Everybody Out!

I like this curt summary from the Church Mouse of the situation in the Church of England.

If you aren’t aware, some bishops are gay.  But we don’t talk about it.

That just about sums up what a lot of the anger over the past few days has been directed at since the leak of the Colin Slee memo written after the nominations process to appoint the new Bishop of Southwark. In the memo Colin Slee outlined his recollection of the events around those two days last year when the names of both Dr Jeffrey John and Nick Holtham (who subsequently was appointed to the See of Salisbury) were effectively stripped from the list of names to be considered. The core of the argument against having Jeffrey John as the Bishop was laid out in a legal opinion offered from the legal team at Church House. In it they suggested a number of issues that could be considered when debating how a particular candidate could be (or not be) a focus of unity for the diocese and the wider church. These were as follows:

  • whether the candidate had always complied with the Church’s teachings on same-sex sexual activity
  • whether he was in a civil partnership
  • whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex sexual relationship
  • whether he had expressed repentance for any previous same-sex sexual activity
  • whether (and to what extent) the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question, the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion

These are interesting points for two reasons. First, they represent a particularly conservative position coming out from the senior church hierarchy. The five points see a clear distinction not just between sexual orientation and sexual behaviour but also between unrepentant and repentant attitudes to previous sinful behaviour (for it cannot be argued that the problem with a candidate having had previous sexual relationships outside of marriage is simply “what will people think”). Secondly, they are interesting because they are practically identical to the objections given for the appointment of Dr Jeffrey John in 2003 to the suffragan position in Reading, Oxford. The legal opinion is therefore also a tacit acceptance by the powers that be in Church House that the conservative objections to Jeffrey John back in 2003 were valid. In particular, it is the emphasis on the repentance from previous sexual activity that is the key factor. Of course, one might be repentant in a different ways, for there is a fair difference between, “I am sorry that I engaged in sexual activity that I now recognise was sinful”, and, “I am sorry that I disobeyed the church’s teaching”.

The presence of the five bullets though represents a present victory for the conservative position in the debate. The fact that it was suggested that any of these reasons were good enough to disbar any candidate (not just Jeffrey John) from preferment, and the recognition that these were the same arguments used in 2003, has led in part to the irritation of those in the revisionist camp. That irritation has been expressed over the past few days in blog posts and comments railing at the unfairness, the hypocrisy of this situation for, it is claimed, there are already gay bishops and if it is OK for these bishops then why not for Jeffrey John. Here though is the fundamental error in the revisionist complaint.

The error is not that there are gay bishops so the complaint of hypocrisy is not accurate (there are). The error is not even the fact that time and time again revisionists conflate sexual behaviour and orientation in order to deliberately confuse the issue as laid out in the bullets above, thereby giving rise to the cry of hypocrisy regardless of the sexual activity (previous or present, repentant or unrepentant) of the respective bishop. No, the error of the revisionist camp is more subtle that that.

It is not simply that time and time again they do not make the distinction between orientation and behaviour, but more fundamentally that they refuse to engage with that distinction in any meaningful way in the first place. Why is this a gross mistake? Well, it is very clear now that the church hierarchy does make such a distinction and is happy to apply such a distinction in matters such as the nomination of bishops. Even yesterday one leading revisionist on a number of occasions on replying to comments on a blog post (and in the text of the original blog post itself), fundamentally failed to engage with this fact and continued to publicly contemplate outing “gay bishops”. The fact that in making this threat he made no distinction between celibates and otherwise (and if there are gay bishops (plural) they are, to my knowledge, to a man celibate) demonstrated to everyone reading the comments that he not only rejected the church’s framework for discernment in these areas (the emphasis on behaviour rather than orientation) but that he was politically, naively blind to it.This is a dangerous position to be in, because it means that any attempt to actually out gay bishops is likely to backfire spectacularly.

Most readers of this blog would agree that it would be hypocritical for the Church of England to refuse to appoint Jeffrey John to a Bishopric whilst it continued to have bishops installed who were in identical situations as Dr John and his partner. But, I am led to believe, that is not the case and the bullet points above have been drawn up because they cover safely in their five points any of the men that some might wish to out in their angry response to the leaks of this week. If it were not so then the Church of England, quite rightly, would open itself wide up to the charge of blatant hypocrisy and despite the fact that people at Church House and in the highest echelons of the CofE do make mistakes, they do not deliberately make those kind of mistakes. Those kind of mistakes lead to resignations at the highest level. If that is all true, then what would the outing of gay bishops in the Church of England actually achieve?

Well firstly, it would expose to public view as homosexual a number of men who have been faithfully celibate and abiding to the church’s teaching steadfastly for all of their lives. They would be outed for the only reason that they were single and gay rather than single and straight, outed by folks who argue vociferously on their blogs and websites that people should not be singled out just because they were gay and for no other reason. Who at this point would be the hypocrites?

Secondly, it would expose to public view men who had in the past engaged in sexual activity outside of marriage, who had repented of that sin and had then ordered their lives to be very clearly in line with the church’s teaching. Attempting to out these men would simply show for public view the glory of the good news of forgiveness for sin repented of. It would demonstrate to all that the church does grace and restoration and does it for any and all who will accept their sinful error. Whilst initially it might be embarrassing and uncomfortable for the individuals involved and their families and friend, it would then provide ample opportunity for the clear distinction in the church’s teaching between orientation and behaviour to be explained and to be shown to be perfectly manageable for individuals to live, even individuals who had erred in the past. The men outed would become instantly heroes of orthodoxy, icons of repentance and grace.

Thirdly, and controversially for some in the conservative camp, it might even expose to public view men who had managed for well over a decade to live in a “covenanted friendship” without any sexual activity whatsoever. It would demonstrate to all that deep friendships do not need to be sexualised and that Christians can find ways of ordering their lives clearly, of committing to others whilst staying faithful to the purity of the marriage bed.

Finally, it would not change the position of the Church of England. What it would do though is undermine the position of those who engaged in the outing, namely because the only direct effect of the outing would have been to shame certain individuals for not supporting the position of those who did the outing. Such a goal (the shaming of individuals because they do not agree with you) is base indeed and not worthy of anybody who takes clearly Christ’s call to love your neighbour as yourself. Those who engaged in the outing would be seen clearly by all to be self-serving and operating out of a position of anger, bitterness and envy, a position of sin. Moreover, they would not have demonstrated that there are gay bishops in the Church of England, for most informed people already understand this to be so. Rather they would have demonstrated that they themselves were willing to sacrifice on the altar of public intrigue the lives of men living faithfully to the full breadth of the Church’s teaching of holiness in present life and past reflection, a sacrifice that was entirely self-serving (so not a sacrifice at all).

It is increasingly clear that the Church of England needs to have an honest and open discussion about sexual practice and ethics and come to a clear resolution on the issue. There is also a need for the processes of the Crown Nominations Commissions to be more transparent, not that we should know the deliberations of the members but rather that we should know clearly the rules around which they frame their deliberations (and obviously some of the anger at the process for Southwark was that the “new” rules were imposed without prior reference). However, outing Bishops is not the way to achieve either of these things and might actually be a path down which the revisionist cause is damaged. Rather, those who seek to change the status quo need to engage with that status quo’s position on sexual behaviour versus orientation. Simply ignoring this distinction or claiming it is artificial will not convince any of the powers that be that the current position needs to change.

Please note, comment moderation is on for this thread. Your comments will be approved as fast as possible but I will not tolerate any discussion of the sexual orientation or behaviour of any specific individual. If you attempt to identify any individuals in this manner your comment will be be deleted and you will be banned indefinitely from this site without any further warning.

122 Comments on “Everybody Out!

  1. "…those who seek to change the status quo need to engage with that status quo’s position on sexual behaviour versus orientation"

    Well – I'm one of those who wants to change the status quo. As far as I can see, the status quo is that orientation is not an issue (or shouldn't be), but behaviour is. How do you suggest engaging with this position?

    One of the problems is that being traditional in my moral outlook – which ironically in many ways I am – I want to talk in terms of fidelity, continence and stability within relationships, and the Church's place in ensuring that these things are valued in society. I want to be able to do this in terms of homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships, because I think the hedonistic gay scene has the potential to be incredibly damaging, but also because I have been privileged to know people in same-sex relationships that have seemed to show all the virtue of Christian marriage.

    This is further complicated by the fact that civil legislation has now given us Civil Parnerships which give precisely the sort of recognition in secular terms as I would hope to see in religious terms. And that, I think, is where we start to hit some serious problems. Yes, I can see that engagement is necessary, but given that the status quo is now so completely opposed to the society of which we are supposed to be a part, there really does need to be engagement from both sides.

    To some extent you would be justified in calling me a revisionist, but I don't think it's as simple as that. It has been said elsewhere (by Maggi Dawn, I think, but I'm not certain) that one of the difficulties with engaging with the Gospels rather than the rest of the New Testament is that the Gospels don't give you straight answers. The epistles do – their authors write from a position of certainty. But the Gospels, on the other hand, ask questions. Who is your neighbour? Does nobody condemn you? So much of the argument around this central question of whether there can be such a thing as a blessed physical relationship between two people of the same sex is conducted in a way that references the epistles not the gospels – both in terms of content but much more importantly in terms of approach.

    The very essence of being a liberal is the understanding that I might be wrong and you might be right. This is not currently a very liberal debate on either side.

    • "The very essence of being a liberal is the understanding that I might be wrong and you might be right."

      No. The essence of a liberal is that they think that are right and are waiting for everyone to catch up.

    • Justin, I really like what you say here, because I used to hold a perspective very similar to yours, though my perspective has changed to become much more traditional in the last few years. Peter may have a better answer for this than I can offer, but my immediate thought, in answer to the question of how you can engage the status quo, would be to make the case for why orientation must necessarily lead to a particular kind of behavior.

      In my context, in the Episcopal Church in the USA, the status quo has become an assumption that orientation and practice cannot be separated. What troubles me about this assumption is the myriad ways in which it ignores the faithful witness of celibate people, in many different contexts. Celibate heterosexuals, celibate homosexuals, monks and nuns, lay people, clergy, people old and young, from all walks of life. If we say that orientation must necessarily lead to particular sexual behavior, we are stuck with either minimizing the struggle of those who maintain celibacy by saying that celibacy is just their natural inclination, or else we condemn them as repressed.

      Furthermore, it seems to me that the argument breaks down precisely at the point that you want to make, which is when we suggest that some kind of sexual behavior are not so good, regardless of one's orientation. To use the example that you cite, whether or not I'm oriented towards promiscuity does not place any moral weight on promiscuity itself, nor does it show how I am compelled to live out a promiscuous life.

      It seems to me that if the reappraiser position is going to prevail not just politically but logically and morally, then there must be some careful work done to work out these inconsistencies. Otherwise, the distinctions we make are arbitrary.

      • "…my immediate thought, in answer to the question of how you can engage the status quo, would be to make the case for why orientation must necessarily lead to a particular kind of behavior."

        Funnily enough, that's not at all what I want to do – precisely for the reasons you give. I agree completely with the argument in your second paragraph.

        However, I don't think that my argument breaks down as a result. There is no doubt that some forms of sexual behaviour are not good, whatever one's orientation. Promiscuity and non-consensual sex – either through violence or where one partner is not able to consent for whatever reason – seem to me to be quite clearly contrary to the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves. I am definitely not arguing that sexual orientation must automatically be expressed. I don't really think that promiscuity is an orientation, but even if it were, I am quite happy to make a moral argument against it.

        I agree with your last paragraph, too – there are logical and moral arguments that need to be made from a reappraiser's point of view. However, at a much more fundamental level, we have two vital questions. First, are some people created homosexual? Secondly, is the fundamental purpose of marriage anyting other than the production of legitimate children? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I am wrong in my views. However, if the answer to both of these questions is even a qualified yes, then we have a serious problem with the status quo.

        While there is much debate on the first of the two questions, there seems to be rather less on the second, and I think that is perhaps where the engagement needs to be. The question of whether or not orientation is innate has become an article of faith on both sides. However, perhaps if we understood exactly what we meant by marriage, we might be able to make more progress.

      • And a further thought, having listened to the 'Sunday' interview with Chris Sugden and Colin Coward – this is exactly the way in which Chris Sugden was avoiding engagement. By setting up a straw man of the 'Liberals want to let it all hang out and sleep with whoever they want whenever they want' variety, he manages to sidestep the trickier issues. Some progressives certainly want that – but by no means all of us. I want the Church to bless same-sex relationships precisely because I want to be able to take a stand against the sort of moral relativism that Chris so deplores.

        • I think this is a fair critique of that particular part of Chris Sugden's argument. Most gay priests do NOT have multiple partners. I don't think most gay non-priests do either!

        • Isn't the point that clergy must be *followers of Jesus*? And, since His Apostles clearly taught that same-sex sex is wrong in several Epistles, it is not acceptable for His followers.

          All the arguments about orientation etc are redundant in the light of God's explicit will..

          "If you love me you will obey my commands"

  2. First, a well written and thoughtful response.

    Now to where I disagree, I am from the United States, a member to TEC. I recognize that the Anglican Communion up until recently has respected each church's right within the communion to make internal decisions and to respect the autonomy of each church. So in vein, this is not my fight.

    But as a gay man, I can tell from personal history that orientation and behavior might be wonderful thing to separate in an academic debate. But from a pastoral and human point of view, it is demeaning to GLBT persons to demand a life of celebicy while at the same time provided an avenue of full sexual expression to hetropersons (marriage). The time that I have been in Great Britian, my observation as been there are more gay persons in employment in the Church of England than in the population in general. Yes, people may have make promises that were sincere at the time, but so unnatural as to put many of them in a situation where they found ways to find sexual intimacy while at the same time covering it up in order to continue at their jobs.

    The Church of England isn't just any ole church, it is at present the state church. It is under a higher obligation to follow the laws of G B more so than any other church. One wonders why people have become less involved in churches, one only has to step back from this issue for a moment and put ones self in the place of the average unchurched person. For most I assume, would find you correct in the church hierarchy's postion (orietation/behavior) but would find it in the very least inhumane and leading to what is already the facts on the ground: lots of gay clergy many of whom are great priests who finds ways to express thier sexuality in a natural and healthy way, but privately. How sad.

    As for your two archbishops, for all their theological wisdom, the fact that they have by their actions stood of the side of homophobic (and at times murderous) leaders of the communion and have by thier actions insulted and slapped TEC shows thier moral stance to be highly questionable. As the Church of England tries to move ahead to the future, in its own cultural context, the eyes of the average person in GB are watching, and they are for the most part not pleased.

    • Tim Lusk: "But from a pastoral and human point of view, it is demeaning to GLBT persons to demand a life of celebicy while at the same time provided an avenue of full sexual expression to hetropersons (marriage)."

      Excuse me, but there are any number of non-gay people for whom marriage is very unlikely for various reasons. Requiring singles of various sorts to be celibate is not singling out gay people.

      Personally, I tried *very* hard to find a wife in younger days. Just didn't happen and is very unlikely to happen now. But you don't hear me complaining. God gives different blessings to different people, and I am fine with that.

      I do agree that Peter's post is excellent and perceptive.

  3. The revelation of this carefully considered criteria really is a game changer. I am not part of the C of E, so I'm not qualified to comment on how you all order your affairs. But from a strictly theological and biblical perspective, there is a big difference between eliminating candidates for the episcopate because it would look bad to the wider world and eliminating them because of a lack of repentance. To a reappraiser, that distinction might not make much of a difference, but to me it makes all the difference in the world.

      • Mostly, yes. The issue of civil partnerships is sticky, and not being a resident of the UK I don't particularly want to speculate on their appropriateness. And I also wouldn't want the first point to be in place without the fourth, because I emphatically reject the idea that either orientation or past sin should bar someone from service in the Church (otherwise, I think most of us would be out). But I would agree that a lack of repentance from what the Church teaches to be sin is a good reason not to ordain someone, not just to the episcopate but to the priesthood or the diaconate as well. If you replaced sexual sin with any other kind of sin in this context, it becomes sort of obvious. I won't give any examples, lest someone accuse me of saying that homosexuality is equivalent with robbing a bank or something, but you get the idea.

        • I think an important question in relation to repentance for past sin relates to the respect of conscience. Does the Church recognise that some of its members (including clergy and bishops) whilst accepting of its present rules about the requirement of celibacy, do not in conscience accept that gay sex, in the context of a loving and committed relationship, is always sinful.

          It seems to me that to require some kind of public expression of repentance for something that remains a matter of conscience neither respects that conscience NOR expresses an attitude of being prepared to at least listen to our gay brothers and sisters who have a different view. To bar such people from ordination to the priesthood or consecration as bishops soley on those grounds looks like a failure of compassion and an abandonment of a major principle of Anglicanism.

            • I think it fair to say, though, that in the 90s in many parts of the CofE a more liberal set of rules was gaining ground and many gay clergy felt free to enter into sexual relationships – often with the de facto approval of their diocesan. Lambeth 98 put a big firm full stop to that and reaffirmed the traditional rules. Many homosexual priests, whilst regretting the move as a backward step started to play by the re-affirmed rule of priestly celibacy.

              What this new requirement for an expression of repentance seems to be asking for is not merely the keeping of the rules, but a committment to accept that the rules are right and should not be and never shall be changed. It's therefore not about actions but thoughts – and in my opinion that is a firm step too far.

              Furthermore it is firmly against the spirit of Lambeth 1:10 to "listen to the experience of homosexual persons" and "to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation."

              Finally, as I indicated already, it is hardly in accord with that fine Anglican principle of 'gracious presumption' – for me that's its biggest fault.

              • Once again, I think you make good points.

                Can you see how appointing someone like Jeffrey John would be highly divisive? A bishop is far more than just a priest.

                • I can't actually. Why is a Bishop who, keeps the rules of the Church whilst thinking they should be changed to allow committed and sexually active gay relationships any more divisive than a Bishop who thinks the opposite? In the end doesn't it come down to the respect they both give to those who bat for the other side?

                  Many gay and lesbian clergy and laity have bishops who think they are sinners if they have active sexual partners – they don't generally refuse them respect as Bishop. Can't non-revisionists give the same respect to a Bishop who disagees with them?

                • Do evangelicals necessarily benefit from playing the "divisive" card? Here in Scotland, there are far, far, far more gay and liberal priests than there are anti-gay and evangelical ones. And that's aside from the fact that Bishops are figureheads who necessarily have to be great communicators, engaging with the unchurched and often the popular press. Those opposed to "homosexual practise" can often get bad press these days. If Jeffrey John is "divisive" then so is NT Wright (c.f. http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/bishops/wrights… )

          • Drew_Mac, I think you've hit a key point here.

            I was recently in a discussion with a married man regarding his fornication. He did not see it as a sin, and wasn't ready to repent of it.

            Such a man, I'd say, is also not ready to take on holy orders, or to be seriously considering the pursuit of holy orders.

            However, I find it important to respect his conscience: and not demand that he repent when he is currently unable.

            Though his conscience told him it was perfectly fine to have sex with women other than his wife, the church does have a teaching about this.

            I do think, however, that we should be consistent regarding sexuality when dealing with LGBT people and heterosexuals. This means especially that we need to have rather direct discussions about issues of sexuality, past behavior, repentance, and attitudes, in accepting anyone into the ordination process.

            This may sound "ugly" or as an "invasion of privacy" to some people; I'd argue, however, that such persons probably are not yet ready for the rigours of ordained life. Clergy call upon their parishoners to confess their sins, and to confess to one another (James 5:16). We have a different, and more nuanced notion of privacy than is usually the case in the secular world. People who in general have too many issues which can't even be discussed in general – without names, places, and graphic detail – probably aren't ready to take confessions themselves, or call on others to confess to one another.

            Preparing for ordination is something very different from preparation to become a doctor, an attorney, a teacher, etc. etc.. Our tendency to "secularize" this and look upon holy orders as "careers" rather than "vocations" may be a key to what appears to be a growing bureaucratization and career-orientedness in the church, with a corresponding loss of sense of vocation and calling.

  4. I think the only logical conclusion to the 'victory' of those who hold the conservative view is for all the 'revisionists', i.e. Those lesbian and gay people who refuse to call their loving relationships sinful and those who support them to leave the church and get on with happy, healthy lives free from the condemnation of the righteous.

    • I hear that said a great deal – but not by those lesbian and gay people who are, and wish to remain, members of the Church of England and the wider Anglican communion. Yes, life would be easier for them if they joined the MCC but they wish to remain, stubbornly and awkwardly, CofE.

      Anyway, wasn't Jesus a revisionist? The Jewish religious leaders clearly thought so. I'm pleased to be following in His footsteps.

      • Jesus was a revisionist regarding what was righteous, but not in the direction of permissiveness in sexual relationships:

        “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill … For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17 & 20)

        “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matt 5:31-32)

        “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matt 5:27-29)

        And these are warnings that we ignore at our peril:

        “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:42-43)

        • Can't recall many 'conservatives' suggesting we defrock as adulterers those straight men who "look lustfully".

          • My point was that Jesus and the Apostles, and the whole biblical record, reject sex outside of male-female marriage. Not what the CofE does!

            Current society's libertarian attitude to sex is profoundly unbiblical and un-Christian – unless you are just making it up to suit yourself!!!

            ps Tthe CofE certainly does "defrock" men who have extra-marital affairs! And, for the record, I think you are wrong about conservatives – they would agree that we should defrock men who won't repent of looking lustfully!

            • Our Lord, like St.Paul, also advocated asceticism. The Catholic church might have gone a bit too far in its position on celibacy, but that in no way means that the culturally-inflected CofE position on all sorts of things is self-evidently biblical and binding for all time.

              I think Free Will is pretty Christian – so I can argue that a culture that permits e.g. homosexuality is superior to man assorted tyrannical attempts at imposing theocracy. Interesting that use unbiblical and unchristian as presumably separate terms. Exactly. Do you know that women being treated like property in e.g. genesis is wrong because the bible itself tells you or because of other, valid theological sources?

              Define "repent" in that context – evangelical churches tend to be MILFalicious, and I'm assuming that leaders aren't expected to go around staring at their shoes? Men think about sex a lot – not always voluntarily – and how many conservatives genuinely regard such reactions as "adultery" and requiring similar repentance?

              And of course presumably you think that single men looking at unmarried women lustfully is sinful – meaning that you've already moved away from the technical meaning of "adultery" to its presumed broader meaning. And didn't Our Lord tighten the Mosaic law to show just how far we fall short of God's law and so how much we need Grace? I wasn't aware that the contemporary evangelical line was that He merely supplied a further list of do's and don'ts.

            • The Bible does not have a uniform view on sex and marriage. Abraham had sex with his slave girl, the patriarchs were polygamous etc. Monogamy was not a Jewish idea. Jesus it is true was condemning of divorce, but the Church of England has no problem with divorce and remarriage. Gay people who get not a mention in the gospels are the ones being singled out. The Bible has only a few references to sex between same-sex people and never in the context of loving relationships as we understand them today. If we were going to be really Biblical why not refuse to ordain anyone who is rich, for example? And Jesus had a great deal to say about self righteous religious leaders but very little about sex and nothing about gay relationships at all.

              • sjh, The bible is much less sexualized than current society – especially when it comes to close relationships between people.

                On the other hand it has a developing hard-line view on sex and marriage; Pre Moses it makes no comment on polygamy or divorce, but seems to associate same-sex sex with a disfunctional society. The Jewish law and prophets are increasingly critical and restrictive of divorce and polygamy (and of who you should marry) and increase the rejection of same-sex sex. The New Testament is the most restrictive of all – Jesus banning divorce except in extreme circumstances and only talking about one man – one woman marriage. And the Apostles being repeatedly as critical of same-sex sex as anywhere in the Old Testament (though they do clearly believe that one cn be forgiven if one repents). And "loving" relationships never justify sinful sexual behaviours – whether it is adultery, sex between siblings, or sex between people of the same sex.

                Besides being critical of self-righteous leaders, Jesus is also extremely harsh on people who lead others into sin and the Apostles are ferocious in their condemnation of purported leaders who change the Gospel into a licence to indulge in sinful behaviours.

        • I don't think many are arguing for 'permissiveness in sexual relationships' so that's Aunt Sally rearing her head again. What revisionists are arguing for is sexual relationships for gay people by the same rules as for heterosexuals. They are not asking for us to bless a bed-hoping promiscuous lifestyle but to bless a loving and committed relationship between two people of the same sex. So either we call these relationships marriage too – or call them something else as the moral and legal equivalent to marriage for those for whom traditional marriage is inappropriate.

          Jesus said nothing about such relationships but I think he'd have seen through to people's hearts rather than get hung up on their sexual practices. The Apostles, arguably, said nothing directly relevant to these sorts of relationships either. Yes we are having to make this up as we go along – God gave us a moral sense and we have a duty to use it. I find it rather strange that people outside the Church can often see this more clearly than some inside – but then that's just like in Jesus' day too.

  5. Following the Sunday programme this morning I am looking forward to Canon Sugden calling for the close examination of the pre and post- marital sex lives of heterosexual candidates for ordination and consecration to ensure that only those who have practised celibacy when un married and monogomay within it are allowed to go forward. All others will be debarred. And of course they will be required to confess and repent of any deviation from Christ's intention (of which of course Canon Sugden has an authentic and personal revelation). Likewise no one who haas been divorced and re-married will be alowed anywhere near the Lord's table. Isn't that only fair?

    • only those who have practised celibacy when un married and monogomay within it are allowed to go forward

      The golden rule of debate is that if you don't accurately represent your opponent's position, you just look stupid or wilfully misleading.

      • Quite so, but I think Richard is being accurate. Given that Chris Sugden was at pains to point out that the only issue is what people have *done* because inclination isn't an issue, and insisting that sexual relationships are permissable only within heterosexual marriage, then the logical conclusion of his argument is that the same questions should apply to all candidates. Have you had any sexual relationship outside marriage, and if so do you now repent of it?

        • I think it's obvious that all candidates are asked if they comply with the teaching of the Church in sexual matters. Surely that covers all fornication? If anybody who has recently been through the selection process can tell us that that isn't so, by all means please come forward.

          • I don't recall being asked about 'fornication' but I do remember a very gentle and private chat with my Diocesan. If I had anything to repent of then that would have been an entirely appropriate place for it.

            The problem is that the people we are considering wouldn't recognise 'fornication' as being an accurate description of their sexual relationship. Shouldn't the Church respect that and allow that keeping the present rules is quite sufficient repentance, and indeed penance, for those who are genuinely seeking to follow Christ in this very difficult and sensitive area where we are trying to discern the Spirit's direction for the whole Body of Christ?

              • I did know that. Yet gay and lesbian people generally view committed relationships, particularly CPs, as akin to marriage if not direct equivalents. That is certainly the law of the land if not (yet) the law of the church.

                • But it is NOT the official position of the Church and that is the issue. If people think the Church is going to change its doctrine because the law of the land changes they are naive at best.

                  • Notwithstanding that I don't see that it helps to use words like this about something about which Christians disagree.

                    I may have a very firm view against abortion, for example, but I don't think it helps respectful dialogue calling people who accept abortion in certain circumstances 'murderers'.

                    When the official position of the Church also says that we should be “listening to the experience of homosexual persons” and “ministering pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation” I think we need to be more sensitive in our use of language.

      • I don't think he was (mis)representing Chris Sugden at all – just pointing out the implication if such a policy was to be implimented for homosexual candidates. It would be hypocritical if it wasn't applied equally regardless of sexuality – but is that being called for?

        • Drew_Mac

          I don't see how we should see it as hypocritical. Jesus is clear about God making male and female one flesh in marriage – and indeed they do indeed become so in their off-spring. We have no declaration from Jesus on same-sex becoming one flesh – indeed it is biologically impossible. So in the one hand we have a clear statement on marriage and no statement what so ever that same-sex activities are His way and part of the way of love AND holiness i.e. what is living the Christian New Life – when we leave our old ways behind and live for Christ, as He would live. His alternative for everyone else was to live as a eunuch, as indeed I do.

          • I have no problem at all with anyone, whatever their sexuality, living a celibate lifestyle if it is the right thing for them to do.

            Nevertheless at the heart of marriage is not, in fact, the importance of literal procreation but rather the observation that it is not good for man to be alone and sex is also a sign of two becoming one in heart and mind through the intimacy of sex. The traditional assumption was that this was simply tough for homosexuals who couldn't marry someone they were attracted to. Yet this is an assumption. It is not worked out in scripture or tradition – so we'll have to try to apply our God given moral sense and the mind of Christ to find a good solution.

          • As it said not long ago on the Talk Talk homepage, “Being single is great – as long as you want to be.” As far as I am concerned, no-one has any moral obligation to live a celibate lifestyle just because they’re gay, and to put any kind of pressure on them to adopt such a lifestyle is immoral.

              • Yes, of course it applies to straight single people too. We don’t tell them that they’re obliged to remain single. On the contrary, if they can find someone to love and share their life with, we advise them to go for it.

                That reminds me. A relative of mine who was once an Anglican priest told me of how, when doing hospital visiting some years ago, he met a very sweet old maiden lady with whom he got on very well and had many friendly chats. She told him that when she was in her late teens she was going out with a very nice Jewish boy and that they had hoped to marry. Her vicar at that time was a name well known in Anglo-Catholic circles. Whether she actually told him about it herself I don’t know, but anyway he found out and sternly told her, “This won’t do. You must give him up.” So she did.

                Any vicar/priest/minister etc. who told a young lady that nowadays would almost certainly get two little monosyllabic words in reply, and we both know what they’d be. And quite right, too.

  6. Thank you Drew and Justin. I didn't mis-represent what Canon Sugden said, Just substitue Heterosexual for homosexual and that is exactly what he said. He also invited Colin Coward to 'condemn' everyone who didn't live up to Canon Sugden's Biblical standard. Colin, quite rightly refused to condemn anyone but requesting Canon Sugden and others like him to repent of their homophobia and their unjust characterisation and treatment of loving gay men and lesbians and their relationships.

    • Richard Ashby, I'm afraid in your latest comment (2.28pm) you have gravely misrepresented Canon Sugden.

      Canon Sugden DID NOT invite Colin Coward to "condemn" anyone who does not live to a supposed Biblical standard. At no point throughout the interview was there any mention of condemning people for any way of living.

      The final invitation which Canon Sugden made in the interview was asking Colin Coward to "denounce those who in these pressure groups want to change the whole construction of marriage". That is what Colin Coward would not do. In my opinion that can only be because Colin wants to see the doctrine of marriage overturned.

      Canon Sugden made his invitation because Colin Coward interrupted him when Sugden was explaining his view of the effect of the removal of the distinction between orientation and behaviour on the church's doctrine of marriage when you remove such distinction in the case of adultery or promiscuity. Colin Coward was challenged to explain why there was a difference (why he wasn't applying it to adultery or promiscuity) but he singularly failed to do, or to denounce those who wish to change the doctrine of marriage.

      The interview can be listened to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b011j39j/Sun
      at 38 minutes in.

      I don't believe Colin Coward's refusal to engage with what Chris Sugden said was "quite right". The statements about repentance for homophobia were a rant which disguised what the debate had actually been about.

      • Oops, got the word wrong. But the point remains. Canon Sugden is inviting Colin to “denounce those who in these pressure groups want to change the whole construction of marriage”. But this is becoming the standard position of those who seek to condemn gay relationships and their increasing acceptance within and outside the church. As an out gay man and an an out Christian I am just not aware of anyone who is seeking to 'change the whole construction of marriage'. So what is there to 'denounce?' Colin Coward was quite right to refuse to denounce anyone. Some Christians just love denouncing others. (I don't see much denouncing in the Gospels, apart from the scribes and pharisees whose interpretation and enforecement of religious law sought to belittle and constrain human beings rather than enable them to become fully human.) What is being sought is to widen the definition of marriage to include the equality of same sex relationships within that defnition. Now I don't regard that as a threat to marriage. Canon Sugden and his like do. It seems to me that such a position hides a deep seated fear that the marriage norm of husband, wife, 2.4 children and a dog, , constructed so carefully by some Christians over the past couple of hundred years or so is deeply fragile and can only be protected by condemning all other 'marriage like' relationships. There is a deep irony about all this. Canon Sugden characterises most, if not all, same sex relationships as promiscuous. However he is denying the very thing which many gay men and lesbians are looking for, the opportunity to establish and have recognised by the state and blessed by the Church, loving, faithful and stable relationships to which most (but not all) straight men and women aspire. To deny such recognition, and indeed to deny a place in the ministry of all believers for those in same sax relationsips, is the easy way out. Define homosexual activity as a sin, refuse any place for loving same sex relationships in the church or society and condemn and denounce those who seek them. So what about church teaching? Well that can change as it has about many other things over the past two millenia. And Biblical standards? Well as the congregations in my place of worship were reminded in Sunday's sermon; there are no Bibles in heaven.

        • Richard,

          You got more than the word wrong and should concede so.

          It is fairly obvious that

          (1) condemnation of people for living their lives a certain way; and

          (2) denunciation of people for wanting to fundamentally change an established doctrine of the church

          are NOT the same thing.

          You claimed (1) when the reality of the interview was (2).

          Your "oops" doesn't go far enough.

          You ask what there is to denounce.

          *You* may not regard it as a "threat to marriage" to widen the definition of marriage to "include the equality of same sex relationships" but you say nothing of the teaching of Jesus or the apostles that would justify such inclusion, and you are refusing to concede that such change would be overturning an actual doctrine of the church, and you're equating the doctrine of marriage with teachings that have been changed over the course of the last two millennia.

          Canon B 30 Of Holy Matrimony states that

          "The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that

          marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for

          worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the

          exclusion of all others on either side"

          Perhaps you might suggest what change to the Canon would you propose, and how as a Church we would affirm it "according to our Lord's teaching", and how such change would not be a fundamental change to our doctrine.

          Do you believe it is bigoted and hateful to believe in the Doctrine as it is now?

          What's very interesting is that you speak of there being no Bibles in heaven to in fact dismiss "Biblical standards" as something to be upheld – so please may I ask you whether you in fact believe that

          "HOLY Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith"?

          Canon A5 states that

          "The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy

          Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of

          the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures."

          Do you want the doctrine of the Church of England grounded in something else?

          If you do wish do uphold scripture, could you explain why if the church accepted in its doctrine loving, faithful and stable sexual relationships between two persons of the same sex, it could not equally accept loving, faithful and stable *incestuous* or *paedophilic* relationships?

          This is being discussed on other threads, and I make the same point as Jill has done – there is no question here of equating homosexuality with incest and paedophilia.

          • Since you ask no I don't believe that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation. The Bible is wrong on issues of homosexuality as it is on many other things too. Appeals to the Bible as the final arbiter is setting up a book as something to be worshiped and I will have nothing to do with it.

            • Well, what's great about this is we're finding that those favouring a more "liberal" or "inclusive" attitude in the Church of England don't actually believe in a central Article of Religion with regard salvation (an Article which underlines the Reformed nature of the Church of England).

              Just for the laugh I will enjoy, would you share with us your view of what one needs for salvation that is not to be found in scripture?

              • Actually I believe that we are all already 'saved'. That was the whole purpose of the cross. Much of what passes for religion is actually a conspiracy to enforce someone's own ideas on others and to make them conform. That's what the articles of religion are about. They are an attempt to stop peole thinking for themselves. Even at the time they proved divisive rather than unifying and they are increasingly irrelevant today. Again it is about power. You don't like what I think (nor indeed what I am!) therefore you promise me hell fire and damnation because I won't conform with your view of salvation. Now you may well believe this for the best of motives, concern for my immortal soul, but I am quite capable of looking after my immortal soul without your intervention. I look forward to seing you in heaven.

                • Richard,

                  Before you accuse me of promising you hell fire and damnation, it would be good if we could illicit from you what you actually are saying is your belief.

                  I have no opinion on what you are. I would like to actually know what it is that you think on the issue of salvation.

                  You stated that you did not believe Article 6.

                  That Article limits doctrines to those in scripture and therefore to be saved we need to know the Jesus made known in scripture and believe in Him and His redeeming work but we are not required to believe in anything that cannot be proved by scripture.

                  I said I would laugh if you think that there is something else we need to believe other than that contained in Holy Scripture in order that we be saved. I argue against certain doctrines which Rome forces its adherents to believe as Articles of Faith which cannot be proved by scripture (eg Assumption, Papal Infallibility, Immaculate Conception) or may even be at odds with the scriptures.

                  However, are you saying you're a universalist? Is the import of what you've said above, that you believe that everyone on earth is saved (regardless of what they believe)?

                  My view of salvation is that contained in the Holy Scriptures. John 3:16 explains things well.

                  I haven't told you you're not going to heaven, and I haven't promised you you're facing the pangs of hell.

                  If you're quite capable of looking after your immortal soul then you should be quite capable of explaining how you are doing so!

                  How do you know what the purpose of the cross was without scripture to guide?

                  • I don't intend to sit your examination nor do I have to try to justify myself in your eyes. Remember Christ's two commandments, love God and love your neighbour as yourself. The rest is a matter of opinion, we disagree. That's fine by me.

                    • Richard,

                      I'm not looking for you to justify yourself, I was looking for you to say what your views were.

                      I'm genuinely interested in what you're saying because I can't quite fathom what is precisely is.

                      I've asked whether you're a universalist, but you've declined that as an "examination".

                      I said my view was that everything that concerns how we are saved is in Holy Scripture.

                      You said you didn't believe that.

                      Now you're giving me a scriptural reference to the commandments upon which hang all the Law and the prophets.

                      I am at a loss to know whether you do think that what is required for salvation is in Holy Scripture or not.

                      I don't then know whether you believe that those who don't love God or their neighbour are still going to be saved.

                      These are vital questions of first order!

                    • No they are not 'vital questions of first order!' They are attempts to define the undefinable. I am quite happy with mystery, whether it relates to the mechanics of salvation, the true meaning of the atonement, the virginal conception or what actually happened at the resurection. For me what is important is how these affected the lives of those who say they believe in their day to day relationships with each other and that includes each of us. And in answer to your question as to whether I believe that those 'who don’t love God or their neighbour are still going to be saved'. I would say that I don't know but, since none of us is perfect in this regard or any other anyway, I would hope so.

                      The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.

                    • If you don't think how we get to heaven is a question of the first order then there is a huge gulf between orthodox Christianity and those such as yourself who want a revisionist agenda implemented as far as human sexuality goes. The Great Commission was not to proclaim that we didn't know, but to make disciples of every nation.

                      I don't claim to know fully all the "mechanics" but I have assurance that I am saved by God's grace on account of my faith in Jesus not as a result of anything I have done, but as a result of what Jesus did for me – the atonement.

                      I know that I am a sinner and that if I died in my sins I would be separated from God forever. I know, that what Jesus did for me has freed me from the slavery of sin – and by my repentance and belief, that in Him I am a new creation.

      • It was absolutely ludicrous to expect Colin Coward to "denounce" anybody! He was not on air representing "those who in these pressure groups want to change the whole construction of marriage” and it is very difficult to know what Sugden means by this phrase. I, for example, would like to see the Church accept those in civil partnerships and bless their relationships in Church. I would like to see the option of "marriage" extended to same sex partners. I am also very supportive of opposite sex marriage and I am married!

        Is it such as myself that Sugden wanted Colin Coward to "denounce"? If so, why? I would have been very offended and surprised if he had! What a stupid, stupid, arrogant thing for Sugden to have demanded!

        • Sue,

          If it was very difficult to know what the import of Chris Sugden's phrase was, there was an opportunity there and then for Colin Coward to say what he thought should happen with the doctrine of marriage, to what extent it should be amended and what the boundaries would be, and what the basis in scripture that would be. (As I've mentioned what Coward actually said did not engage with that subject one iota)

          If it's ludicrous in your view to expect Colin Coward to denounce those who wish to to overturn the Church's Doctrine of Marriage, what specific position with regard the doctrine was he defending or would you defend? You say you wish to extend marriage to include same sex civil partners – so where is the boundary drawn, what scriptural grounds are you basing your wish on, and how would it exclude other sexual relationships that you presumably think immoral.

          It would be preferable if you engaged with the fact that Colin Coward interrupted Chris Sugden explaining the consequences for the doctrine of marriage if the distinction between orientation(inclination) and behaviour (action) is withdrawn in the case of adultery and promiscuity. Colin Coward interrupted with "I'm not saying that" but he singularly failed to say what he was saying should be the effect or what he wanted to be the effect.

          By the way, a question "are you then going to denounce?", is not a demand that you do denounce – it's a challenge to see whether or not you will, allowing us to draw conclusions if you do not.

          I'll ignore the jibes about arrogance because in my view the arrogance is in saying that the Church *will have to* change its long-established doctrine.

          The current orientation/behaviour distinction means that the Church officially upholds no sexual behaviour outside of marriage (as defined in its doctrine). Colin Coward was definitely on air to ignore such a distinction as long as he could (as not suiting his argument), but when Chris Sugden pointed out the distinction as the official Church line Coward denounced that distinction, but would not engage with the consequences of removing that distinction.

          • Colin Coward was left with 30 seconds to "engage" with Sugden's last comment – I won't dignify it by calling it a point – which contained several dubious assumptions and outright slurs – as below: "

            Sugden: "There’s been a more insistent approach by gay pressure groups to change the whole of society’s practice to heterosexual marriage, to normalise the interchangeability of gender and redefine marriage by making the multiple partner approach of many, not all but many gay people, the norm."

            He then asked Coward to denounce those who wish to change the doctrine of marriage, but he didn't define what he meant by this? If by it he meant he wanted Colin to denounce those who accept same sex relationships, then that was rather unlikely given Sugden knows Changing Attitude campaigns for such acceptance?

            Colin was quite right to say, "I'm not saying that" because he -well- wasn't saying that he wanted to change the whole of society's practice, to normalise the interchangeability of gender or to make the multiple partner approach the norm." !

            Nor are any of these things a conseqence of widening our conceptions of marriage to include faithful, committed same sex relationships.

  7. Nothing wrong with loving someone of the same sex. It's called 'friendship'. Nobody would condemn that. It's sex that causes the problem.

    • Depends on the type of love, surely. Even if Newman and St.John were wholly (and indeed holy) celibate, having a member of the same sex as the closest thing *to* a wife is surely closer to the Wildean "noblest form of affection" lineage than it is to "normal" male friendships. There's a reason why stereotypical straight guys (who,it must be said, do tend to avoid even evangelical churches) would find terms like "homosocial" almost as disquieting as "homosexuality". You've said more than once that most parents wouldn't want their children to be gay. Would said parents really be ok with their children saying that they're not going to marry a member of the opposite sex, but they love a member of the same sex like a wife (and it's all ok because they sleep in separate beds)? Are you ok with Jeffrey John having a civil partner as long as they're not currently having sex?

      Non-sexual same-sex love is still far more transgressive than supportive of the sort of patriachal heterosexist cultural norms that get passed off as "natural" and "Christian". Terms like "bromance" and "hetero life partner" have increased with the decrease in societal homophobia.

  8. The distinction between orientation and behaviour seems to have become the mantra of the moment amongst conservatives. It is presented as a simple and straightforward guarantee of purity and holiness. But it is no such thing. And it is far from simple and straightforward. As Joseph Ratzinger realised in 1986 as the Chief Holy Inquisitor for the Vatican, the orientation is itself an intrinsic tendency to evil.

    An orientation is a drive deep in an individual’s personality which leads them to find one sex or the other delightful, exciting, alluring, and carnally desirable. Merely to be aware of one’s orientation is to be already launched into the sphere of action, even if only mentally in fantasy and pleasurable anticipation. It is already to have ‘sinned’. Our Lord tells us merely to look is already to have done the deed in our heart.

    The distinction between orientation and behaviour offers no get out of jail free card. If you think homosexuality is a sin this necessarily includes both behaviour and orientation.

    And making this distinction is dangerous. It leads to two particularly damaging scenarios.

    In the first scenario gay men are told that if they cannot be celibate they must marry a woman. Over the centuries millions of catastrophically unhappy marriages of this kind have been contracted. In practice this means the heterosexual woman, who will be interested in and excited by her husband’s body finds herself in bed with a man who has no sexual interest in her body whatsoever and who, if he is able, achieves the necessary physical act only by homosexual fantasising, i.e by pretending that she is somebody else. St Paul teaches us that both husbands and wives have every right to expect conjugal satisfaction in marriage. To label this situation ‘the purity of the marital bed’ is really a monstrous travesty. Having in my lifetime witnessed several times the pain and devastation caused to wives and children by the eventual collapse of such marriages I think it arguable that this ‘exchanging of the truth for a lie’ is a greater sin than any sexual peccadillo.

    The second scenario is where gay men, in this case priests and bishops, live in one to one partnership but are forbidden by church discipline from sexual ‘behaviour’. Yet the object of their sexual desire is constantly present. They will be continually frustrated and they will have lustful thoughts. They will have sinned.

    In the end the church will have to come to terms with the reality that a significant minority of God’s children will always be involuntarily gay, and that the Christian response is to support them in pursuing love and happiness in morally responsible ways. Conservatives who cannot accept this need to be honest and not hide behind a spurious, and in practice cruel, distinction. You are right that ‘the Church of England needs to have an honest an open discussion about sexual practice and ethics and come to a clear resolution on the issue’. Bring it on!

  9. Keith Sharpe, what about the significant minority of God's children whose sexual desires (constantly present) are directed towards children? They too will be continually frustrated and have lustful thoughts. Should we support them in pursuing love and happiness in 'morally responsible ways' or should we continue with our cruel distiniction?

    No need to wheel out the usual guff about 'consent' because such people think that children DO have sexual needs. Even Peter Tatchell agrees with that. No need, either, to try and twist this to imply that I am equating homosexuality with paedophilia – a common ruse of revisionists – when it is quite plain that I am not.

    • Paedophilia isn't about consent, its about power. (and one might say that traditional marriage is also about ownership and power, why otherwise should a wife be given away and promise to obey?). Paedophilia is a red herring as always along with zoophilia, polyandry and sexual possibilities. It is also worth reminding defenders of the family that almost all child abuse, whether sexual or otherwise, occurs within the family or is perpetrated by those known to the child. So much for family values.

      • Richard,

        No, there is no red herring. What there is, is something that could undermine your argument so you wish to dismiss it out of hand!

        How does your argument about "power" negate the possibility of a sexual relationship between an adult and a child that is loving, faithful and stable?

        From what do you draw your argument against paedophilic relationships?

        (or indeed, from what would you draw an argument against incestuous relationships, however loving, faithful and stable?)

        As to your argument about traditional marriage, the promise to "obey" has nothing to do with "ownership and power", it is rooted in Holy Scripture in St Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians – the wife's promise to obey her husband is the corollary to his promise to worship her. Husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church. Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

        • Jill

          It is a fact that marriage historically has been about power, wealth, and inheritance. Women were regarded as property, kept for the purpose of producing an heir (see the first reason for marriage in the BCP) and to ensure that property was kept within the legitimate family. That's why we have the practical double standard that women have to be chaste but men can sow their wild oats. Romantic marriage was the exsception rather than the rule until comparatively recently. Within some cultures and religions that is still true.

          It is also true that most child abuse takes place within marrtiage or close relationships. Why you you take these facts as reflecting a 'distorted' view on marriage. Like you I know some very hapily married people and amongst my friends that seems to be the norm. But some friends are in marriages that are not happy and proably should never have taken place. That's also true and sad.

    • Jill, can adults have sexual relationships with children in morally responsible ways? I think that you and I would both agree that the answer is no. (And I couldn’t care less what “even Peter Tatchell” says.) So I can’t understand why you bring up the subject of paedophilia here, although I know that you generally do on these occasions.

      Can adults have sexual relationships with other adults in morally responsible ways? I’m sure that we would agree that the answer is yes. Of course, that the sexual relationship be between adults, although a necessary condition, is not a sufficient condition for it to be morally responsible. There may still be all sorts of reasons why it is not. Is the mere fact that the adults in the relationship are of both of the same sex one of those reasons? My answer is no.

      • William,

        The issue is *why* you do not accept that an adult-child sexual relationship (however loving and faithful, and indeed stable it is) is not moral.

        It is immaterial that you and Jill are both of the view that they are not moral. You don't hold identical views on sexual morals so we need to see where the distinction lies.

        Can you not understand that Jill brings the issue up because Jill upholds the view that any sexual relationship outside of marriage (a lifelong union between man and woman to the exclusion of others) is not moral, whereas you would argue that other "loving, faithful and stable" sexual relationships are moral.

        The issue of paedophilia is brought up so that you be given an opportunity to show from where you get the grounding for the doctrine you would want the church to adopt (that loving, faithful and stable same-sex sexual relationships are moral and acceptable) to the exclusion of current doctrine.

        What are the "sufficient conditions" for a sexual relationship to be moral?

        The traditionalist standpoint is any sexual relationship outside of marriage (by which we mean marriage as affirmed by the Church) is not moral.

        Those who argue against the traditionalist standpoint have a duty to explain the criteria by which they would judge what relationships are or are not moral.

        • Gregory, the reason why I do not accept that an adult-child sexual relationship (however loving and faithful, and indeed stable it is), and irrespective of whether it is a same-sex or a mixed sex relationship, is moral is that I believe it to be an abuse of the adult’s power and likely to be harmful to the child. This does not apply to consensual same-sex relationships between adults. The slippery slope argument that, if we accept adult same-sex relationships, then there is no reason not also to accept paedophilic relationships is therefore null and void.

          There are those who argue, without the red herring of paedophilia, that a sexual relationship between adults of the same sex is intrinsically wrong, and I have read and heard many of their arguments. I find them less convincing each time I hear them.

          • P.S. Are you implying that the only reason why an adult-child sexual relationship is wrong is that it contradicts the Church’s teaching?

            • As to your P.S., if something is contrary to Church doctrine grounded upon Holy Scriptures then one doesn't need any other reason for it being wrong.

              I may well perceive that an adult-child sexual relationship would be wrong because of feelings that I have of misgiving about what it entails.

              However, if my Church's doctrine grounded upon Holy Scriptures explains why an adult-child sexual relationship is wrong in the eyes of God then I need not look to my own reasoning or how I feel.

              The simple fact is that an adult-child sexual relationship doesn't fit the model of a sexual relationship within marriage of one man and one woman for life. As such it is outside of the bounds for sexual relations as taught by the Church in accordance with the Scriptures.

              Therefore the wrongness of an adult-child sexual relationship is established by being contrary to scriptural doctrine.

              This does not mean that, following my own reasoning, I may not regard a paedophile as worse an offender than for example someone committing adultery. In the eyes of God, however, according to Holy Scriptures, the actions of each is sin.

          • William,

            I'm sorry, but it is far from a red herring since your response to me is that an adult-child sexual relationship is not moral because
            *you* "believe it to be an abuse of the adult’s power and likely to be harmful to the child. "

            That's it. It's down to your belief of the consequences of the relationship. It's down to your own judgement of what's harmful.

            By leaving it at that, you're not engaging with what God has told us through the Holy Scriptures, or what the Church Fathers have taught us in teachings agreeable to the scriptures.

            Thanks for your honesty, but you have completely failed to show why the argument we are raising is null and void.

            The Traditionalist stand is that Scripture teaches us that marriage is between one man and one woman for life, and that sexual relations are only for marriage.

            It may be that you find this less convincing each time you hear it, but it is coherent.

            Your stand is that there are other contexts outside of marriage (as the Church's doctrine has it) where sexual behaviour is moral.

            What is not coherent is where the reasoning is found for saying that any particular such sexual activity is either moral or immoral.

            The Traditionalists base the morality of sex exclusively within the bounds of marriage on the teaching of scripture.

            In the end it's clear that you are arguing against the morality of a paedophile relationship from your own beliefs without explaining how such beliefs are grounded in scripture.

            This means that you appear to validate sexual relationships according to your own moral view, not on the basis of what the Bible teaches.

            • Gregory, if I believe that something is wrong, then I believe that it's wrong, whether the Bible says so or not.

              Right and wrong do not depend on the Bible or any other sacred book, nor on the teaching of the church or any other religious organization. (People knew about right and wrong, even if they disagreed about the specifics, long before a word of the Bible was written and long before the church was founded.) They don't even depened on a belief in God.

              • William,

                Thanks for the brutal honesty.

                It has cheered me up no end!

                You're entitled to any view you hold, but given what you've said such views as you express will have no persuasive value for me.

        • 'The traditionalist standpoint is any sexual relationship outside of marriage (by which we mean marriage as affirmed by the Church) is not moral'. Do you mean, Gregory, that marriage not affirmed by the Church is not marriage and sexual relationships within are are not moral? Surely you don't.

          • Richard,

            Now you’re picking up on something that I’ve put out of an abundance of caution in what I’m saying so that no-one can widen what I mean to mean something else.

            I’ve made clear that the Church affirms marriage to be between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I’ve also made clear that the Church does so following our Lord’s teaching as can be found in Holy Scriptures.

            The Church teaches that sexual relations outside of marriage (as it understands marriage – see above) are not moral.

            This has nothing to do with whether particular marriages have or have not been celebrated or blessed by the Church.

            I was not suggesting that sexual relations between a husband and wife who have been married by civil authorities or by religious bodies other than the Church would not be moral.

            What did you think I meant by “not affirmed”?

  10. Who says paedophilia is about power? How do you know what goes on inside a paedophile's head? They will say that they love children, and they probably do. If we are to decide for ourselves whether our sexual inclinations are blessed by God, how can you possibly exclude all the other paraphilias you mention.

    The position of the Church is, as it has always been, that sexual relationships are only acceptable between a man and a woman in lifelong marriage. Like it or not, all the other arguments are pure sophistry.

    • Is it not significant that there is no passage that the proof-texter can cite ("suffer the little children" in no way implies what the age of consent should be)to condemn paeodophilia and St.Paul does not make a point of condemning the paedophilic relationships that were a feature of Roman life? Yet paedophillia is of course evil. This shows that it is not just the modernist 'liberals' who use reason etc to form understandings of good and evil sexuality. And the Christian record of near two millenia of misogyny is hardly something to be proud of, which is problematic for those who uphold the heterosexist Christian norm as being self-evidently moral. It's not. I recall, Jill, that you even referred to marriage as the joining of two sterile halves – that's closer to greco-roman decadance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symposium_(Plato)) than the biblical witness of e.g. 1 Corinthians, let alone Our Lord's words on asceticism.

    • “The position of the Church is, as it has always been, that sexual relationships are only acceptable between a man and a woman in lifelong marriage.”

      I gather that many paedophiles have no serious belief that sex with children is wrong or harmful, and that it’s a very difficult task to persuade them otherwise. So I do hope, Jill, that you’re not putting the Church’s teaching forward as the reason why it’s wrong, because if you are, you have no convincing answer to a paedophile who has no belief in any church’s teaching, who couldn't care less whether or not his sexual inclinations are supposed to be blessed by a God in whose existence he doesn't believe, and who can’t see why he shouldn’t have sex with children.

  11. The age of consent in Christian Britain was put at 12 in the 13th Century, being lowered to 10 in the 16th. One reason why invoking paedophilia to denounce liberals' supposed methodologies is so problematic. the 'Tradition' of the Church is hardly unblemished.

  12. My original comment was about the spuriousness of the distinction between orientation and behaviour. It is important to be clear what orientation means.

    Essentially there only two orientations: heterosexual and homosexual.

    Incest is not an orientation. Heterosexual and homosexual people may fall in love with and/or have inappropriate sex with individual relatives of the gender to which they are oriented.

    Paedophilia is not an orientation. Paedophilic crimes are committed by heterosexual and homosexually oriented people.

    An orientation involves an erotic excitement at the idea of intimacy with one sex and a disinterest in, a recoiling from or revulsion at the idea of intimacy with the other sex. Incest, paedophilia or bestiality are not orientations. They are acts committed for a variety of motives by people with one of the two orientations described.

    • Keith Sharpe

      It is not a spurious distinction. It is not false or fake or resulting in nonsense.

      The distinction allows those with whichever of the orientations you describe to adhere in their lives to the Church's doctrine of marriage and its teaching on human sexuality, and thus be acceptable for consecration to the episcopate where they are to be the focus of unity.

      Those who you claim are "homosexually oriented" (and would thus, you would argue, not wish to marry someone of the opposite gender) must remain celibate, and repent of any behaviour inconsistent with such celibacy.

      Those who you claim are "heterosexually oriented" are subject to the same requirement. They should be sexually active only with their spouse within marriage, or they should remain celibate and should repent of any behaviour inconsistent with faithfulness in marriage or celibacy.

      That is completely coherent.

      Removing the distinction means that any sexual behaviour would be acceptable and there would be no need of repentance.

      If you are to argue that incest and paedophilia must be excluded from acceptable sexual behaviour in the Church then you need to say why.

      If you're arguing that the church's teaching is to be based on society's norms then that is in point a *spurious reason* for so doing. It is irrelevant what the law of the land is.

    • Keith: Essentially there only two orientations: heterosexual and homosexual.

      Pardon? Who says? I am no psychologist, but I cannot agree with this. Apart from a tiny number of tragic cases, there are two sexes, male and female. Both have 'orientations', or leanings or preferences, on many issues, sex being just one of them. How else do you account for people changing their leanings on say developing a liking for brussels sprouts after years of hating them as a child, or for both men and women changing their sexual 'orientations', either spontaneously or with help. There is no fixed sexual orientation, much as some people try to pretend there is. This doesn't mean that everybody can change, or even that everybody will grow to like brussels sprouts, but some people can, which rather demolishes your argument.

      • Jill, you’re right, people’s tastes in things like food, music, clothes etc. do change; mine certainly have over the years. For example, I used to hate cheese as a child; now I love it. My aesthetic tastes have also changed: some colour schemes, pictures and styles of furniture that I once thought wonderful I now find hideous. That these things are analogous to sexual orientation is a very dubious proposition. That said, sexual orientation does occasionally change, in both directions; this happens to some women and to very few men. For most people it never happens, even if they want it to. I see as much reason to believe that it happens with help as to believe that anyone wins the lottery with help.

      • "There is no fixed sexual orientation, much as some people try to pretend there is."

        So, you do not define yourself as heterosexual then?

        • Of course not! I am merely female. I don't see the need to shout my 'sexuality' from the rooftops. (Yes, I know I wear a wedding ring, but that is just to fend the other blokes off!! :)

          Some married people decide later in life that they are gay after all – Gene Robinson, for instance. The gay lobby will tell you that they have been suppressed and were actually gay all the time, but that doesn't seem to apply when it is the other way around, and people who have led gay lifestyles for years marry and have children.

          • Good, Jill, very good. No politician being interviewed on radio or television could have given a more smoothly evasive answer. And as Eddie Mair might say, “Forgive me, but do you think you could you answer the question?”

            Sue never asked whether you shout your ‘sexuality’ from the rooftops, and saying that you are “merely female” is not an answer to the question either. She asked you, “So, you do not define yourself as heterosexual then?” So let us re-phrase the question in more precise terms. Would you describe your sexuality as heterosexual? And if so, would you say that, to the best of your knowledge and belief, your heterosexuality is fixed? Or do you believe your sexual orientation to be fluid?

            I don’t know too much about Gene Robinson, so I can’t comment specifically on his case. I have acknowledged that some people’s sexuality does genuinely and spontaneously change from heterosexual to homosexual and vice versa, but this phenomenon is – in males, at any rate – very definitely the exception, not the rule. None of the married or formerly married men whom I know and who have come out as gay have told me that this was the result of their sexual orientation changing. On the contrary, they have all told me that that they had always known that they were gay and that they got married in a desperate attempt to “conform”, through a mistaken hope that getting married would “straighten them out”, or as a result of family pressure. One of them, interestingly, recognized his daughter’s boyfriend as gay and tried to dissuade her from marrying him. But when he explained why, she wouldn’t believe him. Not surprisingly, the marriage fell apart.

            • To be fair, Jill did say that "of course" she did not define herself as heterosexual, William, and I can't see why she should be pressed on her sexuality. But to think others all do or should define themselves as simply male or female is, I think, not honest or fair.

              • Well, Sue, I don’t see why Jill should be coy about saying that she’s heterosexual, if she is; I’ve been perfectly frank about the fact that I’m gay. She did say that “of course” she didn’t define herself as heterosexual, but then immediately added the statement, as though in explanation, “I am merely female. I don’t see the need to shout my ‘sexuality’ from the rooftops.”, thus making it clear that her answer was in fact an evasion. Normally, I agree, I wouldn’t dream of pressing anyone with questions about their sexuality. However, when someone starts making dogmatic statements like “There is no fixed sexual orientation, much as some people try to pretend there is” and compares sexual orientation to something as changeable as taste in vegetables, it’s only natural that I should be curious to know whether that applies to her too, or whether she regards herself as one of those freak cases whose sexual orientation is fixed.

            • William,

              I think you'll find that Eddie Mair could not have argued with the "straight" answer Jill gave.

              Q. Do you define yourself as X?

              A. "Of course not"

              • I agree. I don't think that Eddie Mair would have argued with the answer, "Of course not." But she didn't just say that. She immediately qualified that answer with "I am merely female. I don’t see the need to shout my 'sexuality' from the rooftops.” Eddie Mair, John Humphrys or any of that lot would have picked up on that immediately and asked what "sexuality" it was that she didn't shout from the rooftops.

                • I wasn't 'qualifying' my answer, William, I was merely having a pop at people who want the whole world to know what they get up to under the duvet. For all you know, I could be a serial adulteress – but I consider that to be my business and nobody else's (apart from my husband, of course!)

                  Strange as it may seem, most people are not obsessed with their 'sexuality'. I would tell John Humphrys that I merely mention it because it happens to be the topic presently under discussion. (Who is Eddie Mair?)

                  • But specifying your sexual orientation isn’t telling the world what you get up to under a duvet, Jill. I’ve said that I’m gay, but that tells you nothing about what I do or don’t get up to under a duvet. What I am interested in knowing is not the details of anyone else’s sex life, but something quite different. You have declared that “There is no fixed sexual orientation, much as some people try to pretend there is” and you have drawn a curious analogy between sexual orientation and children’s food fads. Since that statement contradicts my experience, I want to know the basis for it. Is it your own experience? You haven’t told us. Even if some people’s sexual orientation is fluid, which does seem to be the case, that doesn’t justify the conclusion that everyone’s or even most people’s is. So on what do you base your statement?

                    (Eddie Mair is a Scottish radio presenter and interviewer – and a superb one at that.)

                    • Not quite sure what you are asking me here, William. Surely 'sexual orientation' is about sex? If not, why even mention it? Declaring yourself to be gay seems to imply that you are having gay sex. Otherwise you would just be a single (presumably) man. So, if you are not having gay sex, and don't intend to, why imply that you are by telling people that you are gay?

                      I know plenty of single people who I have no idea whether they are gay or not, it simply would never have occured to me (until recently) that they might be. Even now, I feel it's none of my business, and I prefer it to remain that way.

                    • Jill, sexual orientation refers to the sex of the people to whom one is sexually attracted. They may or may not be engaging in sexual activity. Or they may even be engaging in sexual activity which is contrary to their orientation, perhaps in a futile attempt to “conform”. I knew that I was gay several years before I had sex with anyone. How did I know? Because all the people to whom I was sexually attracted were other guys; none of them were women. Even if I resolved tomorrow never to have sex again for the rest of my life and kept that resolution, I’d still be gay. A heterosexual man or woman who loses his or her spouse through death, divorce or separation doesn’t thereby cease to have a heterosexual orientation (unless and until he or she has sex with a new partner). A Catholic priest or monk who has kept his vow of celibacy for years and then infringes it by having sex with a woman to whom he is attracted doesn’t thereby acquire a heterosexual orientation that he didn’t have before; indeed, it’s not clear how he could come to be sexually attracted to a woman in the first place unless he already had a sexual orientation. I could go on, but I think that I’ve made the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual activity sufficiently clear.

                      You say that you’re not sure what I’m asking. Well, I’m certainly not asking you anything about your sex life, which is none of my business, just as mine is none of yours. I’m asking you how you arrived at your pontifical statement that “There is no fixed sexual orientation, much as some people try to pretend there is.” I’ve already acknowledged that SOME people’s sexual orientation is apparently fluid, but your magisterial pronouncement that “There is NO fixed sexual orientation” seems to imply that either everyone’s or most people’s sexual orientation is fluid. Since this supposed information is not confirmed but contradicted by my own experience, I am curious to know the source from which you obtained it.

                      You have drawn what strikes me as a singularly inept comparison between sexual orientation and childhood food fads. (I know about those; both my sister and I must have driven poor Mum nearly to distraction.) Again, I’m not asking anything at all about your sex life; I’m simply asking, seriously, is that REALLY how you see your own sexual orientation? Or just how you see other people’s? Or just that of us homos?

                    • Actually, William, I would prefer not to know anybody's sexual orientation. It is totally irrelevant to me in my daily life. People are just people, men or women, with diverse gifts and problems. It only becomes a problem (for me) when somebody thrusts their sexuality in my face and tries to force me to accept unnatural practices which I cannot, because both scripture and natural law preclude this.

                      This doesn't just apply to 'you homos' as you put it, because I couldn't accept 'out and proud' adultery either. I could no more accept a priest living in a straight illicit relationship than I could an openly gay one – although I would happily accept a priest who was merely unmarried – and indeed have done so. 'Don't ask don't tell it may have been, but it didn't force anybody into places they didn't want to go, and was much more comfortable all round.

                      I am sure that most people feel just the same, and are fed up with being labelled as homophobic bigots when we are forced against our will into making judgments.

                      I do understand what you are saying about sexual orientation, really I do – and I know people can't help how they are, just as they can't help not liking cheese – but what I don't understand is why everybody has to know about it. Private lives should be just that – private. Mind you, I don't recall engaging in ream after ream of blog posts about the merits and demerits of cheese! Perhaps we should. Brie is best!

                    • That’s fine, Jill. As you say, “Private lives should be just that – private.” But there’s a difference between someone thrusting their sexuality in your face and them just not hiding it. It would be quite improper to demand subterfuges and concealments of gay people that we would never dream of demanding of straight people.

                      I’ve lived in my present house for just over two years. My next-door neighbour has never told me her sexual orientation, and I have never asked her about it, nor have I ever observed her having sex with anyone. I have never tried to pry, nor have I been the slightest bit preoccupied with the question. Nonetheless, it’s obvious to me that she’s straight. Similarly, I’ve never told her my sexual orientation, and she has never asked me about it, nor has she ever observed me having sex with anyone. She has, I hope, never tried to pry or been the slightest bit preoccupied with the question. Nonetheless, it must be obvious to her by now that I’m gay – not that I could care whether she knows or not.

                      That is as it should be.

                  • Gore Vidal once made the excellent point that, in a world without antisemitism Judaism would still be defining feature of particular Jews whereas, in a world without homophobia, same-sexers would think very little of their orientation. Those who recall the days when people could be fired for being gay will understandably regard their sexuality as hardly an unimportant part of their identity. And, of course, the more people that come out the harder it is to demonise gays as the promiscous,drug-taking "them".

          • Well, that is clear – I just don't think you can extrapolate from your own experience to others. Most people (not all) see themselves as "male" or "female" too, but that doesn't stop them from also having a sexual identity as well, whether they want to keep it private, which is fine, or be open is an entirely separate matter. For most people that sexual identity stays broadly constant throughout their lives, although there are a few exceptions. I can't believe that you don't accept this?

            • 'For most people…sexual identity stays broadly constant throughout their lives'. I think that is quite true both from my own experience and that of friends and acquaintances over many years. What I have seen happen in many cases is that some people, for what ever reason, and usually from peer pressure or a feeling of a need to conform, or in one case a conscious decision to get on in business, choose to suppress their true orientation and to act against their true nature. I have known any number of men (and one or two women too) who have decided to get married, in some cases apparently succesfully) father children, and had aparently happy marriages who either when the strain becomes too much or when their partner dies or moves on for other reasons, allow themselves to recognise or express their true sexual orientation. Sometimes there has been deception in the marriage, sometimes it is only after separation for what ever reason this happens. Interestingly, in most cases, the former husband and wife have retained a good friendship and the children are on good terms with both and often with the parent's same sex partner.

          • >>>> led gay lifestyles for years marry and have children.

            Perhaps because the silly stereotypes denoted by "gay lifestyle" – listening to lots of eurovision? – are in no way founded in reality? And Dan Savage made the excellent point that gay people are forced to walk miles in straight shoes whilst straight people aren't forced to walk in gay shoes (as it were; Dan wasn't invoking stereotypes about good taste in footwear ;)). This might have changed for younger generations, but it used to be true that gay men still dated girls in high school and pretended to be straight, due to fear of societal homophobia. In contrast, I don't think that even the Daily Heil/'Christian' Institute alarmists would claim that straight kids are now under pressure to pretend to be gay (but I could be wrong). Never mind society : if a particular gay man told a straight women that he'd left the gay behind wouldn't she be understandably disbelieving? In contrast, how likely is it than a man leaving his wife and family to come out would make such a reason up?

      • The fact that some people can change in no way means that most people can change. In fact, if MOST people experience a fixed sexuality – which certainly is the case – then how does it make sense to say "There is no fixed sexual orientation". I must say, I never thought I'd see you implicitly advocating Queer Theory! ;)

  13. Keith, I agree with what you have written, with just one modification: there are four sexual orientations, at least in theory: heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual and asexual. I imagine that those in the last category are probably a very small number indeed, although I don't know for certain.

    You have brought out the distinction very clearly: neither a sexual action, nor a sexual attraction to a particular person is an orientation. A heterosexual male, for example, may be sexually attracted to a female who is ineligible; in the case of an incestuous attraction it may be to a sister, daughter or even mother. He may refrain from acting on the attraction, as I think we would all agree that he should, but the next person to whom he is sexually attracted will also be a female – hopefully an eligible one this time – because his ORIENTATION is heterosexual. Mutis mutandis, the same applies to someone with a homosexual orientation.

  14. As an objective observer(TIC) I find Mr. Sharpe's reasoning most convincing. "We will act according to our being- Agere sequitur esse" wherein ontolgy and moral principle collide is wonderfully brought forward in his analysis. Well done Mr. Sharpe.

  15. >>>>>>>I am sure that most people feel just the same, and are fed up with being labelled as homophobic bigots when we are forced against our will into making judgments.

    What basis do you have for assuming that "most" people share your views? And the record of the "anti-gay" movement has, to riot in understatement, not exactly been marked by live-and-let-live tolerance. And of course prejudice is wrong and dehumanising irrespective of how strongly particular people "feel" it.

    What constitutes someone thrusting their sexuality in their face? For example, many a conservative defended the discriminatory "dont' ask don't tell" policy in the US military. Of course explicit sexual conversation is inappropriate in e.g. workplace conversation (although assuming that gays are more likely to do this than straights is unfounded). Someone talking about their same-sex partner – in the same natural manner you would refer to your husband, e.g. in saying "my husband and I went out for dinner" if someone asked what you did at the weekend – is not flaunting sexuality. Some anti-gay types assume that "I am gay" equates to "I engage in lots of disgusting sex acts". It does not.

    As for your cheese analogy : if people who liked a particular brand of cheese (!) were a persecuted minority then there probably would be a lot of blogs on the subject.

    • Bit like Marmite really, you either love it or hate it. And now they are planning to ban it in Denmark (Marmite that is!)

  16. I have followed this thread with interest. It's good that there is some thinking going on around this whole topic. For some of us ,though, it is is all a bit late…. I have friends and members of my family who are gay. They really do feel unwelcome in church. This is partly because they feel 'judged' – and it is not easy to be the subject of the Church of England's present theological conundrum. Personally I find it hard to admit to my friends at church that I have close family members who are gay – especially not those who have made comments which show they do not understand…. Meanwhile, in the world outside of church, I have friends who are loving , kind and accepting and easy to talk to about such matters. They are also accepting of my being a christian. I am not gay/lesbian – but I am celibate – because I have no husband and I am reconciled to that. Interestingly, I have never been asked if I am celibate, or quizzed about how I deal with my heterosexuality/sex drive etc. I'm glad I am not asked about htis as I feel it is my own personal business. I have noted that a clergyman who left his wife following an affair was recently reinstated as priest. He has repented of his sins and married the woman . I would like to see the day when my my gay christian friends can also have their relationships sanctified, can freely worshiip in church without fear of being condemned for who they are and can respond to God's calling on their lives into the ordained ministry. Rowan Williams wrote an interesting paper: The Body's grace – where he tries to look at a purpose for a sexual relationship other than for the sole purpose of having children. I thought it was very good and I feel saddened now to read the leak about his attempting to block gay people from being bishops.

    I also have a friend whose daughter is trans. To most she passes as a boy. This gender identity is difficult enough to cope with , without being exposed to what can feel like a Spanish inquisition. Another friend who doesn't feel at home in church. I often think it is quite possible Jesus was trans – there was no word for it then, so no reason to assume it could not have been the case. It fits beautifully with the Genesis description of God. Anyway, do keep debating and cogitating, but please spare a thought for the people at grass roots who deal with this on a day to day basis. LGBT is not a condition – it is part of the essence of who people are – just as heterosexuality is part of who straight people are. Being LGB or T is not something people choose either.

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