Review of “More Perfect Union?: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage” by Bishop Alan Wilson

moreperfectunion Bishop Alan Wilson, More Perfect Union?: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage (DLT, 2014).

As the Church of England begins two years of Shared Conversations focussed on sexuality, probably the most vocal episcopal critic of current teaching and practice, Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, has set out his case for change in More Perfect Union?: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage (DLT). For those still unclear about the substance and tone of Anglican arguments for same-sex marriage this is a short, readable guide.  Although helpful in giving a sense of much revisionist rhetoric and argument it suffers the fatal flaw he levels against his opponents (40) - preaching to the choir and cutting almost no ice with anyone else.

The book’s main arguments

The central arguments are clear and starkly set out. Fundamentally, the church is in a mess and serious error in rejecting equal marriage and its approach to sexuality more generally (a constant theme particularly focussed in the first and last chapters). The church has ignored scientific evidence in relation to biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, preferring simplistic “Janet and John” falsehoods (chpt 2). It has lost sight of the fact that “equality is the ground bass of the Bible story from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem” (53, argued throughout chpt 3). Even the most basic understanding of how to read the Bible (“Scripture 101”, chpt 4) would show that traditional claims about biblical teaching on homosexuality are wrong and “based on a tiny handful of words and sound bites” (67, opening chpt 5). In fact, the Bible shows us marriage is constantly changing and its definitions “always come from lived experience of its realities, in the different social contexts of the Bible story” (99, concluding chpt 6) as Jesus himself taught (121). Marriage’s evolving character is evident too from its four phases in Christian history (chpt 7) although we can now see that “the Puritan concept of it as a personal partnership of equals has stolen the show” (121). In the context of globalisation, faced with enormous diversity in understandings and evaluations of homosexuality and marriage, we need, for the sake of mission and to bear witness to the gospel of reconciliation, to view these questions as the apostolic church viewed attitudes to food laws, allowing respect for conscientious judgments and diversity in different contexts (chpt 8). Wilson’s own judgment, though, is clear – opening marriage to same-sex couples is right and will enrich not endanger it because, in his closing words, “the gold standard for human relationships is not control or hierarchy, but self-giving love” (164).

Not a fence but a chasm

In relation to these matters of substance, the book makes very clear just how deep and wide-ranging the differences often are between supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage in relation to world view, theology, methodology, and understanding of the biblical and historical evidence and its implications. Despite his apparent belief the church can remain united with some form of “reconciled diversity”, Bishop Alan is also clear, having tried to perch on it, that “there is no fence to sit on” (135, also xvi). I would agree the church is in a mess and cannot, now it is faced with same-sex marriage, continue to muddle on as it has done. On almost all the other book’s central claims I would find myself on the other side of the fence from the author. I finished reading it feeling alienated rather than attracted by his style, and so unconvinced by his evidence and the conclusions he draws that it feels we are in danger of being reduced to shouting across a chasm. In the hope that there may still be some value in ongoing dialogue about our differences, I will set out a few of the substantial disagreements with his main claims.

Evaluating his main arguments

It is far from clear to me that “the science is pretty much nailed” (157) in all the four categories he identifies (as shown by, for example, Stein’s conclusion in The Mismeasure of Desire). Furthermore, unlike the bishop, I think Scripture and theology can contribute something in the disagreements he highlights (particularly in relation to behaviour or “gender expression”), because, even if we reach consensus on biology, it is neither destiny nor, in a fallen world, an infallible guide to God’s purposes.

Turning to the book’s handling of Scripture, the privileging of equality as “the ground bass” and “broad gauge” in Scripture is asserted rather than defended. Its plausibility in part depends on how the term is understood. However, the complex meanings of equality (a contested term in political philosophy and practice) and how it relates to evaluating different patterns of life is similarly left largely unexplored, apart from claims that the litmus test is interchangeability (48). Even more seriously, there is no recognition that the traditional reading is not a matter of the five or six texts he examines but rather an alternative “broad gauge” biblical theology. The further fact that he then spends five pages on Sodom and three on Leviticus but only two each on Romans 1 and the other Pauline texts shows what a misleading presentation of traditionalist exegesis and hermeneutics he offers.

The account of marriage in the Bible helpfully highlights the diversity of forms of marriage. The claim, however, to find “at least seven different definitions” (84) in the Old Testament – like his astonishing assertion that most biblical marriages seem to have been polygamous or his appeal to Solomon without regard to Scripture’s negative judgment on his multiples wives (85) - is never really explained or defended. His stronger claims that Scripture’s diversity therefore authorises us to accept society’s evolving accounts of marriage raise even more questions. Just as any appeal to the constancy of marriage needs to account for its diversity, any account, such as this, which stresses change, needs to explain what provides continuity. Continuity is needed if all these historical forms can be identified as variants of a single created institution. Furthermore, if there are no trans-cultural norms then there is no basis for a critique of social changes. These issues are simply not addressed.

Jesus’ sayings in the gospels may be of help here, but not in the way claimed. Bishop Alan highlights the fact that Jesus taught that marriage is “of this age” and not present in the age to come. He seem to conclude from this that Jesus wants us to understand that “as the ages unfold marriage changes all the time” (88). A non-eschatological view seemingly justifies historicist, often progressivist, understandings: Jesus means that “marriage was a formally secular matter – bound to each passing age in turn” (101). In fact, faced with competing social understandings relating to dissolving marriage, Jesus critiques historical forms. He does so in the light of God’s spoken past revelation and his purpose in creation, including the creation of male and female (Mt 19.4-5). Wilson notes this but simply dismisses “those who believe in the Janet and John binary theory of sex and gender” and who (like, it should be noted, the Church of England canon and liturgy) see Jesus’ reference to Genesis “as importing gender into his definition of marriage” (89). Instead he claims that “before the Fall the prime purpose of Eve was friendship not sex”. But if this was Jesus’ intention then he could have more easily taught it by joining Gen 2.24 (“For this reason a man shall leave….”) with 2.18 (“It is not good for the man to be alone…”) rather than with God’s differentiation of humanity into male and female in Genesis 1.27.

In his overview of Christian history, it is encouraging to see Augustine treated positively rather than (as in many accounts) being dismissed as the problem. Wilson is, however, not persuasive in claiming him for a definition of marriage which downplays or eliminates procreation. This minimising of the physical and the privileging of spiritual union, earlier claimed to be biblically based (in the Bible, marriage’s “spiritual and relational aspects developed beyond consideration of sex, gender or children” (99)), can appeal to some writers within the tradition. Here, though, it is given too prominent a place, thereby distorting the tradition, in order to justify a development – extending marriage to same-sex couples – which lacks support in both Scripture and tradition.

The penultimate chapter discusses how to handle Christian disagreements over marriage. Bishop Alan discusses the role of a bishop in such situations, offering an analogy of a father with a pacifist son and a soldier son (136f). Leaving aside questions of the value of the analogy and his conclusion, it is far from clear to me that in this book he acts in the manner he here commends. This leads, finally, to the crucial question of the book’s tone.

The book’s tone

From start to finish the bishop expresses disdain and contempt for those with whom he disagrees. The misrepresentation of opponents to Jeffrey John’s appointment on the second page (“personal abuse and vilification of his sexual orientation”, xiv) is followed by constant negative and inaccurate descriptions of a “stance against gay people” (5) from a “self-righteous conservative rump” and “tiny clique of reactionary activists” (7) who hold a “homophobic theology” (44). Rather than articulate and respond to their serious arguments, those who defend the Christian doctrine of marriage are frequently presented in the worst light as extremists and nutters: he appeals to what he admits was “one of the stranger letters I received” (86) asserting Jesus would have boycotted the Cana wedding if it was a same-sex marriage and quotes those who blame bad weather on the change in the law (147) and who fear the human race will soon die out (148). In contrast, the weaknesses in his own stance and the views of its advocates are totally ignored. He can even quote Malcolm Johnson being a guide to “the reality of gay clergy lives” and part of the process which “opened people’s eyes” to the faithfulness of gay relationships (6) without acknowledging that Johnson, in the very book he quotes, states that his own long-term quasi-marital relationship was a sexually open one (and that he believes most male same-sex partnerships are of this form).

The reasons for Wilson’s vehemence and dismissive attitude to those who oppose his views is revealed in his discussion of equality. He sees same-sex marriage as fundamentally a matter of combating injustice and prejudice. Indeed, even those who support civil partnerships but oppose same-sex marriage are compared to racists and supporters of apartheid (49-50), an astonishing analogy for a bishop to draw in relation to the long-established teaching of the Christian church about marriage. Would he really have agreed to serve and continue to serve as a bishop in a South African church defending apartheid?

In the face of such language, methodology and comparisons, it is hard to take seriously the book’s occasional attempts to reassure traditionalists they will be respected if the church accepts same-sex marriage. Nor will readers be convinced by the bishop’s call for “honest disagreement that takes everyone as seriously as everyone else” (146). Given the book’s various glowing commendations it seems it may be taken as a guide by those seeking change. If so, then its tone makes it very hard to approach the conversations with much hope or enthusiasm. This concern is strengthened by the fact that on at least three occasions (13, 50, 137) the bishop is clear that as long as the church does not change then he will simply conclude that people have heard nothing rather than consider whether the arguments for his view have not proved persuasive.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the book will give readers a clear sense of the areas the church has to wrestle with and the style of arguments advanced by many Christians who favour same-sex marriage. It fails, however, even to describe accurately, let alone evaluate fairly, the arguments of those who remain committed to the church’s teaching as biblical. It is thus neither a helpful guide for those who are confused and seeking to weigh the arguments nor a book able to win over those who approach it sceptical of its position. Although not addressing same-sex marriage, and not without its own problems, those wanting to read a Church of England bishop engaging critically with the arguments and concluding against the tradition are still better served by Michael Doe’s Seeking the Truth in Love, also from DLT back in 2000. Is it too much to hope that, before the Shared Conversations are over, it might be possible to recommend an accessible book from at least one Church of England bishop which articulates and defends, graciously and respectfully, what the church teaches about sex and marriage and why it is good news?

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39 Responses to Review of “More Perfect Union?: Understanding Same-Sex Marriage” by Bishop Alan Wilson

  1. Simon Cawdell
    Simon Cawdell October 15, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    The thread is now closed to further comments.

  2. Bowman Walton
    Bowman Walton October 15, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    “WHAT IF God is not a book and his Holy Spirit is indeed speaking into history to this generation on this issue.”

    Jane, you are quite right. St Mary’s happy exclamation, “He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts and hath exalted the humble and meek” is truly a verse for this generation. Yet our God is not a silly cause-chaser. He is speaking to the heart of this generation from all sides of our discussions. No law without gospel; no gospel without law. Each of us faces judgment and hope so intertwined that none can have one without the other.

    For just two examples of many, He is judging conservative complacency with practises of social marginalisation because He wants the Church to serve Christ in everyone, but He is also promising to be present with them in a deeper way as they bring the gospel to the darkness that they have feared. Likewise, He is judging the spiritual wasteland of a liberalism that echoes the public values of the godless but has no vision of personal holiness in Christ, just as He also promises those who return to his discipleship that they will find their lives transfigured and their hopes for human society fulfilled in the mystery of Pentecost.

    So you are quite right that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church. Those who do not heed Him because of the proud reasonings of their hearts, conservative or liberal, will find that by their own choice they are dust before the Whirlwind. Those who do heed Him, conservative or liberal, will see dry bones live again.

    “WHAT IF we stop using the clobber verses to clobber people and start treating the Bible with respect.”

    Jane, you’ve startled me into the realisation that we do not often see clobber verses here in Fulcrum. Over the past few years, our most persistent arguments have been about the disputed meanings of the Greek text. As one might expect, the scriptures are often mentioned in Fulcrum essays, but recent interpretive approaches have included C1 midrash (on Jesus), situational hermeneutics (on C1 women teaching), and neo-apocalyptic (on climate change). I would love to see us treat each other with a bit more empathy, but the Bible is discussed here, not just with respect, but with love.

    In this thread, David Shepherd’s comments on telic orientation have bridges to scripture (my comment) and prayer (Rachel’s comment). Please cross them with us!

    “WHAT IF every day that we fail to move forward on this, is one more day on which we are keeping God waiting.”

    It is. And we are waiting because all sides will not submit to what the Holy Spirit is saying to them through the rest of the Body of Christ. God will reject every one-sided vision in the end.

    “Those who have ears, let them hear.”

  3. Jane Newsham October 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    But WHAT IF God is not a book and his Holy Spirit is indeed speaking into history to this generation on this issue
    and WHAT IF we stop using the clobber verses to clobber people and start treating the Bible with respect
    and WHAT IF we acknowledge that discrimination by our church policies against any group, for any characteristic, undermines God’s wider kingdom purposes to see people come to faith
    and WHAT IF we respect the rights of people in civil partnerships and same-sex marriages to self-identify as gay to the same degree that we would respect their right to self-identify on the basis of skin colour
    and WHAT IF we hold civil partnered and same-sex married couples accountable to God for the sexual component of their relationships rather than held accountable to the leadership teams of their local conservative churches
    and WHAT IF we are called to renounce all notions of heterosexist supremacy and privilege (when we see that straight and gay people are equally Christian, equally committed to their discipleship, equally loved and blessed by God in their relationships)
    And WHAT IF every day that we fail to move forward on this, is one more day on which we are keeping God waiting
    then surely even Bishop Alan’s hastily and idiosyncratically written book has a profound part to play and couldn’t be more timely (notwithstanding its evident frustration with those who are not ‘with’ us but ‘against’ us)?

    • David Shepherd October 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      But WHAT IF God hasn’t spoken by the Prophets and Apostles, such as Moses, Isaiah and St. Paul, as the communion of saints testify?

      But WHAT IF God is just like a men, who lie and repent of earlier pronouncements through those prophets?

      But WHAT IF Jesus hadn’t used clobber verses to distance His teachings from both the ritualist Pharisees *and* the rationalist Sadducees?

      But WHAT IF we acknowledge that discrimination by our church policies against any group, for any characteristic, including genetic sexual attraction, undermines God’s wider kingdom purposes to see people come to faith.

      and WHAT IF we respect the rights of people in close-family and polygamous marriages to self-identify as such to the same degree that we would respect their right to self-identify on the basis of skin colour.

      and WHAT IF we hold those in close-family and polygamous marriages accountable to God for the sexual component of their relationships rather than held accountable to the leadership teams of their local conservative churches.

      and WHAT IF we are called to renounce all notions of monogamist supremacy and privilege (when we see that monogamous and polygamous people are equally Christian, equally committed to their discipleship, equally loved and blessed by God in their relationships)

      And WHAT IF every day that we fail to move forward on this, is one more day on which we are keeping God waiting

      then surely…

  4. Rachel Marszalek October 14, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    “Much of the gospel and epistles challenge us to adopt a present mindset consistent with what we are challenged to become, rather than what we characteristically are: ‘put on’ and ‘put off’; ‘flee’ and ‘walk after’; ‘mortify’ and ‘yield’; ‘let this mind be in you’, ‘think on these things’. The challenge of the Christian ‘calling’ is very much a telic one. The disagreement is really about how much of what we are in this world is what we should be.”

    Thank you for this – it is for this reason that whilst we must be extremely cautious about the role of prayer-based approaches to those exploring sexual identity, and of course, I am aware of the statistics, we can not totally dismiss its effectiveness on occasions. Peter Ould testifies to its efficacy. There is much exploration now regarding that ‘transformation of the mind’ about which St Paul speaks. The epigenetics that Alan Wilson references in his book is a very real phenomenon. To locate our sense of self with this reference to the telic is persuasive, it would help us to approach these issues with the currently popular tendency towards eschatologically orientated hermeneutics but in such a way that other possibilities are there for us in terms of sexual identity as Christians.

    • Educated Christian October 14, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      What do you mean by “sexual identity”? Do you mean sexuality or sex i.e. male/female identity? The “gay” ideology makes sex all-important in life yet confuses what it is.
      This ideology is deeply unchristian in too many ways to list, and it worships “sexuality” as being innate and immutable, while regarding actual physical sex as dubious, fictitious, culturally conditioned, and something the individual has a right to change. Wilson calls it “Janet and John”. There are so many confusions and contraditions in the LGBT ideology that the best thing to do with it is bin the whole lot.
      There is no possible way of reconciling this materialistic, sex-obsessed, self-obsessed, gratification world-view with Christian belief, or indeed with any spiritual tradition.

      • Bowman Walton
        Bowman Walton October 14, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

        “To locate our sense of self with this reference to the telic is persuasive, it would help us to approach these issues with the currently popular tendency towards eschatologically orientated hermeneutics but in such a way that other possibilities are there for us in terms of sexual identity as Christians.”

        “What do you mean by “sexual identity”? Do you mean sexuality or sex i.e. male/female identity? The “gay” ideology…”

        I do not know what Rachel Marszalek meant by “sexual identity” either, EC, but if she was referring to David Shepherd’s comment 874 then we can safely rule out anything that “makes sex all-important in life yet confuses what it is… worships ‘sexuality’ as being innate and immutable, while regarding actual physical sex as dubious, fictitious, culturally conditioned, and something the individual has a right to change… [a] materialistic, sex-obsessed, self-obsessed, gratification world-view.”

        http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/articles/review-of-more-perfect-union-understanding-same-sex-marriage-by-bishop-alan-wilson/#comment-874

  5. John Bunyan October 12, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Thank you for a very helpful review that will not only be welcomed by “Evangelical” Anglicans but by some of other traditions also. As a rather liberal, broad church (though culturally conservative) priest, I remain unpersuaded by the arguments for so-called “gay marriage” (not authorised here in Australia) and our new Primate, the Archbishop of Melbourne, of a moderate Catholic tradition has also expressed his support for the biblical and historical understanding of marriage. Even to defend it not uncommonly leads to one being passionately dismissed as homophobic but it is good to have a good defence from those who minds are less ancient than mine !

    • Educated Christian October 13, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      There is no such thing as “homophobia”. Homosexuals must learn to accept criticism like everybody else.
      They are very vociferous in critcizing others.

  6. Bowman Walton
    Bowman Walton October 11, 2014 at 4:32 am #

    “I finished reading it feeling alienated rather than attracted by his style, and so unconvinced by his evidence and the conclusions he draws that it feels we are in danger of being reduced to shouting across a chasm. In the hope that there may still be some value in ongoing dialogue about our differences…”

    Thank you, Andrew, for acting on that hope, on this and on other occasions.

    I wonder whether this describes the chasm as it appears from the no man’s land between the two sides–

    (1) An avant garde is challenging mass custom with elite support;

    (2) The only changes in church practise being considered are revolutionary, not experimental or incremental;

    (3) The rival theologies on offer are strongly universalising and *seem* not to admit the possibility of acts of God, anomalies, exceptions, known unknowns, etc;

    (4) One of them has not been *shown* to be rooted in the core of tradition, and the other has not been *shown* to be rooted in present pastoral reality;

    (5) The apparent support for revision of teaching on homosexuality is inflated by those who see that revision as a vehicle for other desired changes in mores;

    (6) There is no counterplan on offer that seriously addresses disenchantment with the tradition whilst retaining its best features for the majority.

    (7) Although this a debate about a policy that will have consequences, clear predictions with supporting data and testimony are rare.

    • Educated Christian October 14, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Why are you situating yourself in “no man’s land”? Particularly in view of number 5, you should be enlisting as an activist for defending civilisation against the extremists.
      Youj say there is no counterplan on offer – of course you won’t hear about it since all the media including this website, are heavily censored in favour of the LGBT movement. The essential counterplan begins with removing all censorship , replacing it with GLASNOST and withdrawing all public funding for the LGBT movement at all levels. Without public funding they would never have got anywhere.
      There is plenty of “supporting data and testimony” to justify this but with prevailing censorship how can I tell you about it?

    • Bowman Walton
      Bowman Walton October 14, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      “I wonder whether this describes the chasm as it appears from the no man’s land between the two sides…”

      “Why are you situating yourself in “no man’s land”? Particularly in view of number 5, you should be enlisting as an activist for defending civilisation against the extremists.”

      Unpleasantly, EC, this is less like a war for civilisation than like one of our everlasting American election seasons. And you cannot win an election either here or there if nobody but your closest friends vote for you. Realistically, we need many more votes from No Man’s Land than we have been getting. We cannot win them if we do not understand what the voters there think better than the other side does.

      After all, the undecided are not unopinionated, nor are open minds empty minds. Nomanslanders are not people who tried to be just like us but somehow failed. And they may even be more right about a few things– even a few important things– than we are. So the view of Andrew’s chasm from No Man’s Land has some practical importance. Those serious about That Topic should discover what the undecided think, if they can. If they can’t, then they might, like me, speculate.

  7. Educated Christian October 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    Alan Wilson is a disgrace to the Church of England. It is obvious that he is not a Christian so why did he enter the Church? Having heard him speak live and read some of what he writes, I can’t help noticing that he has a very low opinon of Christianity and a very high opinion of Alan Wilson.
    He can’t resist dropping references to his doctorate and his Greek into everyting he says. Despite both of them, he is not as clever as he thinks, and his arguments are shallow.
    The Bible is on the side of equality?? Not at all. The Bible never teaches that vice is equal to virtue, or that sin is equal to goodness. God created sex a nd marriage and warned that deviance wdid not have his blessing. Not then and not now either, Sodom was a disgusting place that Lot couldn’t get out of fast enough. Jesus blessed the marriage at Cana with his presence, because it was a realmarriage with a bride and a groom.
    Jesus never taught “Blessed are the equalizers”. He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart”. The description “Pure in Heart” could not be applied to the people Alan Wilson defends who live together in order to practice promiscuity on the side, or indeed in tandem.
    What awful bishops we have got.
    I have heard Alan Wilson assert that people are born homosexual. That is scientific nonsense, At least eight independent studies have been carried out at universities and medical research institutes world wide and all have concluded that it is NOT genetic. The idea is absurd anyway, in the light of evolution. Genes only exist insofar as they encourage breeding offspring. There are thousands of examples of identical twins where only one is homosexual. Do a Google search on Jason and Jarron Collins and you will find lots of pictures of them.

    • Simon Cawdell
      Simon Cawdell October 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

      Whilst I have allowed this comment by ‘Educated Christian’ to be posted unedited I am doing so only to make the point that it is not the policy of this comments blog to allow ad homenem comments as made above. By all means criticise peoples views and actions, but remember that we deal with grace even when we strongly disagree. Nor do we allow generalised sweeps at whole categories of people in a way which can be seen to demean or demonise. All people are loved by God, and the way we speak of each other needs to reflect that, notwithstanding the fact we are also all sinners in need of redemption.

    • Bowman Walton
      Bowman Walton October 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      http://biblehub.com/text/james/1-20.htm

  8. [email protected] October 9, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Mr Goddard and other people may benefit from other scholars and believers who have engaged with many of these ‘chasm’ issues. Recommended basic reading might include:
    (1) Canon Gray Temple’s book, Gay Unions: In Light of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.
    (2) Tim Otto’s book, Oriented to Faith.
    (3) Peter Aelred’s book, To Melt A Golden Calf.
    (4) Peter Achtemeier’s book, The Bible’s Yes to Same Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.
    (5) Ken Wilson’s book, A Letter To My Congregation.
    (6) Peter Enn’s book, The Bible Tells Me So.
    and – perhaps the single most comprehensive scholarly overview? –
    (7) Professor James Brownson’s book, Bible, Gender, Sexuality.

    But back to the sciences for a second. It is true that the precise combination of causes in anybody’s human sexual orientation are as yet not known.

    What do we know? Well, we empirically know the following:
    1. sexual orientation variance as such has no, repeat, NO, influence on how moral/ethical or immoral/unethical a particular person’s daily life, adjustment, and thriving turn out to be.

    2. cultural negatives, i.e., legacy beliefs and attitudes often put into action, have a huge bad effect on a great many LGBT youth and adults. Higher risk of suicide, self-harm, substance use or abuse, taking health risks, and other careless beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors are all based on a dominant cultural legacy which tells LGBT people they are the lowest of the low, the worst of the worst, and doomed to whatever specific society’s believe is the darkest and most dramatically painful lethalities in their cultural view of human life.

    3. the two most important practical manifestations of item 2, as empirically demonstrated to date, are:
    (A) family negatives, such as trash talking the LGBT family member, excluding him or her from family life and family relationships, and/or ostracizing the LGBT family member.

    Plus (B) religious/faith community negatives which empirically tend to mirror the family negatives in a sort of ripple effect, with downhill effects reinforcing family negatives.

    4. great variations in human gender identity, gender roles, personal gendered expressions, and similar domains of human life are able to be observed over many different cultures. Empirically speaking, two paradoxical findings tend to stand out:
    (A) when we gather sufficiently large group data, we can find persistent male/female differences that reliably show up in the group data.
    (B) However, individual males or females exhibit such wide variations in all of these gender-connected domains that it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain any empirical detriment to individual persons, owing to their variance in one or more dimensions of gender-related domains. Any particular individual man or woman may turn out to be a statistical outlier, an occupant of the middle/average ranges of a bell-shaped curve distribution, or an occupant of anywhere else on the empirical gender variance spectrums …. please note the ‘S’ … on spectrums.

    5. Quality of parenting outcomes and child to young adult adjustment and human thriving is not negatively affected, as such, by the gender and/or sexual orientation variances of one’s parent or parents. Extremely heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual parents simply do not have a simple, direct effect on their child’s gender domains or sexual orientation. This empirical bit is well known, though under-appreciated as evidence: Most LGBT people had heterosexual parents.

    6. the familiar hypothesis that bad or non-optimal parenting leads to, or causes, sexual orientation variance cannot be sustained when one considers the research, as well as everyday human knowledge of average to above average, to very high functioning LGBT people in our families, schools, workplaces, or faith communities.

    The empirical hypothesis testing to date is firm and clear: poor parenting typically leads to a child having relationship difficulties, but quite apart from that child’s variance in gender domains and/or in sexual orientation.

    One of the most prominent ‘crunches’ thus becomes, this: Almost all of the supposed empirical basis for regarding LGBT people as less able or more negatively prone to every day life difficulty …. is not confirmed …. by six to seven past recent decades of solid research.

    • David Shepherd October 12, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      @[email protected]:

      1. You claim that sexual orientation variance has no influence on the moral/ethical, adjustment and thriving out-turns of a person’s daily life. How is sexual orientation scientifically correlated against moral outcomes? It would help for you to point us to a few studies that track this data.

      2. In the next breath, you completely attribute to cultural negatives, the ‘higher risk of suicide, self-harm, substance use and abuse, taking health risks. What evidence do you have that such adverse outcomes aren’t influenced by sexual orientation variance (thereby negating your first assertion)?

      For instance, why do we see the same adverse behaviour in countries, such as Denmark, that have much longer tradition of homosexual support than elsewhere?

      3. You claim that there’s empirical evidence demonstrating a link between religious/faith community negatives that reinforce family negatives and causing homosexual ostracism.

      It would be useful for you to cite the peer-reviewed studies in support of this causal link.

      Beyond sexual orientation, I’d be especially interested in what studies show of the impact of actual behavioural preferences on homosexual alienation. For instance, the Gay Men’s Sex Survey has revealed exceptionally high levels of multiple-partner high-risk sexual activity. There is no evidence that cultural negatives are the cause, rather than the result of this behaviour.

      4. You refer to overall and individual distribution of gender characteristics. Sexual orientation and gender are different charscteristics. You need to clarify why one is relevant to the other.

      5. In terms of parenting outcomes, we are aware that many early studies suffered from selection bias.

      You are no doubt aware of “Childhood Family Correlates of Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriages: A National Cohort Study of Two Million Danes,” by Morten Frisch and Anders Hviid, Archives of Sexual Behavior Oct 13, 2006.

      Denmark has a long history of tolerance towards homosexual relationships and was the first to legalise same-sex marriage. More than any other country, it could be described as devoid of cultural negatives. Yet the findings were as follows:

      1. Men who marry homosexually are more likely to have been raised in a family with unstable parental relationships — particularly, absent or unknown fathers and divorced parents.
      2. Findings on women who marry homosexually were less pronounced, but were still associated with a childhood marked by a broken family. The rates of same-sex marriage “were elevated among women who experienced maternal death during adolescence, women with short duration of parental marriage, and women with long duration of mother-absent cohabitation with father.”
      3. Men and women with “unknown fathers” were significantly less likely to marry a person of the opposite sex than were their peers with known fathers.
      4. Men who experienced parental death during childhood or adolescence “had significantly lower heterosexual marriage rates than peers whose parents were both alive on their 18th birthday. The younger the age of the father’s death, the lower was the likelihood of heterosexual marriage.”
      5. “The shorter the duration of parental marriage, the higher was the likelihood of homosexual marriage…homosexual marriage rates were 36% and 26% higher among men and women, respectively, who experienced parental divorce after less than six years of marriage, than among peers whose parents remained married for all 18 years of childhood and adolescence.”
      6. “Men whose parents divorced before their 6th birthday were 39% more likely to marry homosexually than peers from intact parental marriages.”
      7. “Men whose cohabitation with both parents ended before age 18 years had significantly (55% -76%) higher rates of homosexual marriage than men who cohabited with both parents until 18 years.”
      The mother’s age was directly linked to the likelihood of homosexual marriage among men — the older the mother, the more likely her son was to marry another man. Also, “only children” were more likely to be homosexual.
      8. Persons born in large cities were significantly more likely to marry a same-sex partner — suggesting that cultural factors might also affect the development of sexual orientation.

      This evidence demonstrates that the relationship of one’s parents has a greater influence on sexual orientation identity and behaviour than cultural negatives. It also explains why a person might have ‘little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation’.

      • Educated Christian October 12, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

        Thank you for this very interesting piece of research. You are quite correct that rates of suicide, mental breakdown, and drug-abuse in the homosexual population have risen steeply in those places where the law is most tolerant and where the highest concentrations of them live – e.g. the Netherlands, California, and big cities. Therefore it is illogical to blame heterosexuals for the negative behaviour patterns found in homosexuals.
        Their persistence in blaming us for everything is a slander and amounts to demonising and demeaning heterosexuals.

    • Educated Christian October 14, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      You say that “5. Quality of parenting outcomes and child to young adult adjustment and human thriving is not negatively affected, as such, by the gender and/or sexual orientation variances of one’s parent or parents. Extremely heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual parents simply do not have a simple, direct effect on their child’s gender domains or sexual orientation. This empirical bit is well known, though under-appreciated as evidence: Most LGBT people had heterosexual parents.”

      You are ill-informed. For a start, as most homosexuals had no children at all, there is no evidence to base a judgement on their parenting!!!
      But some do and you would do well to start by reading the article William Burroughs’ son wrote about him shortly before committing suicide.

  9. spych102 October 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    “The APA does not subscribe to the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). However, it does expect its membership, while having due regard to a person’s sexual orientation, to support people who may determine as a goal, that their behavioural expression and sexual identity should still be congruent with the values of their religion to which they belong.”

    You make an argument to support conversion therapy? Creepy…

    • David Shepherd October 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

      Quite the contrary, since conversion therapy is focused on sexual orientation, instead of sexual orientation identity. You’ve simply conflated the meanings of two distinct terms into one and the same.

      Sexual orientation identity refers to how a person’s sexual orientation affects the way in which they may define themselves. This has a greater bearing on actual behaviour than the sorts of unconscious attractions that they may experience. That’s what’s meant by telic congruence.

      Of course, you may choose to reject the science. Nevertheless, as the quoted APA study further explains ‘sexual orientation identity—not sexual orientation—appears to change via psychotherapy, support groups, and life events.’ (pp. 63, 86)

      • Bowman Walton
        Bowman Walton October 11, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

        David, is this the study that you are quoting?–

        http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf

      • Bowman Walton
        Bowman Walton October 12, 2014 at 2:23 am #

        The clash between telic and organismic visions of self-congruence is the very heart of That Topic. The reasoning of the APA task force on ‘telic congruence’ can be skimmed here–

        http://sitframework.com/resources/sitapa/

        Personally, I do not view that distinction as science, although it is clear thought accountable to evidence. The APA’s task force members were gay psychologists already opposed to SOCE, but compliant with the secular APA’s generally accommodating approach to religion. They distinguished telic from organismic congruence to enable scientific psychologists to help clients for whom religion is the main motivation for seeking change in the orientation of their sexual behaviour. The task force seems to have wanted to get qualified help to religious homosexuals in the care of practitioners they regarded as harmful quacks.

        That their ‘organismic congruence’ sounds so much like St Paul’s “flesh” (sarx) and their ‘telic congruence’ sounds so much his “spirit” (pneuma) in 1Thessalonians 5:23 is intriguing to say the least.

        http://biblia.com/bible/sblgnt/1Th5.23 (cf Heb. 4:12)

        However, the distinction between ‘telic congruence’ and ‘organismic congruence’ has been critiqued in papers here–

        http://josephnicolosi.com/papers2/

        –and the task force itself is critiqued here–

        http://josephnicolosi.com/who-were-the-apa-task-force-me/

        But if the scriptures follow a trichotomous model of the person, then believers might work with the distinction whatever its origin for the APA.

        Meanwhile, note that the distinction between telic and organismic sorts of congruence is implicitly a classification of religions. Religions that promote organismic congruence will want persons to form identities that fit who they somatically “are.” The Episcopal Church, in ordaining transsexuals, chooses to prioritise organismic congruence. Conversely, few evangelicals would deny that they prioritise telic congruence. As the task force points out, this is why evangelical homosexuals seek treatment to change their behaviour. Does one’s prior belief about the *right* sort of self-congruence really drive one’s views on That Topic?

        • David Shepherd October 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

          Bowman,

          Thanks for these links. Although I’ve read Nicolosi’s critiques of the telic/organismic congruence and the Task force composition, I’m not convinced that the distinction is just a secular accommodation of religious scruples.

          A key part of human behaviour is driven by how we categorize ourselves. A person can go from saying ‘I realize that I am characteristically attracted to a person of the same sex’ (orientation) to saying ‘I conform to the norms that I would attribute same-sex attracted people (orientation identity).

          The effect of comparing oneself with a peer group can lead to the adoption of the behavioural norms of that group (see Family and Peer Influences on Adolescent Behavior and Risk-Taking, 2010). In particular, even in Christian circles, I’ve witnessed organisations that not only shower with admiration those who come out, but also pour scorn and rebuke on those who defy LGBT orthodoxy by rejecting their attractions and entering an opposite-sex marriage.

          Telic congruence doesn’t mean that a person denies their predisposition to be attracted to the same-sex. It does mean that a person can learn to distinguish their motives for lasting sexual relationship from the mere motivation for having sex.

          For instance, a predominantly same-sex attracted male may meet a woman who is capable of partnering with him in all the joys and challenges of life-long companionship and founding of a natural family. Whatever his former life, they are both abhor resorting to artificial reproduction, esp. when they’re both perfectly fertile. A man in a passionately loving marriage might be suddenly widowed and respond to a religious calling that thenceforth demands celibacy.

          We could claim that none of these people are embracing what they somatically ‘are’. Yet, I can’t see why any of them should not be seen as self-congruent. Many people assume roles in life that might challenge their former predispositions.

          Indeed, life isn’t simply about what we somatically ‘are’. Christ reminds us that organismic wholeness will be consumed in service of telic fruitfulness (John 12:24). Much of the gospel and epistles challenge us to adopt a present mindset consistent with what we are challenged to become, rther than what we characteristically are: ‘put on’ and ‘put off’; ‘flee’ and ‘walk after’; ‘mortify’ and ‘yield’; ‘let this mind be in you’, ‘think on these things’. The challenge of the Christian ‘calling’ is very much a telic one.

          The disagreement is really about how much of what we are in this world is what we should be.

        • Bowman Walton
          Bowman Walton October 14, 2014 at 12:54 am #

          “I’m not convinced that the distinction is just a secular accommodation of religious scruples.”

          David, we seem to agree. Whatever its origin, if the distinction works for us, it works for us. That said, it can also be helpful in some conversations to point out that the distinction also makes sense as “a secular accommodation of religious scruples.” With those discussion partners, the APA origin of the distinction will probably have more credibility than exegeses of scripture.

          “That their ‘organismic congruence’ sounds so much like St Paul’s “flesh” (sarx) and their ‘telic congruence’ sounds so much his “spirit” (pneuma) in 1Thessalonians 5:23 is intriguing to say the least.”

          ‘Sarx : pneuma :: organismic : telic’ is intriguing, but 1 Corinthians 5.5 is a better example of St Paul’s usual dyadic contrast between flesh and spirit than 1 Thessalonians 5.23. The latter refers only to pneuma and does so in the context of a triadic anthropology.

          http://biblia.com/bible/sblgnt/1Co5.5

          Of course, both the dyad and the triad are relevant to pneuma. If the analogy holds, both are also relevant to telic congruence.

      • spych102 October 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

        I am totally creeped out by that! I trust in time you will find a way to repair the damage.

  10. David Shepherd October 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    ‘On what basis do you make this statement? This almost sounds like denying the earth is round’.

    On what basis is there an axiomatic level of consensus on sexual orientation?

    Even the American Psychological Association explains:

    ‘There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles;
    most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.’

    ‘If you believe that equality is not a repeating theme in the Bible do you therefore think that discrimination against particular groups is therefore OK?’

    Great ‘straw man’ rhetoric. In terms of equality, the New Testament doesn’t appear to champion the cause of universal Roman citizenship as a human right. So, I could also ask you: ‘if you believe that equality is a repeating theme in the Bible, do you therefore think that it’s never OK to deny automatic British Citizenship to any non-native group? Such as foreign-born Africans, Israelis, Chinese, Egyptians?’ Hopefully, because otherwise, that would be indirect discrimination. No-one can help that they ‘just happen to be born elsewhere’.

    Of course, British Citizenship (like marriage) is a claim right. There are qualifications because it triggers a duty on the part of others for recognition and support. Equality doesn’t end all forms of disqualification.

    ‘He actually makes a continuity argument that “Marriage everywhere has always been continuously redefined” and shows this to be the case through a Biblical and historical narrative.’

    Whatever Alan Wilson’s own argument, Christ harked back to the Genesis archetype to deduce that even Moses’ accommodation of divorce was provisional, insisting that ‘it was not so from the beginning’. On what basis, must the scope of deduction from Genesis be limited to no more than the permanence and the binary nature of marriage? What special pleading excludes gender?

    ‘People view such advocates with considerable moral disapproval and accuse them of hypocrisy.’

    Western people, you mean. Meanwhile, Bishop Alan Wilson shows no support for the diversity of permanent, stable and faithful polygamous marriage in the Third World, thereby attracting the accusation of selective liberal hypocrisy that largely tracks the black-white racial divide.

    • David Shepherd October 9, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      As a footnote, the APA acknowledges as scientific fact that: ‘Some individuals choose to live their lives in accordance with personal or religious values (e.g., telic congruence).’

      ‘We encourage LIcensed Medical Health Practitioners to support clients in determining their own (a) goals for their identity process; (b) behavioral expression of sexual orientation; (c) public and private social roles; (d) gender role, identity, and expression; (e) sex and gender of partner; and (f) form of relationship(s).

      (Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation).

      The APA does not subscribe to the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). However, it does expect its membership, while having due regard to a person’s sexual orientation, to support people who may determine as a goal, that their behavioural expression and sexual identity should still be congruent with the values of their religion to which they belong.

  11. Educated Christian October 8, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    As for the claim that “Marriage everywhere has always been continuously redefined” that is silly rubbish too. Marriage in every culture all over the world in every time has always been the union of a man to a woman.
    It has never been anything else.
    No culture or society has ever been so impoverished that is has lacked a clear, specific definition of the crucial union of male to female.
    We have a problem here of course with the emergence of so-called “Gay History” which is bad and unreliable history.

  12. Phil Roberts October 8, 2014 at 9:58 am #

    This has nothing to do with enabling homosexuals to get married in Church.

    There is no evidence homosexuals actually want to get married at all.

    When given the opportunity, they decline in massive numbers. The change is instead intended to excise the heterosexual norm as the purpose of marriage. It removes the public obligations of children and family and inserts companionship in its place. It is no longer a relationship that looks both backwards and forwards across generations.

    It is a transient relationship that exists solely for the benefit of the parties involved.

    Marriage is intended to constrain choices. It is intended to channel sexual desire in socially productive directions so that the current generation my replace itself with the next. It is however exactly this public role that is under attack. People desire to reject those obligations in order to serve themselves. They want sex without children. They want sex without marriage. They see sexual gratification without obligation as a fundamental right. That is why homosexual marriage is so dangerous to Christian marriage. The only way to make it comprehensible is to sever the connection between children and marriage. Doing so obliterates the principal social function of marriage and reduces it to a private relationship. Open or closed. Sterile or fertile. Permanent or transient. They are all arbitrary aspects of the relationship to be negotiated by each couple individually. There are no constraints in such a structure. There are only individual private preferences.

    The Church should have no part of it.

    • Bowman Walton
      Bowman Walton October 11, 2014 at 4:53 am #

      Should churches stop marrying entirely and leave the registration of relationships to the state? Is SSM really causing the change that you describe, or is it confirming a change that had already arrived? I am not unsympathetic with much that is said here, but this view seems to be already a minority view in societies like ours. How should we respond to that?

    • Educated Christian October 14, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      Well said.

  13. Phil Roberts October 8, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Incest is a hard issue for the new Anglican world of liberal sexuality. Modern Anglicans have spent years delegitimising the whole idea of structural boundaries in service to the normalisation of homosexuality.

    Then along comes some guy who beds his adult and very consenting daughter. Sexual morality is supposed to be determined by consent. But then along comes a consensual relationship they want to restrict. How do they do this without legitimatising the arguments made against homosexuality?

    It also sheds some light on the ‘yuck factor.’ Exactly what kind of reaction are we supposed to have to the idea of a father doing this sort of thing to his daughter? Scripture aside, (because Scripture it seems, now forms no basis in any argument within the Church) are we supposed to be ‘adult’ about such things and suppress our natural reaction? or should we just ‘get over it?’

    • Educated Christian October 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

      You are right. The same people who have made it a crime to express distaste or disapproval for homosexual behaviour (no matter how bizarre, fetishistic or unhealthy) labelling it “homophobia”, will soon demand to silence any disagreement with paedophilia and incest. The term “paedo-phobia” is already quite common in America and the term “incesto-phobia” will soon be taught to children in schools, with all the rest of this harmful ideology.

  14. Mulac October 8, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    2 Timothy 3 “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”

    I appreciate that the above is only the Word of God so therefore open interpret as the reader wishes but it does say something that any child of God would do well to take on board when considering this subject. Question:- do we try to rise to God’s level of righteousness or do we bring Him down to our own?

    The children’s chorus goes “Jesus loves me—this I know, For the Bible tells me so; Little ones to him belong,— They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! he Bible tells me so.”

    Question:- if the Bible tells me that Jesus loves me, how in my life can I show that I love Him?

  15. Bowman Walton
    Bowman Walton October 8, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham: Well, Isobel [Crawley] likes her causes, That’s all.

    Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham: No, righteous indignation is the fuel she runs on.

    — Downton Abbey, Series Four

    • Educated Christian October 10, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

      So what? Who cares about a soap opera?

      • Simon Cawdell
        Simon Cawdell October 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

        Sir, ‘Soap opera’ – how dare you… 😉 I am sure you mean ‘historical drama..’

  16. spych102 October 7, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    “It is far from clear to me that ‘the science is pretty much nailed’ (157)”

    On what basis do you make this statement? This almost sounds like denying the earth is round.

    “Turning to the book’s handling of Scripture, the privileging of equality as ‘the ground bass’ and’broad gauge’ in Scripture is asserted rather than defended.”

    If you believe that equality is not a repeating theme in the Bible do you therefore think that discrimination against particular groups is therefore OK? Such as Jews, Samaritans, Egyptians, Gentiles? Which groups would you put above the others in the pecking order?

    “Continuity is needed if all these historical forms can be identified as variants of a single created institution. ”

    He actually makes a continuity argument that “Marriage everywhere has always been continuously redefined” and shows this to be the case through a Biblical and historical narrative.

    “Furthermore, if there are no trans-cultural norms then there is no basis for a critique of social changes. These issues are simply not addressed.”

    There is a plain to see trans-cultural divide, and therefore there cannot be a norm; diversity already exists (and has always done so).

    “Rather than articulate and respond to their serious arguments, those who defend the Christian doctrine of marriage are frequently presented in the worst light as extremists and nutters”

    I’m afraid to say that is how they come across to many people. People view such advocates with considerable moral disapproval and accuse them of hypocrisy.

    “Indeed, even those who support civil partnerships but oppose same-sex marriage are compared to racists and supporters of apartheid (49-50), an astonishing analogy for a bishop to draw in relation to the long-established teaching of the Christian church about marriage.”

    It’s about time a bishop spoke truth to power, on the mount, so to speak.

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