Justin Welby’s debut radio phone-in was a breath of fresh air

Justin Welby conducted his very first radio phone-in on LBC this morning and from the outcome one wonders why this has taken so long to come about. Spending an hour answering questions he covered plenty of ground and it was refreshing to hear him talking freely on a range of subjects firsthand including women bishops, welfare reform, the morality of fuel costs, foodbanks and a Christian attitudes to the environment without his words being reduced to the usual media soundbites. It was very easy to get a taste of his personality, the way that his faith has moulded him and why he is the right person to be the Archbishop of Canterbury at this time. His mixture of honesty, pragmatism and theology were thoroughly engaging, profound and at times entertaining.

Justin Welby LBCPredictably the main topic of conversation was the Church of England’s attitude to homosexuality and equal marriage with Ann Widdecombe calling in early on to happily stir things up. There was a great moment when the Archbishop was asked: “Does the Archbishop seriously believe that after three and a half billion years of evolution including over two million years of the human species, God chose to reveal the truth of His existence and the afterlife to a small tribe of semi-literate shepherds around four thousand years ago?” His simple answer was, “Yes!”

The most revealing point though came right at the very end. A vicar called in to ask why clergy should not be left to their own consciences to decide whether to bless gay marriages or not. Welby continued to defend the rights of gay people, as he had done throughout the show, but also added this:

“I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,” Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world. It’s not a simple issue”

There was a brief stunned pause by the host James O’Brien followed by the comment, “That’s not something I’ve heard before.” Welby continued:

“I’m afraid it’s only too sadly true… What was said was that ‘If we leave a Christian community in this area’ – I’m quoting; this is obviously not something I think – ‘we will all be made to become homosexual and so we’re going to kill all the Christians. The mass grave had 369 bodies in it and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”

It was a reminder that actions that might appear benign and good in one part of the world can have unforeseen consequences elsewhere.

When politicians are taken out of their comfort zone and put on the spot to be subjected to unplanned questioning by the public there can be great instants of revelation as the public facade is briefly stripped away. What made Justin Welby’s appearance different is that right from the start he demonstrated a level of humility and vulnerability that we rarely see from our nation’s leaders. This is was the human side of the Church that is seldom portrayed in the media. Justin Welby’s appearance on LBC Radio was a great advertisement for him as an individual, for the Christian faith, the good news of Jesus and even possibly the Church of England.

Hopefully this will be the first of many similar opportunities to come.

 

 

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Categories: Archbishop of Canterbury, Homosexuality, Media, Persecution

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38 replies

  1. Hi,

    I did not hear the show, but on the issue of homosexuality, I wished he would have said that sex is between a man and a women in marriage as the Bible lays out. As Christians we don’t do this or that because of the consequences of our actions in other countries. The house church in China would have died years ago if they looked at what we in the west were doing. His comments sound so much like people pleasing apologetics.

  2. “A breath of fresh air”?? Seriously, Gillan??? Hot air is more like it, shoddy thinking, refusing to do what’s right for fear of others doing what’s wrong.

    ++Justin’s justification for the C of E not accepting equal marriage is akin to telling people during WW2 that they shouldn’t give refuge to Jews for fear of Nazi reprisals; refusing to take a stand against racism in pre-Mandela South Africa for fear of apartheid reprisals; or arguing we shouldn’t educate women because Islamic extremists will kill women in India.

    No, this is no breath of fresh air: it’s capitulating to murder.

  3. It’s well known that the churches in Nigeria and Uganda have fully supported the anti gay laws from the very beginning and that Christians in those countries are extremely conservative about homosexuality.

    And we are to believe that this is not widely known there? And that Muslims and others will kill conservative Christians whose morals are fully in line with their own, just because Christians in the West think differently?

    Is there even the remotest shred of evidence for this? Standing by a graveside and being told “this is all the fault of you liberals in the West” is not entirely conclusive.

    And if we did believe that people genuinely fear gay Christians in the West, wouldn’t our best response to fear be to shows that there is nothing to fear?

    If we treat our own gay population with contempt we’re showing that we’re agreeing with Africans. Whereas if we start to treat our own gay population as fully equal we demonstrate that they are as normal and faithful as everyone else and that no African needs to be afraid of them.

    The only rational response to African homophobia can be full equality here.

  4. I think a lot of people have either not listened to what Justin Welby said or have misinterpreted it. He didn’t say that the Church in the West should avoid any changes to its laws on gay marriage. It was more that we need to understand that there can be potential consequences elsewhere as a result.

    If you read what he has said about the African churches’ homophobic attitude, you will see that he has denounced it. I have not seen any indication that his attitudes on gay marriage have anything to do with capitulating to the Christians here or elsewhere and being held to ransom in the process. His views, as he said on the show come first and foremost from his interpretation of the Bible and theological study.

    • Actually he stated quite clearly that he is opposed to equal marriage: when pressed on the matter, he said:

      My position is the historic position of the church which is in our Canons, which says that sexual relations … [brief interruption by Ann Widdecombe] ​… should be within marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman.

      So it’s perfectly evident that he does think that the Church in the West should avoid any changes to its laws on marriage especially insofar as that might come down to recognising the validity of same sex marriage.

      Yes, he denounces homophobia; but he reinforces his personal opposition to equal marriage with the view that if we change things here it will lead to further killings in Africa. This is reasoning akin, as I said earlier, to arguing that during WW2 people ought not to provide refuge for Jews for fear of Nazi reprisals. Utterly abhorrent. He is, indeed, allowing the C of E and its processes to be held to ransom by murderers.

  5. It’s good that he conveys his own moral integrity, at a personal and institutional level, in a way that chimes with the media, something that his predecessor (with an even deeper integrity, if one can say that) often failed to do. The problem is that he has stumbled back into his predecessor’s dilemma: what’s more important, Unity, defending our fellow Christians who may be persecuted and possibly killed if they stop adopting an anti-gay position which most of us here think is morally wrong, or Justice, defending gay people who are actually being persecuted and killed in these countries for upholding what many of us here think to be morally right? To avoid persecution by persecuting others is hardly a Christian position!

  6. I just don’t get it. He sees first hand the murderous consequences of (being perceived) to be pro-gay or gay, and his solution is: we should therefore relent on things like gay marriage?

  7. Sounds like trying to have your cake and eat it to me.
    Enough fence – sitting. The Arch should be on the side of scripture teaching on this and everything else.

  8. The side of Scripture being, let me guess, yours?

  9. I think that Justin is being scriptural because he understands that Christian condemnation can cause emotional distress to gay people to the point of suicide and a condemning tone is something of the pharisees. Jesus saved his harshest words for those who condemn others. He is saying be loving to all people, he is talking about the fruit of the spirit to be simply kind and gentle. He did not condemn the Samarian women at the well for having many husbands but pointed her to the life found in him through the living waters of the holy spirit. The Love Jesus talks about goes beyond sexual identity because we are more than just that and the Jesus life is about being servants in our love and care for others. This is difficult and countercultural in an identity, rights and sex culture. There is no affirmation of same sex marriage in the bible even allowing for the various cultural explanations of passages that relate to homosexuality. Both the ”condemning” Christian and the Gay Christian demanding marriage ”rights’ should maybe reflect and repent of their own certainty and entertain some healthy doubt because Jesus condemned ”condemners” and spoke much more about beatitudes than rights. Without repentance of sin there is no grace or forgiveness and we all have our own walk with God in this respect. He wants us to develop the characteristics and virtues as led by the holy spirit and from these human decency and real rights naturally flow. Maybe this is what Justin Welby is talking about.

    • At the end of his conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus told her to go and sin no more.

      Is it acceptable to you for Christians who treat people in same sex relationships with respect to ever say ‘go and sin no more’?

      • He said nothing of the sort to the woman at the well

      • Apart from the fact (as Lorenzo has pointed out) that you’re getting your Bible stories in a muddle (it was the the woman caught in adultery to whom Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”), I’d say it will probably be acceptable to say that at about the same time as those wishing to say it listen to what Jesus said immediately before that: “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

        In case that’s not clear enough for you, David: the one who has the right to say Go and sin no more is the one who is free from sin; the rest of us must either bow our heads and walk away in shame at our conduct in condemning one who is in truth no different to us, or rejoice at the wonder of God’s mercy and forgiveness and, like Jesus, be prepared to stand alongside that person and risk the condemnation and stoning ourselves as he did. Had that crowd turned uglier than it already was, it could have been an entirely different outcome: it’s a dangerous business standing alongside those whom the religious leaders of your day reject.

        Here’s another take on that story for you: Notes from a Gay Christian Woman

    • You’re right, Graham, when you say that there is no affirmation of same sex marriage in the Bible; but nor is there any condemnation: same sex marriage simply doesn’t feature in Scripture. What does feature is faithfulness; and this is what God calls us to, over and over again — to be faithful to God, to our neighbours, to one another; this is what scripture repeatedly affirms, even taking the model of marriage as a picture of God’s relationship with Israel and the Church. In this relationship, gender is of no importance: the crucial factor is faithfulness v/s unfaithfulness.

      This is why I, for one, have changed my mind. I was brought up a conservative evangelical and I held Justin Welby’s view, that sex was only for marriage and marriage could only exist between a man and a woman; and by that view same sex relationships could only be inherently sinful. But as I outlined in my Open Letter to the House of Bishops, that view became untenable as I got to know a number of LGBTI Christians and saw God at work in their lives just the same as God is at work in mine: like Peter on that rooftop, challenged to recognise God’s acceptance of uncircumcised Gentiles, who was I to condemn or reject those whom God has clearly accepted? And once that recognition dawned, only full acceptance was possible.

      You are right: without repentance of sin, grace and forgiveness hit a brick wall. That brick wall, however, as I found myself forced to admit, was my hardness of heart, not the supposed sin of same sex love; for it is faithfulness to which God calls us, irrespective of gender difference, orientation or sexual identity; it is faithfulness — and the self-giving love out of which faithfulness springs — that makes a marriage, and unfaithfulness that breaks one.

      There is no condemnation for those who wish to live in loving faithfulness, and the answer to homophobic hatred in Africa is not to concede the point but to show a better way.

  10. Thank you Phil I wish i was as sure as you. I regularly declare my shortcomings to God in this area. I believe that we are to devote ourselves to Jesus and one another first and foremost in faithfulness as far as our own human weaknesses will allow and that he works with us in our sin whatever it is. We are all accepted by God including the uncircumcised gentiles as you say but we are still required to repent. I think my problem is if Homosexual sex is a sin as the bible suggests and there is an idea now that it does not require repentance then the relationship with God is broken in this area which is a real reason for sadness and tragic for those concerned and whilst loving faithfulness to one another is all to God that template must conform to his will and not ours.

    • Graham, I know that feeling of uncertainty only too well; but I’ve learnt to live with it. It’s always there, the nagging doubt, the “what if I’m wrong” feeling; and I think it’s an essential part of our spiritual journey — akin to Peter’s experiences, I think: Jesus calls us to step out of the boat not onto solid ground but into the winds and waves of uncertainty. There’s always that fear of sinking, and the moment we take our eyes from him, down we go — but he stands ready to haul us back. Or as the the Deuteronomist put it so beautifully: the Eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

      My argument in a nutshell is that the way Christians have traditionally interpreted the Bible on the matter of same sex relationships is incorrect, based on a failure to take account of the context of the passages concerned: those passages do not address those living in stable, faithful same sex partnerships; they address heterosexuals engaging in extramarital sex. What those passages give us is a standard for all: faithfulness to one’s life partner; and exactly the same principle applies to heterosexuals, homosexuals and everyone in between.

      We need, somehow, to find a way of reading the Bible through the eyes of those to whom it was originally addressed, not as if it were written directly to us in the 21st Century; and we need to be more aware of the ways translators paper over the cracks in their attempts to offer us something readable in our own languages. Here’s a case in point: Leviticus Defiled: The Perversion of Two Verses — do go read.

      • But Phil, this piece is not doing what you request. ‘Clearly, in this text, setting up your bed is a symbol for worship of Molech’ is simply not the case. To take a verse from Isaiah, a long way in time and context from the Lev text, and transfer one inferred meaning into the different context is a really fantasising way of reading.

        Just about every interpreter of Lev 18, ancient and modern, has understood this to be a (usual) Hebrew metaphor for same sex activity. The very words are the rabbinical term for homosexual sex.

        This is yet another desperate attempt to avoid the meaning of the text.

      • Desperate, Ian? Really? I think not; but I think I do detect a note of desperation in your attempt to dismiss Susan’s analysis so easily, especially in way you pick up one — tentative — note in your attempt to trash the whole, ironically enough thereby falling into the very trap she identifies at the outset, ignoring context to score a point.

        And at no point in Susan’s analysis does she say that the verses under the spotlight don’t refer to same sex activity: they clearly do; but what Susan does, the thing those desperate to retain marriage as an exclusive right for heterosexuals disregard, is set the verses in their context.

        So who, Ian, is setting out to avoid the meaning of the text? And upon what basis do those such as yourself take hold of these two verses but ignore the rest of Leviticus? Susan is right:

        Out of all the verses in Leviticus that could be singled out, people filled with hate have chosen two obscure verses and ignored their context. They don’t care about the fact that Leviticus 20 also forbids sleeping with your wife if she is menstruating, and if you curse your parents you should be put to death. They don’t care that Leviticus forbids wearing garments of mixed materials. They don’t care that Leviticus contains an entire dietary code that was obviously quite important. They don’t care about this book as God’s Word. They only care about perverting two verses.

        Isn’t it interesting, that when Jesus quoted Leviticus, he quoted a verse about love (Lev. 19:18)? Maybe, if we’re going to pick one verse out of Leviticus to plaster on signs, that’s the one we should choose.

        Please don’t misread me: I’m not saying that you’re full of hate; but others are; and that’s the problem we’re up against — those who are full of hate will seize upon ++Justin’s and your resistance to full LGBTI equality to legitimate their hate-filled agenda. Those in Africa’s homophobic nations see the C of E’s refusal to fully accept LGBTI people as proof that they are right, and so ++Justin’s failure of nerve has the very opposite effect to that which he intends.

        But here’s the nub of it: we could play Bible ping-pong until the cows come home, but all the Bible verses in the world won’t make the least bit of difference to what God is doing; and what God is doing is blessing LGBTI people in just the same way as straight people: bestowing the same Holy Spirit, with the same fruit of the Spirit manifest. That leaves us with a choice: we can either live in denial and be like the Judaisers in the early church, insisting that admission to God’s people is by obedience to every facet of the Law; or we can respond like Peter when, in prayer on that rooftop, God showed him that something new was taking place, that the doors to God’s Kingdom were being thrown wide open, that the old order was being swallowed up by the new, that those whom he had been taught by to regard as unclean were now accepted by God, just as he himself was.

        Once we find ourselves in that place of prayer with Peter, overwhelmed by grace, then, if we believe that the Bible is somehow the Word of God, we’re faced with a dilemma: what do those texts of terror for LGBTI people mean? And the answer that emerged for me was this: those texts are addressed to a (hypothetically) straight community. Those texts are telling us that for members of that community to engage in same-sex relations is unacceptable. What they don’t tell us is why: for that, we have to dig a little deeper; and the answer — as I’ve argued before, but I’ll say it again — is found in God’s call to faithfulness, expressed in the Commandments as the prohibition against adultery. In the hypothetically straight community to which the biblical writers belonged, same sex relations could only take place outside marriage, either as an act of promiscuity before marriage, or of betrayal and unfaithfulness within marriage: a point Susan’s renditions of Lev 18.22 & 20.13 — “And with a male you will not lay (on) the couches/beds of a woman; it is an abomination” — back up: the heterosexual marriage bed must not be defiled in this way.

        So again I ask: who is seeking to avoid the meaning of the text?

        The fact is that we no longer live in that hypothetically straight community: in truth, that community never in fact existed; and God is now — so it seems to me and to many others — opening our eyes to recognise that fact, to recognise that LGBTI people are as much part and parcel of God’s people as straight people. And the same call to faithfulness goes out to all, gay, straight or in between. Despite what some are saying, none of us calling for equal marriage are calling for a sexual free-for-all anything-goes culture: we are calling for a radical commitment to faithfulness.

      • Phil, it seems to me that your reading of the text is working with a number of assumptions, and it is these which are shaping your view, and not the texts themselves. When you say ‘but all the Bible verses in the world won’t make the least bit of difference to what God is doing’ this shines a light on one of them: you have made your mind up about the issue, and appear to fit the meaning of the texts to this. It’s a bit like the oft-quoted Desmond Tutu ‘I won’t go to a heaven that is homophobic.’ It sounds laudable, but in the end Tutu is telling God what kind of God he must be.

        The parallel with Peter and the admission of Gentiles is entirely false. To be Gentile is a genetic, ethnic marker; to experience same-sex attraction is not, and there is plenty of evidence for that. And to be Gentile did not imply particular ethical actions; as a God-fearer, you could act like a Jew and be considered part of the people. That is why in Acts 15 certain obligations are laid on Gentile converts, one of them being the continued application of OT sexual ethical standards.

        So in fact Acts 15 suggests that LBGTIXQ Christians are perfectly welcome in the Church–provided they abstain from sex outside male-female marriage. You are free to disagree with that–but I don’t think you it is possible to infer from the passage what you are inferring.

        ‘those texts are addressed to a (hypothetically) straight community’ There is no evidence of this from the texts themselves; texts in both NT and OT speak to communities who were aware of a whole range of sexual practices.IF Israel was a ‘(hypothetically) straight community’ it is because its identity was rooted in the Genesis creation narratives.

        • Well there’s a remarkable coincidence, Ian, as it seems to me that your reading of the text is working with a number of assumptions, and it is these which are shaping your view, and not the texts themselves.

          Time for a reality check: everyone approaches the biblical text with certain assumptions; the question is whether or not we’re prepared to allow those assumptions to be challenged — and this, dear brother, is where you’re wrong: I’ve not made my mind up; I’ve allowed my mind to be changed.

          I briefly outlined that journey in my Open Letter to the House of Bishops back in February: I used to be a conservative evangelical who followed the party line about homosexuality; then I got to know some gay Christians and it became blindingly obvious that God was blessing them and their ministries in exactly the same way as straight people — who then was I to withhold my blessing or to declare their so-called “lifestyle choice” sinful? So you’re wrong again: the parallel with Peter and the Gentiles, far from being “entirely false” as you assert, is entirely true — it emerges from my experience just as Peter’s change of attitude to the Gentiles emerged from his (even though, of course, he later chickened out and Paul had to set him to rights).

          Far from approaching Scripture with my mind made up and fitting the meaning of the texts to that, I’ve approached Scripture with my eyes open to what God is doing and been forced to reassess both my interpretation of the texts and my own attitude to LGBTI people. As for Desmond Tutu: he’s right; he won’t go to a heaven that is homophobic, because God is not homophobic. Desmond Tutu isn’t telling God what kind of God to be: he’s recognising and responding to the kind of God that God is; far from attempting to tell God anything, he’s telling the Church — telling you and me — what kind of God we have.

          Now back to the early church’s admission of the Gentiles: you’re right when you affirm that the difference between Jews & Gentiles consists of a genetic, ethnic marker; but you’re wrong when you deny any parallel with the difference between straight and gay people: for most LGBTI people, their orientation is no more a matter of choice than being straight is for most straights; and there’s a whole rainbow-hued spectrum in between, including those who claim to have changed their orientation, just as there are Gentiles who’ve become Jews and Jews who’ve become Gentiles: people are more complicated than genetic/ethnic markers might suggest.

          As for the God-fearers, the situation was less straightforward than you suggest: merely acting like a Jew was not sufficient; to be considered part of the people, to be able to take part in the festivals such as Passover, the Torah required any male God-fearer to be circumcised; and this — as well you know — is where the early church parted company with mainstream Judaism. Here, then, we have a remarkable parallel with the church today and LGBTI people: just as there were always God-fearers amongst the people of Israel, so there have always been LGBTI people in the church, at all levels, lay and ordained, including the episcopacy, accepted, included, known — but not, until more recently, formally recognised. Just as in Israel/Judaism, practice has always diverged from the official line, accommodations have always been found; where life becomes difficult is when those accommodations are acknowledged and hypocrisy is exposed — that’s when people start getting crucified, as we remember over this most holy of weekends.

          Now things get interesting: you begin by asserting, “The parallel with Peter and the admission of Gentiles is entirely false” — then you draw on that parallel: “So in fact Acts 15 suggests that LBGTIXQ Christians are perfectly welcome in the Church…” So which is it, Ian? Entirely false or entirely valid? Let’s go with the flow of your argument and accept that the parallel is in fact valid: you are right when you point to the acceptance of the Gentiles being subject to “the continued application of OT sexual ethical standards”; you are wrong, however, when you jump from there to assert that the parallel acceptance of LGBTI people is “provided they abstain from sex outside male-female marriage” — because at that point you are imposing your assumption of what those “OT sexual ethical standards” are upon the text; for again, as well you know, the text of Acts 15 does not spell it out. So we return full circle: you are bringing your assumptions to the text “and it is these which are shaping your view, and not the texts themselves.” I think we have to dig a little deeper to understand what those sexual ethical standards are; and the conclusion that I have reached — as I have outlined on numerous occasions now — goes beyond questions of gender difference and orientation (matters over which most of us have no choice) to the quintessential question of faithfulness v/s unfaithfulness (over which all of us do have a choice). You are free to disagree with that, of course, but I don’t think you can infer otherwise from either this passage or, in fact, any other passage of Scripture.

          And at this point, I’m curious: why do you and others of a conservative evangelical bent, read Scripture so selectively? Why do you take hold of the advice to uphold “OT sexual ethical standards” — or to be more accurate, to refrain from sexual immorality (πορνείας·) — but disregard the advice to abstain from blood? Do you eat black pudding? Do you know Christians who do? Do you seek to exclude them from the Christian community upon the same basis as you seek to exclude LGBTI people? If not, upon what basis do you disregard this but seek to impose your interpretation of abstaining from πορνείας· upon LGBTI people? We’ve come full circle again, for this is the main point of Susan’s post on Leviticus:

          When you use a biblical book only to condemn but ignore it otherwise, that’s bibliolatry. You are defiling God’s word by using it wrongly and selectively. When you ignore a book filled with important (but difficult) theology only to appeal to it when it’s convenient, you are abusing it. This is biblical pornography—putting selected verses on display in a way that defiles them and uses them for your own perverted purposes

          Harsh words, I know, but sometimes harsh words must be said; because much as you may want this to be a debate about the Bible, it isn’t: it’s a conversation about people and the use and abuse of the Bible to bludgeon vulnerable people into submission. This is something Archbishop Justin has got right: he recognises that people, not texts, are at the heart of this discussion.

          And so, at last, to your final paragraph: you do the same thing here as you do with the parallel with Peter and the admission of the Gentiles. First, you deny that there is any evidence that the texts are addressed to a (hypothetically) straight community; then you say that if Israel was a (hypothetically) straight community, that’s because their identity is rooted in the texts. So which is it, Ian? Are we dealing with texts addressed to a (hypothetically) straight community or not? My view is that we are; and once again you are free to disagree with that, etc; but the real question is how we in the Church of England deal with those LGBTI people who have always been amongst us, who wish to remain amongst us and who wish to join us — and we won’t find the answer to that by looking only to the text: we must look, as Peter and the early church did, to what God is doing amongst us:

          The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, ‘My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’

          You and those opposed to full LGBTI equality must face Peter’s challenge full on: “God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?”

          May you find sufficient grace and integrity to do so.

      • ‘Well there’s a remarkable coincidence, Ian, as it seems to me that your reading of the text is working with a number of assumptions, and it is these which are shaping your view, and not the texts themselves.’

        Except that I have said ‘Let’s look at the texts’ whereas you have said ‘‘but all the Bible verses in the world won’t make the least bit of difference to what God is doing’ so there is not the symmetry in our approaches which you suggest.

        In relation to Acts 15 etc: ‘it emerges from my experience just as Peter’s change of attitude to the Gentiles emerged from his (even though, of course, he later chickened out and Paul had to set him to rights).’

        But that is not the parallel. All of us come back to Scripture in the light of our experience. The questions was *provoked* by the experience—but the final settlement was not *determined* by experience, as yours appears to have been. Paul who ‘set Peter to rights’ still clearly thinks that Gentiles are now bound by many parts of the OT as giving authoritative ethical guidance, in particular in relation to same-sex activity.

        ‘Now things get interesting: you begin by asserting, “The parallel with Peter and the admission of Gentiles is entirely false” — then you draw on that parallel: “So in fact Acts 15 suggests that LBGTIXQ Christians are perfectly welcome in the Church…” So which is it, Ian? Entirely false or entirely valid?’

        You only have this false dichotomy if you refuse to separate orientation/impulse/desire from action. And I don’t think Scripture does this. People with same-sex attraction are fully welcome in the church, and must be. But that is not the same as approving same-sex activity.

        To think ‘full LGBTI equality’ is only achieved through approving actions is (I think) to make a false assumption about what it means to be human—one that Scripture explicitly contradicts.

        • Far from false, Ian, the parallels and dichotomies are as real as the difference between orientation and action; for just as the early church’s acceptance of the Gentiles was a matter of action — to circumcise or not to circumcise — so the church today’s acceptance of LGBTI people is a matter of action — to require celibacy or to not require celibacy; and there is no basis in Scripture for making such a requirement of anyone, straight or LGBTI, within marriage.

          Just as the early church found itself facing an unprecedented situation — the acceptance of uncircumcised people as full members of God’s covenant people — so too do we in the C of E today: the acceptance of LGBTI people as full members of the Church; and that acceptance must include the freedom to marry, for to refuse that freedom is to impose the requirement of celibacy, which brings us back once again to Peter’s challenge:

          And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?

          I urge you, Ian, do not be like Pharaoh, hardening your heart when God says, “Let my people go.” Do not be like the Judaisers that the early church had to contend with. Do not attempt to turn Christ’s church into a shibboleth-gated community where marriage is the new Corban — for God is tearing those gates down and Christ sees through the Corban to the heart.

      • OK Phil–I now see the importance of this. The greatest, cosmic act of deliverance in the OT is the exodus from Egypt. The greatest, cosmic act of deliverance in the NT—and all the scriptures—is Jesus’ liberation of humanity from sin, and this bursts the banks of ethnic identification of God’s people.

        The current issue on sexuality is now to be compared with these. So sexuality now takes this central, cosmic, epoch-defining significance?

        How far we have gone astray!

        • Sarcasm ill becomes you, Ian; but on the contrary — how far we have come! And, alas, how far we have yet to go; for whilst you may reject it, you have indeed arrived at the truth: to those whom the Church has excluded for so long, to those whom conservative voices such as yours hold in captivity, tear asunder and trample underfoot, this is indeed such an epoch-defining moment — but it is not sexuality that takes this significance: it is God’s breaking down of the barriers between us, bursting the banks of gender-based discrimination and ushering in another step in the new creation, another step towards the glorious freedom of the children of God!

          Mock all you may wish, Ian; harden your heart as you will: God knows that Christ has seen it all, felt it all, lived it all; more than this, he died for it all; and this night — this most holy of nights, in the darkest hour before dawn, when all hope is lost — he rises to new life!

          I leave you with a quote from the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, and pray that the eyes of your heart may soon be opened as his, mine and so many others have been:

          … I think we need to be more intelligent about thinking biblically in relation to equal marriage. It’s not enough to quote texts by themselves, as if they prove or disprove a particular position: what’s necessary is to understand the direction in which scripture is leading us in the way we reflect on human relationships. I was struck by a conversation the other day with a convinced evangelical who asked: why does the church come across as so hostile to equal marriage when it’s so clear from the Bible that covenanted monogamous lifelong commitment is always better than casual, promiscuous coupling? For the covenanted relationship is precisely how God marries himself to humanity. Shouldn’t the church positively welcome equal marriage as affirming this rich biblical insight into God’s nature and ours? And even if we aren’t sure, isn’t it better to risk a more generous way of reading biblical writings rather than a narrower, in the spirit of a text I come back to in so many controversial settings: ‘there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3.28). This is the kind of hermeneutical risk I see Jesus taking with Torah texts in the gospels.

          From: Equal Marriage: crossing the threshold

          May the Lord, who is merciful, not withhold from you the blessing that you would withhold from those others whom he has accepted.

    • ‘Sarcasm ill becomes you’. I wasn’t really being sarcastic. You do appear to equate these three things.

      But I don’t suppose you register how patronising it sounds, when you wish upon me that my poor, darkened eyes might be opened to see the truth which you grasp *so* clearly, that I might, one day, enter into the gracious promised land that you happily inhabit…?

      • … and nor, I suppose, do you register how patronising — and demeaning — the typical evangelical attitude towards LGBTI people comes over? When, for instance, you come out with statements such as “LBGTIXQ Christians are perfectly welcome in the Church–provided they abstain from sex outside male-female marriage.”

        That, dear brother, is not welcoming: it is battening down the hatches on the Ark and saying, “Drown, you misbegotten sinners!” It’s like Tory party welfare policy, throwing a drowning person a rope too short to grasp. “But we offered them help, we bade them welcome,” I hear you say as you look Jesus square in the eye, proud of how you stood firm for your take on Scripture; and then you’ll lower your head in sorrow for the lost, the impenitent faithful same-sex sinner — only to then raise your eyes and see a rainbow-hued multitude standing there with Jesus, smiling and bidding you welcome.

        What then, Ian? Will you be like the older brother refusing to join the Father’s party when the younger prodigal was welcomed home? Welcomed home without any opportunity to present his well-rehearsed repentance speech, welcomed home simply because he, too, is one of the Father’s children, accepted not because he repented but because his Father loves him.

        Yes, I’m laying it on a bit thick, but nowhere near as thick as conservative evangelicals constantly lay it on their LGBTI brothers and sisters — judges who believe they have the power to validate other people’s relationships, wrestling with the question of whether or not they can “allow” LGBTI people to live as the people they are, making demands of them and placing constraints upon them that they themselves will not accept. Peter’s challenge again: “Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?”

        You find what I say patronising, Ian? Then please think again about how patronising and demeaning the things you say are to your LGBTI brothers and sisters. For here’s the reality: no one will ever try to coerce you into a gay relationship; yet your approach would coerce gay people into straight relationships, forcing them into a moral straightjacket of your manufacture, woven together from threads of Scripture that ought not to be mixed — threads of Scripture that if you would read them in their context you would see bear no relation to the loving, faithful same sex relationships we find around us today.

        Now, as for this being an epoch-defining issue — if it is not, why so much resistance? Why has the prospect of same sex marriage become a matter of life and death in Africa? Why has something which is of no major significance become a make-or-break issue for the Anglican Communion? Indeed, if you yourself do not regard it in this light, why are we having this conversation at all?

  11. ‘You’re right, Graham, when you say that there is no affirmation of same sex marriage in the Bible; but nor is there any condemnation: same sex marriage simply doesn’t feature in Scripture.’

    No, but same sex sexual relations do, and there is nothing to suggest they are accepted even when in the context of faithfulness.

    • My apologies, Ian — missed this reply earlier. As per my longer reply above, the same sex relations that are referred to in Scripture appear in specific context as expressions of heterosexual unfaithfulness. Seems to me that it is the failure to recognise this context that has led to the tendency to reject all same sex relationships. When we read Scripture in context, then there is nothing either way, either for or against, faithful same sex relationships — but there is much about faithfulness; and if we are prepared to open our eyes to what God is doing in and through the lives of LGBTI people, then there is every reason to believe that they are, indeed, accepted. Once again I echo Peter: who am I to reject those whom God accepts?

      • ‘the same sex relations that are referred to in Scripture appear in specific context as expressions of heterosexual unfaithfulness’. I don’t think there is a shred of exegetical evidence for this statement whatever.

        When Peter accepted Gentiles in, it included the condition in Acts 15 that the OT pattern of sexual relations is followed. This is named explicitly, and that suggests we should do the same today.

    • There is nothing to suggest that same sex relationships aren’t accepted when they are loving and committed. On the other hand, there is much to suggest that faithfulness and love are good things, and there is also much to suggest that casting judgement on others when you cannot know God’s mind is, in effect, pushing God off the throne and sitting there yourself.

  12. The bible is quite clear on homosexuality, if the Bishop cant uphold this he shoudl leave the church.

  13. I though Justin Welby was going to be a breath of fresh air and a good leader. He’s no different from the rest. Church leaders are just like politicians. Sack him.

  14. “There was a great moment when the Archbishop was asked: “Does the Archbishop seriously believe that after three and a half billion years of evolution including over two million years of the human species, God chose to reveal the truth of His existence and the afterlife to a small tribe of semi-literate shepherds around four thousand years ago?” His simple answer was, “Yes!””

    Why?

  15. 1 – 0 to Phil Groom. I just love the way those who want to continue to persecute gay people always come out with phrases like ‘the Bible is quite clear’. The one thing that is absolutely clear to anybody viewing the texts with even the slightest bit of objectivity is that they aren’t clear. So why do people insist the texts are clear? To my mind it’s the fig leaf behind which they seek to hide their prejudice. It takes one to know one of course. I have been prejudiced too, I have been a homophobe and justified it through my misuse of scripture too. I still am occasionally, though I try not to be, just as I am a sexist and a racist from time to time. I’m reminded of the Pharisees, hands over ears, eyes tight shut, insisting that they are God’s guides.

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