Thursday, 21 May 2009

One day, there'll be a knock on the door ...

Reading the Religious Intelligence report on the recent conference in the UK, Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia, & Human Rights - building positive alliances for equality and sexual diversity, I have no doubt that if not for me, then for other Christians soon, the knock will come on the door, and I will need to make sure I've got my toothbrush and some sugar cubes in my pocket. (The last was a hint I remember reading about for people living behind the Iron Curtain who faced arrest.)

These are the words of one Ms. Eagle, the British Government Equalities Minister,
“The circumstances in which religious institutions can practice anything less than full equality are few and far between. While the state would not intervene in narrowly ritual or doctrinal matters within faith groups, these communities cannot claim that everything they run is outside the scope of anti-discrimination law. Members of faith groups have a role in making the argument in their own communities for greater LGBT acceptance, but in the meantime the state has a duty to protect people from unfair treatment.”
And here are Conference Chairs, Maria Exall, Sharon Ferguson, Richard Kirker and Martin Pendergast:
“Principles of faith are being twisted to foster irrational fears of human rights, sexual diversity and social equality, to pit people of faith, including LGBT people, against all who seek the common good,”
Canon Giles Fraser, newly appointed Chancellor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, said,
“Hateful attitudes towards LGBT people, sometimes aired on football terraces, are no different to those found in supposedly religious settings. We must not allow homophobia to disguise itself as any sort of legitimate religious belief – it isn’t! Homophobia is a sin and its eradication from churches, mosques and synagogues is one of the most urgent challenges for people of faith in the 21st century.”
(Oh, so its not saving people from coming judgement, then?)

Marilyn McCord Adams, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University declaimed,
"Adult believers have a responsibility to weed tradition, to identify systemic evils that are ripe for uprooting, pre-eminently human rights violations, and to go after them with a shovel and trowel."
Whilst Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, "spoke candidly about his position in the face of the controversies over the appointment of the Rev Joel Edwards, former General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance, to a Commissioner role for faith issues [and] told the conference that had he known at the time of the appointment what he knew now, how deeply people had been hurt and alienated over this, maybe there would have been a different outcome."

So here's my two-penn'orth. Same sex attraction is a form of sexual disorientation, 'not orientation'. Same sex sex is a sin. The society that condones these things and attempts to rewrite sexuality in blatant disregard of biology has lost its intellectual and moral bearings and is destined for disaster. The Church which says otherwise is under judgement and does not deserve to be called a Church.

Now, where's my toothbrush?

John P Richardson
21 May 2009

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  1. Ironic, don't you think, that the government chose Ascension Day to announce these things? I'll preach on Daniel 7 this evening, and it's clear from Daniel 7 that any world power that forgets who rules, or that uses its "powers" to oppress the saints, never comes off well.

    James Oakley, Kemsing, Kent

  2. Ironic also that those who are perceived to be bigots (i.e. the morally orthodox/conservative) are treated with such prejudice, in a nation which claims to be a place of religious freedom.

  3. What do we mean by 'sin'?

    How do we form moral judgements? By reason, or by sentiment?

    If most of us are not gay (this includes myself); if we form our moral sense principally by reference to feeling rather than reason; are we not likely to be led astray by feeling, at times?

    Suppose we agree there are limits to reason, and that the heart reaches deeper into our understanding of ourselves than our rationality.

    I find, if I consult my heart, I have two different answers to the following:

    Are homosexuals evil?

    Is homosexuality evil?

    With the first question I can consult personal knowledge of gay individuals. I do not find them worse friends, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, colleagues, neighbours, than anyone else. Their sexuality is simply irrelevant to their basic social goodness. That is a rational assessment. It is also a 'feeling' assessment, based on gays in a social context.

    If I consult my heart on the second question, I start to feel dis-eased. Sick. Homosexuality does not feel liberating, but the most awful dulling sort of prison. Cloying. Dark. Pinioned. That's because I am not that way inclined. It's a bit like hell!

    But why therefore should my heterosexual inclinations be the basis of my moral judgement? My inclinations are simply my personal preference, an aspect of my nature, which I cannot help.

    On matters of sexuality, isn't reason therefore a fairer and more secure basis of moral judgement?

    I return to the notion of 'sin' and what is its basis. Is 'sin' in the Biblical sense, not dis-ease?

    But in matters of sexuality, is dis-ease not relative?

  4. Yes, keep your toothbrush close by.

    I agree with the statements you make in your last paragraph, but it is now too late for such theoretical perorations. The politics of this country has fallen into the hands of the nastiest bunch of zealots you are ever likely to meet. It now looks unavoidable that living the Christian life in the UK is going to become eminently practical.

    Remaining faithful to Jesus' teaching in Britain will require being prepared to go prison. Persecution of Christians here will be a living issue. Let us hope we can face it with the faith and courage of those gentle believers in China who we have supported with our prayers and offerings for so long.

    “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name."

  5. When religion is left to its own devices we get a Pope that states condoms can't protect against the spread of AIDS and 'Endemic rape and abuse of Irish children in Catholic care'
    You are as out of touch with these issues of sexual politics as the MPs are with their expenses.

  6. It needs to be realised before it's too late that these people are extremists equivalent to the BNP except it's religion rather than race. Their tactics involve claiming victimisation whilst smearing and demonising. We know their works!

  7. Sunniva, I personally appreciate your comments and concerns, but I think you're taking on board the 'modern' climate of historical and moral isolation.

    When you write, "why ... should my heterosexual inclinations be the basis of my moral judgement? My inclinations are simply my personal preference ..." you detach yourself from all that has gone before in terms of moral judgements and human experience.

    The verdict of the church, collectively and historically, is clear - why should we who are Christians not start from there, and, indeed, stick there?

  8. Donald, I think the spread of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere is actually down to the substantial number of men who can't keep their willies in their trousers. Condoms do, indeed, offer the individual the possibility of persisting in the same behaviour with a reduced risk of unpleasant medical outcomes - but at the same time, since they decrease the sense of risk and the natural consequence of procreation, they increase the actual number of potentially dangerous (or successful) instances of intercourse. Hence throwing contraceptives at the problem doesn't solve it and in fact increases high-risk behaviour.

    In this country, as in many Western societies, it has led directly to the social breakdown prevalent as a result of family breakdown.

  9. Giles Fraser is, like many liberals and secularists do, once again borrowing the orthodox christian worldview when it helps him to achieve his "liberal" aims. His talk of the "sin" of homophobia is totally groundless and inconsistent on his liberal worldview. On what basis can he be arguing for these things?

    Matt Simpson

  10. Follow my advice, and provide condoms, and people - especially women and children - will live. Follow your advice and people will die. Condoms are 90% effective at preventing AIDS transmission.
    Apparently the children abused in Ireland don't warrant a response???

    And yet again, I ask why you take such a strong moralistic stance on LGBTs and not on masturbators - those that follow Onan must surely be punished too with your opprobrium??

  11. Donald, people are going to die either way - 90% effective = 10%ineffective, plus the 'condom culture' encourages more incidences of risky behaviour. Meanwhile, that culture undermines the fabric of human society.

    As regards the sexual abuse of children in Ireland, this is reprehensible, but off topic as regards my original post. (Actually, the theme of AIDS in Africa is pretty much off-topic as well, so I'm not up for prolonging that discussion.)

    Similarly, 'Onanism' has little to do with the subject - even less when you understand that the sin of Onan was to deprive his brother's wife of offspring (Gen 38:-10), not masturbation.

  12. Donald,

    Child Abuse is not the teaching of the RC church and is by no means a purely RC problem. So it isn't quite the same as the issue with condoms. As a protestant I don't agree with this teaching, but one has to say that a lot of guff has been spouted on this issue. If people didn't listen to the pope, then it wouldn't be an issue. And if people listen to the pope about condoms, it is likely they would listen to his teaching about monogomy as well. You say that condoms are 90% effective, well lifetime monogomy which Rome teaches is 100% effective and would lead to AIDS being extinguished within a generation.

    Onan's sin was not masturbation, so that analogy doesn't apply. I'm not sure you understand biblical Christians if you use the word "opprobrium" to describe our position, however, in principle you are right of course, Christian people need to be equally consistent in talking about other types of sexual immorality (and sin generally) as we are with homosexual activity.

    Matt Simpson (in the land of the teutons)

  13. In the U.S., our law enforcement agencies have dispensed with the door knock more often than one would like to think, be that with making an arrest or gathering evidence. The SWAT team, kicking the door down, is used even with white collar crimes, if the police think it serves their purpose.

    And since you relate the habits of those being taken away in the old Communist states with the current state in the UK, you might find this of interest.

  14. Well, John, clearly you are entitled to your point of view, but I think you are wrong. It is clear enough that being gay is simply a minority variant, and what you call 'sin' does not exist objectively but is purely part of your religion, which I no longer believe in.

    The society which accepts the diversity of humanity and promotes loving and committed relationships between consenting adults of either sexual orientation is civilised and compassionate, and the only one I wish to live in. Thus, I will work to ensure that sort of society dominates, and against the sort you prefer to promote.

    It is interesting to see, in the UK, the far right of the church becoming ever more isolated on this issue which simply fails to gain this sort of hysterical reaction anywhere else!

  15. PS. Its Mike Homfray, if you need the full name...

  16. Mike, thanks for your comments. What provision do you suggest society makes for the bisexual - what sort of family arrangements do you think should be recognized? Does this require a change in society's understanding?

    You refer to "loving and committed relationships between consenting adults of either sexual orientation", but of course there are more than two such 'orientations'.

  17. I suggest the bisexual person (I know a few of them!) have the option of either a male or female partner in terms of recognition by the state.
    This fully respects their orientation as being able to have relationships with either sex.

    I'm not particularly radical, John - given that I am in a relationship of coming up to 17 years, recognised in a civil partnership in 2006, my aim is to ensure the promotion of stable relationships which I think are beneficial to both individuals and society. I'm not actually aware that bisexual people on the whole want to have versions of polygamy, which tends to be much more common amongst those of heerosexual orientation. Thus, its a red herring, which tends to be raised by anti-gay voices such as yourself, and it a total non-issue amongst bisexuals themselves.

    I think you will just have to realise that the social position of gay people is not going to change towards the sort of marginalisation you prefer, and that civil partnerships and equality under the law is here to stay, as much as you may dislike it. Frankly, outside the febrile obsessions of the conservative religionist, its hardly an issue.

  18. Mike, I think the reason why "anti-gay voices" like myself raise the issue of bisexuality is because we can see something which (apparently) you can't, namely the logic of the position.

    You are saying the state should give bisexuals an 'either or' option. But (a) they already have that and (b) why should they be limited in this way?

    You say, "This fully respects their orientation as being able to have relationships with either sex." I say it doesn't seem to!

    I think that you, and many others, are holding on to vestigial - and outdated - modes of traditional sexuality, with your emphasis on 'stable relationships'. This is pure pragmatism argued from nostalgia.

    What people are actually doing has already left you (and, of course, me) behind.

    Society will play catch-up, as it has done to the 'traditionalist' lesbian and gay agenda. But there is nothing in its intellectual 'armoury' to argue against polygamy, polyandry or variations on the theme.

    I could come up with arguments for all of these - and if I can, I am sure others will.

    I wonder what you make of Peter Singer's view of sexual morality, which sees all of it as essentially based in an outmoded Judeao-Christian misconception that we are different from the other animals.

    In regard to him, I suspect we are both 'conservative religionists' - but at least I know how I'm going to resist him.

  19. 'The verdict of the church, collectively and historically, is clear - why should we who are Christians not start from there, and, indeed, stick there?'

    I appreciate your reply. Let me say I personally agree with you on this. But I need to know WHY the Church has taught what it has taught - what are the deeper spiritual truths behind this?

    I need to know this - not because I need to be persuaded, but because others do. It is not enough to say (to them) 'because the scriptures say' or 'because the Church has taught this'. I need to know why the scriptures and the Church has said it. I ask this in a non-hostile way because I am genuinely trying to explore the 'why', not to deny, but to affirm the scripture.

    When you said earlier they are 'dis-orientated' I think you came close to something deeper there.

    My feeling is that this dis-orientation has something dysfuntionally narcissistic about it. When a man and a woman are attracted, they are attracted to what is dissimilar; it is precisely the dissimilar that attracts. And at a personal level (beyond the sexual) that has challenges that can stretch us as people as well as compliment us as people. Men will complain of gender stereotypical aspects of their wives that occasionally irritate them. But how much worse would it be if your wife could drive - and arm wrestle - as well as you do? For all her female 'faults' her dissimilarity is precisely where the charm lies.

    From my common observation many gay people seem to want to fall in love with themselves. They pick partners who look like themselves, dress like themselves. There is something of self-love about being attracted to what is similar. And gay people can become very precious about their peculiarity, as if it was a special status that required special attention and deference. That's one of my concerns about an openly gay clergyman. They could be too wrapped up in their 'issues'.

    Maybe that's what the scriptures have found to be the fault at a spiritual level?

  20. I think you make assumptions about my position and what I think, which means you end up going down irrelevant paths.

    You assume that those of us who believe that same sex relationships should be treated with re3spect have no basis for this other than the right to do what we want to do. Whereas quality of relationship and the belief that these respect sexual orientation and benefit society if accepted are paramount.

    As I have already explained, and you ignored, bisexual people are not calling for recognition of multiple partners because those that I know, anyway, are largely in partnerships with people of one sex or the other. the only issue is that their identification is bisexual and so they could have relationships with either sex. I assume that you are not in that position, John, as indeed, neither am I.

    I think that stable relationships are about far more than nostalgia - you know, its quite possible to believe in stable relationships as positive for society from other perspectives than the Christian one!

    People will always 'do' all sorts of things. The question is, what relationships should be recognised by the State , and why. There is a very sound case for respecting consenting partnerships of commitment whether they be same or opposite sex. There is no similar case for extending that to relationships which would be qualitatively different in involving more than two people. The issue is not the sexual orientation, but the quality and nature of the relationships.

    Of course, all these things are a matter of qualitative judgement, as is the worth of your religious book. But there are plenty of arguments from a humanist perspective which can oppose Singer's view! You really do need to abandon your dualist perspective that it has to be one of two extreme positions.

    In the meantime, I am witness at a civil partnership of a former true Freedom Trust member in the near future, which appears to be a very common path once those people realise just what a dead end you gave to offer them.

  21. Mike, you wrote to me, “you make assumptions about my position” and that “You assume that those of us who believe that same sex relationships should be treated with re3spect have no basis for this other than the right to do what we want to do.”

    Well, no, I don’t really make assumptions about your position, since I don’t know what it is (I don’t even know if you are Christian), and certainly not that there is no basis in it other than “the right to do what we want to do”. There are very few people who, I think, have that as the essence of their philosophy.

    However, I do believe that your notions of “quality of relationship”, “respect” for sexual orientation and “benefit” to society all need to be justified. And in this regard, there are those who differ from you who are not Christians. You say I have a dualist perspective. I say you need to recognize you are on a spectrum and only part of the way along it from the Christian view.

    Could I suggest you read William Saletan’s article, Shag the Dog, which is an only slightly tongue-in-cheek review of Singer’s own essay, Heavy Petting?

    The point Saletan makes, as does Singer, is that old taboos have fallen (in ways unthinkable to previous generations) under pressure from viewpoints that now see things - particularly sexuality and humanity - differently. If new ‘taboos’ must be erected, they must be ‘rational’, but rational within our ‘rationalizing’ about sex and ourselves.

    This makes us as ‘this generation’ vulnerable. Thus whilst you and I may well agree, for different reasons, that zoophilia or paedophilia are ‘wrong’, there are indeed those out there who take a different view —as there are already others who take a different view on polygamy and (I’m sure) on bisexuality —for whom we are out of ‘touch’.

    You then go on to say, “The question is, what relationships should be recognised by the State , and why.” adding that,“There is a very sound case for respecting consenting partnerships of commitment whether they be same or opposite sex,” but, “There is no similar case for extending that to relationships which would be qualitatively different in involving more than two people.”

    Why, though, should this not include polygamy, which works perfectly well for some cultures? And if polygamy, why not a ‘trigamous’ relationship involving a bisexual, provided it is stable?

    On the other hand, should not the state take a firm stand against ‘unstable’ relationships —by sanctioning teenage parenthood (particularly the man involved), divorce, adultery and so on?

    And this brings us to the original question of state involvement and state sanction. The state may sanction something, but must it, as this conference apparently does, threaten to enforce acceptance of a particularly viewpoint about this on others who disagree? The knock on the door bothers me just as much as what goes on behind someone else’s doors.

  22. My points are:
    1. The church has no moral authority to tell people what to do in the bedroom - see Irish RC for the church's latest lapse.
    2. Condom effectiveness is provable, whereas increased sexual activity with their availability is a hunch - unless you have numbers?
    3. Onanism is slang these days for masturbation rather than 'spilling ones seed', and splitting hairs isn't an honest way to answer a point.
    4. Big Brother references work both ways - you seem to advocate 'GoodSex' you do realise that was a term used by the bad guys in 1984?

  23. Donald, in response,

    1. By the same token, one could argue that Parliament has no moral authority to tell people how to fill in their tax returns. Your argument confuses the nature of authority.

    2. Condom effectiveness is 90%, when used properly. In other circumstances, it is a good deal less. On the issue of increased sexual activity/risk with contraceptive availability, I refer you, initially, to the work of Trevor Stammers, here, who provides a list of further references.

    3. Onanism is very oldslang for masturbation - though I think 'wanking' is the more common slang. What Onan practised, though, was actually coitus interruptus. In any case, the narrative makes it clear that his intention was the issue, not the action. You may call this hair-splitting if you wish.

    4. No, I did not realise 'GoodSex' was a term used by the bad guys in 1984. It is a long while since I read the book. I can't therefore see the relevance.

    I'm not sure you enjoy this blog very much!

  24. On this side of the Atlantic the presenting issue is the question of extending the privilege of civil marriage to same-sex couples. While I am in favor of the Church changing its definition of Christian marriage to include same-sex marriage, I hope that if that weren't my position I would see that it is wrong to deny same-sex couples the legal rights and responsibilities that my wife and I enjoy.

  25. Fr Daniel, the question I would put to you would be why the 'authorities' should not extend the same protection you and your wife enjoy to, for example, two people who opt to live together on a purely 'mutual support' basis.

    Just such a proposal was made when the Civil Partnership legislation was being considered in this country by Baroness O'Cathain, who wanted the same rights extended to, for example, relatives (eg brother and sister) who lived together.

    This was (in my view rightly) recognized as a 'wrecking amendment' - not in the sense that it would have prevented the Bill going through, but that it would have removed the similarity to marriage that was the intention of the Bill (even while the Labour Government was denying this was 'Gay Marriage').

    This site here gets it right, when it says, "The reason this wrecks the bill is that the package of legal obligations and rights that marriage/civil partnership gives is not the right package for close relatives. There may well be a good argument for giving close relatives better legal protections than they have at present, but they would be different ones from marriage [...]."

    The whole 'Civil Partnership' debate was based on a conscious lie - "This is not Gay Marriage" - to which even some of the Bishops of the Church of England, such as the Bishop of Chelmsford, subscribed. He also voted against the O'Cathain amendment.

    I say it was a lie because everyone knew what was really going on, but everyone (almost) denied that was the case.

    Politics based on lies doesn't bode well.

  26. In the USA civil unions are not marriage and do not provide the sames rights and responsibilities that marriage does. The lie here is that civil unions are the same and provide all the legal rights and protections that marriage does. As a supporter of gay marriage, I sometimes wish that no state had passed civil union legislation and that the goal was always clearly defined as equal rights for same-sex couples.

  27. I neglected to answer your question. My answer is that "the package of legal obligations and rights that marriage/civil partnership gives is not the right package for close relatives." Or to close friends. Of course, a marriage may be one of convenience, and not of commitment, and although I have the right to refuse to solemnize such a marriage I'm sure the civil authorities have no trouble officiating.

  28. John: what you choose to believe personally is up to you, but I think that the church should effectively be confined to the private sphere. So, I do not think that discrimination is acceptable outside the church, and that means by Christians as well.

    Of course civil partnerships are effectively gay marriage, just with a different name - and everyone knows it. Look at the template used - civil marriage. The only difference is the name! In the US, that isn't the case, because only marriage has federal recognition. So even if a state agrees to gay marriage thet will not lead to the same rights in nother states. In the UK, that is not so. Civil partnerships and civil marriage confer the same rights and responsibilities.

    I tend to agree that the claim that 'this is not marriage' used by the Church was semantics. The Government made it clear that the main difference was the name and that the basic concept was the same.

    Anyway, we now gave civil partnership, and its not going away, and thankfully, your ideal socuety is moving further away all the time.

    By the way - no, I am no a Christian any more, I decided that it was not a credible or attractive belief system and that the jesus-figure wasn't something I wanted to 'worship'. Actually, I don't wish to worship anyone nor believe in imaginary friends - I now wonder how I ever did so?

  29. Theres an interesting article by Julian Rivers on the jubille centre website called "3 arguments for christian citizens" it critiques the new absolutist public morality and what we can say in response - and outline a christaisn view of law and rights . Theres also a talk he has done on the internet you can find by searrching on google for "is the law becoming anti-christain"

  30. Mike, thanks for your comments. Obviously I can't go along with your view that religious beliefs should be confined to the "private sphere" - indeed, I'm not even sure what the "private sphere" is, especially under the present regime which seeks to absorb even the family under its all-embracing programme.

    There has always been, and always will be, a clash between those who have 'no king but Caesar' (or the local equivalent) and those who believe that 'Jesus is Lord', even of Caesar.

    Today's clash is nothing new in that regard. What is new is a civilization enforcing the view that a less than full acceptance of same-sex acts is immoral behaviour. I don't think any society has been there before in human history, and it will be interesting to see how it works out.

    I wonder, given that you're not a Christian now, why you frequent Christian blogs - I don't object to it, I just wonder at it.

  31. Sunniva, I wanted to get back to you about the 'big picture' of sexuality - "what are the deeper spiritual truths behind this?" I don't know if you're still following the blog, so I'll keep it brief.

    Early in the Bible we read that God made man "in his image". Ancient Near Eastern culture would have understood this instantly - meaning that man is the earthly representation of God and the 'embodiment' of his presence. The same passage adds that man (adam) is "male and female", but it doesn't explain how this works.

    Genesis 2 then describes in detail the interrelationship between the first 'male and female' culminating in two observations - first, that this is a pattern for all such relationships ("Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, etc"), and secondly that this is an 'unspoilt' relationship ("The man and his wife were both naked, etc")

    The events of Genesis 3 (the Fall) strike at the heart of this relationship (esp 3:16b), as well as the vertical relationship with God and the horizontal relationship with the rest of creation.

    From here on, things go down hill, so that by chapter 4 we have polygamy tinged with violence, bullying and aggression. By the end of Genesis, we can add to that incest with one's children and prostitution. By Exodus and the giving of the Law we can add to the list of observable behaviours bestiality, homosexuality, the sexualization of worship and so on. Polygamy and concubinage are commonplace.

    In short, human behaviour has moved from an original 'binary' model (male and female, made for each other), connected with the image of God, to a 'polysexual' pattern of diversity.

    The Law provides some prohibitions and some accommodations. Thus various forms of sexual activity are prohibited and worship is never sexualized, but divorce is only slightly moderated and polygamy is still tolerated.

    Nevertheless, the impact of this seems to be that in Israel there is a trajectory which returns towards the original 'binary' model. It is not absolute, nor is it complete, but it is there. (I think the Song of Songs, incidentally, provides a critique of Solomon's possession of many wives, but that is another story.) During this period, we also have a developing biblical thread of God as the Bridegroom of Israel (Hosea, bits of Isaiah,, Jeremiah, Ezekiel).

    By the time we hit the New Testament era, Jewish society is apparently monogamous, with some debate about the grounds on which divorce can take place. However, it is separated from the surrounding Gentile world by its strict standards of sexual morality generally. This is the outcome, I suggest, of the Old Testament 'trajectory'. We are still, however, some way from seeing the theological significance of all this.

    The arrival of Jesus brings the process to its culmination. Jesus describes himself as the bridegroom, and the same description is used by John the Baptist. At the same time, he confronts head on the limited scope of the Law, insisting that Genesis 1-2 provides the model for understanding sexuality.

    It is in Ephesians in particular, however, that we see the theological implications spelled out for us. Specifically, Genesis 2:24 is applied to Christ and the Church, hence "husband is to wife" as "Jesus is to Church".

    And here we see how Genesis 1:27, "in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them", works: the male-female relationship of husband and wife 'images' the 'Creator-Creation' relationship of God to his redeemed people.

    Moreover, this has profound significance for our understanding of salvation, as the 'union' of marriage represents the union of Christ with the believer, through which what is his becomes ours - "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with" (Rom 6:5-6, see also 7:4, 1 Cor 6:16-17).

  32. I hope that the idea that "the male-female relationship of husband and wife 'images' the 'Creator-Creation' relationship of God to his redeemed people" does not include an endorsement of patriarchy. I was intrigued by the comment that the relationship between Adam and Eve "is a pattern for all such relationships...." I initially took that to mean that the mutuality that is imaged in this relationship should be a mark of all our relationships, but reading on I had some doubts. I do believe that mutuality, of the sort that we see in the relationship of Adame and Eve before the fall and that we see glimpses of in many marriages, is what God intends for all relationships.
    I find the idea that polygamy was tolerated a problem because I see ample evidence in Torah that it was, in certain circumstances, commanded. As much as we have rightly embraced monogamy, I think we need to judge polygamy on its merits both in ancient Israel and in some societies today. I have heard stories from Anglicans in Africa about the abuse of the prohibition of polygamy by men who use conversion to Christianity as an excuse to abandon unwanted wives. Often, my friends told me, after a matter of months, the men would abandon their Christian faith and replace the wives that they had abandoned with new ones more to their liking.

  33. Dear John,

    Would you prefer only sycophants and no dissenting voices???

  34. Dear John

    Isn't the difference between marriage and civil partnership this: you cann't annul a CP for non-consummation nor dissolve it for adultery. Sex has no legal standing in a CP which is why O'Cathain's ammendment was not a wrecking one.