Predjudiced against what?

Colin Coward, in his latest blog post, demonstrates an unfortunate inability to discern what the conservative position on same-sex activity actually is.

Anyone who bases their attitudes to LGBT people on the official teaching of the church risks making statements which are homophobic. Davis Booker has been suspended for making discriminatory comments about a person’s sexual orientation.

Changing Attitude disagrees radically with official church teaching. The Church has no alternative but to revise its teaching at some point in the future if it is to return to the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels – justice and grace for ALL. The teaching of Jesus transcends whatever negative interpretations are put on the teaching in Leviticus and of St Paul about same sex activity.

It is a minority if[sic] Christians in the UK who hold prejudiced views about LGBT people based on Leviticus, Issues and Lambeth 1.10.

Let’s be crystal clear about this. Coward makes this an issue of ontology. It isn’t. The conservative position (which is based on far more than Leviticus, it’s based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Paul’s teaching in Romans, 1 Cor and Ephesians) is about function, not ontology. The position is on same-sex activity, because that’s what the Bible talks about. There is no mention of GLBT distinctions in Scripture and therefore orthodox Christians who correctly articulate their position have no issue whatsoever with someone’s sexual attractions.

I believe that I work pretty hard at trying to articulate and understand my opponents’ positions for what they actually are and to debate what they are actually saying, not what I want them to say, or a stereotype  or straw-man of their stance. It would be great if all of us, conservative or revisionist, could make the effort to do likewise.

14 Comments on “Predjudiced against what?

  1. Hello Peter,

    feel free to shoot me for pedantry… ;) but I’m a bit bemused by this. Colin Coward’s post talks about “official church taching”, not “the conservative position on same-sex activity”. He doesn’t seem to me to “make it an issue of ontology”, or at least not only that, given the line about “teaching in Leviticus and of St Paul about same sex activity”. He refers to ‘Issues’ and Lambeth 1:10 and both these refer to both same-sex orientation and activity (I think).

    If I could (don’t have a Google or other profile to sign in with) I’d be commenting under CC’s piece as it doesn’t look that accurate to me (for different reasons)…. I must be in a snippy mood today.

    Also, I fear I’ve banged this drum before, but isn’t it a moot point whether Paul in Romans only talks about ‘function’, not ‘ontology’? I’m thinking of Romans 1 verses 21 (“their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”) and 24 (“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…”). If, read with conservative eyes, Paul’s references in that chapter to same-sex sexual acts can be read to apply to same-sex relationships now, can’t verses 21 and 24 be read as referring to orientation? (This point is stolen from Gareth Moore OP I think…)

    in friendship, Blair

    • Yes, you’re a pedant…

      Taking the two points in order, currently the conservative position *is* the official Church of England line. That’s why Coward opposes it.

      As to the more substantive point as to whether Coward is addressing ontology or not, read carefully what he says – prejudiced against the proper understanding and full inclusion of LGBT people in our church.

      There is absolutely nothing prejudiced against the full inclusion of those with same-sex attraction in the Church of England. The only “prejudice” is against those who engage in sexual behaviour outside of marriage, regardless of their orientation. That has nothing to do with ontology, but Coward has made this an issue of ontology and in doing so misrepresents the Church’s position.

      As to Romans 1, note carefully Paul’s argument. The sinful desires already exist in people (v24) whatever those desires are (greed, lust, sloth etc) and when these humans decide to reject the revelation of God, God simply lets them get on with their sin. “Gave them over” in verse 24 is paredoken autous where the grammar shows that God is simply letting them do what they want to do.

      So Paul’s argument is about what people do, not specifically just their sinful desire. The sinful desires exist, the people choose to reject God and then they are condemned by what they *do*. If it were not so then all people would be condemned because of who they are (fallen) even before they demonstrate a response to the revelation of God. It is that response that is the key to the passage, not the actions afterwards or the desires before (and after).

      • Hello Peter,

        thanks for giving my post time and energy. Don’t want to get too bogged down debating Colin Coward’s piece, partly because it’s not precisely enough argued / worded anyway. I did read what he says and note the bit you quote – but that is not all, said the Cat in the Hat (are you a Dr Seuss fan…. sorry, randomness). CC does also refer to same-sex activity as I mentioned above – I don’t know if he is trying to imply a connection (that negative attitudes to LGBT people follow from negative attitudes to same-sex sex) as he’s not clear enough (or I’m misreading / being harsh).

        On Romans 1: seems to me that Paul’s argument is that “the sinful desires exist” *because* “the people choose to reject God”. Isn’t that what v21 says – “they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him” comes prior to “they became futile in their thinking” (quoting the NRSV this time). So I don’t think it’s that “the sinful desires already exist in people” – but that in Paul’s argument their idolatry gave birth to these desires.

        You comment that “Paul’s argument is about what people do, not specifically just their sinful desire” – but seems to me that it’s both. Verse 28 says “God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done”: the desires and the actions go together and are condemned together (the vices in verses 29-31 are attitudes of heart as well as actions I suggest). So, indeed, there is “no mention of GLBT distinctions in Scripture” but also this text does not have the distinction you make above between function and ontology. So I’m suggesting that Romans 1 doesn’t back up a conservative position very straightforwardly.

        in friendship, Blair

        • Dr Seuss = V Cool…

          I think we need to get to grips with the subtlety of what Paul is arguing in Romans 1. Even verse 28 says “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over”. Clearly the way that God lets the people in question do what they want to do is because they have rejected his revelation.

          Then look at verse 24 and 26 again. “Gave them over” has with it implicit in the grammar the fact that these desires existed already. That’s the argument of the text. God lets them do what they want to do, and the things that they wanted to do were emotions already existing prior to the decision about the response to the revelation of God.

          Yes, the list of sins in verse 29 onwards are vices of the heart, but the “become filled” in the Greek has the sense of “topping up the tank” so to speak. So the vices exist already, they just multiply because the revelation of God has been rejected and there is nothing within the person that now seeks to prevent the vices increasing.

          • Peter,

            just briefly – still not quite convinced that “the things that they wanted to do were emotions already existing prior to the decision about the response to the revelation of God”, because of verses 19 and, especially, 21. Also in your last paragraph above your reading is pretty close to mine – seems to me the point that Romans 1 does not have a distinction between ‘function’ and ‘ontology’ still stands. Arguably this is a text where same-sex desires as well as acts are mentioned…. and both are condemned (on a conservative reading, I’d have thought).

            in friendship, Blair

  2. Isn’t CC just treating us to a bit of the the old Damian McBride? Tarring your enemies as evil has the twin benefits of intimidating them as well as encouraging your friends to be nasty to them too.

    He is conflating the right, that EVERYONE should have, to equality – no matter how good, bad, socially acceptable or socially unacceptable their characteristics are – with claiming that those characteristics as equal.

    I expect he’s really just continuing the LGCM campaign to have made illegal any expression of most religions’ view that there may be a problem when someone wants to have sex with people of the same sex: despite the obvious dis-joint with their body’s design, with the human functions of sex beyond intimate friendship, etc etc.

    Maybe, religious people who have a negative, socially unacceptable, view should not have equality?!

    • Hi David,

      seems a bit harsh to me to compare Colin Coward to Damian McBride (though admittedly I don’t know what was in those infamous e-mails). And I don’t think he’s conflating everyone’s right to equality with claiming that every characteristic is equal – he’s arguing for a change of attitude to, and church teaching about, LGBT people, which is a question of truth, not rights in the first instance (OK, that’s me more than CC talking…). There is no such LGCM campaign by the way…

      in friendship, Blair

  3. I also think Peter’s criticisms against CC ( who you refer to as an “opponent”) miss the point. I don’t think CC is even intending to address the difference between function and ontology, however I don’t think he is trying to duck any issue either, after all CA openly campaigns for the acceptance of active LGBT relationships. When CC refers to LGBT people, I think he being inclusive of those who are in active same sex relationships, celibate, partnered,single and in heterosexual unions. In other words, I don’t think he is making distinctions. You could pick at his article semantically ,I suppose , but then you could also pick up on a lot of conservatives who talk/ write disparagingly of “gays” and not ” practising gays.”

    I’d also take issue with Peter’s statement that there is ” nothing prejudiced against the full inclusion of those with SSA in the Church of England” as this was not the experience of Jeffrey John, who was strongly opposed, although he and his partner were celibate. There are also divorced and remarried priests and bishops, despite scriptural prohibitions against divorce, which suggests the Church is ready to minimise scripture when it is inconvenient to heterosexuals rather than homosexuals.

    • Hi Sue,

      I don’t want to labour too long on the issue of what Colin Coward means by “homosexuality”. I will just take this opportunity though to point out that the objection to the consecration of Jeffrey John was on two grounds:

      i) That he was unrepentant about previous homosexual activity
      ii) That he taught a position on homosexual practice contrary to catholic teaching

      We can have a discussion about divorce at a later point.

      That said, I do think some of the response to Jeffery John was simply homophobic, but let’s not confuse the valid ecclesiastical and theological objections with others’ naked prejudice.

      • This means that you would be prepared to accept discrimination against JJ on the grounds of his attitude to his previous homosexual behaviour and that of others and that he must regard homosexual practice as a sin ( “unrepentant ” implies this) in order to be acceptable as a bishop.  To me, this is still discriminatory, as there are senior figure in the Church ( such as Rowan Williams..?) who clearly do not believe homosexual practice is sinful and, if they were personally homosexual, would presumably not see their  physical expression of that as sinful –  yet these people are not debarred from office? Of course, you might believe all holding such attitudes to homosexuality  should  be debarred from office and then your position would be entirely consistent – but I’m not sure where it would leave us in terms of the issue of freedom of speech and opinion, which you also seem to  feel so passionately about.As for teaching, JJ said he would uphold official Church teaching and practice ( ie be celibate himself) while personally disagreeing with this – again Rowan Williams also seems currentlyto be upholding official Church teaching while having “private” views that are contrary to this teaching ( I think he has actually said something along those lines, I might be wrong…)

        • Hi Sue,

          I think you’re slightly misrepresenting what I’m saying. I’m prepared to argue that Jeffrey John should not be consecrated as a Bishop since he is unrepentant about previous willful sinful behaviour.

          And as for freedom of speech, Bishops’ jobs are to defend doctrine, not alter it.

          • Hi Peter,

            I never knowingly misrepresent anyone:

            1. As I understand you, you are saying that it is not enough for a priest who was formerly a practising homosexual to desist from this, in order to become a bishop he must also regard his former activity as sinful and repent. ( Is that right?)
            2. MY point is that other bishops in the Church DO have the freedom to believe that his ( Jeffrey John’s) former homosexual activity was not sinful.
            3. “Bishop’s jobs are to defend doctrine.” This is true but, to quote the Rev John Richardson,
            ” Rowan Williams has said he will adhere to the Church’s position on sexuality but has made it equally clear that it is a position with which he disagrees.”

            Williams himself wrote,
            ” I can and do state the majority teaching of the Church. I can’t go beyond this and SAY WHAT I DO NOT BELIEVE.” (Letter to Reform)

            4. To clarify my point; Jeffrey John was required to “say what he did not believe” in order to qualify. A more orthodox consistency between official doctrine and private opinion was required of HIM that was required of any other bishop within the Church. This is discrimination.

            Incidentally, I am not accusing you of being discriminatory or inconsistent, but saying that the Church’s inconsistency and double standards on this matter was discriminatory and against equality of opportunity.

            • Hi Sue,

              The difference between (1) and (2) is that the person in position (2) has not actually committed the sin in question.

              I do think it was the fact that JJ was iconic for the pro-gay lobby that was part of the issue as well.

              • Hmmm, I thought that, according to the end of chapter one of Romans, the sin of condoning homosexuality was just as grievious ( according to a former vicar of mine, anyhow.) I do have to agree on the iconic point…

                Good luck for the radio show tonight:)

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