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Being gay and African today

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William Crawley | 10:21 UK time, Thursday, 20 May 2010

_47033190_gaycouple.jpgHuman rights campaigners around the world are outraged that two gay Malawian men have been sentenced to 14 years in prison with hard labour for holding a public engagement ceremony. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza have been in jail since they were arrested in December. This picture shows them being mocked by members of the public as they were driven in the back of a pick-up truck to a magistrates court in Blantyre on Tuesday. Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told them he had handed down a "scaring sentence" so that the public would not be "tempted to emulate" their "horrendous example". This couple's "crime" was to have taken part in a public commitment ceremony during which they pledged their lives to each other and announced their plans to hold Malawi's first same-sex wedding.

To date, Sixty-seven British MPs have signed a House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM 564), which condemns the arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, Amnesty International has adopted the two men as Prisoners of Conscience, and there have been street protests about the case in London and other cities. Some have expressed particular concern for the welfare of Steven Monjeza, who faces hard labour while being very ill. An eye-witness who saw him last weekend reports that he is thin and weak and has jaundiced eyes.

Below the fold: The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been supporting and advocating for the jailed men since their arrest and detention in December last year; helping arrange prison visits and the delivery of food parcels, medicine, letters of support and clothes to the detained men. Many supporters are now writing to Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to express solidarity. Read Peter Tatchell's comments on this case below the fold.

Malawi's government now faces condemnation from senior figures in the international community, and from Western donors who provide 40 per cent of the country's development budget. Meanwhile in Uganda, the government is pushing forward new laws that further criminalize same-sex relationships. In February, President Obama described the Ugandan legislation as "odious" and "unconsionable". Homosexuality is illegal in most African countries with the exception of South Africa.

Many moral issues need to be separated out in dealing with these human rights cases. Amongst them is the claim by the judge in the Malawian case that homosexuality is "un-Malawian". Against this claim, Peter Tatchell points out that anti-homosexuality legislation in Africa is an unfortunate legacy of the colonial period. The laws under which Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza were convicted this week were created by British colonial authorities and were carried into the Malawian statutes. Just how "African" is that legislation?

The judge also said that same-sex relationships are "not in our culture and religious beliefs". Last month, the Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika, who is the current chair of the African Union, said that homosexuality was "evil" in the eyes of God. We'll soon see if any Western Christian denominations plan to make any public statements about this court decision. Christianity was first introduced to Malawi by the Scottish Presbyterian missionary David Livingstone, which is why the country's commercial capital is named, Blantyre, is named after Livingstone's home-town. Today, 80 per cent of the Malawian population is Christian, and 40 per cent of the country's healthcare resources are provided by Christian churches. Church leaders in Malawi are considering their response to this court verdict, and may make a statement later today, but one church-based anti-homosexuality campaign group has already welcomed. The Reverend Malani Ntonga, chairman of the Church Foundation for Integrity and Democracy, said his clergy members will encourage Malawi's government to ensure that "homosexuality does not take root" in the country.

The largest denomination in Malawi is the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian (CCAP), which is a sister church of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the daughter church of the Church of Scotland. What do the Scottish and Irish Presbyterian churches think of what is now unfolding in Malawi? Governments, rights campaigners and aid agencies are expressing their concerns (including African NGOs). Will the churches now use their influence with their Malawian brothers and sisters to encourage the country's churches to appeal for the release of these young gay men?

A second moral (and religious) issue has to do with the role of legislation in policing public morality. This applies to jurisdictions in the Western world just as much as it applies to Africa. Is it appropriate to legislate against the freedom of individuals to live their own lives, even if an overwhelming majority within a country has moral or religious objections to those life-choices? Consider a theological example. Should a majority Christian government criminalize non-Christian faiths because their population overwhelmingly regards non-Christian religious practices as "idolatrous"? Most people today -- including the most conservative Christians -- would regard this approach as unjust. Preaching and evangelizing is one thing; prosecuting and convicting is quite another. Shouldn't sexual freedom be considered a moral analogue of that religious example? In the UK, anti-gay campaigners have every right to express their moral and religious objections to homosexuality (and, just this week, the gay campaigner Peter Tatchell defended the right of a Christian fundamentalist preacher to publicly express his opposition), but gay people have legal protection to form relationships, hold engagement and partnership ceremonies, and live without fear of discrimination or persecution. That's the theory, in any case.

Read more about Malawi's continuing debate about polygamy, which is currently legal in the country.

Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group Outrage! responds to the case of jailed gay Malawians

"This is an appalling, vindictive and brutal sentence, which tramples on Malawi's constitution, violates personal privacy and reverses the country's commitment to human rights. Steven and Tiwonge love each other and have harmed no one. Yet they get a sentence more severe than some rapists, armed robbers and killers. With so much hatred and violence in Malawi, it is sick that the court has jailed these two men for loving and caring for each other. The sentence echoes the era of dictatorship under President Hastings Banda, when personal prejudices determined law enforcement, and when individual rights were crushed and dissenters persecuted. Fourteen years with hard labour could kill Steven and Tiwonge. Prison conditions are appallingly unhealthy. Detainees die in custody. Infectious diseases like TB are rife. Medical treatment is sub-standard. Food rations are very poor nutritional value; mostly maize porridge, beans and water, causing malnutrition. After only five months behind bars, Steven has been seriously ill and has not received proper medical treatment."

Commenting on the verdict, Mr Tatchell added:

"The judge has violated Article 20 of Malawi's own constitution, which guarantees equal treatment and non-discrimination to all citizens. The law under which they were convicted is a discriminatory law that only applies to same-sex relations. It is unconstitutional. The law in Malawi is not supposed to discriminate. Malawi's anti-gay laws were not devised by Malawians. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Malawi by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws. I expect both men will appeal against the verdict and sentence. Steven and Tiwonge's best hope is that a higher court will overturn this unjust, cruel verdict; although a more positive outcome on appeal is uncertain, given the high-level homophobia that exists in Malawian society, including among the judiciary."

"The magistrate was biased from outset. He refused the two men bail, which is very unusual in cases of non-violent offences. In Malawi, bail is normal. It is often granted to thieves and violent criminals. Denying Steven and Tiwonge bail was an act of vindictiveness. I appeal to governments worldwide, especially the South African government, to condemn this harsh, bigoted judgement and to urge its reversal," said Mr Tatchell.

Prior to the verdict, Tiwonge and Steven issued a defiant message from their prison cell. It affirmed their love for each other and thanked their supporters in Malawi and worldwide. Tiwonge said: "I love Steven so much. If people or the world cannot give me the chance and freedom to continue living with him as my lover, then I am better off to die here in prison. Freedom without him is useless and meaningless.

"We have come a long way and even if our family relatives are not happy, I will not and never stop loving Tiwonge," said Steven.

The two men's messages were relayed from inside Chichiri Prison in Blantyre, Malawi, to Peter Tatchell of the LGBT human rights group OutRage! in London, England.

Tiwonge and Steven stressed their gratitude for the support they have received from fellow Malawians and from people around the world:

"We are thankful for the people who have rallied behind us during this difficult time. We are grateful to the people who visit and support us, which really makes us feel to be members of a human family; otherwise we would feel condemned," said Tiwonge.

Steven added: "All the support is well appreciated. We are grateful to everybody who is doing this for us. May people please continue the commendable job...Prison life is very difficult."

Peter Tatchell expressed his admiration of the two men: "Steven and Tiwonge are showing immense fortitude and courage. They declared their love in a society where many people - not all - are very intolerant and homophobic. This was a very brave thing to do. Although suffering in prison, they are unbowed. They continue to maintain their love and affirm their human right to be treated with dignity and respect. They have taken a pioneering stand for the right to love. They love each other, have harmed no one and believe that love should not be a crime. It is nobody's business what they do in the privacy of their own home. There is no evidence that they have committed any crime under Malawian law. They should never have been put on trial. Even prior to their conviction, they had already spent nearly five months behind bars."

"OutRage! is supporting Steven and Tiwonge. For the last four months, we have arranged extra food to supplement the men's meagre, poor quality prison rations. We pay tribute to the other people and organisations who are giving legal and medical assistance to the detained men. This is a huge help. Steven and Tiwonge have asked me to communicate their appreciation."

Write a letter to Steven and Tiwonge: Help boost their spirits. Show them you care. Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them. Write to: Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello William.

    You raise a lot of questions and it will be interesting to hear the responses of the various Christian churches to these developments. There was a certain black humour in watching extremist Christians from the US back off from their involvement in promoting Uganda's anti-LGBT legislation when the death penalty option was introduced.

    I have two points to add. Firstly, the colonial legacy of the missionaries in creating this 'African' culture is one thing, but perhaps you should also look to what their contemporaries are doing, and not just in Africa. As church attendances in Europe and other developed parts of the world continue to fall, the Catholic church and others are increasingly aware that their numbers are only going to be maintained or increased by pushing further into developing countries. What kind of morality do they preach there - that of the friendly liberal theologians in Europe, or the more 'old fashioned' doctrines, with all the nastiness entailed?

    Secondly, I think an interesting Sunday Sequence story could be developed around the Home Office's attitude to gay asylum seekers. Unlike the United States the UK is extremely hostile to the idea that the treatment of LGBT people from countries like Uganda amounts to persecution for the purposes of the Refugee Convention. Isn't it absurd that the Foreign Office will condemn Malawai and Uganda on the one hand, while the Home Office will happily refoule victims of these policies to face this persecution at any opportunity? As an asylum lawyer in a practice known for our commitment to LGBT rights this is a subject I care very much about, and yet so far the mainstream media has failed to raise it.

    All the best

  • Comment number 2.

    What a tragedy that so many do not comprehend basic human biology and that same sex couplings are perfectly natural.

  • Comment number 3.

    To have this sort of thing happen in the name of God is evil itself and in no way represents the teachings or ways of God/Christ/Love. Instead it is the bastardised teachings perpetuated by fundamentalism/fear and ignorance that lead to such discrimination and false judgments. It is another example of how it is man's lovelessness towards self and other that causes so much human tragedy and suffering.

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry Lucy Q, i would beg to differ...It is unnatural...I don't know whether you are married but i would hope you would understand how things work in an intimate relationship between a man and a woman. It is not meant to be any other way.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 @Eunice
    God wants christians to kill gay men. People of reason know this incitement to violence is uncivilized. Now Christians have a decision to make; are they true followers of god and therefore believe harm should come to members of the gay community, or, are they good citizens? You cannot have it both ways.

    People who belong to the Scottish Presbyterian church should be hanging their heads in shame. This matter in Malawi is pure evil!

    Let us all write to the men in prison, the judge concerned and the head of the KKK sorry Scottish Presbyterian Klan.


  • Comment number 6.

    I think part of the problem is that Africa sees what happens when you decriminalise homosexuality. I recall all the debates from, really just a decade ago in the Republic. It starts with the argument that personal moral opinions shouldn't be imposed etc and criminalise etc. But what is decriminalised, almost immediately becomes treated as normal, then we have equality laws telling Christians they aren't allowed to express any views on homosexuality. Then we have civil partnerships, gay marriages, adoption etc. It is a slippery slope.

    I totally support decriminalising homosexuality, but only if it stops there.

  • Comment number 7.

    David - *God wants Christians to kill gay men* and * are they true followers of god and therefore believe harm should come to members of the gay community* ..... I don't know where you get this from David but it is completely false and dangerous in my view. God is love and loves all equally - including all gay people......the type of thinking you portray above is not representative of God in any way, shape or form - but is evil.

    Mccamleyc - what is the slippery slope? - people being treated as equal and allowed to live their lives in freedom? It amazes me that so many people who call themselves Christian have views that are so far from the ways of love, and the ways of Christ ......Live and Let live, Love and Let Live, Love and Let Love.

  • Comment number 8.


    What an incredibly powerful photograph. It shows what lies at the end of the slippery slope when "Christians" are allowed to impose their odious beliefs unchecked. Barbarism and cruelty of the worst kind.

    Look at the faces of the "Christians" in the background, especially the guy in the red shirt. Utterly devoid of compassion, just unbridled joy and a morbid excitement at the misery of others.

  • Comment number 9.

    Christopher writes: "I totally support decriminalising homosexuality, but only if it stops there." Meaning what? That gay people are not permitted to do what AFTER homosexuality has been decriminalized? I'm not following your argument here, Christopher. On the one hand, you want to decriminalize homosexuality in Africa (I think), but you also seem to sympathize with the Malawians in this case. A little more explanation?

  • Comment number 10.

    Brian Thomas - I see from your comment (#4) that you have o basic education in biology. People are born with a predisposition to same sex or opposite sex.

    “The Sex Lives of Animals,” displayed at the Museum of Sex, New York, New York, (2008) offered to enlighten the public on the non-reproductive carnal proclivities of nature’s creatures."


    What business is it of anyone else regarding how and who people love. Surely love, love, love is good for all.

    The part about sex that irks me is those who are reckless, get drunk and engage in sex without using contraception. Then the whole abortion issue kicks. Why isn't every sexually active adult aware of the fact that sex for recreation is mutually exclusive from sex for procreation. The former obviously requires condoms.

  • Comment number 11.

    I take it that romejellybeen has proof the guy in red is a Christian.

    It is wrong, however, for Christians to respond in that way.

    We live in a society were almost anything is acceptable. It if it feels good and doesn't do anybody any harm then its ok.

    That's why we're in the social mess we're in!

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry Lucy,it has not been proven that there is a 'gay' gene and I would also beg to differ that we are merely on the same level as a cat or a dog.

    In my last statement I mentioned that we live in a society were almost anything is seen as acceptable as long as it feels good and does'nt harm anybody.

    You have proved my point!

  • Comment number 13.

    I do wonder why we give Malawi (other countries too) millions of pounds in aid every year if this is how it treats its gay citizens.

  • Comment number 14.

    Brian writes: "In my last statement I mentioned that we live in a society were almost anything is seen as acceptable as long as it feels good and does'nt harm anybody."

    This is a slightly mischievous question (but only slightly), but can anyone think of an example of anything that (1) feels good, (2) does no harm to anybody, and is (3) morally wrong?

  • Comment number 15.

    You may be interested to know that I only was alerted to this issue because I was following the Church of Scotland's General Assembly online (www.churchofscotland.org.uk/generalassembly) at which it was raised, the treatment of these men condemned and a commitment made to use the influence that the CofS has. I understood from what was said that a statement was released by the Church of Scotland yesterday, but I can't confirm that.

  • Comment number 16.

    "We live in a society where almost anything is seen as acceptable."

    I disagree. I think society has made substantial progress in making certain things unacceptable, even illegal, from smoking in indoor public places, to drink driving, seat belt wearing etc... The same people who claim that 'anything goes' in our society often claim then that it is political correctness gone too far. You cant win.

    What used to be seen as "acceptable" was The State making church laws the laws of the land. Thankfully that era is coming to an end. Unfortunately, not yet in Malawi.

  • Comment number 17.

    Will - re: your question - from a slightly different take - everything we do say and think has a consequence that is either healing or harming - with no neutral. Leaving the morally wrong part out of it .... it can get more complicated as there are things that people do that might 'feel good' to them, that they feel are not harming but which in fact are harming to them ....a very simple example is eating chocolate....might feel good, they think is not harming but it is harming to the body. There are more challenging examples - eg giving to charity - might feel good, seems to do no harm (thought to do good) - but it depends on the energy that it is given in ...eg if given out of religious obligation, or to be seen to be doing the good thing, or to feel better about oneself, or out of pity ...basically if it is not given with, in and from love then energetically it is harming and not healing. These understandings call us to live lives of energetic integrity and responsibility where it is known that no-one 'gets away' with anything and where all that we do, say and think affects all that is....so hence the mess we are in! :-)

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Newlach - there is a difference between a paedophile cuddling a child and a loving parent.....they are not cuddling the same.... in intention/motivation or energetically.

  • Comment number 21.

    Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."

    One of the many passages in the versions of this evil book that causes death. An evil book that, I am sorry to say, fills christians with hate.

  • Comment number 22.

    Whatever Christians are 'supposed' to think about homosexuality - and how we are meant to interpret the relevant biblical passages - one thing is clear to my mind: the emphasis given to the so-called 'evil' of homosexuality is one big red herring to avoid discussion of other more important and serious issues (such as corruption and injustice, for example).

    I have a theory about why the condemnation of homosexuality seems to have become one of the 'tests of faith' of theological orthodoxy in some churches. Since homosexuality only affects a small minority of the population, it is easy to feel self-righteous when attacking this 'sin'. If I want to deflect attention away from my own personal sinfulness, what more effective way could I do this than by forever harping on about the 'evil' of something of which I know I could never be guilty (since I know that I am not gay)? To paraphrase Luke 18:11 - The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, "God I thank you that I am not gay..."

    This is why I think certain groups within the church (such as 'Reform' in the Anglican Church) get so hot under the collar about it. If the burning issues of the day were such matters as "how the church obtains and handles other people's money" or "how we are supposed to relate to issues of poverty and justice", then it would be far harder to distance oneself from the moral implications of those concerns in one's own life. How much simpler it is to conduct a witch-hunt against a vulnerable minority!

    I once brought up an issue with Reform about their theology (the issue was predestination and the implications of it), and asked certain searching questions about their method of biblical interpretation. Needless to say I am still waiting for a response (two years and counting). Funny how these people wax eloquent when throwing stones at the proverbial "woman caught in adultery", but display a guilty silence when their own inconsistencies are challenged. According to these people, the Bible is 'crystal clear' in its unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality, but when faced with a much 'clearer' statement of the Bible which challenges their other doctrinal positions (e.g. "God desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth"), they miraculously metamorphose into the most liberal and latitudinarian of Bible interpreters!

    This is why I, as a Christian, have no time for all this so-called 'biblical' gay bashing.

    I have also been involved with Africa for some years. As far as I am concerned the attack on gays in places like Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria is just a smoke-screen to deflect criticism away from rampant corruption as well as heterosexual promiscuity. This is moral cowardice, and the faces of the 'lynch mob' in the photo tell us all we need to know about the justice system of Malawi.

    Whatever one's views about homosexuality, any true Christian church should condemn what is happening in Malawi. Anything less than that is a travesty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Comment number 23.

    William - my point was that there are lots of things that Christians regard as wrong - lying, adultery, taking the Lord's name in vain - but we don't want there to be a criminal penalty attached to them - society has to balance the morality that it criminalises. In this case Christians in Ireland or Scotland who opposed homosexuality are being blamed for some kangaroo court in Africa. That's like blaming Christians because some muslims stone adulterers.

    The other point I was trying to make was that while I have no desire have someone criminalised for homosexual acts, nor do I want it treated as normative, promoted in schools, and elevated to the level of sacramental marriage.

    The argument that it is natural and innate could equally be applied to paedophilia (and no, please don't jump in and pretend that I have said homosexuals are paedophiles, I haven't). But if someone is born a homosexual, can't control it, can't change it and wants everyone else to treat that as normative, then how do you not give the same rights and respect to someone born a paedophile?

    Or move outside the sexual area - take someone who is an alcoholic. You might say they can't help it, it's genetic (some evidence for that), it's the way they were born. Now again, I have no desire to criminalise someone for being an alcoholic - but we do criminalise some of their behaviour - being drunk and disorderly, driving while under the influence. And we don't promote their alcoholism, we don't treat it as normative, we don't write little books for kids "Mommy and mommy are alcos!", we don't have parades in cities called Alco Pride.

    As regards this particular story - I suspect there are far more people persecuted in Africa for being Christian than for being homosexual.

  • Comment number 24.

    Mccamleyc *That's like blaming Christians because some muslims stone adulterers.* - there is a difference - Christianity has a group consciousness as does Islam etc .....if you identify with the group by calling yourself Christian then you are part of that group consciousness and all that occurs through it....whether you agree with it or not.
    *The argument that it is natural and innate could equally be applied to paedophilia* - incorrect - homosexuality occurs between 2 consenting adults and mutually loving stable relationships can be formed, paedophilia does not occur between consenting adults and it is not natural or innate to want to have sex or sexual acts with a child....it does not come from love but a lack of love....as anyone connected to love and coming from love would not perform such acts.
    Homosexuals are able to live according to their true nature -Love - to be self loving and to be love for another....and is a natural expression of the human race
    Alcoholism reflects one's lack of self-love, as they are filled with self-loathing - it is very harming to the person and their families usually. So of course one would not promote or advance that which is harming and non-loving (yet people and society do promote it in many ways!). One is not born an alcoholic nor is it a natural expression of the human race .....there can be a predisposition due to one's previous choices......but it is possible to be healed such that the desire to drink alcohol is annihilated.
    When deciding if something is natural or not natural it can be helpful to ask if it is coming from love or from a lack of love/in separation to love.

  • Comment number 25.


    It was a quotation from the bible.

    Too heavy?

  • Comment number 26.

    Christopher writes:

    "The argument that it is natural and innate could equally be applied to paedophilia (and no, please don't jump in and pretend that I have said homosexuals are paedophiles, I haven't). But if someone is born a homosexual, can't control it, can't change it and wants everyone else to treat that as normative, then how do you not give the same rights and respect to someone born a paedophile?"

    It's worth just noting, Christopher, that the paedophilia analogy, when invoked in this context (almost inevitably), is profoundly offensive to gay people. But let's just consider the analogy logically, and set emotions to the side.

    Why would the full legal inclusion of lesbian and gay people within a society mean that one would have to grant the same freedoms to paedophiles? The differences between these two categories of behaviour and identity are vast. Giving legal protection to same-sex relationships does not in any sense require a state to grant the same protections to adults who wish to form sexual relationships with children. Some may argue for the abandonment of any age of consent, but that is an entirely separate debate, and most supporters of legal protection for gays who strongly oppose that other move. So I don't see any logical consequences following for paedophilia cases from laws decrimalising homosexuality. It's a red herring.

  • Comment number 27.

    8 romejellybean

    I too have thought about that photo, and at first glance interpreted in a way similar to yourself. Perhaps, the photographer wanted the onlookers to grin for the sake of effect? The contrast in expression between the faces of the prisoners and the faces of the onlookers is great - the photographer might have acted in a way to elicit the grins.

  • Comment number 28.

    Will (14),

    Aren't there massive problems with asking for examples of activities which do no harm to anyone? Consequentialist ethics have the massive problem of our limited perspective - how do you know if an action has caused harm. But then you're fairly experienced with philosophy, so I hardly need to tell you that, do I? There's also the issue of how worldview affects your definition of harm. While someone with a liberal atheistic worldview might say that homosexuality causes no harm, someone with a reformed Christian worldview might say that it harms the individuals involved, damages society and angers/grieves God.

    A short question, but one which is entangled in a whole heap of issues. As you said, it's a mischievous question. Perhaps Brian should have been more careful in choosing his words in the first place.

    As an aside, an admirable amount of research seems to have gone into this article and you've included a lot of information from OutRage!; next time Christians in the UK are being persecuted and threatened with legal action, would you consider getting a similar article from a Christian organisation or perhaps include information on how we can support those who are suffering from abuse because of their stand on matters of historic Christian ethics?

    LSV (24),

    First of all, I agree that attacks on homosexuals are often hypocritical and theology can be used as a mask for homophobia. The church needs to be more consistent in asking promiscuous heterosexuals and adulteress to repent, not just homosexuals and needs a greater dose of courage to tackle the greed and materialism that is rampant in society and the church. However your attacks on many in the body of Christ are misguided.

    In the last 10-20 years, there has been a massive shift in public attitudes to homosexuality. The historic Christian understanding of a homosexual lifestyle being incompatible with Christianity and homosexual activity requiring repentance has come under attack. Increasingly, openly active homosexuals are seeking or being offered positions of authority in the church, which represents a seismic shift in sexual ethics. I'm surprised that in the light of this historical context, you feel the need to ascribe more devious motivations to those who hold to the historic orthodoxy.

    If there's any witch-hut going on the west, it's against those who believe that a homosexual lifestyle requires repentance and your post is symptomatic of it.

    Regarding Reform, I've no idea of the circumstances of your conversation, who you were dialoguing with or what opportunity there was for them to respond, but I'm again surprised that you seem to think they don't have any sort of response to issues of predestination. Certainly there has been plenty written on the issue by people such as Carson, Boice, Ferguson, Packer and Stott. What exactly have you been told on the issue or what reading have you done? I'd be surprised if someone in Reform didn't recommend a book along the lines of 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God' by DA Carson.

    There is no need and tidy answer to the issue of how love, election and wrath tie together that removes all loose-ends, but you're acting as if those who hold to pre-destination are the only ones with a case to answer. Arminians have just as much of a case to answer (I would argue more) when it comes to the issue of how they interpret passages in the Bible that concern election and anyone who claims that God will save everyone has a lot of explaining to do when passages about wrath, judgement and hell come along. As far as I understand it, pre-destination is the doctrine which best explains the biblical material.

  • Comment number 29.

    Jonathan - * anyone who claims that God will save everyone has a lot of explaining to do when passages about wrath, judgement and hell come along.*
    Know God and you will know that God does not judge, has no wrath and there is no hell. God is Love. The former (wrath, judgment, hell) come through the minds of men - not God. Without going into what the bible is and is not - That is the simplest explanation at this time of night! :-)

  • Comment number 30.

    Well, Will, what do you say to a paedophile who thinks that's just the way they are, can't help it, that's the way they were born. They think their desires are perfectly normal and if they can find children who cooperate, what business is it of society to stop them.

    We've had these debates how many times on this forum and what's the point? Christians believe homosexual acts are sinful. And the desire to commit sin is disordered. And if they don't like analogies with paedophilia or alcoholism, that's possibly because they don't understand logic.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'd like to say how much I admire Tiwombe and Steven's courage. I echo Peter Tatchell's call and hope the members of the W&T community will all try to offer them as much support as we can.

    I think the Bible is clear on its position on homosexual behaviour, it condemns it pretty starkly. In this the Bible is, of-course, manifestly wrong, but it is clear and that must present a dilemma for traditional believers. To what extent can someone, in conscience, support a person in the commission of what they believe are immoral actions or the maintenance of what they regard as an immoral lifestyle? What does it do to their testimony if they do offer support, if they say we uphold your right to dishonour the temple of the Holy Spirit and to do the sort of things that really annoy the Lord?

    The rights or wrongs of the Iraq War are a matter of debate. I believe in freedom of conscience, I think Blair may have thought he was morally right to take Britain to war, but I believe that war was morally wrong, I would love to see Blair brought before the ICC in the Hague and, if he were handed down fourteen years, I would be grinning from ear to ear. I would be grinning because I really believe that what he did was objectively wrong, whatever his motivation, and because I believe that wrong should be punished.

    Is the (relative) tolerance in Western societies of activities the Bible considers sin a sign that the vast majority of Christians in those societies in their hearts no longer really believe the Bible?

  • Comment number 32.

    #28 - Jonathan Boyd -

    "...anyone who claims that God will save everyone has a lot of explaining to do when passages about wrath, judgement and hell come along."

    A straw man, I'm afraid. I never suggested that "God will save everyone", but rather I am asserting that the Bible clearly states that "God desires all to be saved", which is not the same thing. People can reject the grace of God. The factor of human free-will best explains the biblical material, and not a deterministic soteriology, which makes a mockery of the justice of God.

    Concerning gays: I am not suggesting that homosexuality is without moral problems, but it is the neurotic and unhealthy emphasis on this issue, which disturbs me. There seems to be, in some Christian circles, a kind of obsessive voyeurism, when it comes to personal sexual matters. What individuals do in their bedrooms with a consenting partner - whatever the moral status of it - seems to be far more worthy of outrage than evils that have a direct effect on society as a whole.

    For example, there has been an outcry against the ordination of Mary Glasspool as a bishop in the Episcopal Church in California, because she is a lesbian. But where is the outcry against bishop Isaac Orama, the Anglican bishop of Uyo in Nigeria, who has used language against homosexuals, which is tantamount to incitement to murder? He said: "Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic AND ARE NOT FIT TO LIVE because they are rebels to God's purpose for man'' (emphasis mine). Apparently Mary Glasspool (who is not preaching death on anyone) is engaged in a lifestyle, which is "contrary to the will of God revealed in Scripture", so we are told by her opponents. But can Christians really claim that bishop Orama's behaviour is consistent with the will of God? Is it right for Christian leaders to incite others to desire the death of others (and don't think that can't happen, because it was just this kind of language against a people considered "not fit to live", which stirred up the Rwandan genocide).

    Certain Christians can go ahead and claim that Mary Glasspool should not be ordained as a bishop. But if they are true to the Word of God (and therefore sincere believers), they would also have to condemn the episcopacy of bishop Orama, who is declaring that certain human beings are not fit to live - in other words, he is blaspheming, by playing God with other people's right to life. This is certainly incitement to violence, and should be classed as a hate crime. God's justice demands that we cannot single out certain sins, and ignore others (an idea, by the way, absolutely fundamental to evangelical theology, which asserts that all sin is worthy of God's wrath - not just some sins!).

    The only reason gay clergy have come under attack is because they have had the honesty to be open about their sexual orientation. What if they kept it a secret? How many apparently heterosexual bishops are actually secretly gay? How are crusading anti-gay evangelicals going to find out about it? Put CCTV in their bedrooms?! It's the very courage and honesty of these people, which has exposed them to condemnation. Since sexuality is such a personal matter, we would be none the wiser if they had kept quiet. Can't these disapproving evangelical churches at least have the decency and honour to recognise this fact?

    For all anyone knows there could be bishops in the worldwide Anglican church, who engage in all sorts of deviant sexual practices, and keep them a secret. How are we to know? Isn't it truly ridiculous that something private and personal should be made a qualification of employment? But perhaps this is the heart of the issue. Perhaps it is not so much the issue of homosexuality which so irks certain Christians, but the idea of allowing for personal freedom at all. I much prefer to accept that there are certain matters of which God alone is the judge, and leave it at that - and then mind my own business.

    As for "homosexual lifestyle", which you mention in your post, I would be intrigued to see a clear and accurate definition of this. As far as I can see, the only passages in the Bible which could be used to condemn "homosexuality", concern certain sexual practices, which are not clearly spelt out (Romans 1:26-27). The problem is that what I imagine these practices are (I think we can guess what they could be) can also be performed by heterosexuals on each other. Therefore, if we are true to Scripture we would need to make sure that all our clergy are abstaining from these practices, whether they are homosexuals or heterosexuals. How could we do this? Only by intruding into the most personal area of their lives, which is not only impractical, but also unethical.

    Has, for example, Mary Glasspool clearly and accurately described publicly what she gets up to with her lesbian partner? If she has not done this, then the only "crime" she has committed is the mere admission that she is a "lesbian" - i.e. feels a sexual desire for a member of the same sex. Is that sufficient grounds to condemn her? The answer is no, and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong on that point from the Bible. Where in the Bible does it say that the mere possession of a homosexual orientation is worthy of condemnation? And how far can one follow that orientation before it becomes sin? Is it not possible that two people of the same sex could have an extremely close relationship that may fall short of physical sex (however that is understood)? Are there biblical grounds to condemn that relationship? I challenge anyone to prove that point. And if that kind of relationship cannot be condemned biblically, then the only basis for censure is the sexual aspect. But then how is that to be known, unless the participants admit to it? And why should they? Do heterosexual clergy have to undergo a sexual audit as a condition of consideration for employment? Of course not! Then why should gay clergy?

    The point I am making is that the mere admission of a homosexual orientation is not in itself a sin, according to the Bible. The only possible sin would involve certain sexual practices (which can also be performed by heterosexuals), and these are, by their very nature, private. (Of course, I am aware that the possible sinfulness of these practices is another moral debate, but I am assuming this point, for the sake of the argument). So unless a gay couple decides to be highly explicit publicly about their private lives, the only conceivable judgment on them can be made by God alone, since we are dealing here with something private, and not public.

    This is why I find this whole issue a moral minefield, and the biblical arguments used to support this anti-gay crusade are unsatisfactory and entirely unconvincing.

  • Comment number 33.

    LSV (32),

    Before calling me a straw-man, at least read what I wrote. Nowhere did I accuse you of universalism. Rather, I said that those who hold to pre-destination have no more of a case to answer than anyone else when it comes to building a coherent doctrine from the biblical material available. I cited Arminians and universalises as examples of people who have questions to answer. I would imagine that your view falls under Arminianism, so the fact that you ignored that and cherry-picked the criticism of universalism suggests that you were looking for a straw-man, rather than sincerely looking for reasoned discourse. Equating pre-destination with determination also makes me wonder if you've actually done any reading on the subject at all.

    Concerning homosexuality, the issue of lifestyle, orientation, etc. has been done to death a thousand times on this blog. You're a regulate enough contributor to know that it is the dominant issue discussed so please don't act as if you're ignorant of the biblical arguments, regardless of whether you agree with them or not.

    As for the issue of private activity affecting public roles, the Bible clearly spells out the requirements for someone to be fit for the role of an elder in the church and sexual morality is mentioned. What people get up to in the privacy of their bedrooms matters because it can still render them unfit for service. In the specific case of Mary Glasspool, calling herself a lesbian, knowing that people will hear that as an endorsement of lesbian relationships indicates that she is unfit for service by historic, orthodox, biblical standards. The fact that she has a lesbian partner compounds the issue. Imagine for a moment that a male bishop says that he lives a woman and lives in the same house as her and never says anything about whether or not they are celibate. At the very least wouldn't that be pastorally irresponsible, sending out all the wrong messages?

    Regarding Isaac Orama, I fail to see how his statements are equivalent to the wider issue of homosexuality. I know very little about him and the idea that sinners don't deserve to live is hardly a new one. Many who call for active homosexuals to repent would also call for people to live by grace and preach very much against the sentiments of Orama.

    The homosexual issue on the other hand involves a seismic shift in culture and is coupled to an attack on the authority of the Bible. Whereas most people in the West would ignore Orama and not be influenced by him, a lot of people are going to be influenced by people like Gene Robinson and MAry Glasspool, therefore they represent a more urgent and relevant pastoral concern for Christians in the west.

  • Comment number 34.

    Eunice (29),

    First let me thank you for writing in proper sentences. To be honest, I've largely skimmed over your posts in the past because you've tended to separate sentences with an ellipsis (...) rather than a period and space (. ), which I found quite hard to read. Please continue with the proper sentences.

    Secondly, you tell me to know God - how am I to do that? My understanding is that God has revealed himself generally in creation and more specifically through scripture, the incarnation of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians. He has therefore made it very clear that judges, is wrathful and sends people to hell, but above all this, calls people to repent that they may experience his grace and be saved.

    I know you say a lot about the heart, but what makes the heart trustworthy? And how do you deal with different people's hearts telling them different things?

  • Comment number 35.

    Parrhasios (31),

    I think you've hit the nail on the head.

  • Comment number 36.

    Mccamleyc - just because people think they are born this way or that way does not mean that they are in-truth. Many Christians believe they are born sinners as the bottom line .....a belief that pours guilt on their hearts and perpetuates the separation from the love that they are in-truth.
    *Christians believe homosexual acts are sinful* - and that belief allows "Christians" to judge and condemn another??? What happened to 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone' ??? A point to consider - Christian judgment of another is in-truth more harming than a homosexual act performed with love.

    *And if they don't like analogies with paedophilia or alcoholism, that's possibly because they don't understand logic.* ......don't have a problem with logic - just that your arguments are not logical.......as explained above......you are not comparing like with like as they are very different.

    This also brings up the definition or meaning of the word 'sin' .....as I understand it comes from the Greek word hamartia and means to 'miss the mark' .....our true nature is love and so one understanding of sin is that when we think/speak/act without love we are 'missing the mark' ....this is not something that we are punished for,(but has consequences due to laws of cause and effect) just how it is because we are ignorant of our true being. So to judge another is to 'miss the mark' or to sin . We all 'miss the mark' many times each day.....being angry or emotional etc ....it's just to learn that that is not our true nature and to keep endeavouring to make choices from, with and in love (or gentleness as a start).

  • Comment number 37.


    Yeh, I'm aware of some of the 'tactics' that photographers sometimes employ to illicit the desired response although I would doubt that that is the case here.

    What came back to me upon looking at the photograph was an incident when I worked in Kenya. A guy stole something from a market place and a mob chased and caught him. They began pelting him with rocks. I was sickened by the incident but as I looked at the faces in the crowd, many of them seemed excited and seemed to be deriving some sort of morbid pleasure from the violence. (A bit like the crowd of kids in a school yard who gather round two boys fighting.)

    It was that experience which made me think that this image is genuine and not a 'put up' job by the photographer.

  • Comment number 38.


    You might find the following article interesting. Its about a recent case in Australia where an Anglican Bishop (and church court) have sacked one of their priests based on evidence against him which was obtained illegally.


  • Comment number 39.

    Jonathan writes: "next time Christians in the UK are being persecuted and threatened with legal action, would you consider getting a similar article from a Christian organisation or perhaps include information on how we can support those who are suffering from abuse because of their stand on matters of historic Christian ethics?"

    Have a listen to today's Sunday Sequence, Jonathan. We ran a story about how Peter Tatchell had come to the support of a Christian street preacher who had been arrested -- he defended the preacher's right to argue that homosexuality was a sin in public.

  • Comment number 40.

    Christopher: I take issue with your claim to have worked through the logic of this argument correctly. I won't restate my challenge to the usefulness of analogies with paedophilia, but that challenge stands. I'll reply to your more recent point:

    "Well, Will, what do you say to a paedophile who thinks that's just the way they are, can't help it, that's the way they were born. They think their desires are perfectly normal and if they can find children who cooperate, what business is it of society to stop them. We've had these debates how many times on this forum and what's the point? Christians believe homosexual acts are sinful. And the desire to commit sin is disordered. And if they don't like analogies with paedophilia or alcoholism, that's possibly because they don't understand logic."

    (1) Perhaps you and I might agree on one point here. The morality of any behaviour cannot be asserted merely on the basis of a subject's sense of its rightness or, indeed, on the basis of any scientific claim that this behaviour is in some sense "unavoidable" for the subject. This principle, I think, applies to any moral case under consideration. People often do wrong while believing they are doing right; and sometimes a person is conditionally predisposed to certain unhealthy and destructive behaviours which cause harm to themselves and others. The moral justification for homosexuality cannot rest on the claim that gay people do not believe they are sinning when they have same-sex encounters; or that homosexuality is "unavoidable" for some people. Sexual ethics is more complex than that. The claim that homosexuality is "natural" has some ethical weight in these discussions, but it is only part of the story.

    (2) Even accepting that some people have an engrained tendency to sexualise relationships with children, there is a big difference between consensual adult sex and sex with children. One can defend the former without having to defend the latter. That is a matter of logic, and I see no argument in what you say for putting these two very different kinds of sexual practice in the same moral category.

    (3) We're talking about paedophilia on a thread related to the imprisonment of two gay adult gay men. Why? There is clearly a difference between paedophilia and homosexuality, just as there is a difference between paedophilia and heterosexuality.

    (4) You have presented a form of the "slippery slope" argument: i.e., If you permit X, you are logically required to permit Y. But this argument only goes through if you can show that X and Y are the same or that Y follows ineluctably from X (hence the use of the term "logically"). That gap in the logic remains as a problem for this much-repeated analogy.

  • Comment number 41.

    Will (39),

    Glad to hear that he supports freedom of speech for those he disagrees with, however that misses my point, which was that you give a voice to proponents of homosexual activity, urging people to support them and allowing them to frame the debate. No such voice is given to those who hold the homosexual activity requires repentance like any other sin. No such encouragement to support them is given. It doesn't matter how much you say that people have a right to speak, if you only ever give the microphone to one side. Of course if this was your own personal blog, that would be your prerogative, but this is a supposedly neutral blog bankrolled by the BBC who I fund through my license fee. I therefore expect a higher degree of impartiality. Imagine if Nick Robinson constantly interview the Tories and provided details on how you can support them, without giving a voice to Labour - how long could that situation last?

    RJB (38),

    Interesting story, though I'm not sure I took the same facts from it as you. It looks like an Anglican minister broke his code of conduct in part by having sex with a member of his congregation who is not his wife. Three people complained about relationships he had conducted with him and part of the evidence against him was his private journal which was obtained by one of his lovers without his consent.

    So, we've got a guy who:
    * promised not to have sex outside of marriage, then broke his promise
    * promised to be accountable to his superiors by informing them of any relationships he entered into, then broke his promise
    * was in a position of pastoral care over vulnerable members of a congregation, but now stands accused of manipulating that situation

    The evidence against him is:
    * partly in the form of 3 complaints from people he was once in relationships with
    * partly in the form of personal journals which were obtained unethically before being handed over the church authorities rather than being obtained illegally by church authorities

    In his defence he claims that:
    * people shouldn't have known what he was doing, so it's all okay
    * it's wrong to prevent people from dating, when no-one ever told him he couldn't
    * the code of conduct he signed up to silly now that he's been caught breaking it

    Was his lover wrong to take a copy of his private journal? Probably.
    Is that a valid defence of his actions? No.
    Was the case against him dependent on the journal? No.
    Did church authorities break the law? No.
    Could the church responsibly pretend that it doesn't know what he did, now that it does know, regardless of how it came to know? Of course not.
    Is the story being spun against the church in favour of someone with loose sexual morals? Of course.
    Are we surprised? No.

  • Comment number 42.

    #38 - RJB -

    Thanks for this. Very interesting article.

    To paraphrase George Orwell: "All sins are equal, but some sins are more equal than others."

    In other words... it's OK to steal (despite "Thou shalt not steal"), even though it's apparently not OK to do what the defrocked priest did.

    This rather backs up my point that some in the church tend to focus on some 'sins' and blithely disregard others. To refer back to my previous post: murderous talk by an African bishop is OK, but woe betide anyone who has a "sexual orientation" issue in their life!

    The word 'hypocrisy' springs to mind - something Jesus unequivocally called 'sin'.

  • Comment number 43.

    LSV (RJB, there's also a comment for your consideration in the middle),

    Since when has ignoring an African bishop who has little impact on the western church been equivalent to endorsing murder? And where in the article did anyone say that it is okay to steal? Does the means by which information was obtained (by the defrocked minister's lover remember, not by the church authorities) make any difference to how the church should respond to the information itself? Is there not a lack of proportionality in your response?

    Perhaps you should let us unenlightened hypocrites know what the correct moral response by the church should have been. When Gumbley broke his promises, slept with a vulnerable member of the congregation and cat her aside, only for her to hand over his journal to the authorities, what should they have done? Should they have been concerned about the abuse of power, breaking of promises and failure to faithfully pastor the flock and therefore seek legal advice on whether the journals could be used, or should they have pretended that nothing ever happened and tried to sweep the story under the carpet?

    In the light of how people have reacted to the Roman Catholic Church covering up sexual misconduct, I'm curious about how people respond in this situation - RJB since you brought the article up and were outraged at the coverups, I assume that you would commend the church authorities here for their swift action?

    Regarding your paraphrasing of Orwell, I don't think anyone in Reform would say that sins are precisely equal. They all merit the wrath of God, but Jesus suggests that it will be worse for those who have sinned against children, a distinction is drawn in some places between public sins and private sins, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is held out at the unforgivable sin and obviously the consequences of some sins are greater than others. For instance genocide is considerably worse than me snapping at my wife, although both equally require repentance and are sufficiently dealt with by the blood of Christ.

  • Comment number 44.

    Jonathan - thank you for your response. Jesus said 'the kingdom of God is inside you' . That could also be said as 'the Kingdom of Love is inside you'. One can re-connect to that kingdom, to that stillness by a gentle breath technique/meditation. That kingdom is in the inner heart and it is pure love. It is different to the emotional heart that most people know as their 'heart' and where as you say differences can arise between people and what they say their heart is saying. The inner heart, pure love, speaks Truth that is universal and which comes from love (not from the mind, intelligence, beliefs, conditioning etc) - it leaves no-one out, it knows all are created equal by God in with and from love. It understands that all of man's woes come from living as if we are in separation to that love - by making choices daily that are not from love in thought word and deed. It knows that God is pure love and despite what the bible or preachers/people say God does not judge, is not wrathful and there is no hell - only the hell we create on earth by living in separation to our true divine heritage/our true nature:Love. Whilst the bible does contain much wisdom it also contains that which is not true and it is so sad to hear these untruths repeated again and again and again - keeping people stuck in contraction and separation to the love that they are. There are consequences to all that we do, say and think - the blood of Christ does not save you or anyone else from those consequences - only you do. You can only save yourself by coming to know who you are in truth as a divine son of God whose essence is love and begin to make choices in daily life that are self-loving and aligned to your true nature. Recognise that we are all in this together - we are all on the return journey to God, even those who consider themselves atheist! No-one will be left behind, condemned, in hell or otherwise. God is Love, you are made in the image and likeness of God and you are also Love, all people are Love in their essence. So yes, know God by knowing who you are in-truth instead of the misbeliefs and misperceptions that we all carry - as Socrates put it "know thyself".

  • Comment number 45.

    Jonathan, it sounds like you would like equal time to argue in favour of this imprisonment for 14 years with hard labour of a gay couple in Malawi. That's what this thread is about -- not the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality per se. Please feel free to use the comments thread to make the argument if you feel so moved. As for my inclusion of Peter Tatchell's press release, I often include the odd press release below the fold if it provides relevant information. In this case, Tatchell has been in constant with the two men since their arrest, so he certainly has information that others may wish to read. You will find that, on May 14, when I wrote about Anglicanism's first lesbian bishop, the only press release I published below the line was a statement opposing the ordination of Mary Glasspool from Irish Anglican evangelicals.

    Thus: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2010/05/mary_glasspool_anglicanisms_fi.html

  • Comment number 46.

    William : you say "The moral justification for homosexuality cannot rest on the claim that gay people do not believe they are sinning when they have same-sex encounters; or that homosexuality is "unavoidable" for some people. Sexual ethics is more complex than that. The claim that homosexuality is "natural" has some ethical weight in these discussions, but it is only part of the story. "

    I would like to hear what your other part of the story is?

    Here's one version - a simple one based on love: Homosexuality - loving relationships between people of the same sex are not sinful and God loves gay people just as much as everyone else including Christians. They are a natural expression of humanity and are part of the healing journey for the individuals involved in terms of learning to love as a consequence of past life experiences and karma. We do not, in my view, need to sit in judgment of them or come up with some 'moral justification' that ticks certain boxes. Loving homosexual relationships are just as valid as heterosexual relationships. What is harmful for both and widespread in both is a lack of true love. How about live and let live? As for God - there is nothing we can do that will make God love us more and nothing we can do that will make God loves us less - including being gay.

  • Comment number 47.

    Eunice, I think you have entirely missed my point.

  • Comment number 48.

    Jonathon Boyd

    I didnt take anything fom the article. I just read LSV's post, thought he made some pretty good points, and directed him to an article which was relevant to the points he made.

    Keep the heid.

  • Comment number 49.

    William - I'm sorry if I have missed your point!
    I have been in agreement with your points re paedophilia and alcohol in discussion with Christopher and had made some similar points above.
    Within your point 1) in addition I thought you were pointing out what could be used or not used to morally justify homosexuality and you also mentioned that there was more to it than the points you had made. I was/am genuinely interested to know what your additional points were/are?
    I was then just countering the need for 'moral justification' with an alternative explanation.
    Again, I apologise if I have mis-interpreted you.

  • Comment number 50.

    RJB (48),

    Surely you took something from the article, otherwise you wouldn't have thought that LSV would find it interesting. The most obvious reason you would think that he would find it interesting is that you think it says something about hypocrisy. If that isn't the case, then why did you think he (she?) would find it interesting? If it is the case, then clearly we did take different things from the article. Either way, your claim about the church breaking the law was incorrect: a member of the congregation acted in an arguably unethical way to expose what she alleges to be manipulation by the de-frocked minister and the church used the evidence after seeking legal advice. Is that something we still disagree about?

    Will (45),

    No, I'm not arguing that you should give equal time to arguing the case for imprisonment and hard labour (though if this blog exists to debate ethics then presumably that does mean wrestling with such issues, rather than starting with a conclusion). If you re-read my comment, it was about persecution and support. At the end of the article, you encouraged readers to support Steven and Tiwonge - at least I assume it was you since all the comments by Peter Tatchell were in quotes and the request for support was not. At the very least it was an endorsement of the idea of supporting them. I think it's a good thing that when we're grappling with ethical issues, we're also remembering the very human side highlighted here and getting involved with real life situations, so I certainly have no objection to you encouraging people to show support; on the contrary, I think it's a responsible and compassionate thing to do. My issue is that I don't recall you ever suggesting ways of supporting conservative Christians who are persecuted or suffering.

    Eunice (44),

    You're conflating a few bits of Christianity with bits of new age mysticism. Quite frankly, I don't see any reason to take seriously what you say. Look at it this way: I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe in the gospel message. I believe that Jesus Christ physically died and rose again on the third day. I find the Bible convincing. What have you said that would convince me otherwise?

    I do like your emphasis on love. God is love and in a sense the kingdom of God could therefore be said to be the kingdom of love. However that still leaves the question of what love means and your definition departs significantly from the Bible's and therefore from mine. Regarding wrath, pause for a moment and think about all the atrocities going on in the world. Don't they make you angry? Don't you think that there should be justice? I find it baffling that anyone could think that you can have love without wrath and justice. If you don't get angry at injustice, how can you say you love those who suffer? If you don't act to bring justice into unjust situations, how can say that you are acting lovingly?

    Take the example of this article - two men are being sent off to jail and someone in the crowd is laughing. I get the distinct impression that people on this blog are angry about that. It seems wrong to take pleasure in something like this, whatever you might think about homosexuality. Surely anger at such a situation stems from an attitude of compassion towards those being imprisoned? Does wrath not flow from love in this case (though obviously not in every case)?

  • Comment number 51.

    With few exceptions, it is fine for consenting adults to do what pleases them in matters of sex. These two men should not be sent to jail for 14 years. They should be free to get on with their lives. They have harmed no one.

  • Comment number 52.


    I looked at a photograph, saw people, apparently, laughing and jeering at the sad plight of two of their fellow human beings. I cant quite describe what I felt but it was something to do with wishing that those who were jeering could, just for a second, experience the sense of injustice/fear/terror that the two men in the truck were experiencing. Then they might stop.

    It goes beyond discussion on the rights and wrongs of homosexuality or religious hypocrisy. These two men are being subjected to what anyone, I suspect, would find a horrific experience. As the saying goes, I wouldnt wish that upon my worst enemy.

    I read LSV's post, thought he made a lot of sense and posted a link to an article about a priest who was sacked by his Bishop, and the Bishop was acting on evidence which was obtained illegally. I thought it was relevant to the subject of this thread. I'm sure the priest concerned will survive.

    I'm not sure the two men in Malawi will.

  • Comment number 53.

    Jonathan: I am not here to convince you of anything. I share my views and if they resonate with you or others so be it, and if they don't, so be it as well. My understandings are based on understanding things at the level of energy and according to who we are in-truth and who God is and a bit more besides! I cannot put everything to explain my position on the blog as it would be a book (some people already think I write too much!) - so I put a few points as examples.
    I disagree with you on many points and may not have time to fully explain them at the moment as other duties call. The bible is not inerrant in my view and many others - it was written by men who did not live as Jesus lived and contains contradiction and untruth. I would ask why you need it to be inerrant? Often there is a fear underlying that - if this is not true then what is, what do I believe? And the need for it to be inerrant often provides a crutch that says if I follow this then I will be saved- it has to be true for you and others to provide a rigid guide that makes you feel safe and saved. An alternative approach is to use discernment - to feel in your own heart if what is said is coming from love or not. We all have the wisdom of God/Love within us we have just covered it up!
    Re Love- There are many definitions/interpretations/understandings of what love is and is not. My understandings are based on knowing what love is energetically. Love is what we are in essence, and each of us can be the presence of love - ie. our energetic state of being can be love. It is therefore impossible to have anger and wrath at the same time as love - if you are angry, you are not being love. Whether you accept this or not is your choice - but it is not a belief but an energetic fact. God is love and that love is never wrathful and never angry - it is love and love loves. To be compassionate is not to be angry but to be the presence of love whatever is happening - that another may know they too are that love no matter what is happening to them or whatever experience they are going through - to be able to arise them out of it by knowing a deeper truth regarding their true being.
    We get angry because we do not see the whole bigger picture - we only see a snapshot, a piece in time. To my understanding everything is interconnected and constellated - there are no accidents, no victims in-truth ( a hard one, I accept), everything is as a consequence of our own choices over many lifetimes, including all the things that happen to us that we wouldn't consciously choose in a million years. I see the same 'injustice' in this case that everyone else does and I also know there is a much bigger picture at play that we cannot see that has resulted in this situation for these 2 men. So what to do about it? It's not so much what we do as how we do it - whatever people feel called to do, do it with love, not with anger. Love heals, anger harms, pity harms, rage harms. Do it knowing that those 2 men are also sons of God whose essence is love and that cannot be harmed by anything. Consider this may be part of their healing journey towards God - towards knowing who they are in-truth, that despite imprisonment or torture the love that they are and that they have cannot be destroyed by anything.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Jonathan --

    The letter-writing details were including at the bottom of Peter Tatchell's press release, which is why they are included there:

    Write a letter to Steven and Tiwonge: Help boost their spirits. Show them you care. Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them. Write to: Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi.

  • Comment number 55.


    I agree with your first point to some extent - just not sure how far you want to push the "merely". Clearly morality is related to a subject's own sense of the rightness of an action (conscience) and also behaviour which is actually "unavoidable" cannot be sinful. But I do think these are very common arguments used by supporters of homosexuality. And, while I repeat, I am not saying, nor suggesting, nor implying that homosexuals are paedophiles, paedophiles make the same arguments. But to broaden it - all sorts of people make the same arguement. Every man caught in an affair. Every fat person who can't stop over-eating, every junkie. I know many homosexuals find any of these analogies offensive but, well how could they not?

    Will you wrote "(2) Even accepting that some people have an engrained tendency to sexualise relationships with children, there is a big difference between consensual adult sex and sex with children."

    There is a difference but a difference of degree. Loving sex that is open to life within a marriage is a good - every other form of sex is wrong - whether with someone you're not married to, with children, with animals, with yourself, with a rubber barrier, with someone you've paid, with someone you've forced by violence - each of them is wrong to the degree with which they are removed from the ideal.

    Will, you said "(3) We're talking about paedophilia on a thread related to the imprisonment of two gay adult gay men. Why? There is clearly a difference between paedophilia and homosexuality, just as there is a difference between paedophilia and heterosexuality." See paragraph above. We often stray from the strict detail in a thread by way of discussion. Many of the threads that have been about sexual abuse by clerics have talked about paedophilia when in the majority of cases it's been about same sex abuse of teenagers.

    As regards the slippery slope, I think I was talking about how when you decriminalise, you end up forcing people to accept promotion of gay sex in schools, civil partnerships, gay weddings and adoptions etc. That was the slippery slope I mentioned. And in this case, without knowing the full details of the case, I would be more sympathetic if they were arrested for actions carried out in private than for public attempts at celebrating a gay engagment. That's the slippery slope.

  • Comment number 56.

    Whether people think or believe they are doing right/doing good is, as mentioned, far from sufficient and far from the truth of the situation. To understand the true consequences of any action, thought or word one must know the energy in which it is performed. Thus it is possible for a married couple to have non-loving sex ie. it is not done with, in and from the energy of love. Most of the time the man is looking for relief (of frustration, stress etc) and the woman for the intimacy she did not get from her father. This is not loving sex and energetically is harming. Equally it is possible for 2 people who are not married, to be love and make love in the true meaning of those words. It's not about rules and regulations, beliefs and conditions but energy! As energetically we either harm or heal in all that we do, say and think. The difference between adult consensual sex/love making and sex with a child is huge and not just a 'difference of degree' as Christopher says. It is impossible to be truly connected to love and have sex with a child. All of the examples CHristoper mentions (fat person, junkie etc) all come down at root level to a lack of love within oneself - period.
    As for slippery slope - it is the type of judgmental thinking portrayed above that is part of the slippery slope of lovelessness and man's inhumanity to man as demonstrated in the case of the 2 men - there is unfortunately, only a difference of degree between some views on homosexuality on this site and what is happening to them in Africa.

  • Comment number 57.


    I'd like to respond, but I just don't have the energy.

    Here's an odd thing. Campaigners want to change the name of Archbishop Ryan Park, a gift from the Archdiocese of Dublin, because of his alleged cover up child abuse. Fair enough. But they want to change it Oscar Wilde Park - an actual child abuser, on record as having paid for sex with teenage boys.

    Funny old world, innit?

  • Comment number 58.


    I agree that it looks like the men are going through a fairly horrific experience, but I fail to see the connection between that and the article you linked to. Perhaps you could enlighten me? Are you saying that the defrocked priest suffered an injustice or was badly treated?

    I'm also mystified as to why you keep talking about evidence obtained illegally. As I have pointed out several times, there was a variety of evidence against him and the private journals were obtained in an unethical manner (by a parishioner, not the church authorities), not an illegal one.


    this 'energy' you keep talking about doesn't exist. You're using the words 'energy' and 'love' in ways that no-one else is, so I'd be surprised if anyone understands what you're talking about, let alone agrees with it.

    What contradictions do you think are in the Bible?

  • Comment number 59.

    #52 - RJB - (and with reference to JB's comments) -

    "I looked at a photograph, saw people, apparently, laughing and jeering at the sad plight of two of their fellow human beings. ... It goes beyond discussion on the rights and wrongs of homosexuality or religious hypocrisy. These two men are being subjected to what anyone, I suspect, would find a horrific experience."

    One of my concerns about many Christians' general attitude towards gays is that it dangerously reflects a condemnation which is prevalent in society as a whole. In the context of this, it seems rather perplexing that Romans chapter one concludes with the following statement: "...who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practise such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practise them." This statement follows a list of sins, and, of course, we know that it is in this chapter of Romans that there is mention of homosexuality (vv. 26-27).

    Paul is saying that 'the unregenerate world' approves of the sins he has listed. But this is generally not the case with regard to homosexuality. Certainly from my experience (having spent a great part of my childhood in an all male boarding school), if one was referred to as 'queer' or 'bent', he was not being admired - or his supposed behaviour approved - but emphatically the opposite. And this judgment was not motivated by any commitment to Christian morality! On the contrary, it reflected non-Christian society. I am also aware that the word 'gay' is still regarded as an insult among many young people.

    The fact is that homosexuality is not generally approved (and whatever tolerance there is, seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon), and the brutal persecution of gays bears this out. So Paul's statement in Romans 1 seems rather strange, if we are to regard homosexual behaviour as one of the sins he listed in that chapter. If this is a sin, then according to Paul's argument it should meet with the approval of the so-called 'unregenerate world'. But, as I have observed, this approval is not generally the case.

    This is why I would suggest that the church has to tread very carefully on this issue. Whatever the moral issues, it must be recognised that many gays are persecuted for their 'condition', and the church should be careful not to add to this - or to be seen to be sanctioning the kind of the gay bashing that goes on in the world (which is evidenced by the photo on this thread). By the way... I wonder whether any church leaders in Malawi will be prepared to stand up and rebuke those gloating bystanders? I wonder how many would emphasise the need to 'love the sinner', even if homosexuality is seen as a sin? I wonder...

    As for the article you linked to... I find this case intriguing due to the claim that the evidence against John Gumbley was obtained through theft. If the church knew that private information had been obtained in this way, then a confidence has been broken. In essence, is this any different from a Catholic priest divulging the secrets of the confessional? Is it right to obtain information by unethical means, even if a moral transgression - or crime - has been revealed? How far can we take this principle? Information obtained by torture? A honey trap? Bribery? Where does it end?

    Now, it may be true that John Gumbley violated the Anglican Church's "code of conduct", but the assumption is made that he exploited a parishioner, whereas the reverse could have been true (note the comment in the article: "She is characterised by some as an extremely vulnerable person of whom Gumbley took advantage, and by others as having openly pursued the 40-year-old priest"). Yes, Gumbley may have done wrong. But was he given the opportunity to repent? Was he warned about his behaviour? Was there a process in which justice was tempered by mercy? These are serious biblical principles.

    The Church should seek repentance and reconciliation. An example of this is given in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 with reference to 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 (especially verses 6-7). This shows the balance between justice and mercy. But was such mercy shown in the Gumbley case?

    There seems to be a powerful consitituency of people in certain churches today, who rush to condemn, but seem unable or unwilling to seek reconciliation, or stand back from moral transgressions to understand why they have occurred. Mercy seems in chronically short supply, even though it is the heart of the gospel ("I desire mercy and not sacrifice"). Clearly John Gumbley had enjoyed considerable success in his ministry, as affirmed by many of his parishioners. Was this taken into account? Was there any sympathy shown to him at all by the church authorities?

    Gumbley may have transgressed a church document, but how many of us would survive if we had legal documents waved over our heads by those determined to find fault with us? The answer: not many, if any.

    There is a deeper question here: is morality based on legalism or on love? A superficial reading of the Scriptures may suggest the former, but a more mature reading will certainly reveal the latter.

  • Comment number 60.

    Jonathan - The energy I talk about does exist and is real. That I may explain love in a different way to the 'norm' does not mean it is not correct. Is it possible that our normal understanding of what love is and is not could be flawed? People on here may not agree with me and again that does not mean that what I say is not true - but that is for each person to discern for themselves. However, I do know there are many people who do agree with the principles/explanations I have outlined - even a few in Ireland, North and South, albeit that N. Ireland is still stuck in a very fundamentalist religious perspective that has no resemblence to Truth as I know it. I know from my own life experience that what I have said is true (not just as knowledge but lived experience) and can lead people to much greater levels of love, joy and freedom than they currently experience. Its not for everyone as it demands a high degree of responsibility and integrity re all life's choices and not everyone can go there - some like to blame other people for the circumstances of their life. People do not need to agree - I'm just offering different explanations that many challenge the accepted 'norm' and as I have said before people can reject it, accept it, ponder it, consider it or pass by it - no problem! Have a great day! :-)

  • Comment number 61.


    I have no real beef about this. Whether the priest was legally sacked or not, whether the process used stands up to scrutiny, whether evidence gained by theft is admissable, judgements on all of these things will be made when the priest takes his case against the Bishop to the civil court.

    And yes I think there are many similarities and parallels between the two cases, the Church and State relationship, right or wrong judgement, condemnation, adult sexuality, the law and morality, etc..

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree almost entirely with Parrhasios in post 31, though I think that Blair deceived himself into thinking that he was morally right to go to war with Iraq. Self-deception is a strong factor in politics, as Vince Cable revealed last night to Paxman. We can see in both cases how the lure of power on the world and national stage affects principles. Until polling day, Cable was firmly opposed to the cuts. Now, a few weeks later, he is all for them, thanks to the Greeks  – as if we weren't aware that Greece was a basket case before 6th May.

    On the matter at hand, I don't think there is any doubt that (1) the Bible condemns homosexuality; (2) it is wrong to do so; and (3) right-wing Christians from America and Europe are stirring up Africans on this issue
    (see, for example, THe Observer, 13th December: "Anti-Gay Laws herald new era of intolerance across Africa". The right-wing are losing the battle in the US and Europe, so they are exploiting the poor world. Bring along a few dollars and attack 'westernisation', and, bob's your uncle, gays are demonised as exemplars of decadent liberal culture. What a disgrace!

    As Denis Nzioka of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya put it (Saturday's 'Guardian'): "Asserting one's rights as an individual should not merit a death penalty, or harassment, or violence, or hate".

  • Comment number 63.

    How are they losing the battle in the US? In every instance in which the people are consulted they vote against gay marriage, even in liberal California. Ordinary people have a fear of being deemed intolerant so often go along with things, but when they get to vote they show their views.

  • Comment number 64.


    "In every instance in which the people are consulted they vote against gay marriage, even in liberal California."

    Not entirely true. See e.g. the example of the state of Washington where gay equality legislation (which gives gays exactly the same rights as married couples, though it doesn't use the word 'marriage' explicitly ) got voter approval. Google 'Referendum 71'. It was approved by a 53-47 voter margin.

  • Comment number 65.

    Okay - though as you say, it wasn't actually gay marriage.

    So in almost every instance.

    About 8 countries have same sex marriage and about 200 don't.

  • Comment number 66.

    Mccamleyc: *About 8 countries have same sex marriage and about 200 don't*

    And many years ago everyone use to think the world was flat - that didn't mean they were right! A minority of one can speak more truth than a majority of thousands or millions eg Jesus Christ. At the heart of this is whether one endeavours to grant the same freedoms and equality to all people or whether one considers some people more equal than others. The latter comes out of ignorance, fear and lack of true knowledge/understanding regarding the true nature of man and of God.

  • Comment number 67.

    Actually scholars now agree that hardly anyone ever thought the world was flat.

    If you read back, Eunice, you will see that I was debating the suggestion that opponents of homosexuality have moved the discussion to Africa as they've lost the debate elsewhere. I was making the point that 200 to 8 doesn't really sound like a lost debate. I wasn't arguing for morality based on head count. Most people, for example, seem to think that contraception is a good thing and they're clearly wrong.

  • Comment number 68.

    Christopher: Even if you feel the debate is not lost, my point is that even if the debate is won as you see it, does not mean that it is in accordance with what is true. That the debate even exists demonstrates man's lack of true understanding re his own nature and that of God.

    *Actually scholars now agree that hardly anyone ever thought the world was flat.*
    So why imprison those who claimed otherwise?
    Is that 'hardly anyone' apart from the rulers of the Catholic church??

    *Most people, for example, seem to think that contraception is a good thing and they're clearly wrong.*

    I am intrigued Christopher - please expand on why contraception is not good and 'clearly wrong'??

  • Comment number 69.

    In a fallen world there will always be debate as the truth will only become clear to everyone in eternity - and even then perhaps not - those, God forbid, mired in hell will still probably be debating, like the dwarves in CS Lewis's The Last Battle.

    I'm not aware of anyone being imprisoned for believing the earth to be flat and I don't think many if any Popes believed the earth to be flat.

    Go read Humanae Vitae or a book by Janet Smith, or Fr Vincent Twomey's new book, "Moral theology after Humanae Vitae" (Will, has Sunday Sequence touched on it?). Contraception forces women to be constantly infertile to suit the constant fertility of men. And it feeds into the current sexual crisis cos really, there is little difference between contraceptive sex and homosexual sex.

  • Comment number 70.

    Christopher: I agree there will always be debate re truth especially as long as mankind remains in separation to his true nature. That does not mean that it is not possible for people to know truth - if Jesus did, we all can, we all have the same potential. And what if your belief in hell is just a red herring, a fallacy created to perpetuate the separation from the true fire of love that fills the heavens?

    Re: imprisoning - that was for those who 'claimed otherwise' ie those who claimed the world was not flat. To my understanding the catholic church rejected these propositions/truths and I assume it was the people of the church rather than the buildings!

    Re: contraception: it's always good to widen one's horizons and hear different views and perspectives and your views are certainly different Christopher! At the risk of repeating myself - whether contraceptives are used or not is not the point, whether it is homosexual sex is not the point - what is relevant is whether love is present or not. I dont mean the emotional needy love that comes from the emptiness or lack of love within a person (that they seek another to fill) but the fullness of their heart and soul with true love, true honouring, gentleness and respect. Sex that is loveless and needy, out of emptiness etc is harming. Be love and make-love. :-)

  • Comment number 71.

    I have been following this thread for some time and as usual, by the time i have composed my comment, someone else has made my point, and better than I could have.
    It would be good if some of those arguing for or against biblical authority on these issues were following the Intro to the O T thread. I am feeling rather alone there. But now I know why: I have been trying ( 9 times over 4 days) to post this comment there -
    Thank you, Will, for posting this again. I hope I am not the only one still following it. I am really enjoying discovering more about the Hebrew Bible – starting from a place of near total ignorance. I knew that Jacob had lived ‘not long after the bible began’ (and had given his favourite son a technicolour dream coat), and that Joshua had ‘fit’ the battle of Jericho. But I had had no idea if these were before or after the flood, or a whale swallowing Jonah or if any of this was prehistory or entirely mythic.
    The pleasure of following the course is akin to that of reading a Shakespeare play for the first time and discovering it to be full of quotes. I would like to go back to some earlier books and try to discover what Zadoc the priest did to inspire such sublime music. In what I have read so far, he seems to have been named frequently but apart from anointing David, didn’t do all that much of note.
    While I have noted the much quoted Leviticus verse, I have not seen much in the bible about homosexuality. On the other hand, there is a lot about god's disapproval of acquiring wealth at the expense of others and unfair treatment of the poor and vulnerable, especially in the prophets we are reading at the moment - Amos, Hosea, Isaiah. It's a pity we don't take as much notice.

  • Comment number 72.

    Some of the comments here leave me feeling very depressed. Why can't religious commentators simply condemn the imprisonment of these men without sounding like they are making apologies for a law that bans gay men and women from forming relationships?

  • Comment number 73.

    #72 @Irishgay.

    Great progress has been made these last few decades but you are making a mistake appealing to christians as they must follow their god's instruction. On the positive side their god's attitude to the gays of the world is just one more reason for this cult to get smaller by the day, in the western world. Africa is a whole new battle ground.



  • Comment number 74.


    "Christians.... must follow their God's instruction."

    I would disagree there, David. They often choose which ones THEY want to follow and which ones they want OTHER people to follow.

  • Comment number 75.

    Yes, RJB that is without doubt the case but when they choose they tend to, how can I put this, cease to be christians, they are something else. They know their god's demands and elect to ignore them, they know better than their god, so it seems. Who am I, a mere atheist, hell fodder, to understand such a disagreement between this god and such ex followers who claim to be christians?

    I enjoy reading your posts.


  • Comment number 76.

    David Kerr, thanks for your reply. I just can't understand why people who SAY they believe in love and want the world to be changed by love fail to express any love when gay people are being imprisoned, tortured and killed. Where is your love when people need it? Do you only love those people who agree with your philosophy? Do you only love those who follow your rules? That is not love.

  • Comment number 77.

    DK and Irishgay

    There are actually loads of studies done on the religious right, (psychological, sociological etc..)and accessable on the net, which deal with these questions. Intra-textual belief systems, how they come about, how an individual or group uses them, how they affect others etc.. Attacking minority groups seems to be a common theme.

    Much of it is based on fear, not love (nor even on hatred.) Fear, for example, that a person's children may grow and not hold to the same prejudices held by the parent. Thankfully, as the child grows into adulthood and the power of the parent over them wanes, he or she is hopefully going to recognise this for what it is, indoctrination and abuse of authority, not some valid religious belief.

    The following is a link to an article on sexuality and the religious right. (I love the quote - "I know you are a Christian, but who are you a Christian against?")


  • Comment number 78.

    I see the pair have been pardoned released. I wonder Will if it would be interesting to find out how churches in Malawi have reacted (and possibly churches over here too) for a follow up article?

  • Comment number 79.

    Well done to everyone who supported these two men.

  • Comment number 80.

    Is it possibly time we also discussed the other side of Mr Tatchell's lobbying and perhaps see it also covered more regularly here on W&T?


  • Comment number 81.


    A bit of care is need here in putting what Tatchell says out of context, you would not want to be accused of sensationalising or misrepresenting the way the Mail and Sun did.

    Here is the complete text of his article in his own words

    His discussion on the age of consent recognises that throughout the EU ages differ and in 20 EU states it is less than 16 (Spain is 13) and yet we seem to be the under 16 pregnancy capital so something other than the age of consent is clearly at play here.

    He is merely asking for a rational discussion on sex, youth, criminalisation and the efficacy of an age of consent. He is not suggesting (in fact he says he wants to discourage) early sexual activity.

  • Comment number 82.

    I would tend to agree Dave.

    I think it is appropriate to protect young people from exploitation: the present law forbidding the procurement of sexual services by means of financial inducement from people under the age of eighteen does this.

    I think it is necessary to protect children from abuse by those in positions of trust: the present law covers that.

    I think it is important to protect children from adult predation: the present law provides for that but in the course of so-doing criminalises the consensual sexual activity of persons both of whom may be below the age of sixteen. This is surely a matter where it is right to discuss whether or not such an approach is appropriate.

    It would seem to me to be absolutely correct to make illegal any sexual activity between persons older than eighteen and those younger than sixteen. It does not seem to me to be either moral or effective to use criminal sanctions as a means of either controlling or influencing the behaviour of consenting persons both of whom are under the age of sixteen and where there is no more than an approximately one year age difference.

  • Comment number 83.

    I'm sorry Dave

    but rather than putting Tatchell's comments in context, you appear to be avoiding the most interesting ones attributed to him on this matter.

    Why have you done this Dave?

    Tatchell said last year;-

    “Some teens, and even young children, innocently and spontaneously explore and experiment at an early age. In most cases this causes them no harm at all.”

    In an outspoken letter to The Guardian in 1997 Mr Tatchell went even further, saying several of his friends had had sex with adults when they were aged between nine and 13.

    “None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy”, he said.

    He describes as "courageous" a book which "challenges the assumption that all sex involving children and adults is abusive".

    He adds:

    "The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy."

    "While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful."

    Now please.

    Can someone please distinguish for me the difference between consenual sex between a nine-year-old and an adult and paedophila?

    Tatchell certainly can't.

    In law it is criminal and it it is not accepted that a child of this age can give consent.



  • Comment number 84.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Interesting debate. He does make some sweeping generalisations that just do not hold up.

    All sex between a child and an adult is abusive - even if the child 'consents'. To use historical examples of down through the ages this has occurred is ridiculous - like saying lots of people have been slaves and did them no harm so lets just keep slavery!!
    The onus of responsibility is on the adult. It is very harming - there are many people who have been abused in this way who are unable to speak about it. It becomes a dark secret that can have many consequences from the inability to form lasting trusting relationships to drug and alcohol addiction and more. A child may 'consent' because they are vulnerable and look up to or admire the adult who may come across as affectionate or loving and may even think they 'want' to participate in this - but in later life can realise they were too young to truly make such a judgment. Even if the child 'consents' and grows up to say it was ok and that they enjoyed it (as he is saying happens in some cases) - in terms of what has happened energetically it is very harming.

    Yes children can explore and be curious - and this can also give rise to situations that later on fill them with guilt or shame. I agree part of this is cultural in how sex is perceived and where the subliminal or overt messages a child receives are to say that sex is dirty or sordid. So I agree that changing these cultural often religiously induced ideas re sex need changing. I also agree that it would be good to empower teens to have self-respect, self worth, self esteem - so that they can say no and not succumb to peer pressure or to have sex for all the wrong reasons of which there are many!!

    It is interesting that he says it 'may be impossible to condone paedophilia' .......may be????? Surely 'it is' would be more appropriate??

  • Comment number 87.

    Yes indeed Eunice.

    You rightly note that it is "interesting" that Tatchell says it "may be impossible to condone paedophilia...".

    You commented;-

    ".......may be????? Surely 'it is' would be more appropriate??"

    I too noted this curious use of words.

    Does anyone have an explanation for why Mr Tatchell would choose to say

    "....it may be impossible to condone paedophilia..."

    rather than saying

    ".....it is impossible to condone paedophilia...."



    I am confused as to why you have weighed in behind Tatchell with unqualified support on this issue.

    Have you not read his comments in post 83?

    Or do you sympathise with his views thus expressed perhaps?

    Or might there be another explanation?


  • Comment number 88.

    OT - it may have escaped your notice but my post # 82 preceded your post # 83 - I am not clairvoyant and I had not read those comments elsewhere. I think the last paragraph of my post makes my position abundantly clear and hardly counts as "weighing in behind Tatchell with unqualified support". I find it helps me, in my own communication, to expend the effort at least to read carefully the communications of others.

    In a moral as opposed to a superstitious society there can be no unaskable questions. It is right and proper to question the basis of our society's prohibition of adult/child sexual contact. It is wholly wrong, however, to adduce anecdotal evidence in any attempt to answer that question. The only reasonable foundation for criminalisation of adult/child sex is proper study of the effects of such behaviour. The evidence is not lacking and, on that basis, for once, I am in complete agreement with Eunice. I would have thought I had made it sufficiently clear that I believed paederasty to be wrong when I asserted in my last post that I believed sex between a person over eighteen and one under sixteen should be a criminal offence. Let me repeat, lest any hearing hear not, the consent of a child to sex with an adult can never be meaningful, there are no circumstances in which it could ever be right or acceptable for an adult to have sex with a child; such offences are correctly and deservedly criminalised.

  • Comment number 89.

    Parrhasios: The evidence is not lacking and, on that basis, for once, I am in complete agreement with Eunice.

    Maybe I should frame this or just copy and paste to all my posts .... :-))

  • Comment number 90.

    I will wait to see if my post comes back before I comment further on OT's original posting, really not sure why it was pulled as did not contain anything which I could see broke house rules.

    On what followed,

    Does anyone have an explanation for why Mr Tatchell would choose to say

    You really will have to ask him. I am sure if you email him he will be happy to respond.


    The last paragraph of your post #82 is very similar to Tatchells stated position on reducing the age of consent to 14, with with a single years difference in partner until age 16.

    My concern here is why OT is raising this in this way, it is almost like an attack on Tatchell in order to discredit him for some reason.

    OT I suggest you go to his website and read what he says not someones interpretation of what he says. Then if you want a rational debate around elements of this maybe Will can facilitate it (It is his blog after all). If you simply want to put Tatchell on trial then I am not sure of the value of it.

  • Comment number 91.


    Apologies, I did not read your initial post as well as I should have.


    On the other hand, when I asked you why you did not critique the comments on adult-child sex, there was no need for psychic abilities - they were the main plank of the original link I gave you to the christian institute piece in pots 80.

    How did you miss them?

    I am still at a loss to explain how you could support so much of what Tatchell said with not a single word of concern about what he endorsed in the letter to the guardian quoted in full on that link?

    Can you enlighten me?

    I am hoping for an answer.

    BTW, I suggest you have made some major errors.

    1) There is absolutely no reason to ever in any circumstances ask if sex between adults and children is ok. period.

    2) If you repeatedly look to science to evaluate this question, eventually you are going to have good reason to say such activities are acceptable.

    Tatchell in that letter and Dave on the papal trials thread have both referred to research papers which give the green light to adult-child sex.

    Science radically changes it ideas on many subjects, eg homosexuality and evolution so to look to science to answer this question is fraught with problems unless you are open to the idea of finally endorsing it.

    In my understanding the current criminal law on the age of consent copes very well with all the issues raised here. If you look at the CPS guidlines online there is ample room to consider the public interest in every case.

    When was the last time you heard of 2 15-year-olds being prosecuted?


    So if the sex life of teenagers is not the real issue what on earth could it be?

    It has certainly been recognised that paedophiles use such arguments to press for ever lower ages of consent.

    If you got it down quite low for teenagers only, you are always a step closer to getting actual adult-young teen sex legalised.

    Many teens of course do not wish to engage in sex and the current ages of consent give them a clear reference point to identify with and to affirm their choice.

    I must ask why so many people wish to campaign for ever lower ages of consent without even acknowledging the many problems with promiscuity for children.

    We are talking about;-

    * STDS
    * HIV
    * Unwanted pregnancy
    * Emotional turmoil
    * Physical exploitation
    * Infertility
    * etc etc etc

    Now libertarians will answer that condomns, education and abortion will solve all these problems.

    But that is hardly the point.

    The point is - why do sexual libertarians have the cheek to pretend to be acting as children's advocates in these arguments whenever they refuse to acknowledge the weaknesses and protential downsides to their arguments.

    You might be forgiven for thinking that they had an agenda that has nothing at all to do with the best interests of children?



    PS Am I missing something here, why do you keep referring to pederasty in these discussions when we are actually talking about paedophilia???

  • Comment number 92.


    Do you think adult-child sex can be ok in certain circumstances?


  • Comment number 93.


    I have never given my opinion on this subject on this or any other thread, I have

    1) simply been pointing out your misrepresentation of someone else and what they have said
    2) Responded to your hyperbole on the subject
    3) Not got drawn into your unfounded conspiracy theories about everyone preying on children
    4) Pointed out that evidential findings from research are exactly that and do not "give a green light to" or indeed stop any particular action they simply record reality
    5) Updated your knowledge that 20 European countries have lower ages of consent than UK. Are they all Paedophiles in your terminology.
    6) Pointed out that reality (children are having sex, getting pregnant and getting STIs) needs to be discussed to find how best to deal with it and not bury our heads in some moral sand.

    Paedophilia is sex with children before puberty which can start as young as 9, pederasty occurs between adolescents and older people. In reality Tatchells remarks refer to pederasty (and the heterosexual equivalent) it is you who seems to want it all reclassified as paedophilia as its a better (more loaded) word for you to beat people with.

    If I chose to have a debate with someone on these sensitive matters in which I feel expressing an opinion will meet with a listening ear and a real desire to find a viable solution it will be with someone who is capable of honest debate. It will not be with someone who simply wants their views accepted and will try to label me in a pejorative way and misrepresent my statements if I express a view at variance with their morals.

  • Comment number 94.

    OT - # 91

    Let me reply point by point.

    I did not comment on Tatchell's position at all. I offered neither criticism nor endorsement of any of his opinions (none of which I had read). I gave what was very obviously my own opinion on the matters Dave raised. It was you who, quite without warrant from what I had actually written, suggested that I was supporting Tatchell. Peter is undoubtedly one of the greatest living humanitarians but, on this matter, I do not support him and, while respecting his right to advance them, I think his arguments wrong.

    I do not consider that I have made any errors, major or minor, in my post. Unless one is prepared to base morality on either superstition or personal prejudice there can be no question which may not be both asked and debated. You do not truly ask a question if you have predetermined the answer. You do not honestly engage with an issue unless you are open to all the arguments and are prepared to accept the conclusions arrived at, whatever they may be. 

    The obvious corollorary of this position is that it is acceptable to question, with an open mind, the appropriateness of legislation governing sexual interaction between adults and children. I would be neither honest nor consistent if I said otherwise.

    I base my morality on a combination of empathy and reason. Something is only wrong if it harms another. Legislation, however, does not look at individual cases (though the courts will when they apply it): legislation must look at the broad picture and provide for generalities. Anecdotal evidence is not an appropriate basis for legislation; the ridiculous specifics of Biblical teaching are likewise irrelevant. It is only scientific study which can provide useful data on the predictable outcomes of behaviours. If the general consensus of scientific opinion ever shifted to suggest the whole concept of evolution were seriouly flawed then I would have to take that opinion seriously, likewise, and about as likely, if study after study showed that sex between adults and children caused no harm to either party (and review endorsed that conclusion) then I would be forced to question legislation criminalising such activity.  

    That sexual contact between adults and children is usually deeply harmful is not, however, a matter of serious debate. It is harmful and it has been convincingly shown to be harmful. I am afraid I am deeply sceptical about contraindicatory studies of the type to which reference has been made, a scepticism which goes far beyond the question of their relevance in our own society. I think scientific process is much more robust than you allow - its openness to evidence-based change is a virtue. As long as sexual predation by adults on children continues to harm them I have every confidence that research will show this to be the case and that the scientific community will accept it as the case.

    I actually agree that the law in Northern Ireland as it now stands (and as it is applied) is pretty much entirely acceptable to me. I would have a general preference that activities should not be criminalised where criminal sanction is not an appropriate response. I therefore do welcome debate on how society manages early adolescent sexual behaviour - I am not sure your response is realistic but you have every right to air it. I certainly am fully aware of the potential downsides to my arguments, I acknowledge them: are you aware of the downsides to your case and do you acknowledge them?

    Paedophilia is a disease. We are not making clinical assessments, we are having a general discussion on matters of law and morality. We are therefore not discussing paedophilia. I abhor tabloid word usage, especially when it is ill-informed and prejudicial. It is one of the drawbacks of a classical education that one winces at the illiterate nature of a coining such as paedophilia when the existing word paederasty has the advantages of both availability and etymological accuracy.

  • Comment number 95.

    Parrhasios: a quick look up of paederasty in a few different places refers to it being between man and boy. So what term would you use that encompasses the episodes of abuse involving girls?

  • Comment number 96.

    Eunice - the root of both the terms paedophilia and paederasty is a word which we might perhaps translate into modern English as "kid", a word usually implying boy but capable of application to a girl. The word paedophilia refers specifically to sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. It does not imply any actual sexual activity and suffering from paedophilia is not (and should not be) a criminal offence. It is therefore either ignorant or conniving to use this term to refer to any form of sexual activity involving children of any age. I see no good reason not to use the word paederasty where desire has been actualised whatever the gender or age of the child - I would suggest it is already the usage of many informed individuals.

  • Comment number 97.

    Parrhasios: thanks for the expansion - clearly I am one of the uninformed re paederasty and my sources must be ill-informed too as they specified a boy and a man! As they say - you learn something every day - that's one of the advantages of being one of the uninformed! :-)

  • Comment number 98.

    Eunice - what can I say? Humility is always becoming...


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