Pilling – Two Thoughts

Church England LogoTwo thoughts as I digest Pilling (remember folks, it’s just a discussion document) and do bits of media around it.

First, the idea that permitting clergy to pretty well do what they want liturgically doesn’t change our doctrine is a nonsense. In the press conference this morning, Sir Joseph Pilling couldn’t bring himself to say that “blessing” a relationship wouldn’t be permitted under his proposals. This means that priests can now publicly affirm a sexual relationship outside of marriage and the Church will not do anything about it. That my friends is a change in doctrine. As the Bishop of Birkenhead rightly pointed out, the Pilling Report does not have a coherent theology of sex so it lets clergy make one up as they go. What is actually needed is a definitive position from the Church of England as to what sexual activity is sinful and why it is sinful. Once we have that then we can think about pastoral practice.

Second, where does the Pilling Report leave people like myself, who despite not being heterosexual have fashioned their lives to surrender to God’s will for human sexual functioning as outlined in Scripture? By suggesting that sexual relationships between two people of the same-sex can be affirmed, Pilling says to me and many others that we didn’t need to make the sacrifices and difficult choices that we did. It is to all intents and purposes a slap in our face. Once again Bishop Keith presents this issue really well.

432. So what does it mean to follow Jesus today and how does the Report contribute to that call? I hope to show what I believe are intellectual and theological problems within the Report which, however well-intentioned, will make the cost of discipleship more difficult to know. It is important to recognize that this question of faithful discipleship is a distinct question from that of what our society should legislate in a particular area. It has long been recognized that the Church may in some circumstances accept certain changes in the law, and even acknowledge some positives (such as harm reduction) in them, while maintaining a clear and distinct witness in the Church’s teaching and discipline to a higher calling for those who accept Christ as Saviour and Lord. Archbishop Justin has referred to a ‘revolution’ in relation to society’s view of sexuality which is now reflected in the current law on marriage. Does the Report help us in the pastoral and missional challenges we face in explaining to the Church and wider society what it means to follow Jesus? With much regret I believe it does not do so and may even prevent the Church speaking clearly, faithfully and prophetically into the cultural debates about human sexuality. A question that has haunted me is whether Greg would have been helped by the Report to know what following Jesus meant, and my conclusion is that he would not. He would not have been encouraged to ‘die’ and consequently there would have been no new life, no marriage to Margaret and no birth of their children. If we do not sound a clear call there will be negative personal and pastoral consequences in people’s lives.

433. In reading the Report two key questions for me are:

  • What, in the light of this report, would the Church of England say to someone – perhaps a Christian, perhaps someone considering discipleship – who says they identify as gay or lesbian or (increasingly likely) as bisexual, and asks how as a follower of Jesus to respond to their experiences of sexual attraction and whether they can enter a same sex sexual relationship or some other relationship structure?
  • What, in the light of this report, would the Church of England offer to wider society as the call of Christ when it is experiencing rapid rejection of traditional Christian sexual morality and asking major questions about sexual relationships?

434. I have concluded that the Report does not offer a consistent or coherent response to these questions in three key respects which shape the discussion that follows:

  1. The claim to ‘abide by the Church’s official teaching’ could give the impression that the Church still believes, as I do, that everyone should remain single and abstinent unless and until they find themselves able to marry someone of the opposite sex. But readers are not given reasons why they should do this. I do not see in the Report a clear Christian account of what it means to live a life of obedient love, a vision of the shape of holiness, a way of setting our story as sexual creatures in the biblical story of salvation, a message about what the gospel call to die and rise with Christ means (Paragraphs 436–448 below).
  2. Conversely there are statements in the Report that undermine confidence in traditional Christian teaching and give the impression that the Church has little or nothing to say about same sex relationships (Paragraphs 449–471 below).
  3. Examples of these two elements in the Report are its development of a Christian sexual ethic that says nothing about marriage between two people of the opposite sex (Paragraph 442) and its proposal that in public services recognition should be given to permanent same sex relationships. (Paragraphs 472–482 below).

435. As a result of these three features, I believe the Report will cause confusion to many faithful Anglicans, particularly those who experience same sex attraction. As a pastor and friend to such people I believe the Church should support and not undermine them. Two quotations from friends of mine, both of whom experience same sex attraction, will serve to illustrate this point:

‘To Anglicans like me who are same sex attracted, the Church of England’s increasingly ambiguous position on homosexuality is deeply confusing and distressing. It leaves us feeling unsupported in our loyalty to the Church’s previous clear teaching that sex is exclusively for the marriage of a man and a woman – and gives the impression that generations of believers wasted their lives in orientating their lives around this core biblical truth. It unlovingly gives men and women like me unclear signals as to how we should best live our lives in a Christ-like way, and raises the suspicion that the Church is keener on appeasing the world around us – rather than protecting us and preserving what it previously said was in our best interests.’

‘As someone who has experienced same sex attraction since my teens, I was so grateful that my Church showed me unconditional acceptance whilst gently guiding me to live according to the teaching of the Church of England. This pastoral care has enabled me and the many people in the same situation whom I know to flourish. We agree that the church’s failure at times to show unconditional acceptance to same sex attracted people is pastorally disastrous. But a dilution of the Church’s teaching would be equally disastrous, and a slap in the face to those who have quietly sought to live faithful lives.’

The Church needs to decide. If sex outside of the marriage of a man and woman is sinful, then the Church should support, commend and hold up as a clear example of discipleship those who despite being same-sex attracted refuse to let their bodies sin in this way. Alternatively if the Church thinks that some forms of sex outside of the marriage of a man and a woman are not sinful then it should have the courage of its convictions and tell those of us who have made the choices we have that we are wrong and misunderstand God’s call on out life. But the one thing it cannot do is fudge the issue and permit both contradictory positions at once. That is an utter theological nonsense.

My suspicion is that once this report gets to the House of Bishops there will be fireworks.

98 Comments on “Pilling – Two Thoughts

  1. In practice, though, the Church of England is very adept at allowing two contradictory positions to be held at once, albeit with an ‘official’ position which it is quite well known that it is permissible to dissent from.
    James Jones came to the conclusion that there simply are two different views and that rather than split the church, the two positions would have to learn to live to co-exist. I can see how difficult that would be for both sides, for the reasons you have given. Theologically its horribly messy. But then the CofE has always been like that.
    But given the position of the state and the established status of the church, I think there will inevitably have to be change if that status is to be maintained. So it may be a question of whether the two sides can co-exist or whether they will have to separate. It seems to me that they are moving apart, with some ever more willing to embrace a fully affirming position incorporating same sex marriage, others less willing to see the traditional view change.
    From having been involved in the church, to my current humanist stance, I really can’t see that there is all that much other than structure keeping the two broad views in the CofE together.

    • “But then the CofE has always been like that.”

      Actually, it seems rather clear to this observer that it has *not* “always been like that” with regard to allowing for two mutually exclusive “integrities.” That is a very new thing indeed—it originated in the sexual revolution of the late 1960’s and continues today.

      Engaging in these kinds of historical errors concedes far too much ground to the innovators: those who deny the Reformed Catholic faith of the Church of England as it has been understood from the c.16 till now.

      • Different wings of the church have held diametrically opposed beliefs on a whole range of things in the past. This is yet another.

        • Not before the 1960’s, the sexual revolution, and the breakdown of faith and order in the Church. This is clearly not in the same category as mere differences of party opinion with regard to doctrine. High, broad and low all with one voice opposed homosexuality as incompatible with Christian sexual ethics until recently.

          • Yes, and this is a question about sin, not just about forms of worship.

            Sin is deadly serious. Unrepented sin cuts you off from God – you can lose your faith.. And Jesus condemned religious leaders who lead people into sin in the strongest of terms!!

            • Well, at one time the Church of England was happily able to contain bishops and clergy who believed that slavery was perfectly legitimate and others who believed that it wasn’t. But perhaps you consider that a minor matter – certainly not one of sin?

                • I brought up the fact that some of the Church of England’s bishops and clergy supported slavery and some opposed it in reply to wyclif’s contention and to yours. I have shown quite clearly that both you and wyclif are wrong. On the question of slavery the Church of England DID at one time accommodate what wyclif calls ‘two mutually exclusive “integrities” ’ and, unless you believe that enslaving other human beings is not sinful, this accommodation of mutually contradictory opinions was in a question of sin. “Since when has one sin justified another?” you ask. My reply is that it never has done, but your question in this context is simply an evasion of my point.

                  I do not accept that gay sex is in itself sinful, but even if I am wrong and it is, then while another sin obviously cannot justify it, it is an extremely venial sin compared to keeping around 300 slaves on plantations in Barbados and branding the word “SOCIETY” on their backs with a red-hot iron – which is what the Church of England’s Society for the Propagation of the Gospel did. The Church of England left it till 2006 before it finally apologised for its involvement in and support of the slave trade.

                  • GM – people have done worse than that in the name of Christianity – but it doesn’t justify any other sin.. It’s a very immature to try to argue that ‘she did it first’ or ‘he is worse than me’

                    Similarly there is no reasonable interpretation of our Scriptures that accepts same-sex sex as righteous. I hope you will apologise to people you may have led into sin!

                    • GM – ok, I was answering your point by saying that disagreements having existed previously on other issues does not make disagreement on sexuality OK. I suspect you wouldn’t accept that argument, for instance if someone were trying to gain acceptance of diversity of views on the legitimacy of slavery today – for instance!!!!

                      However the slavery issue has some interesting features in common with the current sex debate… Slavery was common throughout much of history and so our Scriptures regulate it – rather than sanction it ( it was generally banned between Jewish people, and slave traders are condemned in the NT). In that context it isn’t surprising that there was a diversity of views about banning slavery…

                      Similarly, in our current context – where sex is pushed at us from all angles, sexual liberation has become seen as an essential right, and you are damned by society for disapproving of free choice, it is hardly surprising that there are some people whose views diverge from Christian truth.

                      However, I hope it won’t be too long before most come to their senses and realise that this is leading to all sorts of serious problems: relationally abusive attitudes, emotional and mental damage, irresponsible behaviour, spread of serious diseases, overstressed single mothers, and poor life outcomes for children. Then maybe we can begin to talk sensibly about the purposes of sex and marriage.. and why so many sexual relationships are condemned in Scripture.

                    • Paul’s Romans 13 assertion that *all* authorities are sanctioned by God would encompass slavery. He also orders slaves to obey their masters (1 Cor., Philemon) as part of his split between spiritual and material freedom. If anything has biblical warrant, slavery does.

                      Equal marriage doesn’t spring from counter-cultural “sexual liberation.” Just the opposite, the Sixties revolutionaries despised marriage as an oppressive relic. They didn’t want it reformed, they wanted it gone. Opening marriage to same-sex couples strengthens the institution. As Edmund Burke said, “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”

                      Lumping different types of change together produces poor analysis. Leaving aside slavery’s biblical sanction, the comparison only works in the abstract. The two situations are utterly different: the transatlantic slave trade was an economically-driven innovation, imposed by the powerful on the powerless; affirmation of LGBT people is a liberation movement that began with the victims and has won over society, against the weight of 2,000 years of tradition.

                      How likely is it that we’ll wake up to discover that it’s better after all for gay people to suppress their orientation? I’d say about as likely as deciding that the Bible had it right about slaveholding.

                    • JB – I’m glad you said that.

                      Firstly you have strange ideas abiut Romans 13. Are you seriously suggesting that it is a rationale interpretation that Paul thought God agrees with everything any human ruler does? Hardly a reasonable interpretation! You do need to think a bit harder about the Scriptures.

                      And “o yes it does!” – The groups that supported gay marriage were generally doing it because of their views about gay equality rather then their commitment to traditional lifelong exclusive marriage.

                      And you rather prove my point in your third paragraph when you argue that gay marriage is about LGBT (ie sexual) liberation.

                      The problem with your argument about overcoming 2000 years if tradition is that it is actually 50000+ years of the reality of human biology, physiology and family relationships that is being suppressed..

                    • Any Pauline strangeness is in the text! In the 17th century British wars, Romans 13 was *the* hot-button issue, used to justify the divine rights of kings. That we think it strange illustrates that we’re not, in practise, guided by scripture. What made sense to Paul is alien today.

                      You blur liberation from oppression and sexual liberation. Monogamous same-sex marriage is no more responsible for “high levels of serious disease” than monogamous opposite-sex marriage. They’re caused by risky sexual behavior, the anthesis of marriage, of any kind.

                      Would you return to “traditional” gender roles across the board? They were, after all, just as established as heterosexual dominance (more so, since heterosexuality only achieved dominance with the spread of Christianity).

                    • JB wrote “You blur liberation from oppression and sexual liberation.”

                      Err, no – it is you who convolutes the two to support your case.. So, when you write “affirmation of LGBT people is a liberation movement that began with the victims” you don’t just mean affrmation of each *person* regardless of characteristics… you mean “affirmation of *same-sex sex* is necessary because disapproval was oppressive people who are same sex attracted.”

                      Thus you neatly avoid having to address why, other than in limited psychological aspects, a sexual relationship between two people of the same sex is anywhere near equal to the marriage of a man and a woman. Nature doesn’t allow two men or two women to have sexual intercourse; it doesn’t allow them to produce their own family (inherently!); their relationshp doesn’t include both ways of being human; and they are generally much more promiscuous and disinclined to exclusivity (and why should they be?)

                    • “doesn’t allow them to produce their own family” What’s with this Jewish OT focus on being able to bear kids? What’s wrong with adopting?

                    • Indeed!

                      At a guess, after one argument after another topples, it’s about the only means left to distinguish gay and straight couples.

                    • If you read what I wrote you would see that I was focusing on the natural purposes of sex and marriage, and the way our bodies sex organs are designed…

                      Two men can’t have sexual intercourse, never mind not have a family together, because their sex organs are mutually incompatible..

                      But our bodies, minds and feelings should be in harmony. So the question is ‘what are the causes that lead to about 1 or 2% of women and men feeling primarily attracted to people of the same sex as themselves’?

                    • There is no “natural” purpose for marriage, it’s a social construct, regulated by society and Government that gives tax breaks to families etc.

                      Their sex organs aren’t “mutually incompatible”. They’re just used in a different way, just like mouths can be used to give oral sex.

                      If our bodies, minds and feelings should be in harmony, then isn’t gay marriage/relationship the best for gay men and women?

                    • Hamlet, mutual compatibilty means “mutual” as in “act together” – as in a penis and a vagina work together. Mutual masturbation is all that is possible with two penises or two vaginas. You seem to have a very synthetic worldview.

                    • A penis and anus work together, too. In general society, this is considered “sex”. It is you that seems to have the synthetic worldview.

                    • Hamlet said: “A penis and anus work together, too.”

                      So do two penises and hands – and at least that stimulates both men’s sex organs at the same time. But a penis has evolved to fit with a vagina… and an anus is there for another reason (as are hands and mouths). So sex between two people of a single sex isn’t natural in that sense. Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is what my, and your, sex organs have evolved for.

                      And I mean that your worldview is synthetic because you don’t recognize all the natural goods of sex and marriage -you have evaded those that don’t fit with homosexual relationships and you see marriage as just “a social construct” rather than seeing them within the whole natural context of being human.

                    • If you were so keen for sexual organs to be used “what the have evolved for”, you wouldn’t be a proponent of monagamous relationships. If procreation is what they were made for, we should be encouraging everyone to have as much unprotected sex as possible with the sole aim of conceiving as many children as possible. Don’t worry about who the fathers are – we can raise them as a community.

                      The simple matter is that you probably don’t believe that, so sex IS something more than just a penis and a vagina making babies.

                      And do you know what else isn’t “natural”? Dialysis machines. Open heart surgery. Insulin pumps. Caesareans.

                      Marriage has NO “natural context”. It is an entirely social construct. Again, as a race, we’d probably be far better of if we all spread our gene pools as far as possible and conceived as many children by as many different people as possible. There is no natural state of marriage; either legally or socially.

                    • What utter twaddle. According to your argument, the public purpose of marriage is to endorse relationships involving any and all forms of sex between consenting partners…Yet, it doesn’t. There are specified exclusions and your inane comparison with life-giving medical interventions as unnatural doesn’t change that fact.

                      There is a self-evident alimentary function of specialised mouth and throat organs. For comparison. let’s look at alimentation: another evolved function of the body. Few would dispute that mastication and swallowing are natural oral functions for consuming food. Not exclusive functions, mind you, but to reject these key functions purposefully is unnatural. Of course, the parallel to your counter-argument against natural self-evident function is to suggest that it implies that we should enforce chewing with ‘cut and swallow’ meal policing!

                      Of course, there are people who, because of ill health, receive sustenance through nasogastric intubation.

                      Nevertheless, while the mouth may have a myriad of other uses, there is no obligation on either government or private enterprise to recognise and validate a healthy individual’s predisposition towards intubation.

                      I wonder how the liberal press would frame such a voluntary intubation campaign: ‘Feeding funnel freedom’? ‘Alternative alimentation for all’? Or simply, ‘Chewing is a choice’?

                      Yet, the social affirmation theory of marriage demands that we dignify and endorse (rather than just permit) relationships that reject the self-evident purpose of our sex organs. A blatant hypocrisy!

                    • The public purpose of marriage is to endorse whatever current society wants to endorse. Marriage is nothing more than legislation, and legislation is nothing more than what politicians want (and they, of course, should be serving the general public). Marriage is not “natural”.

                      I do not deny that there is a natural (evolved?) purpose for sex, and that it is procreation. I do not reject that function. But I think you and DR are rejecting other functions of sexual organs in non-heterosexual relationships.

                      The simple matter is that some people experience same-sex attraction, and there is no basis to argue that they must only engage in procreative sex simply because it is the evolved (“natural”) function of their sexual organs. If homosexuality is a “natural” occurrence in humans and animals, then isn’t homosexual sex also “natural”?

                    • ‘Marriage is nothing more than legislation, and legislation is nothing more than what politicians want (and they, of course, should be serving the general public).’

                      Unfortunately, this position (‘nothing more’) is as reductive as claiming sex is nothing more than procreation) It’s even worse than the social affirmation theory, since the latter, at least, attempts to advance a consistent reason why marriage existed as a universal custom in pre-political societies.

                      The focus of these customs has always been to formalise biological kinship responsibilities laterally (between the couple themselves and their respective families) and vertically (between successive generations) in advance of the likely impact of heterosexual union. Marriage has always been restricted to the types of sexual relationships with potential for this impact.

                      One aspect of biological kinship is the rebuttable paternal presumption. While paternity can now be ascertained through DNA testing, the public exchange of vows remains the best means of registering the right and voluntary commitment of a spouse to the life-long care of not only his partner, but also their offspring.

                      On the basis of biological likelihood, marriage legally assigns a rebuttable presumption of parenthood to a woman’s spouse.

                      What happens in the case of an informal agreement with a man to participate in unregulated assisted reproduction? If the couple consider the biological father’s involvement has become intrusive, HFEA rules no longer apply. So should the willing biological father’s parenthood be recognised legally, or rejected? Or should an equivalent same-sex presumption of parenthood (based on an outright impossibility) take precedence over all other claims? Absent the consent of the biological father, on what basis could a false presumption be upheld? Superior intention through marriage? That is an unnatural precedence.

                      I predict that, as has happened elsewhere, liberals will will argue for a groundless unrebuttable presumption of parenthood through same-sex marriage, thereby subverting primary blood relations and the unsurrendered parental rights of biological fathers.

                    • All societies have politics, regardless of whether they are regulated or not.

                      Marriage has been used by society to regulate the inheritance of things. Primarily, this has happened through the procreative act.

                      But it is still a custom that is enforced by society. If I claimed to enter into a polygamous marriage whilst in the UK, “marrying” in the UK, nobody would accept it. It’s not socially binding. It is not a marriage – it is a polyamorous relationship. Whatever marriage is, it is defined by the prevalent culture in society, normally for specific reasons. 3,000 years ago, that was the inheritance of wealth, and it was so important that as Jew you were commanded to sleep with your brother’s widow if he died so you could procure him heirs to his inheritance.

                      Obviously, we don’t practise that any more, and marriage has undergone a sort of transformation, to something that is now for two people who love each other deeply and want to commit themselves to one another. As marriage is a socially fluid concept, there is no reason why marriage should not be open to same-sex couples, if society so wants it. And society does.

                      What the technicalities of such a change are are a whole different matter, one that you outline quite succinctly – how do we deal with parenthood issues? But just because there are questions to be asked doesn’t mean the entire basis of gay marriage is invalidated.

                    • I am using the phrase ‘pre-political’ in the same sense as Locke: that marriage existed before the arbitration of natural self-interest by communities and then by the representative decision -making of government.

                      I would agree that marriage has been used by society to regulate the inheritance of things, but what of it? This still does not speak to the essence of marriage: the aspect of its shared social meaning that remains constant and unchanging.

                      Interesting, in respect of inheritance, Sir William Blackstone, father of the common law, also declared of marriage: ‘A possibility of issue is always supposed to exist, in law, unless extinguished by the death of the parties; even though the donees be each of them an hundred years old.’ This is, of course, meaningless to same-sex couples.

                      You claim that ‘marriage…is now for two people who love each other deeply and want to commit themselves to one another’ If this succinctly encompassed the nature of marriage, it would also provide the basis for prohibitions on close-family and polygamous marriage, but it doesn’t. According to your definition, why should these proscriptions remain in place?

                      I would argue that it is because marriage has not only a private purpose (as you describe), but also a public purpose: to uphold the primacy of responsible biological kinship. While other aspects of marriage might be socially fluid, this public purpose remains at the core of the institution of marriage. It also explains why marriage is a part of public policy.

                      I have cited where same-sex marriage would undermine that public purpose by overriding a fundamental right of biological parenthood. Your response is to reduce it to another technicality. Yet, it’s clear that it is much more than that when the European Court of Human Rights sagely declared in Schalke vs. Austria that marriage ‘is geared towards the fundamental possibility of parenthood’.

                      As marriage is a socially fluid concept, there is no reason why marriage should not be open to same-sex couples, if society so wants it. And society does.

                      Well, no. Society wasn’t given a choice, just a sham of a Lib-Dem initiated ‘consultation’ that the major parties supported in their eagerness to modernise and court a new cadre of well-heeled outspoken media-savvy activists for whom same-sex marriage was a non-negotiable term of political engagement. There was no convincing majority in the polls conducted during the course of the bill through on same-sex marriage.

                      While an institution may appear to change by political fiat, but that’s just law. In every day life, a lot more than legislation is required for that change to perpetuate throughout successive generations.

                      The whole fiction will begin to unravel as soon as gay couples who said they ‘only want to love each other’ then decide that they also ‘only want to have a normal family’ without the intrusion of the child’s biological father.

                    • “Liberation” is used in two separate contexts: breaking free of oppression; and Austin Powers. Opening marriage to LGBT people does not obligate them to participate in the sex olympics.

                      As for why equal marriage is equal: the relationships of gay and lesbian couples exhibit the same qualities as straight relationships. All people, regardless of sexual orientation, can be promiscuous. Marriage provides a framework to counteract our instinct to spread our genes far and wide. Anyone who dislikes promiscuity ought surely to be encouraging as much marriage as possible. If gay couples are excluded from the social and institutional affirmation that straights take for granted, what d’you expect will happen?

                      I’ve no idea why humans (and the rest of the animal kingdom) have evolved hetro- and homosexual orientations. The fact is that they have, and it’s a lot healthier to treat the majority and minority equally. Not to mention just.

                    • Err, women are not just feminine men, and men are not just masculine women, so it is not enough to suggest that “gay and lesbian couples exhibit the same qualities as straight relationships.” You are only looking at some emotional aspects; you are not addressing the differences between men and women’s psychology; and you’ve completely ignored the other purposes of marriage…

                      And it is inaccurate that humans have evolved as hetro- or homosexuals. Human bodies, human reproduction and human families have evolved around sex between a man and a woman. Homosexuality is purely of the mind, isn’t it?

                    • By that token, not all men are the same and not all women are the same either. At what point do we consider a collective rather than the individual?

                      Weird, then, that almost every species of animal exhibits some element of homosexuality, isn’t it? I read at one point that homosexuality, actually, might be an evolutionary tool for large families to ensure that other siblings can be cared for etc.

                      Everything is purely “of the mind”. Everything, at some level (including religious experiences) works on the basic level of neurones firing off. So I don’t know what point you’re trying to make there.

                    • I don’t think that you can realistically claim that animals are orientated in the same way that humans experience it – remember those NY penguins that split up when more females were introduced into the enclosure… and the furore in Hamburg when it was planned to do the same there and seem what their “gay penguins” did?

                      On the second point I think we have come to a fundamental error in your thinking. We are certainly not only of the mind – we are whole persons. Our operceptions do not define reality, so homosexual orientation does not define who we are. We *are* men or women; our orientation is purely psychological.

                    • I would point you to the Wikipedia article on the matter, which is very interesting. This doesn’t just seem to be a case of a penguin or two gettings “confused”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals

                      We certainly are only of the mind. Are you really trying to argue that a braindead person is still “alive”? Their body may be – we can keep bodies alive indefinitely, all it requires is oxygen and an artificial pump. But the person isn’t really alive, are they?

                      Errr…homosexual identity defines who we are as much as anything else. You’re a Christian? Isn’t that “of the mind” too? Clearly not real then! Even people who define themselves by their sex rather than their orientation (eg. Peter, if I understand correctly) still call themselves “post-gay”. So even they identify, to an extent, with such a label.

                      We are biologically men and women (and intersex/trans in some cases). But that is just what dangly bits we have (or don’t). What is far more interesting, and what you seem to avoid, is the question of how much of masucline and feminine behaviour is down to social conditioning etc.

                    • To clarify: I don’t necessarily propose that human homosexuality is related or similar to homosexual behaviour in animals, but I think it raises interesting questions on the evolutionary process and how homosexuality isn’t somehow some abhorrent perversion of nature but seems to be part of nature itself.

                    • Yup, it sure does.

                      The evolutionary purpose of a homosexual orientation is interesting to speculate about, but insofar as ethics go, it’s sufficient to say that homosexuality exists, and the wellbeing of lesbian and gay people is maximized when their orientation is accepted and affirmed by society.

                      If it wasn’t for commands taken as holy writ, that’d be the end of it, which is why, for most people, it is.

                    • Read it now. Two thoughts.

                      The small sample sizes in and of themselves are not a problem. However, none of the key observations in Table 1 were statistically significant. The study would need to be repeated with a larger sample.

                      I’m trying to get hold of the “gay stress” values from Rosario 2002 so I can have a look at that. We need to know what those events are before we can accurately comment on the claim that:

                      “GLB-related stress is linked to both internalized homonegativity and HPA dysregulation. Thus, GLB young adults who experienced higher incidences of stressful interpersonal events regarding their sexual orientation also manifested adverse reactions to these stressors at both the psychological and physiological level”

                      If we don’t know what the stress events are we can’t come to a conclusion about whether the internalised homonegativity (a much more useful word than homophobia) is something that is simply intrinsic to the homosexual condition OR something that only occurs when enforced externally.

                      Make sense?

                    • Yep. :)

                      I agree that it needs follow-ups, with a variety of demographics and locations. I also agree that more biographic info would be useful. The important thing is that its methodology and core finding — IH correlates with measurable stress-indicators — are a solid basis for further research.

                      Other, more generalized research into the effects of ostracism and negativity (i.e., Karen Bierman’s ‘Peer Rejection’) is also applicable to my claim, in that the wellbeing of *anyone* is tied to social acceptance and affirmation.

                    • IH correlates with measurable stress-indicators

                      Meh. It correlates but not highly (we’re talking the data in figs 2 and 3 here). r of 0.35 is nothing to shout home about. And the crunch is the actual models themselves which are statistically insignificant.

                      We really need a larger sample. At the moment if anybody wanted to hang anything off this research but at the same time reject Jones and Yarhouse I’d want to ask them one or two probing questions about bias…


                    • I accept the finding of Jones and Yarhouse, namely, that a minority of highly-motivated people reported a shift in their sexual orientation. I have no reason to doubt that their reports are sincere.

                      That they felt it necessary to do seek that change is, to me, the issue worth focusing on. What factors lay behind it? Would they have sought change regardless of social and theological pressure? And so on.

                    • Here’s also a problem with the paper.

                      What is particularly striking, and alarming, is that we observed these relations among physiological, psychological and social variables despite the fact that this group of GLB young adults reported fairly low levels of GLB-related stress. The participants in this study lived in a relatively tolerant and accepting urban environment, and had experienced relatively few incidences of victimization and other GLB-related stressful events in the preceding three months.
                      Thus, the adverse impact of stressors on well-being does not appear to require over-whelming or constant barrages against a person. It would appear that even rather infrequent or constrained experiences of direct discrimination can hurt the mind and body.

                      So what they’re saying is that even when participants report little GLB-related stress, we still put the results down to GLB-related stress, even if there were only a few instances. Hmmmmmmm…….

                    • The differences between male and female psych (if they exist at all, and whether they’re more nurture than nature) are, I think, way too complex to go into here. Peter Ould’s already posted about the issue: if you want to discuss it, why not head over there?

                      Some people are sexually oriented towards their own gender, some towards the opposite gender. Whether this is “purely of the mind” (whatever that means, the mind is a function of the brain) is by the by. That’s the situation, and I see no reason why society shouldn’t affirm gay relationships. Reproduction will get along just fine regardless.

                    • JB wrote: “Some people are sexually oriented towards their own gender, some towards the opposite gender. …. That’s the situation, and I see no reason why society shouldn’t affirm gay relationships.”

                      JB, I guess you would agree that society should not affirm sexual attractions and relationships that are problematic (I’m assuming that, though you see no problem with homosexual sex, you do see some forms of sexual attraction as inappropriate to act on).

                      But I would dispute the equivalence you are drawing between homosexual attraction and the male-female attraction that nearly everyone experiences. The problem with this equivalence is the reduced functionality (physically, reproductively and sociologically) and the small number of case (1-2%). I wonder what causes homosexuality?

                      ps To be clear: I do agree that each person has to be affirmed by society – not just those whose sexuality I (or you, or society) currently see as good. And, there are many forms of relationship that I think w should avoided, even though they do have good aspects.

                    • Consent should be the primary consideration when it comes to affirmation. Factors like betrayal and harm are also relevant.

                      Before we get to the evidence, the issue of authority should be addressed. If gay relationships are condemned out of a belief in biblical authority, then we have an ulterior motive at work, and harm and nature aren’t the real issues.

                      The really interesting question: how and why is a belief in biblical authority formed?

                    • “The problem with this equivalence is the reduced functionality (physically, reproductively and sociologically)…”

                      At least 95% of people, at the most parsimonious estimate, are heterosexual. Why, therefore, is the small reduction in reproductive functionality – only 1-2%, according to you – a problem? I don’t see it. (And I’d guess that it’s smaller than the reduction caused by heterosexual people not reproducing, for one reason or another.)

                      What is meant by the reduced physical functionality? The fact that the sexual activity of a gay couple cannot, by the nature of their physiology, be the same as that of a straight couple? If so, why is that a problem? I don’t see it.

                      What is meant by the reduced sociological functionality? The fact that a small minority is, in this respect, different from the majority? If so, why is that a problem? I don’t see it.

                      “…and the small number of case[s] (1-2%).”

                      Why is the small number of “cases” a problem? I don’t see it.

                      “So I wonder what causes homosexuality?”

                      So do I. I also wonder what causes heterosexuality. Despite innumerable theories, ranging from the plausible to the screwball, we still don’t know the answer to either question. There are countless other academic questions about all manner of things which remain as yet unanswered. That needn’t stop us from calmly accepting that, no matter what the causes may be, most people are heterosexual, but a small minority are not, and from happily getting on with our lives and letting others do likewise.

                      As for the matter of “equivalence”, arguments about that are, for all practical purposes, a waste of time. The word means, literally, equality of value. It is perfectly possible to argue that a gay relationship has not, from a purely objective point of view, the same value as a straight one, since it cannot produce an important effect that the latter can, viz. procreation. But what of it? That does not stop a gay relationship from being perfectly legitimate and deserving of respect.

  2. “Second, where does the Pilling Report leave people like myself, who
    despite not being heterosexual have fashioned their lives to surrender
    to God’s will for human sexual functioning as outlined in Scripture? By
    suggesting that sexual relationships between two people of the same-sex
    can be affirmed, Pilling says to me and many others that we didn’t need
    to make the sacrifices and difficult choices that we did. It is to all
    intents and purposes a slap in our face.” Peter Ould

    This is obviously a personal remark I am about to make but it is in response to the paragraph I quote and which you have chosen to publicise on a widely-visited blog.

    Surely you married your wife because you love her in her own right for who she is, rather than as a ‘second prize’ because you sacrificed what you *really* wanted. Will Mrs.Ould get the heave-ho if the ‘facilitated conversations’ result in a change in Church policy?

    Laurence Cunnington

    • I think that Peter may have made the sacrifices of which he speaks before he discovered the rewarding relationship that became his marriage. But don’t let that stop your impertinence.

      You’re on an eternal roll now…aren’t you?

  3. So, Pilling becomes the basis for authorising a public rite without liturgy or theological consensus:

    Para. 382: ‘Anxiety about opening the way to celebrating relationships that do not conform to the church’s teaching penalizes those gay and lesbian Christians who steadfastly seek to live by that teaching in enduring and faithful relationships. And, in any event, the House of Bishops acknowledged, as long ago as 1991 in Issues in Human Sexuality, that gay and lesbian lay Christians might in good conscience decide to enter into sexually faithful monogamous relationships. Moreover, some form of celebration of civil partnerships in a church context is widely seen as a practice that would give a clear signal that gay and lesbian people are welcome in church.

    So, according to Pilling, to not afford vicars (with the approval of their PCCs) permission to lead celebrations of same-sex relationships is an unfair penalty. The reason it’s declared unfair is that, apart from engaging in same-sex acts that contradict the church’s teaching, apparently they are steadfastly seeking to live by the church’s teaching.

    So, the new meaning of steadfast is ‘in other ways’…Right!

    Para. 387 also cites the 2005 Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships. Yet, in the same guidance, the House of Bishops claimed that the overarching concern about public rites was, in the absence of theological consensus, the capacity to cause division. That the public celebration by any minister would be an expression of what we believe. The affirmation on behalf of the whole church by the connivance towards same-sex acts is not ameliorated by absence of a prescribed liturgy. By comparison with the presence of the minister, the use of formal words becomes a secondary semantic issue. It is the representative authority of the celebrant that acts as a focus of church consensus in an episcopal polity. In what other away should we understand the designation of vicar?

    ‘The House believes that the practice of the Church of England needs to reflect the pastoral letter from the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Pentecost 2003 which said:
    ‘The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites’.

    A church in self-contradiction cannot be trusted.

  4. Stop being facetious.

    As David said, the sacrifices were made before and they continue to be made. They are made by those men and women who remain single despite being deeply attracted to people who would reciprocate that attraction. They lead to discoveries of God’s blessing and providence that you at the moment wouldn’t get to understand because your sexual life is in rebellion to God’s intent for you.

    YOU have the same calling I do as does every man and woman on this planet. It is screaming out at you from the pages of Scripture, but you have chosen to close your heart and mind to it. That is your decision.

  5. I am not going to comment on anyone’s personal circumstances. I will not forbear, however, from remarking that to bring forward the fact that people have accepted and endured hardship, unhappiness or inconvenience through their decision to obey a particular teaching as a reason why that teaching should not be changed or rescinded is one of the world’s worst arguments. (On whether or not the teaching is actually correct it has, of course, no bearing whatever.)

    Let us look, for example, at the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their position on blood transfusions. (No, I’m not talking about the soundness or unsoundness of the JWs’ doctrines in general, so let’s not get side-tracked onto that.) Should they change their position? I’m not asking whether they WILL change it; I don’t suppose that they will in the foreseeable future, but I wouldn’t honestly know. I merely ask, SHOULD they? I am very definitely of the opinion that they should, but whether they should or not, it would NOT be a valid argument against changing it to say, “Just consider all the Witnesses who have nobly sacrificed their lives by putting their belief about the sinfulness of blood transfusions into practice, thus setting such a clear example of discipleship. To change or dilute that teaching would amount to saying that they didn’t need to make the sacrifices and difficult choices that they did. And it would be a slap in the face to their faithful Witness families who similarly practised what they preached and, even in the face of imminent bereavement, encouraged their dangerously ill relatives to remain steadfast in their loyalty to the Watchtower teaching.”

    Have the sacrifices made by these staunch, sincere Jehovah’s Witnesses been unnecessary? Objectively speaking, yes, I’m afraid that they have been.

    • But the point of what you are saying GM is that the JW teaching is wrong. We don’t think the sacrifice is worth it because the teaching is wrong.

      And that’s the point isn’t it? Either the Bible calls us to celibacy or matrimony OR it calls us to same-sex relationships and matrimony. If I am wrong then I am to be pitied for sacrificing. If am correct then I am to be commended. But what cannot be true is that I am to be commended and pitied at the same time.

      • Yes, Peter, precisely. Like you, I believe the JW teaching on blood transfusions to be wrong, and that is why I think it ought to be changed. But whether or not I am right, the difficult decisions and sacrifices made by some JWs in obedience to that teaching do not constitute a valid argument against changing it.

        Likewise, whether or not I am right in my dissent from traditional teaching on homosexual relationships, the difficult decisions and sacrifices made by some Christians in obedience to that teaching do not constitute a valid argument against changing it.

      • Alternatively, in-line with the norms of his time and culture, a man named Paul of Tarsus condemned same-sex copulation, and Paul was wrong. A determination we can make if we reject biblical authority (or even biblical inerrancy).

        We can affirm gay relationships without resorting to eisegesis. A letter in the Bible condemns homosexual acts, and the condemnation is wrong.

        The way in which this disagreement is framed illustrates why it’s a bad idea to treat any person as God’s mouthpiece, and why appeals to authority are a fallacy.

        • So let’s get this right. A man (Paul) inspired by God, producing Scripture that was breathed by the Holy Spirit was actually writing something in complete contradiction to God’s intent?


          • I suppose that JB is free to reject the authority of the Christian canon of Scripture – but I don’t see how he can do that without rejecting orthodox Christianity.

            • If orthodox Christianity is defined by the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, there’s nothing there that makes my position unorthodox. They don’t mention the Bible.

              Why would they? At the time, Bible and church were considered inseparable. Rejecting the authority of the “one holy catholic and apostolic Church” is, by light of those creeds, far more of a slap in the face of orthodox Christianity than rejecting the authority of the Bible. (Not that the 4th century church still exists, of course.)

              Biblical authority only gained prominence because the 16th century reformers wanted a counter-authority to the church. It was about power from the beginning. Our authority trumps your authority.

              How would the Anglican church be harmed by openly doing away with it? (It already has in practice, by ignoring what the Bible says about slavery, divorce, and male headship.)

              • “If orthodox Christianity is definer by the Nicene creed…”

                Err, I think you will find that the various creeds were developed from baptismal confessions of faith and added to to address the various serious heresies that arose in the church in the first few centuries.

                So, if you don’t agree with them you are not orthodox. But you could agree with them and still be heretical at some point not addressed. After all, as the saying goes, the devils believe and tremble.

                Orthodoxy and orthopraxy are defined by the teachings of Christ and His apostles.

      • “Second, where does the Pilling Report leave people like myself, who
        despite not being heterosexual have fashioned their lives to surrender
        to God’s will for human sexual functioning as outlined in Scripture?” .

        “not being heterosexual” – Not being heterosexual -meaning you’re attracted to both men and women. Or you were once attracted to both male and female and now you’re no longer attracted to males. I’m seeing this attempt to confuse the public a lot more lately. You use Leftist sexual philosophy that asserts that male sexuality, just like female, is fluid. There are males that are attracted to females and there are some that aren’t. Your story doesn’t disclose that you’re bisexual but rather tries to mislead the public into believing that through faith you transformed into heterosexuality directly from homosexuality. In order to deceive the public further you call yourself “non-heterosexual”.

        Gay males (homosexuals) are the same as fully heterosexual males but on the opposite spectrum. We don’t have attraction to females. The possibility of being married to a female and performing as a husband isn’t there. Yes, that includes sexual intercourse. It’s funny, but not really, that the LGBT movement embraces bisexual males but it’s most often bisexual males that take part in these conversion hoaxes against fully monosexual gay males.

        Thank you for participating in these hoaxes and doing your most holy work to keep gay male relationships from being blessed by the Church of England.

        • “Gay males (homosexuals) are the same as fully heterosexual males but on the opposite spectrum. We don’t have attraction to females. The possibility of being married to a female and performing as a husband isn’t there. Yes, that includes sexual intercourse.”

          And yet my life demonstrates that this statement, a carthe blance demand that homosexual sexual orientation must equal homosexual sexual identity, is simply inadequte to explain the full variety of human sexual experience.

          • That’s funny. I said a lot more than that in my response to you. You took out the parts where I discussed how you’re bisexual and not gay (monosexual, same-sex attracted). Bisexuals would be attracted to members of both genders. But not everyone is bisexual. Bisexuals often times identify as gay (monosexual same sex attracted) but you’re still different from gay males in regard to your orientation. I’ve come across bisexuals putting themselves up as examples of gays who can change their sexuality. It’s deception to achieve your own end.

              • My, you are quick to anger. Please reference your Bible to address Also projecting your insecurity on me is a transparent tactic used by those like yourself. This isn’t my first time debating your kind. Gay male sexuality is constantly under attack from both the Left and the Right. I’ve noticed that those on the Right are now using the same fashionable terms as those on the Left. Basically willing to throw all male sexuality under the bus for the sake of destroying gays. Male sexuality isn’t really that complicated. “Agenda”. LOL. Put down your pamphlet liar. Your kind is always exposed. No matter what terms and language you use. Your name calling is ineffective.

          • But surely now you are married and clearly attracted to your wife, you wouldn’t be seen as strictly homosexual?

            • My remarks have shut him up. I’ve come across the “homosexual identity doesn’t mean homosexual sexual identity” thing before. It’s used by both those who want to appear fashionable as well as those who want gays to be converted to heterosexuals. When you unravel the web of confusion they’ve created and call them out they shut up. Or they call you names over and over again.

  6. But let’s not stop at declaring Paul’s pronouncements against same-sex acts to be erroneous. Without his use of marriage to depict the mystery of Christ and the church, the NT ideal of monogamy goes away, ending years of legalised discrimination against marriage in pother religious traditions. Problem solved.

    Equally, we could chide Paul’s insensitive prohibitions against the budding romance towards a Corinthian woman who had finally found love in the arms of her stepson, or those who just happen to experience genetic sexual attraction.

    Paul also shows no awareness of the biological correlation between the DRD4 gene and unbridled sexual desire.

    Of course, if God did establish sex and marriage to be congruent with responsible biological kinship, any explanation of sexual union would be set within that context of leaving the descent group to re-unite what was parted through sexual differentiation in creation.

    Alas, for that to be true, the explanation: ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.’ (Gen. 2:24) would have to follow an account of the sexual differentiation upon which it is predicated.

    • As you’ve helpfully shown by citing Paul’s condemnation of incest, we judge opinions on their merits. Implicit in your example is that the wrongness of incest is self-evident. For good reason, you haven’t selected headscarves, submission to government, or slavery, because in all, we reject Paul in both theory and practice. If the Euthyphro riff held good, we’d treat all Paul’s views equally. And yet we don’t, ’cause we judge the Bible, not vice versa.

      • I guess that it’s refreshing that you didn’t resort to the shop-worn ‘do you eat shellfish or wear mixed fibres?’ arguments, but strangely I haven’t defended biblical inerrancy at all. So, that’s just a ‘straw man’.

        I’m also not sure how the entire table of kindred and affinity by which we determine incest prohibitions is self-evident. So, perhaps you can enlighten us. Especially when the ban on the post-divorce marriage of step-relations was lifted in the last few years.

        Cousin marriage is allowed in some US states, some of them insisting that the couple agree to undergo genetic screening to eliminate inbreeding depression. Genetic sexual attraction is a medically recognised reality.

        Polygamy is, at the very least, permitted in the Old Testament and is still practiced in many civilised societies today. While a polygamous union cannot be solemnised in the UK, polygamous marriages are recognised for the sake of social security entitlements.

        The focus of marriage, with which the Bible concurs, is on maintaining congruence with and the the primacy of responsible biological kinship. Even the European Court of Human Rights, so often the vanguard of gay advocacy, held in Schalke v. Austria that the status of marriage is assigned to those types of sexual relationships that are ‘geared towards the fundamental *possibility* of parenthood’. So, the marriage prohibitions have thus far objectively excluded types of sexual relationships that are not geared towards parenthood as a fundamental possibility.

        Of course, the tiresomely trite ‘what about infertile and elderly couples?’ response is trotted out, until someone points out that infertility and age are not types of sexual relationship and so escapes prohibition.

        On that basis, same-sex marriage is no more than a flimsy politically motivated special pleading. The church has no responsibility to capitulate to it.

        • “… I haven’t defended biblical inerrancy at all. So, that’s just a ‘straw man’.”

          Never said you did. :)

          What is your position on biblical authority, and on our ability to form ethical judgments independently of the canon of scripture? Do we need the Bible to tell us right and wrong, or can we work it out for ourselves?

          Morality isn’t self-evident, no, but it can appear so through familiarity.

          As I disagree with the proposition that marriage should focus on procreation, concurrence from either the Bible or the ECHR is by the by.

          • Taking the last point first, you might disagree with the implied legal rationale behind marriage as much as I might disagree that with the implied legal rationale behind British Citizenship. What your position lacks is a cogency with other marital prohibitions, such as incest and polygamy. They all become mere cultural taboos unless there is a coherent shared social meaning of marriage revealed in the law.

            The legal framework of marriage case law and statute law upholds the primacy of responsible biological kinship, whether by descent or affinity. Biological kinship formation is not the same as procreation.

            You ask whether we should be able to form judgements about right and wrong independently of the bible.

            First, it’s somewhat ironic that the much maligned St. Paul holds to our ability to do so, by saying in Romans 2:14,15: ‘(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them)’

            At the same time, any assumption that the Bible must be wrong where our independent judgement disagrees with it is equally flawed. And no, I’m not implying that you said that.

            Nevertheless, let’s consider heathen idolatry. It is centred on self-protective transactions that attempt to placate an array of supernatural beings representing the unpredictable forces of nature and the overarching imperatives that are held to unite societies (including wealth accumulation).

            In Romans 1, St. Paul challenges idolatry as a rejection of what is self-evident of God’s power and supreme authority and universally discernible from the natural world.

            Before the Areopagus, rather than resorting to any mention of Jewish scriptures, he railed on Athens’ paltry attempts to liken deity to depictions of His subordinate creation as a gross self-evident disparagement. Yet, atheists would also reason against Paul that God is far self-evident from the natural universe. Why wouldn’t you agree with them? What framework of independent reasoning leads you to believe otherwise.

            However, as you are aware, in Romans 1, Paul goes on to cite a behavioural impact of this mental abandonment of what is self-evident about God from nature for the wilful imaginative licence of idolatry. He describes a concomitant wilful imaginative licence to persist in rejecting what self-evidently deduced to be our originating nature to include homosexual relations.

            I don’t see how it’s intellectually honest to reject the latter argument as erroneously far from self-evident, yet hold to the evidence of God from nature as gloriously obvious. Maybe you are an atheist. However, both of St. Paul’s arguments, whether decrying idolatry or concomitant homosexual acts, are from self-evidence.

            • On marriage: my view that marriage is a social affirmation of two adults who love one another is perfectly cogent. Incest, with its issues of abuse, power imbalance and genetics, is different in kind, as is polygamy in simple terms of numbers.

              I’m not clear what authority you’ve giving the Bible, if any. Paul’s “law of the Spirit,” where God uploads ethics to the believer, is at-odds with current evangelical norms. If you reject those, as is of course your right, what position do you hold?

              As for atheism, I run with John Macquarrie’s line that our knowledge is subject to the limits of our perceptions. None of us knows what awaits in the undiscovered country. Revelation, if it exists, would be imperfect for the same reason.

              • You identify issues of abuse, power imbalance and genetics as justification for prohibting close family marriage.
                If marriage is no more than the social affirmation of two adults, genetics is a procreative matter, which you claim is not the focus of marriage. The possibility of inbreeding depression can also be ameliorated by modern screening processes.
                Issues of abuse and power imbalance are just as possible when there is a significantly large age gap between partners, yet the law does not prevent that. So, the principle that you present as the basis for marital exclusions is not resilient.
                The prohibition on incest is predicated upon its incongruence with and contradiction of the long-established biological kinship responsibilities that would already exist between close family members.
                I raised the issue of atheism only as it relates to the self-evident guilt of idolatry. Whatever awaits in the undiscovered country, people make choices down here about the nature of God. Imperfect revelation through nature is like a body of circumstantial evidence in court for which more than one explanation is possible. Juries still manage to make reasoned inferences from such evidence, though it may well result in harsh consequences for the defendant.
                St. Paul agrees that our knowledge is limited, but enough to determine our priorities in life. Juries can’t just opt out, perpetually crying ‘insufficient evidence’ and neither can we. Just as we permit the process of sifting through evidence to deliver a damning verdict: ‘If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater’ (1 John 5:9)
                The lives that we live and personal choices that we make are our verdicts upon whatever circumstantial evidence of the deity is revealed through nature.

                • Evidence: juries can opt-out, either by bringing in an acquittal if prosecutor fails to meet their burden, or by hanging and forcing a retrial. Guilty verdicts are also provisional, in that they can be vacated on appeal.

                  If the legal analogy is applied to the Bible, we should be tentative in our conclusions, and reassess the biblical material when evidence goes against it. Paul was wrong in his belief that the world was about to end, wrong in his acceptance of slavery, and wrong in issuing a blanket condemnation of homosexual copulation. He was a prisoner of his culture, and I don’t believe that we should blindly follow culture.

                  Marriage: affirmation is subject to reasonableness. Incest, in general, brings problems that neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality bring. Even if a particular incestuous relationship is healthy, and a particular marriage unhealthy, incest in general isn’t something that society ought to affirm. As with the age of majority, we must generalize.

                  • An analogy is does not require perfect comparison. The simple point that I made was that inference from circumstantial evidence is perfectly admissible. An acquittal is not opting out of jury duty, a verdict of not guilty has been rendered. Even a hung jury has a consequence. I reiterate that our life choices are our verdict on the evidence of nature.

                    Again, Paul’s insistence that Christians maintain a state of heightened readiness in preparation for Christ’s return did not mean that he claimed specific knowledge that the world was about to end. Perhaps, you can point me to where he said that.

                    As you denouce Paul’s tolerance of slavery, why not also condemn Christ’s tolerance of brutal Roman tyranny, always stopping short of calling for direct action against the Herodian dynasty and Caesar?

                    I’ve shown that the generalised problems that you attribute to incest are neither exclusive to it, nor are they unsurmountable. Yet, the legal prohibition is in place that is not applied to the similar generalised problems arising from major age differences between partners.

                    You’ve failed to establish a cogent argument for the marital exclusions that remain in place. In contrast, congruence with the primacy of responsible biological kinship is the cogent basis for not only marriage, but also the continued exclusion of incest and polygamy. Same-sex marriage is simply a special pleading to placate gay political activism.

                    • Paul’s opinion is both admissible and wrong. The two are not incompatible.

                      Paul’s belief in an impending eschaton can be found in 1st Corinthians c.7, echoing a widespread belief among early Christians (saving-throws introduced at the end of John’s Gospel and 2 Peter c.3), and indeed, Jesus of Nazareth himself.

                      If Jesus hadn’t believed that Adonai was about to descend from the clouds in judgment, perhaps he would’ve supported active resistance to Rome. As he thought Adonai was about to send in an airstrike, he had no objection to violence per se.

                      Coming back to marriage, if you could establish that a wide age gap was, generally, as harmful as incest, you’d have made a case for a close-in-age restriction. Sexuality would be irrelevant. Likewise, if a harm principle is applied, your focus on childbearing may be distinctive, but it’s also irrelevant unless you show that childless marriages are, generally, so harmful that society ought to ban them. Arguing that only curly-haired couples should be allowed to marry would be equally distinctive, and equally irrelevant.

                    • What I asked for was evidence of that Paul claimed specific knowledge that the world was about to end. Instead of quotations demonstrating specific knowledge, you cite passages in which he encourages Christians to remain in a heightened state of readiness.

                      Jesus had no problems with His ability to invoke supernatural violence to overturn injustice. Would you have advocated relying on this approach alone as the means to abolish slavery?

                      You also have no objective basis for measuring the relative harm of close family marriages or for advancing it as the reason that society legislates against incest and not wide age gap marriages. To attempt to apply the yardstick of relative harm as the key differentiator in marital prohibitions is completely invalid.

                      Again, I must remind you that, from my first post to this comment thread, I have not focused on childbearing, so to say ‘ your focus on childbearing may be distinctive’ is a straw man.

                      I also made no mention of fertility as the basis for marital prohibitions, since it is not a type of sexual relationship. I have focused on the congruence of sexual relationships with the primacy of responsible biological kinship. Kinship can established via descent or affinity.

                    • End is Nigh?: Paul claims (1 Cor. 7) that there’s an “impending crisis,” and the “present form of the world is passing away.” (NRSV) Slotted into Paul’s theology of bringing in the Gentiles, his Thessalonians apocalyptic, and viewed in light of the early Christian belief that the end was nigh, I’d call that reasonable grounds to believe that Paul thought the world was about to be remade by God. Another reading is of course possible. Isn’t it always?

                      La Résistance: I have no idea how a 1st century version of me would have thought. What relevance does this have to biblical authority or Pilling?

                      Doing a Targaryen: Where are you going with this incest line? Incest has zip to do with sexuality. If you’re making a slippery slope argument, are you advocating strict obedience to a biblical model of marriage? If so, there’s the obvious rejoinder, “Which one?” With its acceptance of divorce and rejection of male headship, the CofE isn’t even trying.

                      Heir and Spare: Likewise, how does your “primacy of responsible biological kinship” argument work? You’ve certainly mentioned biological parenthood. If adoption is factored in, same-sex couples can, obviously, qualify. How is this an argument for restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples?

                    • In 1 Cor. 7, Paul refers to the well-ordered arrangement of their civilisation and world (cosmos), one that was unified under the oppression of Rome. He claimed that its schema, or present shape is passing away. The opposite of the cosmos is chaos and all Paul is indicating is that the change was already under way. Just 15 years later, Jerusalem was destroyed. Paul’s words simply echoed Christ’s own prediction of how chaos would begin to unfold.

                      Even in the Thessalonian apocalyptic, Paul simply addresses the fear that, under the wave of lethal persecution, all those of Christian faith would have died by the time of Christ’s return. He would have also understood from the other apostles that Christ’s description of the end-time chaos would be reflected in the violent physical upheaval of the universe, which had not happened as yet.

                      In 2 Timothy 3, Paul also identified the complete unravelling of normative human relations as a *future* portent of the apocalyse.

                      Your reading of Paul’s position hinges on a few passages, which is a misrepresentation.

                      You introduced that Paul was wrong in his ‘acceptance’ of slavery to highlight a moral error in the biblical position (although you haven’t managed to explain the superior alternative). I merely responded to that by saying that Christ accepted Roman rule. You appear to have no problem with Jesus’ lack of political agitation against the evil Herodian dynasty. The tolerance that you present as proof of an error in biblical morality is neither a connivance at, nor affirmation of slavery.

                      Incest is defined as ‘sexual activity between family members and close relatives’, so you’re idea that such a relationship has nothing to do with sexuality is patently false. I have simply identified a common thread running through the marital prohibitions that have thus far rendered a marriage void and it is not the issue of relative harm. I have said it is congruence with the primacy of responsible biological kinship.
                      A good case in point is adoption. In order to adopt, the known biological parent must have either died, defaulted, or surrendered parenthood. Adoption is a subsidiary arrangement to the primacy of the biological relationship.
                      Marriage automates the sharing of parental rights through the presumption of paternity. However, the husband’s paternity is rebuttable by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. If it can be proven, the primacy of biological parenthood must be recognised.
                      How is this be expected to work in a same-sex marriage? For IVF, all well and good, the donor consent form surrenders all parental claims. However, in case of an informal agreement with a known friend, regardless of whatever shared parenting arrangements were agreed beforehand, the law would have resolve the couple’s contention against the unsurrendered rights of the biological parent by judicially interpreting the marriage as conferring the unrelated spouse with a superior parental right. The primacy of biological kinship would be undermined.
                      While the presumption of paternity is rebuttable, such a law would eventually have to enforce an unrebuttable fiction as it did in the California case, In re: M.C.
                      Alternatively, as the Senator Leno attempted in California last year, you could try to legalise three-parent families to get around the dilemma, but why would any liberal want to endorse a minimum traction 1:5 incline like that?

                    • Doomsday:-

                      Reading Paul as believing in an imminent apocalypse is consistent with his wider theology (i.e., bringing in the Gentiles just before the end was a feature of Jewish apocalyptic) and the theology of the early church. It’s not certain, no, but it’s a likely reading, one corroborated by circumstantial evidence.


                      Theory and practice are different things.

                      Neither Paul nor Jesus said slavery was wrong in theory. Both (the synoptic Jesus implicitly, Paul explicitly) accept it. If Jesus or Paul had said, “Slavery is evil, but death is worse,” it’d be a defensible position. (Personally, I’m with the state motto of New Hampshire on this question.) Far from it, Paul tells slaves to obey their masters, and sends Philemon back to his slave-master. Paul asking the master to treat Philemon as a brother doesn’t change Paul’s acceptance of the institution of slavery. Plenty Romans were fond of their “property.”

                      Equal marriage:-

                      Kinship is a separate issue to sexuality. (By “sexuality” I mean “sexual orientation.”) Disagreements over an informal surrogacy arrangement can occur equally with an infertile opposite-sex couple. This is not an argument for denying gay couples the right to marry. It’s an argument to better regulate surrogacy.

                      As for incest, even if, for the sake of argument, extending marriage rights made a theoretical case for incestuous marriage easier (I don’t agree that it does, but speaking hypothetically), so what? There’s no widespread incest pride movement. The ECHR upheld unanimously the right of states to criminalize incest. The risk of this actually occurring is remote in the extreme, and the “precedent” applies equally to changes in opposite-sex marriage. Why raise it?

                    • Just a few key points as I believe that we will eventually end up going over old ground.

                      Paul’s acceptance of slavery is no worse than Jesus’ acceptance of Roman rule, or the West accepting North Korean tyranny. In contrast with the notion that Christians should ‘live free or die’, Christ urges his disciples to flee from city to city when persecution arises for the gospel. Spreading the message of an ultimate day of reckoning is more important than provoking premature martyrdom.

                      In respect of marriage, kinship is no more a side issue to marriage than your added, but mistaken proviso of relative harm. Legally, it’s clear that marriage does regulate primary parental rights, so claiming that we should regulate surrogacy instead begs the question by subordinating the involved biological parent outside of the marriage to secondary role.

                      As for incest, it was my contention that your rationale for marital exclusions based on relative harm was not cogent. I did not argue a slippery slope to the legalisation of polygamy, or incest, but showed that a consistent policy of relative harm would have excluded large age gap relationships from marriage (which it doesn’t).

                      In the absence of a cogent basis for marital exclusions, you now imply (‘so what? there’s no widespread incest pride movement’) that same-sex marriage matters because, unlike incest, there is a pride movement is clamouring for it, Essentially, that agrees with my thesis that it is ‘simply a special pleading to placate gay political activism’. There is apparently no need for cogent arguments when you can leverage political momentum.

                      The strangest turn is for you to cite the ECHR margin of appreciation in respect of the criminalisation of incest, when you’ve earlier contended, on the basis of your position, that the ECHR’s declaration regarding marriage is ‘by the by’.

                      Ultimately, I have shown that your reasoning from comment to comment lacks a consistent line of argument. It’s a moving target that constantly disengages with the logic of your previous propositions. For that reason, we’ll have to leave off with the extension to you of final comment courtesy.

                    • My view that marriage is a “social affirmation of two adults who love one another” is both descriptive and internally consistent (substantive reasons can be given for the exclusions).

                      You view, by contrast, is vague at best, focusing on questions of “kinship,” parental rights and surrogacy that apply regardless of sexual orientation. Your focus on incest is also gender-neutral. All you’re doing is arguing that age-gaps are also harmful. You’re doing nothing to argue that the gender of the couple matters.

                      Your arguments miss their intended target, defending opposite-sex marriage, which suggests that they’re begging the question.

        • The entire table of kindred and affinity by which we determine incest prohibitions is an interesting point. If its authority is the Bible, how come it has been altered over the years? For example, it used to contain a verse prohibiting a man from marrying his wife’s sister, but this has long disappeared. Did a new verse suddenly and miraculously appear in the Bible authorizing this change?

          The Deceased Wife’s Sister Act, which allowed a widower to marry his dead wife’s sister, was passed in 1907. Some people greeted it with dismay and maintained that it was a slippery slope that would lead eventually to the destruction of the family and the eventual legalization of every type of incest. Now that reminds me of something or other…

          • Absolutely.

            The same goes for the blanket remarrying of divorcees out of “pastoral provision,” provision that doesn’t, for some reason, extend to marrying gay and lesbian couples.

            The divorce pericope, repeated by Paul of Tarsus, is the best-attested saying of Jesus of Nazareth. If we have any of Jesus’ words, it’s these. And yet the church has felt free to disregard it as divorce became widespread.

            If the Bible can be overturned for divorcees, it can certainly be overturned for LGBT people.

            • Not so. The underlying principle — our freedom to reject the Bible on our own judgment — is one and the same.

              This allows us to assess issues on their own merits. The church does this in practise. It should admit it.

              • Yes, the Church does this in practice. But it doesn’t and never has agreed that every individual has the right to interpret the Bible as he or she sees fit. Mainstream ‘catholic’ churches believe in, and practice, a combination of scripture, reason and tradition as the source of authority, though they don’t all agree on where balance between these falls. In the case of the Church of England, the authoritative body for determining doctrine at this level is the General Synod. Until and unless it changes its position, the Church of England’s formal position on issues of sexuality is both traditional and crystal clear. Sex outside marriage, which can only be between a man and a woman, is in some degree a sin. It may be wrong in its conclusions. That possiblity is built into the system. The Church on earth as a human insitution has been wrong before, it may be now and doubtless will be again. It is open for individual Anglicans and groups within the Church to disagree with aspects of its teachings and try and persuade it otherwise. If they are right, I believe that the Holy Spirit will so move the Church as to agree with their conclusions. But they cannot honestly claim, until and unless that happens, that their position has authoritative status. Nor can theyin good conscience simply disregard its position indeifintely while claiming to remain within its bounds.
                As for Pilllng specifically, I don’t know where I currently stand. I see merit in both sides of the argument,as do most Anglicans I know. That’s why it’s so difficult. I’m going to have to do a great deal of listening, thinking and praying before I reach any final personal conclusion. I entirely agree that at the final judgment I will have to account for whatever conclusion I ultimately reach. Under Christ, I am the captain of my soul. But I’m not so confident in my own knowledge, judgment and wisdom as to conclude that the long established teachings of the holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which extends well beyond the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, and the preponderance of scriptural evidence, are simply the results of outdated cultural conditioning just because I wish there were a simple, obvious and tempting answer. For me, at least, it’s just not that simple.

                • Authority is legitimate power. Says nothing about merits. In the CofE, as you say, it means “Whatever Synod says.” Synod could vote that the earth is flat, while the globe remain stubbornly round. Synod used to say that only men could be ordained. Then it said that there were “two integrities,” and now it’s trying to move on from that. The line is in flux.

                  Ordaining women is as radical a break with tradition as affirming gay relationships. Do you oppose it? If so, why do you remain within the church, given your views on reconciling conscience and institution? If you support it, what’s stopping you affirming gay people?

                  Personally, given that the CofE has Synod, and is open to change, I see no reason for people to leave. Stay and advocate your position. Seek change, especially if you believe change to be a matter of justice. To abandon the church to itself in those circumstances would be to sell justice cheaply.

            • I’m not quite sure what you’re on about, but the lesson, viz. beware of slippery slope arguments, remains both valid and valuable.

              • Yep, sweeping the theology stuff to one side, slippery slope arguments need to be handled with care. Treating a slippery slope as inevitable is a fallacy.

                All these slippery slope arguments could be equally applied to reforms in opposite-sex marriage. “If we abolish coverture and allow divorce, before you know it, people will be marrying their siblings and setting up home with their geese!”

                Perhaps it all started to go wrong when polygamy fell out of fashion …

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