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March 20, 2016


Annie Weatherly-Barton

A very good piece indeed Andy. I agree with you. It puts into writing clearly what concerns many of us. Have a look at the conversation on Baptist Collaboration. Some people feel threatened whilst others thing there is no threat just a perceived threat. It seems that many feel there is a real difference between what was set out at the Congress and what is being said now. Perhaps you could help people to fully understand?

Whilst we set off on track about SSM what about how we treat or welcome - or not welcome - Gay people? Should that not be part of this discussion? Not in "principle" terms but in terms of loving and accepting people?

It has been stated that all ministers received this report on Friday but many did not. There was also a statement that everyone minister was invited to take part in the discussion about SSM. Many had not received any notification.

Thank you very very much for your reflections which are thought-provoking, sensitive and caring.

Every Blessing

Phil Jump

Hi Andy - thanks for a thoughtful piece with much helpful reflection. I do though sense a bit of "sleight of hand" - A "settled place" is not necessarily a "settled view" which you suddenly switch to in order to make your point - it can simply mean being at ease with our differences. Nor need it mean that the "issue" is settled. I sensed we were in a "settled place" when we had a helpful, honest and open discussion on what is a missional and pastoral response to people of differing and diverse sexuality and gender identity at our Assembly some years ago. This neither revealed a settled view or settled the issue, but I sense we were in a "settled place." Since then our discussions have been "unsettled" by the imposition of a Marriage Act which in my view (and irrespective of any view on same-sex partnership) was imposed by our Government with undue and unseemly haste. Because of this. our discussions have become far more reactive, and shaped by external agendas. I have had conversations with a number of friends and contacts who are of same-sex orientation, who themselves are not happy with the marriage act - some because they feel it devalues their previously established civil partnership. Rightly or wrongly, their cause over recent years has been "glad to be different" and they don't want to be (in their words) "the same as heterosexuals". It is no less narrow to assume that a judgement on gay marriage is a universal judgement on gay relationships, as some seem to claim. I hope we can continue the discussions that have been ongoing for some years with, as you rightly point out, the time and space to consider the breadth and richness of diverse theological and Biblical views (which I do not agree needs always to imply a particular conservative evangelical perspective.) I would agree that we need to "wait and see how this plays out" but I am not convinced that a settled place needs to be the same as a settled view or an end to discussion - rather a reclaiming of wholesome process of listening and discussion, freed from the imposition of Government consultation deadlines and legislative procedures.

Mark Burleigh

I was deeply saddened by the statement and sad to be associated with it. Why is this issue such a touchstone of fellowship between our churches? The Council statement seems to me to be to be flawed by an inherent contradiction between, "each church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His Laws" on the one hand and "we humbly urge churches who are considering conducting same-sex marriages to refrain from doing so" on the other.
Thanks Andy for seeking to open up the debate through your blog.

John R Hudson

I think the reference to Union ignores the fact that in 1892, the Arminian New Covenant churches decided to join the Union. Arminius specifically argued against the Catholic and Calvinist view that marriage is a sacrament. So most of the arguments against the Marriage Act are meaningless in an Arminian context.
It is unfortunate that those of a Calvinist persuasion believe that they should impose their view of marriage on those of an Arminian persuasion.

Audrey Rowland

Thank you Mark your comment is what my thoughts were when reading the statement.
We do seem to have a statement that contradicts itself.

And I guess John I've fought the battle of not being of a Calvinist persuasion for 50 years ie most of my church life and here we go again!!

Alec Gilmore

As one no longer on the front line I have kept my counsel on most matters, kept a watcful eye on what was going on at a distance and left the fighting to others. I am however prompted to break the habit as a result of reading the Council's Statement on Same Sex Marriage in the same week as I am in the process of reviewing Rowan Williams's latest book, Meeting God in Paul and with the two together I heard a voice over my shoulder and it wasn't Rowan. It might have been Paul but I think it was from on high.
It didn't relate to any of the issues in the Statement (perhaps that alone says something) but rather to the way we handle such issues. Whilst fully appreciating the problems for Lyn Green and her colleagues I was sharply pulled up by her comment that she found herself 'grappling with this issue' aware of what she describes as 'a profound biblical truth'. Since she doessn't say what it is nor where she found it I cannot question it, but in terms of church relationships certainly not in Paul.
For Paul, says Rowan, two key words are 'welcome' and 'freedom'. Because God welcomes us we are called to welcome one another, especially in church relatonships, and not least when we find ourselves needlessly scrapping with one another (Romans 14:3,15:7 or Ephesians 2) to go no further, And as for freedom. think of it not as a way of being free to do what we want but a 'new way of belonging together in the company of God', citing Paul's anger with the Galatians, charging them with 'wanting to go backwards' and 'trying to lay down terms for God as to whom he can invite into his community'. Similarly in Rome, when Christians are busy passing judgements on one another, he says that 'respect for my fellow Christian is like my respect for another person's property'. Paul had not sat at the feet of Gamaliel for nothing. He knew that nobody had the whole truth. He also knew the dangers of being 'found fighting against God'.
To a point the Council Statement reflects much of this but if the Devil is 'in the small print' in this case he manages to creep into the last paragraph. He is bound to find some satisfaction is the plea that churches considering conducting same-sex marriages refrain from doing so 'out of mutual respect' and even more satisfactionat when those who object to same-sex marriage are not asked to show similar respect to those churches (and especially ministers) who take a different view, but only 'to show mutual respect' by remaining in the Union. Is that what really matters?
The issue is not Same Sex Marriage and it certainly isn't respect for the Union. More a problem of relatioships between believers, with 'Galatians' who have difficulty abandoning the old order in favour of the freedom Paul says that we have in Christ. And thank you, Rowan, for drawing our attention to it.

Martin Kernick

The statement shows none of the 'mutual respect' it talks about. It seems that the BU want those churches who want to go ahead with same sex marriage to refrain from doing so out of "mutual respect" but shows no respect for their church meeting's discernment of the Holy Spirit's leading. How can that be mutual respect? Our church voted almost unanimously to register for same sex weddings and we did so because we see in the character of Jesus, someone who railed against the oppressive practices of the religious institution of his day. I dare say the Pharisees urged Jesus to show respect for their edicts too! I'm glad he didn't.

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