949 Marriage Act which would make this possible?

              • Blair

                Peter,

                that's as may be, but I might slightly cheekily remind you that when I asked you on another thread to list what rights a civil marriage confers that a CP doesn't, you couldn't answer. I've asked Peter Tatchell the same qu (name dropping charge admitted, your honour :) and his answer was rather less than convincing.

                Also, if you're serious about asking for suggested changes, could I suggest looking at Jacqueline Humphries' 'Church Times' article I linked to before – I think she's clear and helpful on the sexual / non-sexual thing.

                in friendship, Blair

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  Not answering isn't the same as an inability to answer.

                  And I think I've outlined for you above one clear way in which marriages and civil partnerships are, whilst similar, fundamentally different.

                  • Blair

                    Hi Peter,

                    granted that "Not answering isn't the same as an inability to answer", and also that I was being a bit snippy given most of your opening piece is pretty good. Though you still aren't answering what the differences of rights are… :)

                    Here's a link to a longish piece by barrister Jacqueline Humphries:

                    http://www.sarmiento.plus.com/cofe/humphreys.html

                    …the one change I would suggest is drawing on some of her material, especially from the section, 'Sexual Relationships'. It does look a bit contradictory near the beginning, for you to note that CPs have the same prohibited degrees of relationship as marriage, but then to say that there is "no assumption that a Civil Partnership will be sexual in nature". I think her article would clear up the question about consummation too.

                    in friendship, Blair

              • Sue

                Can I suggest that you are nit-picking because you don’t like the fact that in England “gay marriage” would require a fundamental constitutional shift?

                Well, you can and have suggested that I am nit picking because of that – it just so happens you'd be wrong! If gay marriage would require a fundamental constitutional shift I'm fine with that and think it is high time such a shift came about. The need for such a shift wouldn't bother me at all- and I see it coming in one way or another.

              • Sue

                You do not have the right to dissolve a Civil Partnership because of non consummation because of the difficulties inherent in defining the consummation of a same sex relationship.  I think the "difference" here relates to the anatomical situation of a same sex partnership NOT in any intention in law to see CPs as inferior or as MATERIALLY different from marriage. You cannot give someone a "right" that you cannot define. So the different rights here are peripheral and incidental not materially significant and not I would suggest intended to be regarded that way in law.

                I think you fail to see the wood for the trees.

                For example, I suspect that the Government will be much more concerned about whether it is in line with human rights legislation than the book of Common Prayer. I could be totally wrong and off the wall there, of course, but it's just a hunch…

                I suspect a lot of people in Parliament see the association between Church and State as deeply anachronistic and on its way out. I don't think they intend to be held hostage in any way by the Church – look at Frank Field's recent EDM.

                I don't know why you ask me for my "proposed amendments to the 1949 Marriage Act"? Goodness, I am not that learned or pompous!  I am interested in looking at the issues broadly, and am not nearly arrogant enough to think I have the expertise to formulate law!

                I shall sit back and watch what they do with interest though.

                • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

                  You are also unable to dissolve a CP on grounds of adultery – presumably nothing to do with anatomical issue.

                  • Sue

                    I suspect it IS anatomical and  to do with how you define "adultery" – in a heterosexual sense adultery involves penetration – outside of this where do you draw the boundaries – a kiss, a grope, oral sex? But you can dissolve a CP on the grounds of "unreasonable behaviour" – infidelity might well come under this area.

                    Feminist thinking might argue that the reliance upon the act of penetration as a defining factor in adultery is an archaic, Patriarchal and phallocentric notion anyway!

                    • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

                      [Apologies for coming back to this late - been stuck using my phone, and it doesn't show threads very well.]

                      It's a definition issue, and nothing to do with anatomy. CPs are defined in such a way that neither party is a 'spouse', spouses exist only in marriage. Adultery is defined as 'with someone not your spouse', thus no adultery is possible in a CP. The legislation seems to have been framed in such a way as to clearly distinguish between marriage and CPs.

                      Interesting that you jumped to an 'archaic, Patriarchal and phallocentric' argument…

                    • Sue

                      "The only exception is adultery which is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex and which cannot therefore be used as grounds for dissolving a civil partnership."

                      Advice from Barnes Family Law.

                      I think you'll find, ho, that there are usually reasons behind definitions – and this one is largely an anatomical one. If it were the case that the term "spouse" has just arbitrarily been chosen to define heterosexual partners, then there will be scant grounds to argue against the law being updated to apply the term to both CP and marriage when the UK government brings them in line – as it is going to do.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      the term "spouse" …just arbitrarily been chosen to define heterosexual partners

                      OK, I've picked myself off the floor now where I've been laughing myself silly. Really Sue, to argue that you would have go and get every single English dictionary ever published and revise each one of them. Ever considered a position in MiniTru?

                    • Sue

                      "If it were the case that the term “spouse” has just arbitrarily been chosen to define heterosexual partners"

                      Er…Peter! The "if" is a conditional – in other words I am saying that it is NOT the case( as Hopeful Ordinard has suggested) that the term has been arbitrarily chosen…

                      So, laugh yourself silly at HO instead!

                      (You're not awfully good at following arguments, are you?)

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      I think the problem here is your ability in this case to articulate an argument that can be followed.

                    • Wicked conservative

                      "Feminist thinking might argue that the reliance upon the act of penetration as a defining factor in adultery is an archaic, Patriarchal and phallocentric notion anyway!"

                      I'm sure it might.

                      Others, less ideologically fixated on deconstructing everything away to nothingness, might say that it's an attempt to anchor the marriage law in the reality of, er, marriage, in the same way that contract law is anchored in the reality of contracts.

                      But I suppose contract law is signaturecentric – very focused on whether contracting parties actually signed. Talk about obsessive!

                      The normative marital act is of course phallocentric, in that the phallus is central to the action. Or are we in "all sex is rape" territory?

                    • Sue

                      Is that the best you can manage, Peter? My turn to laugh myself silly then.

                    • Sue

                      Are we in the "all sex is rape" territory?

                      Well, I'm not WC. I can't speak for you.

                    • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

                      Sue. Imagine a couple in a CP, both male (just for the sake of argument). One of them has sexual intercourse with a woman. According the the law, that is not adultery, and as such the CP cannot be dissolved.

                      The same situation in a marriage (except that it would be a man and a woman), would be adultery and grounds for divorce.

                      Thus there is nothing anatomical about the definition (as the same physical act occurred in both cases), the definition is all about spouse, and so related to marriage.

  • http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk Simon Sarmiento

    Please, there are no exemptions to any of the equality laws that are specific to the Church of England. The exemptions that do exist relate to many religious organisations.

    Also, they extend beyond the employment of clergy. Apart from the matter of those same exemptions applying to some lay people as well, the extent of which remains unclear, there are additional clauses even in the Goods and Services legislation which provide some limited exemptions for religious organisations. And, there are other, even wider, exemptions relating to employment in faith schools, not only of teachers, but also of others, in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Thanks Simon.

      Gravatar? Surely you have one…

  • alathia

    Peter

    Perhaps I am picking something that is just not intended in the above, but I do find your wording of some aspects of the above little odd. e.g. “There is a concern that the changes in the law may move from being permissive to being prescriptive (i.e. in a few years time it may become an offence to refuse to host a Civil Partnership ceremony in a church if you are willing to host marriages).”

    Where is this concern? If possible a reference would ease my own concern about the implications of this sentence. It is the kind of statement that is just right for certainly types – the ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – to take and run with. Indeed much of what is presented as ‘fact’ on the Christian Institute website uses a similar style – half truth and innuendo is sometimes worse than an outright lie and seems to be used to great effect by the CI. I just think you could be highlighting something at isn’t a problem and will never be a problem. Who in their right minds would want to have their union blessed by a priest who is not in favour of conducting the service? Since atmosphere is surely one of the major components to such a day, having a sulking priest (and priests, like any of us, can be rather good at sulking) is not going to add to the wonder of the day.

    The real problem for the CofE is that it is Established and therefore is bound by Parliamentary law. If Parliament decided Civil Partnerships could be conducted in Anglican churches, then you’d just have to get on and do it. However I think we all know this will not happen. And even if it did, would it really be a major issue? Fewer and fewer couples are getting married in churches – indeed fewer and fewer couples are getting married, so I think it is highly unlikely Anglican churches will be besieged by same-sex couples.

    Sometimes I get the feeling certain sections of the Anglican Church devote a good deal of time looking for problems that just aren’t there. Or if they are, they are not of the size soothsayers of doom predicted. Perhaps as I stagger through my 40s, I have just become wary ‘predictions’ of problems because so many come to nothing, but there is a good deal of hot air and ill-feeling generated during the time between prediction and outcome. In the early 80s, when I first began working in a nursing home, the Nursing Times predicted by the year 2000 there would be half a million people who had died of AIDS in the UK; if you exclude foreigners, granted leave to remain because of their HIV status, the actual number of AIDS related deaths in the UK has yet to reach 5% of the prediction. Similarly in the early 90s there was the belief propagated by scientists and government that the country would be burdened with hundreds of thousands, if not a million people who had contracted variant CJD. We’re still waiting…

    So will the doors of churches be beaten down by hoards of same-sex couples demanding the civil partnership, while an evil, anti-Christian Parliament encourages gay and lesbian couples to sue the arse of any church that declines? I think not. However evidence of the ‘concern’ you note in the above, would be very much appreciated.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I am writing this specific piece for a mainly non-English audience so I want to detail for them as concisely as possible all the possible consequences. That said, if I can refer you to the conversation between Colin Coward and Rod Thomas on BBC Radio 4's Today on Monday in which Colin very clearly states his desire for the change to become prescriptive as regards buildings.

      • alathia

        Peter

        Thanks for this – I must confess that I often switch over from ‘Today’ to the ‘World Service’ when one of these polemic ‘discussions’ is shepherded towards my ear holes – the ‘polemic’ artifice is well used in the ‘Today’ program and seems rooted in a desire to cause discord and confrontation, as opposed a reasoned argument! So the evidence of ‘concern’ is related to what Colin Coward said? Does anyone take any notice of what Revd Coward says? I think it would have been far more balanced on your part to simply say that at present the plans – albeit in embryo – are permissive and not prescriptive. Although Matt 5: 37 concerns itself with oaths, I think the prescription that our ‘yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and our ‘no’, ‘no’ is of value in what we write. Particularly when the subject is contentious and can lead others to become angry or mislead by their own desire to make negative assumptions about an issue.

        It is clear, Peter, that in the above you have produced an informative and balanced piece, in the main, yet there is room for innuendo and whether that is purposeful or accidental is not for me to judge. All I will say is that great care is needed when writing about emotive subjects, the result of negative speculation, built upon flimsy evidence could be to cause one’s readers to ‘sin’ by becoming angry over something that has not, as yet, been part of the discussion around the issue (cf. Lk 17: 1&2).

        Thankfully, in this case, there is little scope for this to happen, but it is there nevertheless and I can’t help but be troubled, when I read something that veers towards the salacious, when there is little reason for it to do so!

        Thanks for clarifying the above, it is helpful.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Well, the Government certainly listens to Colin Coward and his position echoes that of some in Stonewall (who the government listen to very closely) who would like to see these things become compulsory.

          And to defend myself, I'm often very precise in what I write exactly for the reasons you mention. For example, Sue got in a flap as to whether I did or didn't say that marriage and civil partnerships were identical, but if she'd read carefully the exact words I wrote she would have seen there was no contradiction. Often we get ourselves into a tizz over things not because of what the author wrote but because of what we think he meant by what he wrote. I mean what I write and not a sentence more or less.

          And yes, in this case I was speculating about what might happen down the line, but as demonstrated by Colin Coward, those are speculations that some would like to see become realities. As we know with the Abortion Act, it doesn't matter what the framers of the Law intend it to permit, what actually matters is what the letter of the Law allows you to get away with.

          • alathia

            Peter

            Thanks for this.

             

            I think it would be use for people to actually see legislation – i.e. what an act of Parliament actually looks like.  Legislation is always written in a very ambiguous manner for obvious reasons (it can mean different things to different people).  What usually defines the law is case law and what has been decided in court.  Hence you have, to a degree, a point.

             

            That said, what I read, I read – and that is the problem with writing! 

             

            Given Mr Cameron’s comments today on the Supreme Court ruling concerning those put on the sex-offenders’ register for life, I can’t help but think the Government may distance itself from Stonewall.  When things get bad – and believe me, they are going to get bad, with rising inflation and a population that is so burdened by personal debt that any rise in interest rates will cause huge problems for ‘the recovery’ plan!  When things get bad, then moral crusades can become a nice little smoke screen – remember John Major and ‘back to basics’…  what a disaster that was!

             

            That aside, what I find so difficult, having a quick root around the internet today, on the subject of CPs and places of worship, is just how vile, nasty and cruel is so much of the comment. There seems to be a concerted effort to create an atmosphere of panic and fear.  The Christian Institute in particular – an organisation that is obsessed with homosexuality – has gone to town with its nastiness.  You move in Evangelical circles, why is this becoming such a divisive and contentious issue?  Why is there such nastiness?  There is so much that is, shall we say, economical with the truth – dealing in half truths rather than lies – can this really be called ‘Christian’?  I doubt this very much.

            • Wicked conservative

              “That aside, what I find so difficult, having a quick root around the internet today, on the subject of CPs and places of worship, is just how vile, nasty and cruel is so much of the comment. There seems to be a concerted effort to create an atmosphere of panic and fear.  The Christian Institute in particular – an organisation that is obsessed with homosexuality – has gone to town with its nastiness.  You move in Evangelical circles, why is this becoming such a divisive and contentious issue?  Why is there such nastiness?  There is so much that is, shall we say, economical with the truth – dealing in half truths rather than lies – can this really be called ‘Christian’?  I doubt this very much.”
              Any chance of some concrete examples of mainstream Christians being “vile, nasty and cruel”, or deliberately creating “panic and fear”, or being “nasty”, or engaging in “half-truths”?  Otherwise this sounds a lot like vague emotive hyperbole, and some wilful misunderstanding of the conservative position, designed to discredit and undermine conservative Christians.  You say the CI is “obsessed with homosexuality” – that is itself a half-truth!  I have explained elsewhere on this site why I believe that a preoccupation with upholding sexual standards is perfectly defensible for Christians in the current climate, when false, damaging and soul-endangering ideas are endemic.
              We can all play the “let’s find the crazy, mean people on the other side” game.  There is a commenter on this blog who uses the term “evangementalist”; there are people using dishonesty and deceit and conspiracy to advance the revisionist cause within the Anglican Church; numerous bloggers (such as PZ Myers) and commenters (on e.g. the Guardian and the Independent) spew hatred and contempt for conservative Christians.
              Whether you agree with them or not, can you at least understand why many traditionalist Christians are worried about the increasing climate of legal restrictions on Christians’ religious freedom issues and hostility to the faith from the establishment?  After all, I thought revisionists were supposed to be really good at empathy and understanding…

              • Tom

                Like saying "numerous bloggers (such as PZ Myers) and commenters (on e.g. the Guardian and the Independent) spew hatred for conservative Christians" for example?

                PZ Myers is an atheist and looking at his blog Pharyngula I don't see any hatred towards people. He may hate the ideas of conservative Christians, especially if they are creationists, because he sees those as unscientific, false and thereby harmful, but that is altogether different from spewing hatred for people, WC.

                But if you want a very clear example of spewing hatred towards people I suggest you go on BBC I-Player to watch The Worst Country in the World to be Gay which was screened on BBC3 on Monday evening. The hatred towards gay people in all sections of Ugandan society was palpable. As the reviews said, Scott Mills was not the most aggressive interviewer and let a lot of the ignorance go unchallenged but in a sense he didn't have to be. The interview with David Bahati, the MP behind the anti-homosexual bill was the most chilling of all.

                • Wicked conservative

                  "PZ Myers is an atheist and looking at his blog Pharyngula I don’t see any hatred towards people. He may hate the ideas of conservative Christians, especially if they are creationists, because he sees those as unscientific, false and thereby harmful, but that is altogether different from spewing hatred for people, WC."

                  So the desecration of a consecrated host with a rusty nail was just a reasoned critique of Catholic eucharistic theology?  Pull the other one.  Even when not publicly and gleefully despoiling a sacred icon of Catholicism, his tone drips with contempt and superiority (and I'm not saying that no conservatives are guilty of the same thing, merely disputing Alathia's argument that it is somehow a conservative fault).

                  On a related issue, it's interesting how revisionists can instantly grasp the distinction between on the one hand attacking ideas and criticising specific actions, and on the other hand attacking people and hating individuals, when it's convenient to their argument.  Normally they make a big show about not understanding or accepting that distinction, in the mouths of conservatives.

                  Yes, the hatred shown for gays in Uganda by some Christians is appalling.  But it still doesn't establish that only conservative Christians are capable of hate, nor does it have any bearing on the ethical debate over sexuality.  If I were to murder ever liar I met, it would not mean that lying was morally unproblematic.

                  • Tom

                    Desecrating a consecrated host is offensive to some people's most deeply held beliefs, I absolutely concur, but it is not spewing hatred towards Catholic people. It is blaspheming, mocking their ideas – only. It is childish and mocking of the Catholic religion but not of individual people. He wanted to get across that ideas are not sacred – people are. There is a distinction to be made. I think you are blurring things, WC.

                    Then two further statements you really can't get away with:

                    But it still doesn’t establish that only conservative Christians are capable of hate,

                    No one said it did. I am sure many people hate other people for what they think they stand for. But surely conservative Christians are supposed to be a little better than the rest, the salt of the earth? If you had seen that Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa giving a sermon (if you please) on how to eat faeces from an anus with appropriate hand gestures do you think this is only comparable with pushing a rusty nail through a host? The Rolling Stone newspaper has a programme of outing gay people under the banner "Hang Them" based on the preachings of people like Ssempa. This hysteria was drummed up by right-wing backers of the Ugandan evangelical churches  from a outfit called The Family in the US. (Let's not call them Christians then, because in many Christian's eyes they are appalling). It is well documented*. Scott Lively is one of them.

                    *C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy and

                    The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power by Jeff Sharlet

                    nor does it have any bearing on the ethical debate over sexuality.

                    Unfortunately it seems to, though, because so often religion is used for a cloak to hide a visceral hatred of homosexuality. Also the homosexuality issue is used as a wedge-issue to test for "orthodoxy" (a presenting issue if you listen to Reform or some of the people on Anglican Mainstream – "if you are liberal on this, what else will you be liberal (i.e. unorthodox) on?" they ponder.)

                    • Wicked conservative

                      So if I burned a rainbow flag and put rusty nails through photos of prominent gay people in Soho, that would not be evidence of hatred?

                      (FWIW, I think that it would be good evidence of hatred).

                      I know about the Family and the situation in Uganda.  What is happening there is monstrous.  But you can't keep changing the subject and talking about "hatred" every time someone wants to have an ethical debate about specific acts.

                      "religion is used for a cloak to hide a visceral hatred of homosexuality".

                      What about when it's not?  What about people like my mother who disagrees with homoerotic relationships but spent 3 months volunteering in an AIDS hospice last year?

                      Trading stories about the iniquity of opponents is fruitless, if you want to work out what is actually true.

                  • Tom

                    WC, burning a flag is one thing, sticking nails through pictures of recognisably prominent people is quite another.

                    If you are arguing for the truth then you need to take more care. You picked a part of what I said. I did not say as universal generalisation

                    “religion is used for a cloak to hide a visceral hatred of homosexuality”

                    but

                    "because so often religion is used for a cloak to hide a visceral hatred of homosexuality." It makes a difference, doesn't it?

                    I am sure your mother's motivation for working in an AIDS hospice was of the noblest intention to help people and not to make a demonstration of "loving the sinner while hating the sin" because I doubt that would have gone down well.

                    • Wicked conservative

                      Tom:

                      My question clearly acknowledged those 3 words, in that it issued a challenge for revisionists, *in those cases where religion was not being used as a cover for hatred*, to drop the "haters!" "bigots!" routine when they come to address the actual ethical question: is homoeroticism holy and pleasing to God?

              • alathia

                WC

                Have a look at the Christian Institute or Reform. Odd that on the day when the government announced far reaching reforms of the benefit system (which may or may not be needed) you'd think a Christian organisation, so intent on family life would have something to say! But no, four or five articles related to gay issues or something else to do with what people do with their wing-wangs.

                I don't think it is hyperbole, I think it is self-righteousness and the desire for Christians aware of the little impact they have these days – and let's face it without Christianity as a guiding force in society we have achieved a far more caring, socially moral and equitable society than centuries of Christian rule! So pandering to age old prejudices seems a way they just might get some on their side. It is also an aid to self-righteosness.

                While I freely admit the gay issue is not a big part of most churches, even Evangelical churches, nevertheless the degree of time, effort and money put into half truth and vitriol on the part of organisations such as the Christian Institute is staggering. Of that you can't deny.

                Regards:

                A.

                • Wicked conservative

                  "The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, Evangelical bigots, self-righteous members of Reform, morally conservative Anglicans, or even like this member of the Christian Institute. I tell people off for their self-righteousness and intolerance twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get to Stonewall.'

                  You do realise how hilarious it is when revisionists accuse conservatives of "self-righteousness", and in the very next breath go on to accuse them of being bigots and obsessives?

                • Wicked conservative

                  Alathia, just to develop my point a bit more, I think that progressive morality can be more judgmental and self-righteous, in its way, than traditional religious morality, in that it seeks to label persons, not acts, i.e. to make vast sweeping judgments about the arc of a person’s life and their whole character based on one aspect of their thinking about morality. The problem is that it is almost always inaccurate, and thus deeply unfair, to define an individual based on a particular attitude.

                  Practical ethics is not about dividing the world into good and bad people. Practical ethics is about distinguishing between good and bad acts (and to a lesser extent, good and bad attitudes and intentions). Calling someone a bigot or saying they are obsessive or intolerant is thus not a useful contribution to ethical debate.

                  Since the insult is meaningless unless it is intended to distinguish the recipient from the donor, the implication of my calling someone a bigot is that I am not a bigot, and should thus be considered somehow more virtuous than the recipient of the insult. The same applies to calling someone a misogynist; a racist; a hater. It is – implicitly – a claim to personal moral superiority, without any substantial descriptive or conceptual content. If feeling the right way, or holding the correct political views, is the key to being a good person, how easy it is for a progressive person to attain virtue!

                  • Wicked conservative

                    I am very familiar with the CI and Reform, and some of the personnel thereof. All your comments demonstrate is that "obsession" and "self-righteousness" are in the eye of the beholder.

                    "let’s face it without Christianity as a guiding force in society we have achieved a far more caring, socially moral and equitable society than centuries of Christian rule!"

                    Unhistorical and question-begging piffle. Progressives are often very keen to show how much moral progress we have made, and congratulate themselves for their achievement – and castigate those who stand in the way of progress. The reality is of course more complicated. And what does "Christian rule" even mean? It has not been accurate to describe Britain as a theocracy in any meaningful sense for over 300 years.

                    I would also note that Christianity is not primarily a religion of worldly achievement, social work, and political reform; at the core of Christianity is reconciling sinful man to God, and thus saving his eternal soul. Better a poor, unhealthy slave with the graces of salvation than a rich, healthy free man doomed to hell by his pride.

                    In any case, you have proved my point, again, by avoiding the question: is homoerotic behaviour holy and pleasing to God?

                    • alathia

                      Thanks for this WC.

                      Yes, I can see your point…

                      My comments on Christianity not making for good and wholesome societies are certainly not ‘unhistorical’ – if you’ve spent as many hours as I have trawling through data at the British Library (I am part way through a PhD) then I can assure you there is plenty of evidence to say, when the churches were full and the Bible better known, social morality demanded by a large chunk of the Torah and the fruit of a supposedly Christian society , was only achieved with the advent of liberal secular democracies. So please, don’t just dismiss something because of wishful thinking – i.e. that awkward questions about the fruits of religion in society (or lack of same) can be brushed aside because they don’t fit with your understanding of how you think something should be.

                      Yes, I agree, ‘Christianity is not primarily a religion of worldly achievement, social work, and political reform’. So why are you getting so hot under the collar about something, that if we’re really honest, is only going to affect between 1-3% of the population and it is doubtful there will be poufs lining up around the block demanding CofE priests ‘officiate’ for them at the local parish church! Given the divorce rate, even among the faithful, I think there are more important considerations than what a few a poufs do with their lives.

                      I am writing this on the day of the New Zealand earthquake and Gadhafi’s rant inciting civil war in Libya. What are the top stories on the Christian Institute website? Something about Jamie Oliver and teenager sperm and a gay-only B&B being investigated (rightly so in my view) by the Equal Ops Commission – there are several other stories with a gay or abortion theme. A flick over to Anglican Mainstream and although there is a brief mention of the earthquake, there is story after story about homosexuals, gay marriage and B&Bs. Given the proportion of society that is homosexual (around 1-3% according to Dr Hans-Christian Raabe) you’d expect CI or AM to have around 1-3% posts on the subject… The fact this doesn’t happen speaks volumes, don’t you think?

                      Only a rather deluded soul can say that the whole issue of sexuality isn’t getting a little out of hand. Indeed I would go as far as to say, that if churches got on with a little more practical Christianity – following the few commandments Jesus actually gave (to love one another and to wash each other’s feet), then you might just find Christianity getting a little more respect. I have just spent the past six months doing part of my research with an Evangelical fringe church – though it has a high profile, particularly in London (some would call it a cult) that has orthodox views on sexuality. I fully respect their views simply because this church doesn’t preach celibacy for unmarrieds and then leave them high and dry. There is a concerted effort to provide community for singles, over and above a men’s or women’s 30 somethings group once a month for the freaks of the church who haven’t married, as is typical in many a mainstream church. The ‘cult’ church also ‘washes feet’ – sometimes literally. I think there is much mainstream Evangelical Christianity could learn from this so called ‘cult’. Not least that boring people about sexuality achieves little. And I would go even further and say one can’t help but think with so much effort being put into what is such a tiny issue, that it is a clear attempt by many at ‘easy’ righteousness. Condemn the queers and you’re one of us. It is preferable to washing each other’s feet – but I suspect the latter, rather than the former is what will really aid ‘reconciling sinful man to God’. Perhaps that is why Jesus commanded it?

                      Well, this is my last word on this subject – say what you will, we’ll just have to agree to differ.

                      Every blessing!

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Alathia wrote

                      poufs

                      I've let this through once or twice, but now I'm going to put my foot down. That kind of language is not acceptable. It's not acceptable either to use that as a perjorative or to use it in a manner that implies others use it as a perjorative.

    • Wicked conservative

      Alathia – In regard to churches possibly being forced to host CPs you say "I just think you could be highlighting something at isn’t a problem and will never be a problem".

      I think this is rather naive.

      Every time a reform is proposed, those who have reservations about it are assured "this far and no further", and every time progressives keep pushing. Look at an issue like abortion, for example. The 1967 Act was intended to allow for a small number of abortions in genuinely difficult situations; 43 years and 7 million terminations later, we have young schoolgirls having abortions without even their parents' knowledge, let alone consent.

      I would bet anyone any money that within my lifetime (I'm 27) a British religious organisation, probably a Christian church, will have been legally sanctioned for refusing to hold a civil partnership.

      • alathia

        W.C

        Thanks for this. I think first and foremost we have to understand that social action does not take place in isolation. There is often a interweaving of interdependent events that give rise to a given social event/phenomenon/action. The real question you have to ask is whether this is going to be a real ‘problem’ or a peripheral issue or something that just won’t happen. My feeling is that it will, as with much that conservative Christians get hot under the collar about is that it will be at most a peripheral issue and probably not a problem, simply because there are other factors to take into account.

        1) as I have noted, who wants to have a civil partnership with an arsey vicar who doesn’t want to officiate – or who would do her/his level best to make the building ‘un-user friendly’?

        2) Church attendance continues to fall – fewer and fewer people are interested in placing a religious significance to civil occasions.

        3) Parliament leaves much of the government of the CofE to Synod – Synod (unless there is a Liberal revolution) is not going to allow this to happen and will recommend CofE church buildings cannot be made to hold Civil Partnerships.

        I appreciate what you mean about how the intention of an act (e.g. the Abortion Act 1967) doesn’t always come to fruition e.g. in that abortion legislation has resulted in children having abortions without their parents’ knowledge and consent (tho’ I’d argue that says more about the parents’ parenting skills – or lack of – than the unforeseen consequences of an act of Parliament!). But I really don’t feel this is something that is going to happen – or if it does it will be of little consequence – in the matter of CofE churches being ‘made’ to hold CPs.

        Just as an aside, although I have few occasions for recreational reading (I am writing this before I tackle a stack of undergraduate essays, before their tutorials on Friday!) however I heartily recommend Roy Strong’s ‘A Little History of the English Country Church’. His book agrees with others who have written on the subject (Pevsner, Clifton-Taylor etc.) that the idea we have churches as a sacred space is a modern invention. The nave of Old St Paul’s in London was used by lawyers and as a place to exercise, many medieval churches had ale houses attached (it was a huge source of revenue). The Church, is not a building, it is the Body of Christ. I think too much attention given to the ‘building’ is symptomatic of an Established Church getting rather muddled about its place and purpose. A friend of mine, when attending one of the larger house churches which then used a Leeds Met University building for its Sunday service, said it was the first time she had been to the ladies’ toilet while at church to find a condom machine besides a tampax machine! The house-church continues to grow and the Anglican churches empty – the presence of a condom machine in a place of worship does seem to hinder church growth. Which I think says a lot about priorities and the need for the Anglican Church to get them sorted out!

        The real question that needs to be ask here is just what is the ‘Established Church’ and is it really fit for purpose. Moreover what IS its purpose? Whatever, I doubt very much the churches will be overrun with same-sex couples wanting to tie the knot. In fact, perhaps I should close with the wisdom of the Christian Institute (that bastion of truth and balanced reporting!) http://www.christian.org.uk/news/civil-partnershi… according to the CI the civil partnership fad is, itself, dying a death. And as we can always trust the CI for the accuracy of its reporting CPs may soon be a thing of the past anyway!

        • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

          1) as I have noted, who wants to have a civil partnership with an arsey vicar who doesn’t want to officiate – or who would do her/his level best to make the building ‘un-user friendly’?

          Who would want to stay in a B&B (described as "more Last of the Summer Wine than La Cage aux Folles") which doesn't allow unmarried couples to share a double bed?

           

          • Tom

            Yes, I agree, why would you, HO? But I heard the two men concerned say on TV that they booked ahead by phone and after a very long and tiring journey, found they would not be given a room at all. It meant that late at night they had to try to find alternative accommodation and ended up asking the local police station where else there might be. Of course this may not be true but, on the other hand, it may be. If it is then the Christian Institute's story that it was a Stonewall "sting" operation cannot be true. With all these stories we should proceed with caution until we can be sure of the facts before giving unquestioning credence to either side. Presumably the judge in case would have had all the facts.

  • Philip Cole

    Peter

    Thanks for an excellent article which also shows both the constitutional complexities of any move towards gay marriage as it affects the established CofE and why it is therefore very important for the CofE to get strong clarification on any proposed law.

    I personally feel that it is unjust that all denominations and beliefs should be banned from using religious elements in civil partnerships, on the basis that the state has no business in determining the beliefs of people freely assembled. But then I'm also against the establishment of religion …

    However, the CofE does have a consistent argument in that:

    1) When civil partnerships were introduced it was explicitly promised and stated in the Act by Labour that they would only be secular. Why has this changed in less than a decade? Alathia, this provides a good example of the risks of incremental change creating de facto gay marriage.

    2) The CofE's official position remains that homosexual practice is a sin. See http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/marriage…. It is therefore right to be concerned about a possible act that has the potential to expose biblically orthodox local vicars to pressure from gay rights organisations and which, if badly phrased, could expose them to prosecution under the Equality Act.

    3) You just know that if religious elements are allowed in civil partnerships then some wooly-thinking CofE vicar somewhere is going to conduct a civil partnership in an Anglican church, blow the consequences and give the gay lobby a nice test case to get their teeth into.

    FWIW though I think that Ecclesia has the right idea of state registration of all committed partnerships, with marriage left to religious denominations to conduct as they see fit. This is the situation in France and other parts of continental Europe. Then we can get on with preserving and strengthening Christian marriage as God intends: lifelong and faithful between a man and a woman, as a counter-cultural witness in an increasingly self-centred and hedonistic society. Let's get the state out of religious marriage entirely!

    • Tom

      Philip, hello. I think the situation in France was made more complex than it needed to be with the introduction of PACS. When there was only opposite sex marriage all marriages to be recognised by the state had to be conducted in a secular ceremony at the local Mairie. A church wedding may have followed but the priest had (still hasn't) any authority to formalise the secular part of marriage. Presumably people who didn't want to appear married to the state could still be married "in the eyes of God" à la Romeo and Juliet if they asked a priest to conduct the nuptials. It would have been easier for the French State to have amended the secular ceremony to be inclusive of same-sex couples than to blunt Occam's razor with PACS. The separation of Church and State in France should have left the churches to carry on as they wished, I'd have thought. (But I am not a French constitutional lawyer and may be completely wrong about the Church's freedoms.) I think I have said this before but when Canada was considering opening marriage to same-sex couples there was a suggestion that the state should get out of marriage altogether and make everything a civil partnership. As we know it didn't take that route……

      I think you are right about establishment of religion. It may have run its course here and now perpetuates inequalities like the Act of Settlement and, if Peter is right, will be a fly in the ointment in any discussion if David Cameron decides to open civil marriage to same-sex couples.

  • Philip Cole

    Small typo under 'The Current Marriage / Civil Partnership Law in England'

    'It is important to realise that the United Kingdom is actually made up of four countries – England, (Northern) Ireland, Scotland and Wales'.

    I do these things all the time :-)

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Big typo I think! Thanks for pointing it out – fixed.

  • Jill

    Alathia – I laughed out loud when I read your comment which Wicked has mentioned above, and which he has politely called 'rather naive'. Why would any gay couples want to stay in a B&B which was known to be for husbands and wives only? But Peter and Hazelmary Bull have been inundated with bookings from gay couples since they lost their case. Where have you been?

    Anyone who does not toe the line on any new pro-gay legislation must be punished. And will be!

    • Jill

      Just to clarify this comment, which has shuffled its way down to the bottom of the page (I was having trouble with the 'Reply' button), the comment to which I was referring was Alathia's (dangerously!) naive remark that nobody would want a cleric marrying them who was opposed to their union.

      It seems from today's news that this is now all set to happen.  The whole thing is ridiculous, in my opinion.  Marriage is between a man and a woman – two sterile 'halves' coming together to make a fertile 'whole'.

      You can call a dog a cat, a gorilla or a blinking elephant, but in the end it is still a dog.  A futile exercise in money wasting and lawyer enriching.  Gay 'marriage' will never be anything but a pitiful parody, undermining an honourable institution.

      As for the Christian Institute, they do have the annoying habit of bringing to light all sorts of cases that revisionists would prefer remained hidden, so that they could carry out their work unimpeded.

      • Tom

        Actually Jill and Alathia, I have been to a wedding where an "arsey" parson really spoilt the whole thing. My nephew who had not been married before was marrying an older woman who had a teenage son. I think the parson was a non-stipendary stand-in for some reason because I am sure my nephew and his fiancée wouldn't have asked that particular man to officiate if they had known what he was going to say. He started by saying that the bride needed to repent because of her former relationship and he managed to cast a pall of disapproval over the whole service. My older brother and I would have challenged him but held back because we did not want to spoil further my sister and her son's big day but I gave that particular cleric as dirty a look as I could and walked past him without a word at the church door when he was there all smiles to receive the thanks and congratulations for his "lovely" service.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Sounds awful!

          If we do the marriage of someone who has already been married, by the time we get to the church service we would expect any need for repentance to have been sorted out. That's the whole point of the discernment process as to whether to do the remarriage and marriage prep itself. Sounds like this non-stipendiary was completely out of order.

           

      • ryan

        Marriage is the coming together of two sterile halves? That resembles nothing so much as Aristophenes' famous creation myth (parody) in Plato's Symposium and, needless to say, hardly accords with the high view of singleness and celibacy evidenced and preached by Our Lord and Saint Paul.

        The 'Christian' Institute are liars who get their cases thrown out of court for good reason. C.F the flat-out lies in their stories on the Scottish Episcopal Church. I don't see what conservatives gain by defending all (implicitly or otherwise) on their ideological team. If an organisation *like* Changing Attitude published flat-out,demonstrable, lies then it would obviously (ethics aside) be important for me and my fellow liberals to acknowledge that.

        Rhetoric on the evils of homosexual practice does not deserve respect because it is ,so often, stupid. For example: most people who have anal sex have a jolly good time, and do not contract AIDS or bowel cancer. Heterosexuals have anal sex too. It's a common male fantasy. A conservative who, for example ,says that AIDS is God's punishment on homosexuals deserves challenging for his spurious logic. A disease that effects overindulgence in particular *acts* is not a judgment against whole classes of persons. Yet people still type 'homosexual' when they mean 'person who has promiscous – and usually passive – anal sex'. A heterosexual couple in a committed, monogomous relationship might well try anal, and would rightly snort with derision if someone pointed out that people who have anal sex with everything that moves die of AIDS. Yet "defending" (!) ""homosexual practise"" is taken to mean that one is claiming that promiscous anal sex is without risks. I would be hard-pressed to invent a more pernicious strawman.

      • alathia

        Jill

        Thanks for this. You will always get people wanting to do the 'sensational' thing because they want to get in on the act, as with the B&B case. Among homosexuals, no doubt there are also those who (like gay-obsessed Christians) see the world as polarised and rejoice in the vanity of victimhood.

        One thing I keep finding myself returning to is that, Jesus so rightly says, the problems of the world come from our own hearts and although it must be nice to believe it is the fault of wicked homosexuals, plotting to overthrow 'moral' society – I think the truth is a little less simple and often a little nearer to home (hence the preferred belief 'it is their fault', when it is always 'ours').

        I can't help but look to our liberal brethren in places like the The Netherlands, where there is a much more tolerant (and honest) attitude to sex and sexuality. The fruits of this tolerance are a much lower rate of teenage pregnacy, divorce, a high age when teenagers first engage in sex and – ironically – one of the lowest abortion rates in Europe. So liberalism has some fruits that essentially conservative societies – e.g. the USA with its 50% church attendance miss out on.

        Civil Partnerships etc. – is something that at most is going to involve 0.5% of the population – that's according to Dr Hans Christian Haag's report. You have to ask yourself if it is sensible on the part of any reasonably minded person to get so hot under the collar about it or (in the case of Anglican Mainstream or Christian Insitute) to devote so much time and effort to something that effects so few?

        Just a thought. I am not really interested in further discussion on the issue. Thankfully, for the present at least, common sense keeps prevailing. Long may it do so!

        Regards:

        Alathia

        • Wicked conservative

          Alathia:

          Is it perhaps a teensy bit cheeky for you to post a longish comment, full of debatable and controversial points, and then say you're "not really interested in further discussion"?

  • http://www.gerv.net/ gerv

    "the English Marriage Act of 1949 officially recognises the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer as the way that marriage is enacted in the Church of England"

    In August, my then-fiancee and I had a Common Worship marriage service in an Anglican church, without a registrar. Are we legally married?

    Gerv

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Yes. Common Worship and the BCP are the two legal forms of worship in the Church of England. The BCP remains the doctrinal standard and Common Worship, for all intents and purposes, provides modern language versions of the liturgies.

  • Pingback: Anglican Mainstream South Africa » Blog Archive » A message from Bishop David Anderson

  • Sue

    I think you are right that liberals can certainly be as judgmental and self-righteous, in their way, than traditional religious morality. There is often an increasing hardness and narrowness in people as they move towards the extremes of any issue.

    I also agree that it is wrong to make sweeping judgments about the arc of a person’s life and their whole character based on one aspect of their thinking about morality. I can't see anything wrong in speaking out when we do think things are wrong – whatever our views – it is approach and attitude to others that makes the difference.

    I have met some conservative Christians who, despite disagreeing with me, have shown me the love and grace of God. I think it would be arrogant of me to assume God is not at work in their lives just because they do not agree with me – and vice versa.

  • Blair

    Wanting to reply to H O's comment: "Sue. Imagine a couple in a CP, both male (just for the sake of argument). One of them has sexual intercourse with a woman. According the the law, that is not adultery, and as such the CP cannot be dissolved".

    I know it's a tad long, but if you read thru' Jacqueline Humphries' article I linked to above, you'll see that such an act would be deemed unreasonable behaviour, and so grounds for dissolving the CP. (Sorry for butting in Sue…)

    in friendship, Blair

    • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

      I'm not sure how that refutes my point. It is unreasonable behaviour, but a divorce can also be had on grounds of unreasonable behaviour – you can't however dissolve a CP on grounds of adultery. It is a clear point of difference.

      • Blair

        Hi H O,

        maybe it doesn't :) …but you said in the previous comment that a CP couldn't be dissolved in such a case, and I wanted to challenge that. The fact that a CP can't be dissolved on grounds of adultery is indeed a clear point of difference – but what are you inferring from that?

        in friendship, Blair

        • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

          What I said was that adultery couldn't be used to dissolve the CP, even though the act leading to the divorce was identical. Thus, there is nothing anatomical about the definition for adultery (Sue's point) that would prevent it being theoretically usable to dissolve a CP.

          The difference lies in the understanding of marriage: only in marriage do we have 'spouse', and thus the possibility of adultery. There is a very different relationship by definition between a married couple, and one in a CP.

          • Blair

            If I could quote from Jacqueline Humphreys' article which I linked to above:

            "The expectation that the parties to a marriage will be sexually faithful to each other is clear from the fact that adultery is one of the grounds for divorce. Adultery, however, has a very specific, technical definition that is essentially heterosexual. It requires 'some penetration of the female organ by the male organ'. For this reason adultery is not included as one of the grounds for the dissolution of a civil partnership". I'm suggesting the definition is anatomical and is intrinsically linked to the fact that CPs are for same-sex couples only. For whatever reasons the govt didn't wish to change the legal definition of adultery so as to include same-sex sex somehow, but I don't think that means there is a "very different relationship" between a married couple and those in a CP.

            Humphreys goes on to say:

            "In a divorce petition, other forms of sexual misconduct or infidelity falling short of the precise definition of adultery must be included within an 'unreasonable behaviour' petition. In practice, the phrase 'inappropriate association' is often used and this can be the basis of a successful behaviour petition. Therefore, provided that the district judges who consider applications for an order for dissolution of a civil partnership regard the sexual infidelity of the respondent as amounting to sufficient grounds for such dissolution under the category of 'unreasonable behaviour', an expectation of sexual fidelity can be protected.

            "The intended exclusivity of relationship within a civil partnership can however reasonably be inferred to some extent from the monogamous character of the relationship which will be considered below. Nevertheless, there is a difference between a bigamous marriage and an adulterous affair within the heterosexual context, which distinction can be applied across easily within the homosexual context".

            in friendship, Blair

            • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

              Blair,

              I think you're missing the point of my hypothetical situation. In both cases penetrative heterosexual sexual intercourse happened outside of the marriage/CP. In only one case can adultery be used as a reason for divorce/dissolutions. It isn't anatomical – otherwise the ground would carry across. It's the definition of marriage and spouse that is the defining issue.

              This quote is from an article covering this issue:

              "The Civil Partnership Act prevents civil partners from citing adultery because the legal definition of adultery means it can only occur where an individual who is married has had sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse."

              • Blair

                Maybe :) though the definition of marriage and spouse is anatomical in a sense isn't it, as they have to be male and female (which has consequences for trans people…).

                But even accepting your point, as I asked above, what are you inferring from it – what do you mean in saying that there's "a very different relationship by definition between a married couple, and one in a CP"?

                in friendship, Blair

                • http://hopeful-ordinand.blogspot.com/ Hopeful Ordinand

                  Ermm, I think I mean that there is a clear difference between a marriage and a CP :)

                  To confuse, conflate or equate the two is incorrect. To use Sue's language, a marriage is materially different from a CP, both in the eyes of the law and in the sight of God.

                  • Blair

                    I understand you mean that – I quoted you saying so – but what sort of difference is it for you? I'm hoping this isn't just obsessive nitpicking… but a technical difference, a moral difference, a status difference? It seems to me that it's technical difference to do with the way the govt framed the legislation, but is there a greater significance in it for you?

                    in friendship, Blair

  • http://www.gerv.net/ Gervase Markham

    (Comments seem to have reached maximum depth.)

    alathia wrote: "I am writing this on the day of the New Zealand earthquake and Gadhafi’s rant inciting civil war in Libya. What are the top stories on the Christian Institute website? Something about Jamie Oliver and teenager sperm and a gay-only B&B being investigated (rightly so in my view) by the Equal Ops Commission – there are several other stories with a gay or abortion theme."

    That's a silly argument. None of the top stories on Pink News or Stonewall are about New Zealand or Gadhafi either. Would it therefore be reasonable to conclude that gay people do not care about world events?

    One big reason the church needs to spend a lot of time talking about homosexuality is because that's a place the church is under pressure. Committers of other moral acts the Bible forbids, such as adultery and murder (for the hard of thinking, my point is _not_ that homosexuals do these any more or less than anyone else), do not have such a strong lobby. There is no "Adulterer's Pride" march.

    • Wicked conservative

      Alathia said: "My comments on Christianity not making for good and wholesome societies are certainly not ‘unhistorical’ – if you’ve spent as many hours as I have trawling through data at the British Library (I am part way through a PhD) then I can assure you there is plenty of evidence to say, when the churches were full and the Bible better known, social morality demanded by a large chunk of the Torah and the fruit of a supposedly Christian society , was only achieved with the advent of liberal secular democracies. So please, don’t just dismiss something because of wishful thinking – i.e. that awkward questions about the fruits of religion in society (or lack of same) can be brushed aside because they don’t fit with your understanding of how you think something should be."

      I am not dismissing your point because of wishful thinking. I have after all studied a little history myself, at a small and obscure provincial institution known as the University of Oxford. My problem with your Whiggish social history is that, as Ben Goldacre would say, “I’m afraid it’s a little more complicated than that”.

      Yes, most people are healthier, more materially prosperous and – in a sense – freer (depending on your understanding of freedom) than they were, say, 250 years ago.

      But: –

      200,000 abortions a year, and constant pressure for assisted suicide which will harm the vulnerable; unprecedented levels of social and family breakdown; a steep growth in mental illness in children and young people; widespread and massive drug and alcohol abuse; systemic social and economic problems trapping thousands in long-term unemployment; endemic low-level crime and disorder; a hyper-sexualised media culture. And from the Christian perspective, a steep decline in observance and practice.

      We’re a little way off paradise just yet.

      We are still bathing in the afterglow of our Christian culture. Ask me again in 50 years how post-Christian Britain is getting on. There is a great story from Zen Buddhism of the story of the zen master and the little boy. The little boy gets a horse. Everyone in the village says “That’s great!” The zen master says “we’ll see”. Two years later the little boy falls off the horse and breaks his leg. “How awful!” says everyone. The zen master says “we’ll see”. Then there’s a war, and all the young men have to go and fight, but the boy isn’t conscripted because his leg is broken. “That’s great!” says everyone. The zen master says “we’ll see”.

      So my response to your saying that post-Christian Britain is a better place than Christian Britain? “We’ll see”.

      Alathia said: "Yes, I agree, ‘Christianity is not primarily a religion of worldly achievement, social work, and political reform’. So why are you getting so hot under the collar about something, that if we’re really honest, is only going to affect between 1-3% of the population and it is doubtful there will be poufs lining up around the block demanding CofE priests ‘officiate’ for them at the local parish church! Given the divorce rate, even among the faithful, I think there are more important considerations than what a few a poufs do with their lives."

      I don’t think that gay couples will be lining up around the block to get married in church. I do think however that if you look at the long-term trends in social policy in this country, and the increasing official hostility to Christianity, it is very far from inconceivable that anti-Christian activists will use the law to undermine and attack the religious freedom of Christians. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall and Colin Coward have both said that they see no reason in principle why churches should not one day be compelled to marry gay couples.

      Conservatives on this blog, including myself, have explained numerous times why it is defensible for Christians today to be preoccupied with sexual issues. If you really want an answer, then go back and engage with those responses. Otherwise it just looks like you’re using it as a tediously repetitive rhetorical ploy. I would add too that it is no part of Christianity to ignore a sin because it only affects "a few poofs"; indeed to abandon their souls would be cruel and unloving.

      Alathia said: "I am writing this on the day of the New Zealand earthquake and Gadhafi’s rant inciting civil war in Libya. What are the top stories on the Christian Institute website? Something about Jamie Oliver and teenager sperm and a gay-only B&B being investigated (rightly so in my view) by the Equal Ops Commission – there are several other stories with a gay or abortion theme. A flick over to Anglican Mainstream and although there is a brief mention of the earthquake, there is story after story about homosexuals, gay marriage and B&Bs. Given the proportion of society that is homosexual (around 1-3% according to Dr Hans-Christian Raabe) you’d expect CI or AM to have around 1-3% posts on the subject… The fact this doesn’t happen speaks volumes, don’t you think?"

      This is weak stuff, Alathia. As Gervase points out below, neither Stonewall nor Pink News have much coverage of the earthquake. Can we therefore conclude that the gays hate New Zealanders? I also notice that the current edition of gay magazine Attitude has very few, if any, stories about the destruction of the rainforests, or the injustices of the caste system in Hindu India. Why don’t the editors of Attitude care about those things, Alathia? Why?

      Look, CI has a particular vocation, a particular goal, a particular concern; to defend traditional Christian personal morality in the public square. It makes no sense to go on about them being obsessed with doing so – you might as well criticise the Royal College of Surgeons for not caring about cancer victims, as there is almost nothing about treating cancer on their website.

      Alathia said: "I would go as far as to say, that if churches got on with a little more practical Christianity – following the few commandments Jesus actually gave (to love one another and to wash each other’s feet), then you might just find Christianity getting a little more respect."

      Christianity reduced to good works is no Christianity at all, and the failure to call people to repentance is a repudiation of the Gospel. Watering down the gospel might fill the churches (although that hasn’t worked for the CofE so far), but there is no point in having a full church if what is being said there isn’t true.

      If Christians think that earning people’s respect by never challenging them is the way forward, then they need to remember Jesus’ words: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first”. The world has always turned away from the Christian message.

      As TS Eliot noted:

      "Why should men love the Church? why should they love her laws?

      She tells the of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget.

      She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they like to be soft.

      She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts."

      • alathia

        W.C.

        Many thanks for your considered comments. Very illuminating and useful in parts. I've nothing much to add or reply to – as noted, we have to agree to differ on some topics and move on lest we bore each other and ourselves…

        Thanks again:

        A

      • Jill

        Bravo, WC. Not much I can add to that, except that Christian Institute are lawyers (not many lawsuits in earthquakes)and Anglican Mainstream was set up specifically to address the issue of human sexuality in the wake of the attempted appointment of Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. As you will see from 'who we are' – 'Those in the network of Anglican Mainstream are committed to the traditional biblical teaching on marriage, the family and human sexuality.' All matters of huge concern to most Christians.

        There are in fact five items on the earthquake in the last couple of days. The posts are generally geared towards upholding marriage and opposing the sexualisation of the young, and of strengthening the faith against the onslaught of secularism and militant Islam. It also has fund-raising initiatives for natural disasters.

        These organisations are geared towards the well-being of the whole population, unlike the Pink Press which only seems to want to root out anyone who says anything even remotely unflattering about gays.

        Colin Coward is not averse to accusing people of lying.

        • Ryan

          Lol, and lawyers are certainly the last profession one could accuse of lying for money & power, eh? ;-)

          The CI might *think* they're serving the aims of the population but they're not. Your average, beer and football, 9-5, *straight* man is hardly eager to live in a CI style theocracy. Interestingly, studies invariably show a decrease in anti-gay attitudes in younger generations; how many people in their teens or early twenties will even assume that homosexuality is wrong, let alone to be conducive to rhetoric opposing full gay equality? It may well be true that the historical masculinist attitude on homosexuality is "as long as they don't do it in the streets and scare the horses" – not, I concede, a full support for pride and 'celebration' of homosexuality. But that pithy phrase still presupposes the right of consensual adults to have sex without the interference of the state which, from a wide enough historical view, is far, far,closer to the liberating aims of the "gay lobby" than it is the CI. Supporters of the CI are, in my experience, an unconvincing minority even within evangelical churches – let alone the voice of the "silent majority" (a phrase which that underestimated wit Richard Nixon took from Homer who used it to describe the dead." )

          • Ryan

            Just noticed that was #100 in this thread! Does one get a prize? ;-)

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Nope. Get a thread to a 1000 comments, I might consider it…

    • alathia

      Gervase

      Thank you for your comments – and the kind and respectful manner in which you have made them.

      Re: the Christian website over concern with the subject of homosexuality. Yes, you make a good point, that neither the Pink Newspaper nor Stonewall has made much mention of the earthquake. But why would they? They are organisations which, in my humble opinion, overly try and insinuate the issue of sexuality into everything and as earthquakes and wars aren’t really big theatres for gay issues, it is hardly surprising they are silent or subdued on the issue.

      Whereas two Christian organisations that are concerned with the promotion of conservative Christian values and witness, could, don’t you think have a little more to say than ‘the gays are doing this…’ ‘the gays are doing that…’ day in day out?

      Yes, I admit you have a point and a point well made, but I also think there is an unhealthy interest in the subject of homosexuality by some organisations and individuals that does little other than creates factions and is way out of proportion to its actual impact in society. For fifteen years I was a social worker and I can assure you there are far more pressing issues in our society (alcohol stands out as the biggest cause of social and individual problems – often a underlying issue in dementia, so not just youths binge drinking) and that I am hard pressed to think of one situation I worked in where homosexuality was the cause of the social/personal problem at hand. The only thing I can think of is when a male client made advances to his male carer – I swapped him to a female carer (tho’ the incidences of male clients making advances or being inappropriate with female carers were legion – and not a few of female clients being sexually inappropriate with male carers).

      “One big reason the church needs to spend a lot of time talking about homosexuality is because that’s a place the church is under pressure…” Well, we’re chicken and egg here aren’t we? Which came first? The story noted above about my time with the Evangelical new religious movement is a case in point – with one exception (and it was I who raised the issue) homosexuality has not been mentioned as a worrying cause for social and individual problems. Personal sin, yes – and that ALL are burdened with personal sin, but no singling out of homosexuality – a healthy attitude me thinks. Similarly I am taking undergrad tutorials at present (my PhD is within the theology & religious studies) and teach undergrads and I have been pleasantly surprised (and relieved!) by how the subject of homosexuality does not raise its head.

      The report that Dr Hans-Christian Raabe co-authored on homosexuality and is (allegedly) the reason for his dismissal from a government working party begins with the following point: “Despite the impression given by the media, the actual number of homosexuals is quite small. Essentially all surveys show the number of homosexuals to be only 1-3% of the population. The number of

      homosexuals living in ‘common law partnerships’ is even less, only 0.5% of

      all couples. This contrasts with 70% of all households with a married

      couple.”

      Now if these figures are to be trusted (and I can’t see why not, despite other parts of the report being rather misleading) we’re left wondering why all the fuss.

      Who is making it such a big issue? Well, it is my belief that BOTH certain Christian factions and certain Gay factions are to blame for this. And as I am sure your mother told you, two wrongs don’t make a right. Is gay-marriage going to be the scourge of society? NO! WC makes some convincing arguments as to what is wrong with Western society and the gay issue is far, far down the list.

      What I think would be helpful is to ask what is the fruit of all this over representation for the gay issue, for some Christians and churches so interested and lobbying concerning gay the topic? I don’t think you could say it is a furthering of the Gospel, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m with Peter Tatchell on this one and say that free speech should mean Christians can shout from the rooftops condemning homosexuality if they like – that is what free speech is about – but it works both ways. But is the present preoccupation – and moreover nastiness and in some cases lies and calumny – on the part of some Christian organisations in proportion with the issue? Again, I think the answer is ‘no’.

      Gervase, again many thanks for your comments.

      Regards:

      A.

  • Tom

    Alathia and Gervase

    The CI report on the "Gay-only B&Bs probed by equality commission" news page says the following:

    "His Hon. Judge Rutherford ruled against the Christians, declaring that they had acted unlawfully in not allowing Mr Preddy and Mr Hall to occupy a double room."

    Isn't this misleading, if not just sloppy reporting? The judge ruled against two people who happen to be Christians but that is not why he found against them. He found against them because they broke the law. But here is the CI trying to make out that the Bulls were being punished for being Christians. They were not; they simply broke the law and their defence in court 'the Bible made us do it' failed to exonerate them.

    • Wicked conservative

      The CI report is no more misleading or sloppy than your own characterisation of the case. Nothing in it is untrue.

      If you read the judgment, the judge actually makes it quite clear that the changing nature of society and the resulting tensions between orthodox Christianity and new interpretations of human rights thinking *are* key to the case, and he acknowledges that the law can be seen to be undermining some Christian freedoms.

      • Tom

        I stand by what I said. There is nothing so false as that which is nearly true.

    • http://www.gerv.net/ Gervase Markham

      I think it's entirely accurate. The CI website says "unlawfully", and you are claiming they are not being clear that the judge "found against them because they broke the law"? The CI website uses the description "Christians" because that is what they are, and it makes a material difference in the case (being the basis of their moral stance). (It perhaps might actually have been more balanced if they'd written "the gay couple" instead of "Mr Hall and Mr Preddy", but I doubt you would have seen that as an improvement.)

      In addition, there is the question of what the law is, and what it should be. You say "he found against them because the broke the law" – but, assuming good judges, that's a tautology. Judges will find against defendants who do break the law, and for people who don't. And yet, the point of this case is only partly "did they break the law"; the other significant point is "if they did, then is the law what it should be?"

      The Bulls are not being punished just for being Christians, but they are being punished for living out their faith consistently – because the law of the land criminalises a legitimate application of Christian morality to the running of a B&B. (Some Christians do not agree with their stance; but I hope very few or none would say that they should be forced to go against their conscience in this matter.) And the idea that "you can be a Christian as long as you keep your faith private" is something no Christian should support. Being a Christian and living it out are inextricably entwined; and in that sense, they are being punished for being Christians.

      • Tom

        "The Bulls are not being punished just for being Christians, but they are being punished for living out their faith consistently…"

        Well surely that's the point Gervase. They broke the law because they thought it contravened their biblical faith. But they were punished for what they DID, not for their motives. If they were punished for their motives (Christianity as they see it) then we are getting thought-crime into law.

        But on the same page at the bottom the CI reports that homosexuals have taken to booking double rooms in an effort to destroy their business. How many people made these calls? Were they all from homosexuals? The CI doesn't say – does it even know? – but we are left to draw certain conclusions about what 'homosexuals' – all?, some? one or two? are doing to the Bulls. The CI does nothing to correct or substantiate this generalised impression that there is a concerted operation to destroy their business. What is the evidence for this? Were the police informed?

        I mentioned in an earlier post that I had seen the two men who brought the case on TV explaining the story from their point of view – they arrived late after a long journey. They had no idea of the policy because they made a telephone booking and were concerned that they could bring their dog. When they arrived they were refused the room they had booked and not offered an alternative so they had to find somewhere to stay. There being no tourist office open at that hour they asked at the police station. It does not concur with the version given out by the CI in a link to the Mail story:

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1338232/W….

        According to this it was sting operation set up by Stonewall. They can't both be true. Somebody must be lying. I have no evidence either way but the men's story as they told it rang true. That's all I can say. I am sure the judge was acquainted with all the fact though.

        • http://www.gerv.net/ Gervase Markham

          "But they were punished for what they DID, not for their motives."

          And that's what the CI quote you gave says. The judge declared "that they had _acted_ unlawfully".

          If you want to make a case for deception on the part of CI, this quotation does not help you.

          "But on the same page at the bottom the CI reports that homosexuals have taken to booking double rooms in an effort to destroy their business. How many people made these calls? Were they all from homosexuals?"

          Is your position that this eventuality is utterly impossible? What level of proof would you accept? If they told you the answers to your questions were "17" and "Yes", then surely you'd just have further "go on, prove it to me" questions.

          There would be no point informing the police about this, because no-one is claiming it is illegal to phone up and try and book a double room at a guesthouse.

          • Tom

            Hi Gervase

            As you said earlier up the thread this argument has reached its maximum depth. I think it is a question of tone in the way the CI's journalism is cast. So there was nothing to involve the police with if it was simply people trying to force the Bulls to take unwanted bookings. But if it was clearly threatening or obvious nuisance calling……? Anyway you didn't comment on the CI linking to the Daily Mail story. Are you happy with that? Again it is a question of tone. The Daily Mail is known for its less-than-fairly-balanced journalism. I'd have thought an organisation calling itself Christian had a duty above and beyond other media outlets not only to tell the truth but also exercise justice and compassion, even for its enemies and I am not convinced they do this. The "gay lobby" is just too convenient an enemy. I realise we are not going to agree and I don't want this to descend into "internet bickering" so I'll say no more. That's one of the nicer things about Peter's blog. People seem to be able to disagree with respect without dehumanising each other. Must be the sense of Peter's (mostly) benign oversight: "Thou Peter seest me" :-)

            I had a look at your website. I thought with a name like Gervase you might be a Catholic? No? I found what you say interesting and moving. I'd like to wish you well and happiness.

            • http://www.gerv.net/ Gervase Markham

              Thank you for your good wishes :-)

              I agree that the CI article about the vote by the Scottish Episcopal Church is badly worded, at minimum. And I agree about Christians having a particular desire to be fair and balanced, but I don't think that leads to a blanket ban on linking to Daily Mail articles. From reading it, it seems to be a "he said, he said" between this Bernie Quinn chap and Mr Preddy. Perhaps Mr Quinn misheard on the phone; perhaps he's lying; perhaps it was a Stonewall sting. I don't think either you or I have the resources to know for certain.

              I agree with what you say about the quality of debate on Peter's blog :-)

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                I agree with what you say about the quality of debate on Peter’s blog :-)

                Sycophancy will get you gentlemen almost anywhere.

  • Tom

    Wait for it, there's more! You say the CI has not mentioned the NZ quake. Well this group has and they KNOW where the blame lies:

    http://www.christchurchquake.net/

    "THE SEPTEMBER QUAKE AND THE AFTERSHOCKS WERE WARNINGS – PIKE RIVER WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE JUDGEMENT — AND THEN CAME FEB 22ND 2011"

    So read on – if you want to :-)

  • Ryan

    Here's an expose of a blatant lie by the 'C' I :

    http://www.thurible.net/20100120/more-on-the-elec

    At one point the 'C'I had three stories on the SEC, two of which had flat-out lies or sub-yellow journalism distortions at the centre. Daresay those with local knowledge in other areas could supply similar examples although, of course, "a journalist in the Daily Mail says x, and we agree with them" pseudo op-ed CI methodology is intrinsically ludicrous and unconvincing in and of itself.

    • Wicked conservative

      "Blatant lie" is a very strong accusation to make against a Christian, Ryan.

      What evidence do we have that this was a deliberate blatant lie, rather than, say, a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation?

  • Wicked conservative

    Oh, do get off your high horse. Your description of the case is just as partial and selective as any other.

    And besides, your constant attempt to insinuate that mainstream conservative Christians are personally spiteful and vindictive towards gays are hardly an attempt to describe the whole truth.

    • Ryan

      Partial and selective how? The CI institute says something about the SEC that is flat out false (which, by the way, evangelicals in the SEC can and could acknowledge too). Your attempt to defend whatever nonsense that comes out by self-described supporters of your ideological team hardly does the conservative Christian cause any good.

      I'd hardly go to an evangelical church or post here if I thought that all conservative Christians are evil , would I? the Pope drawing on 2 millenia of deposited faith to articulate the true nature of the family, or serious blogs like this, deserve respect. The CI does not, because it is shoddy 'journalism' irrespective of one's ideological team. You giving a free pass to whatever nonsense is spouted by the CI is a hell of a lot more 'skewed' than anything I've posted. Are the fine journalists of the CI infallible when typing ex cathedra or something? Believe it or not, if you pointed out something contentious (e.g.) Stonewall had said there's a perfectly good chance that I might, y'know, assess it on its merits and possibly disagree with it. And if they were caught out in a flat-out lie I wouldn't try to defend them on, what, the grounds that everyone on the Same Team has to stick together irrespective of the actual facts of particular situations.

      • Wicked conservative

        First of all, the comment about the B and B case was a reply to Tom, not to you. The perils of internet debate!

        Second, I have a couple of questions:

        Where have I given a "free pass" to the CI? I have defended them against what I perceive to be unjust allegations. But I have never defended them uncritically.

        I also await a reply to my question above:

        What evidence do we have that this was a deliberate blatant lie, rather than, say, a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation?

        • Ryan

          So if the CI is caught publishing manifestly untrue information we're still to assume their innocence? Is the burden of proof now, what, on me to produce a smoking-gun memo or similar that establishes a conspiracy by the CI to distort the truth? The Scottish Episcopal Church published this on +Gregor's election :

          http://www.scotland.anglican.org/index.php/news/e

          which quite deliberately does not say anything about the SEC voting **against** women bishops per se. Perhaps, to give the CI the benefit of the doubt, they, rather than flat-out deliberately lying, didn't bother to check. Such a concession (which I haven't made), would still illustrate a worrying 'standard' of journalism at the CI- which is what I've been saying all along!

          Similarly, the CI had a story on the SEC, whipping up the 2-Sides, Conflict, Rising Tide of Unbiblical Gay Clergy etc rhetoric. This is in spite of the fact, that as everyone knows (*especially* the CI) that the Scottish Episcopal Church, in 2005, published a statement by the College of Bishops saying that the church had absolutely no problem with sexually active (and, one imagines, passive! ;-)) clergy. Here's a conservative blog on the issue :
          http://gadgetvicar.typepad.com/gadgetvicar/2005/1

          So attempting to portray SEC, which very much has far more liberals than evangelicals (+Gene Robinson's visit to Glasgow's Cathedral Church was nigh-on standing room only!) as being in the same situation as the C of E is flat out distortion. Given Lambeth resolutions which we all here now about, it would be deeply unconvincing if, for example, a liberal site published something like "The Church of England has no official teaching against homosexual relationships". I suppose we could fruitfully debate whether such a claim is a "lie" or a "distortion", but I certainly would not try to defend it on the grounds of supporting the liberal "team".

  • Tom

    Me? If this was directed at me you'd better give chapter and verse for this serious and nasty accusation "And besides, your constant attempt to insinuate that mainstream conservative Christians are personally spiteful and vindictive towards gays are hardly an attempt to describe the whole truth".

    • Wicked conservative

      I don't want to turn this thread into a spat between you and me, Tom. My reply was perhaps not very constructive, and to some extent not a response to you individually as much as a response to the many bad faith accusations and innuendoes about hate, lies and bigotry that conservative Christians face from revisionists on a pretty regular basis (including sometimes on this blog).

      That said, I stand by my comments about the B and B decision, and I once again pose this question about the CI/SEC:

      What evidence do we have that this was a deliberate blatant lie, rather than, say, a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation? We never actually see any evidence to support these accusations of lying.

      Moreover:

      On the thread about Robert Gagnon you referred to him as using a "neutron bomb" and a "dirty bomb".

      You wrote the following generalisation:

      "People allow themselves to get paranoid because of the massagings of the facts by the Christian Institute or Christian Concern For Our Nation. It’s counterproductive; nothing turns ordinary non-church goers being Christian more than the outpourings of these activists and their Daily Mail supporters, I’d say"

      which contains an indirect, unproven allegation of untruthfulness.

      Other comments of yours which perpetuate negative stereotypes about conservatives' supposedly harsh feelings towards gays:

      "Wait for it, there’s more! You say the CI has not mentioned the NZ quake. Well this group has and they KNOW where the blame lies:
      http://www.christchurchquake.net/
      “THE SEPTEMBER QUAKE AND THE AFTERSHOCKS WERE WARNINGS – PIKE RIVER WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE JUDGEMENT — AND THEN CAME FEB 22ND 2011″

      So read on – if you want to :-)"

      You must know that groups are like these are not representative of conservative Christians?

      "here is the CI trying to make out that the Bulls were being punished for being Christians. They were not; they simply broke the law and their defence in court ‘the Bible made us do it’ failed to exonerate them."

      Drastic oversimplification and ignorance of the issues at hand.

      "so often religion is used for a cloak to hide a visceral hatred of homosexuality."

      Re. Robert George, you wrote: "The guys at Reasonable Doubts podcast say women are not safe from this man."

      "the treatment of women as men’s property which it might be argued is “biblical” in some quarters of the Christian world."

      Another smear.

      "The same goes for the CI. You only have to look at their websites to see. Such fanatical fascination does give rational people cause to wonder why some people get so steamed up about it."

  • Tom

    WC I don't want to turn it into sniping either. I admit the posting of the http://www.christchurchquake.net/ link was naughty. I did it to tease because I certainly don't think such people are really Christians. I am afraid religion can be a magnet for nutters – you have to live with it and people WILL use it against you. I know, I should have known better and I apologise.

    But while we are on this sort objectification of gay people as THE evil, don't you think traditional Christians should go out of their way a bit more to condemn where people are being persecuted? I think Uganda is a case in point. Yes you have said you are appalled by what some Christians there are doing and saying against gay people but we hardly hear anything from the Church leadership. When did the Pope say anything, or Vincent Nichols? Rowan Williams has spoken fairly late in the day but from John Sentamu who is a Ugandan himself have we heard a whisper?

    Years ago when the Soho bomb went off who was the first on the radio? Cardinal Hume. He made it absolutely plain from that moment that antigay language can lead to unstable people doing terrible things. He won the hearts of the gay community in Soho. Isn't that a better kind of Christian witness than the confrontational politics of the CI? Cardinal Hume was a great man.The queen even called him My Cardinal. He explained Catholic ethics in a way that made sense to the common man and woman who were often puzzled by some of the more obscure aspects of Catholic teaching and I read somewhere that he got the Vatican to back off in some of its more distressing anti-gay rhetoric – you know, the intrinsically disordered stuff – which he thought did more harm than good.

    Ryan has asked you why you need to be so defensive of the CI in all its doings and that is my question too, especially as you are a Catholic and the CI and CCFON are Protestant organisations without much love for Catholicism, unless I am mistaken.

    I am still puzzled that you seem to find it upsetting that I quoted Walter Wink on the neutron bomb – why shouldn't I quote from his review of Gagnon or for that matter what the Doubtcasters said about George? I provided the references in both cases – certainly some people in the States might have every reason to very scared for a woman's rights over her own body if opponents can get Roe v. Wade repealed and stem-cell research stopped through the powerful influence of Robert P. George.

    You take exception to phrases like "religion is used for a cloak", "women as men’s property" and "fanatical fascination does give rational people cause to wonder" statements, yet none of these was made without qualification, as accusations against ALL traditional believers. But Religion has ALWAYS been used as a cloak by some people to disguise their true motives. Just read Geoffrey Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale or the misdoings of some larger-than-life latter-day US televangelists. Normal people who do not post on blogs like this shake their heads in disbelief at why the churches are so hung up about the gay issue, and really, in the Ten Commandments women were considered men's property. Women have only now emancipated themselves – and that is in Western post-Enlghtenment culture. Just look at the traditional marriage service: a man (the bride's father or brother) gives her away. "Who giveth this woman?" says the parson and she is handed to him in turn he hands her to the groom. You as an Oxford historian must know that. Not in all parts of the world of course, and least of all under Islam.

    Anyway, after all that I do not think I am guilty as charged. There certainly was no malice aforethought. If I may say, you come over as very serious and intense and defending your religion is very important to you. I respect that but I think you need to take a broader view. Some of the wilder generalisations you find against Christians on Pink News and the like don't really get aired here. Peter wouldn't allow it. This is a blog. We write opinions which we try to substantiate but in the end these are not academic papers or even undergraduate essays. So can we say Pax tecum to each other?

    I visited a monastery in France last summer, Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux, which is a very traditional Benedictine Abbey. Would I have done that if my feeling towards traditional Christians was as anti-pathetic as you seem to think?

    • Wicked conservative

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for your gracious reply.

      Perhaps I do come across as serious and intense, which is odd because I'm not really especially serious and intense in real life (at least I don't think so). I do think these issues matter; I am particularly keen that the civil liberties of Christians be protected, and that more generally British life is not totally controlled by regulation, regimentation and top-down orthodoxy.

      The fact is that my work, for a pro-life charity, involves me quite closely in what I shall reluctantly call the culture wars – which is why I feel a close affinity to the CI and its personnel (some of whom I have met and they are definitely not liars or obsessives) – and I have grown very weary of the constant misrepresentation and bad argument that I face. To give you an example: I have read almost every article on bioethics that has appeared in the British national press since September 2005. I can honestly say that I can count on the fingers of both hands the number of such articles which treats the pro-life position with respect and actually seriously engages with the real issues at hand. You yourself above refer to "stem cell research" ending under the influence of Robert George, without making the crucial distinction between embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research/induced pluripotency.

      So yes, pax tecum. I bear no ill will towards you. I have opponents, not enemies. But I don't accept that I'm "defensive" about the CI. All I'm asking is that if you're going to accuse someone of lying – that is, stating as fact something which they believe or know to be false – then you really ought to be able to support that allegation.

      And neither you nor Ryan have provided any evidence to support it.

      God bless,

      Niall

    • Wicked conservative

      A quick addendum, Tom:

      I do basically agree that conservative Christians need to re-examine some of the ways in which they think and talk about homosexuality-related issues. Eve Tushnet, who is an orthodox – but chastely lesbian – Catholic, has written convincingly (to me) about the limitations and inadequacies of language like "objectively disordered". And both Evangelicals and Catholics need to think more carefully about their theology of singleness, and how to welcome and integrate homosexually attracted people in their congregations.

      • Tom

        Thank you.

      • Tom

        Hi Niall

        I sent the URL http://www.christchurchquake.net/ to a friend who teaches Religious Studies at the U of Otago in Dunedin. This is what he sent me:

        "Forwarded this to my colleagues, and they had a long debate about whether or not to support a campaign to have the site shut down (which has now happened). The case against was: "everyone misses the opportunity of knowing what ghastly (= morally bankrupt) consequences follow from some forms of religious belief."

        I don't know how the debate went or whether they were instrumental in getting the site shut down, but the crucial words "some forms" draws the line in the sand fairly, in my view.

        I had not heard of Eve Tushnet so I googled her and came across a very interesting and (may I say) ladylike debate with Ann Althouse:

        http://althouse.blogspot.com/2010/06/i-talk-to-ev

        Is she out on a limb in suggesting that if gay people had sex reassignment to the opposite sex it would be more morally justifiable than having same sex? I know this has taken place in Iran and perhaps is consistent with Muslim sexual ethics but I should not believe the Catholic Church would have anything to do with it. A friend of mine, a psychiatrist who worked at the Maudsley in the day when they used to use aversion therapy to try to make gay men straight now tells me he is deeply ashamed that he once conducted these treatments. He's Anglican veering to Orthodoxy so fairly traditional. Of course in his day the treatments where hardly voluntary – imposed by the courts in an "or else go to gaol" scenario – as happened to Alan Turing. Eve was not suggesting any kind of state interference – as happens in Iran – or pressure on people to under sex reassignment. She was suggesting it as an alternative to life-long celibacy. One of the problems that leaps up is that not many gay people think they are in the wrong body. Body image dysmorphia is a totally different issue. I'd be glad to hear your views.

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Transgender and homosexual issues are quite different. Can't see it working.

          As to the earthquake website, I think Jesus' teaching in Luke 13:1-8 very clearly is that God does not punish us in the world for individual sins, but disasters like this are a clear warning of the judgement that is to come. Less, "Repent because your sin caused this" and more "Repent, because ultimately this is the fate of all sinners".

          • Tom

            I hope you don't really believe that.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              Well, perhaps you'd like to explain what Jesus means when he says,

              Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

              Does he mean that if people don't repent they won't actually perish?

              • Tom

                I don't have to explain it Peter, you do. How do you know Jesus said it?

                "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mark 13:32

                Why is it a secret? Why does a loving God want to catch people out?

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  We're not really playing the same game are we Tom?

                  Why is it a secret? Why does a loving God want to catch people out?

                  As opposed to an unrepentant reprobate who thinks he has the right to demand anything from God?

                  You see, I've now told you above what Jesus clearly warns you, that unless you repent you will too perish. No-one's catching anybody out. You've had it explained to you very plainly so there is no misunderstanding and now have a choice – repent or perish.

                  Over to you.

                  • Blair

                    Peter, can I make a small plea that if there's going to be real discussion on interpreting Luke 13:1-8, that you start another thread? Might be clearer and there might be more room!

                    What warrant is there for reading this as Jesus threatening his interlocutors with God's judgement to come? My NRSV has him saying, "…unless you repent, you will all perish as they did". But the "as they did" refers (at least in the first example) to human violence…

                    Or, more compellingly, James Alison, who writes that Jesus's "attention is entirely concentrated on his interlocutors. It is not the events themselves which concern him, but their reaction to the events, and what that reaction says about whose power they are in. We can imagine the excitement of those telling him, wanting a pronouncement of appropriately apocalyptic tenor: the Galileans were not sacrificing at Jerusalem, probably at Gerizim, the rival Samaritan sacrificial site. Maybe this was their punishment from God? But the interlocutors are disappointed. Jesus completely desacralises the event, removing any link between God and what has happened. Any link between morality and what has happened. If we are caught up in thinking like that, then we too are likely to act in ways moved by the apocalyptic other, the god of blood and sacrifice and murder, of morality linked to worldly outcome, and we will perish like them" ('On being liked', London: DLT, 2003, p8).

                    in friendship, Blair

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Come on Blair,

                      i) Jesus says these words immediately after using the Tower of Siloam illustration. It's stretching the text to suggest he then drops that illustration when referring to the form of destruction.

                      ii) Any interpretation has to take into account the parable that comes immediately afterwards which suggests a "repent or perish" motif. The fig tree is constantly used as a prophetic image of Israel, so to narrow the challenge to *just* those who asked the question is to not really engage with the wider passage.

                      iii) The theme of "repent or perish" is taken up again and again in Scripture.

              • Tom

                Incidentally, isn't this quote a problem for the doctrine of the Trinity?

                • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                  Not in the slightest.

        • Wicked conservative

          Tom:

          My honest answer is that I just don't know! – and I don't think the Church has got to grips with the issue enough to give any useful guidance. Intuitively, I have reservations about gender reassignment surgery – is it really the best response to a condition like body dysmorphia? Is it a justified mutilation of the body? – but I haven't fully thought through the anthropology and the theology of the situation.

          As for the Maudsley clinic, I agree that what went on in those places was ghastly. I would add only that the legacy of such places should not discredit all attempts to provide therapy to same-sex attracted people.

        • Jill

          Aversion therapy was used right across the spectrum, along with electric shock and other ghastly treatments, in the early days of psychotherapy. We have come a long way since then. Why dig up some ancient regime as 'proof' that it doesn't work? What about researching some of the therapies that DO work? There are plenty of people to testify to this.

          • Ryan

            ECT is still being used today (for depression, but still)

            There are far more ex "ex-gays" than there are "ex-gays"; professional bodies rightly have to look at the overall picture, and can't legitimise and recommend treatment on the basis of an insignificant collection of anecdotal experiences.

            And, of course, even if sexuality could be changed it in no way follows that psychologists do or should regard such changes as healthy, let alone desireable.

            Is it not significant that many (most?) post/ex gays talk of the transforming Power of Christ? Christians should, of course, believe in miraculous change, but that hardly means that secular scientists such as psychologists should see themselves as being in the miracle business! And evangelicals obviously reject the idea of a 'gay' identity, making it more honest to talk (for example) of people moving from engaging in homoshenanigins to celibacy than a proper 'no longer gay' change. I'm also surprised that more evangelicals haven't made more about 'biphobia' in the gay community.

            • Tom

              Yes, Ryan, it's interesting that Eve Tushnet doesn't mention the ex-gay programmes as something likely to work. She goes for the full operative sex-change which must be a deal more costly than a group of men meeting in the woods and banging drums to get in touch with their essential inner manhood or whatever else they do. Has anyone seen Bedrooms and Hallways?

              But to be serious, I am prepared to grant you Jill, ex-gay programming MAY work for a few highly motivated individuals (or those in the middle of the KInsey scale who can suppress their bi side) but it is not a cure-all and shouldn't be promoted as such. That is clearly not the case and it is wrong and cruel to hold it out as a certainty. My psychiatrist friend is rather dubious that many people experience a complete conversion. People may achieve heterosexual functionality, and maybe that is sufficient for them but it is a long way from the situation that their "unwanted same-sex attractions" have gone away. The evidence seems rather that they haven't and may come back later. Didn't this happen to the founders of Exodus?

              • Jill

                Now you're doing it, Tom. Banging drums and engaging with their essential inner manhood! Honestly!

                I don't think anybody is promoting it as a cure-all. Change is not possible for everybody, and that must be recognised – BUT – it is possible for many. Many have even gone on to marry and have families, but that is not necessarily the ultimate goal – which is the diminution of their same-sex attraction and the need to act upon it.

                Do read the experiences of this guy, who was refused outright help to reduce his unwanted ssa by a gay-affirming therapist, but who persevered and was treated for what could be called the underlying causes, and found that the ssa diminished at the same time.

                http://aflame.blog.co.uk/2011/01/29/unpublished-l

                • Tom

                  Hi Jill

                  I really don't think we are in great disagreement if we agree that transition may take place in some cases and that the methods employed cannot be promoted as cure-all. If people are depressed it is natural to look for a cause – this or that trauma happened in my life, or being gay is the bad hand Mother Nature dealt me, and so on. Psychiatrists are trained to be very careful about accepting patients' self-diagnoses at face-value nevertheless I think sometimes even an illusion can be helpful. Buddhism has long known about the power of saving illusions. In my view that's what all religions are – whistling in the dark. So how can we blame people who are looking for a comforting illusion? I'm not sure. Where such programmes are used to make people actually worse about themselves then they are surely damaging. I think the whole area of ex-gay therapy need to be independently reviewed because in the wrong hands it is messing with people's minds.

                  I found Phelim McIntyre's story interesting.

                  Here is an interview between Rachel Maddow and Richard Cohen of Exodus:

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2Pg22ow1e8

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7SVBd8KcaE&NR

                  • William

                    I am familiar with Phelim McIntyre’s story, so far as he has told it. I make no comment on the state of his mind. I will merely say that, in view of his confused thinking, misstatements of others’ positions, reckless accusations of mendacity and hypocrisy against those from whose views he dissents and strident vituperation against those who question his more extravagant assertions, I would treat his story with severe scepticism.

          • William

            “Why dig up some ancient regime as ‘proof’ that it doesn’t work? What about researching some of the therapies that DO work? There are plenty of people to testify to this.”

            Two problems with this, Jill. The first is that there was plenty of testimony that the “therapies” of the “ancient regime” did work. Those who practised them even went on television saying how successful they were. And yet, as Professor Timothy F. Murphy puts it, “It is interesting that virtually every sexual orientation therapy ever formulated has passed into history along with its originators.” There has been plenty of testimony to the efficacy of practically every fad that has ever been invented, from angel therapy to astrology and from crystal healing to little pyramid-shaped cardboard boxes to keep your razor blades sharp for longer.

            The other problem is that those on the receiving end of the therapies have an unfortunate habit of eventually retracting their testimony and admitting that they were simply deceiving themselves. Even those who do not actually retract their testimony tend eventually to qualify it. As the authors of “Not For Turning: An Enquiry into the Ex-Gay Movement” (1996) noted, “[B]oth within the orbit of this Enquiry and more generally, all those who have made claims to us about change – who claim to have been ‘set free’ from homosexual orientation – have sooner or later modified this claim considerably.”

            • Jill

              William, you say that 'those on the receiving end…'. How many of 'those'? All of them? Some of them? A few of them? and 'those who do not' – again, all of them?

              No. Most addictive behaviour patterns have the unhappy habit of recurring – whether gambling, alcoholism, or even womanising. I don't believe there is a 'cure' as such for any of these – it is always 'a day at a time'. Many former gays even in long-term marriages will admit to still having same-sex attractions from time to time. Therapy is useful here where good old-fashioned self-control fails. It is just a case of finding a method which works for you.

              I don't believe true happiness and fulfilment can be found in gay relationships, even if they are 'faithful'. I know there are many who share that view, which is why the door must never be closed on those who do not welcome their same-sex attraction.

              • Tom

                Yes, I suppose it would be possible to set up some kind of survey to measure levels of true happiness and fulfilment experienced in marriages and relationships of all kinds. I don't think it has been done yet. The same thing could be done comparing happiness and life-satisfaction in religious and non-religious people. How about doing a PhD in it Jill. My experience is that people who have thought about these things and come to a more sceptical view of religion are happier than those who take it literally and live under the constant threat of infinite divine punishment.

              • William

                Well, Jill, I can’t give you any figures because I haven’t got them; no-one else has them either. Ex-gay ministries give no precise statistics; they just make claims of “thousands”, “tens of thousands” or even “hundreds of thousands” who have “changed”, these vague numbers expanding and contracting, presumably according to what they judge to be the credulity of those whom they are addressing. Robert Spitzer concluded, from the fact that it had taken him so long, in a country the size of America, to find 200 possible cases whose claims were even worthy of further investigation, that genuine change was probably extremely rare. He has also said that he now believes that some of the apparently “successful” cases were probably deceiving themselves and him. I have never myself been involved in an ex-gay ministry or in any other kind of “therapy” to change my sexual orientation – and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. However, having long been interested in the psychology of self-deception, I have studied the history of the ex-gay movement and I have to say to say that it presents a pretty dismal picture.

                Michael Bussee, Gary Cooper, Jim Kaspar, Jeremy Marks, Raphaël Creemers, Jeff Ford, Christine Bakke, Darlene Bogle, Wade Richards, Frank Shears – these are just some of those who have retracted their testimony and have admitted that their alleged change of orientation was merely self-deception. Now that isn’t just a random list of people whose orientation failed to change, as one might make a list of people who found that a particular headache or indigestion remedy didn’t work for them or that a particular shampoo didn’t suit their hair. These people were the “stars”, so to speak, of the ex-gay movement, who held themselves up, or were held up by others, as living proof that “Change is possible!” Not only did they proclaim that their own sexual orientation HAD changed, but many of them spent years running ex-gay programs to help others to change just as they allegedly had.

                Take Michael Bussee, for instance. He was one of the founders of Exodus International. Yet he eventually admitted that his own orientation had never changed and that during his years with Exodus he never found anyone whose orientation had. Similarly, Jeremy Marks, who founded and directed Courage UK, once claimed “Today I am able to walk free of the struggle with homosexuality” and “The years of frustration and misery have borne good fruit, equipping me to help show the way out of homosexuality to others in similar need.” But in 2001 he admitted that “ex-gay therapy” hadn’t worked for him and that “None of the people we’ve counselled have converted no matter how much effort and prayer they’ve put into it.” Jeff Ford, who was the executive director of Outpost and who used to say that he had been “healed” of homosexuality and was helping others to be “healed”, eventually confessed “I honestly say that I did not see that happen in my work with over 300 gay and lesbian people.” Frank Shears, who ran an ex-gay ministry attached to the Burnaby Christian Fellowship in Canada, said shortly before his death that his only regret was that he had told so many young gay people that they could change their sexuality, because it wasn’t true.

                As for those who do not retract but modify their claims, I think that the best example is Alan Chambers, the current president of Exodus International. He has admitted that the term “ex-gay” is misleading. During the week before the “Love Won Out” conference in February 2007, Chambers told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn’t sure that he’d ever met an “ex-gay” who ceased to “struggle” with same-sex attractions – and he made it clear at the conference that that included himself. He has said that he used to get angry with people who say that he is “in denial” but that he now agrees that they are more or less right. He said “I live a life of denial” and “I choose to deny what comes naturally to me,” and that he has to pray to God every morning when he gets up to keep him in this state of denial. All you genuinely heterosexual guys out there, do you have to do that? Please tell me.

                I think I’m right in saying that the most powerful motive, apart from religious beliefs, behind the desire to change one’s sexual orientation is the wish to conform, to be exactly like everyone (or nearly everyone) else: “I want be straight, like Dad, like my brother Ian, like my mate Tom.” Even if some of these people can manage to “function” heterosexually, like a tenor who can manage to sing the bass line, it is highly improbable that they will ever be “straight” in the sense that Dad, Ian or Tom is. To tell them this frankly isn’t a callous closing of the door; on the contrary, it’s neither kind nor ethical to encourage them to waste their lives pursuing a goal which is extremely unlikely of attainment, still less to try to persuade them that they have some sort of moral duty to do so.

                While there certainly are addictive sexual behaviour patterns, both homosexual and heterosexual, homosexuality itself isn’t an addictive behaviour pattern any more than heterosexuality is. To be addicted to something, you have to start doing it: you have to start drinking, gambling, smoking, womanizing, injecting drugs or whatever. To be gay you don’t have to do anything at all; I knew that I was gay years before I did anything about it. Same-sex attractions manifest themselves spontaneously, just as other-sex attractions do. Neither refraining from expressing them nor pretending that they’re not there will make them go way, as I discovered for myself. Some will say, of course, that one should still ignore them and that to express them in any way is wrong, no matter what the circumstances. I don’t.

                • Tom

                  This is very informative, William. A question that should be put to church leaders who strongly endorse ex-gay ministry: "Would you like your daughter to marry one?" You don't really have to ask, do you?

                  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                    Tom,

                    That's a bit insulting. Can you please try just to think about how those of us who some label as "ex-gay" might feel when reading that.

                    • Tom

                      Sorry, I withdraw it. It was careless. I wasn't actually thinking of you, Peter.

                    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                      Thank you Tom.

                      In all seriousness, yes, there are some men (and women) who experience same-sex attraction and marry someone of the opposite sex thinking that that will make everything OK. When they discover (or own up to) the fact that they are still attracted to some men (even if they are attracted to their wife and other women) they can sometimes think that the "ex-gay" paradigm they've bought into is fake. That sometimes then leads to the breakdown of the marriage. Of course at the same time they are plenty of other men and women who, whilst still experiencing varying degrees of same-sex attraction, discover that they can love someone of the opposite sex despite this and, in the full knowledge and ownership of what they experience, marry and have long and fulfilling relationships.

                      Of course, I would argue that what is needed is a much deeper dying to self then simply "gay to straight". If that is all you envision ("gay to straight") you will be disappointed when the truth of your falleness re-emerges. If however your vision is for a concept of humanity and sexual identity that transcends bipolar artificial constraints, then you may very well succeed where others fail.

                    • Tom

                      Thank you for forgiving my crassness. There is a story that Irish priests used to say to young men confessing same-sex attraction "Find yourself a nice Irish girl". One wondered what special powers Irish girls were supposed to have. Perhaps they were just expected to be uncomplaining. :-)

                  • Sue

                    However the misery of straight spouses should not be overlooked. Jeremy Marks refers to them as " the most tragic figures in the whole debacle". He says that most of the marriages he saw contracted at Exodus have now failed and that there is "no consideration of the how callous it is to encourage gay men to marry given the severe trauma and suffering this is likely to mean for many wives in the long run."

                    I seem to remember a conversation with either Marks or Toscano in which they said that many of the Exodus leaders did indeed keep their daughters firmly away from ex gay men on the programme.

                    This is not a reflection on any one person. Individuals and their marriages are unique and may escape the general trend. But the point made is relevant.

                    • Wicked conservative

                      So here's a thought experiment, Sue; given my knowledge of some of the cultural, sexual and moral norms of the male gay community, particularly in large cities and in universities, I'm not sure I'd want my son to get involved with a gay relationship.

                      Is this wrong?

                      Remember, this is not a reflection on any one person. Individuals and their relationships are unique and may escape the general trend. But the point made is relevant.

                    • Sue

                      It isn't "wrong" of you to feel that way WC, but you would have to accept that it was ultimately your hypothetical son's life and he is the one who must lead it. And, of course, you would bear in mind, as you so wisely acknowledge from my earlier comment, that individuals and their relationships are unique and your son might find a deeply committed gay partner and you could both be happy or at least accepting of it.

                      In the same way, if I had a gay son who decided to undergo an ex gay therapy, or marry a woman, I would express my reservations, but I would be accepting of his decisions. It is more important to love our adult children than try to live their lives for them.

                    • William

                      That may well be the case, WC, but I don’t see that there is any analogy or parallel here – UNLESS you are implying that although, given your knowledge of some of the cultural, sexual and moral norms of the male gay community, particularly in large cities and in universities, you’re not sure you’d want your son to get involved with a gay relationship, you’d encourage OTHER people’s sons to do so.

  • Blair

    Hello Peter and all,

    just come across a link to this article and thought it might be of relevance to this thread…

    http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/02/24/will-chur

    in friendship, Blair

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      This is the piece highlighted by Simon Sarmiento? Unfortunately it doesn't engage with the much more serious issue as to whether churches like the CofE will be able to control their clergy on this issue.

      • Blair

        "For example, the Church of England, which has made clear it will forbid its churches to be used to facilitate civil partnerships, may face difficulties in preventing rectors who have freehold title to parish property for using their premises for that purpose, and there may be issues in disciplining a clergyman who invites a civil registrar onto his premises to conduct a civil partnership ceremony".

        It doesn't engage with that, apart from what I quote above, though in fairness it's not the article's remit to do so, is it? And on the C of E discipline issue – you use the future tense 'will' but we're both aware, I'm sure, of C of E churches that have blessed same-sex unions for some time now… Jeffrey Heskins's book comes to mind…

        in friendship, Blair

        • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

          Yes, we're both aware of that. Want to lay down a complaint against anybody?

          As an aside, I can't find many people taking about the freeholder issue around registering civil partnerships in CofE churches. Do you think I can get away with claiming credit for being the first to raise the issue?

          • Blair

            *John Cleese voice* "I wish to register a complaint…" :)

            You may well be the first – not sure, but the credit's there for the taking :)

            in friendship, Blair

  • alathia

    Poufs – grow up Peter.

    Like queer etc. it is a word we poufs who aren't up our own arses use with pride.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Then please go and use it elsewhere.

    • Ryan

      P—-s can be up their *own* arses!? Truly, I can't believe that the Christian Institute haven't informed us of that perversion!! ;-) (soz)

      (NB responses to serious points above will follow, but probably tomorrow. Have a life – of sorts! – and the Glorious Glasgow Rangers were playing tonight!)

      Peter – 'pouf' is quite deliberately not 'poof', perhaps analogous to the way rappers reclaimed the n-word with "nigga". However, your blog, your rules, so I myself certainly will not again be using the p—- word here.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        If someone used that word as a perjorative you would rightly call them out for it. I'm simply not going to accept it's use here.

        But it was Alathia's response that has prompted me to ban her. Let's just keep it to one person shall we?

        • Ryan

          Fair dos – and no worries. Sorry you're having to ban people. Spam and trolling – from any 'side' – plainly have no place in a serious discussion.

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            Spam, trolling and the use of words that are offensive.

            This conversation is over.

            • Tom

              And there was me thinking a pouffe was something my aunts had in their front rooms for sitting on!

        • Sue

          It is spelt "pejorative" BTW.

          • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

            Thanks.

          • Sue

            "I’m simply not going to accept it’s use here."

            The possessive pronoun "its" does not take a possessive apostrophe, you only use that in the case of a contraction, it's as in "it is."

            • Ryan

              "the only thing sadder than arguing on the internet is arguing about *grammar* on the internet" ;-)

              • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

                "sadder"

                "more sad", surely? :-)

            • Sue

              I've been proof reading too many essays this week.

            • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

              I think we've established my lack of grammatical ability. Let's move on.

  • Blair

    Peter,

    no reply button on your comment above so starting again down here…

    Come on Blair,

    i) Jesus says these words immediately after using the Tower of Siloam illustration. It’s stretching the text to suggest he then drops that illustration when referring to the form of destruction.

    ii) Any interpretation has to take into account the parable that comes immediately afterwards which suggests a “repent or perish” motif. The fig tree is constantly used as a prophetic image of Israel, so to narrow the challenge to *just* those who asked the question is to not really engage with the wider passage.

    iii) The theme of “repent or perish” is taken up again and again in Scripture.

    (i) He says these words after *both* examples (see verses 3 and 5). I don't think I suggested he then "drops that illustration when referring to the form of destruction".

    (ii) Nobody's "narrowing the challenge to *just* those who asked the question" – James Alison isn't, since in the passage I quoted he says, "If we are caught up in thinking like that…", the 'we' putting himself and his hearers in the position of Jesus' interlocutors in the text. When JA says that Jesus's attention is wholly fixed on those he's talking to, he's not trying to limit the applicability of what Jesus says, but (if I'm reading right) to emphasise that Jesus will not be drawn into any talk about the meaning of the events being discussed – because any such meaning would be part of the world of reciprocal violence and apocalyptic events that Jesus wants his interlocutors, including us, to leave.

    (iii) I'm not trying to suggest that 'repent or perish' can't be seen as a theme of Scripture, or that Jesus is doing anything in this text other than telling his hearers to repent or perish. What I was trying to start discussing, was how we understand 'repent or perish'.

    Any chance of another thread…?

    in friendship, Blair

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Let's try and do it some time next week. We've plenty other stuff to chew over till then. Feel free to give me a nudge about later on.

  • Ryan

    Is the elephant in the room not the fact that evangelicalism has (albeit for largely tactical, pew-filling reasons) capitulated to feminism? The conservative, pointing out that marrying largely on the basis of Romantic Love and sexual attraction is largely a recent phenomena, may be entirely right. But try telling that to your average Modern Professional "Jesus Says: Yo Go, Girl!" Woman whose type is well(over?) represented in evangelical churches and whose relationship ideology owes far more to Cosmo than it does what Christians in, say, the 16th C would have called Pauline teaching. How can someone regard "Feminist Christian" as utterly non-oxymoronic yet still claim to be part of an unbroken chain of Christian Orthodoxy? Accepting (to all intents and purposes) Gender Interchangeability plainly makes denunciations of same-sex 'practise' absurd, plumbing-focused Christ/Church ex(ei?)segis aside.

  • Ryan

    WC – that's an interesting question (although you look less than 30 in your gravatar suggesting a more obvious reason why you wouldn't want your son in gay relationships!)

    Are parents comfortable thinking of their children as sexual beings generally? Your citing of Universities is interesting. The stereotypical view would be that men wouldn't mind their sons indulging (spread your wild oats, you're only young once etc tec) but daughters ought to be chaste. The double standard is troubling even to those who aren't foaming-at-the-mouth conservatives.

    People can't help their involuntary reactions. I certainly don't think that straight guys who find gay sex disgusting ought to have "their consciousness raised". But I'm not sure that parents' disgust bespeaks an objectively moral point, as it would (not to be vulgar) exist for "my daughter having sex with her fiancée" as much as it does "my son having gay sex". And of course parents attempting to guide their (adult) children's sexual trajectory because *they* want grandchildren arguably suggests a degree of selfishness that is nothing to be proud of.

    • Wicked conservative

      Ryan – well spotted, at the moment my son is entirely hypothetical! (or a pre-existing Platonic soul somewhere, or a twinkle in God's eye; other theories on pre-existence existence are available, your mileage may vary).

      A few thoughts in no particular order:

      Your point about evangelicals and the myth of romantic love is a very good one (not sure about the feminism angle – I don't have enough recent first-hand experience of Evangelicals to be sure). I think in general that conservative churches of every stripe have a bigger problem on their hands than they realise with their approaches to sexuality and related issues. And it's not just a problem of how to communicate their ideas – there are gaps and contradictions and ambiguities in the ideas and approaches themselves, e.g. with theologies of singleness and marriage. For example, as an ex-Evangelical now-Catholic, I cannot escape the conclusion that the acceptance of artificial contraception as a routine part of heterosexual married life creates significant conceptual problems for the Evangelical critique of same-sex relationships. Perhaps not unsolvable problems; but problems nonetheless.

      I wonder how common the "double standard" really is among serious Christians. I have certainly never encountered it in a fairly wide experience of Christians of every background and tradition. Like the supposed "Madonna or whore" dichotomy, I think it mostly exists nowadays in the minds of feminist polemicists trying to discredit conservative religious views of sexuality without doing the hard work of actually engaging with the arguments.

      Is it really "selfish" to want your child to enter a married heterosexual relationship so that you can have grandchildren and those grandchildren can grow up in the setting that almost all the evidence suggests is best for them, i.e. a marriage of their biological mother and their biological father? I'm not sure.

      I would personally argue that there is an element of selfishness in choosing to pursue relationships that you know cause great distress and angst to your loved ones, and which flout in a serious way their moral beliefs and expectations, and upset their hopes of future generations.

      Perhaps the element of selfishness is defensible – and of course many cherished beliefs deserve to be distressed, e.g. not wanting your daughter to marry a black man. I simply raise the possibility (and without wanting to give too much away about my own private life, I am myself guilty of that kind of selfishness).

  • Wicked conservative

    Sue and William:

    The point of the analogy is simple: just as my generalisation is fundamentally misleading and unhelpful in thinking about my hypothetical son's private life, your generalisations about Christian sexuality therapies are fundamentally misleading and unhelpful in thinking through specific cases, and particularly in considering the merits of the new approach that Peter suggests. All your examples prove is that some Christian pastoral approaches have been wrong-headed and ineffective, and/or that some people continue to rebel against God despite being helped in a loving and Christlike way.

    What you seem to want to do is to suggest that all Christian therapies that seek to help people live out their vocation while respecting God's plan for sexuality – i.e. continence outside marriage, and chastity and fidelity within – are somehow fatally flawed or inherently oppressive and damaging. But none of the evidence you have cited actually proves this, just as my knowledge of the damaging aspects of gay culture can't prove that all gay sexual relationships are psychologically/emotionally damaging.

    "Some As are Bs" does not imply that "all As are Bs".

    • Sue

      Hi WC,

      Let's take your points one at a time:

      1."Your generalisations about Christian sexuality therapies are fundamentally misleading and unhelpful in thinking through specific cases."

      There is nothing wrong with generalising, as long as you are aware that they are to an extent generalisations and may not be applicable to specfic cases. The generalisation that ex-gay therapy is not particularly successful and that marriages that arise from these cause great misery is not misleading or unhelpful (unless by "unhelpful" you mean it interferes with certain ideologies about orientation change.)

      2. "the new approach that Peter suggests". I can't find it on this very long thread, but he said something about moving away from a gay/ straight paradigm (fine if you have a bisexual element, not everyone does!) and about a self sacrificial rather than selfish approach- don't think those were his words! I've no major problem with this as an ideal in marriage and would advise it to anyone wanting to keep a mixed orientation marriage together. Experience has shown me that, in the majority of cases, this doesn't work – and again straight spouses often pay a heavy price.

      3. "Some people continue to rebel against God despite being helped". I think most people continue to be gay despite "being helped". I don't think it is rebellion against God personally.

      4.All Christian therapies that seek to help people live out their vocation while respecting God’s plan for sexuality – i.e. continence outside marriage, and chastity and fidelity within – are somehow fatally flawed or inherently oppressive and damaging.

      Not at all. Some ministries, such as Marks' Courge group help gay spouses to remain faithful. Marks himself has remained with his wife. I am fine with people remaining celibate and I am open minded if people say they do experience change. I do think that if someone was told they "continue to rebel against God despite being helped" that would be oppressive and coercive though. It places the blame back on the gay person for not "being helped" by the therapy. This is what I have heard from Exodus survivors, people told to "try harder" or that they are not "sufficiently motivated." Thus people are caught in a Catch 22 situation.

      • Wicked conservative

        "he said something about moving away from a gay/ straight paradigm (fine if you have a bisexual element, not everyone does!) and about a self sacrificial rather than selfish approach- don’t think those were his words! I’ve no major problem with this as an ideal in marriage and would advise it to anyone wanting to keep a mixed orientation marriage together."

        "I do believe that “therapies”, Christian or otherwise, that aim to change people’s sexual orientation are fatally flawed and futile at best, and oppressive and damaging at worst".

        I'm beginning to wonder whether people actually read what Peter writes and teaches on this blog. One of the central planks of his approach is that defining oneself in terms "sexual orientation" is not helpful for Christians, and that good pastoral care and discipling of people with SSA isn't about changing orientation, as if there were some kind of switch, but about finding identity in God.

        "that God’s plan for sexuality rules out gay relationships is an assumption that I see no reason to make".

        Come on, William, you've been reading this blog a long time. Agree or disagree, I don't think it's fair or honest to suggest either that the conservative position is merely an "assumption" or that there are no reasons behind it.

        • William

          WC, I don’t really have much time for this argument “that defining oneself in terms [of] ‘sexual orientation’ is not helpful for Christians”, not because I disagree with the statement itself – I don’t – but because I don’t see that it gets us anywhere. To start with, very few people, Christian or not, define themselves in terms of their sexual orientation anyway; secondly, in so far as this is ever done, it is usually something that obsessive straight people try to impose on gay people as though it were the most important thing about us, the thing that somehow sums us up. As one gay writer put it years ago, to say that Hitler was heterosexual tells us nothing of significance, but just hint that he might have been homosexual and some people will immediately think that they have discovered the real cause of World War II.

          I certainly don’t define myself in terms of my sexual orientation, nor do I define myself by other personal characteristics like, for example, my handedness, my eye colour or my voice type, but these things are all real characteristics that I value as part of me. “Finding identity in God” won’t change any of them: I’ll still be right-handed, I’ll still have blue eyes, I’ll still be a baritone, and yes, I’ll still be gay. None of these things define me, but refusing to acknowledge them is, in my view, quite pointless and stupid.

          I am perfectly aware of the reasons given for the “conservative position” on homosexuality; we’ve both, I’m sure, heard and read them all many, many times. I find none of them convincing. I will amend my previous statement to read as follows: “That God’s plan for sexuality rules out gay relationships is an assumption that I see no cogent reason to make.”

          You say that “good pastoral care and discipling of people with SSA isn’t about changing orientation, as if there were some kind of switch.” But my main objection to ex-gay ministries is that they advertise themselves in such a way as to give exactly that impression. A gay person who has been made to feel there is something wrong with his or her sexuality will almost certainly be hoping for some way of changing his or her orientation, for some kind of switch. Go on to any of the ex-gay ministry websites or look up any of the books by ex-gay leaders on Amazon, and you will find that the statements made and the titles of the books have been framed – and, I am sure, carefully framed – in such language as to seem to promise precisely that. I call it thoroughly dishonest, deceitful and contemptible.

      • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

        The generalisation that ex-gay therapy is not particularly successful and that marriages that arise from these cause great misery is not misleading or unhelpful (unless by “unhelpful” you mean it interferes with certain ideologies about orientation change.)

        Which is all very well until you realise that the *only* longitudinal piece of research on people going through such therapies (Jones and Yarhouse : 2007 and ongoing) has concluded (so far) that (a) a large proportion of those who attended reported a degree of change in their sexual orientation and (b) there was no demonstrable ill-effect of engaging in those therapies. This study went to the APA and back and no-one has objected to the validity of the research on anything other than ideological grounds.

        • Wicked conservative

          Thank you for pointing that out, Peter. As a conservative one gets used to being unjustly accused of ignoring evidence in favour of ideologically congenial anecdote and "experience". But of course revisionists can be guilty of this kind of wishful thinking too.

    • William

      WC, obviously I can’t speak for Sue here, only for myself. Yes, I do believe that “therapies”, Christian or otherwise, that aim to change people’s sexual orientation are fatally flawed and futile at best, and oppressive and damaging at worst. I acknowledge people’s right to try them if they wish, just as I acknowledge people’s right to try astrology, chiromancy, reincarnation therapy or psychic surgery. While I have no right whatever to try to stop them, I would have no hesitation in telling them that they would be wasting their time and their money. And yes, I do think that it is absolutely wrong to try to dissuade gay people from forming gay sexual relationships. God’s exact plans are known to him alone, but that God’s plan for sexuality rules out gay relationships is an assumption that I see no reason to make.

  • Ryan

    I highly recommend that anyone tempted to give the "Christian" Institute the benefit of the doubt to subscribe to their newsletter. Every weeks brings some more gutter journalism (truly, if 90% of the population voted in favour of gay marriage, the C.I. would give a headline along the lines of "Significant Number Oppose Homosexual "Marriage"). Here's one of this week's highlights :

    http://www.christian.org.uk/news/homosexual-blood

    Homosexual Blood? Such masterful bile. One is reminded of Alf Garnett, donating, disgusted that white people might end up with N*gger blood (and, no, it's not much of an improvement to make the point that "black" blood is perfectly safe but that "gay" and "HIV positive" are essentially synonymous)

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