An initial response to “Living In Love And Faith”
Steve Flashman 8th March 2021 (Bibliography at the end)
I have read the document in full, watched all of the videos and looked at the exercises and group work.
- The video interviews represented a broad spectrum of views and experiences which I appreciated.
- I found the facts, figures, historical and cultural overview together with statistics interesting.
- There is an emphasis on listening to one another and walking together in love which I also appreciate.
- I understand the emphasis on the love of God, but I think there is a danger to assume that God’s love for us gives us permission to live any way we wish, which of course, is not the case. Grace and truth go hand in hand.
- I appreciated and wholeheartedly agree with this phrase in the last section of the report, The Appeal: “This work demands from us that together we face our differences, divisions and disagreements honestly, humbly and compassionately, and that together we stand against homophobia, transphobia and all other unacceptable forms of behaviour, including demeaning those whose views are different from our own.”
I am given to understand that there are no bishops within our Diocese who hold to an historically orthodox view of marriage. This is deeply troubling and I wonder why there is no representation for the traditional view among our bishops? I fear that the important conversations we need to have and the ability to really hear one another, will be adversely influenced, knowing that we have a hierarchy that disagrees with the orthodox view.
“Living In Love And Faith” has prompted me to re-examine my position with an open mind. I was honestly ready to change my view of marriage after re-visiting books and resources from eminent people on both sides of the debate. If anything, my support for an historically orthodox view of marriage has been strengthened as a result of my study and research.
My background informs my conclusions:
The fact that I feel I have to justify my position in this way, is testimony to the fact that I feel labelled by the extremists as homophobic, which I really am not.
My life as a Baptist minister, an itinerant evangelist and then as an Anglican Vicar, has led me into numerous encounters with LGBTQ/SSA people and I have always been welcoming and non judgemental.
I have worked alongside marginalised people for most of my ministry. In the developing world, I have been involved for 40 years in supporting people in desperate circumstances that traditional church and major missionary organisations overlooked. People pushed to the margins of society and left to fend for themselves often ostracised by churches who couldn’t find room for the kind of people Jesus welcomed and loved.
Sarah and I were joint leaders of our last parish in Chichester. It became known as “the hospital church”, partly because it was set in the grounds of a de-commissioned NHS hospital site. We found that people would gravitate towards our church community from other churches where they felt unwelcomed. Different people, different backgrounds and experiences including professional people and the socially disadvantaged.
- A 170 strong community choir, the majority of whom were not “religious” with a number of LGBT people who were welcomed along with everyone else. Choir rehearsal nights often became a kind of church for people who didn’t feel able to come to church on a Sunday for whatever reason, many of whom asked for prayer.
- In church we welcomed two families where one partner was transitioning. We had to deal with some challenging pastoral issues, especially with the children involved. We tried our best to walk alongside them.
- Sarah particularly had an ongoing pastoral/friendship with an older gentleman who identified as a woman. She was welcomed and loved and attended the mother and toddlers group. One time she asked where the ladies toilets were. The young mums found that difficult.
- We had numerous single parent families and divorced people who felt comfortable because they were welcomed and loved.
- Several people with severe mental health problems whose behaviour during worship might be deemed “unacceptable” in another church context, were welcomed and loved.
All were welcomed, accepted, valued, included and loved.
Currently, in one of my parishes, we have an openly gay couple. They attend our online services and they received communion from me in church. Sarah and I count them as our friends. We have accepted their hospitality on a number of occasions in their home where I have also prayed for them – with no personal agenda. They are warm, lovely people.
Similarly, Sarah has just renewed friendship with a man with whom she studied nursing many years ago. He has been living with another man for 35 years and they are now married. By all accounts this is a stable, loving relationship.
In Quainton and Oving, all are welcome. All are included in the life of the church. We are trying to cultivate a welcoming church for all. We do not exclude people and we do not judge people.
But, given all of the above, I still hold to an historical, orthodox view of marriage. This hasn’t prevented me from being in supportive friendships with those in the gay community who hold a different view. We love and accept each other anyway and we are not afraid to publicly embrace and show affection and friendship.
The mark of real love for others is not dependent on whether we agree with them, but on whether we accept and respect them.
Things I think we agree on:
1. I do not believe that being gay is a sin that somebody needs to repent from
2. I desperately want our churches to become places of flourishing for LGBTQ+ people. I have proved in my own ministry that this can be the case.
3. I believe that many churches have a lot of repenting to do for the way they have shunned and de-humanised LGBTQ+ people
4. I believe that there is also some repenting to be done by LGBTQ+ extremists who have caused people to be deeply hurt by their personal attacks just because they hold a different view.
5. I do not support “conversion therapy.”
6. We are all sinners saved by grace and are trying to be faithful to the calling of God on our lives
7. We are not defined by our sexuality, but by the glorious truth that we are children of God.
8. The debate is not about what the Bible says, but about what it means
9. “Love relies on acceptance, not agreement “. “Love that fosters acceptance can reunite relationships, heal families, save lives, and even change eternal destinations. Love relies on acceptance, not agreement.” (Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by a gay dad and two lesbians in a political extremist environment, where he was told to dislike Christians. He saw first hand the mistakes of Christians, but found faith himself and then saw his parents accept Christ. He has a unique outlook on this issue.) https://www.calebkaltenbach.com/
10. We agree that as priests/leaders, God holds us accountable for the spiritual welfare of those in our charge. For me, this plays in to the current debate. God help us if we get it wrong.
This Debate Should Begin With One Foundational Question: “What is marriage?”
Is marriage the union between two consenting adults, or is marriage the one flesh union between two sexually different persons?
This leads us to answer three basic questions:
- How do we define marriage?
- Where did we get that definition from?
- How does Scripture inform our definition of marriage?
In my understanding the Bible consistently affirms that marriage is the one flesh union between two sexually different persons. Not just as a cultural understanding but is built into God’s creative design. Jesus references and endorses the male/female one flesh union in Genesis and so does Paul. Great thinkers throughout human history, and from every political community until about the year 2000, thought it reasonable and right to view marriage as the union of husband and wife. Indeed, this view of marriage has been nearly a human universal.
It has been shared by the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions; by ancient Greek and Roman thinkers untouched by the influence of these religions; and by Enlightenment philosophers. It is affirmed by canon law. In the Bible we see complementarity at the heart of the marriage union. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, the Bible is full of spousal imagery and the language of husband and wife and this model of complementarity in marriage is used throughout Scripture as a metaphor for our relationship with God culminating in the marriage of the church to Jesus, the Lamb of God.
The Catholics are ahead of the game in debating this issue. The Humanum Conference of 2014, convened by Pope Francis, brought together academics and theologians from different religions to celebrate the theological, sociological and anthropological basis for complementarity in marriage – between one woman and one man. https://www.ncregister.com/news/humanum-conference-highlights-sanctity-and-beauty-of-marriage-i809vcr3
Problem: There Is A Growing Threat To Religious Liberty And Rights Of Conscience
Tolerance works both ways, but not for some in this debate.
Over the last 20 years, I know that many of my colleagues have felt marginalised and intimidated by gay activists who shout “homophobic” as soon as someone has a different view. This of course, closes down the debate. Conversely, there are militant voices in the “traditional marriage” lobby who also make it difficult to have a grown up conversation about these important matters. Having said that, some of my colleagues live in fear of intimidation and ultimate exclusion from church life – as has happened in North America.
The Episcopal Church attended by my sister-in-law in Los Angeles felt marginalised and finally excluded because the priest could not in all good conscience marry a gay couple. Rt. Rev. William Love, Bishop of Albany was accused by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, of violating his ordination vows because he could not go along with the Episcopal Church’s demonstrated intent to ensure all dioceses allow same-sex marriages. Bishop Love, who was found guilty at a subsequent hearing, has clearly stated, “I strongly disagree with the decision of the Hearing Panel, particularly their belief that I violated my ordination vows…” He subsequently resigned. I am surprised that Bishop Michael Curry who was very eloquent in his preaching about love at the Royal Wedding, should have created this intolerable situation for William, whose surname, ironically, is “Love”.
Since the Supreme Court decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in the USA, (June 26th, 2015) marriage has been re-defined as being between consenting adults. All 50 States in America were required to implement this ruling in law. The debate has virtually been closed down now, because those who hold a traditional view of marriage are being described by some gay activists and large swathes of the US media, as “racist” and “homophobic” and local state funding of some faith schools who teach a traditional view is being withheld. We are sleepwalking into an unprecedented cultural, social and moral revolution. A truth acknowledged for millennia has been overruled by five unelected judges in America.
See: Scott Shackford, “Democratic Candidates Promise LGBT Voters They’ll Punish All the Right People,” Reason (October 11, 2019). Accessed March, 2021. https://reason.com/2019/10/11/democratic-candidates-promise-lgbt-voters-theyll-punish-all-the-right-people
I believe it’s only a matter of time before we see similar situations in our own country if the Church of England changes its doctrine of marriage. In June, 2017 the Scottish Episcopal Synod voted to allow its clergy to solemnise marriages for same-sex couples in church. Canon Anne Dyer voted in favour of the change, and has since conducted same-sex weddings in the parish of Haddington. In November 2017 she was appointed Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney. This feels like a strategic appointment, because this diocese was the only one in Scotland to vote against changing the church’s canon law to allow same sex marriages. Several prominent clergy have resigned from roles within the diocese and I’m sure others will follow.
Serious attempts are now under way to define opposition to same-sex marriage as nothing more than irrational bigotry. If we continue drifting in this direction, it will pose the most serious threat to the rights of conscience and religious freedom in our history. Jeffrey John calls the orthodox view “selective fundamentalism.” This is not helpful and only fuels the fire of disunity and hurt.
Several high profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. (There are many more)
The famous “cake” story. Ashers bakery run by Christians, Daniel and Amy McArthur, were targeted by gay activists in Northern Ireland when they were asked to bake a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” on it. After months being dragged through the courts, the Supreme Court finally ruled: “The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed….this court has held that nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”
However, this situation is rapidly changing.
Although we supposedly live in a tolerate society, LGBT activists are targeting anyone who holds an historically orthodox view of marriage, relegating them into the “cancel culture” at best, and threatening legal action at worst.
Recently, Jayne Ozanne, a member of Diocesan Synod and General Synod and a high-profile campaigner for same sex marriage, has been using the language of ‘abuse’ and criminality in the discussion about the Church’s doctrine on marriage. At a meeting with a group of celibate, gay Christians at St Aldate’s church, in Oxford, Jayne said that they exhibited the ‘worst kind of homophobia’ by being kind whilst still believing in the Church’s teaching that marriage was between one man and one woman. She commented, ‘I felt loved and abused at the same time’. Now she wants a public enquiry to criminalise churches she calls homophobic.
In 2017, the Leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, an evangelical Christian, was forced to resign because he was hounded by the liberal media about his views on homosexuality. Muslim politicians never seem to get questioned on this issue. Mr Farron commented, “For me, separating faith from politics means you shouldn’t be trying to have a running commentary on these things, and also shouldn’t be trying to impose one’s beliefs on others.”
But actually, that is precisely what the LGBT activists are seeking to do. We have already had the closing of adoption agencies which don’t sign up to their agenda. We are now looking at compulsory LGBT teaching in schools while, ironically, the daily act of worship is being shown the door.
If Christians are seen as inherently unfit for public office because of their beliefs, it would effectively mean that we are excluded from the ‘inclusive’ society.
Speaking in 2019 to Trent College, a Protestant and evangelical Church of England school near Nottingham, chaplain, Rev Dr Bernard Randall told students that it was okay for them to make up their own minds on marriage, sex and gender identity. I read his sermon. It was not disrespectful of the LGBT community, he was merely responding to a student who felt pressurised into believing things he felt very uncomfortable about. His sermon was respectful of differences and invited discussion and debate. Dr Randal was suspended and reported to anti-terror programme “Prevent”. He is launching a legal challenge.
The Archbishops were asked by journalists if they would support Rev Randall, and they were silent on the issue. They are afraid to put their head above the parapet. Such is the pressure being imposed on us by LGBT activists. So one man gets hung out to dry and we all dance to someone else’s tune.
What kind of society are we living in, when one is not able to hold a certain opinion for fear of being dragged through the courts.
Dr David Bell, a distinguished psychiatrist and practising psychoanalyst, is the doctor who wrote a controversial report in 2018 about the activities of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a clinic at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in north London, where he worked in adult services from 1995 until his retirement recently. He was concerned that children as young as 8 years of age were being diagnosed with gender dysphoria and put on a plan of long term treatment.
He said, “they think this is to do with being liberal, rather than with concerns about the care of children. Mermaids and Stonewall (the charities for trans children and LGBTQ+ rights) have made people afraid even of listening to another view.”You will remember the judicial review brought by 23-year-old Keira Bell – born female, she was prescribed puberty blockers by GIDS at 16 and now regrets her transition – which has effectively curtailed medical intervention for children with gender dysphoria. GIDS was unable to produce for the court any data relating to outcomes and effects, whether desirable or adverse, in children who had been prescribed puberty blockers; nor could it provide details of the number and ages of children who had been given them.
This is madness.
David Bennett, a gay Christian who chooses to live a celibate life, has stated that he feels under pressure from people like Jayne in the gay community. He writes, “Central to my living healthily and happily with my same-sex attractions have been conversations and prayers with Christian pastors and friends. None have ever sought to coerce me into behaving in a certain way – or change my sexuality. Indeed the only contexts in which I have felt unwelcome pressure to change my beliefs and behaviour have been from gay Christians who have rejected orthodox church teaching – and the wider culture that thinks I am crazy to embrace it. They are, ironically, the ones that are seeking to convert me – and others in my position.”
If the C of E does change its doctrine of marriage, the growing number of same sex attracted Christian people who believe in the historically orthodox view of marriage will feel utterly betrayed and alienated from the church.
One reason that the church has become so bitterly divided over what constitutes a Biblical Sexual Ethic is that the community of faith has uncritically accepted the prevailing cultural agenda, the very thing that Jesus warns against in the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation.
See: a voice of reason from gay journalist, Brandon Ambrosino, “Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Homophobe,” The Atlantic (December 13, 2013). Accessed March, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/being-against-gay-marriage-doesnt-make-you-a-homophobe/282333
‘Stories’ And An Appeal To The Emotions
Ed Shaw, Associate Pastor at Emmanuel, an Anglican Church in Bristol has been same sex attracted all his life. His observations on the approach of the “revisionists” or “progressives” is telling:
He says that their approach is based firstly on “emotion”. He says that advertisers know that it is our emotions that drive us and the revisionist writers on sexuality know this too. He quotes Matthew Vines book as a particular case in point. Vicky Beeching in her book “Undivided” also uses emotion to great effect.
I have personally found that all of the books I have read by those who support same-sex marriage are light on robust Biblical theology and heavy on personal story and experience.
Secondly, Ed says that revisionists use “polarization” as a second line of argument, again quoting Vines. Jayne Ozanne is well known for this too. They force the debate to extremes so that they can be seen to occupy the centre ground. The terminology of “affirming” (positive) as opposed to “non-affirming” (negative) and “progressive” as opposed to “regressive,” highlights this – who wants to be seen as “negative” and “regressive”?
Thirdly, Ed observes that “doubt” is used to create uncertainty about the reliability of Biblical texts, thus opening the way to develop a personal sexual ethic. Justin Lee uses this very effectively. “Did God really say” is a dangerous place to be, taking us back to the Garden of Eden.
At such a time as this, when so much is at stake, we need to foster compassionate and carefully reasoned theological reflection within the community of faith, encouraging one another to be ruthless in searching out a robust Christian ethic within a Biblical framework and to work this out with an unqualified love and acceptance of all people. I think Living In Love And Faith attempts to do this, but in my view, is over weighted with “story” which, at times, is very emotive.
I agree with the Living In Love And Faith Quote: “Familiarity with the Bible may be uneven around the Church of England, and rapidly vanishing in wider society, but it remains the bedrock of our faith. If we are trying to discern God’s will for our relationships and for the forms of intimacy that we enjoy, it is natural and necessary for us to turn to its pages.”
Our approach to Scripture should mean that we measure our experience against the Bible, not the Bible against our experience.
However, this doesn’t seem to have been the case at the 2017 General Synod which was described by the then Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Richard Jackson, now Bishop of Hereford, as “a theological train crash . . . of conflicting pain narratives.” People spoke with passion about their personal experience, and this was the prime focus of the debate. He went on to say, “We have to make decisions on the basis of biblical theology, not on the basis purely of listening to people’s experiences.”
By all accounts the debate was personalised and story-driven. There was little theological reflection. It played into an emotional response.
Starting with “stories” and “experience” sounds plausible because we are desperate that people should not be hurt by the church any longer.
However, if that is our starting point, we have no foundation on which to build a robust Biblical faith and a courageous loving acceptance of all people.
Living In Love And Faith, Chapter 4, page 49:
“Stories are powerful and memorable. Our purpose, however, is not to use them as a basis for validating a particular way of life. They are not by themselves the means by which the church will arrive at a Christian ethic of sexuality or of gender identity. Rather they are testimonies of how people have understood their lives in relation to God.”
I think the report is wobbly on this issue, because people exposed to stories become emotionally involved and then it’s only a small step to short circuit robust theology. It’s on this basis, that many people are changing their views on same sex marriage.
At the end of the day, isn’t it all about love?
Love is a dominant theme in “Living In Love And Faith.” The big question for many people is this: “If two people of the same sex truly love each other and are committed to each other and God is love, how is their love not from God? How can love be wrong?” But this is a misunderstanding of what God’s love is. His love is connected to holiness, sacrifice and boundaries. Same sex attracted Christian leader Ed Shaw, brings this out very well in chapter 9 of his book – listed in the bibliography below.
We have to distinguish between “love” and a “sexual ethic.” Our current debate is in danger of sanitising a Biblical sexual ethic by saying that God is love, so we should love everybody. Yes we should love everybody, but we should also follow a Biblical standard of sexual ethics. Jesus spoke about sexual ethics, so did Paul. Jesus demonstrated his love for the marginalised and the people that society deemed as socially unacceptable, but he didn’t endorse everything that they did or stood for.
(There are numerous links in the Bible between God’s love and our obedience. SEE: 1 John 5:3; John 15:10; John 15:14 – and many others.)
The love of God is connected to his grace and truth.
One of my Anglo Catholic friends from another diocese, wrote to me recently and said: “I would argue that we need to start with love and then scripture which will lead to reason and tradition (which then becomes loosely held on with old Sellotape rather than gorilla glue).” For me, this is a dangerous starting point.
Overview of Biblical Texts Explored in the LLF Document
“Living In Love And Faith”: The section looking at various Biblical texts –
I felt that most of the passages were explored in a balanced and fair way, giving different interpretations of the text. For instance, The Holiness Code in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Jesus teaching on marriage which makes a connection with the created order in Genesis, Paul’s teaching in Romans which also points back to the created order and the Timothy passage etc
Given the complexities of the arguments it’s not surprising that there are a few glaring omissions as far as I can see:
- It is true that there is a trajectory of thought through the Bible with regards to women and the slavery issue. But there is no trajectory or development of thought on the question of God’s intention for a one man, one woman, one flesh sexual union. There is consistent teaching through scripture and for the last 2000 years of church history. (In any case, the kind of slavery we read about in the Bible was nothing like the exploitative slavery that William Wilberforce fought against. Slaves had rights. Many chose to serve this way to pay family debts. Slaves were offered their freedom every Jubilee year). The “women in leadership” issue is one of church Governance and Order, whereas the same sex marriage question is one of Ethics and Doctrine, so it’s a bit of a red herring. This is not adequately drawn out in the report. The issue of changing attitudes towards divorce is also a red herring. See Hebrew and Aramaic scholar David Instone-Brewer’s book, “Divorce And Remarriage In The Bible: The Social And Literary Context.”
- One argument sometimes given about the relevance of The Holiness Code passages (Leviticus and Deuteronomy) is that some prohibitions we no longer observe. For instance, pigs being unclean, not wearing clothes of wool and linen together etc. But Jesus words in Matthew 5:17 about him “fulfilling the law” is worked out in his ministry. He declared foods clean (Mark 7:19, reiterated in Acts 10:9-16) He touched lepers and dead bodies and was not made unclean. He cancelled the temple regulations and its sacrificial system and the OT laws concerning civic life. However, the moral commandments of the OT are re-stated in the NT, including those concerning sexual ethics and the one man, one woman, one flesh sexual union. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” is also in the Holiness Code. So we shouldn’t cross out the bits we don’t like.
- In my view, the Sodom and Gomorrah argument is irrelevant to the debate.
One of the conclusions of “Living In Love And Faith”:
“When we consider the experiences of other Christian churches, we find three broad approaches to questions of sexuality and marriage. One approach maintains the Church’s traditional teaching but stresses listening to and walking alongside individuals who live differently. The Church of England’s current official approach is similar to this. A second approach permits local churches to respond in different ways. For instance, some might bless or conduct same-sex marriages, while others might continue to view them as wrong. One question, however, is whether this is possible without changing church doctrine, liturgy or law. Can a church bless or marry a same-sex couple while teaching marriage is between one man and one woman? So a third approach is to change the church’s doctrine of marriage.”
I fear that the third approach is the direction of travel in the Church.
If the church’s doctrine of marriage is changed, a large part of the Anglican Communion will break away. This is already happening to a degree. (https://www.gafcon.org/) This will be a tragedy for the worldwide church. If we change our doctrine of marriage, we will also need to change our doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) as the bride of Christ (you can’t have the church marrying the church or Christ marrying Christ), and our doctrine of the end times (eschatology), the marriage feast of the Lamb in Revelation. “The Spirit and the Bride say come…” The complementarity of marriage between one woman and one man is a model of our relationship with God. Paul calls this “a mystery”. “’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:31-32
The model of complementarity in marriage being a signpost to the church’s relationship to God, is a recurring model from Genesis to Revelation.
A senior figure in Church House, Oxford has stated publicly, in the context of a lesbian wedding and the report, “Living In Love And Faith”, that our diocese “is one of the most forward thinking in the country.” Forward thinking according to what criteria? Scripture? Tradition? Reason? Experience? Contemporary Culture? Emotional response?
I fear that many people in our churches will be vaguely aware of references in the Bible to homosexuality, the so called “prohibition passages” and will conclude that they are irrelevant, outdated and unfit for the modern “enlightened” age in which we live. They will have been exposed to the horror stories of people who have been hurt by the church, and will want to address this without understanding that there might be a better way of loving, welcoming and caring for all people that both honours God and honours people made in his image.
Many of us are feeling that we have to defend what most of us never imagined we’d have to defend: our rights of conscience, our religious liberty, and the basic building block of civilization—the human family, founded on the marital union of a man and a woman.
Among the books I have read and studied more recently are:
- “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom”
by Ryan T. Anderson. President of the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse. A Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. Anderson’s research has been cited by two U.S. Supreme Court justices in two Supreme Court cases.
(Highly recommended. Academic study on the effects of our changing view of marriage and its effects on civil and religious liberty)
- “The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation. A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics” by Richard Hays. (Recommended by academics including N.T.Wright)
- “The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics” by Robert Gagnon (Classic, 500 page, meticulously researched, in depth study of Biblical texts, their cultural background and current context. My one criticism is that the book comes across as lacking in compassion – although I don’t think this is intentional.)
- “Undivided” by Vicky Beeching (A heart rending personal story of how Vicky “came out” as a gay Christian and how this affected her life and music ministry. As stated above, the book is heavy on emotion and certainly tugs on the heart strings.)
- “God And The Gay Christian” by Matthew Vine (Matthew presents his view of how the Bible supports same sex marriage. I enjoyed reading this book, and came at it with an open mind, but I wasn’t convinced by his exegesis. Nothing new here – same counter arguments. Same appeal to “story”)
- “A Response To God And The Gay Christian” by a number of theologians including R. Albert Mohler Jr. (A number of theologians have written this as a response to Matthew Vines interpretation of Scripture)
- “Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex Marriage – New Edition” by Jeffrey John (I didn’t find anything new in this book. It appeals to the emotions and is quite inflammatory. I didn’t find the accusation helpful, that churches holding a traditional view are like the churches in Nazi Germany turning a blind eye to the atrocities. His connecting the ordination of women to the same sex marriage debate is misplaced – ordination of women is a matter of governance and order. Same sex marriage is a matter of ethics and doctrine. John cites Paul’s teaching on women, wearing veils and keeping silent, as an embarrassment to “Bible based” churches. Again this is a misunderstanding of the text. Paul affirms women in Romans 16 as “fellow workers” and as “outstanding among the apostles.”)
- “People To Be Loved” by Preston Sprinkle (Through listening to the stories of LGBTQ friends and humbly considering their viewpoints, Preston challenges those on all sides of the discussion to be theologically robust and courageously loving and accepting of all)
- “Torn” by Justin Lee. (Justin is an affirming gay Christian and tells his story in a compelling way, but employs emotion and doubt, while constructing his argument. He also quotes Robert Gagnon from his book above, taking the quote out of context and failing to include Gagnon’s following paragraph which throws a different light on the one point Justin makes.)
- “Gay Girl Good God” by Jackie Hill Perry: (Lesbian who tells her story about how she came to a traditional view of marriage. Quite dramatic and possibly a little “over the top” for some readers)
- “A War Of Loves” by David Bennett. (The unexpected story of a gay activist discovering Jesus. A very honest and personal story on one person’s challenging journey. David had numerous gay sexual relationships but says he never felt fulfilled. He says that now he is celibate, God’s love has become more real than ever and he now feels fulfilled in God’s love. He says his identity is no longer in his sexuality, but in his status as a child of God.)
- “The Plausibility Problem – The Church And Same Sex Attraction.” By Ed Shaw. (Ed is pastor of Emmanuel Church, Bristol – C of E – and is a same sex attracted Christian who is living a celibate life. He says we have been shaped by the world around us, and urgently need to re-examine the values that drive our discipleship in the light of the Bible.)
- “Digital Leaders Forum: The Centre For Faith, Sexuality and Gender.” Preston Sprinkle and others. (Video Sessions with a lot of input from his friends in the LGBTQ+ community. Whatever conclusion you come to, I thoroughly recommend signing up to this course. A comprehensive bibliography is included from writers on both sides of the debate. The presenting is clear, concise and compassionate.)
- “Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel.” Ray Ortlund. (A short read, tracing marriage through Scripture from the first marriage in the garden of Eden to the ultimate marriage in the book of Revelation – a useful read on the theology of marriage)
- “What Is Marriage?” Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George. (Originally published in the Harvard Journal Of Law And Public Policy. A philosophical and sociological – not theological – defence of traditional marriage.)
Marriage Equality. This is misleading terminology and not used in the LLF document. We are obsessed with “equality issues” in our culture – it rings lots of bells for people and quickly becomes a rallying cry. It is true that in terms of same sex marriage, equality can be recognised in terms of rights under the law, but purely from a biological point of view, same sex couples can never be equal to a heterosexual couple in terms of their ability to have children. A third party will always be required. And the rights of a child to know who their biological parents are, is a fundamental human right. However, we ARE all equal in value in the eyes of God.
Andrew Marin has been working with the church and LGBT relations since 2001 and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Over a 6-year period, he conducted a massive research project on the religious background of LGBT people. There were over 20,000 individual qualitative results in the surveys which were carried out and these were analysed by an outside consulting firm led by Andrew Means of the University of Chicago. Since these issues are contentious and studies like this are prone to bias, Marin invited two scholars from polar opposite ideologies to examine his methodology: Dr. J. Michael Baily of North Western University, an atheist who is a proponent of LGBT issues, and Dr. Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, a conservative Christian psychologist. In Marin’s own words: “they both stand behind me in the findings” of the study.
(The results and analysis of this study are published in Andrew Marin’s book: Us Versus Us: The Untold Story of Religion and the LGBT People – Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016).
Statistics. 83% of LGBT people were raised in the church 51% of LGBT people left their faith community after the age of 18. Only 3% said they left primarily because of the church’s belief that same-sex marriage was wrong.
76% of LGBT people who left are open to returning to the church as long as the church makes some changes. Only 8% said that the church would need to change their theology of marriage for them to return. They left for relational reasons.
Conclusion from the study: It’s not the church’s theology that has driven LGBTQ people away—by their own admission. It’s been the church’s lack of love and care – its posture.
Revd Steve Flashman, 8th March 2021