32 Comments on “Audio from Pilling Presentation to Synod

  1. I listened to this on Thursday, for my sins, and very depressing I found it. There was huge applause for the openly gay sexually active cleric from Southwark (questions at the end of the sessions). It’s not hard to see in which direction Synod is going.

    I was pleased to hear Philip Giddings ask that ALL sectors be represented in the forthcoming talks, including those who have been liberated from homosexual desires by adhering to Christian teaching. I wonder whether or not that will happen.

  2. Here is the quote from the Synod member to which I was referring (courtesy of Bishop Alan Wilson’s blog):

    My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

    My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive
    dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question. (end)

    I am a little puzzled by this. He says he doesn’t have a vocation to celibacy, but surely all C of E clergy have a vocation to celibacy if they are not married. It is still the position of the Church of England, to which all clergy avow at their ordination. So why did Synod applaud him?

    • Well, if all C of E clergy who are not married have ipso facto a vocation to celibacy, then that’s that. None of those who aren’t now married should ever get married in the future, since celibacy is clearly their vocation. Any fool can work that out.

        • He’s pointed out the absurdity of the position just fine. For “vocation to celibacy” read “suppress sexuality,” since celibacy isn’t optional. Straight clergy don’t see fit to impose this “discipline” on themselves.

          Those who have a genuine vocation to celibacy, gay or straight, will require no discipline. The rest, gay or straight, require equal access to marriage. After the firestorm over the CofE’s ban, odds are, they’ll soon get it, regardless of what the bishops say.

        • Rather than misrepresenting my opponent’s position, I was drawing attention to the fact that the term “vocation to celibacy” was being misused in a way which, if taken seriously, led to an absurdity.

          • Well that’s neat, isn’t it? So instead of announcing publicly that they have no intention of adhering to their ordination vows, clergy now only need declare that they have no vocation to celibacy – or chastity – to get up to whatever they like. Should we let them all know, do you think? (They might even get a round of applause from Synod.

            • Jill, I simply pointed out that the term “vocation to celibacy” was being misapplied. C of E clergy “are not commanded by God’s Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage” but it is allowed for them “as for all other Christian men [and women, understood], to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness” (Article XXII). That is an acknowledgement that it should not be presumed that they have a vocation to celibacy.

              I agree that one cannot slide out of a moral obligation by pleading a lack of vocation. I can’t justify stealing or swindling on the ground that I have no vocation to honesty. Therefore it was, I think, mistaken for the synod member to argue in this way. The question is, does everyone who is gay have a moral obligation to live a life of perpetual sexual continence (with the only permissible alternative being an orientation-discordant marriage)? No doubt you would say yes. I would say no. I think I’m right in saying that many of the Protestant churches in Europe (e.g. the Protestant Church in the Netherlands) do not impose this on their gay clergy and leave it up to individual congregations to decide whether they are happy to appoint a pastor who is in a gay relationship. Perhaps the C of E would do well to emulate this sensible policy.

              I have to confess that I am personally sceptical of the concept of a “vocation to celibacy”. But that apart, I have never heard anyone suggest that if many heterosexual clergy in the C of E do not have a “vocation to celibacy”, that means that they can “get up to whatever they like”. So I don’t see why that should be implied in the case of gay clergy.

              • ‘orientation-discordant marriage’? Why must it be discordant?

                Oh, yes, liberal same-sex dogma, Article 25: ‘orientation is hard-coded, without fluidity and not amenable to change of any kind’…I forgot.

                • Mr Shepherd, I really couldn’t care less about dogmas, just the facts of experience.

                  After an average of 16 years in mixed-orientation marriage, the same-sex orientated spouse is still same-sex orientated. Despite some participation in sex acts within the marriage, there is no shift toward heterosexual attraction on the part of the same-sex oriented spouse. Those are the findings of evangelical psychologist Mark Yarhouse and his team, no less, based on an empirical study of “mixed orientation couples”.

                  Similarly, evangelical psychologist Warren Throckmorton surveyed over 300 same-sex attracted men and women who were or had been married to someone of the opposite sex. His conclusion was that on the whole they assessed themselves as, if anything, even more gay in their attractions and fantasies than when they were 18 and when they got married.

                  My own view is that orientation-discordant marriage is not, generally speaking, a good or wise procedure, although I don’t doubt that there are untypical instances in which it can and does work well. It’s certainly not for me to lay down the law for anyone else, but I do say, without any reservation, that no gay man, for example, should ever marry a woman without letting her know well in advance exactly what the score is.

                  I do appreciate, however, that an alternative and rather more liberal and laid-back view is possible, along the lines of “I certainly don’t want a gay man contracting an orientation-discordant (or what some would call ‘complementary’) marriage with MY daughter, sister, niece, granddaughter etc., but just so long as it’s with someone ELSE’S, then heigh-ho, that’s absolutely fine. Doesn’t cause ME any grief.”

                  • The church’s role in establishing ordinances is to maintain the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. We may also be admonished to order our thought-life in accordance with the gospel, but that is through persuasion of the truth and divine grace.
                    Your thesis might as well be declaring that, once a person has a strong propensity for something, e.g. alcohol, the church’s role is to capitulate to it.
                    Presumably both Yarhouse and Throckmorton focused on clergy aspirants, or even laity, who self-identified as Christians experiencing divine redemption.

                    No? In which case, the fact that a broader sampling drawn from a different population shows little shift in orientation only suggests that those with a homosexual orientation who don’t particularly self-identify as Christian may well find it difficult to overcome same-sex attraction. They are beyond the purview of Article XXII (‘all other Christian men’).
                    You have facts of experience, just not fully relevant experience.

                    • Sexual behaviour is amenable to change? Yes, Mr Shepherd, of course it is; that’s not even news. Sexual orientation, however, is not so amenable to change: on the contrary, the evidence indicates that such change, especially in males, is the exception, not the rule, and that deliberate attempts to engineer it are very seldom successful, if ever. I don’t require you to accept any premiss; I simply disagree with your own, and I have drawn attention to the fact that orientation-discordant marriages do not alter people’s sexual orientation and are, at least in general, inadvisable. Your implied assertion that self-identifying as Christians experiencing divine redemption will effect change of that kind or make it more likely is not one which I see the slightest reason to take seriously.

                      You spoke earlier of dogma. I marvel at the way in which your own dogma apparently allows you to dismiss as “not fully relevant” any reality which doesn’t do the decent thing and conform to it, and at the way that you apparently regard it as authorization for the playing of games with other people’s lives, e.g. by encouraging orientation-discordant marriages.

                      One Sunday morning a few years ago, as I came out of church after Mass, I encountered a former work colleague who lived a few doors away from the church. After we had exchanged the customary greetings and courtesies, he said, “I sometimes envy people like you – people who have faith,” and then added, “but we have to remember that religion has also done a tremendous amount of harm, you know.” It is when I read stuff like yours that I am reminded irresistibly of that comment and say to myself, “Oh dear, oh dear, how right he was!”

                    • ‘Your implied assertion that self-identifying as Christians experiencing divine redemption will effect change of that kind or make it more likely is not one which I see the slightest reason to take seriously.’

                      But that’s not what I implied.

                      I implied, given the Article XXII pertains specifically to Christian men, that the relevant sampling for establishing what level of change is attainable would have to be congruent.

                      I could conduct a large US-wide survey containing questions from the UK Citizenship test. Owing to the large number failing each question, it might also suggest that it’s an unfair burden.

                      Alternatively, I could run the same test for a different sample: those who self-identify as US nationals who have a committed interest in gaining UK citizenship. Magically, the results would change.

                      And, oh so surprisingly, the inference is not that self-identification improves UK Citizenship test results.

                      If your train of thought deserves respect, I’ll give it. But resorting to time-wasting attribution of patently false inferences should be beneath you.

                    • Mr Shepherd, I’m not with you. Here are your own words (emphases added by me):

                      “Furthermore, presumably both Yarhouse and Throckmorton focused on clergy aspirants, or even laity, WHO SELF-IDENTIFIED AS CHRISTIANS EXPERIENCING DIVINE REDEMPTION.

                      “No? In which case, the fact that a broader sampling drawn from the population shows little shift in orientation only SUGGESTS THAT THOSE WITH A HOMOSEXUAL ORIENTATION WHO DON’T PARTICULARLY SELF-IDENTIFY AS CHRISTIAN MAY WELL FIND IT DIFFICULT TO OVERCOME SAME-SEX ATTRACTION.”

                      If the above was not intended to imply that self-identifying as Christians experiencing divine redemption will effect change of that kind or make it more likely, what exactly was it intended to imply? If your answer deserves respect, I’ll give it. But please answer the question directly and straightforwardly without trying to fudge it with irrelevant diversions. That should be beneath you.

                    • You really should understand the difference between a concomitant and a cause.

                      In the case of the UK Citizenship test and, in fact, any survey, a particular self-identification can be a concomitant suggested by the survey results.

                      While the absence of the concomitant from a sample may mean the cause is also absent, thereby changing the outcome; declaring a concomitant is not the same as declaring a cause.

                      I never said that concomitant (self-identification) was CAUSAL of a change in same-sex attraction. I simply declared the concomitant.


                      Emphasis mine. Try harder.

                    • Mr Shepherd, unless and until you are prepared to stop wriggling and to give a straight answer to my question, there is no point in your answering me at all, and you might as well devote your time and energy to some more profitable activity. What exactly did you mean to imply? If you can’t or won’t give a straightforward answer, I shall quite understand and will draw my own conclusions.

                    • I am implying that, if, instead of narrowing the sample (to those who self-identify as Christians experiencing divine redemption), the sample remains a lot broader, those of the current broader sample MAY WELL (a tentative probability) find it difficult to overcome same-sex attraction.

                      That does not imply that the act per se of self-identifying as Christian causes a person to overcome same-sex attraction. It only implies that a lack of any expressed redemptive faith may well be established as a concomitant of (a phenomenon accompanying) difficulty in overcoming same-sex attraction. Again, I did not imply that it was causal.

                      I trust that a few here will continue to believe whatever scurrilous conclusion supports your cause. Rational and fair readers will differ.

                    • Thank you very much, Mr Shepherd. I don’t know why you couldn’t have just said that directly and plainly in the first place. Well, it’s a free country, so you are fully entitled to advance any suppositions that may appeal to you. But that is all that they are, and I see no reason to share them. Even if the conclusions arrived at by the research of Yarhouse et al. and of Throckmorton don’t fit in with your beliefs, you can’t invalidate them by calling them “scurrilous”; and such inappropriate use of emotional language will hardly commend itself to “rational and fair readers”.

                    • The scurrilous conclusion refers not the studies, but to your claim that I was implying self-identification as causal, rather than a concomitant. So you’re wrong on that score.

                      Given that I have not maligned the research of Yarhouse et al. your suggestion that my language hardly commends itself to ‘rational and fair hearers’ is groundless. You’re wrong again.

                      Even your school of logic allows for suppositions to be advanced. If they prompt an avid researcher, or statistician to take up the gauntlet and discover a way to test them, then there’s every good reason to share them here.

                      On an emotive note: this is why I love this blog. Night, night.

                    • So you say that I misunderstood you when I took you as implying self-identification as causal, rather than concomitant. And it is that (alleged) misunderstanding that you refer to as “a scurrilous conclusion”. Yes, scurrilous! Such misuse of language will hardly commend itself to “rational and fair readers”.

                      If you meant that this self-identification was concomitant but not causal, why did you bother to mention it at all, especially since you did not mention any other possible significance that it might have, and since neither the supposed self-identification nor the concomitance were anything other than mere idle hypotheses anyway?

                      Yes, anyone can advance suppositions, but I cannot imagine any avid researcher or statistician feeling prompted to spend time testing suppositions which have been simply snatched out of the air.

                      We can all be misunderstood, Mr Shepherd, and it is not always our own fault. But if you wish to reduce the chances of this happening, I suggest that you abandon your long-standing habit of obscuring what you are trying to say by draping it in high-sounding but quite unnecessary and distracting verbiage.

                    • Thanks for your opinion. I can only hope that the verbosity of last paragraph was intentionally ironic. Otherwise, you should consider the adage about people who live in glass houses.

                      I’ve had perfectly understandable exchanges with other contributors, even if we agree to disagree, but I’m always willing to dumb down my responses where needed.

                      BTW, GM, as Christ noted the lack of commonly extended courtesy (in his case, water to cleanse his feet), I do note the continued exception here of formally referring to me as Mr.Shepherd. It probably explains why I should assume a level of antipathy that you don’t direct towards others, like Jill, Peter, etc.

                      Jill’s faux-pas in earlier debates incurred your thinly-veiled derision in later comment threads. So, excuse me if I think that you are still capable of using the ‘misconstrued’ implication to achieve a similar result in future debates.

                      You have the courtesy of either not responding or making the final post to this thread.

  3. Whether orientation-discordant marriages are a sin is a matter on which people must make up their own minds. I would say that they are definitely immoral if they involve one partner deceiving the other, and that it is equally immoral to put pressure of any kind on people to contract them. But I do not regard their intrinsic sinfulness or non-sinfulness as an urgent question. It is more than sufficient for me that they are, in general, highly inadvisable.

    Why any heterosexual people would want to enter orientation-discordant relationships I cannot imagine; unlike homosexual people, they are not usually subjected to improper and abusive pressure in that respect. But whatever, I see no point in anyone, heterosexual or homosexual, entering a relationship that is contrary to their sexual orientation and would most strongly advise against it.

    • Right….

      Let me summarise your two points

      i) Your correct analysis that deception in any relationship is abusive ii) Your homophobic assumption that a gay man is unable to enter a heterosexual marriage.

      • Peter, even if I did assume that a gay man was unable to enter a heterosexual marriage, that would no more homophobic than assuming that a heterosexual man was unable to enter a homosexual marriage/civil partnership/relationship (or whatever) would be heterophobic, or than assuming that a contralto was unable to sing the part of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute properly would be contralto-phobic. But that is not what I have actually said. What I have said is that, in general, it is inadvisable for a gay man to enter a heterosexual marriage. I stress “in general”; doubtless that there are cases in which it has worked out well. It is certainly unethical to put pressure of ANY kind on a gay man to do that, and either deceitful or just dangerously ignorant to encourage him to believe that doing so is likely to change his orientation to a heterosexual one. I think that you would probably agree with that latter point.

        • Your analogy is incorrect. A male bass is physically incapable of singing that part (though Counter-Tenors like myself could have a good stab). However, I know of no physical incapability for a homosexual man to marry a woman. Perhaps you could clarify, because at the moment all I’m seeing is you projecting your prejudice on men who would make excellent husbands.

          • I’d be interested, Peter, to hear your thoughts on how much weight you’d advise someone to put on sexual attraction to someone in considering whether to get married. I know of several men who experience SSA who have gotten married, but I can’t help but find the whole thing rather puzzling.

            • It comes down to honesty. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your spouse. Many gay people find they become very good friends with someone of the opposite sex and marriage can easily and naturally follow. Becoming lovers is not dictated by orientation.

              Problems occur when the homosexual partner has not adequately accepted their own sexuality. It’s far better to enter such a marriage accepting one’s predominant sexual attractions than pretending they don’t exist.
              Once I made my marriage vows I was committed to my wife. Like all spouses I will find myself sexually and emotionally attracted to other people at different times, but like all spouses what I do with those attractions is the issue, not whether I have them in the first place.

              Once I married, my sexual identity became “husband” and then “father”. My orientation then became a very minor aspect of my sexual identity.

          • I didn’t say a male bass; I said a contralto. (You have a stab at the Queen of the Night’s famous aria “Der Hölle Rache” if you want to, but don’t blame me for any damage to your vocal chords.) But even if you could find a contralto who could reach the top Fs – which is highly unlikely – the fact that she could do it wouldn’t stop it from sounding bloody awful.

            And that is my point: not that a homosexual man is physically incapable of marrying a woman, but that it is not generally an advisable thing for him to do, either from his own point of view or from that of the woman. I won’t deny that there are exceptions or that some gay men have made excellent husbands, although I know plenty who haven’t, even though they wanted to be and tried to be. I realise, of course, that there is a bias here, since the former aren’t the ones that I’m likely to know about.

            What I am unreservedly against, however, is any attempt to pressure gay men into heterosexual lifestyles and telling them the lie that marrying women will “turn them straight”. As you said on that very question some time ago, the bottom line is that it won’t.

            • “… it is not generally an advisable thing for him to do …” Exactly.

              OK, general ain’t a particular, and in some circumstances, it might work for a gay man to wed a straight woman (or a lesbian marrying a straight man — why are gay women absent from things like ‘Living Out’?). Even if both parties go in knowing the score, it’s still high risk, and not something to, generally, advise.

              If it wasn’t for homophobia, it would be as vanishingly rare as a same-sex marriage between two straight people.

            • You’re probably happy that none of us here actually do that stuff you rant about in the last paragraph.

              Stop raising straw men. It’s not big and it’s not clever.

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