Comments: Martyn Percy interviewed on BBC radio programmes

Yes, we need far greater intellectual and theological leadership. I found Chris Sugden's comments bizarre and shameful. There is no rationale for standing in solidarity with those who would seek to criminalize homosexuality; I thought 'we' had established this under Michael Ramsey? Highly suspicious of Chris Sugden's 'value free' research.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Monday, 21 December 2015 at 11:02pm GMT

After a long period when cathedral deans have been quiescent cyphers, at last a return of the 'major' cathedral dean. Someone in high office who is able articulately and authoritatively to speak out about matters controversial, to the nation and beyond without fear or favour. Martyn Percy is quite brilliant in his role.

This is good news both for the Church of England and the Christian Faith, which have in recent times become increasingly dialectical, defining themselves negatively by being against things.

The last dean of such calibre before Martyn Percy was the late Colin Slee of Southwark.

Posted by Concerned Anglican at Monday, 21 December 2015 at 11:13pm GMT

While I agree with Martyn Percy's dismay at the church's treatment of LGBT people, I don't see any mystery about how the church is acting, or much hope of Justin Welby changing course. Problem is that many liberals just don't come at things from a political POV.

There's two brutally simple calculations at work: the majority of the Anglican Communion condemns homosexuality; as do the majority of the evangelicals who bankroll the Church of England. The realpolitik's as inescapable as it is cruel: English bishops won't even consider equality until they can be sure it won't bankrupt the church. It's unjust, but it's how things are.

That being so, there's only two solutions: persuade a majority of evangelicals to change their minds, if only on tolerating gay relationships; or recruit a lot more affirming members to the church to make up the funding shortfall. Given that even most progressive evangelicals consider homosexuality a "salvation issue," that leaves option two.

So affirming Anglicans must grow churches. That means, if we ever want to see equality in provinces outside North America and Scotland, Anglicans must bite the bullet, and start evangelizing. It's either be evangelical, or be ruled by evangelicals.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 21 December 2015 at 11:17pm GMT

I find this much more encouraging than many of your readers will. If this is the best the most articulate, prominent and influential spokesman for this point of view can do when he is given enough rope (more than equal time on a particular BBC programme where he is introduced by his chosen epithet ‘mainstream’ and speaks about his uniquely extensive research) speaking about ‘chosen lifestyle’ ‘and ‘protection from grooming’, then keep supplying more rope say I - we are much nearer the successful end of this argument than I had realised or a small number of painful individual cases might have seemed to indicate.

Posted by Peter Mullins at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 7:24am GMT

Presumably amongst Sugden's acolytes, they would see legislation outlawing heterosexual marriage and, indeed, activity of any sort as being a proportionate way to protect children from opposite-sex grooming?

Oh, no, they wouldn't. Because Sugden is, of course, dog-whistling the "homosexuality = paedophilia" trope to his followers.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 8:57am GMT

In response to James, from who cheerfully self-describes as charismatic evangelical:

"There's two brutally simple calculations at work: the majority of the Anglican Communion condemns homosexuality; as do the majority of the evangelicals who bankroll the Church of England."

Actually I think evangelicalism, especially in the CofE, is much more diverse on this issue today. I think I detect at least the following groupings:
1. those who think homosexual practice is sinful and is a central issue of faith and doctrine over which schism is justifiable. I take this to be Chris Sugden's line, more or less.
2. those who think homosexual practice is sinful but not a schism issue - they might be OK with some form of 'two integrities' approach
3. those who think homosexual practice is possible or probably sinful / not what God wants for people but is not a big deal and can live with different views - a subset of this might be to say that it is like divorce - not what God wants but the best option in the circumstances in a world where things are often not as God wants
4. those who think the whole issue is not big deal - we can hold strong views but agree to differ. It is like infant baptism or wearing robes - there are arguments from both sides
5. those who think homosexual practice is not sinful but who are not going to say so in public (or often in private)
6. those who think homosexual practice is perfectly fine in a committed relationship. This group includes those who think such a relationship can be termed marriage and those who think it needs to be called something else (but is equal to marriage)

As to where the majority of evangelicals are at in this schema, I think very few are now in groups 1 and 2 and quite a lot more than people think are in 5 and 6. My experience of teaching ordinands and Readers over 16 years leads me to think that the landscape amongst young (i.e. new!) has shifted considerably. However, it is still quite a brave thing to be open and public about your changing views in evangelical circles.

"That being so, there's only two solutions: persuade a majority of evangelicals to change their minds, if only on tolerating gay relationships; or recruit a lot more affirming members to the church to make up the funding shortfall. Given that even most progressive evangelicals consider homosexuality a "salvation issue," that leaves option two."

As you see, I don't think this last bit of analysis is correct anymore.

"So affirming Anglicans must grow churches. That means, if we ever want to see equality in provinces outside North America and Scotland, Anglicans must bite the bullet, and start evangelizing."

Yes! Don't leave the spreading of the Gospel to us evangelicals. We need all traditions to do this as none of us has a monopoly on truth and, pragmatically, different theological approaches reach different people.

"It's either be evangelical, or be ruled by evangelicals."

No -we don't want everyone to be evangelical but we do need catholic and liberal evangelism.

Posted by Charles Read at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 10:00am GMT

Chris Sugden speaks of 'lifestyle choice' for homosexuals - as though that is a simple matter of choosing between two ways of living. He needs to understand that; as heterosexuals - like himself, presumably - have no choice in the matter of exercising their sexuality, the same goes for the intrinsically homosexual person. There simply are no other options - except in defiance of one's innate sexual nature

The only people who have any personal choice between two options are those capable of a bi-sexual response. Most often this results in a heterosexual marriage, where procreation is considered an important 'lifestyle choice'.

Mr.Sugden needs to understand the difference.

I strongly suspect the 'research' he claims to have made in Africa would be amongst people of his own persuasion - heterosexuals with the old out-dated understanding of human sexuality.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 10:15am GMT

Peter Mullins,
I would like to agree with you, but I am not so sure. Within the church the debate is about whether same sex relationships are sinful or not, and the arguments tend to focus on whether Scripture forbids or permits them.
No opponent to these relationships is ever required to explain why Scripture would forbid them, just claiming that it does is sufficient. When liberals question why a loving God would condemn a whole group of people to potential mental harm and loneliness, our reference to “experience” is dismissed out of hand as completely irrelevant.

Canon Sugden's problem arises only in interviews with secular media where you have to explain why you have a particular opinion. Only then does it become apparent that there are no reasonable arguments against same sex relationships and that the opposition is actually intellectually bankrupt and only based on dogma.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 10:23am GMT

Thank you, Charles Read.
I'm finding the consistent prejudice against and lack of appreciation of the complexity of evangelicals quite tiring now. It doesn't seem to matter how often people point out that it's no longer that simple (if it's ever been that simple), the stereotype is being mentioned again and again.

We're not doing ourselves any favours by not recognising what's truly going on in evangelical circles. This whole battle can be won faster if we recognise that the majority all all churchgoers is no longer against same sex relationships.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 11:50am GMT

I totally agree with the idea that evangelisation should not simply be left to those who self identify as evangelicals. I don't accept the idea of the requirement to be particularly savvy. History is full of examples of folk who were told 'yes, we accept your point, but the time is not quite right to push ahead.' Think of the presidents 'advice' to Martin Luther King. Also, lets not confuse unity and appeasement. Appeasement never leads to long-term unity but frequently leads to disaster. Finally, leadership on behalf of the 'majority' would mean that the Church had uncritically accepted and implemented a (crass) form of utilitarian leadership.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 12:54pm GMT

This "lifestyle choice" rubbish that people like Sugden keep bringing back from the dead boggles the mind. How could he, in his wildest imagination, believe that people in places like Uganda deliberately choose something to likely to be horribly dangerous--even fatal?

As my father often said, if being gay were a choice, it wouldn't take long to make a different one.

And Sugden was giving a pass on his rhetoric about recruitment?

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 1:18pm GMT

Concerned's comment "fear or favour" reminds me of the proposed Constitutional Oath in Benn's Commonwealth Bill (see Common Sense):

“I ... do solemnly declare and affirm that I will be faithful to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Britain, and will respect its laws, as enacted by Parliament; will preserve inviolably the civil rights and liberties of the people, including the right to self-government, through their elected representatives, and will faithfully and truly declare my mind and opinion on all matters that come before me favour”

Would that priests were to affirm such things!

Posted by DBD at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 6:45pm GMT

My appreciation for such a thorough and nuanced reply, Charles. :-)

I agree that some evangelicals are affirming. It may even be a silent majority of those who self-identify as evangelical. Problem is, when they break cover, they're swiftly and ruthlessly marginalized by the evangelical centers of power, such as when Oasis was summarily booted from the Evangelical Alliance. So whatever they think in the safety of their minds, in terms of power, they're excluded.

Worse, I don't see how it'll change. Just check out Ian Paul's Psephizo blog whenever this comes up. Ian, despite being firmly in the progressive wing of evangelicalism, and an enthusiastic supporter of women's ministry, is in the first grouping, and so are most of his commenters. If a man as thoughtful and left-wing as him can't be persuaded to so much as tolerate ministers in gay relationships, what hope is there?

Erika, as shown above, I'm not tarring all evangelicals with the same brush; rather, I'm focusing on the position of evangelical leaders, and their centers of power. No change will happen without them, and as Charles says, there's immense pressure to toe the party line.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 7:06pm GMT

Myth #1: Evangelical churches are the only ones that are growing, especially conservative ones.
Myth #2: Evangelical churches are not declining numerically, as liberal and Catholic churches are.
Myth #3: Evangelical churches bankroll the Church of England.
Myth #4: Only Evangelicals care about church growth.
Myth #5: Congregations at evangelical churches, as opposed to their clergy, are illiberal on the equal marriage issue

So many of us, from all church traditions, seem to have bought into these myths, and yet to them best of my knowledge, there is no reliable evidence to support any of them. I'd be interested if there is, with an emphasis on evidence that is 'reliable' and adding 'national' rather than individual churches.

Although I find it harder each day to be anything other than depressed by the Episcopate of the C of E, I find it difficult to believe that they're all quaking in their purple boots in case the conservatives stop the cash flow. Not all the bench are that badly informed or that devoid of integrity, surely?

Posted by Fr Andrew at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 7:14pm GMT

A spot on comment from interested observer I was profoundly dismayed by the weakness of Sugden's argument . He does the cause of traditional marriage very little good.

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 7:58pm GMT

I was amazed at the sheer stupidity of Chris Sugden's contribution to this discussion. 'Intellectually bankrupt' sums it up well.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 8:15pm GMT

On the Modern Church website Chris Sugden is given the titles Canon Dr. I do not possess a copy of Crockford's Clerical Directory. Could someone who does please inform me (A) of which English diocese Chris Sugden is a Canon, presumably honorary; (B) from which university he holds a doctorate earned by thesis; (C) in which English diocese he has recently held a salaried post?

Posted by Barry at Tuesday, 22 December 2015 at 8:52pm GMT

Dean Percy of Oxford is proving to be a most effective Leader of the Opposition to the traditional ethical standards upheld by the Emperor Justinian of Canterbury.
The cathedra in Oxford has long remained vacant but the diocese itself seems to be rubbing along quite nicely without a chief pastor which makes me think is it not time to do a reversal of what they did in West Yorkshire and the Dales and revisit the plan to split the diocese of Oxford into three dioceses - Berks, Bucks and Oxon? Such a move would undoubtedly receive a heavenly beatific smile from the late Christopher Pepys who was most disappointed not to have been the first Diocesan Bishop of Buckingham.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 6:09am GMT

Well, Canon Sugden it is: says he's a canon at a cathedral in Nigeria. Not sure yet about the doctorate but I'd be very interested to know.

Posted by Cassandra at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 9:11am GMT

Isn't 'Thinking Anglicans' wonderful? back in 2010 Canon Sugden's Crockckford's entry was shared as

SUGDEN, Canon Christopher Michael Neville. b 48. St Pet Coll Ox BA70 MA74 Nottm Univ MPhil74 Westmr Coll Ox PhD88. St Jo Coll Nottm 72. d 74 p 75. C Leeds St Geo Ripon 74-77; Assoc P Bangalore St Jo India 77-83; Lic to Offic Ox from 83; Can St Luke's Cathl Jos Nigeria from 00; Exec Dir Ox Cen for Miss Studies 01-04; Exec Sec Angl Mainstream Internat from 04. Anglican Mainstream International, 21 High Street, Eynsham, Oxford OX29 4HE Tel (01865) 883388 E-mail

Posted by Cassandra at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 9:15am GMT

I can answer the third of Barry's questions. Apart from his initial curacy about forty years ago, Chris Sugden has never held a salaried post in the Church of England.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 9:39am GMT

As I often do, I agree with the hard analysis of James Byron.

To declare my own background: charismatic, evangelical-turned-liberal doctrinally, catholic in approach to spiritual exercise and Mass.

My 'home' church (which remains the base for myself and my children) is evangelical Anglican. For 22 years I have held non-conservative views, at odds with many in my congregation, yet nevertheless I still ally with my church because of the quality of love my children have received, leading all three to living faith.

So I am not hostile to those Christians there with whom I may disagree profoundly on some doctrinal matters.

But equally, I am not blind to the powerful influence of the evangelical tradition (they still ally with the Evangelical Alliance, who have lobbied against recognition for trans people etc). Those with much influence, even in a deeply loving evangelical church, are often linked to external 'power' and 'influence' groups, and even clash with their minister who is gay-friendly.

Yes, there are wonderful gay-friendly evangelical ministers. Yes there are an increasing number of people in the pews who are gay-friendly and affirming (more in touch with the modern world than those with positions or rigid dogma to defend).

But look at movers and shakers in the evangelical movement(s) - the EA, evangelical conservatives at Westminster, influential evangelical churches, some missionary societies, and the strongly evangelical-controlled Christian Unions in our universities.... and what you actually find is that there is still a strong core of conservative, infallible bible, gay sex is sin Christians.

And these Christians tend to have disproportionate influence in evangelical churches, including many Anglican ones. For there is a conservative evangelical network and life that exists in our country (and beyond) over and above many Christians' lives within the Anglican churches.

Consistent with my own affirmation of evangelical churches (and the love I've received from them) I am strongly opposed to the concept of split and schism. I believe in the grace that may operate through a recognition of fundamental unity (in Christ) in great diversity of opinions.

I don't think breaking communion because we don't like a different group of Christians is always helpful. I think love and grace are stronger touchstones than dogmatic rectitude and uniformity. Of course, many conservative evangelicals *want* that dogmatic uniformity (their version of it). But I believe in the Church of England as distinctive *because* of grace that comes from co-existence in diversity.

If change is going to come in the Church of England, it needs to come from *within*, not by jumping ship.

And I believe change *will* come... as it has in North America... through social change in the membership in the pews. More and more church members just don't believe that gay sex is wrong. The bishops don't speak for them. Increasingly the bishops cannot frankly say "The Church of England believes that gay sex falls short of God's ideal."

The claim that the bishops speak 'for' the Church of England is more and more incongruent. In the end, their only way through is to recognise a diversity of views, otherwise the mismatch between church members and church leaders will become more and more incongruent.

And the name and reputation of the church in this country - in the minds of the 'unchurched' - will be more and more sullied.

Conservative evangelicalism has a right to exist. That is a conscience issue. It also exists in communities of sincere love and care. But increasingly it will be outflanked by the simple reality that people in this country just don't believe - and just won't accept - that gay love and fidelity is 'sinful'.

People need to hang in, and seek justice, and keeping calling out the claims and sanctions of bishops, and the decency and preciousness of all people seeking to live in devoted fidelity in relationships. Because this is an issue that isn't going away, and nor must we.

We are the Church. And the public needs to know that more and more of us affirm and embrace people's relationships, without discrimination because of their orientation. In my view and experience, evangelicalism is problematic at the point where the bible is treated as inerrant and infallible.

It's also problematic because of the 'influence' centres within evangelicalism, that extend beyond Anglicanism, but feed into it.

But evangelicalism is still sisters and brothers seeking Christ, and sincerely open to love in many ways, as both myself and my children have experienced.

Conscience needs to be respected, and that is a two-way street. That is the point that the bishops are currently missing, in their attempts to impose a partisan uniformity, where no uniformity exists.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 10:05am GMT

I don't know what you mean by "holding the power". If you keep staring at Ian Paul like a rabbit staring at headlights you will end up believing that he has power.
If you look around you and break the spell, you will realise that all around him, certainties are falling and that the only power he has is the one every other member in General Synod has - one vote.

Oasis may have been kicked out of the Evangelical Alliance but that only represents losing power if you believe that the EA is the centre of influence in the church.

Change will come from the pews where hearts and minds are changing, where the practice of how churches treat lgbt people changes. The rest will follow.

As for calling someone progressive, it is quite possible to be progressive on some issues and mired in prejudice on others.
I'm sure it's true of all of us that we have very liberal views on some issues and are far more conservative on others. General labels beyond individual issues don't do anyone justice.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 10:24am GMT

Have people seen this response on Anglican Ink?

Posted by Fr James at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 10:35am GMT

I wonder if it's the case in the UK (as I believe it is in the US) than when Evangelicals become LGBT-affirming, they are no longer *perceived* as Evangelical by other Evangelicals? That condemnation of LGBTs (if expressing anything other than life-long celibacy, and rejection of all things "gay") is THE measure by which Evangelicals evaluate a (putative) Evangelical's adherence to Solo Scriptura?

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 12:59pm GMT

It is a Nigerian canonry.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 1:06pm GMT

What a powerful and insightful post, Susannah! I do tend towards the hardheaded, it's true, and it's good and necessary for us all to be reminded of the many causes for hope. We are the church, indeed, and though the arc of the moral universe is too long at times, it does still bend towards justice. A better day will dawn.

Erika, it's not just Ian Paul, but Pete Broadbent, Nicky Gumbel, Libby Lane, Justin Welby, John Sentamu, and most other leaders of progressive evangelicalism. Broadbent fought for secular gay rights when society scorned them: he's demonstrably not prejudiced, but conscientiously following scripture as he understands it.

It's true that groups like the Evangelical Alliance don't speak for all, but until serious rivals emerge, they're the only voice heard. Progressive evangelicals need a pulpit of their own.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 2:36pm GMT

Re JCF's comment: I remember sitting next to an evangelical (who shall be nameless) at General Synod when Bishop John Gladwin talked of his change of heart over the 'Gay issue'. In the course of his speech he described himself as an evangelical. My synodical colleague immediately hissed, "ex."

Posted by Richard Franklin at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 2:58pm GMT

I remember Bishop John Gladwin relating a tale of his enthronement at Guildford, which was, of course, after he had preached his memorable and controversial sermon at Southwark cathedral. When Bishop Gladwin was preaching the sermon at his enthronement at Guildford a member of the congregation stood up and started protesting that someone who had spoken up for inclusivity in the Church for those of homosexual orientation should be being enthroned as Diocesan Bishop of Guildford! Inevitably a Steward descended upon the protester and was told in no uncertain terms "If you lay a finger upon me I will call the police". To which the Steward responded - "Well, actually, I am the Chief Constable of Surrey."

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 4:54pm GMT

A quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu which says it all for me:
"I am proud that in South Africa, when we won the chance to build our own new constitution, the human rights of all have been explicitly enshrined in our laws. My hope is that one day this will be the case all over the world, and that all will have equal rights. For me this struggle is a seamless robe. Opposing apartheid was a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination against women is a matter of justice. Opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a matter of justice.

"It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all -- all of us -- part of God's family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honor. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are.

"Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical -- the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act; the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reasons have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?

"The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority. I myself could not have opposed the injustice of penalizing people for something about which they could do nothing -- their race -- and then have kept quiet as women were being penalized for something they could do nothing about -- their gender; hence my support for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.

"Equally, I cannot keep quiet while people are being penalized for something about which they can do nothing -- their sexuality. To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was."

Posted by Brenda Herrick at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 5:05pm GMT

The behaviour of Evangelical and other anti-gay christians has terrible consequences for people in the real world, thus rendered vulnerable : -

I am waiting for Evangelical bishops and General Synod members, PCCs etc to to take bold steps for lgbt people - not just claim to have a change of mind- however slight and hidden.

Some of us have been waiting in Evangelical churches since childhood and time is running out for us, at least. There is nt all the time in the world.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 6:44pm GMT

what I keep trying to say is that there are many serious progressive evangelical voices. And they are being heard.

That some so called progressives who, despite having been involved in the debate for a long time and knowing very well how much harm is caused to lgbt people by the church do not change their minds is neither here nor there. And whether we call them prejudiced or motivated by their understanding of Scripture is also irrelevant. What matters is that they're rigid. They probably always will be. But it doesn't matter.

That evangelicals who are conservative on this subject immediately dismiss affirming evangelicals as "ex" evangelicals is also neither here nor there.

I'm not half as certain as you are the Libby Lane and Justin Welby are as rigid as the others you list, and certainly, Justin Welby has moved a lot in the last few years.
Nicky Gumble hasn't said anything at all for a fairly long time.
There are many prominent evangelicals whose voices are being heard in the liberal world and many others who are being heard clearly among evangelicals.

Having these conversations sometimes feels like listening to some British people keep insisting that it's time that Muslims loudly condemn terror attacks, only to ignore the many many Muslim voices that repeatedly do so.

The church is changing, the evangelical sector of it is also changing. All conservatives can do is to delay that change for a little bit longer.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 6:45pm GMT

"It's true that groups like the Evangelical Alliance don't speak for all, but until serious rivals emerge, they're the only voice heard"

But they are inevitably dying. Attitudes to homosexuality are a defining touchstone amongst people born before about 1960: in order to respect rights for gay people they had to break with the almost universal condemnation of their parents' generation and therefore crossed some sort of rubicon at that point. Those that didn't make that move increasingly saw/see opposition to gay rights as a shorthand for a whole bunch of complaints about modernity. Amongst older people, it's a live debate, and for both "sides" it's a proxy for a whole set of other attitudes.

There is no such schism amongst young people. Aside from a tiny, tiny handful who adopt homophobic attitudes to fit into an in-group, you simply won't be able to find educated middle-class homophobes (I say educated middle-class, because the recruitment into leadership in churches of any stripe is almost exclusively from that demographic). From broadly homophobic attitudes being the common position with progressive attitudes unusual and brave, it's now the opposite.

If evangelicals don't change, they will simply die out. Martin Percy's attitudes will not be remotely exceptional amongst students and staff at the House; I would be astounded if there are twenty people currently members of Oxford university who would agree with Chris Sugden.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 7:35pm GMT

I agree, Richard, that for many evangelicals, affirming gay relationships is often used as a boundary-marker -- but the suspicion's tied to the fact that the most prominent affirming evangelicals tend to be theologically liberal in general.

Steve Chalke has questioned PSA and biblical authority; Rachel Held Evans likewise (she's now an episcopalian); Rob Bell infamously flirted with universalism.

The reason's plain -- people tend to be generally open-minded -- yet just goes to illustrate why affirmation of gay relationships is in such tension with evangelical theology. If we shift on this, many evangelicals fear, the whole house of cards could collapse around us. All, or nothing.

Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 8:00pm GMT

"... is it not time to do a reversal of what they did in West Yorkshire and the Dales and revisit the plan to split the diocese of Oxford into three dioceses - Berks, Bucks and Oxon?"

Tongue in cheek from Father David no doubt, but as a newly elected member of the Dioceses Commission I can assure him that the current direction of travel will be maintained, at least if my views hold any sway on the Commission!

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 9:01pm GMT

We mustn't feed Mr Sugden's sense of his own importance by attributing any authority to his views. Like Anglican 'Mainstream', his opinions - to which he's entitled - have no more value than anyone else's in the Church of England. Everyone knows he speaks for an extremist fringe and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Posted by FrDavidH at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 9:45pm GMT

We shouldn't be complacent about gay rights, Interested Observer: a 2014 Stonewall report* found that, while there have been improvements in recent years, homophobic bullying remains endemic in British schools, and is higher in Britain's many religious schools.

Plenty college students oppose homophobia not out of conviction, but to fit in; just as, back in school, they joined in (or at least, turned a blind eye to) the merciless bullying anyone so much as suspected of being gay.

Things have undoubtedly gotten better, but there's no neat cutoff age for homophobia, and given the right circumstances, it can easily spread once again. To stop it requires constant vigilance. The battle's being won, but it won't end anytime soon.


Posted by James Byron at Wednesday, 23 December 2015 at 11:04pm GMT

I very much agree with Erika Baker's comments; and, up to a point, with 'Interested Observer.'

The Church of England has been cleansing gay and bi people and their allies from its ministry and leadership for years. Sadly, many young people will not join the church at all; in a strange way, those churches which attract people who want something "counter-cultural" feeling (often homophobic churches)have an easier time attracting that demographic. The result is a dying-out, but it is a dying-out of the Church of England as a whole - general decline, with an increase in numbers in a small sphere of (often anti-gay) churches. Perhaps some day everyone in the church will be "pro-LGBT" but - unless the direction is drastically reversed - not before the church has become a small body of sectarian so-called "counter-cultural" people.

All that said, I have great faith that things can and will change, with the help of God. But not if our hands lie complacent.

Posted by David Beadle at Thursday, 24 December 2015 at 11:50pm GMT

I'm not as certain as Interested Observer and others than we can fully extrapolate from social acceptance into theological acceptance.

The trap set by the evangelical movement is this. They suggest - as we have seen - that embarking on a same sex relationship is a "lifestyle choice". Rejecting that though leads to the unedifying argument (for Christians) that people ought to be able to marry anybody to whom they are sexually attracted (regardless of gender) - essentially to argue in favour of lasciviousness and Bible teaching clearly stands against that. Of course, many heterosexual marriages are equally based on sexual attraction but the issue of potential procreation can lend a fig leaf of respectability. It is a mere fig leaf - but it's one many heterosexual priests and others hide behind and they won't let it be ripped from them.

The difficulty is that gay, secular advocacy is all about the right to choose a sexual partner but those lines of argument don't play well in a theological space.

A far, far stronger argument is that the priesthood must resonate with the full diversity of the potential congregation. Mistreatment of gay priests makes all gay Christians feel marginalised, even ostracised. That's the theological issue which needs to be highlighted.

If the argument for LGBT support is shaped in whether it is a lifestyle choice, the argument IMO is lost because every possible answer is poisonous to some degree. If instead the argument is shaped in the necessity of a diverse priesthood to enable successful mission, then suddenly it becomes hard to justify any approach other than embracing gay priests.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 25 December 2015 at 2:29am GMT

The point is, who do we believe - about the question of whether or not God loves gay people as much as heterosexuals: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa, or Honorary Canon Chris Sugden of Nigeria? The first has actual extensive parish ministry experience; the second, a first curacy only, in the Church of England.

I like to remember the Holy Week antiphon: "Where charity and love are - there is God".

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 25 December 2015 at 10:17am GMT

My above should finish:

all matters that come before me without fear or favour”

Posted by DBD at Friday, 25 December 2015 at 8:45pm GMT

"The first has actual extensive parish ministry experience; the second, a first curacy only, in the Church of England."

The first is an world-famous bishop whose ministry was a substantial contributor to the peaceful end of apartheid for which, properly rewarded with the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize and, awarded only to him and to Robin Eames, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Award for Outstanding Service to the Anglican Communion.

The other is Chris Sugden.

I suspect that it is unlikely that anyone would confuse them. One preached peace and reconciliation in times of trouble, the other shouts vainly against the world and is roundly ignored by almost everyone.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 25 December 2015 at 10:20pm GMT

It's small wonder that when younger people look into the church (and, perhaps, other faith groups) they often--perhaps mostly--encounter religiosities that have turn people into dreadful human beings, and want nothing to do with it.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Monday, 28 December 2015 at 11:47am GMT
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