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Irish church leaders join the Scottish row

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William Crawley | 16:33 UK time, Saturday, 16 May 2009

Church_of_Scotland_Logo.jpgSome well-known church leaders from Northern Ireland have added their names to a petition encouraging the General Assembly of Scotland's national church to prohibit a gay minister from taking up a new pastoral position in Aberdeen.

The petition, organised by the Fellowship of Confessing Churches, a conservative campaign group within the Church of Scotland, also calls on the General Assembly to support a controversial Overture (or resolution) that "this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman". To date, more than 11,000 people have signed the online petition. Of those, more than 2,000 are members of other churches throughout the UK, including Irish denominations.

The list includes a number of former Presbyterian moderators (Dr Alistair Dunlop, Dr John Lockington, and Dr Ivan McKay, and others), a former president of the Irish Methodist Church (Rev Jim Rea), and executive level administrators within the Irish Presbyterian Church (Rev Trevor Gribben, Deputy Clerk of the General Assembly; Rev David Bruce, executive secretary of the Board of Mission in Ireland; and Rev Ronnie Hetherington, Director of Ministerial Studies). Other signatories include the Rev Martin Smyth, former South Belfast unionist MP, and the Rev Bobby Liddle, who authored the Presbyterian Church's 2007 report on homopbobia, alongside ministers from various denominations, elders, theological lecturers, students and church members.


  • Comment number 1.

    No sign of the new Presbyterian Moderator on the list, then? Makes interesting reading anyway, if you want a list of the most anti-gay church leaders.

  • Comment number 2.

    I would also like to propose a resolution or overture to the Christian Church, which is as follows: ...that the Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone guilty of the following trangressions:

    1. Promoting a view of God which is contrary to Scripture - i.e. a God who condemns the whole human race simply for committing the "sin" of existing in a fallen world, even though no one had any choice in the matter. This is a clear violation of: Psalm 145:8 which clearly states that "God is slow to anger" (therefore anger cannot be the starting point of his dealings with any individual); Ezekiel 18:25, which states that the Lord's way is fair and that he does not judge anyone on the basis of heredity (i.e. original sin); John 9:41 which states that those who are blind have no sin - therefore God does not condemn the ignorant.

    2. Blaspheming God by daring to suggest - or acquiescing with the notion - that Christ did not die for all, but only for the predestined elect, therefore meaning that God has deliberately and wilfully created some people who have no hope of escaping the eternal and horrific torture chamber which is hell. This is in clear violation of 1 Timothy 2:4 which clearly states that God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

    3. Brutally and callously abusing the Word of God to extort money from people - especially 10% of the incomes of the poor - in clear violation of 2 Corinthians 9:7 - that one should not give under compulsion; and also in violation of Deuteronomy 26:12 which reveals clearly that the poor received rather than gave tithes; also Matthew 23:4, where Jesus condemns religious leaders for binding heavy burdens on the backs of people - burdens too hard to bear (whereas "the commandments of God are NOT burdensome" - 1 John 5:3).

    4. For condemning those who, through no fault of their own, subscribe to other religions, and for denying that God is the Father of such people. This is in clear violation of Matthew 23:9 where Jesus assured the multitudes (who were not "Christians") that God was their Father. Furthermore, these same people did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God (see Matthew 16:13-20), but believed him to be merely a prophet. Jesus did not disabuse them of this idea (Matthew 16:20), and yet their belief in Jesus as only a prophet was no bar to Jesus blessing, healing and having compassion on them. Therefore it is contrary to the ministry of Jesus to condemn those who do not subscribe to a perfect Christology.

    5. For promoting a theology which states that all sins are equal before God, and therefore deserve eternal hell (contrary to 1 John 5:16), while at the same time focussing on only certain sins - e.g. certain sexual transgressions - and ignoring or being unduly lenient about other sins - e.g. hypocrisy and self-righteousness.

    After the Church has properly expelled all those who commit the above-mentioned iniquity (characteristic of evangelical fundamentalism), then perhaps the rest of us can have a mature discussion about the complex issue of human sexuality.

    I trust that others will support my resolution.

  • Comment number 3.

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

  • Comment number 4.

    I think it is interesting that all religions seem disproportionately preoccupied, even obsessed with all matters related sex and sexuality. I wonder why. In this regard I think the polytheistic Pagan religions were superior to the monotheistic religions. Many of them didn't seem to have any problems at all with sex in any form and even encouraged it, as a gift of the fertility gods I suppose.

    We haven't heard from Pastorphillip on this issue. Come out, come out, wherever you are Pastorphillip. What are your thoughts, what is your spiritual guidance on this timely issue? Don't leave us guessing or hanging. Give us something difinitive from your perspective.

  • Comment number 5.

    To date, more than 11,000 people have signed the online petition. Of those, more than 2,000 are members of other churches throughout the UK, including Irish denominations.

    Such a freethinking bunch, those evangelical Christians.
  • Comment number 6.

    "this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman".

    irrespective of the homophobia implied in the resolution, this is not simply a matter of same sex relationships. that wording excludes "anyone" sexually active "outside of faithful marriage".

    is that what the authors of the resolution intended?
    i wonder what the definition of a sexual relationship is? do they only mean those engaging in intercourse? if yes, that infers a very narrow understanding of what constitutes a sexual relationship.

    as i read it the resolution means, only those who are either
    1. married or
    2. single and celibate
    can be elders, or hold other church positions irrespective of orientation.

    i wonder what the questionnaire would look like to determine whether someone's activity constitutes an unacceptable "sexual relationship" outside of marriage.

  • Comment number 7.


    I think it's safe to assume that this


    will be of no particular interest to you.

  • Comment number 8.

    #7 - petermorrow - "LSV I think it's safe to assume that this https://calvin500blog.org/tour/ will be of no particular interest to you."

    It is of no interest to me in much the same way that a mathematician would not be interested in commemorating the life of a supposed learned professor who had spent his days intimidating people into believing that 2+2=5.

    If some Christians really want to believe that God's justice is consistent with deliberately creating some people for absolutely no other reason than to send them to an eternal chamber of horrors ("for the glory of God's judgement"), then that is their problem. But as a serious seeker of the truth, I have rejected such a notion as a satanic lie, and I will never accept this lunacy - not now, and not for all eternity.

    Compared to this delusion, homosexuality is really a minor issue.

  • Comment number 9.


    You are allowed to laugh you know.

    More seriously though, I guess its the fact I'm not a serious seeker of truth, never have been, never will be which means I'm sorta stuffed when it comes to Christianity.

    Here's some other things which are true about me:

    I have never truly repented.

    I regularly doubt my faith.

    I don't love God with all my heart, soul mind or strength.

    I am no 'living sacrifice'

    I do not pray unceasingly. (in fact there are times when I don't much pray at all)

    There are times when I have and do hate God.

    And the salt of my life regularly looses its savour.

    You're right, in light of that homosexuality really is a minor issue.

  • Comment number 10.

    #9 - petermorrow - "You are allowed to laugh you know".

    OK, I take your point about lightening up.

    I have no objection to Christians enjoying and living under the grace of God, which frees us from the straitjacket of legalism. In fact, I totally believe in it!

    What I object to is the idea that my enjoyment of God's grace has to be at the expense of someone else's enjoyment. I would hate the idea that my salvation implied that someone else had to be damned to make room for me (the idea of double predestination - whether of the supralapsarian or infralapsarian kind).

    The idea that God loves every person is not too controversial or difficult an idea ... is it?? It surely cannot be considered heresy to conclude that since "God is love" (as the Bible says) he therefore loves every person he has created, and thus also desires the salvation of each and every person.

    Why therefore do some Christians find this so hard to accept? It's not exactly unreasonable is it?

  • Comment number 11.

    logica, your senses are working perfectly well. God's love is outrageously inclusive. That's what fundamentalists refuse to accept. Hell is a myth of the ancient world expressing a moral conviction about justice in the life to come. I believe that everyone will ultimately be included in God's grace and forgiveness.

  • Comment number 12.


    What can I say here, you make perfectly reasonably points, many many people, Christians included think of God as mean and cruel, of a God who somehow reluctantly and bearly tholes those he created. It is an obnoxious thought. The thought too, of God damning anyone is also dreadful, yet before we move on I must ask you this, are you a Universalist, or put it another way, do you expect that Hitler will be redeemed?

  • Comment number 13.

    #12 - petermorrow -

    It is quite late now, and I really need to get to bed, but I feel so provoked by the incredible nature of your question, that I feel I must reply.

    Why is it that those who believe in the universal love of God are then accused of soteriological universalism? I simply cannot see the logical connection.

    Why is it that you cannot understand the idea that love can be rejected?

    The very nature of love is such that it has to respect people's choices. Why is it that some people cannot accept the idea that God is powerful enough to create beings with freedom, such that they can reject his love? Why are some people's minds fixed into a deterministic philosophy from which they seem not to be able to break free?

    I believe most firmly that God, in a sense, "loves" Adolf Hitler for all eternity. But because (I am assuming on the basis of historical evidence) Adolf Hitler died an evil man, that love will be the fire of hell for him, since he rejected and hated the very idea of mercy, and his evil actions flowed from that nature of evil.

    But if God condemned Adolf Hitler on the basis of predestination, then Hitler was a victim of a capricious God, and could not help what he did, since God refused to offer him any grace, and the righteousness which goes with that grace to free him from the "total depravity" with which he was apparently born (also known as "original sin"). Hitler would therefore be morally exonerated, since by God's decree he could not help what he did. It is Calvinism which effectively excuses the wicked, since, in that philosophy, people are not responsible beings, but automatons.

    I assume that you accept that human beings are not machines? Or am I wrong about that?

    Are you a machine? I think not - so why does your question suggest that you believe such a ludicrous thing?

  • Comment number 14.


    As ever on this blog, there is much opportunity for misunderstanding. I certainly wasn't *accusing* you of universalism, I was merely interested. Indeed I have been asked the same question myself, and although I am not a universalist either, I do not find the idea all that objectionable, in fact in some ways I wish it were true. Nor am I setting out to provide a wholesale defense of 'Calvinism' (whatever that is!) I'm merely intrigued by your antipathy towards it!

    You are right though, it is late and I, if I can, must sleep too. I would however like to pursue this conversation as I think we can both benefit from it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm a committed universalist. It's the only logical conclusion of all theology.

  • Comment number 16.

    JW, I believe in the universe also. It's just that physicists can't seem to make up their minds just how many universes there are. I wonder if each universe has its own god or if one god is in charge of all of them. If other gods created other universes, are some better than others? I want to live in the best universe possible, the one made by the smartest god. I hope there are more universes, we need them. With all these religious rifts, the likely number sects that could spin off from them, and the religious wars we could have if they clash, one universe doesn't seem nearly big enough to hold all of them.

  • Comment number 17.

    Marcus, I too hope that we can develop some new universes to be in, cause this one's showing signs of wear and tear. The best universe, I feel, is the one with the most chocolate in it.

  • Comment number 18.

    The debate over homosexuality in reality about the authority of Scripture.

    The Bible teaches that God created male and female and ordained marriage as the only legitimate context for sexual expression. Anything outside of that is sinful and morally wrong.

    All of us have a sinful orientation, but forgiveness and a changed life are available by repentance and faith in Christ, even to homosexuals. (1 Corinthians 6v9ff)

    Deny the clear teaching of Scripture and you drift further from God. Does the Church of Scotland really want to do this?

  • Comment number 19.


    Wrong yet again. This debate is not in the least about the authority of scripture because if everyone were honest there would be something in their own life which would be against scripture.

    Let he who is without sin sign the petition!!

  • Comment number 20.

    Pastor Phillip- This debate is not about the authority of the bible so much as what the bible is and how to read and interpret it. In other words, even if it can be established that some verses of the bible condemn homosexuality, you need to use some theological devices to further establish that:

    a) we can and should remove cultural contexts,
    b) the opinions of the biblical author are the opinions of God,
    c) those opinions are authoritative for gentiles like us thousands of years later... etc.

    You must also seek a mechanism by which to separate things like the ban on eating pork from homosexuality in order to claim that the condemnation of homosexuality carries today while the food laws don't. You also must prepare to ask why other biblical ideas regarding human sexuality do not apply today, such as the exhortation that a wife whose husband dies childless should sleep around with all of his brothers until she gets pregnant (New Testament).

    It's not such a simple reading of Scripture after all, is it? It's actually quite involved to come up with what you believe. It may be less strained to say, as I do, that the biblical authors were simply reflecting their own cultural standards on the issue of homosexuality.

  • Comment number 21.


    Thank you for coming back to give us your perspective.

    I'm puzzled about Adam and Eve's grandchildren. How were they born? Suddenly a lot of people seem to have appeared from out of nowhere. Was there incest in any of it? Who performed Adam and Eve's wedding ceremony, god? I don't recall that part. Where and how did they swear marital fidelity to each other? They were aware of sin, we know that. Were Adam and Eve's grandchildren born out of the sin of incest? Is incest a sin since it is outside of marriage if it is between say a mother and son? Did Eve have daughters? Did they bear Adam's son's children? Lots of begetting going on around those times, hard for me to keep track of it all. Help me sort it all out.

  • Comment number 22.

    Here Marcus,

    What colour is a square? What shape is sour? What taste is red?

    Answers on a postcard to - everybodyonthisblogisbecomingratherentrencheddotcom

  • Comment number 23.

    Beware of reasoning about Gods word thats the work of the Devil and his disciples, the child of God trusts and obeys, for theres no other way.

  • Comment number 24.

    The Bible clearly states that the practice of homosexuality changes the truths of Gods Word into a lie dishonouring God.

  • Comment number 25.

    Puritan- did you happen to read anything I just said? The bible needs interpreting, otherwise you would hold to an avoidance of bacon butties, per God's Word. The process of interpreting is not optional.

  • Comment number 26.

    Go and read Acts chapter 10, John, because it is obvious that you have not read it never mind interpreting it reading comes before interpretation.

  • Comment number 27.

    #23 - The Puritan - "Beware of reasoning about Gods word thats the work of the Devil and his disciples, the child of God trusts and obeys, for theres no other way."

    And what "reasoning" would that be?

    I hope you're not suggesting that it is "the work of the devil" to use a particular piece of equipment God created in the human body. I am referring, of course, to the brain.

    By what standard of justice do you condemn as "devilish" people who use the brain God has given them to ask perfectly legitimate questions about the content of the Bible - in obedience to Proverbs 4:7 - "In all your getting, get understanding"?

    There are indeed verses in the Bible which appear to condemn homosexuality. Some Christians regard that as the end of the matter. Others believe that such verses should be taken in context. Who is right?

    Let's say that we should take all Bible verses at "face value" without reference to context. OK, then why is it that part of the Puritan tradition is to reject the obvious reading of 1 Timothy 2:4 - "God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth".

    What sort of "devilish" reasoning is it to do violence to that simple and straightforward saying from the Word of God? Why can't we "trust and obey" and obediently submit to the Word of God and thus believe that God does indeed want all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and therefore does not and cannot decree that some people can never be saved?

    But is it not strange that evangelicals in the Church of Scotland condemn a homosexual minister on the basis of the "clear" teaching of the Word of God, and yet that same denomination subscribes to the Westminster Confession which perverts the clear statement of 1 Timothy 2:4 with its notion of predestination?

    So if it is so sinful to question the clear teaching of, let's say, Romans 1:26-27, concerning homosexuality, then by that same logic, it must be equally sinful to question the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:4. The Church cannot have it both ways. If homosexuality is wrong, because of the clear teaching of the Bible, then so is any doctrine which denies God's desire for all people to be saved.

    Am I being "devilish" to say that? No I am not - I am simply glorifying God by using the logical workings of the brain He has given me - in obedience to his commandment to seek understanding (Proverbs 4:7).

  • Comment number 28.


    Is it colder in the winter than it is in Chicago?

    If a plane heading from East to West crashes exactly on the US Canadian border, where do they bury the survivors?

  • Comment number 29.

    Marcus, with your last comment (#28) I suddenly thought I'd stumbled on a thread discussing the new Wolfram Alpha search engine and some trial queries to test it out.

    (To save anyone trying, it can't answer either question!)



  • Comment number 30.


    I agree that texts should be taken in their contexts.

    The problem is - at least the problem for anyone interested in Biblical Authority, as we are - that the social context, the literary context, the wider Pauline context and the biblical context of Romans 1 do not undermine the traditional interpretation. In fact they support it.

    I'm well aware of revisionists interpretations. I'm also aware of how weak they are. Being a *possible* interpretation does not mean that an interpretation is *plausible*. (Not unless you take Derrida seriously - and if you do I've seriously misread you in the past.)So simply offering a revisionist interpretation doesn't help. You need to show that it is clearly superior to other interpretations. In this case interpretations that assume that a first century Pharisee, who is alluding to Old Testament texts and secular philosophical texts that reject homosexual practice in fact *was* rejecting homosexual practice.

    Now RJB can say, "well, so what? - the Bible got something wrong." But if I read you right you can't say that.


  • Comment number 31.

    I agree that there is much hypocrisy and inconsistency among Christians, myself included, and I agree that gay folks can often be on the receiving end of it, which do doubt angers God.

    But I have to say this is not justification for airbrushing out traditional teaching altogether, that seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    However, as I understand it, the move away from traditional Christian thinking towards tolerance and liberalism always results in that church or denomination shrinking away to nothing. (I am not commenting directly on this case because I dont know all the details).

    Put it another way, I generally find that radical liberals who would impose their values on Christians and churches are oblivious to their own form of atheocratic fundamentalism which they find so objectionable in Christians.

    Personally I would be more than glad to have a gay couple in a civil partnership move in right next door to me, and would be glad to encourage my neighbours to welcome them. I would also be more than happy to have a minister who has same sex attraction but does not embrace it, just the same way I dont embrace my natural urges to sleep with every woman I get the opportunity to.

    I wouldnt presume to force my way into a GLB association and tell them they had to accept my views on sexuality. My point has validity because in 4000 years of Jewish-Christian thoughts, not until now have we seen very thin arguments presented (rubbish arguments) to suggest that churches should accept homosexual practise (accepting homosexual people should be the norm however).

    I would be glad to listen to serioues theological arguments, my ears are open. but all I ever hear are that love excuses everything and that we should be tolerant and inclusive. There is no justification for such an argument from the bible. If you disagree please show it.

    If anyone is interested I woukd let the gay athiest Matthew Parris speak a few words for me on this very subject;-

    "No God would not have approved of gay bishops"
    by Matthew Parris

    When the row over the appointment of gay bishops first blew up I expected, being gay, to join the side of the Christian modernisers. But try as I do to summon up enthusiasm for my natural allies; sorry as I feel for homosexuals struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their membership of the Church; and strive though I have to feel indignant at the conservative evangelicals, passion fails me. I know why.

    Inclusive, moderate or sensible Christianity is inching its way up a philosophical cul-de-sac. The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing. Belief grounded in everyday experience alone is not belief. The attempt, sustained since the Reformation, to establish the truth of Christianity on the rock of human observation of our own natures and of the world around us runs right against what the Bible teaches from the moment Moses beheld a burning bush in the Egyptian desert to the point when Jesus rises from the dead in His sepulchre. Stripped of the supernatural, the Church is on a losing wicket.


  • Comment number 32.

    For some, the authority of the Bible may not be the issue, but for a Church claiming to be Christian, it is surely nothing less than crucial.

    Homosexuality is one of those topics on which the Bible is very clear - only a 'theological device' - such as intellectual dishonesty - would claim otherwise. (I cannot agree with the kind of reasoning that says: 'The Bible can't possibly mean what it says, it must mean something else'!)

    The seventh commandment - 'You shall not commit adultery' - establishes the principle that sex belongs in marriage; society today demonstrates the problems that can arise when this principle is ignored or defied.

    'Don't we all do things contrary to Scripture?' - Absolutely; the problem lies with 'christian' people who are trying to justify or accomodate sin, rather than echoing God's call for sinful people (all of us) to repent. (Acts 17v30)

  • Comment number 33.

    What is the higher Christian value, truth or sexual conformity? In my lifetime I have known priests and ministers who have been up front about their struggles, namely sexuality, alcoholism, prescription drug addiction, gambling, to name but a few.

    When these men opened up to their parishioners and stated exactly who they were and what was going on in their lives, the results were astonishing. These men were preaching from the gutter - up, not from the pulpit - down.

    The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ was allowed to flourish in such parishes. Human norms were turned upside down - as always with the gospel. Seed spread on rich soil.

    People were attracted to such parishes because they saw a man before them struggling with the same things they struggle with - and having the God given courage to be honest about it. God can work with that.

    The gospel suddenly became real - not some list of principles which live in the clouds and are ignored when it comes to the often harsh reality of life.

    I once heard an Anglican priest speak about his first theology class. The professor took the class downstairs into the courtyard, down a country lane to the farm and on to the piggery. There he told the class to look at the pig, wallowing in mud and excrement. He then turned to the group of young men and stated, "God has either got everything to do with that pig or he has got absolutely nothing to do with anything at all. Class dismissed."

    I cannot speak for the churches in NI, but I can certainly state authoritatively that, in general, the church in my country want to have nothing to do with the piggery. They will systematically remove, constructively dismiss, employ all sorts of anti-Christian tactics to rid themselves of, individuals who confront them with the weightier matters of the gospel. And they will do it with the premission of their own consciences.

    The tragedy of it all is that they are missing opportunities, time after time, to find Christ anew. They snuff out the Holy Spirit before he has even started. It is seed spread amongst rock (immovable, entrenched, turgid) or amongst thorns (spiteful, ugly, smothering.)

    So let them retreat to their Bibles, let them AIRBRUSH out the weightier matters of Christianity, let them safely lock away their consciences. I hope their Bibles save them because I have the feeling that Christ wont.

    Where is their faith? Is it possible that this homosexual man could be called to teach THEM something about God? They'll never take the risk of finding out. The gospel for them is about transforming the homosexual into something else when really, its about asking THEM to be transformed themselves.

    This man and his parishioners are simply doing what Christ did all his life - exposing hypocrisy dressed up as righteousness.

  • Comment number 34.

    Pastorphillip, every definition of adultery I could find required that one of the participants of sexual intercourse be married. In most definitions, only the married individual was considered guilty of adultery although from the definition below, in some statutes in the US, the non married participant is also guilty;

    from dictionary dot com;

    "A*dul"ter*y\, n.; pl. Adulteries. [L. adulterium. See Advoutry.]

    1. The unfaithfulness of a married person to the marriage bed; sexual intercourse by a married man with another than his wife, or voluntary sexual intercourse by a married woman with another than her husband.

    Note: It is adultery on the part of the married wrongdoer. The word has also been used to characterize the act of an unmarried participator, the other being married. In the United States the definition varies with the local statutes. Unlawful intercourse between two married persons is sometimes called double adultery; between a married and an unmarried person, single adultery."

    You might consider that in some places, in the US in particular, marriage of homosexuals to each other is now legal. Then even by your definition, they have not committed adultery by having practiced homosexual acts. I'm not aware which Christian sects also recognize homosexual marriages.

    Perhaps you could give us a translation and scholarly explanation directly from the Hebrew and explain what the words on the tablets mean exactly and what the context of it was at the time and place the ten commandments were handed down to Moses.

    What do you say to that? Are you up to the challenge?

  • Comment number 35.

    GV- "well, so what? - the Bible got something wrong."

    That is PRECISELY the point. As I said before, you need a complex theological apparatus relying on many key doctrines to build up the idea that homosexuality should be condemned as sinful because a biblical author regarded it sinful. Isn't it much more sensible to say that, in these instances, these biblical authors viewed homosexuality as sinful, but today we don't have to?

  • Comment number 36.


    Your comment # 22

    What colour is a square? What shape is sour? What taste is red?

    Answer: Blue, Rhombus, Something like chocolate - respectively.

    I didn't ask a search engine: I asked someone with a particular form of autism.

    Says something interesting about the boundaries we place on perception...

  • Comment number 37.


    I seem to remember that when the Civil Partnerships legislation was being debated, Christians like me were being asked to accept that what was proposed was NOT equivalent to marriage - now the term 'gay marriage' is common currency. Seems we were lied to back then.

    According to the Bible, marriage is always between a man and a woman and intended to be for life. Sexual activity outside of this context is always wrong and creates all kinds of problems - for the individuals involved, for their families, and for society.

    God laid down His standards for our good - I pray that we may even yet learn the lesson.

    No John, homosexuality was not merely condemned by a Biblical author, but by the God who made mankind male and female. It is not complex, but actually very simple.....except for those who want to reject the plain teaching from the Creator.

  • Comment number 38.

    Pastor P

    "According to the Bible marriage.... is intended to be for life."

    So why did the Pharisees allow writs of dismissal?

  • Comment number 39.

    pastorphilip, you answers always puzzle me. Somehow they don't seem to me to address the questions I've asked. At best they strike me as oblique. I asked about the exact meaning of adultery and what the Hebrew text on the tablets god gave to Moses said about it in the context of the language it was written in at the time it was written. Every modern definition says that adultery must include at least one married individual. But you said homosexuality was adultery. I don't see how.

    Your objection to homosexual relationships now seems to be that like other relationships outside of marriage, they cause trouble. But whether a relationship between homosexuals is called marriage or not, it seems to me that relationships between any two or more people often creates problems for the individuals involved themselves, for their families, or for society whether they are between heterosexual couples, homosexual couples, or people who have no intimate or sexual relationship at all. Doesn't a boss firing a breadwinner cause problems for an entire family? Doesn't a government starting a war cause problems for entire societies? But you do not exclude these people per se in your rejection of Christian behaviour, just homosexuals. Have you seen the divorce rate in the US? I think it's somewhere between half and two thirds of all marriages end in divorce here. And until recently all of them were heterosexual.

    I still don't understand how homosexual relationships equate to adultery, at least according to the definitions I can find. I also am puzzled as to why you are changing god's words around. The ten commandments is the law handed down by god written by his own hand. It specifically uses the word adultery. It says nothing about homosexuality. I feel that you are somehow trying to interpret those words to fit a pre-determined judgement based on contemporary cultural values within some Christian and other religious denominations. They seem to be man's words, not gods. Please explain to me why that is not true.

  • Comment number 40.

    Okay, to try to shine a little light, and ease the heat.

    Evangelicals and other conservative Christians can't just shrug and say "well, there's a mistake!". We're committed to biblical authority, and the consistent teaching of the Biblical Authors is that (a) Sex is for marriage (b) Marriage was part of God's plan for humanity (c) Marriage was *intended* for one man and one woman (d) Anything outside this norm is forbidden.
    Marriage is a *theme* in scripture. It's used to picture God's relationship with Israel, and Christ's relationship with the Church. And it's a fairly important ethical topic. Without sexuality humans would be rare.
    A male-female prerequisite is powerfully evident throughout the pages of Scripture. Every biblical narrative, law, proverb, exhortation, metaphor, and poetry that has anything to do with sexual relations presupposes male-female complementarity. So a mistake by the bible in this area would threaten a high view of Biblical authority.
    Furthermore it would undermine the Biblical Sexual Ethic in it's entirety. Biblical sexual ethics are based on the complementarity of the sexes and the importance of new life. If we can re-define marriage to accomodate same sex partners we can use analogous arguments to justify a wide range of sexual pratices unreservedly condemned in Scripture.
    So I'm afraid I can't just move with the times on this one. And that is why revisionists try to show that certain types of homosexual conduct where acceptable to the Biblical authors. (Or at least weren't condemned by them).
    Now revisionist does not mean "wrong". It's worth taking a look at some of the arguments just to show why I can't in all conscience agree with them.

    There is the claim that the Bible's prohibition of homosexual practice in Romans 1:2427 applies only to exploitative and hedonistic forms of homosexual practice such as sex with slaves, prostitutes, and adolescents. Or some believe that it was the link with idolatry that caused the ban.
    However Paul in Rom 1:24-27 rejects homosexual practice because
    (i) It is a violation of the God's creation of "male and female".Paul clearly had in view the creation texts in Gen 1:27 and 2:24 behind his indictment of homosexual practice in Romans 1:24-27. There are eight points of correspondence, in a similar relative order, between Romans 1:23, 26-27 and Genesis 1:26 27:
    "human", "image", "likeness"; "birds", "cattle", "reptiles"; "male", "female".
    This intertextual echo back to Genesis 1:26-27 occurs within a context in Romans that emphasizes God's role as Creator and the knowledge about God and about ourselves that can be culled from observation of the material structures of creation/nature. Drawing conclusions from "Nature" includes observations about psychology, anatomy and reproduction. But it goes beyond this to discerning a providential order, a teleology. Paul is not moving from the "is" of biology to the "ought" of marriage. He is moving from the "is" of God's intentions for his creation.
    (ii) The kind of nature argument that Paul employs in Rom 1:18-27 doesn't appeal to a link with idol worship or exploitation. Paul's argument is characteristic of the Stoic appeal to the providence of Nature, which has matched and fitted the sexes to each other (eg.Cicero). It is also in keeping with Rabbinic and other Jewish rejections of homosexuality. Josephus to his Roman readers: "The torah recognizes only sexual intercourse that is according to nature, that which is with a woman. But it abhors the intercourse of males with males" (Against Apion 2.199). So this critique of homosexuality is not aimed at exploitation, or at a way of worshipping idols. It is aimed at a something Paul considered "contrary to nature".
    (iii)Rom 1 v27 "males, having left behind the natural use of the female, were inflamed with their yearning for one another"precludes any supposition that Paul is thinking only of coercive relationships.
    (iv) The Ancients were aware of committed homosexual relationships. We know of some Greco-Roman moralists who acknowledged the existence of loving homosexual relationships while rejecting even these as unnatural (indeed, we can trace this idea back to Plato's Laws).
    Analogies with slavery and divorce seem mislpaced. The Bible shows no vested interest in preserving slavery (and at a number of points has a critical edge against slavery). Unlike the opposite-sex prerequisite, Scripture does not ground slavery in pre-Fall structures.
    The Bible shows a limited canonical diversity toward divorce (permitted for men in the Old Testament; in the New Testament allowed in cases of sexual immorality or marriage to an unbeliever who insists on leaving) but no diversity on the matter of homosexual practice.

    Well what about forgiveness, love, openness and diversity? Well I can't judge another person. I can judge how Jesus and his Apostles expected the Church to behave. Certain behaviour was ruled out. But the aim was always to restore the person to fellowship. (Even when that person threatened the Church order by defying an apostle; see 2 Corinthians). The destructive nature of some of these controversies needs to be reflected on. Is there any point in remaining in denominations where your presence is going to cause heartache? Better to quietly step away.

    Anyway, I hope that explains why evangelicals believe what they believe about homosexuality. As for their *conduct* regarding those beliefs? That's a different matter.


  • Comment number 41.


    (a) Sex is for marriage

    Where does it say that? Tell me about the begetting of Adam's grandchildren and how that happened without incest. Who performed the marriage ceremony for Adam and Eve? I must have missed that part.

    (b) Marriage was part of God's plan for humanity

    Where does it say that? Every prophet in the bible was married? Was Christ married? Noooooo.

    (c) Marriage was *intended* for one man and one woman

    Tell me about King David. Didn't he have 100 wives? Now that was a man who deserved to be a king. It's all most men can do to handle just one.

    (d) Anything outside this norm is forbidden.

    Tell me about king David again.

  • Comment number 42.


    I had completely missed your post 36 and then, completely unexpectedly, as I scrolled past at high speed, the word rhombus happened upon my mind.

    You must remember I was addressing MA2! You'll notice he didn't answer me, he claims not to like poetry.

    Incidentally, I had the pleasure of being introduced to a chocolate infused red wine just the other day; my dad asked me what the 'flavour' was before he showed me the bottle. I thought 'Elizabeth Shaw Famous Names', saw a cherry, smelled Christmas and said nothing!

  • Comment number 43.

    Peter - the only time I have tried chocolate infused wine was at M&S before Christmas when they were handing out samples in little plastic cups. I fear my reaction was far less poetic than yours but then I am the sort of Philistine who drinks Gin and Tonic with pretty well everything!

  • Comment number 44.

    I wonder if any of the contributors to the blog have read John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me. It is a strange book, dated, but powerful.

    I think it would do heterosexual posters no harm whatever to peruse it before posting on the topic of homosexuality. I would like to quote a passage from it (the emphases are mine) and suggest we substitute appropriate terms referring to sexual orientation for those referring to skin-colour.

    The Negro's only salvation from complete despair lies in his belief ... that these things are not directed against him personally, but against his race, his pigmentation. His mother or aunt or teacher long ago carefully prepared him, explaining that he as an individual can live in dignity, even though he as a Negro cannot. "They don't do it to you because you're Johnny - they don't even know you. They do it against your Negro-ness,"

    But at the time of the rebuff, even when the rebuff is impersonal ... the Negro cannot rationalise. He feels it personally and it burns him. It gives him a view of the white man that the white can never understand; for if the Negro is part of the black mass, the white is always the individual, and he will
    sincerely deny that he is "like that", he has always tried to be fair and kind to the Negro. Such men are offended to find Negroes suspicious of them, never realising that the Negro cannot understand how - since as individuals they are decent and "good" to the coloured - the whites as a group can still contrive to arrange life so that it destroys the Negro's sense of personal value, degrades his human dignity, deadens the fibres of his being.

    I find this extraordinarily powerful. I do not in any way intend it as the slightest criticism of anyone - I quote it merely to provide a possible insight, to provoke reflection.

  • Comment number 45.

    petermorrow, sorry I didn't answer you. Remind me where to find your posting, was it on this thread? The last one I saw was #14. I was too preoccupied with pastorphilip's posting. I hope he comes back and gives us more illumination. I'm also waiting for gveale to explain a few things to me :o)

  • Comment number 46.

    I hope it is obvious that I also meant one should substitute terms referring to Christians and the Church for those referring to the white race.

  • Comment number 47.

    ref post 44 Portwyne

    There are two polarised sides in this debate (and also a more grey area in between that is almost invisible).

    The labelling and stereotyping is going on both ways. Assumptions are made and accusations thrown, and there is almost no acknowledgement of the truth in the others' argument.

    I also have to ask, does either side of this argument have a monopoly on real fears about discrimination, prejudice and persecution in the UK today????

  • Comment number 48.

    ...put it another way Portwyne, which side of this debate, if any, do you think holds the balance of power today in each of the following areas in the UK.

    Which side, if any, do you see being the most dehumanised and demonised across the UK today? Both equally? Neither? One side slightly more than the other? Different situations in different categories? Regional variations? Argument doesnt pertain?

    News media
    Religious organisations
    Public opinion
    Freedom of speech/expression
    Employment protection

    Does anyone have the upper hand here - the "fundamentalists" or the GLBT community and supporters? Someone else?

    My personal opinion is that we are moving from an era when one side of the debate held the power and into an era when the shoe is on the other foot.

    I think it is a valid question to ask if the side which is coming into power is going to be any more magnanimous than the side losing power and now moving into a position of powerlessness and vulnerability.

    I am thinking of Nelson Mandela coming into power and keeping many of his former opponents in position and even promoting them.

    He did not hold bitterness or exercise the fruits of it.

    David Porter, formerly of ECONI/CCCI said some years ago that Protestants had put Catholics down for so many years but that the pendulum had begun to swing too far in the opposite direction.

    I am not compromising any of my personal convictions in asking these questions... I am just asking questions.


  • Comment number 49.


    The clue was in the word *intended*.
    Celibacy is a *sacrifice*.
    Polygamy and divorce/remarriage were tolerated somewhat in Israel, less so in the Kingdom of God (if at all). But they were never accepted as a norm. And the ethics of the Kingdom of God are stricter that Israel's laws concerning these things, not laxer.

    I think that covers the objections.

  • Comment number 50.

    In answer to your question OT, I think the markets holds the balance of power. They'd burn members of FreeP churches and Stonewall at the same stake if it brought in a better return for investors in Sunny Jims.

    Sorry. Left-winger in me came rushing to the surface. You're ex-trade union, you'll understand.


  • Comment number 51.

    But, on reflection, I don't think it is left-wing intellectuals who set the zeitgeist. At least they're not the prime movers. I think it is the amoral marketplace. Selfish Capitalism.


  • Comment number 52.

    Hmmm GV....

    Not sure if I can pass on the opportunity to share my own objections to your defense of evangelical 'homosexuality-is-a-sin'-ism.

    "Marriage is a *theme* in scripture."

    Well it's a theme of every culture of people; men and women get together and live together and have children. It would be strange if marriage were not so sufficiently prevalent as to become a 'theme' in the books of the bible, would it not? (Particularly if evangelicals are right to say that our own value upon life-long heterosexual monogamy - marriage - is based upon the value in the bible!)

    "A male-female prerequisite is powerfully evident throughout the pages of Scripture."

    As it is in Playboy. Human evolution dictates that it is so. I'm not sure that male-female relations play a more important part in the bible than they do anywhere else. Jesus, the founder and figurehead of Christianity, does not even appear to possess a sexuality with which to lead by example his followers in heterosexual marriage (who are overwhelmingly male by the way).

    "Biblical sexual ethics are based on the complementarity of the sexes and the importance of new life."

    I'm sure you're aware of the problems with a statement like this. Do you believe that life-long heterosexual partners who choose not to have children are not living up to the plan of biblical sexual ethics? And 'Complementarity of the sexes' seems a strange thing to conclude from a collection of books which narrate David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Twelve... etc.. Adam and Eve may actually be one of the very few texts based on the 'complementarity of the sexes'.

    "If we can re-define marriage to accomodate same sex partners we can use analogous arguments to justify a wide range of sexual pratices unreservedly condemned in Scripture."

    Such as? I take the view that 99 percent or better of our justifications for moral positions are not based upon what the bible says at all; rather we consult the bible when it applies to justify it. If I'm right, then many sexual practices (such as the horrendous child abuse in the Ryan report published today) will be condemned not because the bible explicitly condemns it (where is your favorite verse condemning sexual child abuse?) but because we today condemn it for other reasons entirely. (Perhaps if the Christian Brothers did not rely upon the bible alone for their sexual ethics, thousands of children would not have been molested since the 1930s; just sayin'.)

    Anyway, our views on these things change through time. Clearly homosexuality has been regarded as wrong, misguided, or just perverse, for a long time in most cultures. Most cultures also used some awful methods to administer the death penalty, allowed slavery, child labor and much else: we are evolving. But ultimately Christians should not imagine that biblical authors were writing from outside of that process of societal shifting, or that what they said was any less influenced by it. Biblical authors also thought that a woman should have sex with all her husband's brothers to get knocked up, if her husband dies childless. Evangelicals aren't calling for modern-day application of that sexual ethic, are they?

  • Comment number 53.

    OT - the only answer I can give to your question is that I just don't know!

    A friend of mine, however, once said to me "Por, you could find grey areas on a zebra" so let me maybe throw in a few thoughts that I have.

    I believe in conscience and I think there should be conscience opt-outs in anti-discrimination legislation.

    A guest-house owner should be able to decline to offer accommodation to gay couples, women, people who like dogs, Anglicans, coloured people, whatever - so long as he can demonstrate how the offer of that accommodation would violate his conscience. Society should permit him that right but it, too, has the right to assert its own communal values and it should be free to deny him government contracts, inclusion in advertisement programmes, and financial assistance. We should all have the right to freedom of conscience but we should be prepared to pay for it.

    Taking a traditional view of scripture and expressing it accurately must, of necessity, at some level hurt homosexual people because it is saying that the expression of an essential part of their nature or being is displeasing to God. There is no way of avoiding that hurt while maintaining the integrity of an evangelical position. I genuinely question how much it matters in what terms the message is couched, what is heard is the same. I doubt if a homosexual man, at the depth of his being, hears any significant difference between "God hates fags" and "God hates fagery"; I doubt if there is any greater heard distinction between either of those sentences and "homosexuality was not merely condemned by a Biblical author, but by the God who made mankind male and female".

    Does this mean evangelicals have no right to express their sincere convictions? I would argue that they should have that right but they should only exercise it in the greatest humility, and, knowing their words will wound, only when they can demonstrate directly, immediately, and personally that their motivation is love. (I would consider that love misconceived and misplaced but can and do respect its sincerity).

    It sickened me to the pit of my stomach when I read the on-line petition and saw the extent of the list of names from NI. Signing that petition, making that impersonal identification, is the gravest of sins - sometimes I regret not believing in a day of judgement - for if there were, on that day, it would have been better for those people to have gone out taken pleasure in catamites than to have so carelessly pierced their brethren.

  • Comment number 54.


    That's the most entertaining critique I've read on this blog.

    "A male-female prerequisite is powerfully evident throughout the pages of Scripture." As it is in Playboy."

    That's a great one-liner.

    The sexual practices I was referring to were promiscuity, co-habitation etc. NOT the weird and the cruel. If there is mutual enjoyment and consent, what's wrong with promiscuity from a secular perspective?

    The Jewish and Christian ban on homosexuality would have been counter-cultural, and not at all obvious, when the Bible was written. (The Stoic's didn't exactly have popular opinion behind them). And the demand for life-long faithfulness is another surprising development. You couldn't predict that command from Old Testament texts. Or Playboy.


  • Comment number 55.

    Hi John

    I cant get this phrase out of my mind that you said WC described you as - "a nervous liberal".

    Might it be the case that while you still have much affection for the core of Christianity have been turned off by NI religiousity as you grew up and you feel a tension between the two.

    I can well see that you might feel comfortable with Saddleback as part of a possible solution.



  • Comment number 56.

    I guess pastorphilip is out shepherding his flock. There must be some strays that need being herded back into the fold. Otherwise he'd have been here already to answer all of our questions.

  • Comment number 57.


    "I can well see that you might feel comfortable with Saddleback as part of a possible solution."

    I appreciate your thinking on this. I agree with the thrust of your assessment! But Saddleback is much too dogmatic for me. While the practical outworking is highly agreeable, the theological underpinning is essentially baptist. I'd disagree 90 percent of the time! The form of church which closest matches me theologically would be the emergent/alternative movement, though I'm critical of them too. Honestly I'm not sure there is a church in existence that I could enjoy every week at this stage. I'm too liberal! (But at least the emergents acknowledge the need to discuss, rather than be dictated to, and acknowledge the place of uncertainty and dissent in church life, even on the 'important' doctrines like who Jesus was, what the bible is, whether there's a heaven.)



    "If there is mutual enjoyment and consent, what's wrong with promiscuity from a secular perspective?"

    Well, what is wrong with it ethically? Sexual ethics are social constructs, largely. Some of them for good reasons, for avoidance of STDs, pregnancy, emotional hurt etc. But I don't believe God cares that sex takes place between uncommitted people for enjoyment.

    "The Jewish and Christian ban on homosexuality would have been counter-cultural..."

    Aren't Islamists fiercely homophobic as a result of their tradition too? (for example)

    "And the demand for life-long faithfulness is another surprising development. You couldn't predict that command from Old Testament texts. Or Playboy."

    Then what makes you so sure it's the right development? Isn't the whole pretext of evangelicalism that the "bible" teaches X and therefore X is what we do? I agree with you, actually: I don't know where the bible says that people should have sex with the same opposite sex partner until the day they die. But I'm confused to hear you say that and then try to defend the traditional evangelical belief.

  • Comment number 58.

    John - should any broader movement toward post-modernism be detected in your attraction to the emergent movement?

    I had always thought they were just another sub-division of evangelicalism until one night a Vineyard member who is married to one of my relations did the "Shower Dance" with me on-stage at a party. The experience naturally provoked a closer examination of their position and outlook: I was very pleasantly surprised at what I found.

  • Comment number 59.


    Vineyard. Shower Dance. Pleasantly surprised?

    I hadn't for one minute taken you for an emergent charismatic (are they still emerging BTW?), you really must elaborate.

  • Comment number 60.

    Peter you are, as always, perceptive. I would not describe myself as any kind of charismatic whatsoever.

    I am tempted but have not yet actually attended a Vineyard service so I know only that they have a few churches in NI and are part of a larger movement which has very interesting ideas on what defines a Christian and how witness takes place in dialogue.

    The Shower Dance is not, I'm afraid to say, an expression of worship - it involves two people pretending they are in a shower and each lathering the other's body to music...

    I was pleasantly surprised by the concepts which underpin the theology of the emergent churches. While I reject the notion of theology itself nonetheless there are some very interesting ideas to contemplate.

    Btw - there is no danger of my forsaking the Anglican fold - I am entrenched in the Church of Ireland.

  • Comment number 61.


    The very thought of charismatic christianity/worship brings out my light-hearted side, not because I am against it, not at all, rather, because, having had at one time a close knowledge and experience of such fellowships, I came to respect their particular expression of Christianity; it made one's heart light, in a very positive way. (and in a way in which Presbyterianism can't!)

    I will say too though that the thought of a charismatic 'Shower Dance' also brings out my mischievous side, because, it must be said, I also saw, what shall I say, a certain wackiness! Indeed when you mentioned the idea of a Shower Dance my first thought was that it must be an expression worship. There are any number of possibilities; "Showers of Blessing", "Showers of Righteousness", "The Rain/Reign of God", Baptised in the Spirit", "Waters of Life" and so on, and not only the thought of 'Showers' you understand, to be charismatic one must actually experience the shower, the whole person is very much involved. Even if I found my credulity stretched on a regular basis!

    So I am a little disappointed, but would also suggest that you give in to temptation and go along to a Vineyard service, I've been a few times and I've generally had very positive experiences. Those guys tend to get quite a bit 'right' as far as I can see. They are friendly, in fact they actually seem to like people (which is a bit of a help for a church), they seem to understand the concept of community, or at least try to, they tend to be involved in the community and their worship services tend to be quite 'spiritual' (you'll know what I mean) occasions. Most of all, whether any of us agree or not they are fully convinced of the reality of the supernatural (again in a way in which Presbyterians don't seem to be!) So love it or hate it it's probably worth a shot and if you have a family member to use as a sounding board so much the better.

    Happy dancing, contemplating, reflecting, meditating, evangelising, or what ever it is that happens to be on offer on the morning you go!

    You may also have gathered by now, that while my head is rather Presbyterian, my heart ain't!

  • Comment number 62.


    sorry it took so loing to come back on post 54.

    Saddleback too dogmatic? I havent been there and cant say myself.

    But may I ask, ref "nervous liberal", wouldnt it be only expected that the driver of a car that could not stop would be nervous about what lies ahead if he had absolutely no core certainties about what lies around the next corner... for every corner?

    I have been musing recently on 1 Cor 5 where Paul says he has no business judging people outside the church, which is similar to what Christ said ....ctd

  • Comment number 63.

    ie when Christ said to judge not lest you be judged he added not to throw pearls before swine.

    The common thread is that instructions on holiness and Christian discipleship are not actually for non-believers... in the same what that the new testament nowhere calls on the church to try and implement legislation.

    The church of corinth was in the middle of a very pagan society where sexual immorality was the norm. But Paul did not call on the church to start a legislative campaign about it.

    So perhaps that fits quite well with your liberterian search for "grace" for unbelievers.

    btw I am not suggesting I was EVER a theocratic Christian....seek ye first the kingdom of God etc.

    However I do believe in making the case for biblical values in society, while others have every right to reject these. The New Testament nowhere commends democracy ... or any other political system.


  • Comment number 64.

    I know my views on this are probably enormously out of kilter with what seems to be the prevailing track of this thread, but I find this message of intolerance to be really disturbing. It doesn't admit to forgiveness.

    If God created us, he created us with flaws. People make errors. People recover from errors. The person we are today is not the person we might have been 20 years ago. In extremis, this leads to the stoning of adulterers.

    I think invoking strong words and intolerant language might not represent the extreme, but it puts you on the same spectrum.


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