Vaughan Roberts – A Battle I Face

It speaks for itself.

Julian: Vaughan, earlier this year your book Battles Christians Face was republished in a fifth anniversary edition. You added a new preface which included these words: This ‘is the most personal of my books, partly … because I wrote out of my own experience. We all face battles in the Christian life, some of which are common to each of us, while others are shared only by a few. Of the many battles I could have written about, I chose to focus on eight which, to a greater or lesser degree, I face myself’. What responses have you had?

Vaughan: The fact that a pastor struggles with image, lust, guilt, doubt, pride and keeping spiritually fresh is not exactly a revelation to anyone who knows their own heart and understands that Christian leaders are weak and sinful too; and the admission of an occasional struggle with depression causes no surprise these days. The fact that the other chapter is on homosexuality, however, has caused a small ripple of reaction and led some to ask why I wrote those words and what I meant by them.

Defining yourself?

Julian: Does the disclosure that same sex attraction is one of your personal battles mean you are defining yourself as a homosexual?

Vaughan: No, it doesn’t. It’s important to reiterate that I have acknowledged a struggle in all eight of the areas the book covers and not just in one. The brokenness of the fallen world afflicts us all in various ways. We will be conscious of different battles to varying degrees at different moments of a day and in different seasons of our lives. No one battle, of the many we face, however strongly, defines us, but our identity as Christians flows rather from our relationship with Christ.

All of us are sinners, and sexual sinners. But, if we have turned to Christ, we are new creations, redeemed from slavery to sin through our union with Christ in his death and raised with him by the Spirit to a new life of holiness, while we wait for a glorious future in his presence when he returns. These awesome realities define me and direct me to the kind of life I should live. In acknowledging that I know something of all eight battles covered in my book, therefore, I’m not making a revelation about my fundamental identity, other than that, like all Christians, I am a sinner saved by grace, called to live in the brokenness of a fallen world until Christ returns and brings all our battles to an end.

I’ve known this was going to happen for a few days now. This is an incredibly courageous, humble and pastorally significant move by Vaughan and he has my full support. The more that senior Anglican clergy who are committed to living a faithful biblical morality speak up and share their own personal issues, the more encouragement it gives to everyone in the Church that they don’t struggle alone.

Now, on the matter that the episcopacy no longer has a “Conservative Evangelical” representative…

285 Comments on “Vaughan Roberts – A Battle I Face

  1. Oh, that interview is really good. I wish I was further south and could shake Vaughan Roberts’ hand! And it’s a very interesting interview for other reasons, too.

    It isn’t something I struggle with, but the response of so many evangelical brothers and sisters to those who do struggle with same-sex attraction can be so graceless, and that distresses me. For EN to run an interview like this is really important: Vaughan Roberts has shown a way to talk about homosexuality which in no way sells the pass on biblical morality but also models grace. Perhaps this will be a prompt to re-evaluation and repentance in those circles where it is needed.

  2. Now, on the matter that the episcopacy no longer has a “Conservative Evangelical” representative…

    I’m torn. I think that Vaughan would do a great job, but I don’t want him to be taken away from St. Ebbe’s!

    • He’s one of the few candidates for a mitre who actually have experience of episkopé, given the size and decentralized setup of St Ebbe’s!

      • If he was so against Jeffrey John’s elevation to Reading, seemingly based on John’s openness about his sexuality, wouldn’t Vaughan have by the same token have ruled himself out? Perhaps his reasons were not as simple as that implies – e.g. John had written challenging the traditional teaching on relationships and was in a civil partnership, though currently celibate. The crunch point seems that he would not publicly renounce his views not publicly “repent of” (just love that!) his former sin. Perhaps the cases are different – he hasn’t written anything promoting gay marriage and there is no significant other in the background, as far as is known, and thus no civil partnership to be explained. To be honest, before this story broke on Peter’s blog I’d never heard of him.

        • He and the other conservative churches under the bishopric of Reading opposed Jeffrey John because he does not uphold the church’s teaching on marriage, in teaching and in practice. Like, VR says in his interview, VR does both those things, and so his same-sex attractions shouldn’t exclude him from any position in ministry.

          Actually, far from undermining his position in opposing Jeffrey John, this revelation undermines the ChangingAttitude type argument – ie. that those who insist that gay priests should remain celibate are being hypocritical because there’s no way that they would deprive themselves of a sexual relationship.

          • Rowan Williams was a theological liberal. If the objection to Jeffrey John was *merely* his private views on sexuality (from a conservative perspective, are they much ‘worse’ than the Body’s Grace) then there would be no card-carrying liberals in the C of E episcopate at all. That’s hardly the case, is it?

            • That is the flaw in the conservative argument, yes – they’ve accepted that they work in a broad CofE Church, apart from trying to exclude certain people (women and people in gay relationships) from the bishopric.

              However, ChangingAttitude don’t tend to use that argument. They tend to use the ‘you’re having sex yourselves, you hypocrites’ argument. Which is why they’re often singing to the choir.

            • That is the flaw in the conservative argument, yes – they’ve accepted that they work in a broad CofE Church, apart from trying to exclude certain people (women and people in gay relationships) from the bishopric.

              However, ChangingAttitude don’t tend to use that argument. They tend to use the ‘you’re having sex yourselves, you hypocrites’ argument. Which is why they’re often singing to the choir.

              • So yes, the position can be undermined if it’s not carefully articulated. The concern over JJ was not just celibacy but his public teaching, his refusal to accept that prior sinful activity was sinful and how that would impact upon his role as a focus of unity.

                And I agree with CC that those who say one thing and do another are hypocrites.

                • Right. So Rowan is acceptable because he is/was ‘just’ a theological liberal in matters of sex, JJ is unacceptable because of his theological liberalism AND his prior , necessarily gay personal life. How is that not discrimination?

                    • No. I’m saying that a self-identified gay man had a gay personal (not merely sexual) personal life. I do not agree with the rhetoric on the “homosexual lifestyle”, as if gay men are somehow in a “straight lifestyle” on those presumably rare moments when they’re not engaged in sexual depravity.
                      The argument is that straight liberals are acceptable and gay liberals were not. As for John’s private life: if you provide a list of “gay but celibate liberals who became bishops” to negate my argument, then can I ask how many of them on your list actually ‘came out’ as gay-but-celibate? You’d agree that if the answer is “none really” then that could support the contention that there is a ‘dont’ ask, dont’ tell” climate which John ran afoul of due to his personal life?

                    • Do you want to name these “gay but celibate” bishops so we can know who we’re talking about? I have Colin Coward’s number if you want.

                    • Of course not. My question was exactly that. I of course expect you to be better informed about the make up of the C of E’s episcopacy than myself. I think you can answer my questions in wholly general terms (e..g “in reality, there are indeed a number of gay-but-celibate individuals who were elected to the episcopacy and not because they were assumed to be straight”) but will understand completely if you feel we’re straying into inappropriate naming names territory (although I can recall you asking some ‘name names’ questions on Kelvin’s blog, which is a bit ironic!)
                      For the record, I do not necessarily agree with CA’s name-and-shame tactics, let alone every particular instance of them.

                • Well. If JJ had been straight, in a ‘living together but not married’ relationship with a woman, and had given the same assurances about his celebacy – but continued to live with her – would anyone have taken his assurances seriously? Good grief. Leaders need to be seen to be doing the right thing, not just say they are.

                  • I know what you mean, but I lived with two other women when I was working for a church, and nobody batted an eyelid. In the Catholic Church, priests often live together. A whole clatter of same sex people live together in monastic orders. Single people of the same sex often live together. The ironic thing is that JJ might not have had so much trouble in the past

                    • Didn’t he have distinct and powerful enemies? People like Philip Giddings, if I remember right, spoke out against him – or was reported to have done on the BBC. In other words, wasn’t there a Stop Jeffrey bandwaggon. His homosexuality may be the reason but also it was useful catelyst……

                    • I don’t think that’s the same situation, though. JJ was in a same sex relationship that he a) Didn’t repent of and b) said ‘Ok, I will be celibate now, but will continue to live in the same house with the person I’m in love with’. (Unless I am not remembering the details correctly?) That would not be treated seriously coming from a straight person, and it’s not the same thing as having a housemate.

                    • And I think, had you had one female housemate rather than two, people might have started making assumptions.

        • Exactly. I’d hope that even the most unhinged conservative would concede that “post” gays, unlike the original (real? ;-)) kind tend , unlike gay people historically, to not be in danger of prison or losing their job because of their sexuality. Self-identified ‘Bisexual’ or ‘Queer’ individuals deviate from gay v straight dichotomies, and I’d imagine they’d have a higher chance of a warm welcome in a ‘gay’ bar than they would (say) an evangelical church.

  3. One could write quite a lot about this but one thing stood out:-
    I pray for them (homosexuals) every Monday from a list that is divided in two: those who
    continue to seek to be faithful to the Bible’s teaching that the only right
    context for sexual intercourse is in a marriage between a man and a woman and
    those who have moved away from that view. Sadly the second group is growing.
    Doesn’t this mean that his prayers aren’t being answered, perhaps because God doesn’t agree with them?

      • Patronising and insulting? Oh come off it. I merely quoted the man and asked a question. If you expose yourself and those who think like you on a public blog then you and yours are going to get questioned and disagreed with. If you don’t want that then stop blooging

        • The man has made himself vulnerable by coming out and your response is to make a snide remark about his prayers not working. I think we’re done here. If you want to have the last word then I promise you it will be.

          • So why did you increase his vulnerability by posting the link here?. And why is he vulnerable? Surely not because some conservative evangelicals don’t like homos, whether they have sex or not, and say so?
            And the question about prayers not working is entirely relevant because of the insistence that prayer is the way that those that those who want to change their orientation will do it.
            PS you haven’t yet answered my question about where the condemantion of slavery as an institution occurs in Philemon.

              • Yes. You know that you’re just being snide and provocative on a day a man makes himself vulnerable. You wouldn’t treat someone from the liberal side the same way. We’re done here.

                • Is Vaughan vulnerable, Peter, because he has admitted something that would make people think he IS actually gay whatever he may say to the contrary? I am interested to know why in the 21st century in the UK admitting something like that should still make you vulnerable….and vulnerable to whom? Vulnerable to your own congregants at the Lowest Ebbe, as we used to call it who should be on your side, or vulnerable to the gay community who may also be fairly anti-Christian and therefore enjoy a moment of schadenfreude? Don’t get me wrong; I admire him that he was able to do this in a moment of extreme honesty – he was not forced to do it, as far as I know, because he was caught out, saying one thing while doing another, and so for that he should be respected. BTW I am not sure Richard was being snide about him personally and his psychological situation. It seems like he was expressing scepticism about petitionary prayer which Vaughan diary entry raises……..

                    • No – Richard has a history of making derogatory remarks about myself and others both here and elsewhere. I simply wasn’t in the mood to let him do it again.

                    • I’m a bit surprised at you, Tom. Vulnerable is vulnerable. You know what vulnerable means! He’s admitted some very private feelings that he has personally decided not to act on and some people are really not going to like that. Whether that’s gay people who are offended that he’s saying same-sex relationships are outside God’s plan, or people who are uncomfortable with homosexuality saying ‘don’t get too close to VR, he might fancy you!’ This shouldn’t need spelling out. Obviously you don’t agree with him that it’s wrong to act on same-sex feelings, but why do you keep defending people who attack someone at their weakest point? I thought you hated that kind of behaviour.

                    • What are you on about, Fiddle Sticks? I thought I was very careful indeed NOT to attack Vaughan, even to say I admired his honesty, as I do. You are showing incredible ineptitude at understanding a simple posting, it seems to me, if you think I attacked his vulnerablity and honesty in any way. Are you just being mischievous in trying to manufacture a quarrel?

                    • Having recovered composure a little….. are you FD trying get Brownie Points with Our Noble Blogging Leader by expressing solidarity with his displeasure at Richard’s sniping?

                    • I feel as if I am walking across no-man’s land in these conversations and any moment I’ll tread on some unexploded device when I least expected it.

                    • OK. Let’s get out of no-man’s land :) I just thought your comments were a little less sympathetic than I thought they might be – admiring his honesty, but not recognising the vulnerability of his position given the current political climate. I’m also a bit surprised that you don’t see the inappropriateness of people who can’t find some other way of expressing their opinion than making jibes at people. You never do that yourself, and you get your point across a lot better that way. I didn’t mean to jump down your throat about it, just ask if maybe you’ve fully considered how those jibes might make somebody else feel. Surely if you believe that affirming a gay identity is the way to happiness, then you would have double compassion for people like VR who are putting themselves through an unnecessary ordeal.

                    • Okay Fiddle Sticks, I’ll grasp the olive branch you are offering. How did the descriptor ‘vulnerable’ get in the first place? I checked back and I don’t think Vaughan used it of himself. I think it was Peter and it was to him I was addressing the questions, perhaps rather ineptly it seems. I do realise Vaughan’s tremendous courage, since, as I tried to say, he had no reason to come out. e.g. He was not caught with a rent-boy carrying his luggage. As far as I know he has not made antigay comments – he may think same-sex activity is not permitted – nor do the Benedictine monks I admire – but then he does not make that the raison d’être of his Christian mission. It seems he conducts himself altogether differently from CI, Christian Concern and AM; in other words he has not made a scapegoat of ‘the gay lobby’. Unfortunately I do not know him but It seems you know him personally and perhaps that makes you a bit more sensitive to his plight than the rest of us can be. Not for the want of trying, though…..

                    • He’s made himself vulnerable in the same way that anyone who comes out makes themselves vulnerable. Nothing more, nothing less. Yes, there are specific constituencies that he speaks to that may react in particular ways and he was at the forefront of the campaign in Oxford Diocese to prevent Jeffrey John being made Bishop of Reading. For that reason some liberals may not be very happy with him…

                    • Perhaps he regrets that. We can all change our views when our own circumstances make us think things afresh.

                    • Not everybody’s as reasonable as you, Tom. And not everybody has the experience of Christian community that you have. Some people see anybody suggesting that there’s something wrong with same-sex relationships as offensive. Full stop. Black and white. Religious reasons (like your Benedictine monks) aren’t reasons – they’re ignorant prejudices. These are fanatical liberals (a few years ago i would have said that was a contradiction in terms) like Richard Dawkins who see religion as an evil, like a virus in society. Or gay people who feel persecuted by the church ( a bit more understandably). I once had a gay friend who compared Vaughan Roberts and his church to the Nazi party, and I doubt they’ll change their views when they discover the truth about his own feelings – they might even feel more angry and see it as a betrayal.

                    • Agreed :-) FD, but thanks anyway.
                      I think I have mentioned this before but one of the most wonderful men I knew was Dom Joseph Warrilow, Subprior of Quarr Abbey. There is a marvellous account of how lovingly he dealt with the adultery of the author in the biography _Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul_ by Tony Hendra. I know from my experience of him that the Christian response to what is perceived as even serious sin does not have to be harsh and judgmental.

                    • No offence Fiddle Sticks, but if memory serves the only person on this blog who’s used “offensive” to negate a comment by someone else is yourself! Please understand that I’m not necessarily criticising you for this – personally, I take the free speech “I find you offensive for finding me offensive” (;-)) approach, but I of course accept that offensive may be an accurate description for comments that are outwith the standards of reasonable discourse. As someone who presumably does believe that it is perfectly acceptable – perhaps even necessary – to flag sexist comments as offensive, then why does that standard not apply to anti-gay ones?
                      But ‘offensive’ is indeed often in the eye of the beholder. It still cracks me up that Jill stated that “normal people” had no problem with the Jan Moir Stephen Gately article because Jill and her dear hubby liked it! (solipsistic, much?) ‘Offensive’ is perhaps one of the better ways to describe the (key point this: untrue) claim that Stephen’s death from a pulmonary oedema was caused by his “homosexual lifestyle”.

                    • I really don’t understand what you’re getting at, Ryan. I said some gay people are going to see his comments as offensive. I didn’t make any judgement on that. I can see the reasoning behind it, if I were in a same-sex relationship, then I might well feel that somebody who chooses not to act on same-sex attractions – and even sets up a support group to help him do that – was judging me and my relationship. I might well feel pretty offended.

                    • The reason I was offended, Ryan, is because it seems to me that men can write however they like on this website (until they go too far and get banned by Peter) and it’s just regarded as banter or free speech, but I write with any level of warmth of feeling and I’m accused of being childish or unhinged. The only explanation I’ve been able to come with for this is sexism.

                    • Lol, yes that’s certainly a more plausible explanation than you writing comments that other people perceive to be childish or unhinged! ;-) You are not the only woman who has commented here. The specific comment you referred to as insulting was by someone who was indeed banned by Peter, so I’m not sure what your’re complaining about. I’ve had all sorts of negative comments on this blog over the years, and the ones that tipped into overt personal abuse were by individuals who, similarly, swiftly found themselves warned or banned. Haterz gonna hate ;-)

                    • Why have you replied to this comment and not the one I made below that’s actually on topic? Isn’t this argument a little old?

                    • And, of course, starting this kind of silly argument on a thread about somebody’s coming out story is a very grown-up thing to do ….

                    • Or: If you don’t like people responding to your ‘arguments’ then why make them publicly in the first place?

                    • And in terms of comments replied or not replied to : there’s only so many hours in the day! Have been out all day and only now catching up on the day’s sport (an even greater personal priority, on weekends at least, than Arguing On the Internet! ;-))

                    • You must have a *bit* more time, Ryan, now the Olympics and Paralympics are over :-) lol (first time I’ve used that acronym).

                    • True, but anyone who thinks theological arguments can get a bit out of hand should spend, as I do, time arguing on comics websites ;-)
                      (p.s. nice lol! :))

                    • You seem to find enough time to be argumentative, but I post a reply to your knit-picking explaining that I can see another person’s point of view – why they might be offended – and you don’t reply to that one. Could it be because you just enjoy arguing with people :)

                    • bah humbug!

                      For the record, I hope we can agree that we are all on, this blog, trying to understand one another’s point of view. “Do not understand me too quickly”, and all that :-) If you think I’m ducking any of your points Fiddle Sticks then please reiterate them and I will (other commitments permitting!) address them ASAP.

                    • Ah, men’s conversation vs. women’s conversations. Reminds me of that thing Jane Austen said about why she never wrote a conversation between two men; she’d no idea what men talked about when women weren’t present. I think that is one of the most priceless quotes in literature – and only a woman could have said it. Can’t imagine Julian Fellowes saying he could not write a dialogue between two women, can you?

                    • I’m reminded of Mailer saying that if you don’t believe that a man can write a woman, or a black person a white person, then you don’t believe in literature. This is one area where awareness of ‘stereotypes’ isn’t entirely bad – forced to choose, most women I know would indeed rather discuss shoes or feelings instead of Batman! Similarly, abstaining from talking of whether one prefers Natalie Portman or Scarlett Johansson (in a non-acting sense) in mixed company can be a kind, gentelmanly impulse. Although, to judge from e.g. Guardian articles, we’ve now reached the curious societal point where female masturbation and implements thereof is liberating and encouraging whereas the traditional expressions of male sexuality (masturbation via porn etc) is demonised. Whatever else one might think of Dan Savage, I think on many issues he’s not the voice of ‘gay sexuality’ but of ‘male sexuality, when not forced to pretend”

                    • yes, Dan is the voice of reason. Having been brought up Catholic (father was a deacon) he knows first hand how to face up to scaremongering from groups such as Concerned Women of America (run by a man!).

                    • Indeed, I’ve very much enjoyed Dan Savage’s books and columns, and its sad when UK conservatives feel obliged to go along with knee jerk, culture war opposition to fine initiatives like “It Gets Better”. One wouldn’t have thought that tackling high rates of LGBT suicide is a ‘liberal’ issue.
                      This is a good debate between Dan and Brian Brown of NOM

                    • Did you like the life-sized statue of the Sacred Heart behind Dan’s chair draped in bling?

                      It was a good debate, Ryan. Was there a clear winner, would you say? Be interesting for you to host a dinner party up there in Scotland if we could get Dan over. Who else would we invite? Peter? :-)

                    • Dan could have done better with the polygamy argument, but I think he was the clear winner. Brown and others are very slippery about claiming that they are being regarded as “hate groups” merely because of their views on gay marriage. As Dan has pointed out, if that is the case then why are other gay marriage opposing groups (such as the RC Church or the Boy Scouts) not classed as hate groups? .

                      Don’t really do dinner parties (told you I wasn’t middle-class! ;-)) but Peter and Dan would make for an interesting pairing. I think my dream Dinner Party, however, would probably involve Bono, David Beckham, George Lucas, Scarlett Johansson, Eminem, Natalie Portman, Larry David, Christian Bale and Cheryl Cole. Former Rangers’ captain Davie Weir once described his ideal dinner party in the Sun as follows:
                      Sherlock Holmes, Jock Stein, Beyonce and………. Lee McCulloch ( “I considered Frank, Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and many others of that ilk. In the end I’ve gone for my old Rangers team pal Lee McCulloch”)


                    • I’m sorry, Tom. I thought you were belittling his courage in being honest. I think I misunderstood you. Sorry.

                    • No, I certainly didn’t mean that in any way. Though Peter says it is the vulnerablity of coming out, no more, no less, I do appreciate that for some people it must figure much larger in their lives. Dan Savager had a call from a young American in a Christian College in his latest blog, whose parents are threatening to cut off resources and make life very difficult. Dan’s advice is that he mustn’t give in and if necessary has to deprive them of his presence at Thanksgiving and even Christmas to make the parents realise he cannot be bullied. He advises giving such parents a year or even two to behave furiously, patiently correcting them as you would a child’s tantrums but after that he needs to say the argument is now closed. They must accept him with unconditional love or not at all.

                      Then in Ireland Mary McAleese has just said the Catholic Church is to blame for the high suicide rate among young gay people:

                      “They will have heard words like disorder they may have heard the word evil used in relation to homosexual practice,” Mrs McAleese said.

                      “And when they make the discovery, and it is a discovery and not a decision, when they make the discovery they are gay when they are 14, 15 and 16 an internal conflict of absolutely appalling proportions opens up”.
                      Mrs McAleese continued:”They may very well have heard their mothers, their fathers, their uncles, aunts, friends use dreadful language in relation to homosexuality and now they are driven into a space that is dark and bleak.”

                      The same must apply in evangelical circles, so I do not quite agree with Peter that coming out is coming out, i.e. the same for everyone.

                      I have just caught this:
                      I have only heard half of it so far so I can’t guarantee the quality will be sustained to the end but I caught a video of a conference on gay marriage in a Baptist seminary in New Zealand. The opening introduction was unsurpassed, though:

                    • These are all important points that Mary McAleese is making, but I’m not quite following how it relates to Vaughan Roberts. Are you saying these attitudes to sexuality make him more, or less, vulnerable?

                    • Just spotted it and thought it was germane. Christians coming out get a harder time because of the attitude of other Christians. I think Ireland is still more of a Christian country than the UK. That’s all.

                    • I think the thing Peter and I are getting at is that if you ‘come out’ as a conservative christian with same-sex attractions you are vulnerable in a number of directions. It’s not just what christians might say – he’s got a good team of christians around him, whatever others might say. It’s that, as far as many gays are concerned, what he’s saying is offensive. He’s only taking the same line on the changability of sexuality that peter takes here on this blog, and Peter gets hate mail. He’s only taking the same line as Catholic Courage have taken for years, and their meetings are protested.

                      Pro-gay groups in the CofE have caused a lot of pain (perhaps unintentionally) to, for instance, married men with same-sex attractions by telling them that the only way they can be happy to is ‘be true to themselves’. They’ve caused a lot of pain to families, and then they’ve blamed it on the conservative church for ‘shaming’ this person into marrying the woman they love. The liberals are seen as the caring, compassionate ones, and I’m sure they are, but only to those who agree with them and live their lives according to their values.

                    • Being true to yourself is quite important. Married gay men might get hurt if they hear that some gay people think they are being dishonest in some way but they need to think about consequences. The important thing is that they don’t use women in that way to try to straighten themselves out – or worse, to provide a beard (nasty expression, I am sorry to use it) WITHOUT the woman’s knowledge or permission. I know of a young man who was persuaded by his Evangelical college rector, backed up by a Christian psychotherapist to do just that. And so he did. He used a young woman in that way and made her very unhappy in the process. It was colluded in by the rector of a Cof E theological college and a Christian psychiatrist and I think it inexcusable meddling instead of facing facts honestly. I know a number of men who are or have been married but have really been gay from day one. It was probably fairly common among the older generation among men who could “pass”. With women it might be different – some seem to develop lesbian tastes after marriage. I know a number of cases, but in the case of women I don’t think they were deceiving themselves or anyone else in quite the same way the men of my acquaintance were.

                    • But this isn’t the model we are advocating, so why bring it up? Seriously. Wouldn’t it be better to engage with the model of the man / woman who enters marriage open and honest about their sexuality but firmly committed to the sanctity of marriage?

                    • Yes Tom, I’d love to see the results of poll, targeted towards evangelical women, asking “would you be happy marrying a gay man”? One can see the attraction of an evangelical gay man wanting to ‘turn straight’ but what, assuming we’re not talking about “ooh, gay men are so funny, handsome and well-groomed!” fag hag stereotypes, what’s in it for the ladies? Surely they can have Christian Marriage AND Perfect Man I’m In Love With, if they’re going to dedicate their life to one person?

                    • I provided a definition of gay elsewhere, which you ducked. Do I need to provide an elaboration definition of ‘gay’ everytime I use it? I might not be averse to doing so if it could progress the conversation.

                    • hypothetical survey question qualifier – “gay being understood as having exclusively same-sex romantic and sexual desires”

                    • And you’ll note that said definition says precisely nothing about “affirms same-sexuality as no less intrinsically valid than heterosexuality”. The term “gay” is not as misleading and needlessly limiting as you think.

                    • Would that be “to date” or “with full knowledge of the future that said man will never ever experience a modicum of sexual attraction to anyone of the opposite sex”?

                    • if the overwhelming majority of self-identified gay men fall into the last category then does it really help your case? You are not arguing some radical post-Foucaultian ideology that we are all too solipsistically ahistorical to grasp. Nobody is questioning the existence of ‘post’ gays. But if there are far, far more ex-gays than ex-gays then your case is helped how precisely? Perhaps you could put on your pastoral hat and tell us what you’d say when a straight women pointed out that she fears her husband is gay. I’d hazard a guess that “ah, but technically gay men can still have sex with women, even though they might have to think about guys to do so!” would not be perceived as the radical insight you perceive it to be.

                      ‘gay’ is not ‘bisexual’ nor even ‘MSM’.

                    • A Perfect Man I’m in Love With is something NO woman has. Any woman who thinks she’s going to find a ‘perfect’ Christian husband is going to be very disappointed.

                      Unless, of course, you mean ‘perfect’ in the Jane Austen’s Emma sense of the word – ‘perfect in spite of her/his faults’.

                    • Perfect for that person. I’m a “we don’t love them hoes” sort of guy myself, but I’d wager that many a woman would indeed use language such as “perfect” or “ideal” when articulating why they decided to marry their man of choice (although, that said, evangelical churches in my experience to also tend to be full of thirtysomething bunnyboilers who’d happily settle for any guy crazy enough to marry them!)

                    • PS never been much of a Jane Austen fan. Hope this doesn’t get me accused of sexism ;-P

                    • I think the problem is that some people tend to *assume* that the guys just using the woman to ‘straighten himself out’. A psychiatrist who works with these cases (nothing to do with religion) has found that it’s more complicated than that. A man (and it’s generally a man) falls in love with a woman, thinks his orientation has changed and then, on average 6-7 years into the marriage, the homosexual attractions come back creating a crisis. However, not all these marriages break up. Every couple is different and has to weigh up what’s best for both of them – what they really value in their relationship, whether they really want to stay a family unit, whether they should divorce and just be good friends. If they choose the second, it’s important they they really have chosen the second, not that they’ve been pressurised into it by people with their own agenda convinced that such relationships are ‘unnatural’. If they choose the first, the marriage works for the same reason that any marriage works – because each loves the other person the way that they are, and nobody’s trying to ‘straighten’ anybody out.

                    • You’re in favour of men deceiving women on the basis that it may all come right in the end?

                    • Not very clear it was. perhaps she’ll confirm. “Thinks his orientation has changed” ought to ring alarm bells for most women. If she knows, then on her own head; if she doesn’t that’s deception in anyone’s book.

                    • Perhaps I wasn’t clear, Tom. We’re talking about two people who love one another and who don’t hide things from one another, and who are in it ‘for better, or for worse’. Let’s put it this way. I love my husband. If my husband got sick or had some kind of accident so that we could never have sex, should I leave him? And we’re talking about couples who do have sex, but the same-sex attractions surface again after about 7 years.

                    • Ironically,I was listening to the latest “Savage Love” when you made that comment Tom! Great minds :). I see one of today’s callers is a pastor addicted to porn. Now there’s a subset of evangelicals who should be ‘coming out’ – if only to negate the still prevalent stereotype that lust and masturbation are somehow ‘gay’ problems rather than male ones (indeed, if we’re being logical, would the fact that gays are supposedly having oodles of casual sexual encounters make them LESS likely to have to rely on porn and masturbation?)

                    • Does 7 years not seem a curiously exact figure also? Would the woman in that hypothetical scenario not be tempted to ask if the same sex desires had suddenly appeared, or if the man had been indulging them (if only mentally) for a while? Also worth noting that the notion of a woman having a happy marriage and then finding, 7 years later, that her ‘ex’ gay husband is now an ex ex gay is hardly likely to support the supposed merits of current/former SSA men marrying straight women.

                    • You’re just not engaging with this because it doesn’t fit your boxes. Seven years was just in the experience of this one psychiatrist. I thought it was surprisingly long, but from looking at other cases, there does seem to be something in this pattern. It’s not that surprising that there is a pattern – it’s one of those figures, a bit like ‘marriages tend to break up in the 3rd, 7th … year’.

                      The point is, it’s a bit more complicated than somebody deceiving somebody else (as in the scenario Tom came up with, where a woman was found by somebody else to ‘straighten’ somebody out). We’re talking about two people who genuinely fall in love. Especially if the guy isn’t from a gay affirming culture, he might not have been fully aware of his sexuality, or he might have thought it was just a puberty thing (like it is for some people). It seems that for the first years of marriage the feeling of being in love, maybe the joy of having children, carries the relationship through, then the gay attractions return and the person becomes very confused. My question is, why should this necessarily be a show-stopper? Lots of marriages run into crisis about this time.

                      Let me make this really clear: we’re not talking about a man in love with a man, or a woman in love with a woman (we now have laws to protect those relationships). We’re talking about a man and a woman in love, but one of them is more predominantly attracted to the same-sex. If the marriage breaks up, there’s no-one waiting who loves them more.

                      Here’s another question. What about shifts in orientation? If a woman find later in life that she becomes attracted to women, should she leave her husband (and take the kids) because their relationship is no longer ‘natural’?

                      I think this whole issue is more complicated than

                    • No one denies it’s complicated FD. It’s just that generalising from the few cases one may know cannot be elevated to a general principle that will fit every case. I have no doubt that a homosexual or a lesbian can make a decision for very good and sound personal reasons to marry someone of the opposite sex. Whether their love can be fully erotic is the topic for an interesting debate – I’d have thought it was a different kind, not the lustful genital-loving sort that you feel if you following your natural inclinations, judging from what all my married friends in CAFFMOS tell me. I have also discussed this extensively with a straight friend much younger than me who was curious to find out what it was that some men find attractive about other men. but just saying to Ryan that the whole issue is more complicated than he has written is not a trump card in an argument.

                    • He basically says that you do not have to destroy a marriage because your wife or husband no longer has use for you genitals. Too many people are made miserable because their spouse suddenly goes off sex and they are expected to too. That is very unfair and Dan’s point is that a wife or husband has no right to impose celibacy on the other party if they want to be celibate (or have just gone off the boil, or got ill or whatever). They should release their spouse to look for sex elsewhere without cheating and deception. Perhaps some ground rules would need to be established, such as no bringing anyone home, or no staying out all night – that is up to the couple to work out for themselves…..

                    • Melinda Selmys’ husband married her with the full knowledge that she was a lesbian. He talked her into it because he was crazy about her. They have six kids.

                    • Got to the end of the Carey College debate. Nothing really new, of course, but they all were much more careful to appear non-condemnatory – “we’ve got to be welcoming and non-restricting (except no sex and we are against New Zealand passing a law to allow secular equal marriage which it will probably do anyway)” Unfortunately the first speaker, Laurie who started off so seemingly well completely demeaned himself but dragging in a reference to “health issues”. He admitted that on one website he has been labelled a homophobe.

                    • Well, I have to understate things on this blog, or I’ll fall foul of Ryan, who will accuse me of being unhinged ;)

                    • To paraphrase Nixon on Eisenhower: I meant unhinged in the very best sense of the word ;-)

                    • Let’s forget Richard and Steven. I don’t think they always posted appropriately but I really don’t like seeing people banned. It offends against free speech. However it is not my blog and I think that Peter does a great job I think this enterprise must be a great help to the evangelical endeavour because it appears here is one Evangelical who listens – and that seems all too rare a thing to lose. If we liberals and unbelievers can sometimes be a bit of a thorn in the flesh for Evos, at least it shows that Peter Ould and his blog are part of the real world.

                    • Sycophancy will get you everywhere.

                      I don’t like banning people but sometimes folks come on here who have no interest in actually debating the issues properly but instead just have axes to grind and they grind them pretty offensively.

                    • Where does this idea come from that I’m trying to score points all the time? I have empathy for people who admit to struggling with same-sex attractions (or having had such struggles – like Peter) in a climate in which they’re likely to be received coldly both by people who don’t like homosexuality and people who don’t like the idea that it’s something you should struggle with. I’m perhaps a bit over-protective in getting upset when people make fun of them, but I also get upset when people bully my friends in gay relationships. I just don’t like bullying – that’s all.

                    • I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. Accusing of what? I’m not accusing you of bullying. It’s more that when people come on here just to mock (which, of course, you haven’t done yourself) you tend to say ‘aren’t you over-reacting?’ when Peter banns them. I’m just suggesting that Peter’s not over-reacting and, that, like he said, if anybody mocked a gay-affirming person who had come out, you might not take the same line. I’m not telling you off. Just suggesting that you haven’t fully considered the seriousness of mocking somebody vulnerable – perhaps because you don’t entirely see them as vulnerable? Tone is a real problem on the internet. I must be coming across much more aggressively than I mean to be. You’re free to disagree with me, of course. I guess you have a different point of view on how this?

                  • Good points Tom. A ”homosexual” who does not actually have gay sex would still be more likely of a tolerant welcome in a gay bar than they would a heterosexist evangelical church.

                    That said, one of course applauds Vaughan’s honesty and vulnerability here. Indeed, reporting homosexual desire as a normal form of desire is arguably progress of sorts. I realise that not all evangelical churches are demented as St.Silage, but I’ve heard ‘ex’gays talk publicly about being molested as children (done in order to establish a supposed universal ‘aetiology’ of homosexuality) A normal, masculine man noting that he has gay desires (irrespective of his behaviour in relation to them) is a form of honesty useful in these debates.

                    Its worth also noting that liberals would actually PREFER more biblical honesty from the evangelical side – take up your cross has the fine ring of historical orthodoxy; snake-oil secular-derived therapies to ‘cure’ gay people do not.

                    • The degree of acceptance/tolerance you can expect depends a great deal on how confident you are – gays, evangelical and liberal Christians will all seize different types of weakness. VR was confident enough to “come out” to various people at the TFT conference last October – individuals he didn’t really need to tell.

                      He’ll be fine. I’d rather be a “poor struggler” at St Ebbes, than fight the forces of bitch in a gay bar (or a liberal church).

                    • Actually, I’d say that the exceptionalism of Vaughan’s ‘coming out’ is telling. If same-sex temptation WAS just viewed by evangelicals as no different to the heterosexual temptation that the majority face, then Vaughan’s testimony would be about as remarkable as “straight pastor attracted to woman, doesn’t fornicate or watch porn”. Big, as they say, woop.
                      No sure what ‘foces of bitch’ refers to, and I’m a big fan of both comics and hip-hop ;-)

                    • Right. So surely one can both applaud Vaughan’s courageous honesty AND note that its exceptionalism is indicative of a wider problem?

                    • If you don’t even glimpse the difference between (broken) evangelicals and the wider world, I suggest you give up and embrace the ‘real’ world ;-)

                    • One does not bring a measuring rod to Lilliput ;-)

                      the ‘real’ world does tend to be less exclusionarily middle-class than evangelical churches, so there’s that….. ;-)

                    • No winking this time – does the ‘
                      exclusionary middle-class’ really stand between you and God? I’m neither middle class, straight or was raised in Christian family/culture but I still suspect those pesky born agains are onto something.

                    • ‘exclusionarily’ is not meant in any kind of ‘interfere with salvation’ sense. Someone attending the worst, most bigoted church in the world is (in my opinion) still hardly necessarily cut off from God.

                    • ‘A ”homosexual” who does not actually have gay sex would still be more likely of a tolerant welcome in a gay bar than they would a heterosexist evangelical church.’

                      I think this is a bit of a sweeping statement, Ryan. I don’t know about this St. Silage place you keep going on about, but, in my experience deliberately derogatory comments about homosexuality tend to come from the general, non-Christian heterosexual (or in denial?) population. Of course, people might make ill-informed comments, which I think is something VR is trying to counteract by coming out, but Peter has posted evidence on this website of churches showing support for same-sex attracted people who decide to become celibate. (I don’t think a same-sex attracted conservative Christian would go to a gay bar, for obvious reasons.)

                    • Your ‘deliberately’ is telling. You might be surprised to hear that I have no problem with straight men saying that they are disgusted by the thought of gay sex. After all, gay man Dan Savage once said that he’s disgusted by the prospect of cunnilingus, and compared vaginas to canned hams dropped from a great height ( a bit bitchy, admittedly, although lots of heterosexual men don’t like the idea of cunnilingus either! ). There was backlash to those comments, but most people accepted that Dan is a feminist – speaking out for women’s rights for two decades, and trying to educate maladjusted straight boys on the primacy of the female orgasm – which is the important thing. Similarly, much of the worst dehumanising anti-gay rhetoric does indeed come from the religious. It does not get a free pass just because highfalutin’ language is used (indeed, medicalising language is part of the problem, which someone who objected to the supposed invocation of the “hysterical woman” stereotype should appreciate!)

                      As for your last point……. ;-)

                    • Yes, but I think what VR is trying to address is the problem of a lack of understanding of homosexuality in the conservative church. What i meant by ‘deliberately’ was name calling, hostility and bullying. We all have to face people misunderstanding us or are feelings. It’s a fact of life.

              • Yes. A man makes himself vulnerable and your response is to make snide remarks. You wouldn’t treat someone advocating a liberal position in the same way. We’re done here.
                And for the record I would have done the same for anyone conservative trying to score cheap points on someone liberal coming out. It’s not acceptable.

    • When Jesus died on a cross, all his followers scattered. Well that settles it. Clearly God wasn’t on this guy’s side. Let’s all just give up and go home.

  4. I always like Vaughan Roberts, but my respect for him has just shot up massively. In the back of my mind I’ve thought ‘Great guy, a bit of a workaholic, though, you’d think he’d have found a wife by now’. Whatever you think of his beliefs, he’s anything but a hypocrite.

    Unfortunately, as you’ve just seen from Richard’s reaction, a lot of people aren’t going to see it that way. Some gay people are going to be deeply offended by his remarks – especially about praying for those who have embraced their sexuality. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets death threats. The world shows no charity towards those who deny that homosexual and heterosexual urges are equally valid.

    • people who make death threats are a very small minority of the “world” – on the left as well as right, although, if we’re playing that game, then one could note +Gene Robinson being accompanied everywhere by burly minders….

      • They may come from a small minority, but I’d be very upset if I got even one. Wouldn’t you?

        I don’t understand what ‘game’ we’re playing. I was making an observation on the likelihood that there’ll be a negative reaction from some quarters, not casting aspersions on all liberals. I don’t think any of the gay or liberal people I know are in the habit of sending death threats!

        Anybody who comes out about homosexual feelings, from whatever camp – Gene Robinson included – runs the risk of getting caught in the cross-fire, is all I’m saying. If you want to read more into it, go ahead.

        • Yes, FD, but that doesn’t seem to stop you. I think perhaps you need to think more carefully – and take a more charitable view of people – before you jump in with your first reactions

          • Guys, I really didn’t mean this to turn into an argument. I was making two observations – 1) that some gay people are going to be offended by his comments and 2) that, in the current highly charged political climate, people often get death threats for saying something controversial – from whatever side. These are just the facts we all have to face at the moment. I really, genuinely, was not trying to suggest that all liberals or gays are the kind of people who send death threats. My concern was entirely for VR (I like the guy) and not at all trying to use his case to score points off anybody. I’m sorry if it sounded that way.

        • I would agree that evangelicals are quite as “camp” as +Gene Robinson ;-).

          so your point is, what, people shouldn’t make death threats? No kidding!

      • Perhaps I should have said ‘deny that homosexual relationships and marriage between a man and a woman are equally valid’. That’s a more accurate reflection of what he’s actually said.

  5. Another angle on this: Vaughan Roberts was one of the ministers who refused to accept the appointment of Jeffrey John as bishop. I wonder what Jeffery John will make of this, or whether he’ll comment?

  6. I may be reading too much into this, but part of the vulnerability is leaving himself open to a backlash from Evangelicals – undeserved if it comes, but a possibility nevertheless. I do wonder why this hasn’t appeared at Anglican Mainstream, and my suspiscion is (happy and ready to be corrected) that they just don’t know what to do with this kind of admission.

    • I cannot fathom why it hasn’t gone up. They’ve posted 13 other articles today. Perhaps what they don’t like is that Vaughan rejects the “God wants to cure you” paradigm.

        • lol, in the same way you were Shocked and Appalled at Peter criticising Lisa Nolland, or the Christian Institute’s use of statistics? Honour, O Jill, means telling the truth.

          • I wonder if they have any conception of the harm they do to the Christian cause? It seems they might be aware that few outside their ramparts agree with them since they retired the forum but they’ve got themselves locked into an anti-gay paradigm they can’t get out of.

            • There is a line between declaring Christian Truth and browbeating, and there are times when AM cross from one to the other without stopping to examine the consequences. However as Peter mentions above, there is now a short comment piece from Chris Sugden and a link to the Vaughan Roberts article. I’m pleased that they have published it, and hope that the conversations that take place will continue to affirm Vaughan – both on his theological position regarding same-sex attraction, but also his decision to reveal his own struggles.

      • Maybe I’m out out of date, but when Anglican Mainstream was set up, it was more than a blog, and Vaughan *was* Anglican Mainstream. He was involved in the initial conversations, and I’ve got a vague memory of the BBC visiting Oxford to get an AM perspective.

        The assumption in this conversation has been that AM is just one or two (“they’ve posted”) bloggers, which was certainly not the original vision. Perhaps posting so much that sympathetic friends take the absence of a post as a comment is a risky position to be in… the tail starting to wag the dog. If it’s a movement, then it has already spoken through the original interview.

        Also, given that history, perhaps Mr Sugden spoke to Vaughan before posting? I don’t have any inside info, just trying to be charitable. I certainly hope that the post that was made required little or no forethought.

  7. ‘Vicar obeys Christian teaching on sexual behaviour’. Shock! Horror! That is about as dramatic a headline as ‘Vicar remains faithful to his wife’. Why the big deal? He is only following the example of countless Christians through the ages.

    Plenty of people remain single for various reasons and have absolutely no need to explain themselves. In a less hypersexualised culture one would have expected one’s vicar to set an example to his flock by living chastely if unmarried. He did make certain vows at his ordination, after all.

    Having said that, I applaud him for ‘coming out’ in this way, and hope it will give encouragement to others in similar circumstances.

    • Jill, if there have been SSA attracted countless Christians throughout the ages, then does that not make rhetoric that demonises gay people (‘active’, ‘passive’ ‘versatile’ or ‘celibate’) highly problematic? Single people have a place in the Roman Catholic Church of course, but the Family Values climate of evangelical culture is hardly conducive to a correct valuation of the merits of singleness. One recalls Norman Tebbit claiming that the Tory part should be led by a “normal family man” rather than Michael Portillo (who had some youthful homoshenanigans).

      There are I think all sorts of areas where “Normal, middle/upper class conservative values” and “actual Christianity” may be in conflict. Take hypersexualisation – one reason why the single are regarded as ‘weirdos’ is the view that it’s impossible to live without sex (be that in marriage or elsewhere)! You might not be too happy about this, but surely a gay person can legitimately look at the Church as a place where, all else being said, one should not be required to have a Wife and 2.4 kids in order to be considered ‘normal’?

    • Encouragement to do what exactly? To adopt the same misguided and gratuitously self-oppressive attitude to their own sexuality? I sincerely hope not.

      • Actually I want to challenge you on this GM. What is misguided about seeking to live a holy single life? What is gratuitously self-oppressive about recognising that one’s sexuality (in the very broadest sense of the word) is broken (as is everybody’s in this fallen world) and therefore striving to align oneself with what you see God calling you to?

        • slightly tangential but: in damning our (to use Jill’s useful phrase) “hypersexualised” age, I think Christians miss the point that many men frankly WOULD like to be unshackled from the lunatic of sexual desire. Someone who never masturbates however is not necessarily LESS sex-obsessed than someone in a relationship (the latter being the equivalent of a “I eat when I’m hungry” person-at-ease; the former the equivalent of the pained, striving dieter). If you believe that conquering sexual desires (i.e. in reaching the point where one ceases to have them) is an impossibility, then oppression is at potentially valid term to use for a psychological doomed enterprise.

          • Strangely, as a young man in the full flush of religious belief I did not find celibacy that difficult. In the monastery the most difficult thing was obedience – for instance wishing – and wasting a lot of time wishing – the monks would sing the whole of Vigils weekdays instead of chanting it all on a monotone. It would have been a return to Cluniac observance I realise….I thing only the Carthusians still sing *everything*…but then you’d have to forgo the organ. Did anyone see Into Great Silence, three hours of cinema?

              • The Carthusians also slow up to half speed for the first half of the Gloria doxology at the end of each psalm. I noticed last summer that they introduced this practice at the Benedictine Abbey of St Madeleine du Barroux near Avignon.

        • If someone freely chooses a single life because they genuinely prefer it, or because they believe that they have a special vocation to lead such a life, then I see no objection to that at all. What I most emphatically do regard as misguided is the notion that anyone is OBLIGED to lead a life of perpetual sexual continence, whether they like it or not, just because they are gay. The Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors, The Netherlands, summed it up nicely:

          ‘Gay and lesbian people, too, have received the vocation to holiness. Sexual abstinence is not per se, and for most simply not, the way there. Nor does the way lie for anyone in the denial of one’s sexual desire.’ (Called to Blessing: A Pastoral Letter on Faith and Homosexuality, 1994)

          Granting for the sake of argument the meaningfulness and the validity of the proposition that everybody’s sexuality in this fallen world is in some sense “broken”, I see no more convincing reason to suppose that homosexuality as such (being gay, “same-sex attraction” – call it what you will) is “broken” than to suppose that heterosexuality as such is “broken”, and I would consider a gay person who believes that it is to be gratuitously self-oppressive. It is a belief which, of course, they are fully entitled to hold, but it is one which will certainly receive no encouragement from me.

          • I always find this line of reasoning a bizarre argument. The Bible is very clear that the two states we are called to are either marriage between a man and a woman OR singleness. We are OBLIGED to do this as Christians and our sexuality has nothing to do with it. There is no “special vocation” – it is a general vocation covering all Christians. Your argument is the equivalent of saying “Well some angry people don’t feel a special vocation to peace, so they should be allowed to be as aggresive as they want”.

            • Sexuality has nothing to do with it? Men who have heterosexual desires can read bible passages on it being better to marry than burn and take a wife to direct their sexual desires to. You might have a point about romantic notions of Love and Marriage not being entirely biblical, but do you really view an average gay man as being able to genuinely enter into, consummate and live up to the demands of heterosexual marriage?
              An angry man is not always angry nor is he necessarily incapable of not being angry; therapists deal with such individuals all the time, and more intensive treatments (such as medication) usually aren’t even required. Does that analogy really work for sexuality?
              At the very least, it’s legitimate to note that a straight man (in your ‘two states’ model) has two options whereas the gay man does not.

                • Where did I say they are incapable of being single? I was saying they had less options. 1 is less than 2. Do YOU view gay men as being able to live up to the demands of heterosexual marriage? I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that most Christian Woman would not really want a guy who’s fantasising about bumming Robert Pattison when their marriage is consummated.
                  And, sex aside, do you view gay men as capable of loving wives as they would same-sex partners? Could you or any other not-gay man love a man (as primary, romantic, life partner) as you do a wife?

                  • You didn’t, I did.

                    How do gay men have less options? Are there less women in the world suddenly? Are they unable to get to the marriage service on time because of a genetic predisposition for tardiness based on self-absorption?

                    As to your questions, are gay men capable of loving wives? Hmmmmm…… tough one. Let me think. Do I know any non-heterosexuals who are married? Hmmm…… No, give me a moment…. Hmmmmm…..

                    /sarcasm mode off/

                    • I see you snipped the crucial “as they would same-sex partners”. Of course people love other people in all sorts of ways. But the question was this : are you capable of loving a man in the same way you do your wife? This is more than just sex, surely? Rib of my rib? Heart that might conjure my own? And so on.

                      Are you really claiming that you do NOT view being gay (!) as a legitimate impediment to heterosexual marriage? If so, then why bother being a part of the whole post-cum-ex gay industry when gay men can apparently just marry women right now, no therapy required!

                    • I do not view being gay as an impediment to heterosexual marriage. Now define “gay”!

                      The “post-gay” language is an attempt to find descriptors that move beyond gay/straight labels which are actually quite restrictive in the modern usage. They tend to be more prescriptive then descriptive.

                      And as to the first question, I don’t think I could love a man like I love my wife. There are whole aspects of marriage which we’d never even enter into (for example having children). And I love my wife.

                    • Really, why not? “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.”

                      If you are advocating moving beyond labels which you regard as restrictive and presumably non-biblical, then surely someone who self-describes as gay very much IS impeded from entering into heterosexual marriage?

                      Do you deny that marriage requires a special kind of love to a particular person? The “other half” focus required is surely quite different from “my neighbour is all manking” love ,encompassing all areas of the self, desire very much included. If straight men couldn’t love other men like they love their wives then why do you regard gay men as being able to love wives as they do same-sex partners?
                      One would hope so ;-). Have you ever seen Chasing Amy? About a lesbian who falls in love with Ben Affleck ; the poster had the tagline “sex is easy, love is hard”. Possibly Kevin Smith’s best film – and he’s almost as funny as Dan Savage! ;-)

                    • I think MIlls analysis, although perhaps useful in some ways (one recalls Gore Vidal arguing that there are homosexual and heterosexual acts, but not people) but I think it’s fatally flawed by treating demonstrable bisexuals as “homosexuals”. A number of straight men are indeed disgusted by gay sex. They could not get an erection and engage in an homosexual act. Do you not think many gay men have a similar view of straight sex? Do gay men marrying straight women get a free pass on the whole “consummation” issue or something?

                    • No. they remain single and don’t ruin the life of a woman. Of course, if we lived in a culture that didn’t associate sexual attraction with marriage…

                    • “So gay men are simply incapable of either taking a wife or remaining single?”

                      Of course gay men are quite capable of either taking a wife or remaining single – or at least some are. Similarly straight men are capable of either taking a male civil partner or remaining single – or at least some are. In either case, I see no good reason why they should.

                      “Do gay men marrying straight women get a free pass on the whole ‘consummation’ issue or something?”
                      “No. They remain single and don’t ruin the life of a woman.”

                      Excellent advice, as far as it goes. Better still, they enter same-sex relationships and don’t ruin the life of a woman. Then everything in the garden is lovely.

                    • Is it really necessarily cultural? Valuing other factors does not mean that sexual attraction ceased to be a factor. Pre-romantic “marrying well” arrangements, with no necessary requirements of affective bonds, surely fall as if not more short of the Christian ideal than contemporary “I really fancy this person, and I’m in love with them, and I want to spend my life with them” discourse on marriage? And presumably, given your objection to sex being viewed as the defining feature of marriage, you have no problem with gay marriage leading to concepts of “consumation” being stricken from marital laws of the land? ;-)

                    • Aside from which, could a contemporary Christian man (or woman!) not point to Paul’s “it is better to marry than burn” as being, to say the least, very far from a condemnation of desire as reason to marry? Surely someone without desires would be, in biblical terms, be far closer to having the gift of singleness?

            • What I find bizarre is the argument that everyone’s obligations till the end of time should be determined by the beliefs and assumptions contained in a collection of ancient documents. Your analogy of people who don’t feel a special vocation to peace does not work. Peace is a positive virtue, a goal for which all should strive, even if there are times when they fancy a punch-up. Perpetual sexual abstinence for all non-heterosexual people (even if they would prefer otherwise) is not.

              • It has nothing to do with being heterosexual or homosexual. That is the hurdle you cannot get over because you bring your prejudices about how sexual orientation should dictate sexual attraction to the conversation.

                • I’m not sure that I can make any sense of your comment about my “prejudices about how sexual orientation should dictate sexual attraction”. It sounds rather like, for example, talking of prejudices about how a person’s height should dictate how tall he or she is. To quote the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “Your sexual orientation means the general attraction you feel towards people of one sex or another (or both).” That’s surely how any ordinary person understands the term (if they understand it at all). Some may, of course, choose to play Humpty-Dumpty games with it, probably in order to use it in a crooked argument. I am also aware that there are now some people who try to tell us that there is no such thing as sexual orientation. I take that about as seriously as I take Mary Baker Eddy’s insistence that mind cannot reside in matter, and that in fact the material world is merely “an error of mortal mind”.

                  • Are you arguing that someone who is attracted to people of the same-sex is somehow compelled to only have sex with people of the same sex? Are they physically incapable of being celibate? Are they forbidden from marrying someone of the opposite sex?

                    Unless the answer to all three of these questions is “yes” my point is made.

                    • No-one is or should be compelled to have sex with anyone. Is someone attracted to people of the same-sex physically incapable of being celibate? No, no more incapable than is someone attracted to people of the other sex, and no more necessitated than the latter to remain celibate unless they want to. Are they forbidden from marrying someone of the opposite sex? No, but by and large it is unadvisable.

                • orientation doesn’t dictate attraction? Isn’t attraction something which has demonstrable, measurable (oo-er) physical expressions? I fail to see how a man who finds breasts and vaginas ‘meh’ at best is supposed to think his way to a heterosexual hard-on. But of course ‘situational homosexuality’ (in e.g. prison, schools, tory party ;-)) is a well-documented phemenoma; do you think that such sexual flexibility can work the other way, and to the point where the sexual expectations of heterosexual marriage can be achieved?

              • You miss the point – that some people are inherently more placid or good-natured than others. Differences in personality can be modified by culture but in every era and society some people have found it much easier to be kind-hearted than others. And I’m sure we have all met people who are categorised as “compulsive liars” or “gossips” or “back stabbers” or “bunny boilers”. Why should they stress themselves out unnecessarily to fit in with a one-size-fits-all approach to virtue?

                • I don’t miss the point, but I don’t find it applicable here. I find it very difficult, for instance, to take anything that doesn’t belong to me or to perform a dishonest act like not telling a salesperson that they’ve given me change for £20 instead of for £10, whereas some people find it very easy and even find it difficult to keep their hands off other people’s belongings if they take a fancy to them. On the other hand, I am ashamed to say that I find it easy to harbour grudges against people for injuries that they have done me long after I should have forgiven and forgotten, whereas many people seem to forgive and forget very quickly, and I really admire them for it.

                  The fact is that there are numerous undesirable and negative traits in human nature, and all of us will have at least one or other of them, probably more, and we have a moral obligation to resist them, no matter how hard we find it. Gay sexuality as such is certainly not one of them, although, just like heterosexuality, it can of course be misused and exercised in irresponsible and destructive ways.

                  • “The fact is that there are numerous undesirable and negative traits in human nature, and all of us will have at least one or other of them, probably more, and we have a moral obligation to resist them, no matter how hard we find it.”

                    I agree but I want to know how you decide which traits are undesirable. How does holding a grudge harm anyone (especially if you never see them again)? What’s so great about unconditional love? Wouldn’t it be smarter to only love and forgive people who are likely to return the favour?

                    • Questions which could form material for an interesting discussion, certainly, but if at the end of the discussion we agreed on how they should be answered, that would not affect the point that I see no reason to consider being gay a negative trait or defect, or to regard the need for a gay relationship as a “temptation” to be fought against.

          • No-one is OBLIGED to lead a life of perpetual sexual continence, GM, whatever their sexual preferences (let’s not muddy the waters here with what is acually illegal). But Christians, along with people of other faiths, have to battle with their own consciences over the issue. If you think God blesses homosexual acts, then that is your decision. I think you would be wrong, and nature tells us so too, but nevertheless it is ultimately up to you. You cannot force other people to approve, however, especially if they have made sacrifices of their own.

            I don’t know about you, but I know many single people – widows and widowers, divorcees, the unmarried – who are not in sexual relationships because as Christians they know it to be wrong. What about their sacrifices? I can think of one woman who desperately wants to marry and have children, but she just never met the right person and now, in her forties, sees her chances of motherhood slipping away. She could of course sleep around and have children anyway, but as a Christian she knows this would be wrong. She talks frankly and with sadness about her virginity – but people like her never make the headlines.

            • Actual Jill, ‘nature’ ‘tells’ us that homosexuality is perfectly normal and natural. It was certainly evidenced in humans long before inane Natural Law arguments-from-plumbing came along.

              • Not quite – we need to be asking ourselves what we are trying to get nature to tell us.

                Does homosexual behaviour exist in nature. Yes. Do we say homosexual pairings in nature when the normal male / female combination is available. Very rarely. Has anyone ever identified any biological component indicator of homosexual behaviour in animals? Nope.

                What about humans? Are human bodies naturally designed for homosexual activity? Depends what kind of activity. Are there, ON AVERAGE, greater rates of social and personal dysfunction amongst those who self-identify as homosexual? Absolutely. Do some people who enter into homosexual relationships that are sexually active have happy lives with no health, mental or dependency issues and contribute to society? Of course.

                Condeming the nature argument is as dodgy as relying on it.

                • Designed? Our bodies evolved. The fact that anti-gay arguments tend to be the stuff of creationism i.e. inherently unscientific is part of the problem. It’s a bit much to be expounding on the supposed inherent lessons of biology whilst ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on the theories which make biology et al make sense. And, even if we go down the design line, if you can offer a serious argument on why female lips were designed for fellatio but male lips were not I’d love to hear it? Are our noses ‘designed’ to hold glasses? Are our backs ‘designed’ to sit at desks all day?

                  The human/animal argument isn’t perfect of course – isn’t most human sex recreational rather than procreational?

                  And of course you’re not really comparing like with like. Showing that heterosexual pairings have better health outcomes than homosexual pairings hardly means much if gay people, by definition, are incapable of healthy heterosexual relationships. If it’s ‘not good for man to be alone’, a fairer comparison would be “gay people who embrace their sexuality” v “those who repress it and stay permanently single” .

                • I entirely agree that what does or does not occur among non-human species, even ones that are closely related biologically to us, provides no guidance whatever about what we should or shouldn’t do.

                • Actually, I think you’ll find that feminism isn’t the only area in which actual biological fact tends to negate long-established ‘Natural Law’ cant.

            • Jill, I have simply stated my views. I am perfectly aware that I cannot force other people to agree with or approve of them, nor would I dream of trying. Your assertion that nature tells us that I am wrong is simply that – an assertion. Nature tells us no such thing, and you cannot force me to agree that it does.

              You speak of people – widows and widowers, divorcees, the unmarried – who are not in sexual relationships, although they would or might prefer to be, and of a woman in her forties who has just never met the right person. But would you say to the widows, divorcees etc. that they MUST now remain single and never re-marry even if the opportunity arises? I’m sure that you wouldn’t. And would you say to the woman who would like to be married but has never met the right person that she MUST now remain single, and that if she does meet the right person, she must turn her back and walk away? Again, I’m sure that you wouldn’t. Yet that is what you seem to be saying to gay people, and you apparently believe in a God who says it too. I don’t.

              You talk of sacrifices. Straight people frequently make sacrifices because of their moral principles and resist temptations to do things which they regard as wrong, and rightly so. Believe it or not, Jill, so do gay people. But as far as I am concerned, a committed sexual relationship with the right person, far from being a temptation to be resisted, is as legitimate for a gay person as for a straight one. Some people unfortunately always remain single, even though they would prefer not to be, but a pledge to remain permanently thus, come what may and irrespective of circumstances, is a sacrifice which a gay person is no more obliged than anyone else to make.

              • The assumption here is that everyone deserves one “committed sexual relationship” which circumstance denies to a few unlucky people who haven’t met the right person yet. But where is that alluded to in the Bible?

    • Very interesting indeed, Ryan. Thanks for posting it. I hadn’t realised Julian had inherited Eden Chapel after Roy Clements left.

      • GIRFUY! is a triumphant glasweiganism, used (e.g.) when one’s team gains a victory or ‘hurrah!’ style on celebrating good news The ‘GI’ is ‘get it’ and the ‘UY!’ up you’ ; am sure readers can figure out the F ;)

  8. It’s started already. This posted in the guardian blog Ryan links to (which itself nicely twists what Vaughan Roberts says in the interview in exactly the way I knew liberal commentators would): ‘Interesting that he thinks that lonely, sexually frustrated individuals are particularly well suited to the job of minister of religion.’
    OK, so the Guardian is a little politer than ex-gay watch sites in the US, but if I were Vaughan Roberts, this is exactly the sort of comment I would be dreading.

    It’s also (ironically) very homophobic. So, all those other people that VR mentions not having sex (widows, people whose wives/husbands are sick, singe people who never met the right person) are not lonely, sexually frustrated objects or our derision and pity why exactly? Because they’re presumed to be straight?

    • Let’s hope VR is not so thin-skinned that he dreads internet comments; trolls, like the poor, are always with us One could deplore the sort of comments in threads such as

      but there’s ultimately only so many hours in the day. One recalls that Damian Thompson (conservative Catholic, excellent blogger) had to ‘threaten’ to donate money to a Jewish charity for every antisemitic comment posted by trolls who haunt the telegraph website. Are such trolls an indictment of ‘conservatives’ per se? Of course not. So too with Guardian comments.

      • Of course for VR, however hard it is to come out given his circumstances and so on, the way has been laid for him by all the brave people like the original Stonewall Inn rioters and Gay Liberation marchers – in fact going all the way back to Peter Wildeblood himself, the brave journalist who was sent to prison along with Lord Monagu for having consensual gay sex. He refused to plead the “not in my right mind”, “had a row with my girlfriend” defence but told told the court that he was a homosexual no more, no less and for that received an increased sentence of 18 months instead of the 12 months Montagu received. He wrote an account of his trial and treatment, I believe while he was in Wormwood Scrubs, Against The Law. The New Statesman reported that ” it was the noblest, and wittiest, and most appalling prison book of them all”. The publication led to the Wolfenden Report in 1957 but it was another 10 years before the partial decrimalisation took place. On this occasion the Church did not stand in the way and even Cardinal Griffin supported it – but they could not bring themselves to go all the way to repeal all anti-gay legislation. That didn’t happen till almost the end of the 20th century and the later battles were fought in the teeth of increasing vociferous religious homophobia. Vaughan is brave but his freedom to be brave is built on the sacrifices of earlier heroes in the struggle.

        • I just don’t get this argument. Vaughan Roberts is not having gay sex, he does not want to have gay sex, consensual or otherwise, he believes such relations to be wrong. How on earth has his life been made any easier by those who went to prison for the right to have gay sexual relations (brave as those people were for their own cause)?

          • Because I think you’ll find that prejudice against “homosexuals” is not always or even usually delineated to “those currently engaged in homosexual practice”. The ‘Christian’ Institute, say, refers pointedly (and pejoratively) to homosexuals. VR’s testimony, in and of itself, is a challenge to at least one of the presuppositions of heterosexism.

            • I know some of the people VR named as his support group personally. I can tell you now that they are not the sort of people to go along with the prejudices of society, whether for or against homosexuality. They have not developed compassion, love and commitment to other believers because they have somehow imbibed it from the liberal culture around them. I can tell you that for sure. So all those claiming that this man is receiving the Christian love due to any fellow believer because their own ‘enlightened’ attitudes have somehow rubbed off on the more backward members of society can all stop flattering themselves.

              • So you know some people VR knows personally. Big woop. We were discussing homophobia per se and all wider reactions. And, if we’re being logical, someone who is non-homophobic i.e.; has no problem with same sexuality is indeed less likely to be, er, homophobic than someone who actually is, you know, homophobic (!). Wider societal acceptance of LGBT individuals is plainly relevant in that context. You don’t think it’s a bit easier for VR to say what he did just now, as opposed to if he’d lived thirty or forty years ago? And, if so, don’t you think this is indeed because of the brave efforts of LGBT individuals?

              • There you are simply wrong. I think Ryan and I have a more nuanced sense of what changes have happened in societal attitudes toward gay people than you, however well-meaning you are, FD. We have lived the reality.

                • And of course we are talking about societal attitudes per se. Young people, today, would take the attitude that of course one shouldn’t condemn people because of their sexuality . Compare and contrast to pre-stonewall attitudes. When the sun (cited here as the most popular paper in the land can tell us something about societal attitudes) railed against “Pulpit Poofters” they did not add “but of course merely having same-sex desire is a ok”. If you believe that same sex desire does not warrant societal condemnation then you are, from a sufficiently historical perspective, on the side of the ‘liberals’. Indeed, the fact that more enlightened evangelicals are now bending over backwards (but not forwards ;-)) to dissociate themselves from the baser forms of homophobia is in itself indicative of the victories achieved by LGBT coming out. VR, whether he likes it or not, benefited from such individuals. FS attempts to paint him as a Purple Heart candidate for braving some internet comments are somewhat disproportionate. Lots of bisexuals are married to same-sex partners. I’d imagine that most of them do not expect a round of applause for not acting in sexual attractions to the sex they’re not married to.

                • Erm, I have also lived reality …
                  I am not questioning what you’re saying about societal attitudes (which I am as aware of as anybody else, and possibly have more experience of than some others). I am not doubting your experiences either. I am simply questioning the interpretation, and some of the underlying assumptions behind that interpretation, of this *particular* case.

                  I’d be interested to get Peter’s views on this because he’s a bit closer to VR’s position (ie. not fitting people’s boxes), but it seems to me that there are a few points to take note of:

                  a) VR has not come out and said these things because he thinks it will make him happier. He has good friends that he’s been able to confide in for years – it’s not like he’s been alone and now suddenly he can talk about it. He’s been able to talk about it, just like he’s been able to talk to them about not-so-socially acceptable feelings, like pride.

                  b) He’s said this because he wants to help the Christians on his dwindling list who are struggling to remain faithful to their understanding of scripture, not because society encourages openness about these things.

                  c) He wasn’t open in his original version of the book because he was afraid of being misinterpreted. People seem to be reading that as wishing to avoid a negative reaction from other Christians. I understood him to mean misinterpretation from other sections of society – like those who see this as him ‘coming out’.

                  d) He does not see this as something that defines him, but as a struggle like anything else in life that makes it difficult to live up to biblical principles. He does not see his life as any more difficult than that of a single heterosexual person, and he embraces the positives in singleness. He does not see himself, nor does he want to be seen, as a pathetic, crippled, object of pity.

                  e) The church’s position on sexuality is not determined by societal attitudes, but by an interpretation of scripture. What Christians are able to be open about with one another should not be determined by societal attitudes either – that’s what VR is saying by encouraging the church to be more open and supportive.

                  f) The fact is, all the supportive comments are coming from conservative Christians, and all the non-supportive comments are coming from liberals. People keep saying ‘the reason he didn’t want to come out was because Christians are homophobic’. Give me one link to a conservative Christian site which has said anything derogatory since he became open about homosexual feelings.

                  The problem is, people are now trying to fit what he’s saying into their own boxes, and distorting his message. I think he knew this would happen, and that was why he was originally hesitant to be more open.

                  None of this contradicts the points you’re making about general societal attitudes in the 60s that still remain in conservative countries like Ireland.

                  • None of that do I disagree with FD, but the fact remains that the Church has considerably been made to soften (the rhetoric if you like, of) its stance on gay people as a result of the liberation struggles and all of us, and you cannot exempt Vaughan, are beneficiaries of that. Rowan Williams has just admitted as much in his recent Theos interview:

                    “He also suggested that the Church’s past “condemning” attitude to homosexuality could have caused real mental harm to some people.

                    “We are trying to catch up with a reality which for a long time we didn’t handle at all well,” he said.

                    He went on: “I think the Church has in recent years tried quite hard to say we are not condemning a person as such for their sexual orientation and that is a serious commitment.

                    “Nonetheless there is a hang-over from the feeling that you are condemned in your entirety for what you are doing, for what you are.

                    “If people are getting the message that they are condemned for what they are then of course there is a serious mental health impact, I hope this is not what the Church is doing and I certainly don’t think it si what the church should be doing.

                    “It is not just the church it is also a climate of homophobia which still exists in our society, we still have work to do.”


                    The Church in this country would have done none of this without society leading the way. If you don’t believe it go to Uganda.It still represents the colonial values about sexuality, the heterosexism and the antihomosexuality, that were exported with the Empire. What you say about your loving Christian friends may be true enough but it is ridiculous to suggest that St Ebbes is somehow in a timewarp bubble of Christian-biblical-love, a kind of land of Oz, completely unaffected by the wider world, even the ivory towers of Oxford in which it exists, which is virtually what you are trying to get away with.

                    • Here’s my problem, Tom. I’m talking about four people (who don’t go to St. Ebbes, by the way, and certainly don’t live in Ivory Towers), and you keep generalising to the whole of society, or the attitude of the church in general. Ryan even references to Sun Newspaper, as if that was a great example of Christian love! Immature Christians will always go along with the judgemental attitudes of society, whatever the issue, but people writing about their experiences in 50s/60s will often remember one true Christian who told them that God loved them unconditionally, whatever their own views on the morality of homosexual relations, and didn’t judge them.

                      These true Christians (who ignore what society thinks), and who are wise and loving, are few and far between, but some of them were on that list the Vaughan Roberts gave. In fact, it’s one of the things that confuses me about this whole issue. I don’t have a rose-tinted view of the evangelical church – I know it’s full of twits – but it’s not just the twits who are sticking fast on the issue of sex outside heterosexual marriage, it’s the people who you know are very wise, and balanced and compassionate.

                    • I think, as in previous times, we’ve got ourselves into a bit of a conflict because we’re coming from different angles. It was only the suggestion that his friends would not have been judgemental without the wider influences of society that I found patronising (in the Guardian comments, not your own). Your observations about shifting societal attitudes about gay attractions I have no issue with. Sorry if I sounded like I was being dismissive. :)

                    • FD, you were claiming that VR was worried about misrepresentation by the wider world i.e. not just his his True Christian chums from St.Ebbes. In that context wider social attitudes are entirely relevant.

                      The Sun was cited as indicative of then homophobic societal attitudes. If you do think there was some kind of essential divide between tabloid homophobia and the True Christian kind then I think checking out some Hansard comments from anti-gay religious faves like Baroness Young might help enlighten you.

                    • I was referring to his fear of being misrepresented by the Guardian, not the Sun. Why don’t you try applying some logic, and trying to follow what the thread is about, before jumping in with your predictable ‘people who read the Sun’ comments.

                    • I do not take lesson in logic from Little Miss Scweam and Scweam.

                      Perhaps you should have, you know, referred to the Guardian? And I’m a person who reads the Sun (on occasion, hold over from my manual labour days) and was citing it as indicative of wider societal attitudes. Your claim that the True Christians of St.Ebbes are operating in a bubble unaffected from wider societal trends is one you’ve offered no evidence for.

                      Incidently – bringing this back to strict OT focus – is your claim that VR was “dreading” (!) comments from anonymous posters on the guardian actually true? Let’s hope not, because it actually serves to make VR look LESS brave, suggesting as it does that he is quaking in his boots about anonymous comments at largely secular newspapers. And yet it’s supposedly me and tom who are criticising VR’s bravery! (note: properly contextualising VR’s words, and suggesting that they might not quite warrant a ticker tape parade and a hero’s welcome, isn’t really the same thing at all)

                    • Ryan, honey, you know I just wind you up because I love you’re endearing pet names – ‘unhinged’ and ‘Litte Miss Sweam and Scweam’. I know you mean them in the most affectionate way ;-)

                      As you still think that the Christians I’m referring to come from St. Ebbes, you clearly haven’t been reading my posts, so I’m afraid I’m not going to reply to any more of your comments until you do.

                    • Thanks for not running to teacher (as it were) ;-)

                      Wrong, because I do not agree that theology is formed in a vacuum and as we’re discussing contemporary UK Christians, rather than civilisation unblemished Amish, evidenced on shifts in wider societal attitudes and their impact on religious experience is highly relevant.

                    • That doesn’t make any kind of sense as a reply to my post. If you’re not going to read my posts and you’re going to misrepresent all my arguments, why should I bother replying to you?

                    • Oh, I do indeed wonder why you bother posting at all. I feel an answer to that question may have to wait til the next life, however.

                      It would be nice if you actually had some ‘arguments’, as opposed to assertions.

                    • and, in case you’re NOT pretending to be obtuse,

                      You’re claiming that my reference to societal changes in attitudes is irrelevant, because you are referring to a specific group of Christians etc. I disagree that any such group are wholly unaffected by such societal changes. I disagree on your opinion on the relevance or not of such contexts.

                      I’d be very interested if anyone else, reading this, is supposedly puzzled by the above point.

                    • And I have to laugh at your claims of misrepresentation, when you claimed I only referred to the Sun to have a pop at its readers.

                    • Ryan, go back and read what I’ve actually written and write something that’s worth my time replying to.

                    • “Wrong, because I do not agree that theology is formed in a vacuum and as we’re discussing contemporary UK Christians, rather than civilisation unblemished Amish, evidenced on shifts in wider societal attitudes and their impact on religious experience is highly relevant.”

                      ” How on earth has his life been made any easier by those who went to prison for the right to have gay sexual relations (brave as those people were for their own cause)?”

                      Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships.[1] It can include the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the only norm[

                      Hopefully that won’t go a-sailing over your head. But you note the relationships and attractions ? And of course we have Tom’s point on Ratzinger’s condemnation of homosexual desires in and of themselves . But no doubt you regard that as irrelevant too.

                      And you’ll recall that I merely stated that VR’s testimony negates one of the presuppositions of heterosexism, not all of them.

                    • Ive just reread the Guardian article. We mean Andrew Brown don’t we? I must say I generally like Andrew brown’s writing and can’t see why it is so offensive here. Three things grabbed me.

                      1) “So, at last, we have an important evangelical figure admitting that conservative evangelicals are repelled by gay people, that homosexuality is not a choice, and that God won’t cure it, even if omnipotence means He could: “A small proportion of people, including Christians, find that they remain exclusively attracted to the same sex as they grow into mature adulthood. God has the power to change their orientation, but he hasn’t promised to and that has not been my experience.”

                      Isn’t this what you and I have been arguing all along, Ryan?

                      2) “The vision he sets out of a celibate gay Christian life lacks joie de vivre. In fact, he compares it to depression, alcoholism and blindness. “Those who have not married have embraced the Bible’s very positive teaching about singleness as a gift (see 1 Corinthians 7.32-35), whether chosen or not, which, I imagine, alongside loneliness and sexual frustration, has afforded them wonderful opportunities for the loving service of God and others.”

                      Again you have been saying that the Evos cannot handle singleness, however much they go on about it being one of the only two options for Christians. The German Lutherans do have communities of deaconesses but generally there is no support whatsoever as there is in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In fact the only source for bishops in the Orthodox Church is the monasteries since bishops cannot be married.

                      3) “It’s not really surprising that few Christians find this prospect attractive; silence and suppression were very much safer. But a constant theme in his interview is that it is the sexually relaxed culture around them that is forcing the church towards greater honesty.”

                      Again the point we’ve been trying make over and over – the church is not being honest until it is forced to be.

                    • Indeed, I thought it was good piece of journalism. Point 2 , although depressing, is at least consistent with ‘take up your cross” Christianity; preferable to the “we can make pooves into happy, smiley Normal Middle-Class Evangelicals!” snake-oil offered elsewhere
                      Tangentially, I noticed this week, in the coverage of Jimmy Saville’s (one suppose one must say ‘alleged’) sex offenses, that it referred to “paeodphilia”, rather than ‘heterosexual abuses’. Saville’s preferred age of victims appears to be 14 or 15, i.e. post puberty. So let us hope that Jill, who has long argued that the Catholic boy-raping cases should be called “homosexual abuse” rather than “paedophilia” , has been breaking out the green ink and trying to correct the press’ apparent misrepresentation.

                    • Yes, you are undoubtedly right. IF the allegations against Jimmy Saville are true, then the cause of the abuse in that and in all like cases is not paedophilia but heterosexuality.

                      Incidentally, I have just been reading an article by Peter Stanford which originally appeared in The Independent back in April and which has now been reprinted with permission in the current issue of Quest Bulletin (for lesbian and gay Catholics). The article is based on an interview with Fr Bernard Lynch, SMA, and with regard to the sexual abuse scandal Fr Lynch has this to say:

                      “To me,” Lynch reflects, “a lot of the abuse of children by priests in the Church is a result and consequence of sexually arrested development in priests. It is not paedophilia, and that is not to take from the crime and the terrible harm done to children in this way. When you go into a seminary at 14 or 16 [which was formerly quite the normal thing for Catholic boys who were believed to have a priestly vocation – GM] you are arrested in your sexual development. From that time on, everything sexual is sin. Sex is not integrated in the way normal boys and girls do as they grow up. And so priests stop growing sexually. And when they start growing again at the ripe old age of 50, they start off where they left off, as a 14-year-old looking for 14-year-olds.”

                      Obviously no theory can be expected to apply to all cases, but Fr Lynch’s explanation seems to me to be extremely plausible, and it certainly agrees with the findings of the psychologist and former Dominican priest Richard Sipe, who has done an enormous amount of research in the area of priesthood, celibacy and sexuality, especially sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and who has said that priestly abusers, irrespective of how old they are chronologically and mentally, tend to be of the same emotional age as the boys whom they abuse.

                    • :-) I expect you have seen that the Governor of California has signed into law the ban on subjecting children to reversion therapy. Two appeals so far, the latest from Nicolosi himself who wants to mess with (the minds of) a 14 and 15-year olds. If the parents are in cahoots with the snake-oilers what chance have such kids to resist without the protection of the law. Nicolosi will no doubt chuck a lot of money, probably aided by the Bachmann’s and the FRC and other unscrupulous people with a mission to save his lucrative business, but it seems the tide in the US is turning against the whole idea that parents can turn children into little models of themselves, which is what it so often amounts to under the cloak of religion.


                    • You really can’t help yourself, can you, Ryan?

                      But you are quite right – I do not regard Jimmy Savile as a paedophile. Abuser, yes, most certainly – but these girls were not prepubescent. Most of them were in their teens. It is an age-old phenomenon that rich and famous men attract girls, including young and silly ones, who think they are worldly-wise when they are not. He didn’t seek these girls out, they more or less threw themselves at him, and in a lot of cases got more than they bargained for. It takes a pretty strong character to resist the charms of pretty young women, and there are plenty more in the Jimmy Savile mould who will presently be quaking in their boots awaiting their turn to be ‘found out’. How many rock stars and TV personalities do you think are squeaky-clean in this department? It’s not always easy to tell a girl’s age when she is dressed to kill.

                      I have never liked JS very much – I thought he was rather creepy, and would not have let my girls anywhere near him. Had he been impoverished and unheard-of, no girl would have given him a second glance. He was only doing what countless rich and famous men have done before him, and are doubtless still doing.

                      Having said all this, I must admit (and I know that it is very un-Christian) that I am quietly enjoying all the furore against the BBC, who have relentlessly hounded the very few abusive Catholic priests and castigated the RC Church for its ‘cover-ups’ when it has been caught doing exactly the same only on probably a much larger scale (I don’t think we have heard the end of this, by any means). At least the Catholic Church is trying to make amends.

                    • “He didn’t seek these girls out, they more or less threw themselves at him”
                      You do realise this makes you sound like an apologist for sexual abuse?

                    • Well you know that I am not. I did say that right at the beginning of my post.

                      This is the very reason I am such a strong supporter of retaining the current age of consent. Fourteen and fifteen year old girls think they are very grown up, but they are not, and are prime targets for older men who will not enquire too closely about their age, and think (or pretend to think) that girls who hang around them are giving ‘consent’ when really they are too naive to know what is going through these men’s minds.

                      I see there are now accusations of sex rings operating inside the BBC. So as I said before, unless these women are lying, I don’t think we have seen the last of this yet.


                    • But do you not understand that “they more or less threw themselves at him” insults the experience of some of the girls who were never sexually interested in Saville? They didn’t have a choice in the matter.

                    • This is a very silly conversation. Of course there were some like that, but there were also plenty of girls like the ones I have described above.

                      Another BBC DJ, John Peel, admitted that in his younger days girls – some as young as 13 – would queue up outside his studio for sexual favours, and he said of course he was only too happy to oblige, and didn’t ask for ID. (He eventually married a 15-year-old who lied about her age.) There will be many more like him, believe me, many of whom grew up to became pillars of the community.

                      Abusers they most certainly were, but paedophiles? I don’t think so. Paedophiles, as we all know, only operate within the catholic church so far as the BBC is concerned. Appalling double standards.

                    • I am trying to differentiate here between the type of man in a dirty raincoat who hangs around school gates and playgrounds hoping to snatch a child, and someone like JS who has a constant supply of easy prey.

                    • Jill, Saville got himself in a position of trust where he had access to young girls at children’s homes. Surely, to use your analogy, that’s a lot closer to the schoolgate pervert than it is a the willing recipient of groupie affection?

                    • But it’s all the same at the end of the day. Anyone who takes advantage of underage girls and boys is guilty of sexual abuse. Once we start to gradate or make excuses (“they threw themselves at him”) we undermine the rape and assault that has taken place. If you’re an adult and a teenager “throws herself at you” you are still the guilty party if you take advantage of her. We expect teens to do stupid things, we do not expect or permit adults to take advantage of them.

                    • Well, quite! I’m not defending any of them, or making excuses. I’m just telling it like it is. That is not the point of what I am trying to say. But there is a difference.

                      To answer Ryan’s query about the John Peel link, here is one from the Guardian, though that’s not where I originally saw it – I can’t remember; sorry.


                      There will be plenty more like these to come, trust me.

                    • But Jill, do you really think this is a BBC v Catholic Church, left or right issue? Sexual abuse of minors and the cover up thereof warrants societal condemnation and the full force of the law irrespective of where it occcurs! You might be surprised to hear that most ‘lefties’ would agree with that view.

                    • Oh and Jill you might be interested to know that, in the US, the House of Bishops estimated that approximately 22% of reported sex abuse cases did indeed involve children before the age of puberty. Sounds like the Catholic Church itself has admitted that there was indeed a lot of paedophilic abuse going on.

                    • Are you talking about the RC Church, Ryan? Because according to the independent John Jay study in the US 89% of the abuses were committed against post-pubescent boys by a small number of priests.

                    • The figure I read was for America specifically. Even if we take your 11% figure to be true then, extrapolated across thousands of cases over decades, that’s still quite a lot of paedophilia going on, making it innacurate to generalise, as you have done, that the RC sex cases were “homosexual abuses” rather than paedophlia. And do you mean “small” as a proportion of the whole? Of course most priests aren’t abusers, but when the Pope himself has had to apologise for the sexual abuse by priests and the cover up thereof, and the Church has paid out billions in compensation, it’s curious that a non-Catholic like yourself should seek to downplay the severity of the scandal.

                    • No downplaying at all. The numbers were small, as one man would often commit many abuses. The guilty should and must be punished. However, the Catholic Church has admitted responsibility and is trying to make recompense, and has put in place stringent measures to ensure that there is no repetition. Unlike the BBC, who are still trying to cover up – and I would be willing to bet that the numbers are not small!

                      However, it’s not just Catholic priests who should be punished. If every person who had a sexual encounter with an under-age girl (or boy) were punished across the board, according to the severity of the assault, obviously, and the age difference taken into account to a degree, as it is now, perhaps the practice would decrease. Media stars have been getting away with it for years.

                    • Jill, what basis do you have for your estimates on the number? Accusing swathes of people of abusing children is a fairly serious charge. I hope you can do better than the Daily Mail link you posted – which referred to 19 and 23 year olds, which is hardly the same thing at all! There’s a world of difference between promiscous sex with adult groupies (common with rock stars) and the actual rape of 14 year olds (or younger).

                    • Jill, writing as a Roman Catholic myself, I would just like to say a few things. You say that “Media stars have been getting away with it for years.” Very probably, and so, I’m afraid, have Catholic priests. In fact, it’s been going on for centuries. (See, for example, Karen Liebreich’s book “Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio”, 2005.) I have by now lived in quite a number of different Roman Catholic parishes, and I have to scratch my head to think of one which hasn’t at some time or other, whether recently or in the more distant past, had a parish priest or an assistant priest who was sooner or later discovered to have sexually abused boys, girls or both, either in that parish or in a previous or subsequent one (sometimes in more than one of the above). Nor, despite the Vatican’s now abandoned attempt to kid us into thinking so, has it in recent times been solely an American/British/Irish phenomenon.

                      I agree, however, that the actual proportion of the Catholic clergy who are guilty must be small. I am quite sure that the overwhelming majority of Catholic priests – and yes, including the numerous gay ones, Jill – have never sexually abused a child and wouldn’t dream of doing so.

                      But it is not the abuse itself that is the crime of the Roman Catholic Church; the guilt of that lies with the abusing priests themselves and with no-one else. The crime of the Church is the covering up and the deceit. If you appoint someone as a parish priest, having dutifully done all the necessary checks, and he then turns out to be a sexual predator, then that is not your fault but your misfortune. No-one can reasonably be held guilty for not knowing what someone else was going to do. And after all, it can be said, even back at the very beginning one of the original twelve apostles proved to be a traitor. But you most certainly can be held guilty if, having discovered his crimes, you cover them up and quietly move him on to another parish, giving him the opportunity to do it again. That is what the RC hierarchy did for many decades.

                      I suppose that it is possible to plead in mitigation that at one time the often compulsive nature of this kind of abuse wasn’t understood; it wasn’t fully appreciated that, while it might be logically possible for someone to do this kind of thing once and then never do it again, people who do it tend, on the whole, to keep on doing it. It can also be said that, while conduct of this kind was obviously regarded as a most grievous sin, the damaging and often long-lasting effects on those who were abused weren’t realised. The fact is, however, that many bishops kept up the practice of cover-up and reassignment long after these things were fully known about and understood, and victims and their families were not infrequently bullied into keeping silence by being told that it would be a terrible sin to cause scandal to the faithful, or similar claptrap.

                      You say that “the Catholic Church has admitted responsibility and is trying to make recompense”. But the fact is that the Church hierarchy obstinately dragged its feet and refused to do this until it was left with no choice. It was not moral duty that finally impelled it to act, but the unfavourable publicity caused by journalists who exposed its wrongdoings to the world in all their ugliness. The Rev. Mr Harding, in Anthony Trollope’s novel “The Warden”, says, “I cannot boast of my conscience when it required the violence of a public newspaper to awaken it.”

                      The Catholic hierarchy’s conduct in this matter simply cannot be justified, but if I wanted to attempt the hopeless task of defending the indefensible, I would need a far more convincing line of defence than “Well, the BBC covered things up too”, no matter how true that might be.

                    • Excellent analysis Guglielmo. Jill has thus far provided zero evidence of widespread sexual abuse of adolescents at the BBC (the link she posted referred to 19 and 23 year olds) but, even if she could, what does that tell us about the morality of the Catholic Church’s handling of its sex abuse cases? The RC Church is not a mere secular organisation. In reality of course it has actually fallen short of secular standards; as Dan Savage has pointed out, any secular business that did and covered up what the RC church did would have been closed down – after howls of public outrage, boycotts – a long time ago.

                    • Ryan, Guglielmo and Jill, there was an interesting discussion of this on the Andrew Marr show this morning. Sandy Toksvik told us that as a 20-year old she was groped unpleasantly while on air. When she told her colleagues afterwards they just laughed. She didn’t give figures but she said she thought there was (and still is) a culture where the top boys and celebs got away with it. Where Jill’s numbers argument doesn’t work is that huge though it is the BBC is still a midget organisation compared with the RC Church – and it does not claim to be an organisation against which the gates of hell shall not prevail.

                    • Ryan, I find it very difficult to hold a conversation with you because you keep going off at a tangent – picking up on some minor point as if it is the main thrust of my argument and then attacking me on it! D’oh!

                      I will have just one more try, then I am giving up as I have better things to do. If you still don’t understand, then so be it.

                      ‘Paedophile’ is a very emotive word. It whips up national hysteria. Once a person (usually a man) is branded a paedophile it will stick, even if he is found to be innocent. To be clear, true paedophiles are interested in pre-pubescent children. I see no evidence that Jimmy Savile molested such children (although I haven’t read everything, and I may be wrong here, but I would be very surprised if he had). There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the age of puberty (there isn’t one) and the age of consent.

                      Once a girl begins menstruation and is capable of motherhood, she is no longer a child. (Before you howl with outrage, just hear me out.) In earlier times, when lives were much shorter, people reproduced at a much earlier age, and 14 would not have been thought of as at all unusual. It still isn’t, in some parts of the world. The Virgin Mary is thought to have been very young, and there is no mention in the Bible of an age of consent!

                      However, we have much longer lives nowadays and there is no need to reproduce so young. So, gradually, an age of consent law – among many other laws – was introduced to protect young people and give them a longer childhood. I think the current age of 16 is fairly realistic, and the law should be enforced. (It isn’t.)

                      SO – although Jimmy Savile and others are guilty of sexual abuse of minors, they are not paedophiles! This also applies to most of the guilty priests – but try asking people what they think about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and you can be sure they will talk about paedophiles.

                      As for ‘evidence’, I have not claimed to have evidence, nor am I making specific allegations – I am merely saying ‘watch this space’.

                    • Jill, I’ll apologise if I’ve went on on a tangent, but please don’t accuse me of a failure to understand. Arguing on the internet is not quite the stuff of grappling, with furrowed brow, quantum physics :)

                      I’ve referred previously to of course conceding that the ‘official’ (e.g. DSM-IV) definition of paedophilia indeed refers to the prepubescent. No argument there. However I would ask you to note that the existence of the paedophlic drive does not preclude having other drives. I agree that the label receives howls of outrage. Would you agree that, if people were to give reasons FOR the outrage, that they would identify factors such as:
                      abuse of trust
                      manipulation of those who have less than full adult awareness

                      As such, surely abuse of post puberty minors is very similar to paedophilia? Again, let me stress : I am aware that paedophilia refers to sex with pre-pubescent children . I fail to see why most people regarding the Catholic Church’s offenses as ‘paedophilia’ rather than sexual abuse, although, if we’re being pedantic, an error, warrants the attention you give to it. Surely the fact that Saville’s offenses are being called paedophiilic indicates that paedophilia is a label being used naturally (albeit innacurately) for the sexual abuse of individuals below the age of consent, rather than indicating some kind of religious-bashing when being applied to the Catholic Church?

                      And I reply to every point because I’m a devoted commentator! There is really no more sinister an explanation than that. I’ll concede that, perhaps, I have too much time on my hands, and that I should get a girlfriend or something… :)

                    • I would agree with most of this, GM, except perhaps the last bit – I think Pope John Paul simply did not believe that this was going on and it was probably he who was responsible for the ‘dragging of feet’. However, the same cannot be said of Pope Benedict, who has acted as he should.
                      I am in no way making excuses for the catholic church. I am merely pointing out the double standards by haters of religion.

                    • Indeed. A rock star receiving attentions from a 19 year old groupie is engaged in a consensual encounter. A 14 year old girl, meeting a TV star, and being sexually abused is in no way comparable.

                    • Jill, the link you post refers to 23 and 19 year olds. The first girl alleges rape – of course, that is a horrendous criminal offence that warrants investigation in all circumstances. But why does referring to Saville having sex with 23 and 19 year olds (i.e. well over the age of consent) support the allegation about the sexual abuse of 14 year olds? Surely you don’t regard the two as comparable moral offences?

                    • And if we’re playing the “unless these women are lying” card, Jill, then why doesn’t a similar standard apply to the thousands upon thousands of individuals who have alleged sexual abuse against the RC Church?

                    • And Jill, you might not want to sound like an apologist for sexual abuse, but conflating sex with adult groupies with the abuse of children does indeed serve to downplay the seriousness of the latter offence. Many secular straight men would love to get lots of adult “hoes” and “bitches” like rock stars do. All of them would be utterly disgusted however at the notion of sexual abusing children.

                    • Yes, I agree with Peter, Jill. And don’t be an apologist for the crimes of the Catholic Church, either. It will come back to bite you. The Catholic Church had to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit its wicked treatment of abuse victims and Joseph Ratzinger might well have found himself being extradited on a plane to the Land of the Free if he had not been elected pope and got himself Head-of-State-diplomatic-immunity. It does you no credit at all to be an abuse-denier.

                    • Yes, many have been criticising Esther Rantzen and the like for saying that the Pope had blessed Saville, offered as some kind of defense. It’s reasonable to assume that the Pope or HM the Queen (given Saville’s knighthood) would not be expected to know or give creedence to BBC gossip. The BBC certainly appears to be at fault in not investigating allegations against Saville.

                    • Jill, I suppose there’s a weird consistency in you overestimating the amount of heterosexual men with an interest in sex with non-adults (as you do with gay people) but the above is disturbing. TV and rock stars do indeed “pretty young women” – that does not mean that they have sex with 14 year old girls. Rock stars are living the dream – i.e. having sex with lots of women in a way many straight men would want to do. I know of no grown men with an interest in sex with fourteen year olds. Despite Bill Wyman’s unfortunate dalliance with a sixteen year old, I do not believe, without evidence, that the vast majority of rock stars and TV stars are having mass sex with adolescents. Would there have been rumours for years about Jimmy Saville if he was, to you, just doing what TV and rock stars tend to do? And Jimmy Saville did seek out girls to prey on. That’s quite different from not knowing that a girl is younger than she looks. And Saville’s work with charities was, like many ‘proper’ paeodophiles, a front to give him unfettered access to children’s homes and a reputation for being a pillar of the community.

                      Why the quotation marks in referring to the “cover ups” ? Billions has been paid out in compensation and the Catholic Church has had to apologise for its actions. There are examples of sexual abuses and cover ups all over the world (e.g. take Brendan Smyth in Ireland). What basis do you have for saying that sex abuses on the BBC are on a much larger scale? Do you mean a higher proportion of BBC staff are sexual abusers when compared to the RC church? Isn’t such a serious – indeed possibly libelous – accusation not the sort of thing to be made on the basis of one’s political preferences? If the BBC behaved like the Catholic Church then they deserve similar treatment.

                    • Thanks for your post, Tom. I now have leisure time to give a proper reply. But, first, can we get one thing straight? Ryan (who I’m about ready to strangle) seems to have got me down as some kind of evangelical extremist. This is not the case at all. I’m married to a Catholic, for goodness’ sake (a pretty liberal one, as well), not exactly your typical bible-bashing fundamentalist! It’s difficult for me, in all conscience, to be 100% positive about same-sex relationships, as the majority of orthodox Christianity interprets scripture as saying that these relationships are outside God’s plan, and you can’t just chose the bits of Christianity that make you comfortable. However, I’ll defend the right of people to dissent from Church teaching, to argue against it, to live in civil partnerships, to foster, adopt etc. and I certainly do not think that those relationships should be illegal or that they’re all about sex any more than heterosexual relationships are.

                      To get back to the article in the Guardian. I wouldn’t say it was offensive (patronising, I think, is the word I used), but I wouldn’t say it was great journalism either. I was a bit ungracious in my reply to your point about gay rights activism creating a more accepting environment for people with homosexual attractions. I’m sorry about that. You do have a point. However, the problem is, it’s a bit of a double edged sword, isn’t it? Gay rights activism has created a more accepting environment for everyone who experiences same-sex attractions *on the condition* that you agree with them. If you experience change of orientation, choose to be celibate, or to marry, don’t want to leave your wife and kids, want to see if prayer or counselling helps you to do this, well, you’d better keep quiet about it, if you know what’s good for you.

                      Take our good friend Peter, for instance. Because of the gains of gay activism he can now come out and say that for a period of his life he experienced same-sex attraction without people thinking that he’s weird, perverted, likely to molest small children, or that he should solve his problems with a bullet through the head. I’ll grant you, this is a pretty big move forward from the 60s. On the other hand, he admits that he still agrees with Church teaching on homosexual practice, and sets up a blog to discuss whether orientation change is possible and he gets a shed load of hate mail in his inbox every day. Not so great.

                      This is what the ‘gay agenda’ people mean when they accuse gay rights activists of using the ‘gay gene’ idea to shut down any debate about sexual practice. Like all myths, the ‘gay agenda’ is a half-truth. It’s not a lie that people don’t choose their sexuality, however this has been used to close down discussion of sexual practice to such effect that now, in Britain, if the thought even passes through your head that homosexual sex might not be ok you’re regarded by the government as a danger to small children. A complete reversal from the situation in the 60s.

                    • “in Britain, if the “thought even passes through your head that homosexual sex might not be ok you’re regarded by the government as a danger to small children. A complete reversal from the situation in the 60s.”

                      Paranoid much? The Government, as yet, has still to obtain Big Brother style knowledge of people’s thoughts, and one would imagine that some of the biggest enclaves of Family Values triumphalism (e.g. evangelical churches) tend to not have to employ the gay-affirming, let alone gay, to work with the little angels.

                      And I note that you, again, blame ”gay activism” for hate mail. Trolls will be trolls. You might be interested (I’ll try and find the link) where Peter assumed that the Very Reverend and fully fabulous Kelvin Holdsworth ( must believe in a gay gene and corresponding essentiality, Peter never having had sex and now having a wife is, you might be surprised to hear, not some radical paradigm that challenges the supposed tenents of gay orthodoxy. I know of no gay people who require proof of a gene to ‘validate’ their sexual orientation.

                    • “Ryan (who I’m about ready to strangle) ”

                      Can you imagine the response if me or Tom joked about strangling women? Perhaps this blog is “sexist” after all! ;-)

                    • (second part of quite long post)
                      With this context in mind, let’s have a look at the Andrew Brown article.
                      1) a) ‘here, at last, we have an important evangelical leader admitting that evangelicals are repelled by gay people’
                      I can’t find anywhere in the interview where Vaughan says this. He says that people with same-sex attractions in evangelical churches can experience loneliness, but he blames this on the current political climate in which, he suggests, evangelicals have concentrated on counter-acting the arguments of gay activists, without considering how this might be interpreted by those struggling with same-sex attractions. Disgust isn’t mentioned anywhere, though, ironically, he does mention unhelpful media reporting that gives the false impression that evangelicals think this sin is ‘partiuclarly heineous’.
                      1) b) …that homosexuality is not a choice, that God won’t cure it’
                      Rather selective quoting. Yes, one of the things that Vaughan is trying to get across is that sexuality is not a choice and that, for a few people, it won’t change. He seems to feel that this is the big thing that’s been missed by evangelicals in their desire to argue against the ‘gay gene’ myth. However, he also accuses gay activists of their own brand of dishonesty in their refusal to recognise that some people experience homosexual attraction in puberty, which is not fixed, and in promoting a ‘simplistic binary model’ in which the world is divided into people born gay or straight.
                      2) ‘the celibate gay life-style lacks joie de vivre’.
                      Well, this rather misses the point. The Christian life does tend to be about leaving behind the values of the world to find the joy of knowing God. I think Vaughan’s arguing that the Christian life involves suffering for *everybody*. Also, he’s arguing agains the ‘grin and bear it’ idea. He talks about the things in his life which he enjoys as a single person, that he couldn’t have had if he’d been married. He’s also keen to stress that this is not a struggle that outweighs any other struggle he has in life (such as with self-image).
                      I don’t think I quite said that evangelicals can’t cope with singleness. I know plenty of mature, well-adjusted, single evangelicals, who enjoy their lives and love God, and love the time they have for friendship and to look after other people’s children. They just get a bit frustrated sometimes with evangelical culture around them.
                      3) ‘the Church is not being honest until it is forced to be’ (Tom’s quote).
                      Well, I’ve addressed this in the post above. Yes, you do have a point, to some extent. However, like I say, it’s a double edged sword. The main reason Vaughan gives in the interview for deciding that the church needs to move in a more pastoral direction towards a greater understanding of homosexual attraction and its causes is *not* primarily the problem of evangelical attitudes, but the huge pressures faced by those with same-sex attractions within the church to conform to the sexual values of the world around them. Brown seems to think there aren’t very many of these people. I wonder where he gets his statistics from?

                    • True Christians! Ryan , it sounds a bit like Rev. Moon’s True Parents. If there are True Christians what are the other kind? I thought the Church believed in saints. Some people are saints or become saints.

                    • The point is that I’m not talking about the whole of Christian culture. I’m talking about a handful of people, trying their best to live by biblical principles who have been a good friend to Vaughan Roberts because they’ve been good friends. Full stop. I’m not disagreeing with anything you say about wider evangelical culture. Unless you can give me some evidence that these particular people hated their friend for his same-sex attractions, and then changed their minds because of pro-gay cultural influences, then quoting the Sun or any Baroness you like is of no relevance and no use to you.

                    • I don’t follow what you are referring to from “Unless you can give me some evidence……..” to the end. Are you referring to something I wrote? Don’t think I ever mentioned the Sun or the Baroness…

                    • I believe those references were by me. This is a largely fruitless exercise though; if FD is claiming to know individuals in VR’s circle and their particular motivations, then, unless one has similar knowledge, there’s not much that can be said. But then the identity of those whose reaction VR was worried about seems to change depending on the point she’s “arguing” at the time. Was the original VR book not likely to be aimed towards the evangelical book market? How likely is it that the much demonised Guardian would have devoted much time to it? And so on.

                      I take it as given that Peter, for example, states what he believes because he knows his primary obligation is to God and the truth. That’s a position one can respect. The notion of individuals “dreading” (!) what secular commentators will say suggests a lesser degree of bravery.

                    • Agreed Ryan but then why did Vaughan feel he had yo announce this to the world and yet not adopt Peter Wildebloode’s defiance “Say your worst!” to the media, rather than leak (is that the word?) via friends that he feared media beastliness? I don’t get it. As you say about Peter, if you fear God’s wrath what else have you to fear? I wonder if VR thinks FD is doing good service by him.

                    • I was replying to Ryan, not to you. But, Ryan’s right, this is a fruitless exercise. I found the Guardian article slightly patronising in the assumptions it made about VR and his friends, that’s all. I wasn’t trying to make big statements about the whole of society or Christian culture, and it wasn’t my intention to get up anybody’s nose.

                    • Yes but FS you quoted a comment not by the author of the Guardian piece but a below the line commentator. I’m frequently published on Guardian MBMs and the like, but I never even comment on even mere football threads as I know they’re full of nonsense. I cited the telegraph to show that trolls are an internet problem, making it problematic to claim that they say much about the VR case per se. Hoes gonna be hoes, and trolls gonna be trolls :)

                    • Sorry about that, I think I just went to the bottom of that thread of argument and hit ‘reply’, without meaning it to be addressed to you in particular. The threads are getting quite long and complicated!

                    • I think True Christian is a fair characterisation of FS’s views of VR’s chums (as opposed to being a characterisation of my own!)

                  • Church policy does not operate in a vacuum. Previous characterisations of the C of E as the “tory party at prayer” were not meant as a compliment. The church of my youth was horrendously classist; it would not necessarily be a failing if societal attitudes led Christians to question quite how solid (as opposed to cultural) their beliefs are. I suspect one reason that Sola Scriptura fundamentalism is attractive to certain people is because it appears to offer a respite from the degree of solipsism that is, alas, the human condition.

                    I think you’ll find that both myself and Tom noted that VR was being brave. By supportive you appear to mean “agree with VR’s conservative evangelical presuppositions” – which, by definiton, of course conservative evangelicals are more likely to do.

                    As for my and Tom’s boxes: please. LGBT is itself not a binary opposition between gay and straight; queer is preferred by many, MSM (as distinct from gay or bisexual) has been common language in public bodies for ages. And so on.
                    “Man with same sex attraction doesn’t identify as gay and refuses to indulge this sexual attraction for theological reasons” is not some radical, slippery notion that myself and Tom are either incapable of grasping or (presumably) not grasping due to ideological blind spots. The great Gore Vidal (RIP) was arguing that there are heterosexual and homosexual drives and desires (but not people) over thirty years ago!

                • Tangentially Peter, did you not once post a Jimmy Sommerville related post along similar themes? Might be worth a link!

                    • He was explaining something to you FD because you insist on the dualistic way of describing gay people: gay orientation/gay sex, aka love the sinner hate the sin.

                    • I can’t find what I wrote, or what Ryan replied, but that’s not what I’m getting at at all. The point is, does sexual orientation have to entirely dictate behaviour? Somebody who’s predominantly attracted to the same sex might choose to marry the man/woman they love and have children. Or they might choose to enter a long-term partnership with somebody of the same-sex they’ve fallen in love with. Or they might choose to stay single and devote themselves to a profession or religious calling. Or two men or two women who are very attached to each other might choose to live together, but decide to have separate rooms because they wish to follow the Catholic Church’s prohibition on same-sex relations. I don’t think happiness is entirely dictated by one thing. In order to recognise that, it is important to distinguish between gay orientation and gay sex. I think you’re hearing what you expect me to be saying, not what I’m actually saying. I’m actually trying to get away from the dualistic mode of thinking.

                    • Actually FD if you hover with your mouse over the word “parent” in grey above the post in question it reveals in a balloon the post it was replying to.

                      I don’t think any of us is in disagreement with what you say about how different people might make different accommodations for their romantic drives. None of us believes human beings are automata like ants who cannot resist acting on programmed urges.

              • Thanks Tom. Perhaps FD would be (to user her overinflated language) astonished to learn than “sexual orientation” is usually (in legal terms) the protected characteristic, not sexual practice. That protection was achieved by the much demonised gay lobby (and the acceptance of the legitimacy of gay liberation by straight people of course. Recall Blair’s Labour party pledging to meet every Stonewall aim and, perhaps not unrelatedly, winning three general elections in a row)

          • I think you’d find, FD, if you could wind the clock back, that no one, but no one before 1967 admitted gay feelings, whether or not they acted on them. The Oscar Wildes, Lord Monatagus and Peter Wildebloodes were all caught by the law and so were shamed either into a defence or an admission. Having done that, some men, very brave men IMO, took a stand and said à la Luther “Here I stand – Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders – I cannot do otherwise”. And that is what we all – Vaughan and all – owe to those first pioneers. It doesn’t matter whether he has had gay sex or not – you yourself admit he has made himself vulnerable. To spell it out further, here are the words of Joseph Ratzinger when he was head of the CDF. “It is a more or less strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. Evos may not have the sophistication of language but they share every bit of the venom of those words. Sorry but now you are beginning to annoy me.

        • Yes but Tom, at least those individuals didn’t have to live in dread of anonymous comments on teh guardian! Where’s your perspective? ;-)

      • This is getting kind of annoying, ryan. Every time I try to point out what kind of unwanted comments might be coming VR’s way, and why it’s quite brave of him to say these things, you accuse me of using the story to score points off liberals. Your ‘but conservatives do this too’ arguments is also getting kind of irritating. You’re like this little child saying ‘but, miss, but miss, they were doing it too!’ That’s why it’s so ironic that I’m the one that’s been accused of being childish.

        • I’d argue that repetition and solipsistically assuming one is making a point of interest are fairly childish too. You previously pointed out that death threats were regrettable. No kidding! Do you really think anyone on this thread disagrees with this point?

          And you didn’t just point out comments were heading VR’s way; you referred, melodramatically, to things he was dreading (o noes!) and also specifically referred to liberals twisting things. Dare one state that a man of VR’s obvious bravery is perhaps not “dreading” (!) anonymous comments on teh internet.

  9. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about:

    Now, I’m not criticising Colin for writing this. This is a cause that he feels passionately about. It was inevitable that he would take this view, and he’s actually been pretty polite about it, and not misrepresented things nearly as much as the Guardian blog. He could have gone for the jugular with the ‘priest who opposed Jeffrey John turns out to be repressed homosexual’ headline. To his credit, he hasn’t done that.

    Nevertheless, if I were Vaughan Roberts, and I was just thinking about myself, I would have kept this between trusted friends, and not announced it to the Colin Cowards of this world. If I’d decided to stay celibate, it really wouldn’t help me much to be described as ‘the last tortured evangelical’.

    • FD, do you think Colin’s characterisation of the evangelical mindset about sex is at all fair? There is a strand of this kind of obsessive “calvinesque” loathing of humanity even in the Catholic Church but I think the Catholic Church is broadly a pleasanter place to be for LGBT people (putting aside the frocks and incense), if only because at least the vast majority, lay catholics and ordinary priests, are not very judgmental and seem to have a more optimistic view of humanity and are much less judgmental than the few crabbed members of the hierarchy (whose utterances are largely ignored – people like Bp. Joseph Devine, Card. Keith O’Brien or ABp. Philip Tartaglia – (all Scots; how about that, Ryan?). No, you are right, we don’t really know what drove Vaughan to be so open to such a wide audience. It is tempting to psychologise, of course, and go aslong with Colin’s view of evangelicanism as being an S&M kind of religion – not saying that much of Catholicism isn’t :-)

      • This is a really interesting question, Tom. I actually thought Colin’s post was surprisingly reserved and reasonable, compared to some of the other posts he’s put up on the ChangingAttitudes website. Perhaps because he feels genuine sympathy.

        However, that’s all speculation. I can’t really answer this question for St. Ebbes because I don’t go there. (I have very close friends who used to go there, but I never felt like I fitted in – too much dividing things into 2 columns, and my brain isn’t very good at dividing things into two columns ;))

        Speaking gernally, though, I’d say I prefer the Catholic approach to sex and relationships. Though more mature members try to tone it down, there’s still quite a fear and lack of understanding of sex in the evangelical community, which comes out in things like lecturing young women on what to wear in case they distract the guys in church. Then there seems to be this attitudes that, once you’re married, anything goes – a bit like chocolate Easter Eggs after Lent. The Catholic Church is much more concerned with explaining what these relationships are for – marriage, celibacy, than simply condemning people who break the rules. And within marriage, there is also self-control. One of the reasons for banning contraception is so that couples have to communicate with one another and value other aspects of their relationship in times of abstinence.

        There’s also a much stronger idea that suffering is how we experience Christ’s love and become more like him – whether it’s the suffering of singleness, or the suffering of marriage. There’s no ‘happily ever after’ for some people and misery for everybody else. In theory, this is also what the Protestants teach, but I don’t think they’ve grasped it so well at a cultural level.

        I think it’s a bit unfair to say that Vaughan Roberts is entirely representative of this culture, however. One of the things he does in the interview is explain the difference between his approach, and the ‘grin and bear it’ approach.

        Also, I think we need to define the ‘loathing of humanity’ idea better. Scripture teaches very clearly that we are all fallen.

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