Saturday, 31 May 2008

‘Less like a Church’: the impact of the Manchester Report ‘Single Clause’ option on the future of the Church of England

English readers (ie readers from England), please sign one of the petitions on women bishops and the 'Single Clause' option.

For those, such as WATCH (Women and the Church), advocating the Manchester Report’s ‘Single Clause, Code of Practice’ option as the way ahead on the consecration of women bishops, there is just one question that should be asked: “Do you accept that men opposed to women’s ordination will continue to be consecrated as bishops in the Church of England?”

The answer must surely be “No.” Indeed, given the tiny handful of such consecrations which have taken place in the last few years, despite the 1993 Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, any other answer would have to be seen as reflecting either self-delusion or the intention to delude others.

That Act established that “no person or body shall discriminate against candidates ... for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their views or positions about the ordination of women to the priesthood.” Yet there is no doubt that it has been consciously and deliberately ignored. The ‘stained glass ceiling’ for ordained women has been as nothing compared with the cast iron version for traditionalists in the last decade.

That being the case, the abolition of the Act of Synod, and the other legislation established in the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, must spell the end of an episcopate which includes the ‘two integrities’ established by the Act. And that, it must be recognized, would entirely change the nature of the Church of England. In CS Lewis’s words, the body which resulted would be “much more rational ‘but not near so much like a Church.’”

A key feature of a Church is surely that no one should be excluded whose views are consistent with its understanding of the faith. And in the Church of England, this has hitherto been defined as a faith consistent with Scripture — consistent in the sense that nothing which contradicts Scripture is required to be believed or practised.

As is well known, however, opponents of women’s ordination generally believe that this indeed contradicts, or at least bends close to acceptable limits, our understanding and application of Scripture. Equally, though, there are those who, whilst holding identical views on Scripture’s authority, do not find the same difficulties. That this is recognized is part of what it means to acknowledge two ‘integrities’.

That being the case, however, it should be obvious that, at very least, the Church should continue to include people of both integrities at every level. But as C S Lewis warned, it should also have urged greater caution over the ordination of women when this was considered in the 1990s. Writing in 1948, he said this:

To take such a revolutionary step at the present moment, to cut ourselves off from the Christian past and to widen the divisions between ourselves and other Churches by establishing an order of priestesses in our midst, would be an almost wanton degree of imprudence. And the Church of England herself would be torn in shreds by the operation.

Those who dislike Lewis’s use of the term “priestesses” may still acknowledge that he was at every point correct. Thus we are indeed cutting ourselves off from the past. Resolution J6, for example, passed at the 1977 National Evangelical Anglican Congress, whilst acknowledging the failure to give women “their rightful place as partners in mission with men” nevertheless continued,

Leadership in the Church should be plural and mixed, ultimate responsibility normally singular and male.

Thirty years later, such a view would be held by a minority even within Evangelicalism. Yet this change seems to have been driven by sociological rather than theological considerations. Indeed, the letter written by WATCH and others, and signed by several hundred women clergy, speaks explicitly of the need to eliminate ‘discrimination’ against women. Yet when pressed, it is clear that advocates of this approach are deeply uncomfortable with the Bible’s own language and with its traditional understanding and application. Our alienation from the past is thus clear, both in practice and in the accompanying justifications.

Again, the divisions between the Church of England and other Churches are indeed being widened. But for those who respond that this has not previously been a problem (for example, during the Reformation), it should be pointed out that, in the process, those other Churches are not being subjected to the same analysis as the Church of England. Hence whilst the Church of England ‘must’ have women bishops because to do otherwise would be to perpetuate discrimination and render our mission to the nation hopeless, few voices are (yet) being raised saying the Church of Rome must do the same if it is to be taken seriously.

As a result of this intellectual ‘schizophrenia’, we treat those other Churches as being subject to different standards than our own. In fact, we demean them (as we demean those of other races) by requiring less of them than we do of ourselves, and at the same time, we betray our moral cowardice in refusing to confront them as we confront those we consider more like ourselves. We are thus divided now not just by what we believe and do, but by a sense of cultural ‘otherness’ which puts those Churches in an entirely different category (along with Muslims, who similarly are not expected to behave as ‘well’ as we do).

And, of course, the Church of England has been torn by the ordination of women and will be further torn by their consecration as bishops.

A degree of tearing is inevitable because ordination is not an opinion but an action, and a Church which tries to accommodate those acting in mutually incompatible ways is always bound to experience some tension. Nevertheless, the one advantage of the traditional Anglican ‘fudge’ is that a remarkable degree of co-existence has hitherto been achieved. As the Manchester Report itself points out, however, the ‘Single Clause’ approach would spell the end of such accommodation, at least in this regard:

The Church of England that emerged at the end of the process might possibly be more cohesive. It would undoubtedly be less theologically diverse.

As we saw at the outset, however, a key feature of that lack of diversity would be the inevitable absence of episcopal representation by those who continue to hold the traditional, historical and (in their understanding) biblical view of the Church’s leadership. And an episcopal church which excludes from the episcopate those who hold certain views has thereby enshrined opposition to those same views.

Thus, whilst the Church of England undoubtedly includes many who are essentially ‘Baptists’ on the issue of infant baptism, it would be unlikely to consecrate an anti-paedobaptist to the episcopate. Being a covert (or even overt) Baptist does not exclude one from the Anglican Church, but this is an issue on which the Church has decided views.

Adopting the ‘Single Clause’ option would put women’s ordination on a par with infant baptism. We might instructively contrast this, however, with things which evidently do not exclude one from being a candidate for the ministry: sitting light to the physical resurrection of Jesus, reserving or adoring the sacrament, being in a non-celibate same-sex relationship, being divorced and remarried, cohabitation, attributing salvation to other religions, and so on. All of these are things which, though varying in moral and theological significance, are either contrary to Scripture or to the Church’s Articles and Formularies. Yet all are held or practised by people currently in ordained ministry.

By contrast, not agreeing to the ordination of women will join the relatively select list of Anglican ‘anathemas’.

The difference, of course, is that with respect to the foregoing list of functional ‘adiophora’ the Church either remains formally committed to the alternative view or at least does not exclude those who hold it. Thus a person may believe that remarriage after divorce is forbidden in the Bible (indeed, given the words of both Jesus and the Apostle Paul it is hard to see how they could think otherwise), despite the Church of England’s recent officially libertarian stance and frequent turning of a ‘blind eye’. But they would know that whilst they might be deemed ‘old fashioned’ or ‘hardline’, they would not at all be formally excluded from the episcopal ministry.

By contrast, disagreement with the ordination and consecration of women will, henceforth, mean being increasingly limited to the margins of the Church. Thus, on a matter on which tradition is unequivocal and Scripture at best open to interpretation, the Church of England will, remarkably, have found the rare ability to narrow its theological views to the rare point of exclusivity.

The fallout, in every sense, is to some extent unpredictable. Certainly, as the Manchester Report acknowledges, the Church of England will be much less like its old self. The following, though, at least seems likely.

First, and perhaps most importantly, adherence to Scripture will have been deemed a secondary consideration in determining fundamental policy and practice. Not all supporters of women’s ordination sit light to what the Bible has to say, but many undoubtedly do, and their views will have been privileged. That they will regard themselves as having won the day must have clear implications for the future development of the Church of England.

Secondly, those who continue to hold the traditional view, whether Catholic or Evangelical, will have to decide a course of action. Resolution C parishes and clergy will be faced with the prospect of losing their current bishops — something many will undoubtedly regard as unacceptable. It is likely that, just as many clergywomen have apparently said they would rather not have women bishops than pay too high a price by way of compromise, there are those who will regard losing their existing bishops as too great a demand for their compliance with new legislation.

This will then lead, thirdly, to the internecine wrangling and warfare that history shows high handed and ill-conceived actions inevitably produce, not least amongst religious communities who, it must be admitted, are somewhat prone to disagreement. A Church which is already in the doldrums will thus find itself holed below the waterline in terms of evangelistic effectiveness for the next decade or so. Instead of getting on with mission, its members will inevitably get on with arguing and tearing one another apart.

Fourthly, in the rump which remains, a counter-Scriptural, egalitarian feminist agenda will have gained the centre-ground. Those Evangelical supporters (and, perhaps, opponents) of women’s ordination who endorse or accept the new arrangements will find themselves faced with a triumphant Liberalism whose next aim will undoubtedly be the inclusion of same-sex relationships and the modification of our concept of God (the latter is clearly stated on the WATCH website). Any attempt to meet this with a robust application of biblical teaching and ecclesiological discipline will be frustrated by the wave of support at the grass roots (where theology counts for little) which will already have helped drive through the ‘Single Clause’ solution.

In order to counter these two pressures, the remaining theological Conservatives would have to adopt a rigorous biblical hermeneutic and develop a united political front to oppose the newly-strengthened Liberalism. Given that they themselves will just have used a much looser hermeneutic and alliances with those they now need to oppose in order to see off the traditionalists, such an attempted switch of fronts, tactics and allegiances is likely to end in chaos or paralysis. There will, moreover, be little enthusiasm for another round of battles.

The most likely result for Evangelicals, therefore, is compromise and assimilation, theologically and functionally. With ‘hard line’ Conservatives no longer coming forward for ordination, the Evangelical leadership in the middle ground will broaden even further. Many who were previously unpersuaded about homosexuality will soften their opposition, whilst some of their continuing traditionalist friends seek to maintain fellowship with them and others drift further apart. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of women appointed as bishops, very few of whom will be recognisably Evangelical, will understandably make the necessary changes in policy and appointments to reflect their own theological dispositions.

Ultimately, the ethos of Anglicanism will have shifted decisively, not just because of what was decided, but because of how it was decided, by excluding people from the episcopate on the grounds of their faithfulness to Scripture, whilst allowing those who are demonstrably less faithful to Scripture and the Church’s Articles and Formularies to continue unchallenged. As a consequence, we may in the future wonder if the Church of England will be not merely less like a Church, but less like a Christian body at all.

Revd John P Richardson
31 May 2008

Having read this article, please now consider signing one of the petitions on women bishops and the 'Single Clause' option. (NB these are really only for English members of the CofE.)

No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the policy.


  1. I can't help thinking, Rev John, that there is a fundamental inconsistency at the heart of your views. You quote approvingly from the 1977 National Evangelical Anglican Congress:-

    "“We repent of our failure to give women their rightful place as partners in mission with men. Leadership in the Church should be plural and mixed, ultimate responsibility normally singular and male.”

    So far, so fair enough. However, you then comment several times on the extent that women's ordination departs from the "traditional understanding and application" of scripture" and that's the 'Huston, we have a problem' moment.

    Conservative evangelicals like to claim that their views on the respective roles of men and women within the church are both biblical and traditional. But that really isn't quite accurate since, for want of a better expression, the 'role theory' inherent in the NEAC statement has no provenance before the 1960's/1970's. Far from being the traditional teaching of the church, it's actually quite novel.

    The traditional teaching of the church has not been that women are 'equal but different' but rather that women are really a separate and inferior race, not competent to lead or exercise authority in any sphere of life and not merely in the home and church as the CE's proclaim. In pretty much every pre-twentieth century commentary or thoeological text, theologians uncompromisingly assert that men are superior and women inferior.

    Now, the problem CEs face is that not even the most enthusiastic female supporter of 'Reform' is going to take kindly to the real, traditional teaching of the church on women so a new doctrine had to be found that both allows the same end, the exclusion of women from ordained ministry and, usually, any work in the church apart from children and hospitality and, permits a departure from what are now culturally unacceptable views on women. Hence the novel 'equal but different' doctrine, heavily but wrongly marketed as the church's traditional teaching.

    So, you know, I don't think you can embrace both the 1977 NEAC statement and claim to stand in 2,000 years of church tradition because those two views on women and their place in the church are incompatible.

  2. Fern, at various times the Church has, indeed, experienced a 'break with the past'. The sixteenth century Reformation was one such break, which overturned centuries of tradition on, for example, the doctrine of the Mass.

    Thus a break with the past is not impossible, nor, in my view, is it intolerable. As I said in my article, however, the issue is not just what is being decided but how.

    You and I may disagree about how the Bible should be understood and applied on this issue. In this, we are both being thoroughly 'Anglican', seeking to privilege Scripture above emotion, or even tradition.

    As I have pointed out, however, there are others who may like some of what the Bible says (eg Gal 3:28), but who simply do not care very much for other parts. Moreover, they have a clear and specific further agenda about which they are quite open.

    On the WATCH website, it states, "If God is always referred to as Father or as “he”, then both women and men may infer that men are more like God in an essential way (their sex) than women are. This ... needs to be challenged. It also impoverishes our understanding of God."

    This is quite clear and unambiguous: for WATCH supporters calling God "She" and "Mother" is a necessary further step as part of their logic for women bishops.

    Now this may well not be your view. It is certainly not the view of a large number of Evangelical supporters of women bishops. But this is where my 'Houston' moment comes.

    Evangelicals who ask for a 'Single Clause' solution are siding with those who clearly, specifically and openly take an unbiblical view on fundamental matters of faith and morals, and against those who, except perhaps on this one issue, very much share the same view as them on Scripture, God, salvation, morality, and so on.

    However, when the deed is done, and the Conservatives have been marginalized or excluded, those same Evangelicals will (I have no doubt about this) be faced with the next set of demands which clearly include a new view of God and a new attitude to human sexuality.

    The old 'middle ground' (including Fulcrum) will find they are the new conservatives. And the arguments they have used to bring this situation about will be turned against them. At that point, Fulcrum and co will have to fight a new series of battles, but they will be doing it alone, because the old conservatives will have gone or will have decided (as many now feel) they are so much not part of the institution that institutional battles do not concern them.

    This is the real thrust of my argument - not that women's ordination is wrong (though in the present circumstances I think it is) but that a policy which will exclude folks like myself from further full participation in the Church will produce a new situation and, because of the alliances involved in that process, will lead inexorably to the triumph of Liberalism or to a new battle in which the present Open Evangelicals will only succeed by themselves becoming the new Conservatives.

    I fear, though, that in the process of supporting the 'Single Clause' solution, if that is what they do, they will have made it impossible for themselves to adapt quickly enough.

  3. The situation you address, John, both in your main piece and in your illuminating comment to Fern Winter, is tricky.

    One analogy which comes to my mind is a sport's team where the bishop is the captain, and the team are his/her college of presbyters and deacons. Its possible for the team to play harmoniously together if they differ on how to use their spare time or who to vote for in the next election etc but difficult for the team to play harmoniously if some (men) in the team not only think that some others (women) ought not to be in the team, but the female captain ought not to be the captain!

    Indeed how could such a captain keep selecting players who did not agree with her being the captain! Hence the possibility of either a team in which everyone agrees that a women can be the captain ('single clause') or fielding two teams, one of which has a male captain and the players in that team are happy with him and committed to finding another male captain when he retires.

    One thought from afar. Could the CofE agree to a period of assessment of a pluralist rather than 'single clause' approach ... over, say 25 years, it should become apparent whether the 'single clause' approach is going to be okay for mission to England from 2033 onwards, or a 'traditional' approach, or, indeed, a continuation of a pluralist approach ... in crude terms: let the market decide![?]

    Peter Carrell
    Nelson, NZ

  4. The "how" really is now more of a problem than the "what".

    Let's take a scenario that those of us who oppose the consecration of women as bishops really have got hold of the wrong end of the stick with the Bible... surely then Romans 14 should be considered, we are the weaker, mistaken brothers (& sisters).

    Even if we are badly wrong (and I've tried to convince myself that I am) one can easily see where we made such an error, to say we just hate women is, well silly.

    If Romans 14 says we should not impose RIGHT things on people's consciences re: special days and abstaining from certain food/drink, surely at the very least this would qualify.

    OR do WATCH force feed recently converted Jews with pork chops too?

    Darren Moore

  5. John, thank you for your considered reply.

    I don't think it hurts to remember that scripture sometimes uses very feminine imagery to talk of God - that said, no, I don't like WATCH's 'God the Mother' or any such expression.

    Where I have to take exception to what you say is your linking of, for want of a better expression, the women issue with the gay issue.

    It is inevitable that scripture and tradition will be re-examined in the light of cultural changes (notice that I wrote 're-examined' and not 'determined by cultural changes') so given that secular society now accepts gays, it was inevitable that the relevant texts on homosexuality would be scrutinised - this would have happened regardless of whether the CoE ordained women or not.

    And, indeed, there already has been a cultural shift in the way even CEs regard homosexuality. No-one, for example, is following Leviticus in calling for gays to be put to death. Most CEs recognise that there is a difference between homosexual acts and orientation; most accept that while the origins of homosexuality may be unclear, it cannot be described as freely chosen and that while gays may become celibate or even have heterosexual relationships, many face a life-long struggle with same-sex attraction. None of this is very contentious and all of it would have come as a surprise to Paul.

    I think comparison of issues around homosexuality with women's ordination is unreasonable and inaccurate. Since the former is about sexual morality and what sort of relationships are pleasing to God, surely a much more accurate comparison is with the church's attitude to divorce and remarriage?

    I find it surprising, therefore, that you seek to highlight only the arguments for the ordination of women as opening the door to Liberalism while ignoring much more germane issues - isn't one of the so-called 'orthodox' American bishops on his second or third wife?

  6. Fern, thanks also for your reply to mine.

    Regarding feminine imagery, the Apostle Paul also used feminine imagery of himself (Gal 4:19; 1 Thess 2:7). No doubt there are places in hymnody and liturgy where the biblical feminine language about God (Isaiah 49:15, for example) can appropriately be used. The difference in the case of WATCH, however, is an express desire to change the way we think about God. Their aim is what Lewis warned against:"a child who had been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child."

    The link I am making between the women issue and the gay issue, however, is not one of "If you believe that, you'll believe this." (This is why I don't really think the arguments for or against either should concern us particularly here.) Rather, it is "If you think that by taking this decision this way (the 'Single Clause, Code of Practice' for the consecration of women) the Church will be enabled to move forward thereafter, you are very much mistaken."

    The key link between women's consecration and a number of other issues is that all of these are on the table, all are clamouring for attention, and the same people pushing these other issues are deeply committed to the 'Single Clause' option. Thus when the women bishops issue is resolved, the agenda will simply move to the next items.

    In this regard, the Church of England's attitude to divorce indeed has lessons for us (and in fact I referred to it for this reason in my article). First, in the past fifty years the Church has shifted away from a biblical discipline. (Read the earlier reports and legislation, and compare them with the present documents.) Secondly, it did this via the Synodical process without resolving the theological issues, but rather on 'compassionate cultural' grounds. Thirdly, it created a 'special provision' for those who held to the old orthodoxy. Fourthly, a willingness to go along with the new 'liberal' policy on divorce has subsequently become a factor in appointments.

    However, the Church has not explicitly taken a step which would effectively exclude from the episcopate those who hold to the old orthodoxy, whereas that, as I said at the start of my article, would be a key impact of the 'Single Clause' option regarding women bishops. And that would create a new situation in the Church, not least because there are enough people around who will simply not go along with it. Either they will leave or they will revolt. (The revolution was a long time coming in the States, ironically, but it has arrived with a vengeance. The same would, I think, happen here more quickly.)

    The result, as I suggested in my article, will be a period of chaos and conflict. And at the end of it, unless the Church back-tracks and makes proper provision for the two integrities, you will have a 'rump Church of England' which doesn't have much Conservative representation (and what there is will have been politically neutered), but which will then have to tackle the already-pressing issues of homosexuality and the other issues lined up behind (or alongside) it.

    Now comes my question: do you think Fulcrum and others have the stomach for that fight? We already know that Simon Butler, who I think is regarded as 'Fulcrumesque', has adopted the (in his words) "pro-gay" stance. Will others in Fulcrum say, or have they said, he is wrong and will they show it by not inviting him to preach, by not engaging in shared mission with him or consulting him on matters of leadership?

    I do not want this to be seen as an 'attack' on Simon Butler. I had a cordial exchange with him before posting about his change of position. But that is what tackling such issues will eventually require — people will have to say to other people, even their friends, that they are wrong and that they can no longer have fellowship with them in the gospel.

    Otherwise the pattern which has already been established with divorce will repeat: the old discipline will decline (indeed, it has declined already), the new legislation will reflect that, then there will be a special provision for the old orthodox, then jobs will begin to be decided on the basis of attitudes on this issue.

    The American example is the 'slowly boiling frog'. It has taken the Americans years to wake up to how hot the water has become. Here in England the water is hot, but not yet boiling. However, the heat is under the pan and how (not what) the decision is made on women bishops will determine how much hotter things will subsequently get.

    The 'Single Clause' option is, I suggest, the 'grand first prize' for Liberals who understand these things. Traditional Catholics understand it as well, and are gearing themselves up accordingly. I only wish the Evangelical constituency would see this as clearly.

  7. The example of the Church of Sweden is perhaps am even clearer warning to the Church of England than is that of ECUSA, especially with the rapid growth of left-wing fascism (metastacized "Political Correctitude") in the UK. you might wish to read these articles:


    The first of these is by my friend Dr. Folke T. Olofsson, a priest of the Church of Sweden; the second, which I wrote, also appeared subsequently in *New Directions*:

  8. (Chelmsford)

    "A key feature of a Church is surely that no one should be excluded whose views are consistent with its understanding of the faith."

    Do you really mean this, John? If it's not OK to exclude traditionalists from the episcopacy, how can it be OK to exclude women? After all, at least some women have "views [which] are consistent with its understanding of the faith."

    I am happy to recognise your "integrity" if you recognise mine, which means fully recognising women as bishops, even if you personally don't receive their ministry. If you can't recognise my "integrity" as a valid alternative but threaten to leave the church if it is accepted, why should I recognise yours?

    You seem to imply that believing in believer's baptism is a bar to ordination. It is not, as I know from a friend's experience. It may be an effective bar to consecration to the episcopate, but then for the moment (in the C of E) so are open homosexuality and remarriage after divorce. In fact the whole homosexuality debate has been about bishops rather than priests and that is because of the special nature of the episcopate. The church can tolerate wide variety among its priests, including different views on women's ministry. But this kind of diversity of views among bishops causes more problems and so is less likely to happen.

  9. Peter (Carrel)
    The team captain thing doesn't work if we hold to an Anglican (Biblical?) view of the Church which is local & universal rather than Diocesan and denominational.

    It would be more like the men's, women's, youth & schoolboy teams sharing the same captain, or perhaps more like the whole league.

    If that many people had questions over the captain (even bad questions) it would question how well they'd run the team(s).

    Darren Moore

  10. jody stowell, maidenhead

    Hi John

    I think that it is unhelpful to yolk the two issues together at the axis of ordination (I think they are linked at a different point, but that is for another day)

    I don't believe that women should be ordained/consecrated because it is our 'right' or because of cultural norms or discrimination. I believe that they should be offered ordination if they and the church corporately discerns that this is God's call of obedience to them!

    I believe that the Bible not only 'allows' women to be leaders of his people, but actually it is demanded by Scripture as a gospel imperative in which the full humanity is witnessed to.

    But John, am I hearing this correctly? if someone even dares to think through the issues of sexuality, presumably with the danger that they may change their mind you will not accept them as gospel partners?

    we should not offer the hand of grace to Simon? even when he is evangelical and holds the bible in high authority?

    even if he loves and worships the triune creator?

    even if his life speaks of the kingdom of God?

  11. Peter, specifically on the question of baptism, the issue I raised was not about believing in ‘believer’s baptism’ but being an anti-paedobaptist — ie, believing, and (if you are in a leadership role) teaching, that infant baptism is wrong and invalid. I sincerely hope your ordained friend does not take that view. But I was only using that as an illustration of the fact Anglicanism occasionally imposes limits.

    The question of exclusion or inclusion on whatever grounds, however, is central to the present problems, and here is the difficulty. The Church of England has been rather inclined to include in membership and in leadership people with beliefs and lifestyles contrary to Scripture, the creeds and the formularies. In my article I instanced some examples of this, all of which I can vouch for. Some have argued this is part of our rich diversity. Others, like myself, think it is dishonest and damaging to the Church. But that is the situation we are in.

    What is new is that on the issue of women’s ordination, we are quite possibly about to exclude from leadership those who have hitherto been included and whose views are not generally being written off as unbiblical, whilst continuing to include those whose views and actions are explicitly unbiblical.

    In short, we are about to strain a gnat whilst continuing to swallow considerable numbers of camels. Bear in mind, Manchester offers five alternatives to the ‘Single Clause’ option. This is why I say we are straining the gnat. It would be perfectly possible to use one of the Manchester options which would be acceptable to traditionalists (indeed, this may still happen), and to avoid the scenario I have described.

    Just to be clear, then, I am not against a "multi-integrity" solution, just against the ‘Single Clause’ solution.


    Jody, the question of whether women are called to the roles of leadership entailed in ordination and consecration is, of course, precisely the one on which people disagree. You believe the Bible demands that women be leaders in this way, I do not.

    The point is, as I’ve said in response to Peter, that the Manchester Report offers us six ways of living with this. One of them (at least) will make it likely there are no more bishops of my persuasion, whereas two of them (at least) will certainly continue to allow the episcopate to include us. The Manchester Report itself is very clear about the consequences of the ‘Single Clause’ option and seems to have little enthusiasm for it, so this is not just me making a mountain out of a molehill.

    A ‘Single Clause’ solution will impact the Church, as the Manchester Report makes absolutely clear, and I believe it will do so both negatively and unnecessarily.

    As to the issue of sexuality, yes, you are hearing me correctly, and again this is precisely what I am talking about with respect to the consequences of the ‘Single Clause’ option. If people who accept same-sex relationships are counted as gospel partners by those who regard them as fellow Evangelicals then those Evangelicals will have already moved sufficiently in their direction to undercut their own commitment to the gospel, and will in due course find the ‘anti’ position marginalized and finally excluded.

    And no, I don’t believe someone who takes this view loves the triune God as they should because they do not at this point obey him and their lives consequently do not speak of the kingdom of God.

    However, I rather fear your questions to me at this point reveal exactly the situation I'm cautioning against.

  12. jody stowell, maidenhead

    Hi John

    thanks for replying to me.

    just to be clear, I am for a multi-integrity church, I just think that the single-clause solution actually does this.

    I understand your angst in this, but surely we are not at the point where we distrust our bishops so much as to think that they could not offer compassion to those with whom they disagree?

    I also deny that an offer of friendship and respect to someone with whom you disagree means that you are essentially in agreement with them.

    as such that would mean that our sometimes robust sparring either

    a) lacks friendship and respect


    b) means I agree with you on issues I patently don't.

    I don't like either of those options. I choose to offer you my friendship and respect AND to disagree with you. :-)

  13. Jody, thanks for your considerate reply. One of the problems with the Single Clause solution, though, is that it is not acceptable to those of the other integrity than the people proposing it. For this reason alone it would be doubtful as genuinely preserving a 'multi-integrity' church. (Can you really imagine Resolution C parishes simply giving up their present bishops because General Synod says so?)

    However, insofar as the 'Single Clause' solution depends on trusting the bishops who will then proceed to draw up and operate the proposed non-statutory Code of Conduct (on a 'let's be mates' basis), the very fact that the House of Bishops has, it seems, been prepared to put forward this proposal despite previous assurances and understandings (acknowledged and set out in the Manchester Report) says these bishops are not to be trusted. That, and the fact that despite the existing legislation, people have been overlooked for senior appointments on the basis of their attitude to the ordination of women.

    As to disagreement, of course it can be cordial and civilized. I was very careful to contact Simon Butler prior to posting about his change of attitude, not least to check that I'd understood him correctly. However, I would not invite him to preach in my church, nor would I be able to share in an evangelistic mission with him because I think he is gravely wrong.

    As Adrian (Pluralist) Worsfield has pointed out, however, that is an issue which Fulcrum has yet to face up to. I cannot see how they can continue to avoid it for much longer, and it will be much harder in what will be left of a Single Clause Church of England.

  14. Just to add a note on what ought to be done and what might be done in Synod, the Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, posted the following on the Fulcrum website earlier in May:

    "Whether you like it or not, we made commitments to those opposed back in 1993. Any provision has to take account of those commitments. I want to see women bishops - preferably tomorrow! - but I'm not prepared, unlike the liberals, to sell the conservative catholics and evangelicals down the river. So there's a straightforward choice. Go with legislation that will make provision for them, or exclude them. Now, if the women are saying that they won't countenance such legislation, so be it. Synod needs a majority in all three houses. If the House of Bishops bring legislation with arrangements for transfer to the Synod, it may well be that it will be voted down in the House of Clergy. If arrangements with a code of practice alone are put forward, that won't carry the Synod either. And only a minority want a separate province or diocese. So that won't get through either."

    Two things to note from this: back in 1993, the Church of England's governing bodies made commitments to its members. Those members to whom the commitments were made (and new members who have joined with those commitments in place) ought to be able to expect them to be honoured. That is godliness in action. If they are not honoured, it will be another way in which the Church of England is 'less like a Church'. Honouring includes making acceptable provision whilst taking into account other views.

    Secondly, the writer believes that Synod would reject both 'extremes' (Single Clause and transferred Episcopal oversight, including independent dioceses). I am not so sure about the former. It seems the House of Bishops (which does not include all the bishops, such as Willesden) has decided to 'go for broke', though we must wait for July to be sure. Following the collapse of synodical resistance on the divorce and remarriage issue, I am not so convinced that Synod will vote this down. There just may be a mood on the day of "What the heck? Let's just go for it." Certainly if petitions are anything to go by the numbers favouring 'Single Clause' are about ten times those taking the traditional evangelical line. If a number of the 'pros' in each House of the Synod suddenly decide to go the whole hog, following the bishops' example, we could be in for an unexpected result.

    Finally, though, it may be that the rumours of what the bishops have done and the subsequent campaigning will have pushed people in both directions - the pros wanting Single Clause, the antis certainly not wanting anything short of transferred episcopal oversight.

  15. ‘The difference in the case of WATCH, however, is an express desire to change the way we think about God. Their aim is what Lewis warned against: "a child who had been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child."’ (Revd. John Richardson). I'm sorry, but I don’t understand your point; in what ways does Watch’s use of the word Mother for God substantially differ from the tradition of using feminine imagery for God in the Bible? Are you suggesting that God is male? Does Lewis’ comment suggest ultimately that God is male? Why are you giving Lewis a status of authority in relation to these issues? You seem to be suggesting that Watch has some underlying negative agenda of altering Christianity for the worse?

    Ownership of the right to define God, especially in relation to gender at the end of the day is at the heart of this issue. It has nothing to do, in my mind, with theological integrity, Tradition or interpretation of the Bible and everything to do with power. Who has the power to determine the language we use about God? Who has the power to mediate the divine? If the God is male, then the male is more divine than the female: a surprisingly tenacious aspect of the Christian theological tradition. Our theological tradition also should remind us however that God is nothing that has been made, and that we were made in his image rather than him (or her) being made in our image. Jesus’ use of the word ‘Father’ for God should not, to my mind, be something that narrows our understanding of the nature of the being and identity of God, but one that enables us to have a deep and close relationship with him as some fathers have to their children. It is a metaphor, not a definition as we cannot define or categorise God.

    I am a woman training to be a priest in the Church of England and I am deeply dismayed by the Church I am entering in to. It is terrible to be training in a Church that does not fully recognise my ministry, not because of a matter relating to what I believe, essentially, but because of my gender. This is why this issue cannot be allowed to be a matter of conscience, because to me it is a matter of my full nature as a human being. I am a full human being, not a lesser human being. My gender is one attribute of my identity, not one that essentially marks me out as different from other human beings. No matter what intricate and detailed arguments people put together to ensure that institutional sexism remains a fundamental part of the Church of England can persuade me that it is necessary and right. Am I a full human being saved in the eyes of God? Can I represent the saving actions of Christ in the world? If the answer is no, Christianity saves only men and I am condemned.

  16. I think there are a whole number of really discouraging things here.

    One of them is trust, how can we trust people who go back on their word so quickly.

    Another one is understanding. The issue isn't simply that those of us who don't want women bishops because we disagree. If that were the case we'd have the same attitude as we do to women Vicar's, "Oh well, not ideal, but we can agree to differ". I've even worked quite closely with neighbouring parishes where this is the case.

    The issue is we think that to submit to a woman bishop's authority would actually be sinful. Few of us would make a fuss about others doing it. But back to Romans 14, we are, potentially, being asked to do what we think is sin. Now even if we are wrong, that is a wicked thing to ask other people to do.

    The other discouarging thing is how we don't learn from history. This has familier overtones of 1662 and the great ejection. The end result was bad for EVERYONE. If a similar thing happens either by force of conscience or more direct, it will be bad for all parties not least the lost in England (many of our Churches are young, fast growing and generous). And like the ejection, we won't back down out of fear - we won't be unemployed, we'll work independantly, in secular work or abroad.

    I think it's sad we don't learn from the wider Church. Where else has this happened, Canada, Australia, NZ, USA, Sweden and in other denominations, C of S, URC, methodists... great! Do we want to go down their line of barely viable Churches of elderly women that would have died out in a few years? - The exception to that... TEC - do we want to be like them?

    So we're not listening and not learning. Not that encouraging.

    Darren Moore

  17. Hi Imogen, just to say I will give you a full reply, hopefully in the next 24 hours, but right now I'm pretty pushed for time. In keeping with blog policy, would you be prepared to give us a full name and location?

  18. thanks John for your comment on my blog.
    I don't see anything in your post, however, that causes me to change my mind.
    I see nothing you say that justifies discrimination of this order which I believe is not a thing of God; and so I stick by my original post.

  19. Imogen, the first question to address is whether the language that the Bible teaches us to use about God in this respect is simile, metaphor or something more. In other words (taking it as a simile), are we to suppose that when we call God ‘Father’ we mean God is simply ‘like’ a Father as God is elsewhere ‘like’ a rock?

    If so (and metaphorical language would work the same way), then we could indeed call God ‘Mother’, since we would only mean by this that God is ‘like’ a Mother. However, if we take this view we must also recognise that just as God, though ‘like’ a rock, is not a rock, so God, though ‘like’ a Mother or Father, is not a Mother or Father. In other words, it means we actually know less about God than we thought. We thought, for example, it was appropriate to call God ‘he’, but constantly referring to God in this way cannot give us the ‘balanced’ picture (of a God with motherly and feminine qualities) WATCH want us to have.

    One solution is to call God ‘she’ on regular occasions. Another is to avoid personal pronouns entirely. But one only has to compare documents written according to these protocols with traditional Christian texts to see that they do indeed convey a quite different understanding of God (as you yourself indicate by putting your “(or her)” in brackets, rather than simply writing “her” without brackets). It is the masculine pronoun or verb, as much as the use of words like ‘Father’ or ‘King’, which conveys an unavoidably gendered impression about God which overrides the occasional biblical use of feminine imagery.

    This ‘definitive’ language, however, cannot be attributed to a use of ‘power’, other than God’s own power to have Scripture written as it is. It is this text which, ultimately, mediates the divine in a definitive manner and with which we must come to terms in our understanding of God.

    Whilst masculine, however, this language does not mean that God is male, any more than saying he has a strong right arm means he is right handed. The negative conclusions you draw therefore do not follow.

    Nevertheless, what takes the language beyond metaphor is specifically what lies behind the comparison in Ephesians 5 between husbands and wives on the one hand and Christ and the Church on the other. This comparison would be misleading or invidious if the other comparable language about God were only metaphorical. If that were the case, then to associate Christ with the husband and the Church with the wife, and then to insist that this imposes some particular obligation on husbands and wives, would be to imply, falsely, that the reverse could not equally be true — that the wife is to the husband as Christ is to the Church, and vice versa.

    The fact that the comparison works one way and not the other, however, indicates that the realities behind the biblical language used elsewhere mean we cannot simply exchange ‘Mother’ for ‘Father’, ‘she’ for ‘he’ and so on. Space precludes me developing this further here, but I hope you see my point.

    Meanwhile, I am sorry you feel this so acutely, as I understand you do. However, the conclusion you draw is unnecessarily dismal. Salvation is not decided by the roles we play in the community of the Church. I rather think it is this sort of approach which lies behind the affirmations of 1 Timothy 2:13. Instead, suppose for a moment what I have argued above is right. Does this mean you are not fully human? Has anyone ever suggested that you cannot therefore represent the saving actions of Christ in the world (by which I take it you mean taking your part in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of the gospel)? Does it really follow that Christianity saves only men? I have never thought this, nor, to my knowledge, has anyone in mainstream Protestant Christianity ever come to that conclusion (I can’t speak for every branch of the faith or every age as I don’t know enough Church history for that).

    My anxiety in the end is that the approach which sees our language about God as a metaphor and our gender differences as, ultimately, irrelevant, fails to take gender, and sex, seriously enough. What seems to be sensible and egalitarian actually diminishes both our understanding of God and our appreciation of ourselves.

  20. Rosemary, Christchurch

    Imogen, you said .. “Ownership of the right to define God, especially in relation to gender at the end of the day is at the heart of this issue.”

    Surely a foundational issue such as the realisation that no one has the ‘right to define God’ other than God Himself, should be understood by all, regardless of gender.

    You also said, “I am a woman training to be a priest in the Church of England and I am deeply dismayed by the Church I am entering in to. It is terrible to be training in a Church that does not fully recognise my ministry…?”

    I suppose the question to ask is, which is strongest, your desire to serve God, or recognition from the church you wish to serve?

    You went on, “This is why this issue cannot be allowed to be a matter of conscience, because to me it is a matter of my full nature as a human being. I am a full human being, not a lesser human being. My gender is one attribute of my identity, not one that essentially marks me out as different from other human beings.

    I’m not sure why you believe this cannot be a matter of conscience, but you have been very badly misled if you believe that you are anything other than completely equal, [Gen.1:18]. Has someone really said that? That you are a lesser human being? As a matter of conscience, I don’t support the ordination of women, but I know I’m a ‘full human being.’

    You finish with some questions, “Am I a full human being saved in the eyes of God?” Yes, if your faith is in Christ alone, yes, yes, yes.

    And, “Can I represent the saving actions of Christ in the world?” I’m not sure I understand your use of the word ‘represent.’ Do you mean in the ‘Catholic’ sense? As a member of the body of Christ, you should witness to the saving actions of Christ, is that what you mean by ‘represent?’

  21. John, thanks for your reply of 03 June at 10.23 - this is a busy thread so it probably seems about 500 posts ago. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if the 'single clause' measure is passed, the resulting exodus of consevative clergy will leave 'Fulcrumites' on their own trying to hold the fort against those pushing for both heretical changes in the way the church thinks of God, the role of Jesus etc and the approval of same-sex relationships and you ask whether the 'Fulcrumites' are up for the fight. Is that correct?

    A couple of points. My own position on women bishops is a tad odd since, while I support women's ordination, I'm lukewarm about their donning the purple. It's just too divisive and, since it will only ever involve a small number of women, just as only a comparatively small number of men become bishops, it doesn't seem worth destroying the church for.

    I am no great fan of WATCH but are not the attitudes they represent and reflect and which you deplore, at least something to do with the bitterness of the dispute over women's ordination where CEs and, particularly, your Forward-in-Faith type pals have played a leading role? Many women with perfectly orthodox views on God, Jesus and sexuality have withdrawn from the fray because of the hostility directed at them thereby ensuring that the more extreme views go unchallenged. I accept that it is perfectly possible to be opposed to women's ordination without being a misogynist but we both know that many who are so opposed ARE, indeed, misogynists. Very many women clergy have found themselves ostracised and otherwise shabbily treated by the male vicars they've had to have professional dealings with.

    You say that those who are pushing the 'single clause' option have a shopping list and once a tick can be placed in the box next to women bishops, they will simply move on to the next item on the list, be it God the Mother or same-sex relationships. This may be true, but has it ever been different? Theology has to be 'done' in every generation because scripture and tradition will always be re-examined in the light of cultural changes so, if you like, the pressures on orthodoxy are ever-present. It's only the area of challenge that varies from generation to generation.

    As for whether 'Fulcrumites' are up for a fight to defend orthodoxy if the 'single clause' measure is passed - well, I guess if that did happen, the Anglican church would split and many 'Fulcrumites' (like me) would find they had more in common with CEs than with those of a more liberal bent.

    But, really, John, aren't you 'catastrophising' a bit here? To talk of what might happen if the 'single clause' measure is passed when it's an awfully big 'if'?

  22. jody stowell, maidenhead

    hi john

    you might want to pass imogen on to the conversations that we've already had regarding language surrounding God.

    also, if you don't mind doing this from your blog - you could pass her on to the essay I wrote concerning language and the Trinity. If she goes to my blog, clicks 'feminist theology' as a label, it should come up.

    x jody

  23. The House of Bishops' proposal has now been published and is as the Daily Telegraph reported.

  24. Fern, I think regarding your first paragraph of your last post, yes, you have mostly understood me correctly. I do think there will be a withdrawal (not necessarily an Exodus to somewhere else), both of traditionalist Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals, but this will be laity as well as clergy. Moreover, there will be a massive, and justifiable, sense of betrayal, given the assurances from 1993 of ‘permanence’ regarding the Ordination of Women Measure (especially the provisions in Part II) and the Act of Synod.

    I would emphasise, I accept women bishops are coming. But the Manchester Report provides ways of dealing with this, including arrangements very close to what we have in place now (Approach 2, Option 2, to be precise). That is why what the House of Bishops have decided to do is so extraordinary.

    I also note that in the Anglican Communion as a whole, there are a actually a very small number of women bishops. I think only five provinces actually have any women bishops. As you say, one wonders if it is worth risking destroying the church for.

    As to misogyny, for obvious reasons I don’t experience a lot of it. And I have tried to be positive towards ordained women — though maybe such ‘trying’ itself comes across as a kind of misogyny.

    On the question of the ‘shopping list’, and whether I am ‘catastrophising’, the problem there is I look to other denominations, or other parts of the Anglican Communion, and see just the kind of rolling agenda that I fear here. The Church of England is different in England. We are innately more conservative than even the Welsh or Scots. Driving out the traditionalists, though, would change the institution entirely.

    Not unconnected with all this, though rather on a different topic, I constantly wonder why, given the burgeoning strength of Evangelicalism in the 1970s, we find ourselves thirty years later in a Church which, whilst numerically more Evangelical, is constitutionally still Liberal-Catholic.

  25. jody stowell, maidenhead (I think I forgot this for my last comment on a different post, can you add it?)


    darren moore said this:

    'The issue is we think that to submit to a woman bishop's authority would actually be sinful.'

    can you extrapolate that statement?


  26. Dear Friends,

    I was intending to make a Christological point, as well as a point about language. The first, that to make too much of the maleness of the body of Jesus has implications for soteriology (this holds true if you have a high Christology) and two, that if language is metaphor it seems peculiar to argue that at some points in the Bible it isn't metaphor and represents reality. This appears to me to open up great room for error. We end up no doubt with disagreeing over hermeneutics.

    For me this is an issue of my full status as a human being in the eyes of God as reducing my humnan life to certain roles that women shoud do reduces my potential and my development as a child of God. I have a human brain as capable as any other, my femaleness does not and should not limit my abilities. I'm delighted I have the gift of being a Mother but I don't see why that should mean I can not lead or teach men. I know that you will quote a Bible verse to tell me that this is what God says - but I disagree. For me Christ is the Word of God - not the actual letter of the Bible, which testifies to the truth, but is not itself the truth. We must be able to use our God given reason and knowledge to understand and intepret Scripture.

    For me it is sinful for the Church only to have male leaders and priests. The question then is do we trust Synod to arbitrate for the Church and between the different factions on this issue? Will we be obedient to it's decision? We all have a right to talk to Synod and make sure our voices are heard, but none of us has the whole truth. This is hard for all of us, but if we are to try and be church together, somehow we need to seek this.

  27. Yes Jodie - I'll try.

    In 2 Timothy 2 and the stuff in 2 Corinthians 11 and 14 - thorny as they are, mean that for me it isn't I'd rather not have a woman Bishop, like there are some songs and bits of common worship I don't like, but that I actually think it would be wrong for me to do so. 2 Timothy 2 takes us back to creation/fall, where the problem is reverseing the created order. I.e. the Bible says do x don't do y, for me to just ignore it would be sinful, as Bible says = God says.

    Now of course you'll tell me I'm wrong, I've read/heard arguments against that, but as yet I am (reluctantly) unconvinced. BUT that's why I mentioned Romans 14, if I am wrong (as I'm guessing you think I am) then I suppose you should think of me like a weaker brother who hasn't really got these freedom issues like what to eat sorted out.

    I'm quite encouraged reading Fern and Jodie's posts here, that we aren't automaticaly misogynists. Like John I've tried to be positive with ordained women. I've heard the horror stories and if an ordained woman knows where I'm coming from is obviously a bit suspicious (he seems nice and reasonable, but...). However that is what is often said. It's a nice way to sideline any of our arguments and just demonise us. It also doesn't deal with facts if you look at most CE Churches will have women staff, trainees and in really key roles, because they really are valued. We recently sent a girl on to college, with another going next year. In both cases I pushed them towards ordination (permenant deacons) but they just aren't interested as they are both happy with our congregation but disillusioned with the C of E.

    People who have been nasty apart from being 'un-Christian' in apporach have obviously been counter productive and damaged 'nicer' people who agree with them.

    I think you guys are in a good position to campaign for a bit of common sense. Judgeing by what you've said about disruption vs potential gain.

    Darren Moore

  28. Dear All

    Inevitably one comes back time and again to this issue, stated by Imogen: "I know that you will quote a Bible verse to tell me that this is what God says - but I disagree. For me Christ is the Word of God - not the actual letter of the Bible, which testifies to the truth, but is not itself the truth."

    I do believe that a lot of people within the Church of England take this view. (You can see it here in the testimony of a woman deacon in Sydney who rejects that diocese's stance on ordination.) However, it fundamentally misunderstands Scripture, and also, incidentally, diverges from Anglicanism.

    We need to see that Scripture is itself an act of God - an act which caused a word to be written, ultimately with the purpose of revealing Christ and always so as to bring people into covenant with God (hence Old Testament, New Testament). We cannot separate Christ ("the Word") from Scripture. If we don't see that, we will be all over the place.

    Having said that, I want to add that I disagree with both Darren and Imogen over the 'sinfulness' of women's ordination. It is possible to hold that there are things which are errors, but not sins. For example, I believe opposing infant baptism is an error, but not a sin. However, I believe same-sex sex is both an error and a sin.

    However, I don't think either Imogen or Darren really believe the opposite view to their own is a sin! If they did, they would act differently. I would not be able to have fellowship in the gospel with someone who accepted same-sex sex, but I would with a Baptist.

    If women's ordination is a sin, then you should not have gospel fellowship with its advocates. However, I suspect neither Imogen nor Darren take it that far.

  29. John, your final paragraph attests to the truth of the Archbishop of Canterbury's remark that if the church splits it will not merely divide into two but, rather, shatter into a thousand shards. You write:-

    "If women's ordination is a sin, then you should not have gospel fellowship with its advocates."

    Well, have not CEs made alliances of convenience with those who believe this? You, I think, would say that women should not become priests; those you are allied with believe women CANNOT be priests - for them, the ordination of a woman is rather like a vaccine that doesn't 'take' - she is forever acting illegitimately and, surely, someone who does this is sinning?

    Separate jurisdictions for those who cannot accept women bishops will not satisfy many of your buddies. For this group, the issue will simply morph into how they can protect themselves from male vicars who ordained by women bishops. Imagine, they may unknowingly receive the host from a man ordained by a woman - ach, the horror! Clergy will be forced to carry pedigrees proving they're untouched by female hands.

    I just wonder whether the, for want of a better phrase, conservative alliance, could hold together if the CoE split when, really, it's no more than an alliance of convenience which has papered over many fundemental theological differences between the different members. What will bind when there are no women priests and no gays - I'm assuming the new CoE will contain neither?

    As someone who's always found 'the plain meaning of scripture' to be not as plain as one might think, I was interested in your comment:-

    "We need to see that Scripture is itself an act of God - an act which caused a word to be written, ultimately with the purpose of revealing Christ and always so as to bring people into covenant with God (hence Old Testament, New Testament)."

    Regrettably, perhaps, the 'word' was not 'caused to be written' in English. There are a huge number of issues around the translation of ancient texts as anyone who's struggled to understand what Paul is saying in Greek rather than what people think he's saying in English, could evidence.

  30. Dear Fern

    The answer is: avoid the split in the first place by not taking the Single Clause option, but instead going for Manchester Approach 3, separate dioceses, or Approach 2, Option 4, transferred episcopal oversight or, at very least, Manchester Approach 2, Option 3, mandatory delegated oversight.

    This is really my whole argument.

  31. Fern, PS the answer on 'the Word not in English' comment is complex. We could, for instance, consider the use of the LXX as the basis for many NT arguments from the OT.

    However, not only do we have available many excellent translations and commentaries, but there are plenty of resources to enable those of use who want to, or who need to teach, to get to grips with Greek and Hebrew.

    I like to point out to trainee ministers that both Luther and John Wesley felt this was vital to a preaching and teaching ministry. I also point out that learning Greek and Hebrew is easy - five year old children manage it in Greece and Israel (my small joke when they look worried).

  32. Thanks John, I'll chew on that, perhaps that is a better way of putting that than I had.

    However, the point I was trying to make is that it isn't simply a matter of preferance or not likely change. But actually being asked to do something that is at best mistaken.

    We have come to the same conclusion though - a single clause is the problem.

    Re: Bible - bit of a cliche, but we can relate to it, "I don't have a problem with the bits of the Bible I DON'T understand, It's the bit's I DO!".

    The problem isn't the Bible it's us. But if we believe in a loving God we can't believe he gave us a confusing book filled with mistakes that mislead us. To say it isn't clear is just a way of side-stepping discussion- isn't it?

    Isn't most of the Bible, certainly NT written to tell people that they'd been lead up the garden path. Or as another cliche puts it "An Evangelical is someone who believes the Bible, even when they don't want to".

    Darren Moore

  33. Thanks for your contribution to this post Peter Kirk - I have included your comments on my site