Tom Daley, the Church of England and why we need to talk about sex

Tom Daley Jonathan RossThere was something very affirming that happened when Tom Daley appeared on the Jonathan Ross Show on Saturday. Public affection for Daley already rides high with his youth, good looks, sporting prowess and achievements working to his advantage. The death of his father to cancer adds to his story and now we have his announcement of a relationship with another man. The audience sitting and listening to his revelations poured out warmth and support for him and his decision to go public. Any fear Daley might have had of a negative reaction would surely have dissipated as Ross tactfully encouraged him to open up.

What was affirming was not that Tom Daley is dating someone twice his age, which in any relationship would result in at least a few raised eyebrows, but rather the acceptance of him as an individual, irrespective of his choice of partner.

What this episode in Daley’s life has demonstrated is that relationships and sexuality are often not as straightforward or black-and-white as some would like to think. Pink News, the popular gay news site quickly put up a piece following Daley’s announcement reporting that he had come out as gay. It was then hastily changed with a subsequent apology from Joseph Patrick McCormick, the deputy editor. Daley, who admitted he still likes girls had refused to fit himself to a stereotype. He said to Ross, “I don’t see any point in putting a label on it – gay, bi, straight, any of those kind of labels”. In an article two days later, reflecting on the attention Daley has received, Mr Partick McCormick made this observation:

‘What is also interesting is that Tom Daley’s coming out has opened up a really honest debate from within and outside the LGBT+ community on where perceive that we stand with equality, and most prominently it seems, people’s own decisions to define (or not define) themselves as they please.’

The Church of England has been having an honest debate too about matters of sexuality over the last couple of weeks since the long awaited Pilling Report was released a couple of weeks ago. Whilst some in the gay community appear to have  an obsession with labelling every form of sexuality and fitting people into boxes, some in the Church have a habit of winding each other up over issues of homosexuality without making any worthwhile progress despite a lot of talk. That’s probably why the epically long and detailed Pilling report was mostly met with indifference outside of Christian circles. Tom Daley’s thoughts on sexuality are of national interest, but the Church’s – and in this case the Church of England’s – are not.

The Church of course largely has itself to blame. For too long it’s sent out negative vibes and messages towards gay people that have been anything but welcoming. Even when apologies have been issued for this treatment from the Archbishop of Canterbury and others, they have fallen on deaf ears. The Church really is in a no-win situation on this one. If it questions the culture as it has done institutionally on equal marriage, it is seen as bigoted. If it makes moves to engage and soften its approach, it is ignored or told it is not going far enough. Unless it goes along with the culture it is considered to be out of touch, but if it does just that, it dangerously loses so much of its value bringing its existence into question paradoxically making it less attractive to those on the outside.  Take for example the Church of Sweden, which according to Phil Whittall, a British church planter living there, “Is well-known for its mainly liberal positions on pretty much everything from ordaining the first lesbian bishop to archbishops happy to say that Jesus is not the only way. There are few churches that in their theology are as inclusive as the Church of Sweden. The irony is that no one wants to join.”

What the 221 pages of the Pilling Report, along with the plethora of responses, highlights yet again is that different factions of the Church are not going to to come to a consensus any time soon on matters of homosexuality. Impassioned calls to find areas of commonality have had little impact. It’s not entirely surprising when the Church is so very slow at even considering making decisions and on this subject. The Pilling report took over two years to compile. It gives 22 recommendations of which the third is that the ‘Consultation on this report should be conducted without undue haste but with a sense of urgency, perhaps over a period of two years.’ This painfully drawn out approach by the Church of England is another reason why the public has little interest in taking notice of what it thinks. This lack of urgency and delay will only cause more problems when gay marriages come into effect next March, creating a new series of challenges for churches to deal with.

The time has come for the Church of England to make its mind up. Theological and pastoral issues have been picked over for long enough and those in a position to decide on any changes have no excuse for not being sufficiently knowledgeable by now. Churches may be feeling pressure to adapt to the rapid changes in societal views on sexuality, but the public apathy towards the Church’s views on homosexuality would suggest that the pressure is mostly internal, at least for now. How many people will find themselves more attracted to the Gospel if churches liberalise their approach to same-sex relationships?

It won’t please those who want to see churches more willing to bless same-sex relationships, but the Pilling Report’s recognition that ‘there is not sufficient consensus to change the church’s teaching on human sexuality’ is correct, as is the comment from a supporter of faithful same-sex partnerships that there are no texts in the Bible that endorse such relationships. Trying to produce a fudge that results in official teaching and practice diverging is of no benefit; it is being deceitful. Can the Church honestly be in disagreement with practicing same-sex relationships and at the same time bless them in public services, even if there is no authorised liturgy?

But, and this is a big but, churches and Christians need to work much harder in order to be welcoming to those who do not fit into the heterosexual, waiting/waited until marriage to enjoy sexual relations category. Single parents, couples living together and those who have made a mess of their marriages are welcomed into good churches and accepted for who they are even if their relationships and living arrangements are not going to be publicly blessed. Why should the situation be any different for someone who is gay or already in a same-sex relationship? There is still room within this framework for ‘pastoral accommodation’, which upholds church teaching, but can be expressed in private prayers focusing on God’s grace and thanksgiving for the virtues evident in a loving non-heterosexual relationship.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 says this: ‘Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.’ Self-sacrifice and self-control are key components of the Christian faith, but for those who choose not to stay single there needs to be understanding and grace from others.

However the church also has a duty to support and encourage those who are gay and choose to live a chaste lifestyle. The recently launched Living Out website tells the stories of such Christians and offers guidance to churches for pastoral care. This sort of care is incredibly important, but sadly often neglected. In one of the videos on the site Peter Ould talks about the freedom that came from realising that his identity was not tied to his sexuality and began accepting that he was Peter, a man who found who he is through his relationship with Christ.

The Church may appear to be out of touch with culture and attitudes to sex, but actually it can offer something deeper that society mostly forgets. We don’t have to be defined by anyone else, our jobs, our sexuality, our wealth or belongings. We don’t need to give ourselves labels in order to find out who we are. Tom Daley refuses to label himself or be labelled by others and rightly so. There is far more to us than our sexual preferences. God has made each one of us in his image.  Sexuality is understandably a big deal for the Church, but that shouldn’t get in the way of giving any individual the love and acceptance we all need to receive.

A suitably helpful analysis of the Pilling Report can be found at the Fulcrum website.

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Categories: Church, Homosexuality, Theology

44 replies

  1. I think if we focus on the nature if relationships rather than sexual acts we would be far more in tune with the Gospel. What I find facinating is that only 0.03% of scripture mentions homosexuality specifically. Jesus never spoke if it perhaps the church should make a rule to be concerned with issues in the same proportion as scripture is. After all if you follow the lectionary the issue never arises.

  2. You seem to forget that homosexuality is a perversion and snare of satan. This vile mating is hated by God and cursed in the Bible. You appear to be seduced by mans lies.
    Vivienne

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • You seem very sure of your reading of the Bible. I wonder if you are as harsh about people who are divorced and remarried, or about those who do not honour their father and mother in the way commanded in the Bible.

      May I respectfully suggest you look at this clip from the extraordinary series “The West Wing” in which the president asks whether or not there is not some hypocrisy in taking little bits of the Bible to order our lives, without taking all the little bits of the bible and setting them in context. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSXJzybEeJM

      • I wouldn’t bother mate she is either a fundamentalist Christian or a fundamentalist secularist being ironic. Either way I seem to have upset her dogma a bit best left there really. Or it could b a troll bored and looking for a fight

      • Well, if what a non-Christian American president says about the Bible is more important that what the Bible actually says, than I am not surprised at your ungodly stance. Threre is no wriggle room in Scripture for the endorsing of sex outside of marriage – a man and a woman – and no excuse for sodemy and adultery etc. one sin doesn’t nullify another. All this talk is raised by LGBT people to try to justify their un-natural behaviour.

      • Divorce (& therefore remarriage) IS allowed biblically in the case of 1.Adultery 2.Desertion. Contrast homosexuality which is not permitted in the bible under any circumstances. Harsh as it may seem,Vivienne is interpreting the bible correctly! Who are we to argue?

        I adore Tom Daley, he is a lovely young man, I was very sad when I heard about him being led astray, by what sounds like a predatory older man; I rejoice that Tom still “likes girls” & pray that he comes to his senses before too much damage is done to him.

        Here is a wonderful testimony from a young man who was saved from the perversion of homosexuality: http://player.vimeo.com/video/72704372

  3. thanks for this post- your point about the ability of churches to welcome, whilst not endorsing, individuals in all sorts of hetersexual relationships whilst struggling to engage with individuals and couples who are LGB+ is well made. Thanks for raising and engaging with this. My take? homosexual practice isn’t honouring to God, but that is true of so much of our lives- both within and without the church community.

    • It’s lovely to read what you consider the best part of your life (in my case my relationship and all the good that flows from it) compared to the worst of someone else’s. Let the poor gay guys in, they can’t help themselves, like the rest of us.

      • Lorenzo, how should ‘conservative’ churches that endorse a traditional sexual ethic respond to (affirming) LGBT Christians or their straight friends & family? What would a genuine welcome look like – assuming these churches do not want to change the church’s teaching on human sexuality? List the practical stuff – what to say/do when getting to know someone who is new to the church.

      • Joe, I think this is the $64,000 question.

  4. “How many people will find themselves more attracted to the Gospel if churches liberalise their approach to same-sex relationships?” On the basis of what you say about the Church of Sweden, presumably not many.

  5. I don’t think the church of Sweden stands up as the cast iron alibi you think it does. Linda Woodhead’s research shows that the church is pretty much split down the middle on LGBT stuff – so there’s quite a body of people, gay and straight, who will feel more closely bound to the institution if it makes room for liberal as well as conservative opinion. The Living Out people are entitled to their view, but seem to be the same band of people wheeled out over and over again, and clung to desperately by conservatives who want to feel they are listening. But half a dozen people don’t make a movement, and it’s disingenuous not to pay attention to the vast number of LGBTs in the church who just don’t agree with them. I’m sorry Gillan, but while your urge to feel comfortable (at the expense of others) outweighs your ability to see the whole picture clearly, then heathen eye rolling is entirely well justified.

    • Where are the “vast number of LGBTs in the church” and who represents them? The Christian LGBT advocacy/support groups are tiny.

      • Well, I think there are seven or eight organisations, all with a few hundred paying supporters each – if you include Inclusive Church, I believe they have a few thousand supporters.. That’s rather a lot more than peer over the parapet in the Living Out lot. And certainly together the LGBT groups are bigger than, say, WATCH, which has stood for a far wider swathe of church opinion. Furthermore about 15% of clergy are estimated to be LGBT – they have more powerful motives to be below the radar, because they might get sacked. But many of them are not *very* far below – most will chat privately. And it’s evident that the celibacy fans are in a minority in that group.

        As someone was saying on Thinking Anglicans the other day ‘Except for Peter Ould, who exactly is ‘post gay’? Doesn’t remove the right of this group to speak, but it’s a fraction of gay Christian opinion and shouldn’t be spun otherwise.

      • The Clergy Consultation alone (and that’s clergy only) has several hundred members, a lot of whom unfortunately would rather eat their cassocks than acknowledge the fact.

    • Blossom if that is really your name – God’s word is final, and same sex physical relationships are prohibited, and if unrepented of will keep a soul out of Heaven as will all other unconfessed sin that separates us from the Lord. Yes I know that we all commit sin, but to persue a deliberate sin and sat it is endorsed by God is quite a different matter.

  6. An interesting article, but I’m concerned by your question: “How many people will find themselves more attracted to the Gospel if churches liberalise their approach to same-sex relationships?”

    As a 22 year old I could name at least a dozen people, off the top of my head, of my age who actively reject the church because it appears so long-winded, out of touch and hypocritical over this very issue. But this issue is much wider than a debate over declining congregations.

    Until last year, when I happily reconciled them, my faith and my sexuality were constantly fighting each other. I spent my late teenage years full of self-loathing because I was attracted to people of my own sex, and my understanding was that this was against God’s teaching.

    The church has a duty to pastorally support people who identify as gay – in or out of a relationship – but it must also face up to the terrible pain it puts young gay people through. Another period of consultation (of at least two years), as recommended by Pilling, might further delay the inevitable fight with (and split of?) Conservative Evangelicals within the CofE, but it also continues to send out a message to young, confused people that: “at the very least you’re not as important as a straight person, and you’re possibly a terrible sinner too.”

    The church has put its own institutional problems ahead of the suffering of vulnerable gay people (particularly young people, but of all ages too) – and that’s what makes me most upset about this report.

    Being a Christian doesn’t make your life easier or more pleasant. But it should make it ‘better’, and you should be more ‘content’ and (in most cases) ‘happy’ through knowing Jesus. If Tom Daley was a strong follower of Christianity his life would almost certainly now be more painful, confusing and unfulfilling. When that’s the case the church has to take a very long, hard look at itself.

    • Hear, hear! And as much as Pilling was a masterclass in ‘listening carefully’ to all sorts of LGBT groups and then ignoring them totally, I’m not aware that it spoke to younger Christians at all. With a few exceptions like Jimmy T, everyone in Synod is as old as the Face of Boe too. If you’re at all inclined to be in touch with any of the LGBT groups (Accepting Evangelicals? – if that’s your background) then you might find means to get across that point a bit more loudly. Again, the evidence from large polls completely bears you out – people under 30 are overwhelmingly hostile to the church for being anti-gay and anti-women — and it’s therefore hard to believe that it wouldn’t make a huge difference to the church’s relationship with all those people if it stopped being anti-women and anti-gay.

      The other thing that makes me cross about Gillan’s post is this stuff:

      “The Church may appear to be out of touch with culture and attitudes to sex, but actually it can offer something deeper that society mostly forgets. We don’t have to be defined by anyone else, our jobs, our sexuality, our wealth or belongings. We don’t need to give ourselves labels in order to find out who we are.”

      This is a whole smorgasbord of abiding myths that Christianity wheels out to make itself feel better about being discriminatory. There are huge green movements – again with a vast number of young adherents – where deeply idealistic people have turned their back on consumerism as their identity. If anything the church has been rather late to the party – the church didn’t create that. And just because someone says ‘I’m gay’ it doesn’t mean that they are defining themselves in any creepily deeper way than the millions of Christians (and presumably Gillan) who say ‘I’m heterosexual’. Unless Gillan is seriously telling us that he ‘refuses to be labelled as heterosexual because my identity is in Jesus’ – then this vein of argument is just discriminatory and another way of emphasising an ‘otherness’ in gay people that he won’t turn on himself

      There;s a reasonable point that a person’s individual makeup makes any of the going labels a little approximate – I have no difficulty at all with Tom Daley’s account of himself. But getting rid of labels altogether would lead to wholesale confusion. (‘No, I’m not a bus driver – I wont define myself that way – my identity is in Christ!). Ultimately it becomes silly. Labels may be fallible, but they are a handy guide – and by batting around terms like ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’ and ‘in a relationship with a man’ ‘still fancy girls’ Daley is still communicating to us what sort of ballpark he lives in, and it’s still accurate to say that he’s ‘come out’.

      The under 30s (in particular) who reject the church are just as likely to be doing it because they are idealists committed to equality than because they are hedonists living lives of untrammelled indulgence. It’s pure libel on a whole generation to keep trotting out the line that they are shallow and rudderless without the Church of England. Meanwhile I’ve seen too much of the opposite – and what you describe, Sebastian – people who become morally less than themselves by trying to ‘pass’ in the institution.

      • A very insightful reply Blossom.

        I am not currently a member of any religious LGBT organisation, but that’s mainly because I’ve yet to feel that any of them are truly performing to the best of their ability. I follow a plethora of them, but any ‘campaigning’ I’ve done has so far been by myself. My background is ‘modern anglo-catholic’, within a church that I think is largely pro-LGBT, but has never actually mentioned the issue once. At school you can get full marks on a GCSE RE paper for writing “the Bible says man cannot lie with another man, so all Christians believe it is a sin to be gay.” – which is a horrible lesson for a 15 year old to learn when they’re just discovering their identity.

        In the last six months I’ve felt Called to a more active and permanent role within the Church, something I’m now exploring, and it’s been fascinating to observe that the over-30s I’ve spoken to have been pretty well unanimously supportive of my Calling, while the under-30s have responded with almost unanimous incredulity. As you say – I don’t believe that’s because they’re anti-religion (even those who claim to be can rarely back up an argument), or because they’re living some sort of hedonistic lifestyle. When you actually sit down and look at the message of Christ, and the wider message of God, it’s actually very modern and fits much of the modern ideology of young people.

        The CofE has a brilliant parochial structure at its heart, and is actually perfectly placed to ‘practice Christianity’ in the world today. But I watched the whole of the latest General Synod session online, and the vast, vast majority was dedicated to gay people, female Bishops, and discussions about how Synod should operate… If the CofE could just get past female Bishops and LGBT problems think what time could be dedicated to actually improving people’s lives in the name of Christ…

        As to labels – I’d say we are actually often, in part, “defined by anyone else, our jobs, our sexuality, our wealth or belongings” – but none of those can uniquely define us, and they are not all equal in the impact they make on our personal definition. We can only be defined by a combination of everything that we are, that we do, and that we represent. A truly ‘Holy’ Christian would see God running through all these parts of our lives. If any of those things (our jobs, sexuality, wealth, etc.) were to change, we would change with it. But we wouldn’t be any ‘less’ for having changed – if I lost everything I owned for example I wouldn’t have lost a part of me, but a part of me would have changed. Picking just one part of what makes us up, and sticking a label on it, therefore seems to undersell ourselves spectacularly.

        I’d identify my sexuality as ‘gay’, but I can accept Tom Daley might not. He is, however, in a gay relationship as far as I’m concerned. If you take the debate on labels to a deeper level than that you’re just making life too complicated. I’ve researched the life of Cardinal Newman, and a close clergy friend of his, and am of the belief that they both harboured homosexual feelings towards other men. I wouldn’t identify either of them as gay, only they can do that, but I can still find evidence within their writings, beliefs and lifestyles which help me to conclude that they were sometimes attracted to men.

        Anyway – the debate about labels is a big one, and not particularly relevant in this comments area other than to say I was very disappointed to see the Pilling report’s recommendations opening with: “We warmly welcome and affirm the presence and ministry within the Church of gay and lesbian people”. Any report examining, in detail, the LGBT situation within the church should have known to include ‘bisexual’ in that remark, and preferably ‘transgender’ as well.

        To conclude – the church is in a uniquely privileged position in that, when it makes a statement regarding morality, the majority of its membership will not spend their time exploring the situation in detail but will instead accept the church teaching. The Roman Catholic church is unlikely to alter its views on LGBT issues any time soon, but if the CofE could just start sending out more positive messages – rather than occasionally throwing out a vaguely apologetic line now and again – it could very quickly make a massively positive impact on many people. Many of those who know the teaching at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, but are not Christians themselves, find it astonishing that so many within the church can willingly ignore the command to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself.’ The church therefore needs to get into a position where those who want to acknowledge gay relationships (whether celibate or not) can do so, and soon. Otherwise it will continue to alienate itself and send out what will be perceived as a message of ‘hatred’, undermining its ability to carry out the mission Christ gave it to a point where it actually could start to die out completely in some communities.

        Oh – and if you ever hear that I’m a member of the General Synod then please send prayers and sherry. I’ll need both.

      • Thanks Blossom for your thoughts. I agree that the average age of Synod is a problem, because it doesn’t reflect the breadth of the CofE and most of the more dynamic churches have a more mixed spread of ages that are not being represented well. It’s good to hear younger Christians’ views as they tend to be less hung up of issues of sex than their parents, which on the whole is a good thing.

        On the issue of labels, I can’t think of many occasions where I’ve felt the need to define myself as a heterosexual. I certainly don’t carry that label around. I work in teaching and I worry for some teachers who struggle to separate their work from their identity. I know of teachers who have committed suicide after retiring because they couldn’t cope without their job which they relied on too heavily to feel of worth.

        I do define myself as a Christian because it does affect every aspect of my life, but beyond that I have little interest in defining myself in any other way. I don’t see how that helps; they just become constraints.

      • Gillan, you probably don’t feel the need to define yourself as a heterosexual because there is no social setting where it would be conversation stopper if you referred to the fact that you are husband and a father. Blossom is also correct in saying that Christians read too much into the use of the word gay. It doesn’t imply an “identity” any more than words like husband or father do – it is simply used (by the people it refers to) as a descriptive term that cuts to the chase.

        Tom Daley has done what most ‘gay’ men do when they talk to other ‘gay’ people (i.e. people that they trust won’t reject them for being ‘gay’) – which is drop the labels and just talk about the guys they fancy or are dating.

        • Thanks Joe. I fully appreciate it is still far more straightforward for heterosexual people. I was just trying to respond honestly to Blossom’s comment. One of the issues I find difficult with labels is that they put up barriers and can encourage a them and us mentality. We can’t do away with them completely and they are helpful to a certain extent, but as you point out people have a habit (and I include myself in this despite my best efforts) to read more into them than they should.

      • Sebastian I hope that you are a celebate GAY and intend to remain that way. If not celebate your lifestyle as someone in Christian leadership will by your example lead people astray, a very dangerous position to be in. Mill stones and deep water comes to mind. God is not mocked and He has forbidden same sex relationships as you will know if you know your Bible, and if you mean what you say then I presume you do know your Bible – at least I would hope so.

      • Lily – believe me, I ‘know my Bible’ quite well enough when it comes to the sections relating (or allegedly relating) to being homosexual. You believe the Bible forbids gay relationships and/or gay sex. I disagree. Arguing that the issue is ‘clear cut’, as many claim, seems rather narrow minded to me when so, so many people disagree.

        I am forced into celibacy not by God, but by the Church. I accept it as part of the Calling I’m given, but if the rules were changed I would not remain celibate if I loved someone enough to marry them.

        You talk of leading people astray, and I expect we can both agree that the greatest harm a Christian leader can do is to lead other Christians down a pathway that leads away from God? I don’t refer to a path of sin necessarily, but a situation in which a Christian could not talk to God honestly and could not discern the way they are called to be ‘Holy’.

        I personally believe, when there is so much debate, that telling people ‘gay/gay sex = sin’ is incredibly harmful – perhaps the worst thing a Christian leader could do to a gay person. Should someone come to me seeking advice I would explain the various opinions held on the subject, explain why those views are held, and support them in coming to their own conclusion through thought and prayer. I would not, on such a hot debate, be so foolish as to say “I 100% know what God thinks”, but I would be able to say in all sincerity: “I 100% believe that God thinks suchandsuch, though others disagree.”

        To do anything else is so wrong. I was born perfect in the eyes of God. I was born gay. Therefore telling me that being gay is a sin simply does not compute. Such confusion can be manifested in a variety of ways – I might desperately try to suppress the feelings, but that could never truly work – it would involve lying both to myself and to God, and therefore create a barrier between us.

        I might eventually be forced to weigh up my sexuality against my faith. Sexuality is a human emotion which can be positively tested and identified. God is – by nature – someone we cannot test, and must believe in without scientific evidence. Sexuality is almost bound to win out, thus creating a permanent barrier between God and I.

        Or I might simply struggle on – a situation that very, very often leads to mental illness and even suicide. The chances that I would be able to live in a deep, honest, Christian relationship with God would be so small as to be nearly – but not completely – impossible.

        Even if you believe it is a sin to be gay/have gay sex, ignoring all other opinions and telling gay people they have no choice but to live a sexless life, completely alone, can create such harm, can cause such pain… Jesus came to take away pain and harm, and he left the Church with the same mission.

    • Sebastian – I am not going to engage in a theological discussion with you on the subject of homosexuality yours or anothers – it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose. BUT I am surprised, although by now I shouldn’t be, to hear you say that you disagree with Scripture. That is tantamount to calling God a liar and I’m sure you wouldn’t knowingly do that would you. The Bible is clear, although the LGBT brigade wish that it wasn’t, and deny the parts that challange their ungodly behaviour. You also claim that you were born perfect i.e. gay, and that makes it o.k. But there again you show a lack of understanding of the Bible, “we were born in sin and shapen in iniquity” that doesn’t sound very perfect to me. None of us are born perfect we are all Adams’ offspring and sinful from the start. You really can’t claim that your homosexuality is perfection and God given, any more than a thief or a murderer can claim that he is what he is because he was born perfect. We all have to come tro the cross admitting our sinfulness and seeking forgiveness and God in His mercy transforms us into His likeness, and by His grace enables us to rersist evil. I hope that you can find that place for yourself. I do agree that “The Church” has a responsibility to welcome anyone through their doors in compassion and love – BUT that doesn’t mean that the Church endorses sinfull behaviour whatever form it takes. If you are going into ministry/leadership I hope that you will not tell others that marriage is anything but one man and one women. same sex relationship is not marriage and outside Gods’ laws. As a Christian speaker I take very seriously the fact that I shall be held doubly responsible for any wrong teaching and thereby leading someone astray. Please for your own benefit go back to the Bible.

      • I won’t engage in a deep theological argument here either, but I know so many of the passages pulled out by those who wish to show the Bible as anti-LGBT. I simply don’t accept that they are as clear cut as some say, and I don’t believe they forbid gay relationships.

        Your extract from Psalm 51 might, out of context, refute the point I made but within context we see it as a piece of poetry reflecting on the inevitability of sinfulness. It cannot and does not answer the wide question of when ‘sin’ begins. We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – perfectly human, perfectly divine, born as a human baby. The conception may have been divine, but the birth was as human as any other. Would you say he was born a sinner? He was only without sin because of his own will-power, strength and faith – not some magical ‘get out of sin free’ card that we don’t have.

        A thief is not born a theif, a paedophile is not born a paedophile, but a gay person is born that way. Within the wider context of an all-loving God, why would he condemn so many thousands upon thousands of people to a life where they will be unable to ever express their love for another person?! Or worse – be forced into a loveless marriage through shame?

        As the wonderful Desmond Tutu so brilliantly put it: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic Heaven” – he would pick Hell over a homophobic God, because a homophobic God couldn’t be all-loving.

      • Sebastian – you really are an artful fellow. You reject all scripture that disagrees with you. That makes you arogant as well. But your strange argument about the conception and birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is dangerously verging on blasphemy. And you are double minded about gays – they are born that way, you say, in spite of the fact you have no scientific evidence to support that view, BUT you do know for sure that paediphiles aren’t born that way; Since both are sexual perversions how can you make that distinction?? And what about other sexual perverts are they born that way or not?

        I think you are confusing sex with love, no gay is condemned to a loveless life, it is sodemy that is forbidden, plainly and clearly in scripture.

        And if Tutu is correctly quoted then I wonder if he really is a born again believer, because this so-called quote would indicate otherwise. Jesus willingly went to the cross to cleanse us from our sin, that is LOVE, turning a blind eye to sin isn’t.

        • Lily, it is very dangerous judging whether someone is a Christian or not unless you have good evidence. It is faith that brings salvation. Plenty of faithful people in the Bible had major flaws and we see that in enough Christians around us including ourselves. It is unhelpful to single out some views and practices over others in a judgmental way even if we believe them to be wrong. There are plenty of Christians who have views I strongly disagree with. I’m quite happy to make that clear and argue with them, but only God knows whether someone is born again and opinions and views aren’t necessarily a good indication of that.

      • Point taken Gillan. But I don’t think I said that Tutu wasn’t a Christian, but that if he is quoted correctly it raise questions in my mind. Perhaps I would have been wiser to have kept that thought to myself.

        There are, I agree, faithful people in scripture who were flawed, David for one, although he didn’t claim that his behaviour was righteous, and was deeply repentant when confronted with it. We have all sinned, and still fall short of God’s standards that I know only too well, but the problem arises when I justify my failures and sin by claiming that scripture is wrong and my actions are right.

      • Sebastian, nobody is born “perfect in the eyes of God.” Try Romans 3:10-20! And Lily speaks the truth in her reply to you, understanding God’s decrees through his Word far better than you do.

  7. You Watched The Whole Of Synod? Plainly you’re an extremely holy person as I’d prefer martyrdom myself 😉 I lasted exactly three minutes.

    • Well the fight will eventually, inevitably, culminate at Synod… So I feel I do need to learn how it works and operates eventually.

      I guess there’s some truth in the criticism of Christianity that we love torturing ourselves 😛

      • Thank you Sebastian for your replies. Your honestly is much appreciated. You appear to have a much healthier approach to your sexuality and faith than many. You’re right that the church needs to pastorally offer support for all people including those who are actively gay. That was the point I was making.

        You also talk about self-loathing as a teenager because of your attraction to other men. This is something that churches need to make clear – it is not sinful to be attracted to people of your own sex. Neither is it sinful to be gay. So many people don’t seem to get this and it would make a lot of people’s lives better if we did.

        I understand that a lot of people, especially younger ones, think the church is out of touch, but most who don’t attend don’t really have much idea what the Christian faith is all about, hence the appalling state of affairs with the GCSE RE paper you mention. There are far bigger reasons why people don’t find Jesus than sex or even women bishops, but those two make for good news stories. Until people can see that following Jesus is something wonderful, playing around with things at Synod will make next to no difference.

        Congratualtions too on your commitment to following Synod. Few people could match that.

      • Gillan, you say it’s not a sin to be gay! I can’t agree. ALL sexual thoughts directed at ANYONE other than a spouse of the opposite sex are adultery of the mind, and therefore a sin. (Matt 5:28)

      • Helen – it’s this ‘black and white’ view of the Bible that I find so difficult to understand. You take a single passage and proclaim a wide-reaching statement to be true, which it seems to me is simply not the way God is, or intended the Bible to be used.

        Just look at http://www.bibviz.com/ – so many contradictions within the Bible. OK some can be argued against, but it just shows how inappropriate it is to use the Bible as a single book of divinely given laws. It is the written expression of an inexpressible heavenly grace, not the only guidebook to life.

        The point is that God is alive today, and we can know Jesus personally. Ignoring that and setting up the Bible as virtually the one and only method of understanding God seems bizarre to me. It’s rather like having an autobiography of a celebrity, and reading between the lines to gauge whether they’re homophobic or not. At the end of the book they very clearly print their telephone number and say “give me a call if you have any further questions”, but you ignore it and simply take out passages that suit you.

        Now I’m not going to ignore the passage you quote there (Matt. 5:28), but I put it in a wider context and consider the implications. Take a hypothetical teenage boy who has rushing hormones. He might see a girl he finds attractive and be turned on by her.. The idea God would damn him for such a thought seems so unlike a loving God. My reading of the Bible, and understanding of God, is that such thoughts distract us from God and put a barrier between him and us. Jesus takes away our sin in that we can turn to God through him and be forgiven. That doesn’t mean we can lead a life of debauchery and simply turn to Jesus as we die – but we should aim to lead as holy a life as possible out of respect and love for God, and in order that we might better discern how we should act to improve the whole world and bring God’s Kingdom here, not because we’re afraid of Hell or damnation.

        (..and call me Devil’s Advocate – but doesn’t a strictly literal reading of Matt 5:28 let men and women lusting after men off the hook, it only mentions lusting after women!)

  8. “How many people will find themselves more attracted to the Gospel if churches liberalise their approach to same-sex relationships?” The overwhelming majority of my family and friends, but do let the general decline of Church attendance in the West obfuscate the issue.

  9. But Gillian, saying that “This is something that churches need to make clear – it is not sinful to be attracted to people of your own sex. Neither is it sinful to be gay,” solves virtually nothing. You’re still made welcome as someone who has a rather strong (God knows erotic and companionship desires are strong) tendency to succumb to a particularly notorious kind of evil, a bit like a pedophile or compulsively violent psychopaths… although in your case the moral wrong is really not visible to the world at large, nor is it clear how your abstinence promotes any kind of common moral good.

  10. and another thing: I cannot read these ‘label arguments’ without noting that they are never levelled at anything but gay identitities. Who’s read an article about not calling yourself male and Christian (though this one has good scriptural justification), or black and Christian, or even elderly, British, French, disabled, etc and Christian? The assumption seems to be that gay people do not or should not exist as we are all born straight, and are only gay out of defect, rebelliously, circumstantially, being raised wrong etc., which obviously implies that no matter the unchangeable your orientation it can still be called *wrong*.

    • I very hard to argue that sexuality is entirely due to social conditioning, based on anecdotal and scientific evidence. I think you’re reading more into what I have said, than I actually am. We all have an array of components that make up who we are – some we are born with and some are to do with culture, education, etc. The important thing is to put all of these into perspective and make sure there is balance if we are to have a healthy view on our lives and those of others.

      • I agree, I’d be happy to put things in perspective and definitely subordinate my sexuality to my faith,
        but evangelical christianity generally does not require lgbt folks to integrate their sexuality or make sure there’s balance, as you put it; they squarely ask that you don’t define yourself like so, that you never act out, or at worst, that you be fixed and get married the only right way, with a person of the opposite sex. As for the labelling of gay people, it’s mainly done by others, and that since the playground. Just owning the label (coming out, I guess) is hard enough, it’s not just an ntem in ‘an array of components that make up who you are;’ it tends to be the one thing people blow absolutely out of proportion.

  11. I think that the issue about labels is much bigger than the words we choose to use, whether or not these are accurate, relevant or appropriate. We are constantly taking in information and processing it, assigning meaning to it in our heads. We may not consciously realise that we are engaging in labelling. Thus we may form opinions and expectations about another person based on their appearance, attractiveness, political affiliations, gender, nationality, culture, sexual orientation, class, accent, education, age etc etc. These could be either positive or negative. The triggers will be different for each of us. Therefore, when we address a person, we may end up actually addressing the labels we have subconsciously given them. This means that we are not treating them as a unique individual, but are bringing in the limitations of our expectations and framing the interaction we have with them within our system of labelling.

    We live in a culture that loves to label. Headlines frequently use labels to draw us to a story. Why? Because a label will provoke some sort of a response. But we are told that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. The Holy Spirit empowers us to see ourselves and others as God sees us/them, rather than by our own limited perceptions. This is the means to breaking barriers and inspiring each other to live up to the purpose we were created for, not seeking to find appeasement between the different labels that are so often used to divide us.

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