Tuesday, 16 April 2013

"Men and Women in Marriage" -- clarifying the fog

A short while ago I received an email from a clergy colleague who, as they used to say, was obviously 'exercised' by the report in the Daily Telegraph  regarding the recently-released statement, 'Men and Women in Marriage' (pdf), drawn up for the House of Bishops by the Faith and Order Commission. Given the opacity of this statement and the misleading nature of the Telegraph's reporting, I have post my attempted clarification below.

Dear N

When I compared this headline [in the Telegraph] to the actual document, my first comment (to someone else) was that it was "hard to stomach". Frankly, I think it was mischievous and misleading, as were the comments by Giles Fraser, which seemed almost designed to muddy the waters further.

Things are not helped by the apallingly opaque language of the statement itself. However, it has to be read in conjunction with the existing 'pastoral statement' on civil partnerships issued by the House of Bishops in 2005.

That statement was itself problematic, but in the relevant section, "The Blessing of Civil Partnerships", it makes clear that the position of the Primates of the Communion, adopted in 2003, is to be upheld, that when it came to the blessing of same-sex unions, ‘we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites". However, the 2005 statement goes on to say, "One consequence of the ambiguity contained within the new legislation is that people in a variety of relationships will be eligible to register as civil partners, some living consistently with the teaching of the Church, others not" (17). Hence it rejected the idea of formal liturgy connected with registering civil partnerships and added, "the House of Bishops affirms that clergy of the Church of England should not provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership." (my emphasis).

However, it did allow for a variety of responses, given the potential variety of partnerships: "It will be important, however, to bear in mind that registered partnerships do allow for a range of different situations- including those where the relationship is simply one of friendship." (18). "Hence ..." paragraph 18 continues,

"... clergy need to have regard to the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy, and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition. Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case."
Now we may feel that this is unnecessarily convoluted or pastorally unhelpful overall, but that is the position the House of Bishops has adopted and I don't think the new statement changes that. Having touched on the issues of remarriage after divorce and African responses to polygamy, it says this:
48. [...] With regard to civil partnerships, which are not marriages but raise some analogous issues, the Bishops addressed what might be an appropriate form of pastoral response in 2005. (15) The wider questions surrounding these continue to be a matter of study.

49. The meaning of such pastoral accommodations [ie to divorce, to polygamy and to civil partnerships] can be misunderstood, as though the Church were solving pastoral difficulties by redefining marriage from the ground up, which it cannot do. What it can do is devise accommodations for specific conditions, bearing witness in special ways to the abiding importance of the norm. Well-designed accommodations proclaim the form of life given by God’s creative goodness and bring those
in difficult positions into closer approximation to it. They mark the point where teaching and pastoral care coincide.

The footnote to 15 above then refers directly to what I have quoted from the 2005 statement: "15. Civil Partnerships: A Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops, para. 18: ‘Where clergy are approached by people asking for prayer in relation to entering into a civil partnership, they should respond pastorally and sensitively in the light of the circumstances of each case.’"

In other words, nothing is necessarily envisaged by the new statement that is not already permitted under the existing provisions. In summary,
  • no approved public liturgy connected with civil partnerships
  • no blessing of civil partnerships
  • but prayer in relation to a civil partnership where it takes proper account of the teaching of the church on sexual morality, celibacy and the positive value of committed friendships in the Christian tradition.
The headline in the Telegraph, "Church of England gives blessing to recognizing civil partnerships" is about eight years too late and misleading in its use of the trigger-word 'blessing'. The subheading, "The Church of England yesterday gave a green light to wedding-style services for couples in civil partnerships despite its official opposition to same-sex marriage" is just balderdash.

I hope this clarifies things.

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  1. Fascinating to note that Charlotte Methuen, a member of the Commission that produced the report, almost immediately published something rather contrary to it. Your readers would do well to read that as well John - and here it is:

  2. Thanks for that, Andrew. It's an interesting counterpoint that makes me wish I'd been a fly on the wall in the Faith and Order discussions.

    The responses to Charlotte's article speak highly of its intellectual rigour. Really? She starts with a biblical reflection which, for example, assumes implicitly that because the OT describes an act or practice, it must therefore approve of it. She then leaves the bible behind (and forgotten) to engage in a socio-historical analysis of similar rigour. "From my own observation, the “constellation” of the parents makes little difference to the well-being of the children", she writes. Sure, why use uncomfortable hard data such as Regnerus when your own informal observations are so much more amenable to the conclusions you wish to reach?

    But I suppose that in the thin air of the blogosphere, "intellectual rigour" basically means that it sounds impressive and arrives at one's preferred conclusions.

  3. Andrew and Peter, I've read through Charlotte Methuen's article, and it comes down to this in the penultimate paragraph:

    "Increasingly I find myself convinced that one of the flaws of our current conception of marriage may be precisely the emphasis on “one man and one woman”, which seems consistently to imply expectations about the role of women and men which tend to be biologically determinist and which reach beyond the question of who is biologically capable of bearing children. From my observation of couples around me, I would judge that the joys and pains of long-term relationships between two people of the same sex seem no different from those of two people of different sexes. Indeed, long-term relationships between two men or between two women sometimes seem less fraught, perhaps precisely because the couple is not having to negotiate centuries of expectation of how men and women should relate to one another."

    That's all!

    In other words, she seems to be saying, "Marriage is fraught, largely because it involves men and women (due not least to a biological expectation about procreation) and therefore necessarily includes the differences between them. Boo to marriage. Same-sex relationships are less fraught, Let's open up marriage to same sex couples. Everyone MIGHT then get along."

    I am wincing as I write this.

  4. Peter: which bit of 'the bible' would you have liked Charlotte to use? 'The bible' is a collection of writings, and hardly presents a consistent view or doctrine of marriage. What it certainly presents is a developing picture of marriage (as indeed it presents development in so many areas of life). So if it helps us in this area, 'the bible' leads us to expect development.

    1. Andrew, it's going to be hard to communicate without speaking at total cross purposes, but I'll try. I wouldn't suggest using any particular bit of the bible. I would suggest using all of it, from Genesis 1 through Song of Songs and the Gospels to Revelation 22. Read about all these different times, people and evolving cultures, in prayer and under the Spirit, until you start to grasp the unchanging will of the One behind it all. But, of course, this presupposes a wholly different view of the inspiration and authority of the bible than the one I expect you hold.

      For myself, I'd ask questions like these. What is said directly about norms for family life? What is the relational model at both book-ends (Genesis 1-2, Revelation)? What polygamous, untroubled, and harmonious households can I find in the middle? How are they blessed of God (or not)? How does that fit in the broad sweep of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation? What did Jesus and the NT authors have to say about it - explicit statements, interpretive lenses on Israel's history, and imagery used? What then can scripture as a whole be said to affirm?

      I suspect that to you these might be wholly the wrong questions to ask.

    2. I should perhaps add that I don't object to the particular bit that Charlotte used. What I object to is the "Jacob did it so it is normative" hermeneutic. It baffles me that a good theologian, whatever their convictions, could miss or ignore the fact that the heroes of the faith are all recognisably human, often deeply flawed men and women, so you can't simply declare all their behaviours as being under God's blessing.

      Jacob was a terrible cheat. God used it for the good, much as he used the treachery of Joseph's brothers for the good, but that doesn't mean that cheating or treachery is something we should accept and bless in the church today. It's a complete non sequitur.

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  6. It's a pity you've nothing else better to do with your life. Oh if the likes of Richardson put as much effort into REAL Bible teaching - a bit of foot washing, being the servants of all instead wanting to be society's master. Matthew 23:23 or what!? But he spends his days pawing over this or that document, always looking to find fault and something to bitch about - and prove to the world that he is the smartest smart arse to wear a cassock!

  7. Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, France and Uruguay legislated for same-sex marriage last week and New Zealand yesterday. It becomes increasingly difficult to believe that there isn't something ground-breaking, earth-shaking, wall-toppling, table-turning going on here...
    We live in exciting times.

  8. Andrew - the Bible is a collection of divinely inspired writings 2 Tim 3 16-17 and I doubt you need me to point that out. Also it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. I'd suggest that from it we get a consistent picture that monogamous opposite sex marriage is God's model for marriage and that continues throughout the Bible, with an impressive consistency given the spread of authors. Polygamy clearly leads to huge problems (David and Solomon's offspring from several wives being a particular lowpoint in fraternal behaviour). Eph 5 explains that marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the Church - opposite sex.And perfectly consistent with Gen 2.

    What is the "developing picture of marriage" which you claim the Bible sets out?

    David Brock - Elmdon

  9. Hi Jane

    "It becomes increasingly difficult to believe that there isn't something ground-breaking, earth-shaking, wall-toppling, table-turning going on here... We live in exciting times."

    What do you mean....? End times perhaps?

    If that is what you mean I am excited with you.

    But I suspect that this is not what you mean at all?


  10. Andrew

    For the "developing pciture of marriage"

    See......... Unsafe sex in the city


    When we all have open marriages this could be us as well, but with the added comfort of Church on Sunday.

    Is this what Jane is refering to?

    Don't fancy the whipping myself ... So sorry, I won't be all that much fun at the party


  11. Biblical marriage:
    It's consistent? Really?
    A cursory glance gives us several models. Polygamous marriage, marriage as 'property' (Gen 16, Gen 30), a man with one or more wives AND concubines (Judges 19), male rapist and victim (Deut 22. And then monogamous heterosexual. But if the latter is what Jesus would do, there isn't any evdiecne that he did. And Paul didn't think it was really good to marry, did he? Was best not to, he thought, unless you had no self control.
    Hardly a cosnistent picture in the bible.

  12. Andrew, before you say any more about the 'consistency' or otherwise of the picture of marriage in the Bible, could I suggest you read the article I posted some while ago on a biblical theology of marriage? This addresses the issue of the emerging understanding which allowed Jesus, when questioned on the nature of marriage, to start from 'the beginning' and apply it to his own present.

    I do wish, brother, that you would use a little less provocation, though, and a bit more actual engagement (and perhaps do it more engagingly). I know you can. Throwing about remarks that end "Hardly a consistent picture in the bible" doesn't edify either your opponent or my readers.

  13. John: where's the fun in that?! Sometimes the way to do it is to state the facts. And engage with them. People can, and do, make 'the bible' prove what they want it to prove. We all do it. It's fairly easy to do because the 'the bible' is such a diverse collection of different sorts of writings from different periods. All the writings are an interpretation of how the writers understood God's actions with the creation and created.
    So: your 'biblical theology' is simply an interpretation through your lens. Whereas you say "Thus whilst polygamy may have been a widespread practice, there is nothing to suggest it was an idealized goal", we do well to answer that there is quite a lot of evidence (Jesus and Paul) to suggest that neither is monogamous, heterosexual marriage an idealised goal.

  14. Andrew, I hardly need remind you, of all people, that as an ordained minister you hold the teaching office of the Church. This is not a matter of giving, as you put it, "an interpretation through your lens".

    You are a teacher. Teach.

  15. John: I am teaching! I have asked you to engage with something that is rather clear and you have not done so. So let me try again:-
    Whereas you say "Thus whilst polygamy may have been a widespread practice, there is nothing to suggest it was an idealized goal", we do well to answer that there is quite a lot of evidence (Jesus and Paul) to suggest that neither is monogamous, heterosexual marriage an idealised goal.
    Do you think that Jesus and Paul were both wrong?

  16. John: you are evading the question again. Perhaps I haven't put it clearly enough or maybe you are struggling to reconcile your own statements.
    If monogamous heterosexual marriage is the 'idealised goal' that you seem to cliam it is, then why don't Jesus and Paul support that view?

  17. Andrew, you tell me. (I'm trying to teach here, you understand.)

  18. John, I have been clear, I think, that I don't think we can claim that it is an idealised goal if we look at the bible. So it's not for me to tell you, its for you to tell me. It seems that you can't or don't want to.

  19. Andrew,what do you mean "idealized"?

  20. Your word John, not mine. You used it in the link to the article, written by you, that you referred me to.

  21. Andrew, what, then, do yo think the goal is, if any, in the 'trajectory' of marriage?

  22. The goal is to know and participate in the love and peace of God that passes all understanding, isn't it?
    You still evade the question put to you several posts back: If monogamous heterosexual marriage is the 'idealised goal' that you seem to claim it is, then why don't Jesus and Paul support that view?

  23. Andrew, I don't see how that particularly applies to marriage as such.

    BTW I am not "evading" your question. I just don't see the point in answering it if my views just represent my personal lens through which I view things. Why should you be interested in that?

  24. John - you don't think it applies to marriage? Have you read the preface in the current C of E Marriage service recently?
    'Marriage is a gift of God in creation through which husband and wife may know the grace of God'.
    That seems clear to me - knowing the grace of God. What a wonderful thing to know.

    If I weren't interested in your views I wouldn't be looking at your blog would I? So please indulge me a little and answer the question? Not least because it has a bearing on our discussion, which you seem to want to engage in. (And if you are not evading the question, then I'm afraid it does rather *look* as if you are.)

  25. Andrew, I still don't see how what you said applies to marriage 'distinctively'. Would you like to explain?

    As to my ideas, I can't see why you would be interested in them.

  26. John - I'm sorry - if you can't see how it applies to marriage, and you solemnise marriages, then I don't think you'd understand even if I were to explain.
    I'm sorry you refuse to answer the question - do have a good weekend.

  27. If I can just ask a question as a person from the pew


    Where does Jesus and Paul condemn monogamous heterosexual marriage? Which presumably was the norm at that time and is still (just) the norm today


  28. Andrew, I know how you feel. You have a good weekend too.

  29. Andrew, you haven't answered the question I put to you - what is the developing picture of marriage in the Bible? What you have done is to set out several problem examples of marriage, but not state which is God's pattern for mankind. Your Deut 22 example of marriage based on rape confuses the trigger for that marriage (the man's violation of the woman) with the marriage itself - still heterosexual and monogamous. I don't understand why you list monogamous heterosexual marriage last in your list. Gen 2 v.24 (the first reference in the Bible to heterosexual momogamous marriage) comes before any of your examples.

    You appear to state that it is "fun" to claim that the Bible is inconsistent.

    You claim that it is such a diverse collection of writings that we can use it to prove what we want to.

    In that case your explanation cannot be any more valid than anyone else's and by your own reasoning you cannot criticise anyone else's.

    You appear to reject that the Bible is breathed out by God - "All the writings are an interpretation of how the writers understood God's actions with the creation and created" you said. In which case it could well be unreliable and inconsistent. Leading to the conclusion that the Bible is not profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. But that suggests that God is unreliable, playing games with his people - stating that scripture is for training in righteousness but being inconsistent in his explanations of what is righteous.

    If the Bible is profitable for teaching then it must present an overall consistent picture of God's plan for mankind. Otherwise, it would simply demonstrate that life is haphazard, and present a capricious God.

    So what use do you think we can make from scripture? Where are the fixed points in your theology? On what can you rely and how do you discern it?

    And to return to the issue of marriage and your arguments, the fact that Jesus did not marry does not demonstrate that marriage is not a good thing. For some people celibacy is clearly a great position, and Jesus' ministry would have been severely hindered by the responsibilities of being a husband and probably a father.

    David Brock, Elmdon

  30. John and Andrew, is this down to the authority to which one appeals?

    The argument that Charlotte Methuen presents includes this statement: "The gospels, the letters of Paul and the household codes included in the New Testament all present a monogamous understanding of marriage."

    She is correct in that statement, but then makes the decision to abandon the teaching of the New Testament: "Increasingly I find myself convinced that one of the flaws of our current conception of marriage may be precisely the emphasis on 'one man and one woman'".

    There is thus some other authority to which she appeals above that of the apostles, on which she judges same sex relationships to be equivalent to marriage. Her conclusion is that having marriages between men or marriages between men would be a "redemptive" step. As the term "marriage" is moving on from the New Testament, so too is the concept of "redemption" in this use.

    The formularies of the Church of England make this appeal to scripture as the authority. Is it the case that the Faith and Order Commission members are required to accept this principle?

    Clifford Swartz
    St Bees

  31. Phil, David and Clifford:

    I think if you read my comments you will find all the answers.
    The point is not that Jesus or Paul condemn marriage, but that they appear not to regard it as the idealised way of being that John suggests it is. Paul, (I Cor 7)makes it plain that it is better not to marry. Being married is ok - Paul makes it plain that if you have to then ok, but it is better not to. Jesus doesn't marry - or at least we are not told if he did. And he seemed to imply that it was ok for the disciples to just abandon their home commitments once they were follwoing him. So we see a rather equivocal picture of marriage. John seems to go on ignoring this, and even when asked, has deliberately chosen not to engage with this issue.

    David: of course the bible is inspired. But it's not the word of God. The word of God is Jesus isn't it? The bible is a record of understanding. And seeing as it's about 2000 years since the library was added to, we need to assert that our understanding has changed and developed. As Anglicans we assert that tradition, reason and experience also help our understanding, even if there is a primacy of scripture.

  32. Andrew, I'm very surprised you read what I'd written as setting forward marriage as an "ideal state of being". I certainly intended no such thing. My take on Paul in 1 Cor 7 is set out in my booklet "God, Sex and Marriage" which is till available from Eden Books here here. You will find it fully acknowledges Paul's advocacy of singleness.

    We must be careful, however, not to over-stress this. The early church was well aware of Jesus' teaching on the permanency of marriage, as we see in 1 Cor 7 itself, and the passage is by no means anti-marriage, nor was the early church.

    The trajectory is ultimately towards the eschatalogical marriage, isn't it?

  33. Thanks for clarifying John.
    Why was Paul advocating singleness do you think? Does the same apply today?
    The ultimate trajectory is knowing the grace of God, isn't it?

  34. Andrew, Paul's advocacy of singleness is pragmatic - you can serve God with 'single minded' devotion (the pun works). Also you don't have the worries and concerns the married person has. But if marriage is 'right for you' (which also has pragmatic elements), he gives the green light: "You do not sin."

    As I observed in my booklet, I think this is helpful to the "grass is greener" view the single often have of marriage, which entirely fits Paul's line to the Corinthians: serve God as you are.

    The eschatalogical marriage is the 'last word' in the canon of Scripture and (I would argue) was an early factor in the Christian hope.

  35. Yes but Paul makes the point that he who does not marry 'does better'. Is that still the case?

    Revelation is the 'last word' in the Canon of Scripture somewhat by accident. It's not the last word in our understanding though, surely. An early factor in the Christian hope was that the eschaton (as they understood it) was coming very soon - in their lifetime. It didn't.

    1. Did they think the eschaton was eminent? 1 Peter 3:4 & 12 suggests that in NT times Christians were mocked because it hadn't happened yet & they were to hold tight. That seems to be the case in 1 Thessalonians too.

      The one who does not marry does better... in 1 sense the answer has to be "yes" doesn't it - within the context that Paul is talking about. I speak as someone who is happily married & obviously the Bible affirms marriage as a good thing. But that there are some kingdom advantages to singleness.

      Is that so strange?
      Darren Moore

    2. Andrew Godsall, Exeter22 April 2013 at 16:22

      Not strange at all Darren - just more evidence that the bible does not give us a black/white or yes/no picture. It leaves some questions open.

  36. Andrew, commentators disagree on the meaning of "διὰ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἀνάγκην" - the "present/impending crisis" (1 Cor 7:26, NIV; NRSV), but depending on your take (a local situation/the time before the eschaton), the short answer could/would be 'yes'.

    That Revelation is the last word 'by accident' is also 'by design' in the sovereignty of God. Certainly if you were going to write a last book this would be the one to go for. The eschatological wedding is a dominate theme there, but it is also elsewhere in the NT.

    It's bearing on our own understanding of marriage is a matter for further thought, but that it has a bearing is clear.

  37. Well at least we agree that commentators disagree, which suggests that there is not a 'simple' reading of scripture - and that is good progress! Of course, commentators, and not least evangelical commentators, disagree about the few verses in scripture that refer to homosexual activity. And if God can use the accidental appearance of Revelation in the Canon of Scripture, then surely God can use (within 'God's sovereignty' as you put it) different expressions of human relationships to enable people to know his grace - which is the most wonderful thing to know. (I think we might part company on that but we shall simply have to regard ourselves as commentators who disagree - which as you have just shown, must be allowed!)

    1. Commentators might disagree. But only within certain limits. Any sentence can only have a limited number of meanings, surely?

    2. It's more about context I think Darren.

    3. A sentence is intended by its writer to have just one meaning. It doesn't have different meanings because it is looked at by different people. The trick is to work out which one the writer intended, but unless it's very obscurely written, is deliberately ambiguous or is a double-entendre, that's not usually too difficult a task.

    4. Apologies, I should have said that last post was from me

      David Brock

  38. Thank you for your reply, Andrew.

    I did note your comments and saw that your position agrees with that of Charlotte Methuen (of a 'trajectory' of development in sexual and marital norms beyond the New Testament).

    Methuen in particular mixes historical trends with statements of value (eg, "I would judge..."). My query relates to the foundation of such ethical judgements. So my question about authority is unanswered having looked at your comments. What guides this trajectory? Is the Church to use scripture as a launch pad to send human decisions off into orbit? Where will it end?

    That is a real question: what is the next step on the trajectory of marriage if it continues to develop beyond the monogamous male/female relationship that Methuen (and you, too?) recognise as the position of the New Testament.

    Articles are beginning to appear that use the same line of reasoning Methuen uses in her article, but to justify polyamourous relationships. She reasons that same sex relationships can be stronger "because the couple is not having to negotiate centuries of expectation of how men and women should relate to one another." If we substitute "two people" instead of "men and women", is there a difference?

    So the authority question is the basis on which this discussion proceeds. For faithful Anglicans (and certainly for clergy who have made the Declaration of Assent), the scriptures "reveal" our faith rather than trigger the launch of an ethical trajectory. The ethical system that says "love makes a family" is Hegelian, not Christian. In holding to some other ethical standard other than, or beyond, scripture, the next question (in the history of thought) is asked by Nietsche: "why not rather untruth?".

    Philosophically alarmed,
    Clifford Swartz
    St Bees

  39. Andrew Godsall, Exeter22 April 2013 at 15:44

    Hi Clifford

    I think (as I did post earlier) that Scripture, Tradition, Reason and experience is what guides the trajectory for Anglicans. As the Archbishop of York puts it: "In our theology and lived Christian experience revelation and reason are set side by side."

    I haven't yet heard anyone in the Church of England argue for polyamorous relationships or read anything that argues for that.

    Not sure we can say that Hegelian is not Christian.

  40. Yet
    Because the line of thinking you're using is always a decade behind society.

  41. Andrew, I'm intrigued, indeed puzzled, by the notion of books that appear (and in the case of Revelation are included in the canon) "accidentally". Do explain!

    1. John: maybe 'accidental' is too strong, but its place in the Canon was, as is widely known, subject to a great deal of debate. It was only included in the Orthodox Canon of Scripture in the 5th century, and even now is not included in the Orthodox Liturgy. Luther regarded it as questionable in terms of authenticity.

    2. It's in the Canon. Why muddy the waters?

    3. And I acknowledge that last one was also from me.

      David Brock

  42. Andrew, indeed 'too strong'. Personally I'm totally persuaded of the canonical nature and supreme importance of the book - especially having taught it to groups and preached from it so often over a couple of decades now.

    I've often said (jokingly) if it weren't there, we'd have to invent it.

    1. I'm glad you make it clear that is a personal view John!

  43. Andrew,

    You're still not addressing the questions.

    You don’t tell us what is the developed model of marriage you see in scripture.

    You don’t tell us what use do you think we can make from scripture?.

    Nor where the fixed points are in your theology.

    Nor what you rely on and how you discern it?

    I think we are entitled to ask you to do this so that we can know the rules under which you are arguing.

    On the one hand you tell us the Bible is inconsistent, and a collection which is so diverse it enables anyone to use it to prove what they want to prove. This is going to lead you to a man-made philosophy rather than God’s revelation to us.

    But you now assert that the Bible is inspired, but not by who. And we need to note that you have added a fourth leg to the three legged stool (for the record, it’s scripture, tradition and reason, but you have added “experience”). Three legged stools always stand, whereas the four legged variety usually tilt and rock.

    Your reply on the point I made that the Bible is the inspired word of God is (a) that it is not the Word - that's Jesus, (b) it's just a record of understanding and (c) the last part was added to it just under 2000 years ago. That raises huge numbers of issues. The word refers both to Jesus and scripture - we see this in the use of the word Logos in John 1 – again not something you need me to point out. But now you appear to suggest we can add to the Canon of scripture, or alternatively that scripture has no more authority than, say, a 20th century commentary, which could record a different understanding of the actions of God. So again you will end up with man-made philosophy. And I think I must ask you where you find out what are the actions of God if they are recorded in the “interpretation of how the writers understood” you see set out in the Bible, because those interpretations (which you are now calling understandings) on your approach can be replaced by new understandings (or would you say “interpretations”) from today.

    David Brock


  44. Andrew

    "I haven't yet heard anyone in the Church of England argue for polyamorous relationships or read anything that argues for that"

    Er not in the anglican Church. but a few years ago when I worked abroad an Elder (Senior Uni Lecturer in Theology) announced that he wanted to take a 2 wife.

    In fact he made the case to us (hoping we would support him) and his wife came to see us a bit later with a very differnt view!

    All that happened was that he had a messy divorce and remarried. The 4 kids seemed not to be considered.

    Might not have reached the Anglican Chuch in the UK.....yet.

    To be honest, I would prefer this to happen to the blessing of homosexual relationships.


  45. Canon Andrew,
    In one of your earlier posts you stated:

    "'Marriage is a gift of God in creation through which husband and wife may know the grace of God'.

    That seems clear to me - knowing the grace of God. What a wonderful thing to know. "

    So would 'knowing the grace of God' be one of your 'fixed points' so to speak?

    If so, could you explain how you see the grace of God manifest in other contexts as opposed to human whim? How would you recognise it?

    Chris Bishop

  46. David:
    I'm not sure what is unclear about scripture, tradition, reason and experience being our guides - or 'fixed points' as you put it. There are plenty of fixed points there aren't there? If things were so fixed as not to allow change and development we'd still be supporting slavery wouldn't we? That particular change is one that is worth reflecting on. Why did we make that change? If we read St Paul and take that literally, we could be forgiven for not abolishing slavery couldn't we?

    And don't make too much of the 'three legged stool' idea. It's just an image!

    Chris: I've no idea what you mean by 'human whim', so I can't respond there. But surely knowing the grace of God is the goal of our religion? And we know it ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ.

    1. Andrew – you are not engaging with my questions, and are being selective about which ones you will answer. I asked you to state what fixed points there are in YOUR theology. And we need to know this because it is very difficult to see what you rely on. Then you suggest that I find something unclear about scripture, reason, tradition and experience being our guides. I have not said that. I pointed out that you add a fourth leg to the accepted three legged stool. The objection to that is that it suggests the same level of acceptance for “experience” as there is for the other three. You question the Canon of scripture (see e.g. your comments of 10.51 today) which is surprising for an ordained minister given Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles. You have consistently not told us what is the developed model of marriage which you claim is to be found in scripture. I would like to thank you for your time, comments and contributions. But I am going to bow out of this discussion now.

      David Brock,


  47. Andrew,
    You're reply there suggests 1 of 2 things. Either you are using a dishonest line of argument (the Bible supports slavery, slavery = bad, we have to update what we believe), or you are ignorant as to what the Bible says about slavery.

    In the Bible, there are (at least) 2 kinds of slavery. The 1st is found in Israel's law. It was basically an alternative to starvation! Slaves however were not permanent, unless they chose to be (year of Jubilee etc.).

    NT slavery was rather different. & despite what people claim Bible writers were NOT big fans or indifferent about it, for e.g. 1 Timothy 1:10 & oddly, given you're sceptical about Revelation, 18:13. However, slavery was so normal, a pastoral issue in the NT is how do we live as godly slaves. To our western ears the surprising answer isn't rise up against your oppressor, but work as if for the Lord.

    Interestingly, as Christianity grew, slavery declined. To set foot in England was to be free. Only much later, when the church was in decline did we have the awful Atlantic slave trad. And who lead the way to end it, against massive opposition from the institutional Church? Those silly naive Evangelicals.

    Darren Moore

  48. Andrew Godsall, Exeter23 April 2013 at 12:14

    Darren: not sure who said evangelicals were silly and naive. Certainly not me.
    The NT was used both by abolitionists and supporters of slavery, because, as you say, it was considered so normal in NT times.
    Context is everything. I'm not at all 'sceptical' about Revelation. I'm simply making the point that it was written for very particular circumstances and therefore you can't just make it fit a very different context as if it were written for that.

  49. Andrew,
    You certainly imply that Evangelicals are, by comments like, "very particular circumstances" - REALLY? & the place of reason & experiance, etc. etc.

    Yes, abolitionists & supporters of slavery moth appealed to the NT, but supporters didn't do so legitimately & they did so selectively. They had an answer from which they worked backwards to the text. I don't think that the Bible is "unclear" about the issue, as you were implying and that we now have a more enlightened view. We don't.

    You mentioned "Scripture, reason, experience". There a number of problems with that. 1st, as you mention, that's an "Anglican thing", so what about the rest of Christendom? Also, it's a new-ish thing for Anglicans. So, you have to ask, where did you get that from? Answer, institution or tradition, which means you have a 4th fixed point. Also, those who framed it, as I remember didn't have them as complete equals. You need some way to interact with them when the 3 or 4 disagree. Or when my reason/experience differs from yours etc.

    Also, within the Bible, say Romans 1:18ff, or Ephesians 2, James 3:13ff, show us that our THINKING is fallen. So we use reason & experience (& tradition) for sure... of course, hands up who doesn't... nobody, ok - but they have to be subordinate to Scripture. In fact, Ephesians 4:17-19, talks about the "futility" of un-redeemed thinking, which Christians are still subject to and that we can be hardened. This is when we do something enough, justify something enough that we say, "well, I've reasoned that, or can testify from my experience that..." whilst the Bible is effectively saying, "your experience/reason is wrong".

    So, back to the topic of marriage. Human thinking & experience is "faulty". We need information from beyond us, which God gives in his word.

    In an earlier post you said that the Bible doesn't have a consistent doctrine of marriage. That suggests that your not using the word doctrine in the normal way. Normally that means building up a picture from across the Bible from little bits of info, into a big piece of info. That's how we get ideas like the Trinity.

    & really, given the last time we exchanged ideas, you said you'd not bother to read an Evangelical who described themselves as "Bible believing", even if they were massively influential on a constituency, should Evangelicals pay any attention to those who claim to use reason & experience (suggesting others don't), read things in context (suggesting others don't), or call themselves "inclusive" or "thinking"... that's where some may read your posts as condescending etc. Maybe they're not intended that way. But you are suggesting that we go off & do some work, that by & large, has already been done. You've just not heard it.

    Darren Moore

  50. Andrew Godsall, Exeter23 April 2013 at 14:32

    Darren: what do you say to the Evangelicals that come to a different conclusion about the issue of same sex marriage than you? That they've done the wrong sort of work? That they didn't listen to the right people? That they are not really evangelicals.

    The comment about 'very particular circumstances' is about the book of Revelation - nothing to do with Evangelicals or any other sort of church tradition.

  51. Andrew,
    In those circumstances, as with anyone I disagree with (out of the Blogesphhere), I'd ask them LOTS of questions.

    What I've seen many, many times, is that people say that they are Evangelical, but then they find something tough, say, same sex relationships as that's what we've been talking about and they "change" on it. When I quiz them a bit more, there are quite a few things that are hallmarks of Evangelicalism that they've let go of.

    Their reasoning in one area, seems to effect it in others. This is true of other things too.

    Evangelical is a term that historically describes someone who holds to certain things. It is fashionable now though to hold no, or few of those but for some reason, still hold to the title, like it's a tribal identity.

    Revelation, is their ANY book in the Bible that isn't written into a very particular circumstance?

  52. BTW, Evangelicals hold to different views about lots of things e.g.
    Millennial views, baptism, gifts of the spirit, church governance, Sabbath, re-marriage, the list goes on.

    But all would agree (in the old use of the word), that the Bible is the final authority in matters of faith & conduct. So, if the Bible teaches some sort of behaviour, then you expect evangelicals to (normally) agree on it. Old school Evangelicals, seem to have similar views about the meaning cross (penal substitution, among other "models"), resurrection, need to be be born again, uniqueness of Christ as well as what would be common to all Christians, e.g. Trinity.

    There are Evangelical disjunctives. There differences between them also, but eventually you have to say, this is different enough NOT to be evangelical. Wouldn't that be the same for, say a liberal or a catholic?

  53. sorry, slow day
    Andrew, doesn't that question come back to you?

    What do you think of those who disagree with you, on same same sex marriage? Mustn't they, from your perspective, to get such a different answer, be;
    1. reading the Bible out of context?
    2. not using "reason" - unreasonable
    3. Les enlightened in some way
    4. Listening to the wrong people

    combination of the 4.
    You end up with the same problem.

  54. Andrew Godsall, Exeter23 April 2013 at 15:13

    And sadly, what I've seen many many times is that people write off others as 'not really Evangelicals', or 'not really Catholics' or 'not really orthodox'.
    I'd also ask you lots of questions - we'd have a dialogue. We would discover things in common and things where we differ. What I would not say is that you were not genuine or not sincere or not really a Christian.

    I work very closely with a good number of evangelicals. That's the beauty of both Cathedral and Diocesan ministry. The C of E has a breadth of tradition and will go on having so. I don't, I'm afraid, think that you can be trusted to decide if they really are evangelicals or not without the face to face dialogue that is a pre-requisite. You are welcome in Exeter anytime!

  55. Andrew,
    You're welcome to Chelmsford any time! You see you are applying a bit of a double standard. & making some assumptions.

    I'm not deciding who is & is not an Evangelical. The word has a meaning rooted in history. It's not for anyone to change that meaning.

    You are however making judgements about whether people are being inclusive or thinking. So your form of "judgementalism" is in fact far more arbitrary, with you as the final judge.

    Also, I am not making a judgement about whether someone is a Christian or not. Far from it. In fact it is because you are a baptised Christian who, as it happens, is also ordained, that I would address you the way I do. I'd speak to a non-Christian quite differently. I expect non-Christians to say certain things. We have a different starting point. I don't expect non-Christians to think like me. They need compassion & reaching with the gospel.

    However, when a Christian, especially an ordained one, starts saying stuff that effects what other Christians say & believe (no matter how sincere), then Christians are obliged to comment. Jesus was pretty clear about that, so were the Apostles.

  56. Sorry, Andrew, as has become your trade-mark (we all have our trade-marks, like my overly long posts), you didn't answer any of my questions, nor I think John's from earlier.

  57. Dear Andrew,

    Thank you once again for your response. On the matter of the meaning of marriage continuing to develop, it is the new definition of marriage that leaves open further 'progress' (for example, plural marriages). Scientific American is one magazine extolling the benefits of plural marriages, and pressure has begun to be placed on Western governments (eg, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Brazil) to recognise them.

    I agree when you state: "I haven't yet heard anyone in the Church of England argue for polyamorous relationships or read anything that argues for that." My point is to identify the method of ethical reasoning. Did anyone in the Church of England argue for same sex marriage before the culture outside agitated for it? That agitation for the church to, as the PM has urged, "get with the programme" will increase as our bishops continue to fold -- yielding on point after point in the incremental moves towards normalising same sex marriage in the church. The statement on marriage at issue in this thread does not indicate repentance but pastoral prayer supporting relationships contrary to the very line of biblical interpretation in the report.

    Hegel's ethics and dialectical method are perhaps subjects for another debate. I noted it to observe that ethics, once the anchor line to scripture is broken, tend to go in a direction that is destructive rather than redemptive.

    Thank you for your responses. I expect this thread has shown its usefulness and I will leave the last word to you.

    With hope that our new definition of marriage is not evidence that the church is wedded to the spirit of the age...!

    Best wishes,
    Clifford Swartz
    St Bees

  58. Andrew says bite and we bite.

    All the while he is having a good laugh.

    Go to any country pub and there is an Andrew.

    Don't bite!

    Unless you have got all evening....!


  59. Andrew Godsall, Exeter24 April 2013 at 13:04

    Darren: I fear that the picture of Christianity you set before us is so unattractive and lacking in grace as to be very far from the truth.
    You also describe a particular brand of evangelicalism - ultra conversative evangelicalism. To put in context, we have over 600 churches in this diocese. Just 8 identify as being involved with Reform. That's hardly an endorsement. Many describe themselves as Evangelical however.
    If I've omitted answers to any questions I apologise. Not intentional. Please re-ask them any time - they may be lost in your rather lengthy posts!

  60. I'm not sure if I should follow Phil's advice here or not!?!

    Andrew what you say rather depends on perspective doesn't it. Numbers... so what? The majority don't go to Church at all, they think it's a total waste of time. Reform - I'm not actually C of E any longer. Although it's worth saying that more Reformed type Churches are growing, have young adults & financially viable. Again, in & of itself not a real issue.

    GRACE: As far as I can tell, grace is when God's offer of forgiveness is offered to all. Hence we've seen people from all sorts of backgrounds come to Christ. Indeed, some at our church are re-starting a prison ministry. A former regular attender here used to come in full drag! Nobody is excluded from the gospel invitation, nor is anyone beyond God's grasp. Jesus says, come & be cleaned, not get cleaned up then come.

    I believe that God, in the Bible graciously reveals what I need to know, in the Bible. That the Church through history/world church keeps me from a purely individualistic interpretation... although I'm sure far from perfect.

    What you've given away in your answers is that:
    1. You work out the answers for yourself: sure the Bible can be mined for gems and used as a launch-pad, but basically your saying the same as secular society, but 5-10 years behind.
    2. People don't need forgiveness - they're OK to start with. This is a real problem in any ministry you have with the Homosexual community.
    3. You haven't bothered to find out what Evangelicals think.

    Most of your postings haven't really made me think, "wow, full of grace, insight, generous, understanding". That's kind of why I was prodding. There is a brand of Christianity that exihibits all the things that it claims to hate.

  61. Andrew,
    Probably a pointless posting as you've made clear before that you will not read/listen to things that you disagree with (other than this blog?) an idea of Grace offered to all, & judgementalism, see sermons on Luke 15 that I did here:

  62. Andrew Godsall, Exeter25 April 2013 at 10:40

    Darren: you manage to misrepresent everything I say. For the record, I actually spend most of my time listening to and reading things I *might* disagree with. It's the way we grow.

    What I think I said before was that I usually disregard anything that describes itself as *bible believing* because that term is generally used to put other people down. I'm a bible believing Christian - I just happen to believe different things about the bible to you. Looked at your website for example. Right there it states categorically that the bible is the word of God. It isn't. Jesus is the word of God. The bible bears witness to the word of God.

    Your term about ministry with the homosexual community is so offensive. But I'm sure you'd never see that.
    I think our discussion has gone as far as it can go. But thank you for it. Maybe we can do it face to face one day.

  63. Andrew, I'm not sure where you get the idea from the the Bible ,isn't God's word. Certainly as Anglicans we believe it is -- as Article XX says, "And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's Word written" (note the capitals and see also Articles XVII, XXIX, XXI, XXII, XXIV, XXVI, XXXIV, XXXVII, and note that Article II means the distinction is clearly maintained between Christ, the Word of the Father and the Scriptures, God's Word.)

    Where and how, therefore, did you get to say it's not?

    Surely whatever God says is God's Word - is it not? And to call Jesus "the Word of God" is not to eliminate other Words of God.

    You may have your private opinions about the Bible, but they certainly do not entitle you to say that the Bible is not God's Word, when the CofE requires its clergy to assent to the Articles which say it is. It is just your opinion against the tradition (and the assent you have made to it!).

  64. Andrew Godsall, Exeter25 April 2013 at 14:35

    John: we've had this discussion about the Articles so many times before. We assent to them in a general way. They were what the C of E once believed - they are 'historic formularies'. I'm very happy to assent to the 39 articles being an historic formulary. I've done that many many times. I know that you and some other Reform members are wedded to them as if they were doctrinal. But, as I said yesterday, that's a pretty minority view.

    God still 'speaks' - certainly. (Although we have to be careful using metaphors like that - we might, for example say God is strong - but that does not mean God has muscles. God does not have vocal chords). Words are always in search of a meaning. If you want to call the bible God's word, go ahead. My point is that it is not THE word of God. There is only one word of God - Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not unique, then what are we all doing?

    1. Andrew,
      Surely the Articles are more than just "what the C of E once believed"! The introduction to the Declaration of Assent read by the Bishop makes this clear:-
      "Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making him known to those in your care?"

      The Historic Formularies bear witness to Christian truth; then and now. That is why they are still used - otherwise why refer to them at all?

    2. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 09:25

      Tio Tel - it's not many years ago that the Church of England used to insist that the references to Mary in Elgar's setting of The Dream of Gerontius were removed when the work was performed in Worcester Cathedral. Far fewer years ago than the 39 Articles. The Church of Enlgand now permits the whole work to be sung without omitting such references. Why do you think that is?

  65. Andrew, so far you've said the Bible isn't the Word of God, that it isn't THE Word of God, that we can call it the Word of God, that the Church of England used to believe in the Bible as the Word of God but you and a lot of others don't, that words are "in search of meaning" but Jesus is THE Word of God though God only speaks in inverted commas.

    Glad to have cleared that up.

    1. Andrew Godsall, Exeter25 April 2013 at 14:51

      Just goes to show unclear 'words' are doesn't it!

      Surely a relationship with God's living word (Jesus Christ) is more important than the confusion you are trying to create John?

    2. Andrew, it's bit rich accusing me of trying to create confusion by reflecting what you've said, no?

      As to a relationship with God's living Word, I can't help thinking of Acts 18:26 where Aquila and Priscilla, having heard Apollos "explained the way of God more accurately to him". Thus he got to know Jesus better through their words, did he not? Of course he did. And the word of the Lord went on multiplying, as it did inn Acts.

    3. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 09:20

      No, I think it's a bit rich you accusing me of confusion when you are trying to create the greatest confusion of all - by saying that the bible is more important than Jesus, the son of God.

      Your Acts verse is a great one - as is the whole of that section. Firstly it demonstrates that women were equally capable of teaching the good news - in fact they were better at it than Apollos - they did it 'more accurately'. Secondly, it demonstrates the power of personal relationship in the growth of the Christian faith. That's why THE word of the Lord went on multiplying - because of the personal relationships of Christians.

  66. Andrew Godsall, Exeter25 April 2013 at 14:49

    Just in case people are not aware of the declaration of assent that we make, here it is:

    "I, [name], do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon."

    All that is indeed our 'inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in [their] care'

  67. Andrew. Seriously?

    "you are trying to create the greatest confusion of all - by saying that the bible is more important than Jesus, the son of God."

    A Mars Bar prize to you if you can quote me on that.

  68. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 09:48

    Mars bars tend give me migraine so please give it to someone else!
    It's the implication of what you say John. John Bell, in a great interview in the Church Times a few yeas ago, said the same of the approach of some evangelicals to the apostle Paul - they regarded him as the real saviour and Jesus as a kind of minor prophet.

  69. Andrew, this could run for weeks!

    You say, ""you are trying to create the greatest confusion of all - by saying that the bible is more important than Jesus, the son of God."

    I say, "Quote me on it."

    You say, "It's the implication of what you say."

    I think you're being a bit of a chump!

  70. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 10:18

    John: making personal remarks doesn't get things any further does it? It kind of implies you have nowhere else to go with your arguments when you start calling people names.
    I've made it clear that it's the implication of what you say. If it isn't what you want to imply, then be clearer and imply something else!

  71. Andrew, I think saying of a person that they hold views that they actually don't is quite 'personal' itself.

    And then when challenged to justify this, saying its 'implicit' is an evasion. (And saying "I've made it clear that it's the implication" is just repeating the same accusation and evasion!)

    All together, a bit of 'chumpery'.

  72. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 10:46

    John: you use phrases like 'supreme importance'. If something is supremely important, there is nothing more important is there? Or is there a category of 'super supreme'?
    Then somewhere else you say 'To what else can we appeal for that authority except the Bible?' Again you make the bible THE most important thing.
    I am not making anything personal - I am taking issue with what you say directly and by implication.

  73. Andrew, you wrote, "you use phrases like 'supreme importance'".

    Indeed I did. I wrote, "Personally I'm totally persuaded of the canonical nature and supreme importance of the book" of Revelation.

    What has that got to do with any suggestion or implication that "the bible is more important than Jesus"?

    You add, " If something is supremely important, there is nothing more important is there?" which on the face of it is suggesting that I must mean there is nothing more important than the Book of Revelation.

    Here I must refer you to the dictionary definition of supreme which includes "very great", and is the sense in which I was (clearly!) using the word.

    I certainly did also write, "To what else can we appeal for that authority [of the Bible] except the Bible?" But I then went on to explain that the Bible's authority, as words, stems from the nature of God, revealed in Christ as "the Word".


  74. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 11:15

    I am very clear that the bible is less important than Jesus. Yes. I am grateful that you have now clarified that you agree with this.

  75. So Andrew, we both agree that the Word of God is the most important thing. Show me your Word of God without the Bible, and I, through the Bible, will show the Word.

  76. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 11:46

    John: the Church is the body of Christ. Surely we see the Word of God there? And in human experience. And in human reason. And of course in the bible.
    But all of them are sub-ordinate to the word of God in Jesus Christ.

  77. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  78. "And of course in the Bible." Quite. Where do we see the church, Andrew? (Think "39 Articles".)


    "THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."

  80. Andrew Godsall, Exeter26 April 2013 at 12:47

    There you go quoting something from the historic formularies again.....
    Thankfully, 'The Church' is something rather larger than the C of E.
    Let's put the same question to you as put to Tio Tel earlier:
    It's not many years ago that the Church of England used to insist that all the references to Mary in Elgar's setting of The Dream of Gerontius were removed when the work was performed in Worcester Cathedral. (It would probably have looked to the 39 Articles to support such a move).
    The Church of England now permits the whole work to be sung without omitting such references. Why do you think that is?

    1. Your use of the word "permits" speaks volumes! Permission to perform does not change the "historic formularies" which, as far as I am aware, still stand.
      To revert to the origin of this thread, the change from the present accepted doctrine of marriage (which signifies the mystical union between Christ and his Church) to one of "same sex marriage" would be to change the belief and practice of the Christian Church. I do not see any 'development' of the doctrine of marriage in the Bible. I do see the consquences of the failure of the people of God to live out the doctrine of marriage given "in the beginning". (Genesis 2 v.24 and Matthew 19 v.5)

  81. Andrew, there you go, throwing out red herrings again. It's like talking to a Jehovah's Witness.

  82. BTW Andrew (and others) the Canons (laws) of the Church of England are as follows on the topic of performances:

    F 16 Of plays, concerts, and exhibitions of films and pictures in churches

    1. When any church or chapel is to be used for a play, concert, or exhibition of films or pictures, the minister shall take care that the words, music, and pictures are such as befit the House of God, are consonant with sound doctrine, and make for the edifying of the people.

    That is not an option for opinions but the rule.

    As to applying the rule, whether the lyrics of the Dream of Gerontius fall within that might be something that passes muster in Exeter Cathedral. It probably wouldn't get past our incumbent here.

  83. PS my comment about Jehovah's Witnesses is because arguments with them never actually go anywhere, since the aim is not to reach a conclusion about the particular topic but to get you to become a Witness. Thus if one line of argument fails, they will simply change to another one.

    The original post here was about a report on gender and marriage drawn up by the Faith and Order Commission of the House of Bishops. Here we are discussing the lyrics of the Dream of Gerontius. How did we get here? I'll leave readers to trace that back.

    More importantly, why are we here? Because the argument keeps twisting. And why is that, I wonder?

  84. Andrew Godsall, Exeter29 April 2013 at 10:12

    your ad hominem comments don't really help. But I'm not surprised by them.
    The point about the Dream of Gerontius is that choral societies now perform it in churches and cathedrals up and down the land. That they might not do so in your area is simply an indication of a prejudice. The C of E has, by and large, changed, developed, grown, so as not to have those kind of prejudices (much) any longer. 30 years ago when I married a Roman Catholic there was some of it about. By and large it is now confined to very conservative evangelicals - and it is one reason why that particular brnach of our church does such a lot to give Christianity a bad name.

    Development, change, growth. That's what this thread is actually about. Thankfully, we have lots of it in the C of E.