Friday, 27 January 2017

Sex and the bishops

The report of the House of Bishops on where we go from here on same sex marriage and relationships is now out, and I'm wondering how to respond to it - both now, and in General Synod in ten days time.

On the one hand, I feel a bit fraudulent saying anything at all - after all, I'm not gay, I'm not in a same sex relationship, and I worry that talking about my feelings or my views will just be the response of cis-privilege. But then I think that I shouldn't stay silent, just because its not primarily me who is being hurt here. I might blunder, but better to blunder than to be complicit.

So, caveats aside, my primary feeling on reading the document was 'here we go again'.

I don't want to go through each paragraph or recommendation of the report, such as they are. That would be too depressing. So let's talk about 'tone'. The report is very keen on 'tone'.

Emotionally and ecclesiologically, the tone throughout is all too familiar from the interminable reports on women's ordination that we had to wade through. From the basic assumption that these people are an inconvenience, a problem to be solved, a difficulty we would much rather not have to deal with, to the carefully crafted tone of agonised eirenicism throughout. The report is at pains to emphasise just how difficult and painful all this has been - FOR THE BISHOPS! - and begs us to sympathise with them in their hard task of steering the ship between two extremes.

This really isn't good enough. And I say that as someone who has been part of the Shared Conversation process in Synod, and so is not particularly surprised by the actual proposals (basically not to do anything, although with a few hopeful noises about changing the tone and being a bit more permissive).

But how do you change the tone without changing the tone? The tone of this report is exactly what we have come to expect. Agonised reporting of your own pain at a difficult decision and pleas for patience are not tone-changing.

And how do you change the tone without changing the underlying assumptions, doctrines and rules? The very reason that the current tone is so negative towards gay people is because those who wish to be negative can perfectly correctly point to their position as upholding the Church's teaching. Those who wish to be unwelcoming can perfectly truthfully talk about definitions of sin. The point of rules is not primarily to punish, but to set tone - unless you change the rules, it is very hard indeed to see how the tone gets to change. That's one reason why we campaigned so hard for Women Bishops - not for a few women to have a particular job, but because of what the change means for the whole tone of how our church talks about and to women.

Tone does matter. But to set the tone, you need to begin by setting it in reports like this - and all this report does is bolster the hand-wringing 'oh, it's all very difficult to balance, isn't it' tone that we have got so used to. 

There is a welcome moment of light relief at the end of the report, though, when we are asked to suggest ways in which the House of Bishops could make a new report on sex and marriage and relationships more useful beyond the church. As if anyone beyond the church cares, or is likely to listen. Frankly, the mind boggles at what such a report might say.

But just in case the House are serious in asking, here are some suggestions:

1. Stop talking about sex outside marriage being inherently sinful. Celebrate it as the gift it is, as something that can lead to a deepening of relationship and may in time lead to marriage/committed relationship. Recognise that virtually every heterosexual couple we marry has been living together for years. They do not see this as sinful. If you talk about it as such, they will stop listening and assume that the rest of what you have to say is irrelevant too.

2. Understand that these couples - ie, virtually everyone that gets married - see their marriage as the 'crown upon the head' of their relationship - it is because of the quality of their relationship that they want to marry, not the other way around. Marriage isn't primarily creating something new, it is celebrating what already exists.

3. Admit that most of our morality surrounding marriage is historically to do with controlling conception, the possession of women, and inheritance of property. Take seriously the difference that first the legal changes to the status of women (from the nineteenth century), and more recently the widespread availability of safe contraception (coupled with the decrease in infant and maternal mortality) have had.

4. Recognise that perceptions, images and understandings of marriage are historically, geographically and socially context-bound and changeable. Take academic advice on this, and learn from it. I still shudder when I remember the fiasco the Church centrally made of Linda Woodhead's point that the arguments used against equal marriage were near-identical to those used against the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. She was right. She quoted from Hansard. The church completely ignored her and simply denied what she was saying, in a way reminiscent of the 'alternative facts' debacle last week.

5. Stop talking about 'biblical marriage' and be honest about the mess that so many of the Biblical characters make of their marriages, the many different forms of relationship that that title is used for, and the variety of sexual moralities that the Bible reflects from its several thousand year history.

6. Then you can start talking about when sex IS sinful. At the moment, the mantra of 'sex is bad unless in a heterosexual marriage' is stopping us saying or being heard to say anything constructive about the full spectrum of sexual abuse, addiction, degrees of and uses of porn, marital rape/coercion, what happens when sex dies off but one of you still wants it, viagra, etc, etc, etc. The only decent thing written on this recently was the preamble to the Pilling report by Jessica Martin, but that was largely buried due to being attached to Pilling.

7. Be very, very careful about what you say about gender. There has been a worrying tendency in recent years for statements about equal marriage or same sex relationships to parrot the line 'one man and one woman', and go on to emphasis that this is about complementarity or some such post-hoc justification, without (at least, I hope it wasn't deliberate) thinking about what statements about men and women and gender relations are being accidentally made in the heat of trying to fend off the same sex 'issue'. The two are linked - and they are linked because of this.

8.Take love seriously. 1 Corinthians 13 describes it as being even greater than faith - an amazing claim. Let's discuss this more. Frame discussion of human relationships in terms of them being mirrors in which we see something of God's love for us reflected.

9. Take forgiveness seriously. Christ died for us while we were still sinners - stop colluding with a 'conservative' view that we need to be perfect to be acceptable.

10. And finally, for goodness sake, start taking the Bible more seriously - or using it more intelligently. Some of the discussion of the Bible that I heard at Synod last July appalled me in its literalism and ineptness of exegesis. Talk of marriage as a 'creation ordinance' 'because it says so in Genesis' is no more valid than seven-day Creationism. The Bible is an extraordinary collection of sacred writings, and we need to take seriously the variety of genre, historical period, context and aim of each piece in aiming to understand its meaning for us. The Church seems to have gone backwards in understanding this in the 20 years that I've been a Christian - show some leadership here, bishops!






88 comments:

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    2. Well done and lays these questions wide open. We pray for forgiveness on a daily basis in Gods eyes. Why is it we are willing to forgive murderes etc and welcome them into our Churches. Yet, we find it so difficult to accept people with different sexual orientation. Jesus was sent to us not only to bring the word of God but to bring change of views. Remember the one thing Jesus also told us, "DO NOT JUDGE". God will decide that when we hopefully stand at the gate of Heaven.

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    3. Couldn't disagree with your arguments more! I guess this is why we just have to disagree in love within the Church of England

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  2. I am exasperated and trying not to be angry. Exasperated because the bishops' latest effort renders simultaneous 'Reform and Renewal' almost impossible, it seems to me. Reading this was a splendid counter-measure, allowing me to take the various points in slower sips, rather than at a gulp. I endorse everything you say.

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  3. Very well written article. I am glad you voiced what I feel.

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  4. thank you for your inclusive common sense tone!

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  5. Just brilliant. So well voiced. Thank you.

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  7. Slightly concerned at the inference of Point 8. There always seems to be a suggestion that LGBT people are doing something sinful.

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    1. When children become part of the LGBT partnership then that is going TOO FAR . It is very concerning

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    3. Why is that then? My kids are thrilled I'm marrying my partner. They love her too. They've always been brought up to stand up for what is right, to defend the weak, the marginalised. None of them are Christians, and they have more of the fruits of the spirit than many so called Christians. This article is the most humane response I've read so far, and I'm profoundly grateful there are ppl like this in the church. Because if the Bishops report were the only response, then it's no wonder so many see Church as irrelevant.

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  8. Excellent I would only add they need to move from their binaries & when carefully using gay, lesbian & same sex attraction also include bisexual. The tone & language enshrine bierasure & the invisibility of those with a non-binary gender identity.

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    1. Absolutely! I just want to add, please don't use the loaded phrase 'same-sex attraction', which comes from the groups that try to 'change' LGB[?T] people and which reduces our experience to a supposedly pathological 'attraction'. Being LGBT is about far more than that.

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  9. Really good. I'd like more detail of your thinking about how it relates to 'Reform and Renewal".

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  10. Thank you for saying so eloquently and intelligently what didn't get much further than strangled noises from me yesterday.

    Is it my reading the opening paragraphs wrong, or do the HofB also need to get some decent science lessons? Being LGBTI is not a 'cultural' phenomenon, it's how people have been made in God's image (for the 'I's physically as well as in other ways). Why can otherwise intelligent people not understand this?

    Prayers for the GS debate... is there any chance the Report won't be accepted?

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  11. What a brilliant article. I especially like the first point, that most people who come to be married have been living together for a time. Their baby children are bridesmaids/groomsmen! It is so refreshing to read this article, and I DO hope that it is noted. Also highlighting "the difficulty and pain" the bishops are experiencing. They are hiding behind their mitres!

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    1. I really can't see how this, or the view expressed in the first point, is anything other than a complete surrender to relativism and abandonment of the concept of self-control as a virtue.

      How does one "celebrate sex outside of marriage" exactly? And what is there to celebrate? It brings nothing to society other than the pleasure of two individuals. Wonderful for them. I couldn't really care less - but certainly don't expect to be called to celebrate it by the church.

      In this bizarre age, the majority of those being baptised as infants are brought by unbelieving parents, with unbelieving Godparents. Should we change the ceremony to become a vague secular infant well-wishing to move with the times?

      Yes, absolutely, reform the ceremony to become more egalitarian and less patriarchal. The inheritance legislature has already reformed to reflect a more equal society. But fundamentally, marriage *is* a contract, not just an excuse for a party, "the cherry on top" or whatever you want to call it. A public contract, with legal, personal and spiritual components, made before a couple become as physically intimate as it's possible to be, with potentially procreative results. I think that's a wonderful, beautiful and important thing, and not something to be sniffed at by a church or body of clergy desperately trying to play the hip aunty.

      Should we be judgemental or condemnatory? No. Should we try to meet people where they are with grace and love? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn't mean we have to destroy valuable institutions and become morally ambivalent.

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    2. I understand your point on morality based on your pov. But I feel you are considering sex outside of marriage to equate to the same thing as promiscuity; they aren't. God knows more about how we are made than even our Drs. He knew that many sexual partners was/is unhealthy both physically and mentally. But promiscuity is not the same as the building of a relationship. Sex does not need to be handed out on a plate but can be enjoyed before marriage. In fact more marriages are now successful due to couples living together first. Rushed marriages end in divorce more frequently or are, through some misinterpretation, lived out in misery as divorce is still seen as a sin by some.

      With regard to 'Baptism of infants' well...that's not even in the Bible. Baptism was always a choice made by a person not thrust upon a baby. And unbelievers are exactly the people we want at church. Preaching to the converted is easy. Jesus did that yes in order that we may know but he was out speaking to people of all backgrounds and corcumstances not just staying safe in the walls of a building surround by people patting him on the back. We are meant to try everyday of our lives as Christians to be more like him. He broke rules, changed rules, put himself out in to the mire to bring people to see and become a part of the Kingdom.

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    3. Thanks for your gracious reply.
      Perhaps infant baptism was a bad example (I'd happily argue in support of it but now is not the time or place). My point was that the church should not change the substance of its teachings just to put people at ease.

      I absolutely agree we shouldn't be sitting in a holy huddle, patting each other on the back. But that is exactly what we are doing if we welcome people into the church, only to tell them how great all their life choices have been and how they need not change a thing. I can go to the pub with my mates for that sort of false reassurance! Jesus absolutely put Himself into the mire... to lift others out, not to tell them "actually, let'a celebrate the mire." The prodigal son left the pig pen eventually.

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    4. Healthy, loving non-married relationships are not "mire." Healthy, loving non-heterosexual relationships are not "mire." We don't have to approve everyone's life choices - but we understand more about human nature and human sexuality than we used to, and the church needs to reflect that by ceasing to condemn people for life choices that are not sinful. An important point made in the article, one which you seem to have missed, is that by continuing to pick on LGBTQIA&c. people and relationships, we make it impossible to criticize the choices that matter. In other words, you are holding us back.

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  12. Thankyou. Sets it all out so clearly - and passionately. More like this from members of the Church and I might be tempted to go back!

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  13. Thank you for putting so well what I feel. My one hope was listening to the BBC report from the Bishop of Norwich when he added 'made in the likeness of God' - yes so act accordingly.....

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  14. So relevant in the context of today's society. Thank you

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  15. Talk about change, change of tone...will change nothing. As it goes..change nothing and nothing will change and these Bishops are washing the time, faith and resources of those of us who sit faithfully in the pews and wait for change ...... sigh.

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  16. Excellent, intelligent piece of writing. Thank you! Our Christian tradition has an extraordinary embarrassment and hamfistedness around sexuality, going back aeons.But with people such as you around, that might perhaps just be changing, thank God! Don't be discouraged. Keep up the good work. P.s. I thought it all excellent, but especially para 6

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  17. Well, Catholic bishops hate us even more, while claiming to love us, so I guess another CoE report that gets us no further than "Issues in Human Sexuality" from 20 years ago does not surprise me. Best answer - laughter, loud laughter! For example, I renamed "Issues" as "How to do It the Anglican Way" and it relieved the ache of my constant hurt and anger.

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  18. Thank you, MIranda. So much sense and charity. Your points about intelligent reading of the Bible and the historical and cultural contexts of ideas of marriage, and thinking about gender are so important.

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  19. Thanks Miranda. Like you, as a member of Synod, I do not know what to say - all I can come up with is "No, this is not good enough and certainly not leadership!"

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  20. Thank you Miranda, this is really helpful. So much confusion around distinctions and distinctiveness with regard to gender, sexualities, preferences and practices!

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  21. Thank you, Miranda - absolutely spot-on and the best thing I've seen so far responding to the report.

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  22. It's tempting to say (from the radical sidelines), who cares what the bishops think? But if you do, then Miranda's reaction is an intelligent and humane corrective for anyone despairing of the C of E.

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  23. Miranda, Thank you for this article and please do speak up in Synod - I don't think you need to be gay to be deeply uncomfortable with living in a church so unwilling to review its beliefs and practice in the light of the wisdom of others. Two points of correction - you have two 'Point 8's (perhaps that avoids the emotive use of 10?!) and more seriously Linda Woodhead referred to the 'Deceased Wife's Sister Bill' not the 'Divorced Wife's Sister Bill'

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  24. Thank you for this clear, well written and thoughtful analysis

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  25. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is who we are in Christ and what he wants us to do and to be. Everything else is "of the world" and we know what the good book says about that. That's not a comment one way or the other on the issues above, just a comment on how we live as disciples of Christ.

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  26. Why is sex a bad thing to devout people? Shame based theology is so bronze age. While we "agonise" over it others just get on with their lives. "Irrevevant" is a dirty word.

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  27. Why is sex a bad thing to devout people? Shame based theology is so bronze age. While we "agonise" over it others just get on with their lives. "Irrevevant" is a dirty word.

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  28. Look forward to hearing it from the floor of Synod too, if anyone is given the chance to speak publicly about it...

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  29. The Church is so consumed by its own interpretations of guilt that it has sidelined the wide and absolute nature of love.

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  30. I appreciate your frustration, but I'm not quite as downbeat as you in my assessment. As one of your (anonymous) correspondents points out above, it is difficult for the bishops to have done what they need to do without it being seen as a complete surrender by conservatives/traditionalists. The point is, this document isn't the surrender, but it is a necessary first step to prepare the ground for it. The report - to me at least - basically says 'The war (against gay people) is over. We're just trying to secure some terms of surrender that allow us to maintain a shred of dignity.'

    I think it is unrealistic to have expected the HoB to have just suddenly folded. And, of course, it wouldn't have made the situation any better. It would just have provoked a conservative backlash imho. So basically, however inadequate, I think that this is the best we could have realistically hoped for.

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  31. Thank you for expressing your views forthrightly. With respect I think you are operating with a paradigm that in a genuine desire to be inclusive and reach out to people outside the church and inside, accepts all their choices (in particular those touching on sexuality) and yet still holds out the hope that they and their choices can somehow be Christianised by not 'condemning', but offering unconditional approval. I am just thinking of the Lord - and who was more inclusive than He - when he said to the Woman at the Well, "Go, call your husband and come back."

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    1. Your sexuality is not a choice.

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  32. Great stuff from Miranda - thank you!
    Talking of 'Biblical" marriage and equating it with the church is a big jump. It wasn't until the 5th century that the church took any interest in marriage ceremonies, and only in the 12th century did it become a sacrament. The Greeks and Romans had largely heterosexual unions, but homosexuality was by no means abnormal. We have the victorians to blame so for many of our mores today - yes, only that far back - and there as no need to ban homosexuality since in women it was not spoken about (one had a "companion") and with men there was no need to ban marriage because 'sodomy' (with the assumption therein that all homosexual men were sodomites and that was the beginning and ending of their relationship) was a crime that could be be punished by death in some circumstances.
    The churches need to step outside Victorianism, and in particular, Victorian exegesis which militates so much against authentic historical critical analysis.

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  33. Yes, very well written and expressed. But Miranda's manifesto is essentially that of TEC, where decline is more like free-fall.

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  34. Brilliant! Thank you! I know you're not saying this, but I can't help wondering if the mess we've got ourselves in has just a bit to do with the fact that the House of Bishops is very, very short on professional theologians, or at least people with serious theological training.

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  35. Thank you, Miranda, for such clear thinking and godly common sense. You've done a great deal to lift my feeling of depression caused by the HoB report!

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  36. Well said, it just goes to show that Bishops are still more interested in their own status than those they are supposed to be serving. They seem to forget Jesus served rather than being served. As you rightly pointed out forgiveness is essential in any relationship involving love and love is the root of our faith. I admit to not totally comprehending homosexuality, but I have no right to judge just as others have no right to judge me. We are all born equal and equal we remain, Bishop or rough sleeping gay alcoholic WE ARE EQUAL IN GODS EYES. Perhaps these people should re evaluate their own relationship and make sure that they do everything as if doing it for Jesus, and in case they find they may be falling.g short of this, take five, find a bible and read the Gospels. Read the words of Jesus.

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  37. Well said! (my only niggle: ' after all, I'm not gay, I'm not in a same sex relationship, and I worry that talking about my feelings or my views will just be the response of cis-privilege.' - it isn't cis-privilege, but straight-privilege; cis would be talking on trans issues...

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  38. what a massive relief to read your thoughts. As to '..privilege' - such voices are vital too; and solidarity is crucial. Please do speak out in Synod. Personally, I am ashamed and deeply sad we (as Priests) cannot celebrate and genuinely affirm fully the love between two people - publickly.

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  39. Lucid, well-written and well-argued, particularly on its "take the Bible seriously not literally" stance. Deserves a much wider circulation. Thank you, Miranda.

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  40. I wonder to which church you belong? Your ideas have never been part of any Christian church in history. Has God changed His mind? Is the Bible no longer a touchstone for sound doctrine and practice? Are we simply to make it up as we go along depending how we feel? I remember Jesus said something about the blind leading the blind. Sitting in judgement over God's revealed timeless truth has a name. And a penalty.

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  41. How refreshing. I'm still tolerating church as part of the ways that might help me draw closer to God, but SO SO much of it seems irrelevant to me, despite attending all my life (42 years now). Thanks for this breath of fresh air combining truth and reality.

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  42. What an enormous relief and pleasure to read this piece and the comments. More broadly, can we not get together in this spirit to work on living together - and saving the planet for our children - whether we do it from a religious motivation or not? My particular interest is deepening school RE to a course in humanity and life skills, including the contributions of religions. Yes, I write as a Humanist, but please note 'humanity' not 'Humanism'.

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  43. A comment. If we accept our society's current sexual practices as "normal", then surely that should extend to accepting every society's attitudes towards sex as "normal". On the other hand, if as Christians we are called to be distinctively different, then at some point we will need to challenge what society accepts. Whether you call this a challenge to sin, or to something else, it all comes down to the same thing.

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    1. Sexual practices are very diverse amongst every couple, whatever their sexual orientation. Maybe if Christians got on with being distinctly different, you know, feed the poor, house the homeless, take in strangers etc etc, then more ppl would think the church had something of interest worth exploring. However, all the church seems to be interested in is what goes on in other people's bedrooms. Perhaps there is some jealousy that humans might be having amazing passionate sex, and not feel guilty about it?

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  44. Actually I don't agree that marriage creates nothing new - what about the two becoming one flesh? Is that not something new? And describing marriage as a creation ordinance is not the same as accepting a literal seven day creationism - it is simply saying that this is something given by God for the good of all people who wish to create a lasting relationship between a man and a woman.

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  45. I have a copy of Adrian Thatcher's presentation to the previous House of Bishops on the historical misconceptions of biology, gender, marriage and sexuality which have shaped the extra-Biblical Christian tradition. It seems that adherence/fidelity to Biblical 'norms' howsoever misconceived is doggedly determined; "we've made up our minds, please don't confuse us with the facts."

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  46. Thanks, Miranda: well put and said - but who amongst the Bishops is listening? As the civil-partner of a gay priest who took part in the 'listening' exercise, it seems that the answer to that is: no-one. The CofE seems to exist in an echo-chamber where it can only hear an endless repetition of its own views and dogma (SORRY - doctrine!). Together, my partner and I are very close to the point of saying 'enough is enough': enough of offering our gifts to an organisation which oppresses us (we cannot marry even though the Bishops think it's OK for the laity: well I'm sorry - it's either wrong or it's not. But don't make clergy live under the threat of ecclesiastical punishment if they act in accordance with their heart and the law of the land). I'm fed up of mealy-mouthed, hand-wringing and ineffectual, offensive 'apology' for historical abuse of LGBTQI people, whilst continuing to engage in precisely the same behaviour. I am coming to the conclusion that attempts to help the church reform from within are doomed: perhaps it's time for LGBTQI people to let the church experience the reality of life without their presence and gifts - a painful but maybe necessary step.

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  47. The Bishops’ Statement begins with

    ‘We want to begin by reaffirming the key Christian understanding that all human beings are made in the image of God’.

    But there is no explicit mention of the other great truth about ‘all human beings’ that, as Article 9 puts it, we are all born with a corrupt nature inclined to evil. This omission is unfortunate because this doctrine is an essential context for this whole disagreement.

    My view is that faithful, loving Christian heterosexual sexual married relationships are acceptable to God whereas faithful, loving Christian homosexual sexual relationships are not acceptable to God.
    But people like me, who hold this view, have to be aware of beams in our own eyes. I mean this: the picture of mortification which Christ uses, of plucking out an eye and cutting off a hand, warn us of the excruciating experience when we try, really try, to resist temptations to behave in a way that the Bible says is sinful. Have I tried, really tried, tried to the point of agony, to resist the temptation to disobey the command to be content with food and clothing and give the money saved to those in need? The Bible says much more about such sacrifices than about homosexuality.

    Phil Almond

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    1. I don't think God gives 2 figs about who's having sex with who. So long as it's legal, consenting and non exploitative. What did Jesus say about being gay? Nothing. He had plenty to say about how ppl treat each other tho.

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  48. What about Acts 10 - one of the best chapters in the Bible? The Holy Spirit sends a dream to Peter and a voice says 'what God has made clean, you must not call profane.'

    I think people today are dreaming Peter's dream and the voice is speaking again.

    The Jerusalem Christians took time to accept the change. But they did. And so will the Church. May the Church wake up to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and quickly, before more people are hurt!

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    1. This is a flawed argument. Peter's vision is recorded in the Bible and has the authority of the Bible. The arguments for acceptance of same-sex are not in the Bible. On the contrary the Bible rules out acceptance of same-sex.
      Phil Almond

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    2. No it does not. However the views that you espouse are exactly why so many of us avoid church. Thankfully, we are accepted and loved unconditionally by God, who is pretty thrilled we are getting married. And the Christian friends who we are in fellowship with are wholehearted supporters and allies.

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    3. The point I was making in my comment about Acts 10, is that the Holy Spirit clearly allows for dynamic change. That dynamism is one of the most exciting things about our faith. We should therefore draw back from condemning people whom God is clearly blessing now and instead watch for the signs of God bringing about change in the world in line with the gospel of love.

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    4. My comment was aimed at Phil Almond

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    5. Anonymous, I like your point, and there exciting spiritfilled things going on to be sure. We are seeing that in our group

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    6. The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself. To me the Bible case that same-sex sexual activity is not acceptable to God is convincing. God promises to forgive all who submit to Christ in repentance, faith, love, obedience and fear - whoever they are and whatever they have done. Once forgiven we are all called to obey God and Christ as they are revealed to us in the Bible.
      Phil Almond

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    7. We are called to follow Jesus. End of. We are in the age of the Spirit, and she is breathing new life.

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  49. Thank you for your numbered points, which I found v helpful. From the conservatives' point of view, saying the bible has multiple pictures of marriage, whilst technically being true, would be subsumed in their eyes by Jesus saying "for this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united with his wife", which for them is paradigmatic...(after Genesis)...
    Which shows that the whole debate is really about hermeneutics and I really wish Christians had more chance to pore over this together. Until proper exegesis is done, conservatives are always going to say "it's wrong cos the bible says it's wrong", and that's a complete end to the discussion.
    However am pretty sure that many of my conservative friends who take the above standpoint genuinely have no ongoing contact with Christians who are LGBTI (well, not partnered ones, anyway) and so they are not doing their theology from a lived standpoint, taking lived experience into consideration. Not one of the Bishops who put the report together, was LBGTI, I understand...
    For me, I have come late to "inclusivity", due to an evangelical background, but it's because as a priest I just cannot see how I would be able to offer adequate pastoral care to LGBTI couples if I genuinely thought that there was 'something wrong' with their being partnered. The pastoral knots one would have to tie oneself up in are simply too ridiculous. So I would want to offer a no holds barred welcome. A welcome which is not a wholehearted welcome to them as a couple, is not a welcome at all.
    I still read 'the texts' with some residual feelings of discomfort though...

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    1. Several of the members of the house of bishops are gay, they are just not able to be out - precisely because of the tangle the church is in about same sex relationships.

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  50. 'and so they are not doing their theology from a lived standpoint, taking lived experience into consideration'.
    Claire, I sympathise with your dilemma. I don't know how I would cope with it. But 'lived experience', as I see it, should never override what the Bible says. We are always back to this disagreement. I find the Bible's case that same-sex sexual activity is not acceptable to God to be convincing, as you seem to partly recognise by your 'residual feelings'.
    Phil Almond

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  51. There seems to be a big idea still that I can change my sexuality, that I choose to be a gay man and therefore commit that sin of choosing to be gay. I can't. Trust me I've tried. I am gay, it is part of who i am but it isnt something i can control. Do you really think people choose to be prejudiced against?

    Therefore unless God is being purely evil in creating people who he hates, he isnt evil so he must still love me and therefore my sexuality has nothing to do with my relationship with God. I am losing my faith because of a lack of understanding from the churches in this country. Not having a place to worship is slowly pulling me away from a Christian life. I was recently told by a church that I was welcome to worship there as they were inclusive of all people but I couldn't take on a role in worship and especially not Sunday school... this makes me feel completely second class and unwelcome in the church. I feel this to be unchristian too - is that the way Jesus's would have reacted? The Sunday school comment was all too much and I haven't been back since (as a teacher for over 10 years I have more experience and skills than any of the current leaders, but my gifts were unwanted)

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    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry you've had this experience. Can I recommend that you look out for Inclusive Church, which would help you find a place of worship where you would be welcome?

      Delete
  52. George, that's such a sad post. I think there are a lot of ppl who need basic training around sexuality (which I'm happy to do if churches want.....part of my work) I haven't, and can't bear to set foot in reg churches. I'm now part of very small grp, all of us refugees from mainstream churches, in Sheffield. And totally unapologetically wholeheartedly inclusive.
    The Sunday school comment would have done me in too. Not surprised you haven't been back since. Hugs

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  53. Wow. What a brilliant post! And I never heard about the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill -- wish I had while Canada was having its tussle on same sex blessings/marriage.

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  54. This is fantastic, thank you so much for writing. It gives me hope that as a semi-lapsed-not-entirely-sure Anglican there is a place for the questions I have had about how Christians can accept one another as they are. I am also, like you, on the cis-het privileged side of things, and admire the way you can talk about using that privilege to do some good. I am scared of blundering, but am heartened that it can be done without the ineptitude of which I am afraid in myself. Thank you, again, for writing :)

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  55. Show some leadership Bishops, Strike her off! In my profession if I wrote something so fundamentally against my code of practice I would be struck of and not allowed to practice again.
    This article is a gross abuse of the bible.
    Lord have mercy upon us all.

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  56. Brilliant Miranda - so important that we create the space where love is noticed before all else.

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