Feedback on ‘Living in Love and Faith’
I engaged in the LLF materials and, as comments are invited for the consultation, thought it may be helpful to give feedback for you to pass on.
Introduction. The following quote from the LLF book sums up my feelings: ‘It may be that what you really want is to ‘get on with the real task of the church’. Maybe you are disappointed and frustrated by a church that keeps being derailed from its core mission by having to expend precious resources talking about sexuality and marriage.’ (LLF book P3).
Yes it has occupied so much of our time and been very discouraging.
Re-education. Although cleverly disguised, I felt the whole tenor of the LLF process was to try and persuade those of ‘traditional’ beliefs on morality to ‘listen’ to LGBTI+ views and change their stance. This seemed to be the dominant message coming through rather than a truly impartial look at the topic.
The assumption seemed to be that church members who hold an ‘orthodox’ view must be ‘ignorant’ and must never have met trans or same-sex attracted individuals. They would be ‘surprised’ to hear their stories and therefore persuaded to change their views. The Bishops may themselves be surprised to find that many church members have known and been friends with such people (you could hardly have been alive for the last few decades and not have), have listened to and read numerous stories and yet are still of the view that the Bible’s teachings on marriage (traditionally interpreted) are the best for mankind and should be upheld in contemporary churches.
The Bible was side-lined. Generally the gist of everything was to undermine ordinary congregants’ faith in the Bible. I was disturbed that conspicuously lacking in the ‘discernment’ process for church members was a proper look at the topic in the Bible (not really there, even in LLF chapter 13 The Bible, and that was a small part of the whole book). There also was no chance for discussion on the crucial question ‘what is sin?’ So much hangs on this.
When relevant scriptures were given in the LLF book, they were hidden amongst pages of other material and immediately ‘reinterpreted’ to undermine their obvious meaning. For example with the Leviticus 18 quote the meaning of the word ‘abomination’ was treated with the dubious interpretation of a Jewish scholar with an extreme view. Where Romans 1 was quoted the word ‘natural’ was disputed in a convoluted way to attempt to make the passage mean something different than the plain language. The discussion of the Sodom and Gomorrah story was likewise given a long-winded explanation that detracted from the actual story. To suggest that these words of God are ‘clobber texts’, as some LGBTI+ do, seemed disrespectful and unloving.
It seemed to me that ordinary ‘people from the margins’ like me, were being told to accept the interpretation of the ‘readings from privilege’ of those who’d been to ‘liberation theology’ colleges. But I believe God gave the Bible so that anyone could read and understand it — given by plain men (the likes of Peter, James, John etc) for plain men (or women) like us to read for ourselves.
Unconscious bias. I felt that throughout the LLF materials there was unconscious bias and underlying assumptions owing more to Stonewall ideas than the Bible or the church. I observed that the scientific arguments given, interpretations of scripture, and choice of research were very selective and not that balanced. These reinforced LGBTI+ views and subtly undermined orthodox Christian thinking.
Throughout the LLF book LGBTI+ preferred vocabulary such as ‘homophobic’, ‘transphobic’, ‘hostile’, ‘negative’, ‘condemning’, ‘rejecting’, ‘disapproval’, ‘exclude’ is uncritically used AND, by implication, referring to those holding ‘traditional’ teachings — seemingly unaware of the prejudice, exclusion, rejection, hostility and ridicule that ‘orthodox’ people suffer at the hands of the liberal-minded.
The LLF book’s glossary was biased towards ‘queer’ understanding of language (which is not the universal understanding and is actually highly controversial). It was partisan — strongly biased to please the LGBTI+ side.
‘Transwomen — a woman who was assigned male at birth.’
The belief that a ‘transwoman’ IS a woman is not accepted by everyone, particularly biological women. The terms ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestism’ — given as ‘not preferred’ or ‘inappropriate’ language — from whose point of view? This is the LGBTI+ point of view again and that of no other group. All people use language — some medics or psychologists may have good reasons to employ these words, so maybe the C of E should have used a more inclusive vocabulary.
Unfair assumptions about ‘traditional readers’ of the Bible are present throughout:
LLF page 328 ‘Voices from the margins’ says: ‘what we take to be sound interpretation… may in fact be white, male, middle-class, affluent, and Western interpretation and theology’.
This is unfairly pinning a ‘white privilege/supremacist’ label on anyone who reads scripture in an ‘orthodox’ way. This seems illogical and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny in real life. Many UK Black churches, African and Asian Christians (not rich, not white, not Western) understand the scriptures to mean plainly what they say. Globally it is the privileged Western churches that are now questioning Christian morality in order to conform to their prevailing culture. The Apostles who wrote the New Testament were not white, nor rich or Western.
Personally I have always read the Bible for myself, unshaped by any ‘habitual ways of reading inherited by others’ (LLF was trying to pin this assumption on ‘traditional’ readers too). I was not brought up in church or by Christian parents, so I inherited no prior conceptions.
Where holiness is discussed (P226-7) the LLF book unfairly suggests that the ideas traditionally given by the church are given ‘to preserve patterns of privilege’ or ‘look very white and middle class’. Which ideas are meant? How can the ideas from the Bible, written by Middle Eastern people and addressed generally to all humankind, regardless of skin colour or class, possibly be ‘British’ or ‘privilege-speak’?
The Marginalised. Throughout the LLF book the ‘marginalised’ groups are implied to be the LGBTI+ ones and their pain is referred to several times.
However the writers of the book seem unaware that the reality of today’s society is that LGBTI+ people have privilege — they are celebrated and feted by the media and their voices listened to (as a recent example, remember how Philip Schofield was congratulated and approved for ‘coming out’, though the media conveniently forgot about the pain his wife and children may have suffered). Christians who take the Bible seriously are a marginalised minority who are silenced and ridiculed in social media and news. Reasoned arguments from a Christian viewpoint are seldom aired and skewed stories often given. Christians (especially those who call themselves ‘ex-gay’, who truly DO know what it is to be marginalised) find themselves excluded, harassed and some have lost their jobs, but their pain is not mentioned in the LLF book. It seems that the worst ‘crime’ of all is to leave the gay scene, but the C of E never gives ‘attention’ to this ‘power’ wielded over individuals — the pressure, control and manipulation to firstly begin and then continue in LGBTI+ lifestyles.
LLF says: ‘together we stand against homophobia, transphobia and all unacceptable forms of behaviour, including demeaning those whose views are different from our own’ (in the Appeal).
Does this mean that those who feel the Bible does indeed say sex outside marriage and between same-sex people is sin will be accused of ‘phobia’?
I am disappointed that the church joins society in this misuse of language — the dictionary definition of ‘phobia’ is ‘an extreme or irrational fear’, hardly the right word for those who probably never gave the subject a thought until it was forced on them recently. When people are thus labelled in order to silence them, true diversity is stifled.
It must be natural to feel wariness about unhealthy sexual practices — for example I saw a photo from a ‘pride march’ showing a man leading another man with a dog lead attached to a collar about his neck, whilst wielding a whip. A gut feeling of sadness and unease at disordered sexuality is legitimate. It doesn’t follow that someone expressing this will necessarily ‘hate’ a LGBTI+ person, and may in fact regard them with deep compassion. The truth is many people suppress their sense of unease and never dare voice it because they are so afraid of being labelled ‘phobic’ or judged ‘bigoted’. Even sadly in the church I have seen people damaged and hurt by the harsh words of others pointing the finger of judgement at them for daring to oppose the dominating world narrative that there is no such thing as sexual sin. We don’t want the church to be a place of fear instead of freedom.
I have seen much ‘demeaning of those with views different to their own’ targeted at Christians, one example being the Ashers bakery case. It was a hostile act to take someone to court for their views, especially as the Ashers firm were not harming any individual and someone else could easily have baked the cake. It was a coercive attempt at ‘compelled speech’. Just imagine another topic — say someone who was against hunting was told to bake a cake saying ‘support the hunt’ (or the other way round) and it went to prosecution — we would consider this over-the-top, even unjust. But such is the great power wielded by LGBTI+ activists against those of Christian belief that the business was put through the ordeal of an extremely lengthy legal battle.
Power. I agree with the C of E ‘pastoral principle’ that it is ‘important to pay attention to power’. But I feel the church is naively unaware of the power wielded by LGBTI+ and media forces.
A particular abuse of power in our society is the tactics employed against women by ‘trans’ activists. They have already succeeded in trumping women’s rights in many areas of society (women’s sport, the housing of ‘transwomen’ (even rapists!) in female prisons etc). Many of the considerations for women’s biological needs are being eroded (single sex toilets being phased out), dehumanising descriptions of the female sex as ‘birthing people’, ‘cervix havers’ have been forced into publications (by ‘trans’ voices), to avoid using the word ‘woman’, a word now appropriated by ‘transwomen’.
What do ordinary women think of this? Do they have a say? Are they now to be subjugated by men in a new, sinister way? I have seen the most shockingly threatening tweets (actual death threats, rape threats, talk of ‘smashing heads’ and the most lewd of swear words) directed against women (far more vulnerable than ‘trans’ people in reality) who are merely fighting to keep basic safeguarding for girls, female prisoners etc. I know of a 60 year old woman who was assaulted by a ‘transwoman’ 6 foot tall at a debate! So much for their ‘vulnerability and ‘lack of power’ — they are one of the most powerful lobby groups in the country. They have succeeded in forcing their views and materials into schools, the police, the BBC, the government and civil service. Until recently they have mostly had the full approval of the media for their cause despite the unscientific aspects of many of their ideas.
The movement for attempted erasure of the sexes (‘smashing heteronormativity’ as Stonewall ‘Diversity’ and ‘Equality’ training promotes) bodes deep confusion and unhappiness for the human race. Shouldn’t the church act on its ‘pastoral principles’ and ‘speak into this silence’, champion women and ‘cast out the fear’ caused by this abuse of the genuinely weaker sex?
The teachings of the Bible are ‘morally questionable’?!! I felt very dismayed that the LLF book was planting this idea in C of E congregants’ minds:
‘It is not simply the case that fewer people pay attention to or follow the church’s teaching. Rather that teaching has increasingly come to be seen by many in our society as itself morally questionable’. (P 136)
This chapter goes on to say that to impose restrictions on sexual activity is ‘damaging to human fulfilment and an offence against human freedom’ and suggests those in the church are ‘untrustworthy moral guides’.
Far from limits on sexual ‘freedom’ being a ‘restriction damaging to human fulfilment’ I see the opposite in real life. Sexual ‘liberty’ outside of marriage seems to bring social chaos and misery (especially for the most vulnerable — children).
Sex for selfish pleasure has become the accepted norm, often without relationship, responsibility or even love. Unfortunately birth control hasn’t prevented unwanted children but if anything has increased promiscuity. Sex education gives information about the mechanics, but little on marriage or relationships so normalises casual sex.
I disagree with the LLF book when it says — ‘a proper 21st century understanding of being human and being sexual is needed’ (Foreword). This seems based on the arrogant presumption that nowadays we ‘know better’, as if people knew nothing about it before! Are we really more ‘progressive’ than previous centuries, or are we regressing into increasing abuse, mental health problems and gender dysphoria? The depressing statistics markedly mirror the casting aside of Biblical morality from the 1950s and 60s onwards. On the contrary something drastically different is needed — a Biblical understanding that encompasses the whole of the history of mankind, not just the unenlightened 21st century.
So-called sexual ‘freedom’ makes for a culture of abuse in schools, leads to exploitation of women (men who have no commitment to them, or care for their soul, indulge fleeting lust — the opposite of selfless love). Severe child suffering follows too, the deprivation of having no father or mother, the instability of dysfunctional families, terrible effects of divorce, trafficking, surrogacy, pornography etc. There is the hardship of single mums, the mass killing of unborn babies, the economic cost to society of supporting single mums etc. Not a happy picture. Where is the C of E when it comes to speaking out about such issues?
The same exploitation happens in the gay community — it is no secret that many homosexual men admit to having had multiple sexual partners, and older men often prey on younger ones (sadly I saw this first hand when I was a teenager). There are statistics that indicate only 2% of gay relationships are faithful. Also there are the serious health dangers of homosexual practice that medical people are pressured to keep quiet about and young people not warned of. The book ‘The Health Hazards of Homosexuality’, edited by Brian Camenker, was suppressed for years by Amazon, due to LGBTI+ pressure because the book reveals (unfortunately it has to) actual physical practices and just a glance at the contents page reveal realities that could be rather shocking to the naïve general public. There is the sad fact that that health issues DO ensue because same sexes are not ‘biologically’ complementary. Reasonable and necessary discussion on this is consistently silenced or cancelled.
The teachings about marriage in the Bible show God’s care for humanity and ensure protection of the most vulnerable — so that ‘IT MAY GO WELL WITH YOU’ (a phrase repeated again and again). God’s words are to be heeded for the sake of pleasing Him and for human flourishing.
We should be proud of the orthodox biblical teachings that have contributed to love and stability and have enriched our society in the past. The ideas of selfless love that lays down its life, rather than exploits the body, honourable men who would never dream of putting a woman in the position of single motherhood or even abortion, are high ideals and spring from Judeo-Christianity. It is part of God’s care and love for his people that He laid out what things (detestable in His sight) ruin lives and rob society of loving fatherhood, manhood, womanhood (probably the best and most wondrous gift of all — the magic of male and female).
Conclusion. Many organisations are now distancing themselves from Stonewall’s partisan teaching materials and I am surprised that the C of E hasn’t treated their narratives with more caution and seen through tactics that seek to infiltrate the church and society. It seems that those pushing ‘queer theory’ are attempting to rebrand the church and even the Bible.
In no way do I advocate unkind treatment of any person, whatever their sexuality. In my time within churches I have never witnessed ‘hostility’ against same-sex people, if I’m truthful. We want everyone to hear the gospel ‘that is able to save souls’, so wish to welcome every person. We are all terrible sinners and none of us is perfect.
However, if we abandon the Bible’s clear teaching on the nature of sin, the ‘turning’ from it and Jesus’ forgiveness, we have nothing different to offer the world, no cleansing or new life. We come as we are but don’t stay that way. The emphasis again and again throughout the New Testament is to change, to learn the ‘God-breathed’ scripture that is good for ‘teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3), to attain the qualities of Christ.
Finally — the LLF materials seem to be attempting the ‘double-think’ that there is no right and wrong. Unfortunately this is impossible for there is only one truth, and if one side is right it makes the other wrong. I’m afraid the church will be found on the wrong side, having taken the easy option, having not ‘contended for the faith’ and giving a false message that makes no difference to people, indeed ‘a form of godliness that denies the power’ of true salvation.
Anonymous letter to Bishop criticises C of E sexuality discussion process
Anglican Mainstream publication.
January 4, 2022
Editor’s note: The fact that the author did not feel safe to reveal his/her identity, as well as this careful analysis of the Living in Love and Faith process and the agenda behind it, shows why many lay people with a traditional, ‘orthodox’ understanding of Scripture in the C of E feel silenced and sidelined.
To Bishop Richard of Hereford
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